Video Game Movies Have Always Been Good, Actually

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Liam Ferguson looks over the recent breaking of the video game adaptation curse

2023 is seemingly the year of the video game adaptation. The so-called curse plaguing these properties has finally been broken. HBO’s The Last of Us is the best rated TV show of the year so far, Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie had the highest opening for an animated movie ever and the Gran Turismo movie looks okay from its trailer. Business is certifiably booming. But, maybe the curse on video game adaptations never really existed at all. Sure, there have been some duds, but for the purpose of this article I will be highlighting some wins that prove that the good (somewhat) outweighs the bad when making a video game come to life on screen. 

Super Mario Bros. (1993) 

The 1993 Super Mario Bros. live action movie is unironically amazing. Sure, it boasts a rare matched audience and critical score on Rotten Tomatoes with 29% in both, failed to break even on release, appeared on many lists of the worst films ever made and caused Nintendo to keep their properties away from Hollywood for almost three decades, but it has something many modern movies cannot match: gumption. This film had the audacity to adapt the video game in the most bizarre way possible, taking unheard of creative liberties to design something that barely even resembles Mario. It is beautiful. There is no attempt to cater to fans with this adaptation, it simply moves to the beat of its own out of sync drum and for that, it deserves respect. 

Mortal Kombat (1995) 

1995’s Mortal Kombat is a triumph. Featuring genuinely great martial arts sequences, fantastic world building and sub (zero) par performances that work in the movie’s campy favour, it really is one worth revisiting. Unlike Mario, this movie actually made a profit at the box office, and even earned a sequel and TV spin offs. There is care put into the film that proves how much Hollywood wanted to make it work, and it is the first genuine sign of greatness to come. 

Resident Evil (there are so many of these) 

I can’t even pretend to stick up for any given live action attempt at Resident Evil, these ones are soulless husks that can barely be called movies. They exemplify why people think there is a curse on video game adaptations when, in reality, there is a curse on Resident Evil adaptations. 

Tomb Raider (2018) 

To look at something more recent, 2018’s Tomb Raider is a genuinely great time. Following the success of the 2013 reboot game and starring Alicia Vikander as the perfect Lara Croft, it is an extremely faithful adaptation of its source material. The story is ripped straight from the games, as are the action set pieces and even some lines of dialogue. The movie essentially did exactly what HBO’s The Last of Us did 5 years earlier on in terms of adapting a game’s story almost without change. Yes, it suffers from some pacing issues due to its short runtime, but I have a feeling that as time goes on it will only be looked at more fondly. 

So there you have it. A short but comprehensive list of older video game adaptations that did hit the mark as hard as current ones are. With projects such as Sonic The Hedgehog 3, The Last of Us season 2 and Twisted Metal on the way, video game adaptations are bigger than ever, and their roots deserve to be explored.