But these games are far from being the first to transition to the big screen and though there have been some successes, none of them has been fully embraced by the majority of gamers as a truly great adaptation. Not to say there haven’t been good ones, but none have reached “great” status, at least to me, so I figured I’d make a list of the Top 5 Video Game Movies.
5) Resident Evil - The first Resident Evil movie debuted on March 15th, 2002 with fans either loving it or hating it. But despite the schism between them, most would say that it was an enjoyable film despite the fact it veered away from the characters and locations of the original game. In the first Resident Evil game, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine were stuck in a mansion in the Arklay Mountains where they were forced to fight for their lives against the horrendous monsters created by the Umbrella Corporation via the T-Virus. The game was famous for its unique monsters, suspenseful atmosphere, and hilarious lines of dialogue that seemed ripped from every B-Rated horror movie ever made. But despite that, none could deny the fear and suspense tickling the back of your neck as you walked those empty halls.
So when Resident Evil premiered, many expected the same kind of thing. But instead, they were introduced to an original character Alice, named so because of the metaphorical trip down the rabbit hole. Despite the clichéd crutch of the main character having convenient amnesia, the first movie seemed to keep the claustrophobic, suspenseful feel the game had. It took ideas from the game and gave it their own unique twist while adding enough Easter eggs from the game to excite fans of the games. But despite how the films have now diverged so far from its roots and even farther from the game series, none can deny that the first was an enjoyable film even if it wasn’t the movie most fans wanted.
4) Mortal Kombat - Sometimes a great movie doesn’t have to be Shcindler’s List to make it so. Sometimes a movie can be kind of ridiculous and simple and still be an entertaining and a good BAD movie. Such is the case of Mortal Kombat.
The game itself was a smash hit in arcades before it made its way to the big screen. People couldn’t get enough of beating up and killing their opponents in various, gruesome ways. Despite garnering fame from its players, it also became famous when parents got up in arms over the “Fatality” system that finished off your opponents in horrific ways, at least back then. And because of this, lawsuits and complaints alike brought this game all the way up to a Congressional hearing that eventually led to the establishment of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). But despite that, it didn’t stop Midway Games from coming out with multiple sequels and eventually coming out with a movie of the same name.
At this point, only three video game movies had ever been released and made in the US, the success of each varying with each one. So it was a gamble for Midway to release a movie of a game that had gained so much word of mouth because of its violence and gore. To appease parents and to make sure they received high profits, they released the movie with a PG-13 rating. And it worked out.
It premiered in the Number 1 spot in the box office and stayed that way for three weeks. But despite how well the movie did, the cheesiness was evident with every line of bad dialogue and over (or under) acting. The fight scenes and graphics were amazing for its time but the plot itself was generic with the simple good vs. evil. Nowadays, it’s one of those movies you put on if only to laugh at how ridiculous it is. And besides, it was a lot better than one of the other “fighting game” movie that had been released previously.
3) Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - The original game of the same name was released in 1996 with smashing success for Eidos. It was critically acclaimed by both reviewers and fans alike and blew all other games out of the water. The story was good, the gameplay was amazing; despite complaints of camera glitches and the checkpoint system. But despite that, it didn’t stop people from eating it up and begging for a sequel. Despite how popular the game was, the main character Lara Croft was even more so. She rocketed to success as one of the best female video game characters at the time because she broke the mold for how a female character should act in a game (and for some gamer boys, two very pointy objects).
In the wake of the trend of adapting games into movies, it made perfect sense to put this as the next project. The company was glad they did as it became the highest grossing video game movie, at a whopping $274,703,340, for nine years until it lost out to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Many critics claimed that the plot was senseless and the action sequences, despite being good, were empty of emotion, but Angelina Jolie, despite not being my favorite actress, was the living embodiment of the character and did an amazing job in the role that could have easily been played as pure eye candy.
But despite this, it’s still a movie you can sit down and watch with a nostalgic feeling of days gone by and marvel at the glorious set pieces and environments despite being eleven years old.
