Best Movies & Shows Based on Games: Porting to the Big Screen

Seeing the Mushroom Kingdom or Hyrule come to life on the big screen seems like every gamer’s dream come true. But video game adaptations started out on shaky ground. 

Movie producers and writers weren’t sure how to approach a large, dedicated audience, and didn’t understand the importance of lore and accurate representation. This led to what we now call the video game movie curse: horribly written, badly acted, and off-putting productions.

Recently, some titles have managed to break this curse. The Covid-19 pandemic changed the gaming industry for the better. While the movie, theater, and similar industries suffered during lockdowns, video games thrived, as most developers worked remotely. Now the gaming industry is worth more than the film industry, with popular video games like Grand Theft Auto V raking in 6 billion dollars in revenue.

It’s no wonder movie studios want a piece of that cake. New releases have gotten better, and some are actually good. Read on and check my recommendations below. 

5 Best Movies Based on Video Games

It’s hard finding titles that don’t fall foul of the video game movie curse. On one hand, reviewers mostly focus on the movie without paying much attention to the source material. Gamers, meanwhile, often have high expectations and don’t appreciate the limitations actors and producers have. 

To keep things balanced, I’ve considered both sides when compiling this list. Here’s what made it into my top 5. 

  1. Uncharted (2022)
Review PlatformRotten TomatoesIMDb

The Uncharted game series received widespread acclaim for its story and characters. It’s often compared to Hollywood-produced action-adventure films. Now it really is a movie! 

Nathan Drake and Sully need no introduction in the gaming community but some fans weren’t too happy with Tom Holland or Mark Wahlberg taking up these roles. Even after release, reviews are mixed with some calling it the best video game adaptation, and others feeling like they watched a generic action-adventure film.

It’s one of those movies you either love or hate. For its production quality alone, it’s worth a watch. The music is amazing, the scenes are beautifully shot, and the plot is fun. 

Watch Uncharted on Netflix

  1. Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
Review PlatformRotten TomatoesIMDb

When the first preview of Sonic first dropped, it caused a massive backlash. Dubbed “ugly Sonic” online, people hated the beloved character’s live-action design featuring human-like teeth, small eyes, and weird proportions. 

Luckily, the producers listened to fans and completely redesigned the character. Following the success of the first film, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 released in 2022, and a third movie is scheduled for 2024. 

Fun fact: Ugly Sonic is its own character now, and made an appearance in Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022).

Sonic the Hedgehog follows Sonic’s new life on Earth until he draws the attention of the evil genius Mr. Robotnik. Think mad scientist versus beloved anthropomorphic blue hedgehog but with witty jokes, a simple storyline, and fun visuals. 

Watch Sonic the Hedgehog on Amazon Prime

  1. Werewolves Within (2021)
Review PlatformRotten TomatoesIMDb

Werewolves Within is another great adaptation you’ll want to see. Based on Red Storm Entertainment’s game of the same name, it has the highest critic scores on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic for a movie based on a video game. 

Distancing itself from the medieval world, we follow forest ranger Finn Wheeler in the small town of Beaverfield. A snowstorm traps Finn and local residents in a lodge, but paranoia takes over as a mysterious assailant kills a resident’s dog.

The atmosphere is goofy and creepy, and it makes for a good horror movie even if you forget it’s a video game adaptation. Witty dialogue, a great cast, and well-timed thrills should put this on your to-watch list.

Watch Werewolves Within on Showtime

  1. Detective Pikachu (2019)
Review PlatformRotten TomatoesIMDb

Nintendo’s Pokémon series is popular enough to amass attention, but the adorable Pikachu is without a doubt the powerful fan magnet. If you add Ryan Reynolds into the mix, you get plenty of people invested. Luckily, Detective Pikachu didn’t disappoint.

The story follows Tim, who travels to Rhyme City, a place where humans and Pokémon coexist peacefully. He has no interest in catching any Pokémon but ends up partnering with a Pikachu that only he can understand. Pikachu believes he’s a detective and together they stumble upon a conspiracy that threatens the entire city.

Despite some glitchy CGI effects, the Pokémon are well incorporated into the real world. The movie is good fun, and definitely a must-watch for Pokémon fans.

Watch Detective Pikachu on Amazon Prime

  1. Ace Attorney (2012)
Review PlatformRotten TomatoesIMDb

Capcom’s Ace Attorney quickly rose to become one of the best and most popular visual novel game series out there. Besides this movie adaptation, the video game has enjoyed countless spin-offs, crossovers, musicals, manga series, and stage plays.

