Hollywood traditionally has a tough time bringing video game adaptations to the big screen. A series of box office flops, as well as the high production budgets required for many of these adaptations have made studios hesitant to green light blockbuster adaptations for popular video games. Very few films have broken out of the dreaded video game curse and made a relevant impact at the box office and fan culture, but recent developments in both film and television indicate that it may soon be their time to shine.
The recent box office success of Sonic the Hedgehog (at least before it was kneecapped by the COVID-19 pandemic) shows that there is a potent audience available for these films. Now, it’s just a matter of finding out how to tap into this audience. There are many upcoming projects that could find this audience — some based on popular franchises and some based on niche properties that have blockbuster potential.
Television is looking like an exciting new medium for the video game genre to find an audience. Netflix’s wildly successful adaptation of The Witcher proved that not only is it possible to have blockbuster success on the small screen, but it could be the ideal medium to tell stories with such a vast scope like video games so often do.
Just to be clear, this ranking is based on projects that should be on the typical movie fan’s radar. Video game fans surely will have plenty opinions as to what should and should not be on this list, and there are plenty of more niche options to choose from. Still, this list takes into account all of properties that have blockbuster potential, and it excludes any adaptation that seems to be in “development hell” — movies that are supposedly in development but never seem to have any movement behind the scenes.
With all of that in mind, lets breakdown the Top 10 most exciting video game-based projects that should be on your radar:
The Fallout series is a staple for hardcore gamers but is not very well known to the general public. The series is set in a post-apocalyptic alternate history (with a 1950s retropunk twist) where nuclear war reduced the Earth to a nearly deserted Wasteland. The survivors of the apocalypse have set up civilization in a series of bunkers known as “Vaults.” The series is incredibly customizable, but the story typically revolves around a survivor who is forced to leave the safety of the vault and traverse the dangerous terrain of the Wasteland.
The video game series is incredibly popular in the community with four main series games and multiple spinoffs, and its next major expansion will move Fallout onto the small screen. Amazon Studios announced in July 2020 that it is working with Bathesda Studios on a series based on the Fallout video game franchise, with Lisa Joy and Johnathan Nolan (Westworld) writing and producing the series.
Upon first glance, hiring the minds behind Westworld to lead this show may turn some people off because Westworld managed to chase viewers away with its overcomplexity and lost potential. Still, even though Joy and Nolan made some miscalculations with Westworld, the show is incredibly well made and directed, especially when it comes to world building and character development. As long as Joy and Nolan learn their lesson and do not go overboard again with the intellectual melodrama, Amazon’s Fallout has the potential to be an incredible hit for the streaming service and for the franchise overall.
9. Detective Pikachu 2
While Pokémon may be a major franchise that spans a wide variety of media from anime television shows to apps to trading cards, the franchise’s roots and primary existence are in the video game industry. Pokémon holds the title as the top grossing media franchise of all time because of its broad product portfolio, but it was not until recently that the franchise attempted to get into the live-action blockbuster sphere. 2019’s Detective Pikachu may not have been the financial smash hit at the box office that The Pokémon Company is used to, but at the very least, it proved that live-action Pokémon is not only possible, but also not a bad idea.
To be clear: the first Detective Pikachu was not a failure at the box office. It grossed $423 million worldwide with a production budget of $150 million, which after advertising and distribution costs is about breakeven. However, it’s worth noting that the first film’s box office represented the lackluster reception to the film by movie goers. The general consensus among critics, general audiences, and hardcore fans alike was that the film overall was decent but had far more potential than the film represented.
While there is no official announcement for yet for a sequel, credible rumors have circulated that its announcement is immanent (possibly on Pokémon’s 25th anniversary on February 27). The sequel is definitely in development behind the scenes, with 22 Jump Street writer Oren Uziel on-board to develop a script for the project. Audience and fans alike are now eagerly waiting for a live-action Pokémon movie that lives up to the franchise’s potential, and there’s a good chance that Detective Pikachu 2 could accomplish that goal.
8. Resident Evil Reboot
You may recognize the Resident Evil property from the critically panned series of low-budget action flicks that periodically made headlines over the last two decades. However, fans of the original video game series are horrified to know that those films are the only exposure that the general public has to the franchise. The original video game series is widely known in the gaming community for defining the survival horror genre and bringing the concept of Zombies back into popular discussion back in 1996.
The six-film series starring Milla Jovovich strayed very far away from its video game roots, and fans are now eagerly waiting for an official reboot that is promised to return to those origins. Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) will helm the reboot and has promised fans a return to form for the franchise and a return to the survival horror genre.
The Resident Evil is going through a bit of a resurgence at the moment with the trailer and demo for the newest video game, Resident Evil Village, receiving incredible reception from the community. The reboot will star Kaya Scodelrio (The Maze Runner Series) and Robbie Amell (The Babysitter) and is set to release on September 3, 2021.
Similar to Fallout, Borderlands is also a staple in the gaming community but has very little recognition within the general public. The series is a space western / science fantasy primarily based on the planet of Pandora (not the same Pandora from Avatar). The video games are mostly a standard first-person shooter set in an open world with a rich history and extensive lore. What distinguishes the upcoming Borderlands film apart from the rest is the A-list talent already on-board.
Cate Blanchett is attached to star as Lilith, a siren with extraordinary abilities. Rounding out the rest of the cast is Jaime Lee Curtis, Jack Black, and Kevin Heart. With a cast like this, pretty much anyone with even one finger on the pulse of Hollywood won’t be able to ignore it. Director Eli Roth (The House with a Clock on Its Walls) will reteam with Cate Blanchette, and the film will obviously have the adventure-comedy tone that is very appealing to mass audiences.
