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Video Game TV Shows Are At Their Best When Telling Original Stories

Here's why shows like Fallout and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners stand out.

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Televised adaptations of beloved video games are becoming more common. However, how those stories are told can be vastly different from one show to another. Depending on the series, it could be a faithful retelling of the video game, like HBO's The Last of Us, or something completely original, like Paramount+'s Knuckles and Halo, or even Peacock's Twisted Metal. There's another type of adaptation that stands out, though: shows that don't directly adapt a game but tell a new story within the existing canon.

Shows like Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, Fallout, and, of course, Pokemon exist within the predetermined parameters of the video games they are taken from. What's different, though, is that new characters, stories, and settings unfold. Because of this, they can introduce new points of view or flesh out certain aspects that their video-game counterparts can't.

Lucy from Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.
Lucy from Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners includes an excellent example of this. Although the show touches on many topics, one of the main story beats is cyberpsychosis, an illness that causes people to go insane when they augment their bodies too much. While it's discussed and explored in the video game, Edgerunners offers a deeper look at it.

Suddenly, those NPCs you come across that are suffering from cyberpsychosis aren't just the mindless killers you think them to be. Instead, as revealed in Edgerunners, they begin to lose grip on reality and begin to live through some of their past trauma or even talk to loved ones who are nowhere near them. This level of first-hand knowledge wouldn't have been possible if not for the show.

Cyberpsycho from Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.
Cyberpsycho from Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.

Amazon Prime Video's Fallout is another example of a TV show carving its own path in the game's canon. It's not attempting to retell any stories we've already played through, nor does it ignore the lore already set in stone. Instead, Prime Video's adaptation takes place after the events of Fallout 4 and mainly focuses on areas of the world that were rarely explored.

The Fallout video games have a long history of telling stories all over the United States, though primarily in the western half of the country. The series follows suit, opening on a vault located somewhere in Southern California. However, Fallout's method of adaptation is a bit different from that of Cyberpunk. In the games, life before the bombs dropped was discussed, but not to the degree that it was in the series. The show's original story does an excellent job of focusing on the paranoia or denial that many people felt before and after the nuclear event that started it all. Doing that allowed audiences to connect with a wide range of characters and further understand the impact of an impending doom.

Ad Victoriam.
Ad Victoriam.

Edgerunners and Fallout weren't the first shows to take this approach. In fact, Pokemon has been doing this since the series first debuted in 1997. Like both shows, Pokemon is based in the same world as the game.

The Pokemon show is heavily influenced by the latest mainline game that is currently out. For example, 2023's Pokemon Horizons: The Series is based on the Pokemon Scarlet and Violet video game, while 2019's Pokemon Journeys: The Series is based on the Pokemon Sword and Sheild game.

In the Sword and Shield games, Leon is the final gym leader players face off against. Throughout the game, players are constantly told how great of a gym leader he is, but they don't see it until the end of the game.

Gotta catch them all.
Gotta catch them all.

However, in the animated series Pokemon Journeys, viewers are given multiple examples of why Leon is one of the best trainers around. In typical anime fashion, viewers get to see Leon beat various opponents who, up to that point, seemed unstoppable. This is something that couldn't have been done in its video-game counterpart because it could have potentially taken too much attention from the main story.

These shows don't directly recreate or reimagine the games they're based on, leaving those who played the games in the same spot as those who don't, guessing what could possibly come next. Even though Fallout fans may already know that Vault-Tec is an evil company, the fate of the people living in Vault 33/32 from the show is anyone's guess. And don't get us started on all the new and very weird vaults they could still introduce going forward.

Lucy from Fallout.
Lucy from Fallout.

But this isn't the case for shows like The Last of Us. From the series premiere, fans of the games already knew how it would end. And while you can't help but compare the show to the games, if you're a fan, HBO's iteration certainly had and will continue to have its merits. It can expand on characters and side stories that wouldn't be possible in a game. Still, it is retelling an iconic story that many people have already experienced.

With shows telling new stories in existing worlds, though, there are practically endless directions to go. And given the recent success of these types of shows, it wouldn't be all that surprising to see more of these types of adaptations in the future.

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