This Japanese legal comedy received critical acclaim for being an adaptation faithful to the source. The actors use the same exaggerated motions and poses as the characters do in-game, which makes the entire movie feel very energetic and fun. 

Get ready for an entertaining movie night with Ace Attorney! The fast-paced story, cartoonish mannerisms, and visual gags are perfectly represented in this one.

Watch Ace Attorney on Amazon Prime

5 Best Shows Based on Video Games

Some people think that video games are best adapted as TV series to fully delve into the lore and not skimp on any world-building elements. I’ll let you be the judge of that. Start by checking out these 5 top shows.

  1. Arcane: League of Legends (2021)
Review PlatformRotten TomatoesIMDb

Arcane is a must-see regardless of if you’re a League of Legends fan. Set in Riot Games’ fictional universe, we follow sisters Jinx and Vi in the middle of escalating civil unrest. The series focuses on two locations: the rich, utopian Piltover and Zaun, the undercity for the less privileged.

Critics praised Arcane for its amazing story that works independently of the game’s lore, so you can approach it as a LoL veteran or just an animation enthusiast. Speaking of animation, Arcane definitely doesn’t disappoint in that department. Mixing CGI heavy elements with a seemingly 2D art style makes the scenes very fluid and engaging.

Netflix hit just the right spots with this series: compelling storytelling, steampunk elements, artistic animation, and well-written dialogue. It’s no surprise it ranked on Netflix’s Top 10 Chart in 52 countries. The streaming giant also renewed Arcane for a second season, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you still have time.

Stream Arcane on Netflix

  1. The Witcher (2019)
Review PlatformRotten TomatoesIMDb

The Witcher is widely regarded as one of the best video games of all time. But after the 2002 Polish adaptation, The Hexer, fans were not particularly optimistic about another show. When Superman actor and avid gamer Henry Cavill was cast as Geralt of Rivia, we changed our minds.

The first season was based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s books, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, which predate the main Witcher saga. The series received overwhelming fan support and critical acclaim. The second season might be more familiar for gamers that didn’t bother that much with the books.

We need to address the elephant in the room, though. In October 2022, Netflix announced Henry Cavill would depart from the series, and his role would be reprised by Liam Hemsworth for season four. Some fans feel the production quality will suffer since Cavill was passionate about following the source material. 

The Netflix spin-off, The Witcher: Blood Origin, hasn;t fared as well either. It received plenty of negative reviews for being unfaithful to the lore. That said, the first two seasons of The Witcher are definitely worth your time.

Stream The Witcher on Netflix

  1. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (2022)
Review PlatformRotten TomatoesIMDb

CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 started out on the wrong foot, with the game being buggy, glitchy, and devoid of the cool features we were promised. Naturally, people were wary of a collaboration between CD Projekt Red and Studio Trigger, but Cyberpunk: Edgerunners came as a pleasant surprise. 

The series is set in Night City and takes place a year before the events of Cyberpunk 2077. The animation extravaganza perfectly portrays the flashy yet dystopian world overrun by megacorporations. Our protagonist, David, is a street kid that turns to edgerunning (that’s cyber mercenary work) to survive Night City’s unforgiving industrial districts.

Netflix made it clear that Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a standalone project, so don’t expect a season two. With a touch of fatalism now associated with the cyberpunk genre, transhumanist themes, and an authentic protagonist, you won’t be disappointed if you give this one a go.

Stream Cyberpunk: Edgerunners on Netflix

  1. The Cuphead Show! (2022)
Review PlatformRotten TomatoesIMDb

Cuphead centers around continuous and challenging boss fights with not much background story to go on. The Cuphead Show! came as a surprise, and fans feared there wouldn’t be enough content to keep viewers engaged. Netflix ordered 36 episodes divided into three seasons and proved skeptics wrong.

The show’s animation reminds us of the classic rubber-hose style cartoons from the 1930s. Think Betty Boop and early Warner Bros cartoons. Featuring brothers Cuphead and Mugman, as well as their arch-nemesis The Devil, The Cuphead Show! is a great game adaptation suitable for old and young audiences.

The slapstick humor provides a wonderful throwback to old-school American cartoons, and the characters are pure fun. Despite the action-packed game being notoriously difficult, the show is a great way to unwind and have a laugh.

