Games That Should Be Adapted to TV
Video games were long thought of as a poor source material for adaptations, but we've been seeing that change in recent years. Thanks to a combination of Hollywood's hunger for franchise properties and games developing more sophisticated storytelling techniques, games have actually developed into a fertile ground for TV and movie adaptations. Right now, games as diverse as Mass Effect, Days Gone, and Fallout are all in some stage of development with adaptations on the way.
Castlevania and Arcane were very successful animated adaptations of popular game franchises, and now HBO has a prestige hit on its hands with The Last of Us. The Naughty Dog game was already very cinematic in its presentation and revered as one of the best stories in video games, so it seemed primed for a TV adaptation like few other franchises. We wondered what other games could be turned into smash TV series. Lots of games could lend themselves to the TV format if handled with care. Here's our picks for the games best suited for TV adaptations.
A Plague Tale
A period story with fantasy elements, the A Plague Tale series is virtually ready-made for a big-budget serialized TV series. The slow unfurling mystery of Hugo's powers would provide a through-line to draw viewers back week after week, and the swarms of carnivorous rats can provide visceral scares for TV-MA audiences. More than most series, this one would live or die by casting the leads. Amicia and Hugo need to be played by charismatic actors with good sibling chemistry, especially as the protective big-sister dynamic also explores elements of horror and self-doubt.
The X-Files and Fringe showed what an episodic paranormal sci-fi series can be, and Control could easily follow in those footsteps. The world-building of Control would be the star here, exploring the ins and outs of working for the Bureau of Control. The game itself implied so much about the day-to-day work of these mid-level G-men trying their best to get their arms around otherworldly threats. The story wouldn't even need to replicate the game, exactly. Instead, it could treat the confrontation with the Hiss and Jesse's ascension to Bureau Director as the pilot or backstory, opening narrative possibilities as she explores her new role. As a bonus, this could easily segue into an Alan Wake spin-off or crossover.
The pitch for the game already took liberal notes from Hollywood--it's a '70s spy thriller meets Groundhog Day--so transitioning this Arkane game back to the screen would take a subtle touch. To serialize it, showrunners could take notes from mystery-driven shows like Lost and The Leftovers, slowly teasing out the central mysteries while exploring the fish-out-of-water story of Cole repeating his loop. The repeating nature would give the show lots of room to toy with different levels of scale too, speeding through several loops in one episode and slowing down to show just one loop--or even just part of one loop--for another full episode.
This dungeon-crawling series keeps audiences engaged for years with a grind for epic loot, but the show would rely more on its decades of world-building. A supernatural fantasy series revolving around the last bastion of human adventurers holding the line against a demonic scourge just below the surface is fertile ground for an action-adventure series or a movie akin to the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons film. The franchise's unique take on heavenly beings--who are not necessarily the bastions of goodness as usually depicted--would add a further factional wrinkle to the struggle to protect our realm.
Into the Breach
Mechs vs. Monsters is a classic trope explored in many kaiju series. Into the Breach plays in this space, but what sets it apart is that it also adds a time-travel element to the mix. In the game you're hopping between timelines to avert a disaster of the invading Vex attempting to destroy human infrastructure. A show could explore this reality-bending concept even further with overlapping realities, alternate timelines, and heady concepts that reward multiple rewatches. Think Primer meets Pacific Rim.
Lots of Nintendo's classic franchises feature silent protagonists, which can present challenges when adapting to the screen. Metroid, though, could get by with charismatic Samus Aran in the lead, setting the stage for a moody sci-fi series with light horror elements. A loose adaptation of the first three Metroid games, culminating in the baby Metroid's heroic sacrifice, would make for a satisfying season, but the show could also take a more expansive approach by exploring Samus' life as a lone bounty hunter and the last surviving remnant of the Chozo.
This franchise has the dubious distinction of commercially flopping not once but twice, but hear us out. A small-screen adaptation would lean on the sparse, high-contrast art style to produce a very different kind of paranoid spy thriller. We don't see many hyper-clean dystopias like the one in Mirror's Edge, and the acrobatic Runners use information as their weapon of choice. That could lend itself to social commentary as sharp as Faith's bangs if handled with a smart, light touch.
The tragedy of a Monkey Island adaptation is that Our Flag Means Death beat it to the punch as a modern-day pirate comedy. Still, we think there's room on the seven seas for two such shows, and Monkey Island could be a hammier, Monty Python-esque take on the subject of piracy. Plus, the series has plenty of fantastical elements like pirate ghosts, so you could sprinkle in some zany fantasy elements as well. Yarr!
Portal has already gotten a live-action adaptation, of a sort, with a short film from Dan Trachtenberg before he went on to direct feature films like 10 Cloverfield Lane and Prey. And while that short is a great showcase of his directing skills and creative application of the portal gun, the nihilistic tone didn't exactly match the games. A serialized Portal show would need to be dark, yes, but also humorous--it could even explore the everyday going-ons of Aperture Science prior to the events that led into Portal and Portal 2. At its best, Portal is a razor sharp satire of corporations and technology, so it's just not the same without GLaDOS or Cave Johnson. Bonus: have beloved actor J.K. Simmons reprise his role as Johnson.
This Double Fine franchise is perfectly suited for a cartoon adaptation. With its heady humor and mystery-driven plots aiming for a teen audience, the serialized show could get a lot of mileage out of stories revolving around the brain-diving agency and its myriad missions. As Psychonauts 2 showed, there's also plenty of room for heart and a sensitive look at mental health as well.
Red Dead Redemption
A dusty western isn't exactly an original setting for a TV show, and in recent years we've had something of a revival of the genre, but there's a reason Red Dead Redemption and its sequel captured players. Rockstar has carved out a space for itself to tell unique stories about the waning days of the Old West, as rustlers feel the march of time making them irrelevant. The first game used this to tell a mobster-infused "one last job" story familiar from the GTA series, while the prequel expanded on the concept with the ensemble dynamics of a roving gang of outlaws. Either one would work for an adaptation, but for our money, we'd love to see a series flip the order: Establish the gang dynamics first, and then end the series with the tragic finale that is the first game.
Modern and near-future military conflict is a relatively common setting, but a Titanfall adaptation would veer slightly more into the realm of science-fiction while still remaining recognizable. The world of Titanfall is essentially a slightly forward-facing military trope, with the addition of giant mechs. We've already seen how this can pack a narrative punch with Titanfall 2's single-player campaign, so a TV adaptation could simply expand on that. Show us several characters with their own differing relationships to technology and war, and let the stories progress from there.
World of Warcraft
This franchise already took a stab at a big-screen adaptation in 2016, which was a notorious flop. The idea of a fantasy series centered around a war between races that are equally sympathetic still has value, though. The title represents a shift in focus from Warcraft the strategy game to World of Warcraft the MMORPG, which takes a more serialized approach perfect for the small screen. Blizzard has been wringing new stories out of these conflicts for years, and there's no reason we couldn't build entire seasons out of some of their more infamous story arcs like the Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, or Shadowlands.
A crime family story with goofball energy isn't an obvious match, but the Yakuza series has made it work across several games and spin-offs. The Yakuza series successfully blends an unusual culture depiction for Western audiences, hard-boiled crime fiction, lovable characters with big squishy hearts, and occasional tragic melodrama. Giving us a weekly antihero story with these types of characters is a no-brainer, and the games have already introduced several season-length plotlines that would sustain such an effort.