Games Based on Movies: The Awful Truth

Games Based on Movies

The 21st century has witnessed a multitude of technological innovations in movie-making, from realistic CGI animation to amazing transformations through makeup artistry. Not all innovations, however, have been successful. It is becoming commonplace for video games to be made into movies. At this point, the list is starting to get long, but I wish you luck finding any games made into movies that have received positive reviews from critics or fans.

There have been two approaches to adapting video games to the big screen.  One is to stay true to the story of the game, only adding plot where plot is needed. The other approach is to take the characters and setting of the game and create an entirely new story from it. Unfortunately, neither has had much success.

There are others, most of them with even worse ratings.  Still, many of us who loved the video games continued to go to the movies, rent the DVDs, and hope that somehow, some way, the movies would not suck, but time and gain, we have been met with disappointing writing, mediocre acting, and bitter taste in our mouths.

Games Based on Movies

Game IMDB Rating (out of 10)
Super Mario Bros. 3.8
Double Dragon 3.3
Mortal Kombat 5.4 (3.1 for sequel)
Wing Commander 3.7
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider 5.3 (5.2 for sequel)
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within 6.4
Resident Evil 6.4
Max Payne 5.4
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li 3.9

The Awful Truth

There is really only one question that needs to be addressed. Why have movies based on video games generally not done well on the big screen?  The answer lies in the way video games are made versus the  way movies are produced.

A game like Doom, for example, is not about the story. It is about shooting, gaining powers, and ultimately gloating about your domination. While there may be a back story, most users are not concerned with that. On the other hand, games like Max Payne or Final Fantasy have very in-depth stories, sometimes even well written.

[youtube 5EeMmai9mBE 500 375]

The problem with the first occurs when screen writers attempt to create plot, conflict, and character development around a flimsy story. Trying to make Double Dragon into a good story takes more than just filling in the blanks.  Since there really is no story, the writers must create one rather than letting the movie write itself based on the game.

The problem with the second is that games like Max Payne already had fantastic stories, and like good books, they would probably make good movies, if the writers basically left the stories alone, only adding details when necessary. Instead, the writers cannot resist making it different, changing the order of events, adding or deleting characters, or even coming up with a completely new story.  The result is usually disaster.

Probably the best way to assess whether a video game would make a good movie is to watch someone play it. If you find yourself daydreaming because all you are seeing are explosions and body parts flying all over the screen, there is probably not much of a story to tell. If you are engaged in the storyline, even while just watching the other player progress through it, then it might make a good movie. But those games require the delicate touch of experienced writers.

Photo by BooBooGBs

If the screenplay is good, then the recipe for success is just like any other movie: a good director, good actors, and a reasonable budget.  While Tomb Raider and Resident Evil have enjoyed more commercial  success than the others, they still did not reach the level of excellence one would hope. On the other hand, movies like Dead or Alive, Alone in the Dark, and Hitman were doomed from the beginning. Just because a video game is successful does not mean that it will actually make a good movie.

Hope for the Future

In the coming months, we will see another Resident Evil, another Silent Hill, and another Mortal Kombat. While all three will probably be fair, do not expect much to change from the formulas that made the others fairly decent B movies. They will probably not reach a 7/10 rating, but they will enjoy marginal success.

Photo by aurelio_siqf01

There is, however, one movie due to be released this month that has many gamers hopeful for a brighter future.  That movie is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. It is a Disney production, and even if the gamers who actually played the game hate it, children all over the world will probably watch it and love it.

The first part of the formula was already in place. Prince of Persia, in its many incarnations, had a great video game storyline. How that translates into the big screen will depend on the writers, directors, and actors involved. The cast includes bigger names than many of the other movies on the list, but that is no guarantee that the movie will not be as painful.

Photo by ieidea

Despite my misgivings about Disney in general and the track record of movies like it, I am hoping that Prince of Persia is enjoyable, somewhat deep, and does not fall into pitfalls of stereotyping people of Middle-Eastern descent. If they can pull it off, perhaps it can serve as a template for future games that are made into movies. Rather than being instant cash cows with paper-thin plots, they will be enjoyable experiences that will leave us wanting more, rather than wishing they would just end as soon as possible.  Perhaps there is still hope, fellow gamers.

Tags: , ,

Written by

I am a librarian with 8 years of experience in information architecture, technology, free and open source software, and electronic publishing. I have written hundreds of articles on topics ranging from information technology to politics. I also write fiction novels, short stories, and fables.

Discussion 13 Comments

  1. pleasejustdie says:

    How can you list those, even mention Silent HIll 2, but not list Silent Hill 1 which has a 6.5 on IMDB, higher than any other on your list?

    • amrofni says:

      6.5 is still abysmal, that's nothing to brag about. Also why did this author insist on titling his table of movies based on games “Games Based on Movies”. He also did the same thing with the actual article title. There are no 'games based on movies' here.

      One more thing. Hooray! to you for stating the obvious.

  2. Keith says:

    did anyone notice that the at the top of the movie list it says “Games Based on Movies” instead of what they really are, movies based on games?


    Just sayin…

  3. TV says:

    The average rating of all movies listed on IMDB is 6.7.

  4. Hey, I don't care about IMDB ratings. But I liked “Resident Evil : Extinction” very much. And yea, I'm madly waiting for the Prince of Persia. The game was the best I ever played.
    Some other movies based on games that failed are – Doom, Far Cry, Hitman, TMNT.

    • Prince says:

      I am a big fan of Prince of Persia, it made me addictive badly playing it 🙂

      Even my 50 years old Uncle loved to play it 😉

  5. e cigarette says:

    lol great concept.

  6. M.Bison says:

    It's “Movies based on Games”

  7. pony84 says:

    Actually, Postal wasn't so bad IMO.
    Only the end is like the game, the rest of the movie and its story is sort the prequel to the game.
    Its got a few decent actors in it and a lot of bad ones. Its very anti-pc and tries to show everything thats wrong with the world and does it in quite a fun way.

    If you're not to sensitive about violence, shooting kids & old ladies then its well worth a try!

  8. funmaza4u says:

    nice movies bollywood & hollywood movies watch full movies @


  1. Games Based on Movies: The Awful Truth « Kinetic Nation - May 11, 2010

    […] from: Games Based on Movies: The Awful Truth Tags: games-based, […]

  2. Games Based on Movies: The Awful Truth « Kinetic Nation - May 11, 2010

    […] here to read the rest: Games Based on Movies: The Awful Truth Tagged as: games-based, large-number Leave a comment Comments (0) Trackbacks (0) ( subscribe […]

  3. Games Based on Movies: The Awful Truth | The Warp Pipe - May 11, 2010

    […] Article here […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *