The 10 Best Video Game Movie Adaptations

Film adaptations of beloved video games are a notoriously tricky thing to pull off.

It's hard to say where exactly the problem lies when it comes to translating a video game onto film, but for whatever reason, movie adaptations of games are almost always box office poison, or are pretty much universally panned by critics, moviegoers, and the game's original fans alike.

One doesn't have to look much farther than the absolutely atrocious reception to Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Assassin's Creed, Bloodrayne, Hitman, Street Fighter, or Super Mario Bros. to see just how difficult it is to see evidence of this fact.

In a genre that's rife with failures, there has been the occasional commercially and critically successful movie adaption of well-known games every now and again. Often, these movies will appeal to gaming fans and non-gamers alike, remaining more or less faithful to the premise of the original game.

With the most recent movie based on a gaming franchise—Unchartedcurrently making waves at the box office (as of now, it's the fifth highest-grossing movie of 2022), we thought we'd take a look back at some of the most enjoyable film adaptations of video games there is, as well as providing information about where they are streaming.

Tomb Raider (2018)

tomb raider 2018
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

2018's Tomb Raider isn't the first adaptation based on the Tomb Raider games. Previously, there had been two installments starring Angelina Jolie as the eponymous grave-robbing protagonist, Lara Croft, that had been less than warmly received from fans and critics.

In this later 2018 adaptation, the filmmakers sought inspiration from the more recent entries in the Tomb Raider franchise, including the more realistic, critically acclaimed 2013 Tomb Raider and some elements from its sequel, 2015's Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is a fearless young woman whose adventurous father (Dominic West) mysteriously goes missing. In an attempt to find him, Lara travels to a strange, uncharted island where he was last seen, leading her to face booby traps, hostile environments, and treacherous secret organizations.

A minor success at the box office, Tomb Raider received mostly positive reviews, with particular praise aimed at the movie's action sequences, grittiness, and ability to capture the more grounded tone of the modern Tomb Raider games.

The response to Vikander's Croft was divided, but no matter what, it's easy to see the 2018 Tomb Raider as being far superior than earlier film adaptations, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light and Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris.

Not currently streaming, but available to rent online

Silent Hill

silent hill movie
Courtesy of Konami

Along with Resident Evil, Silent Hill is one of the main video games people associate with horror. The main thing that sets Silent Hill apart from other horror games, however, is its unusual, innovative approach to survival-based video games.

Unlike other contemporary horror games like Resident Evil, Silent Hill frames its stories from the perspective of an average person. Not only that, but the game also avoided using cliched story elements that other horror games drew upon, was less action-heavy, and focused more on psychological horror. Seeking to emulate that tone in a film, 2006's Silent Hill retains a basic premise and plot line similar to the earlier 1999 video game. Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) is a young girl who suffers from bouts of sleepwalking and night terrors that end with her screaming the words, “Silent Hill.”

Trying to find a solution, her mother Rose (Radha Mitchell) decides to take Sharon to the West Virginian town of Silent Hill to find some answers.

After they suffer a car accident while en route, Rose wakes up to find Sharon missing, and must venture into the fog-shrouded, seemingly abandoned town of Silent Hill to find her. Silent Hill may have been a bit too ambitious for its own good. Visually, it’s an impressive movie (something many critics agreed upon), but it suffered from a somewhat confusing storyline, overly long runtime, and too large a focus on weighty subject matter like religious fanaticism.

Despite its initially divided critical reception, Silent Hill‘s reputation has somewhat improved in recent years, especially when compared to its panned sequel, Silent Hill: Revelation.

Streaming on Starz and Prime Video (premium subscription required)

Monster Hunter

monster hunter movie
Courtesy of Screen Gems[
Director Paul W.S. Anderson is no stranger to making movies based on popular video game series.

In 1995, he made the first adaptation of the classic fighting arcade game, 1995's Mortal Kombat. In 2002, he established himself as the main creative voice behind the first six Resident Evil films starring his wife, Milla Jovovich. All of these movies, however, suffered a middling to negative critical reception among viewers.

