The video game industry is huge, and it gets bigger year after year as the technology and accessibility of immersive video game experiences grows. It’s no surprise that many worlds, stories and characters that started their lives in video games have been adapted to the silver screen in full length Hollywood film productions. It’s true, however, that video game movies have traditionally been pretty hit or miss, with objectively more failures than successes, but that isn’t to say they’re all bad. Some film adaptations of video game stories or based on video game characters are worth a watch. This list aims to help guide you to the good ones, so you’re not left disappointed.
Assassin’s Creed (2016)
Thanks to the excellent acting skills of Michael Fassbender as the titular Assassin, the 2016 release of Assassin’s Creed, based on a series of critically acclaimed video games from game develop Ubisoft, is worth a watch. The games are beautiful when played on high end computer hardware like a gaming laptop from the Lenovo range, and the movies are shot beautifully too. The game premise of being able to use a machine to relive the experiences and lives of your ancestors is faithfully recreated in the movie, and although it’s not flawless, it’s executed well, given how difficult it must have been to adapt to screen. Other big name Hollywood actors like Jeremy Irons as Rikkin and Marion Cotillard as Sofia help this movie along its way to being a dark, brooding but enjoyable watch.
Mortal Kombat (1995)
1995’s Mortal Kombat was perhaps a bit ahead of its time, establishing the groundwork for fighting game movies that would follow it in the decades since its release. Thanks to its subject matter, Mortal Kombat wasn’t bound by a deep story, and instead used the lore of the individual characters from the game to create a pretty compelling watch. That’s not to say the story is particularly deep. It follows the story of a selection of fighters from around the world attending and competing in a tournament. It’s simple, but quite effective and true to the source material. Robin Shou and Christopher Lambert both shine as Liu Kang and Raiden respectively in this first and best one of the three movies based on the game.
Detective Pikachu (2019)
There’s some creative licence in the use of the most famous of all the Pokémon, Pikachu, for 2019’s Detective Pikachu, like his crippling addiction to coffee, but Ryan Reynolds does a wonderful job at making us love the adorable yellow guy. The movie features a blend of real-world locations and actors and rather seamlessly digitally added Pokémon. It’s clear through its runtime that this isn’t a quick attempt to profit from the Pokémon franchise, but that real care and attention has been put into each of the Pokémon you encounter. There are some great gags that are sure to produce a laugh too, expertly carried by a well-chosen cast.
Starring the ever-popular and incredibly well casted Dwayne Johnson and Karl Urban as its lead characters, Doom makes no pretences about being what it is – a rather shallow action movie with a nod to the original plot of the 90s first-person shooter game. The story follows a group of space marines who are sent to a research facility base on Mars to investigate a series of strange happening only to find themselves up against an army of genetically modified humans who more closely resemble monsters.
If you’re after a couple of hours of braindead action sequences of The Rock overcoming impossible odds and dispatching countless people monsters.
Tomb Raider (2018)
If there was one video game that seemingly fits the mould of a good premise for an action movie, then Tomb Raider is it. This long running video game series follows its main protagonist Lara Croft, the badass, impressively nimble and easy on the eyes female archaeologist as she explores ancient monuments in search of long-lost relics. The 2018 iteration isn’t the first movie adaptation of the video game; that honour belongs to 2001’s Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie.
Alicia Vikander takes up the role in the 2018 version, which is definitely the best of the two. The tone of the movie is darker, which matches the newer video games in the series, and it makes for a perfectly watchable movie with a well-written plot and great cast.
The announcement of a live action movie adaptation of Blizzard Entertainment’s behemoth that is the Warcraft universe left many fans apprehensively excited to see their favourite characters from the in-depth and long running fantasy tale brought to life. Paula Patton and Ben Foster take the lead roles in this retelling of Gul’dan’s entry into the lore of Warcraft as he attempts to flee his dying world for another. Staple heroes like Anduin Lothar and Medivh form an uneasy alliance with the Frostwolf clan and its leader, Durotan, as they try to stop him.
You’ll benefit greatly in your enjoyment of the Warcraft movie by being familiar with the universe before pressing play, but even if you have no knowledge of the world, the characters and their motivations are deep enough to make this movie worth spending time watching.
IO Interactive’s Hitman is perhaps the greatest example of a stealth video game ever created, which can almost be said for the movie adaptation. The mysterious Hitman 47, played by Timothy Olyphant, adapts to screen easily enough, but because of the nature of his character, the strong silent type with no discernible personality, he doesn’t offer anything interesting to the viewer.
There’s certainly enough depth to the story to keep you entertained, but this one is probably best left for fans of the Hitman game series, rather than general moviegoers, and the fight and action sequences are well executed. If you enjoy this one, you should watch the 2015 reboot too.
If you’re a video game fan, watching a movie based on your favourites can add depth to the worlds and characters you love. There are many other movies based on video games that could have made this list, but these are our picks for the best of them.