2) Silent Hill - It makes sense that the two movie sequels coming out in the coming months would have their predecessors on this list. But why exactly is this higher than Resident Evil? It’s simple. This game stuck very closely to the original game while twisting it enough to put their own, personal touch to it. When the first game was released in 1999 it left a resonating chord that still echoes to this day. Whereas the Resident Evil franchise was a mixture of action and suspense, Silent Hill took the “suspense” part and ran with it.
With a mixture of two different worlds, the Fog World and the Otherworld, each managed to capture fear in their own way. The opening sequence of walking down an alley to find a strung up corpse and then trying to escape from demonic children only to find the path suddenly blocked was the perfect opening to a game that would only get worse as it went on. From the haunted halls of Midwich Elementary School to the multi leveled Nowhere area at endgame, this game defined survival horror at the time. So when the movie came out, we hoped beyond words that it would match it.
And it did a decent job of doing just that. Though the story was slightly pulled back from the game (in the game, the actual villain is Dahlia while in this she is simply another victim) it still managed to add aspects of the game to a movie that was trying to be its own. From the iconic Pyramid Head stalking our heroine Rose, walking through the familiar Midwich Elementary School, and dodging sadistic and monstrous “Nurses”, many a fan was thrilled seeing this aspects in a full motion picture. Though the movie was far from perfect and I found myself critiquing it quite a lot, it is ranked higher simply due to the respect it showed to its inspiration and staying true to the formula, despite being watered down, that made the game so famous.
1) Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete - Final Fantasy VII is revered as the best video game of all time (though for some that is highly debatable). But despite your feelings for it, it revolutionized games because of its FMVs, a fantastic story, memorable characters, and enjoyable gameplay that had become famous through its predecessors, it became the staple of RPGs that followed it. And with how the game ended, there was an ambiguity to it that any fan could interpret in their own way. At the time, there was never a true sequel to a Final Fantasy game so no one really knew the fates of the characters and world.
When Squaresoft merged with Enix, sequels to games began springing up like Starbucks; the first being a sequel to the very recent Final Fantasy X titled the somewhat confusing Final Fantasy X-2. And with the success of that, it was only a matter of time before they began milking the cash cow that was Final Fantasy VII. First released in Japan in 2005 with a US/Europe release in 2006, it became a huge success for the newly formed company. Despite how beautiful the film was and how fantastic the fight scenes were, the story was highly confusing. Many aspects weren’t expanded on, or even explained, and many had to guess or look for outside information to figure out what was going on.
But then they re-released it in the US in 2009, and all questions were answered; to make it better, it was released in Blu-Ray, making the graphics and visuals even more stunning than they previously were. With 20 minutes of added scenes expanding on the story and redoing certain scenes to add to both character and plot. And though some of the voice acting was slightly dead, it didn’t detract from the characters and world that so many people had fallen in love with. This movie was not made to attract new audiences or branch out on its own with no respect to the original; it was simply a movie made for the fans. And yes, maybe it was also a way to make money or ruined the original game for some, for me it was the perfect video game movie made simply because at the core of the film, it was a search for forgiveness for things that may or may not have been our fault and finding the strength to continue fighting. A depth that many video game movies give up on to simply have familiar names and stunning fight scenes.
This list may be in complete opposition to the opinions to others and that’s ok. We all have our own taste. But for me, what makes a good adaptation is keeping the soul of the original while being original in its own right. And though the sequels to these movies may have lost this aspect, these originals hold on to the feeling we had when we first played the games these movies were based on. It awakens a nostalgia inside that may make us break open the case of a game we hadn’t played in years. And hopefully, maybe they will bring new players into the worlds we have been frequenting for years and open the door to new games and new possibilities.
Honorable Mention: Street Fighter
This movie is the embodiment of cheese. From horrible acting, to terrible fight scenes, and an abundance of ridiculous plot lines and set pieces, this movie is too bad to not love. This is a true great bad movie and no one can deny how ridiculous it is. And that is part of the fun. It took the characters we knew from the game and put them, literally as they are, in the film; ridiculous costumes in all. This is the movie you put on when you have a group of same-minded friends over if only to laugh and mock this ridiculous movie. But despite how bad it is, we all know there are a whole lot worse.