Movies and TV shows adapted from video games have a lengthy reputation for being downright awful, bizarre, and wacky. But sometimes, that actually helps it develop a campy and unique vibe that makes it oddly endearing and fun. But in recent years, there’s been a new wave of video game adaptations that have become massive hits like The Last of Us and The Super Mario Bros. Movie — causing some fans to wonder if the genre has reached new heights and is now a lucrative part of Hollywood.
But fear not, there’s a whole lineup of offbeat, madcap, and ridiculous video game adaptations coming to streaming platforms and theaters, which are sure to continue the genre’s reputation for being outlandish and over the top. From a forgotten Sega Dreamcast rhythm game to a universally-praised indie game that became the center of right-wing controversy, here are seven wild and weird video game adaptations making their way to the big and small screen.
First up, viewers will be treated to Twisted Metal, a new series premiering on Peacock on July 27. The show is an adaptation of the popular PlayStation franchise from the 90s and 2000s where players hopped inside super-pumped vehicles and battled it out to the death. There was Sweet Tooth, the missile-firing ice cream truck driven by a murderous clown; Axel, who operates a Mad Max-inspired two-wheeler that releases a massive shockwave; and Roadkill, an old-school muscle car that can shoot out rusty javelins, among many others.
The fact that this game is becoming a show is both awesome and totally weird because Twisted Metal was never the most plot-heavy game, so a lot of the story is going to have to be created from scratch. Add to that the show’s post-apocalyptic setting and the absolutely random casting that includes everyone from Will Arnett to Neve Campbell and pro wrestler Samoa Joe, and you have all the makings for … something. But, with its talented cast, there’s a chance the series might just surprise everyone and be the unofficial Mad Max sequel we never knew we needed.
This one is either going to be a riotous success or be so bad it won’t even get a theatrical release and will end up as some obscure VOD-only title you have to hunt down on Redbox. Regardless, Space Channel 5 is (somehow) getting made into a movie. Originally released in 1999 for the SEGA Dreamcast, Space Channel 5 was a rhythm game where players took the lead as Ulala, a news reporter who must stop aliens from taking over a space station by dancing with them. Also, she has a gun and ends up shooting them all anyways, so why the dancing???
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the movie version will switch up the plot a bit, saying it will “tell the story of a hapless fast-food worker who is recruited by a freedom reporter from the future to save the world from aliens using the one thing that unites all people on the planet: our love of silly viral dances.” I have a feeling this movie is going to sweep the Golden Raspberry Awards.
To be a success, the filmmakers need to remember that the video game was not expected to be the hit it was. Space Channel 5 ended up being great because the game was so unabashedly campy and absurd. It was a rhythm game designed for little girls, but also attracted boys thanks to Ulala’s ridiculously short skirt. The queer community also loved the game thanks to its saturated aesthetics and that Spice Girls-infused Jet Age style that had made a resurgence in the late 90s.
Space Channel 5 only succeeded because lightning struck and the game somehow resonated with a lot of different demographics, despite being made solely to attract young girls to SEGA. To be a success, the movie will need to do the same. It will need to appeal to more than just nine-year-old girls who want to be pop stars.
In theory, the Borderlands movie should be absolutely epic. Based on the post-apocalyptic first-person shooter game series about treasure hunters with awesomely wild weapons (and some light superpowers), the film seems dressed for success. It’s being directed by horror legend Eli Roth and has an all-star cast including Cate Blanchett, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black, among others.
However, as we saw with Paramount+’s Halo series, a great game franchise can still be ruined when the writers and directors have no idea what they’re doing. The good news is that Borderlands brings so much to the table already. The characters are charismatic and funny, and the game’s cel-shaded yet blood-soaked environment is a delicious mix of childhood cartoons and graphic profanity. Even if the movie has a weird plot or a non-canon storyline, Borderlands could still be amazing as long as the spirit of the game is there. The banter between the characters alone could be enough to make the movie enjoyable.
Speaking of Halo, we need to talk about how the show somehow got renewed for season 2. For anyone who loves the games, you know how wrong the show was. I can’t even say it was “bad” because it was so bad that it went beyond being bad…it literally transcended the concept and became comical and enjoyable.