No word yet on an official release date, but Borderlands is in active development and should see more movement soon.
6. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
The future of video game movies at the box office looked fantastic right until COVID-19 struck the entire industry. The 2020 adaptation of the incredibly popular video game franchise Sonic the Hedgehog became the highest grossing video game film of all time at the domestic box office, but its international haul was blocked by theater closures and national shutdowns across the globe at the very start of the pandemic. It made an astounding $143 million in the U.S. but only a disappointing $319 worldwide. It could be assumed that if major markets like China and Japan were open to receive Sonic when it was released, it could have achieved incredible success at the box office on a relatively moderate $87 million budget.
The first film went through a roller coaster of reactions across the internet — from the horrifying VFX of the trailer to the shockingly positive reviews once the film came out. The stage is now perfectly set for Sonic 2, where Paramount hopes to capitalize off of its momentum by expanding further into the cast of fan-favorite characters from the video games. Tails, a two-tailed flying fox, is set to join the adventure after his reveal in the first Sonic’s end-credits scene.
Ben Shwartz is set to return to voice Sonic but there is no official word on the potential return of James Marsden and Jim Carrey. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is set to release on April 8, 2022.
5. Minecraft: The Movie
Yes, this movie is happening. No, you can’t stop it from happening. And yes, you should keep an open mind. This movie was stuck in development hell for years, but it finally started getting some traction behind the scenes. Minecraft is the most successful video game of all time, so a movie adaptation is inevitable. Hollywood has never seen an incredibly successful property that it didn’t want to adapt.
Minecraft: The Movie’s official story follows “a teenage girl and her unlikely group of adventurers. After the malevolent Ender Dragon sets out on a path of destruction, they must save their beautiful, blocky Overworld.” Relative newcomer Peter Sollett is set to direct the film, which will be a joint production between game developer Mojang and Warner Bros. Pictures.
The film was originally set to release on March 4, 2022 but was moved indefinitely until the COVID-19 pandemic settles down. Minecraft: The Movie may not be the best idea, but most will agree that the curiosity factor alone is enough to at least eventually catch the movie on streaming.
At this point, the fact that the Uncharted movie is not only on its way, but has also finished production, seems like a miracle. After 12 years of development hell, including seven (that’s right, SEVEN) different high-profile directors attached to the project at one point or another, the movie based on the hugely popular video game series will finally hit the big screen.
Uncharted follows Nathan Drake, a professional adventurer who travels the world in search of treasure. The action-adventure series is very much in the same vein of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider, which makes it a prime candidate for a big screen adaptation. Spider-Man star Tom Holland leads the cast in the role of a young Nathan Drake with Mark Whallberg and Antonio Banderas rounding out the supporting cast.
Venom’s Reuben Fleicher is the seventh and final director to helm the project, and he is currently finishing up post-production on the film. Uncharted will finally hit theaters on July 16, 2021 (COVID-19 permitting).
3. Mortal Kombat
One of the most famous video game franchises of all time is finally getting a modern blockbuster adaptation. While Mortal Kombat has already hit the big screen with a pair of critically panned adaptations in the 90s, modern advancements in VFX makes it the perfect time to try again. This adaptation is right around the corner, and the gaming community waits eagerly in the wings.
Warner Bros. just released the first trailer for Mortal Kombat that showed off the iconic fight style, bloody gore, and stunning visuals that fans of the game have come to know and love. The film will follow an MMA fighter who seeks out Earth’s greatest champions to fight in a high stakes battle for the universe. Mortal Kombat will inadvertently compete with Marvel’s Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (at least in the public eye), which has a similar premise and will release three months later on July 9, 2021.
Newcomer Simon McQuoid directed the bloody, action-adventure film, which is set to release in theaters and HBO Max on April 16, 2021.
2. Super Mario Bros.
On a list made up of a ton of pretty exciting projects, why did this one show up so high in the rankings? Well, you have a right to be skeptical after the critically panned live-action 1993 attempt of Super Mario Bros. that was a borderline horror movie. Still, this film has an incredibly important ace up its sleeve that launched it to the top of this list: Illumination.
The studio that brought you international smash hits Despicable Me, The Secret Life of Pets, and Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch will be the ones to bring this film to life, which makes it an all but guaranteed smash hit. Its original brands have consistently performed insanely well both in theaters and on streaming (PVOD and SVOD). What happens when you match that with Nintendo’s involvement and one of the most popular media properties of all time?
Mark these words: Illumination’s animated Super Mario Bros. adaptation will be a smash hit when it hits theaters in 2022, so you should start paying attention to it now.
1. The Last of Us
The project with the most potential crossover between the hardcore gamers and general movie / TV fans is HBO’s upcoming adaptation of The Last of Us. The original 2013 video game follows Joel as he takes on the task of transporting a teenage girl, Ellie, across the post-apocalyptic, zombie infested United States. The original game was released to astronomical success and reviews, which led to a highly anticipated sequel. The Last of Us 2 released in 2020 and put the franchise on the brink of becoming a pop culture phenomenon.
The incredible public reaction to Game of Thrones alumni Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey being cast in the roles of Joel and Ellie respectively shows that HBO has something truly special on their hands. The Last of Usis one of the only video game properties to ever receive such consistent praise from both hardcore and casual gamers, and the games concept and plot is perfect for a long-form, big budget television series. If Warner Bros. and HBO play their cards right, The Last of Us could be the new Game of Thrones.
Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin will helm the series with the writer, and creative director of the video game, Neil Druckmann, is on board to develop the series as well. No official release date yet, but HBO would be wise to prioritize this series before the franchise’s social relevance starts to subside.
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