Let’s face it, when it comes to video game movies, there’s usually a common theme between all of them…they suck. From the nonsensical BS of Assassin’s Creed to the borefest of Mortal Kombat Annihilation to the many MANY insults to your intelligence made by Uwe Boll, video game movies can just never seem to connect with a mainstream audience.
That being said, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all bad or all complete garbage that should just be dismissed. So I’ll be taking this time to tell you about 14 video game movies that I think might be worth checking out on some level. Keep in mind that in the cases of some of these films, I’m not necessarily calling them good. I’m just giving my own perspective on why someone, whether they be a casual viewer or fan of the source material may want to at least give them a shot. This also isn’t a top ten list. The order I’m going by with these films is simply order of release. So with all that in mind, let’s get started.
Super Mario Bros: Peach Hime Kyushutsu Dai Sakusen! (1986)
It’s unlikely you’ve ever heard of this movie, so allow me to explain. The film, whose title roughly translates to “The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!” is a 65-minute long Japanese animated Mario movie. The film follows Mario and Luigi as they traverse the land of the Mushroom Kingdom to save Princess Peach from the evil Bowser.
While the animation is a bit dated by today’s standards as some of the voice acting doesn’t hold up (Bowser is voiced by a woman for some reason), the film has a very light-hearted and weird charm that makes it worth a watch for any fan of the Mario franchise. However, the film was only released on VHS in Japan and copies of it are extremely hard to find. If you’re gonna watch this one, I recommend searching up a subtitled version on YouTube unless you want to go on a very expensive easter egg hunt. Also, interesting thing to note: This is actually the first video game movie ever made.
Super Mario Bros. (1993)
Oh, I can hear the cries of betrayal from here. How can I, in my right mind, recommend watching what is considered by many to be one of the worst, if not the worst, video game adaptation of all time? Well, here’s the thing. I agree that the Super Mario Bros. Movie from 1993 is arguably not a good movie. However, I find the film strangely entertaining in a really weird way. Call it a guilty pleasure or it being so-bad-it’s-good, but I have to give credit where credit is due.
For a film that had to adapt a game series with no story to speak of and make it appeal to a wide audience, this actually wasn’t too bad of a solution. Not particularly good, mind you, but certainly creative. The city in which everything takes place in has this dark and eerie feel and I just love looking at it. The use of practical effects on creatures like the Goombas are admirable and I actually don’t mind the acting too much. Bob Hoskins is a good time as Mario and Dennis Hopper is deliciously over-the-top as Koopa. Again, this isn’t a good movie, but I think it’s worth watching for its creativity and fun.
Street Fighter (1994)
Raul Julia as M. Bison. This movie might be kind of shit, but Raul Julia absolutely makes it worth watching at least once. He’s so amazing in this role. ….That’s about it. I got nothing else.
Mortal Kombat (1995)
This movie is often cited by many to be one of the few good video game movies to actually come out over the years, or at least one of the least awful. Personally, I find it a very entertaining action flick. There are problems, sure. The plot is very by-the-numbers and the CGI effects are absolutely atrocious, but I think this film has a lot of charm that would make fans of the game, as well as maybe casual viewers, have an enjoyable time.
The casting in this movie is fantastic. Robin Shou nails the part of Liu Kang perfectly, Christopher “The Highlander” Lambert steals the show as Raiden, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa is badass as Shang Tsung, and voice acting legend Kevin Michael Richardson does the role of Goro so much justice. While I don’t like the CGI, I will admit the sets for the film look great and the use of practical effects on Goro are awesome. The action scenes are fun and that techno beat theme song is amazing! It may not be anything ground-breaking, but it is certainly very enjoyable….but stay as far away as possible from the sequel.
Pokemon 3: The Movie (Spell of the Unknown)
Hard to say if this one counts because it’s based less on the video games and more so on the anime that spun-off from it. But hey, it’s listed under the topic of video game movies under any site I look at, so I’ll count it. Pokemon 3 is not going to appeal to a wider audience anytime soon, but if you’re someone who grew up with the games and anime, you might find some charm here. I think this movie’s strength comes from its movie exclusive character Molly and primary antagonist Entei.
What Molly goes through over the course of the film is actually very dark and quite tragic. And the ways in which both the Unknown and Entei play into this is very fascinating. But I guess it helps when you have 4Kids’ most badass voice actor, Dan Green, providing Entei’s voice. Also, it’s one of the few Pokemon films that actually gave a reason for Ash and the gang to be part of the story instead of just shoving them into the mix or having a contrived chosen one narrative.
The animation is also very impressive for something out of this franchise and Team Rocket delivers their usual brand of humor for some nice comic relief. Again, I must emphasize that only fans of the franchise will get anything out of this, but it is definitely enjoyable in that regard.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005)
This isn’t a good movie. The story is confusing, the characters are dull and it just feels like a pointless epilogue to a pretty damn good game. This was around the time Square Enix was exploiting Final Fantasy VII for all it was worth (nothing seems to have changed since then) and this movie just feels like a giant after-thought. However, I will give credit that this is a MUCH better attempt at making a Final Fantasy movie than the previous “adaptation” in the form of The Spirits Within. It uses many of the same elements from the game it’s based on and the action is a ton of fun. I know plenty of FFVII fans who eat this movie up so maybe they’re just seeing something I don’t. If nothing else, it’s pretty cool to see all these characters kick ass in full CGI character models as opposed to the classic PS1 polygons.
DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)
This movie is just odd. The set-up is weird, the characters are blah, the fighting is all over the place and the villain played by Eric Roberts is….admittedly enjoyably campy. However, the funny thing about all of this is that DOA might actually be one of the most loyal video game adaptations to come out in recent years. The DOA games are essentially about big breasted women fighting each other in a vaguely established tournament and occasionally playing beach volleyball.
The movie is about big breasted women fighting each other in a vaguely established tournament and occasionally playing beach volleyball. How is it that one of the single most accurate video game adaptations is for the game with barely any plot at all??? Regardless, this means that if you’re a fan of the games, you may enjoy this one fine. As for everyone else, it’s skippable.
Silent Hill (2006)
Silent Hill actually manages to do a pretty decent job at capturing the same atmosphere and scary moments that made the original game the classic that it is. The people behind this movie clearly went to great lengths to make this as accurate to the original as possible.
The film’s strange and horrific creatures are a sight to behold as they do a great job at mixing both CGI and practical effects, making for a very awesome looking movie. I don’t know how much this film will appeal to the casual viewer, but if you’re a fan of the franchise, this film is definitely worth a watch.
Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva (2009)
Based on the popular series of puzzle games, Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva is a completely original movie that takes place some time after the game Professor Layton and the Last Specter. This is another film that can really only appeal to fans of the games, but I think it’s probably one of the better ones in this regard.
The mystery in this movie is genuinely interesting, the characters are well developed, the animation looks exactly like the games, and hell, it even incorporates the puzzles from the games and Layton’s odd obsession with them. The film admittedly does drag as it nears the end, but it’s still a ton of fun to watch. Add Christopher Robin Miller’s majestic voice reprising his role as Layton and you got something I feel any fan of the games can get into.
One problem I pointed out back when I did my review of the Assassin’s Creed movie was that it was way too loyal to many elements of the game and that didn’t make for a good movie. Tekken is a film that actually realizes that not all elements of a game will make for an appealing movie and wisely decides to throw most of the original game’s plot out the window, instead going for a film that focuses on the simple premise of a martial arts tournament.
And you know what? It’s actually a lot of fun! Is it good? Ehhhh, arguably it probably isn’t, but for a 90 minute bare bones martial arts film, you can admittedly do far worse. The fight scenes are the best thing in this movie and it certainly helped that they hired real life martial artists to play these roles and surprisingly, the acting from them isn’t too bad.
On top of that, you have Shang Tsung himself, Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, playing Heihachi and he absolutely steals the show in every scene he’s in. Tekken is one of those adaptations that proves you don’t necessarily have to be 100% loyal to your game to make for a good film.
Halo Legends (2010)
Hard to say if this necessarily counts as a movie, but I still think it’s something worth mentioning. Halo Legends is an anthology of different short films based on stories from the Halo franchise. Each segment is done by a different Japanese animation studio giving each one their own look and feel.
If you’re someone who gets really into Halo’s lore, this is something awesome to check out. My personal favorite sections are The Duel, Homecoming, and The Prototype.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
Prince of Persia is a nice little swashbuckler that actually manages to keep the spirit and fun of the game it’s based on. While I do think Jake Gyllenhaal is a bit of an odd choice to play the titular Prince, I didn’t think he was that bad and made for a very charming lead. Add in some fun action sequences and a menacing villain played excellently by Ben Kingsley and you got a decent film overall…..though I will admit that ending was kind of a cop-out.
Ace Attorney (2012)
Seeing a live action Phoenix Wright point his finger and yell his trademark line of “OBJECTION!” was one of the greatest moments I’ve ever had in any film. And you know what? Ace Attorney is actually a pretty awesome film that manages to remain loyal to the game it’s based on while still being a pretty great film on its own.
The actors they got for the parts are all perfect, the humor is genuinely funny, the murder mysteries are all kept in tact and they knew EXACTLY which cases from the original game to keep focus on without it becoming a jumbled mess. If I had any problems with the film, I’d say I was disappointed that comic relief characters from the game such as Detective Gumshoe and the Judge were played a bit too seriously, but I think what the film does right more than makes up for its shortcomings. See it if you haven’t already.
Persona 3: The Movie 1-4
My last entry for this one is interesting because I’m talking about a series of four films adapting a single game as opposed to one movie. The Persona 3 movie series makes the wise decision of taking a 50+ hour game and making it into a series of films instead of trying to adapt the entire thing into a single film. This helped in allowing for each film to develop the large cast of characters as well as expand on elements only touched upon in the original game and even add new ideas that enhance the story.
I especially loved the friendship that bloomed between Ken and Shinjiro as it helps in making the reveal of something that happened in their mutual pasts come across as all the more tragic and the result of it even more emotional.
If I had any issues, I would say that a good chunk of the third movie was mostly filler and didn’t really have too much material, leading to a rather boring film. But still, the Persona 3 movies are a great series of films that do justice to the PS2 classic and even has great ideas of its own to add to the table.
What’d you think of the list? Are any of these movies worth watching in your opinion? Be sure to sound off in the comment section below!