Video games are a great medium for telling stories. They’re not limited by the run time of a film, or even a television series, and can tell an unfolding story over anything from several hours to several games. They let the player feel immersed in their worlds and feel like a part of the story. Perhaps this is the reason why many video game movies fail to capture the magic of their source material.
However, there are those times when not only do video game movies live up to expectations, but they actually happen to be really good films. Before the arrival of the latest entry into the mixed genre of video game films, let’s take a look at five of the best video game movies, and ten of the worst.
Street Fighter (1994)
It’s easy to make fun of this film. The live action Street Fighter movie isn’t perfect, far from it. Blanka looks terrible, Dhalsim does practically nothing, and the story isn’t anything like the game. There’s not even a fighting competition.
What it does do, however, is embrace the spirit of the game. It plants its tongue firmly in cheek and makes a colourful, over the top, and at times downright silly film about an insane tyrant and the group determined to stop him from taking over the world.
It works because it doesn’t try to be serious, and because the action is actually quite competent and entertaining. It also made the brilliant move in casting Jean-Claude Van Damme in the role of Guile, giving the lead hero some action move pedigree; and in the casting of Raul Julia as M. Bison. Not the first person to come to mind as the villain to go up against Van Damme, Julia is absolutely brilliant in the role. He’s campy and over the top in just the right way, and has such amazing presence when on screen.
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
The fourth entry in the Resident Evil film series is still, for me, the best. The first film since the original in which Paul W.S. Anderson returned to direct, it ditched a lot of the baggage from the previous films, deciding not to try to take itself too seriously, or make a film that was too gritty. It embraced a lot more of the fun elements of the series and decided to just be an enjoyable popcorn movie, making it the first really entertaining entry in the series.
It also added more elements from the games, such as the Majini type infected, and the Executioner, but it was the inclusion of Wentworth Miller as Chris Redfield and Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker that really helped.
Wesker was played to the perfect mix of evil and camp villain that was so popular form the fifth game, and the film even went so far as recreate a fight between him and Chris from that game shot for shot. As a fan of the game series it was a brilliant moment to see parts of the game come to life on the big screen in such a way, and actually game me a lot of hope for the continuation of the film series.
Pokemon: The First Movie (1998)
Your age probably determines whether or not this film will appear on your list, but being the prefect age when this film hit the UK I was swept up in the hype of the first Pokemon cinematic outing. Giving fans a look at where the television show would go next with the inclusion of a few generation two Pokemon, it also dealt with a plot thread that had been teased across a number of episodes, the appearance of Mew-Two.
The original must catch Pokemon of the first games, Mew-Two was beefed up to become a super powered global threat, one that the shows heroes and villains would have to team up to fight against. Not only did the film deliver some great monster v monster action, it also went a lot deeper than viewers were expecting, with such famous quotes like: “I see now that the circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.” Quotes like this prove that the franchise has some deeper messages to tell its young audience.
Silent Hill (2006)
Video games do horror really well, mainly because it puts you into the horror itself and makes you face the monsters, rather than being an observer. The Silent Hill franchise was always one of the most successful, and proved to be one of the better film adaptations.
Taking inspiration from the first game, but mixing things around, the film sees a mother taking her adopted daughter to the town of Silent Hill to try to solve the mystery of the nightmares that plague her, only to discover hell on earth.
The film captures the atmosphere of the games brilliantly, both in the fog shrouded town and the terrifying hellscapes. It looks like it came straight out of the game, recreating locations, creatures, and even camera shots perfectly to make fans feel right at home. A film that embraces its source material and delivers a film that audiences who haven’t played the games will enjoy, Silent Hill is a brilliant example of how to translate games into film.
Mortal Kombat (1995)
Another Paul W.S. Anderson entry, the first Mortal Kombat film is still the best of the franchise, mixing over the top action, strange fantasy, and cheese to great effect. Following a group of mismatched heroes as they fight against an otherworldly threat in order to protect the earth, it actually stays surprisingly true to the story and the spirit of the fighting game.
With a relatively unknown cast, Christopher Lambert is the biggest name in the credits as the lightning god Lord Rayden, and feels slightly out of place here, but manages to walk that fine line between entertaining and utterly ridiculous.
Whilst Mortal Kombat might not be the best video game movie it’s surprisingly well but together, entertaining, and has the best song of any film on this list. Seriously, go listen to it. It’s brilliant.
Click on page 2 to see our worst 10 adaptations…