Stream The Cuphead Show! on Netflix

  1. Pokémon (1997)
Review PlatformRotten TomatoesIMDb

Nowadays, Pokémon is a huge media franchise so it’s easy for people to forget where it all started. The anime show was released to accompany each main installment in the Pokémon video game series starting with Pocket Monsters: Red and Green.

Nearly 20 years later, the series still airs in 192 countries, which makes it one of the most successful video game adaptations of all time. The story follows the now-familiar Ash Ketchum on his journey to become a Pokémon master. Joined by the lovable Pikachu and a rotating cast of friends, Ash travels through different regions and participates in Pokémon League tournaments.

Despite being an older series, Pokémon is largely credited for popularizing anime in the US and Europe. Pay tribute to the classics and give this one a try. Just prepare yourself mentally for 1,000+ episodes.

Stream Pokémon on Amazon Prime

3 Worst Movies and Shows Based on Video Games

While video game adaptations enjoy good reviews nowadays, that wasn’t always the case. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, video game adaptations were notoriously disappointing. Since video games had quite a niche audience, directors weren’t sure how to approach these adaptations. 

  1. House of the Dead (2003)

Director Uwe Boll described this movie as a prequel to Sega’s 1996 game of the same name. Fans and casual viewers alike were blown away by the film — but not in a good way. Bad writing, awful dialogue, plot holes, and a whacky, shaky camera makes House of the Dead a facepalming experience.

Rotten Tomatoes ranked it as 41st of the 100 worst-reviewed films of the 2000s, and with an approval rating of a measly 3%, it’s not hard to see why. Time magazine also listed it as the winner of their top 10 worst video game movies.

Despite the fans’ overwhelming dislike for the movie, Uwe Boll went on to produce more video game adaptations including a BloodRayne trilogy, a Dungeon Siege trilogy called In the Name of the King, and a Far Cry action film. Those that weren’t box-office bombs still received overwhelmingly negative reviews. While I can’t help but admire his determination, thankfully Boll’s video game adaptation days are over. 

  1. Super Mario Bros. (1993)

Super Mario Bros. was the first feature-length live-action adaptation of a video game. Sadly, it wasn’t very good. The story seems all over the place, the dialogue is out-of-character a lot of the time, and the visual effects seem to be the movie’s only redeeming quality. 

Brothers Mario Mario (really) and Luigi Mario (yes, seriously) live in Brooklyn, New York. They’re driven out of their plumbing business by the mafia-operated Scapelli Construction Company. Somehow they manage to stumble through an interdimensional portal in their quest to rescue Daisy, Luigi’s girlfriend, from Koopalings.

If this seems too far off from what you imagined in a live-action Mario adaptation, join the club. It doesn’t help that Mario actor, Bob Hoskins, described the whole production as a nightmare. Despite it being a fiasco, the movie still developed a cult following much as The Room did.

  1. The Legend of Zelda (1989)

Nintendo scored big with The Legend of Zelda series but this animated TV series was far from successful. It released two years after the first game was published outside Japan. 

While it might have been an average show at the time, nowadays, with so much lore behind the games, the animated series seems out of character, bland, and flimsy. Link has brown hair and lives in Zelda’s castle, Ganon is simply an evil pig, the dialogue is quite outlandish, and the list goes on. Everything Link and Zelda do seems exaggerated.

Some old-school fans put this series in the so bad it’s good category. If that’s your thing, you can give it a try. Just be prepared to see Link as a whiny jerk.

Get Excited for These Upcoming Movies and Shows Based on Video Games

Some gamers are hopeful we’re entering the renaissance age of video game adaptations. Movie studios and producers caught this widespread enthusiasm and have begun promising us a lot of goodies. Only time will tell if their offerings will meet our expectations.

  1. The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)
Mario looking at Peach's Castle from Super Marios Movie poster
What happened to your Italian accent Mario?

During the 2022 Game Awards, we saw a sneak peek of the highly anticipated new Super Mario Bros. movie. People are on the fence about Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt voicing Mario (especially when Charles Martinet has a cameo role in the movie). Pratt assures Mario fans that he worked incredibly hard to find a suitable voice for the beloved character but it still didn’t sit right with some people.

With Anya-Taylor Joy as Peach, Charlie Day as Luigi, and Jack Black as Bowser we’re looking at a pretty solid cast. The animation looks really good too, and the story seems promising. 

