Stop Making Animated Video Games Into Live-Action Adaptations

By Christopher Isaac | Updated

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Any video game fan knows that for the longest time, movie adaptations based on games were almost all terrible as a rule. Fortunately, that trend finally seems to have been overcome thanks to movies like The Super Mario Bros. Movie that performed well both critically and financially. But I think one major hurdle still stands in the way of there more great video games movies: why do directors keep taking animated games and forcing them to become live action movies?

Why Go From Animated To Live-Action?

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When you think about it, it really is a strange decision. Video games are already an animated medium, so it seems like a pretty natural extension to turn them into a movie by simply treating them like one giant cutscene.

Super Mario Bros.

The 1993 Super Mario Bros. is a great example of this: why would a studio decide to take a franchise so cartoonish that it features a talking dragon as the antagonist, and a protagonist who defeats enemies by jumping on them, and then make that live action? I feel like video game adaptations have struggled for so long in part by trying to force them to become something they are not.

Street Fighter

I suppose part of the reason early on was because CGI was not as refined as it is now. But we still could have had some great looking hand drawn animated video game adaptations, like the classic Disney films. People might get some ironic enjoyment out of something like 1994’s Street Fighter, but it just seems like with a game that over the top that it would make so much more sense to animate it. When characters in Street Fighter games routinely do gravity defying moves and have appearances that even the best special effects team would struggle to replicate, why not go with the more natural route of keeping to the visual style of the games?

The Last Of Us

I can admit, not every video game adaptation is impossible to make live action. The Last of Us demonstrated this with how well the show did in hitting all of the major story beats. Though I think even the show’s most ardent fans would admit its weakest aspect was how lacking the show was in infected compared to the games.

While the ones we did have looked great, it seemed like maybe they were so expensive or timely to prepare that they were seldom used. This is another detail that animated adaptations don’t have to worry about.

Hopefully This Will Change

I think one of the biggest reasons why more video game adaptations are not animated is simply because directors worry it will make their movie or show appear like it is for children. Even if that were the case, I would just point out that The Super Mario Bros. Movie made $1.36 billion at the box office, so people obviously don’t have a problem watching something even if it is aimed at children.

I hope that success encourages future directors to stop trying to force so many video games to look like real life. Video games are an animated medium and it is totally fine to retain that when turning them into movies.