John, aka Master Chief, the emotionless super soldier created to save humanity, first shocked viewers by removing his helmet. Then by getting naked for a prolonged nude scene. And finally, by having sex with a Covenant spy who was sent to kill him. Meanwhile, Kwan Ha (a character not in the games) is running around a desert planet and going on vision quests with a coven of space witches while she runs away from bad guys like she’s some knock-off Mandalorian character.
The series was the very definition of a bonkers, bizarre, and awful video game adaptation. But at the same time, it was so much fun. It was like a trainwreck, and the train was filled with kittens and bombs. It was such an atrocity that you couldn’t stop yourself from watching. I loved waking up every morning after the newest episode had premiered and reading headlines like Decider‘s “Master Chief Loses His Virginity While His Mom Watches.” The show was unable to set boundaries or recreate the Halo universe, and instead, it just went wildly off the rails. Luckily, next year we’re getting a season 2!
Since its release in 2016, the indie game Firewatch has had a wild ride. It centers around a man who takes a job as a fire watch ranger in Wyoming to escape his past. But it soon becomes clear someone else is in the woods stalking him. The game dives deep into the emotions of love, grief, and redemption, all while being centered around a juicy mystery.
Upon its initial release, the game became an unexpected hit, selling 500,000 copies in its first month. However, the next year, the right-wing mob descended upon the game after its developers Campo Santo demanded streamer PewDiePie remove his video of Firewatch after he used the N-word during a live stream (he had also previously made numerous anti-Semitic remarks).
Conservatives review-bombed the game on Steam, flooding it with 1-star reviews and calling the developers “social justice warriors” who were “banning free speech.” Despite all this, the game continued selling well and has since sold over 2.5 million copies. In 2020, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Firewatch was getting the movie treatment.
If turned into a film, Firewatch could be a tall order. The whole game centers almost entirely around one character alone in the woods, along with his boss who is never seen and is only heard over a walkie-talkie. For the movie to work, a very talented actor needs to be cast as the lead since he will quite literally be carrying the entire film on his shoulders. But, as we’ve seen with movies like 127 Hours, with the right actor, it can be done.
“Remember before when I was talking about smelly garbage standing around being useless? That was a metaphor. I was actually talking about you.” If you miss the snarky remarks from everyone’s favorite evil AI overlord, GLaDOS, then fear not because Portal is being made into a film. Helmed by JJ Abrams, the movie will revisit the classic Valve game about a girl who wakes up inside a giant facility and is forced to complete obstacles for the enjoyment of an all-powerful robotic overseer, GLaDOS.
When speaking to IGN, Abrams alluded that the film may differentiate from the games a little to build more plot, saying, “It’s got enormous potential for a lot of reasons, one of which is because of the limited narrative of the game, as ingeniously told as it is, the potential of it is so huge.”
For many fans, the plot can easily be given some flexibility since the real joy of the game is the odd relationship you form with GLaDOS. Technically, she’s the villain and she spends the entire game hurling insults that make you feel worthless. But since she’s also the only character you interact with, you feel an odd connection with her even though she’s a computer who hates you. As long as the movie gets a good group of writers who can load GLaDOS up with some viciously cutting remarks, Portal is sure to be a hilarious and cheeky romp.
In the Sega game Comix Zone, players navigate their way through a 90s-punk world filled with bad guys. The twist is that this is all taking place inside a comic book and players actually get to jump between the pages. While this is great for a video game and helps switch up the 2D platformer style, it’s unknown how well this will translate into a movie – or even how that will look on the big screen.
In the same article that announced the Space Channel 5 movie, THR also gave some insight into Comix Zone. Its plot strays pretty heavily from the game, with THR saying it “follows a jaded comic book creator and a young, queer writer of color who, when sucked into the final issue of his popular series, must put aside their differences to stop a dangerous supervillain from sowing complete destruction. In the process, they wittily explore the ever-evolving art of storytelling itself.”
Putting all that together is going to be a challenge, plus as we’ve seen these last few years, having a queer character involved will likely lead to an uproar from online bigots (especially if it’s a queer character of color). This movie is going to have a massive uphill battle in front of it, but if it can manage to be as creative and innovative as the game it’s based on, it just might be a hit.
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