  1. The Last of Us (2023)
Joel and Elly in front of grey wall in The Last of Us show poster
Are clickers haunting your nightmares now too?

When HBO announced it would make a series adaptation of The Last of Us, people were ecstatic. Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin joined Naughty Dog writer Neil Druckmann for this production, so expectations are high.

Starring The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascal as Joel and Game of Thrones’ Bella Ramsey as Ellie, the show will have 10 episodes based on the first game. At the time of writing, only the first four episodes had come out, and it’s just as heartbreaking as you’d expect given Sarah’s perspective in the opening act. Hopefully, the rest of the show will keep us glued to our screens.

  1. God of War (TBA)
Kratos and Son on boat in front of mountains from God of War poster
Who’s your fan favorite pick to play the mighty Kratos?

Speaking of an adult-child wonder duo, Amazon Prime announced it’s working on a God of War series. Santa Monica Studio’s creative director Cory Barlog will serve as executive producer. While we don’t know who’ll play Kratos or Atreius yet, Amazon Prime confirmed the series will be based on the 2018 game

The Norse realm has so much potential to provide a nice cinematic experience, and we already know the story is good. Now we just need to remain patient until Amazon Prime reveals more details.

  1. Ghost of Tsushima (TBA)
Jin Sakai standing in a field in Ghost of Tsushima poster
Samurais will never stop being cool.

Sony Pictures announced a Ghost of Tsushima movie adaptation in 2021, and it looks promising. The company is partnering up with Chad Stahelski and 87eleven Entertainment to bring Jin’s story to life. We haven’t been given a release date so far

We don’t know much about the adaptation, except that the movie and the cast will most likely be Japanese. Since Ghost of Tsushima heavily drew inspiration from classic Kurosawa movies, it seems like a great decision. 

  1. The Witcher: Season 3 (2023)
Geralt, Ciri, and Yennifer in front of clouds in Witcher poster
Will you be watching season 3 to see Henry Cavill do his Geralt grunts for the last time?

Season 3 is the last one to feature Henry Cavill as Geralt, so it’s not one to miss. This season will premiere in summer 2023 on Netflix. Netflix also confirmed a fourth season in production, where Liam Hemsworth will take over the role of Geralt.

After The Witcher: Blood Origins’s dysmal reviews, fans aren’t hopeful for the future of the series, and some expect the third season to be the last good one. Time will tell, but at the end of the day, its all up to your personal taste.

Video Games That Should Be Made into Movies or Shows (Or Both)

Video games are still quite an untapped market for the movie industry. A lot of fans want to see their favorite series on the big screen, and some video games are primed to be turned into movies and TV shows.

  1. BioShock
Jack in his suit next to a Little Sister in the hall in Bioshock

BioShock is a classic first-person shooter with a great story to back it up. After a plane crash, our protagonist Jack finds himself reaching the Rapture, an underwater city run by a ruthless businessman. 

The utopian-turned-dystopian society is based on writing and philosophical concepts from Ayn Rand, Aldous Huxley, and George Orwell. BioShock received critical acclaim for its compelling story and artistic style, and it was the first game to be called a “work of art” on Vox in 2016. If there’s a video game that deserves an adaptation, it’s BioShock.

  1. Red Dead Redemption II
Arthur Morgan next to his horse on a mountain range in Red Dead Redemption 2

The game has a massive fanbase, and its cinematics are so good they feel like they belong on the big screen. Rockstar Games developers heavily borrowed from Hollywood techniques to build a cinematic mode, which makes you feel like you’re actually watching a Western.

Red Dead Redemption II also has a great array of characters and an amazing world, which are the perfect recipe for an adaptation. Even Geralt of Rivia and Superman actor, Henry Cavill, thought it would make for a good movie

  1. Metroid
Metroid's Sam looking straight ahead with gun lifted

Samus is the definition of a great protagonist that amassed a fanbase without ever saying a word (yes, we won’t speak of Metroid: Other M). The cool bounty hunter is long overdue for an adaptation, whether animated or live-action.

After bad adaptations like Super Mario Bros. (1993), it’s understandable that Nintendo doesn’t rush to make deals with the movie industry. Hopefully, the latest advancements in CGI technology will let us see Samus on the big screen one day. 

