10 Game Franchises With The Best Movies
By Gene Cole
Published Jun 13, 2021
Great game franchises haven’t always had success when it came to film adaptations. But these series do things right.
Video game movies are almost exclusively assumed to be terrible by most gamers. Long and short films are an incredibly different medium from non-linear and interactive games, making many game franchise movies feel like poor reconstructions of stories that don’t work in other formats.
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That said, there have still been countless attempts to make video game movies that break this stereotype, and many have reached a surprising amount of critical and financial success.?The average quality of movies based on video games is quite low, but there are certainly some great standouts that are still famous or beloved by fans.
Easily the most financially successful video game movies are likely to be among the Pokemon?series, which broke countless box office records with the first few Pokemon movies despite having almost exclusively negative reviews.?These movies capitalized on the anime, but thanks to the simple characters and familiar Pokemon, they’re much easier for casual fans to enjoy than most other films for large series.
More recently, though, Pokemon has proven itself as a victor of the video game movie stereotypes thanks to Detective Pikachu, a film based on an unusual 3DS spin-off game with a live-action style and unusually realistic Pokemon models. Pokemon might seem like it always goes back to its roots, but this movie proved to fans that the series still had plenty of room to experiment and try new things on the silver screen.
The Resident Evil films starring Milla Jovovich are undoubtedly some controversial films, being?loosely connected to the horror games of the same name and being more like traditional action blockbusters. This often means that dedicated Resident Evil fans tend to be uninterested in this film series, but more casual fans tend to appreciate its unique use of Resident Evil’s famous monsters and characters.
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Nonetheless, more traditional Resident Evil films are already on their way that are based more closely on the games,?so?fans have plenty to look forward to.?Resident Evil has a remarkably deep and wide variety of lore behind it, making it great source material that the film industry is clearly quite passionate about.
There have been a surprising amount of Final Fantasy movies, usually sticking to animated features. Some of them have been based on the games themselves, such as Final Fantasy VII: Advent of Children and Final Fantasy XV: Kingsglaive, but other original films like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within has its own cult following.
This series is all about different styles of fantasy settings, meaning there’s a ton of room for movies to make more unique interpretations and expansions of lore for the diverse Square Enix franchise.?It would be great to see more original films, but for now the series has potentially produced some of the best-written and best-looking animated films of any gaming franchise.
The Batman: Arkham?series had an extremely fortunate bit of timing with its tie-in movie, Batman: Assault on Arkham. It came out among a wide variety of great animated DC films, and while this movie isn’t connected to the cinematic universe that recently ended with Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, it still builds off the great writing and animation that led these films to critical success.
It takes place shortly after Batman: Arkham Origins but a few years before Batman: Arkham Asylum, focusing primarily on the newly popular Suicide Squad breaking into the Asylum. With a great voice cast including Kevin Conroy returning as Batman, and the return of Troy Baker as The Joker, it’s an underrated gem that deserves to be mentioned along with the best Batman Arkham games.
Halo: Legends is often forgotten, but most dedicated Halo?fans will tell you that this series of short films is one of the best bits of worldbuilding that Halo has ever gotten. It’s far easier to consume than the lengthy novels and side games, and portrays Master Chief as the true heroic soldier that players don’t often experience from the outside.
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People were certainly put off by the anime style, but this simply helped it seem quite unique compared to Halo’s usual realistic style. It’s easily one of the most creative interpretations of a first-person shooter, and definitely worth watching if you’re a newer or younger Halo fan wanting some underrated Halo media.
The 2006 Silent Hill?film wasn’t exactly a critical darling, but it still managed to financially succeed thanks to a fairly strong cast and clear admiration for the series. The film does a lot to bring back classic monsters and build on storylines from the games themselves, and while some of these inclusions feel somewhat clunky, it makes for a fairly entertaining watch to this day.
If nothing else, it’s significantly better than its sequel in 2012, which had much more astonishingly low reviews due to cheesy 3D effects and far cheesier writing. Nonetheless, the first film is a video game movie that had a lot heart and love put into it, and definitely feels less like a cheap cash-grab than most other video game movies.
The original 2001 and 2003 Tomb Raider?films starring Angelina Jolie are quite similar to the Resident Evil films mentioned earlier, being much more on the cheesy side and leaning on action tropes. This led to some fairly competent films, but it took until 2018 when the franchise was rebooted alongside the games with a film starring Alicia Vikander.
This later film has far more polish, and while it ended up performing slightly under-budget, it still did quite well compared to most other video game films and even nominated for various Teen Choice Awards for action films alongside Avengers: Infinity War. It definitely didn’t come close to winning, but it’s some impressive company to be alongside for a video game film.
Persona 4 and Persona 5?were quite lucky to have some excellent anime series, but Persona 3 may be the real winner thanks to some spectacularly crafted films. The Persona 3 movies cover the story of the game, but thanks to the wide number of characters and the several years between the game and film’s release, it felt like a much newer property.
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The film format also works to portray the story much better than a series, moving at a much quicker pace and following side characters much quicker and easier. Persona 3 takes a lot of time to replay, but the movies ended up being the perfect alternative for fans who are nostalgic for Persona 3.
Mortal Kombat is currently the winner of the “most consistent” category of video game movies, with the first two films?in 1995 and 1997 being financially successful despite being quite disliked by most critics. Funnily enough, this film was the highest-grossing video game movie right until Pokemon: The First Movie came out in 1998, a record that was broken by an absurd amount of money.
The first films are certainly quite cheesy and has some strange casting choices, but the recent 2021 film ended up having a surprising amount of success as a strong action movie that lives up to the franchise’s fighting game roots. Neither are going to be winning many film awards, but as video game movies, they’re a great baseline for strong films building off the strengths of their source material.
There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the 2020 Sonic The Hedgehog film holds the current title of best video game movie. Fans were extremely skeptical from its first trailer, featuring an uncomfortably realistic version of the blue blur and some questionable dialogue choices, but thanks to a delay and some excellent animated revisions, it ended up becoming an unexpected critical and financial success.
This isn’t to say these revisions and the road to this film were perfect, as lead actor Jim Carrey had concerns about fans influencing the film so heavily and the revisions had some?allegedly absurd costs. However, this still clearly led to a product that the world was ready to eat up, and fans are already plenty excited for its sequel.
Next: Video Game Characters That Deserve A Movie More Than Sonic
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About The Author
(240 Articles Published)
Gene Cole is a Canadian freelance writer with a B.A. in psychology and criminology. He works hard to keep an open mind towards a huge variety of games, and loves learning about how different people make and play them. In his free time he loves wandering aimlessly in Slime Rancher, fiddling with competitive games like Poker and Magic: The Gathering, and (amateurishly) attempting to speedrun Super Mario Odyssey.
From Gene Cole