Video games are a rich vein of narrative potential that Hollywood is still struggling to mine. It’s often the case that the mediums just don’t translate – after all, spending a couple of hours merely watching a protagonist can be pretty underwhelming when you might have inhabited their skin for ten times that long. And then there’s the visual pitfalls to consider. Hollywood was so preoccupied with whether or not they could make a live action Sonic movie, they didn’t stop to think if they should.
Despite this, the endeavour continues, and attempts are getting better. Warcraft made impressive waves overseas, and 2018’s Tomb Raider was an imperfect but valiant attempt at cracking the code. With the relatively positive buzz surrounding Detective Pikachu, what other games deserve their chance at a big-screen adaptation?
Grim Fandango (1998)
Inspired by Raymond Chandler and noirs like Double Indemnity, Grim Fandango has such a rich cinematic style that the transition to film seems like a no-brainer. It’s widely considered to be one of the best video games ever made… and it’s also the project that was so commercially unsuccessful it prompted LucasArts to end development of the adventure game genre forever. Doesn’t it perhaps deserve a second chance?
Packed with wit, humour, and gorgeous Art Deco design, the game follows world-weary Manny Calavera, travel agent to recently departed souls. From the stifling offices of the Department of Death to the seedy port town of Rubacava and the literal Edge of the World, Manny is drawn into a noirish tale of corruption and conspiracy in the vibrant Land of the Dead. Casablanca by way of The Book of Life, the game soars on the back of stellar voice acting, a wildly creative narrative, and endlessly quotable dialogue – and it would make a fantastic animated feature.
The Last of Us (2013)
Many would argue that we already got a sort-of adaptation of Naughty Dog’s critical darling with 2017’s Logan. The similarities aren’t hard to see. A tired grieving beardo and his young surrogate-daughter type embark on a roadtrip across a desolate near-future – only The Last of Us had added zombies, cannibals, molotov cocktails, and enough stealth sequences to give you a stress headache.
Admittedly it’s a hard sell. The game rightfully enjoys near-universal acclaim, and the idea of replacing Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson in the central roles of Joel and Ellie is virtually unthinkable. It’s a concern that the game’s writer and co-director Neil Druckmann has himself voiced. But, in a game so consciously cinematic in its story and acting as well as its gameplay, there’s still something irresistible about the idea of seeing it play out on the big screen. Plus, the wider non-game playing public needs to experience the flailing panic associated with fighting the Bloaters.
Horizon Zero Dawn (2017)
You know how it goes. God created dinosaurs. God destroyed dinosaurs. God created Man. Man created murderous self-perpetuating military AI technology in a fit of hubris. AI technology decimates the earth.
In the breathtaking world of Horizon Zero Dawn, the aforementioned technological cataclysm has seen modern civilisation crumble. A thousand years on, humanity has rebuilt, living in tribe-like societies in a world overrun by mechanical monsters and faded memories of the “Old Ones” who built them. Scrappy outcast heroine Aloy is searching for clues about her past, and it’s through her eyes that we experience this post-post-apocalyptic world.
It’s not an ashen Skynet-style wasteland, but a breathtakingly beautiful vision of a land reclaimed by nature. It’s a refreshing change from the standard grimdark aesthetic of societies post-disaster, and the machines that inhabit it (from robo-deer to robo-giant-crabs to robo-sabretooths) are an endlessly creative addition. Aloy is tailor-made to be an unforgettable big-screen heroine, and watching her take on a mighty Thunderjaw with her trusty bow and arrow would make for an utterly fantastic cinematic set piece.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (2017)
Talk of an Uncharted movie has been rumbling since 2008. It’s certainly a tantalising property – a fun, Indiana-Jonesy romp seems like a guaranteed hit. Indeed, a prequel is tentatively in the works with Tom Holland set to take the iconic role of treasure hunter Nathan Drake. But why stop there?
The Lost Legacy, a standalone spinoff from the franchise’s fourth entry A Thief’s End, features fortune hunter Chloe Frazer and ex-mercenary Nadine Ross as they search for the legendary Tusk of Ganesh. The clashing interplay between stoic Nadine and brash Chloe makes for a compelling central relationship, and an action-adventure odd-couple duo made up of two women of colour would be a breath of fresh air for our current cinematic landscape. The game proves that, lovable as he is, Nathan Drake isn’t an essential component for a fun Uncharted game. Why should a movie be any different?
Resident Evil 2 (2019)
While the six existing Resident Evil movies deserve a special place in the Lovably Rubbish Mid-2000s hall of fame, they could never really claim to be scary movies. A rebooted Resident Evil movie done as pure horror rather than sci-fi/action could be just the ticket, and this year’s remake of survival horror Resident Evil 2 would be a great place to start.
Following rookie cop Leon Kennedy (on what is undoubtedly the worst first day on the job any person has ever had) the game boasts not only your bog standard walking dead, but a cavalcade of truly revolting and horribly difficult-to-defeat mutants that often evoke memories of John Carpenter’s The Thing. It’s unlikely that any film adaptation could capture the bum-clenching tension of trying to evade the relentless Mr X , but it’d be a blast to let some of Resident Evil’s more disgusting mutants give the cinematic zombie genre a much-needed shake up.
Bonus: Kingdom Hearts
Because let’s face it – with Disney buying up everything, this is our future now.