  1. Overwatch
Overwatch characters in action

People have grown to love their Overwatch mains, and Blizzard is aware of how well fans responded to their animated releases. Before the game’s 2016 release, Blizzard published a series of animated teasers and trailers as promotional materials. Fans and publications alike praised them.

But what if Blizzard took it a step further? A feature-length animated movie featuring Overwatch characters sounds like an amazing idea!

  1. Infamous
Cole MacGrath showing off his powers in Infamous poster

Infamous stands out because it lets you decide whether you want to play as a hero or as a villain. This premise would make a great anti-hero adaptation. Among all those Captain Americas and Supermans, we need more Deadpools in our cinema.

In 2009, Sony approached screenwriter Sheldon Turner to adapt the story into a full-length movie. Until now, we’ve heard no updates. Infamous fans are clearly deprived of other media depictions of Conduits.

Are Video Games Changing the Movie & TV Industry?

Cinema has a longer history than video games and a broader appeal, while video games are only just starting to be recognized for their artistic value. In this sense, video games won’t have a huge impact on the movie industry.

That said, some movie producers are aware of the elements which make video games so attractive. Besides a good narrative and plot, the interactive aspect keeps people engaged. Digital technological advancements now make interactive cinema possible.

Interactive films refer to movies that let the viewer control the narrative as they would in a video game. This genre is still very much in its infancy, so they rely mainly on “this or that” decisions.

The first American interactive film was I’m Your Man, released in 1992. Cinemas showing the production were retrofitted with controllers to allow the audience to vote on what the main character’s next course of action should be. Decades later, we see bigger companies like Netflix experimenting with the genre. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018) and Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal (2020) are popular examples.

Only time will tell whether interactive cinema is here to stay. For now, this is still very much a niche and experimental genre, and interactive films only make up a tiny fraction of the movie industry.

Gamers, Get into Your Streaming Mode

While we don’t have much to go on now, it’s clear movie studios are realizing the potential video games bring to the industry. We’ve already seen the success shows like The Witcher and movies like Detective Pikachu can have. Now, with producers eyeballing classics like God of War and Super Mario Bros, we might be in for a new era of video game adaptations that far surpasses the artistic quality and visual effects the Resident Evil movie series could ever offer.

To keep up with current trends and upcoming releases, you might need a few streaming subscriptions. The majority of new releases seem to be divided between Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO, so at least you won’t have too many platforms to worry about.

If you’re in a student dormitory, hotel, or any other place with restrictive Wi-Fi that prevents access to streaming services, you won’t be able to watch our recommendations. Use CyberGhost VPN to regain access to your favorite streaming channels like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and many others. 

We have streaming-optimized servers all over the world that are perfect for your movie night. We’ve configured them to handle heavy data transfers, so you can enjoy a smooth streaming experience with no buffering, bandwidth restrictions, or drops in quality.


What is the best movie based on a video game?

Uncharted, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Werewolves Within are three of the best movies based on video games. Game adaptations often have bad casting or writing and perform poorly despite a decent fan base. However, some titles manage to break this curse. Check out our 5 recommendations for more details on what’s worth your time.
If you’re on vacation or connected to a restrictive Wi-Fi network like in a student dorm, you might not have access to these shows. Get CyberGhost VPN and regain access to all your entertainment channels.

What are some shows based on video games?

Quite a few TV shows are based on video games. Some of the best adaptations include Netflix’s Arcane: League of Legends, The Witcher, and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. Not all adaptations are worth your time though — some were cinematic disasters. See our top 5 recommendations if you’re in the mood for TV shows based on video games.

Do shows and movies increase video game sales?

Good adaptations can bring in new fans or make nostalgic players buy the next-gen game version. The gaming industry is now worth more than the movie industry after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Steam reported a massive increase in Cyberpunk 2077 players when the Edgerunners show released. When The Witcher blew up, stores like the PlayStation Store and Microsoft Store offered discounts, so it’s also worth keeping an eye out for offers when new shows and movies are released.

What are some of the best games that should be turned into movies or shows?

This depends on your viewpoint! Many great video games have the potential to make it on the big screen with the right producers and cast. BioShock, Red Dead Redemption, and Metroid are all prime examples of video games that deserve an adaption.
Streaming giants like Amazon Prime are luckily aware of the demand. Amazon has already announced it’s working on bringing beloved characters to full-fledged TV series. So far, it has us hyped for planned God of War and Fallout adaptations. Hopefully, more are on their way.

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