By 2020, Anderson—never deterred by negative reviews—set out to craft another movie based on a hit video game franchise, this time modeled tackling the long-running Capcom series, Monster Hunter. Jovovich stars as US Army Ranger Captain Natalie Artemis, who finds herself transported to a strange new world populated by humans living side-by-side with large, man-eating monsters.

Like most of Anderson's previous movies, Monster Hunter earned a mixed response from viewers. Particular praise, however, was directed towards the film's action scenes and its impressive visual effects, for which it even earned a nomination at the 19th Visual Effects Society Awards.

It may not be an altogether great movie, but it's among Anderson's best, and is a satisfying enough film based on a unique video game.

Streaming on Starz and Prime Video (premium subscription required)

Rampage

rampage
Courtesy of New Line Cinema

Compared to the other movies on this list, 2018's Rampage wasn't based on a universally well-known video game.

Instead, it took inspiration from a fairly obscure, outdated game series that originated in the 1980s', focusing on human players who are turned into rampaging giant monsters through genetic experiments conducted by the aptly-named Scumlabs. In a loose adaptation of the game series, Dwayne Johnson stars as Davis Okoye, a skilled primatologist working at the San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary who forms a close relationship with a rare albino gorilla named George.

When he is exposed to a dangerous, experimental chemical, George begins showing a more aggressive behavior, as well as growing progressively larger. When a highly secretive government organization attempts to capture George, he escapes, wreaking havoc across the US along with two other creatures—a crocodile and a wolf—who have similarly grown to kaiju-sized proportions.

Rampage may not be the most faithful adaptation of a video game there is, but it's still an enjoyable movie that earned praise for its performances (especially for Johnson and his costar, Jeffrey Dean Morgan), action, and impressive visual effects.

Not currently streaming, but available to rent online

Sonic the Hedgehog

sth ff 032r2
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

A project that had been in development since the early 1990s', Sonic the Hedgehog was a movie that was a long time in the making, and one that fans were curious to see what the final product would be like. The first entry in a planned film series, Sonic the Hedgehog follows the titular supersonic speedster (voiced by Ben Schwartz) as he joins forces with a local sheriff (James Marsden) to stop the mad scientist Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) from taking over the world.

The production of Sonic may have had its ups and downs—the initial reaction to Sonic's physical design was so overwhelmingly negative, the movie was delayed as the movie's producers worked on redesigning him—but the finished result was one that ultimately lived up to and even surpassed most fans' expectations.

Much of the movie's positive critical response was particularly geared towards the action, design, and humorous tone, and the performances of Schwartz, Marsden, and Carrey (many critics saw it as a return to form for Carrey and one of his best roles in recent years).

It would go on to earn nominations from several award ceremonies, including the People’s Choice Award for Family Movie of the Year and the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film Release.

Streaming on Hulu and Paramount+

Pokémon Detective Pikachu

Detective Pikachu 1
Courtesy Sony Pictures

A movie similar to Sonic the Hedgehog in terms of fan anticipation, Pokémon Detective Pikachu had a lot to live up to, especially due to the mostly poor responses American gamers had to the original animated Pokémon films.

A loose adaptation of 2016’s Pokémon Detective Pikachu, Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is a young insurance agent and former Pokémon trainer whose police detective father (Ryan Reynolds) goes missing.

To solve the mystery of where he is now, Tim teams up with world-class detective, Pikachu (also Reynolds), and several other fan-favorite Pokémon creatures to find out what happened. Pokémon Detective Pikachu may not be everyone's cup of tea, but most critics agreed that fans of the Pokémon would perhaps be the most appreciative of this film.

Behind the 2016 film, Warcraft (based on the popular fantasy multiplayer computer game, World of Warcraft), it's the second highest-grossing movie based on a video game there is.

Not currently streaming, but available to rent online

Mortal Kombat

mortal kombat
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The third Mortal Kombat adaptation there is, the most recent film version of the famous fighting game franchise by Midway manages to avoid many pitfalls that plagued the original films, utilizing a more fleshed-out story, better visuals, and more than a few homages and clever references to the original game series.

Cole Young (Lewis Tan) is a struggling young martial artist who finds himself being hunted down by a mysterious, skilled assassin with the ability to manipulate ice named Sub-Zero. Looking for answers, Cole joins a group of like-minded warriors, mercenaries, and top-notch assassins chosen to defend Earth from a hostile, alternate realm of existence known as Outworld.

The Mortal Kombat franchise has a rich, detailed universe inhabited by numerous unique characters, each with their own complex backstories. Adapting such a large series for film wasn't easy—as shown by the icy reception to the earlier, negatively reviewed Mortal Kombat (1995) and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation—but the 2021 Mortal Kombat does a surprisingly good job translating the universe onto film.

The first in a planned cinematic franchise, Mortal Kombat may have earned somewhat mixed responses from critics, but was met with enthusiastic approval by fans of the classic gaming franchise.

Streaming on HBO Max

Ace Attorney

ace attorney
Courtesy of Toho

An unexpectedly great video game movie, Ace Attorney was and is a movie that remains both incredibly faithful to its source material, and also just different enough to translate it successfully onto film.

Based on the 2001 Capcom game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, the movie follows up-and-coming defense attorney, Phoenix Wright (Hiroki Narimiya), as he establishes himself as a successful lawyer, taking on a variety of court cases in the early days of his career. Eventually, Wright has his newfound legal career put to the test when he faces off against Manfred von Karma (Ryo Ishibashi), a veteran prosecutor who hasn't lost a case in 40 years.

Directed by the prolific Japanese auteur, Takashi Miike, perhaps the best thing about Ace Attorney is how much inspiration it takes the game's original premise and faithfully adapts it to film, retaining many of the game's most cartoonish elements (complete with characters appearing with exaggerated hairdos and outfits).

In a legal comedy-drama that feels like a cross between A Few Good Men and Rocky, Ace Attorney was hailed as one of the best video game adaptations there is.

Not currently streaming, but available to rent online

The Angry Birds Movie 2

angry birds 2
Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Not the most well-known video game movie there is, The Angry Birds Movie 2 is actually an hilarious, underrated entry on this list, acting as a vast improvement on its earlier, less-than-stellar predecessor.

Set three years after the events of the first movie, the residents of Bird Island (led by Red [Jason Sudeikis]) are still engaged in a lengthy prank war with neighboring Pig Island and their leader, King Leonard Mudbeard (Bill Hader). The two groups end up putting their rivalry on hold, however, when the nearby residents of Eagle Island attempt invading both islands, forcing the Pigs and the Birds to work together to defend their land.

The premise of the movie may be completely different from the mobile game it's based upon in—in the handheld Angry Birds series, the Birds and Pigs never team up—but such creative liberties ensured the movie would be new and exciting to all viewers, providing plenty of welcome surprises as a result.

Far better received than the first Angry Birds movie, Angry Birds Movie 2 boasts a fantastic ensemble cast of wonderful vocal talents, including Sudeikis, Hader, Leslie Jones, Josh Gad, Rachel Bloom, Awkwafina, Sterling K. Brown, Eugenio Derbez, Danny McBride, Tiffany Haddish, and Peter Dinklage.

Thankfully, you don’t even need to have seen the first Angry Birds Movie to understand the film. You can simply jump right in and still be able to enjoy it.

Not currently streaming, but available to rent online

Werewolves Within

werewolves within 1
Courtesy of IFC Films

Another film based on a fairly obscure game, Werewolves Within was originally developed and released in 2016 as a light-hearted multiplayer, VR mystery game where players tried to find out who among them was secretly a werewolf.

It was a clever premise that would work well in a film, as was discovered with the 2021 indie horror-comedy of the same name. Abandoning the game's medieval fantasy setting and moving it to a small-town in contemporary Vermont, Werewolves Within follows a group of people trapped inside together during a snowstorm.

As the storm worsens, the group gradually begins to suspect that someone hiding amongst them is actually a werewolf. Horror comedies can be a tricky genre, but Werewolves Within more than manages to balance some side-splittingly comedic scenes with plenty of genuine scares.

It's a well-done, underrated gem from 2021, and is actually the highest-rated video game movie on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic to date.

Streaming on Prime Video (premium subscription required)

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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Image Credit: Sony. 


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Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).