Video game adaptations

8 Video Game Franchises That Need a TV Adaptation

At long last, the film and television industry has nailed the video game crossover. After decades spend snubbing the user-controlled entertainment platform, Hollywood has changed its tune, opting to remake some of the biggest video game franchises in history, often to great success. Whether it be a live-action TV show, film or animated project, the transition from an in-home playable experience to a full-blown cinema spectacle can be nothing short of amazing. And with HBO’s brand new The Last of Us TV adaptation already breaking records for the service, it is likely that this trend will continue. Perhaps the long-standing video game adaption curse has finally been broken once and for all.

While many big gaming franchises such as Bioshock, Assassin’s Creed and God of War do have projects confirmed and in the works, there are still others that deserve the chance to shine as they switch mediums. So without further ado, here are some video game franchises that would make for fantastic TV shows or movie experiences.

1. Mass Effect Series

Publishers: Electronic Arts, Nokia, EA Mobile
Developers: BioWare, Demiurge Studios, EA Mobile, Firemonkeys Studios, IronMonkey Studios, Straight Right
Designers: Jarrad Trudgen, Preston Watamaniuk, Ian S. Frazier, Ian Frazier, Kevin Barrett
Adaptations: Mass Effect: Paragon Lost (2012)
Latest release: Mass Effect Legendary Edition; May 14, 2021

The Mass Effect trilogy is a space opera for the ages, one that is begging to be adapted for the big screen. With a deep lore and world building similar to the likes of Star Wars and Star Trek, Mass Effect has a fully realised world just begging to be expanded on. And while there were rumours that Henry Cavill would play a role in a Mass Effect adaptation, there’s been no mention of a film or TV show since.

While there was a 2012 adaptation, entitled Mass Effect: Paragon Lost, the general consensus from fans is that it’s best to pretend it never happened. If there were to be a Mass Effect movie or film franchise, the best way to ensure success is to avoid adapting the main narrative of the first trilogy. With so many story variations, as well as the debate about whether Fem-Shep and Bro-Shep is the best, a Mass Effect series could be damaged if it followed the games too closely. However, the chance to see Femshep taking down the Geth and the Reapers would make for some great television.

2. Crash Bandicoot

Developers: Naughty Dog, Toys for Bob, Vicarious Visions, King
Publishers: Activision Blizzard, Activision, King
Designers: Jason Rubin, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Mark Cerny, Jon Burton, Evan Wells, Toby Schadt, Arthur Parsons
Games In Series: Crash: Mind over Mutant, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, Cortex Strikes Back, Twinsanity, Crash of the Titans
Product types: Video game

Crash Bandicoot is arguably the most iconic character ever introduced to the PlayStation brand, as evidenced by his frequent use in promotional material and appearance on developer Naughty Dog’s logo. With a new set of video games on the way for the iconic mascot, an animated movie or TV series could further broaden his reach.

Just take the recent Sonic the Hedgehog films and the success they’ve had as a blueprint for what a Crash Bandicoot project could look like. Blending in-game dynamics and abilities with colourful and fun animation to create a new family-friendly video game adaption. It could even take a page out of the Super Mario Bros movie’s book and include references to all the different spin-off games and characters that have been featured throughout.

3. Spyro Franchise

Developers: Toys for Bob, Insomniac Games, Vivendi Games
Publishers: Activision, Activision Blizzard, Vivendi Games
Designers: Ted Price, Toby Schadt, Ray West, Michael Stout
Games In Series: Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage, Year of the Dragon

While some classic video game franchises may better suit the live-action treatment, the upcoming Super Mario Bros film is an example of how some games might be best adapted as animated projects.

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With classic PlayStation titles getting the remaster treatment and being brought back into the limelight, a Spyro animated film or TV could be a big hit for studios. With over 10 games worth of content and characters, the Spyro franchise is one that many know and love. The iconic purple dragon and his trusty Dragonfly companion Sparx are a comedy duo that both adults and children could fall in love with in an animation form.

4. The Legend of Zelda

Designers: Eiji Aonuma, Shigeru Miyamoto, Takashi Tezuka, MORE
Developers: Nintendo, Capcom, Monolith Soft, Koei Tecmo, MORE
Publishers: Nintendo, Philips, Koei Tecmo, Spike Chunsoft, St.GIGA, Nintendo of America Inc., Philips Interactive Media
Genre(s): Action-adventure
Latest release: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD; July 16, 2021
Producer(s): Eiji Aonuma

Fans of The Legend of Zelda have been asking for a live-action adaptation for as long as the franchise has been going. For decades now, the idea of seeing Zelda and Link battle it out against Ganon on either TV or film has been a fan’s dream, but a live-action iteration of these iconic characters continues to elude.

This desire has steadily grown over the years as the games have evolved to place greater emphasis on cinematic experiences, best illustrated by The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. With well-known and beloved locations as well as original soundtracks as iconic as the games themselves, a live-action The Legend of Zelda adaptation has the potential to be the next big fantasy hit. That is, if it’s adapted in the right way and with the right cast – something that fans have expressed concern over ever since the idea of a live-action project began circulating.

In other news, reports have suggested that Illumination — the same studio behind the Despicable Me franchise and the upcoming The Super Mario Bros. Movie – is developing an animated The Legend of Zelda movie.

5. Red Dead Redemption

Release dates: 21 May 2010, 18 May 2010
Initial release date: 18 May 2010
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Developers: Rockstar San Diego, Rockstar North
Designers: Leslie Benzies, Christian Cantamessa
Engine: Rockstar Advanced Game Engine, Bullet, Euphoria
Composers: Woody Jackson, Bill Elm

Of all the games included here, we think Red Dead Redemption is the one that’s most likely to get a TV or film adaptation, sooner rather than later. The immersive western setting and gut-wrenching narrative would easily transfer into the live-action arena, with 2010’s release following the journey of John Marston, the former outlaw turned rancher. When his family was taken by government agents, Marston is forced to hunt down members of his old gang, however, his travels force him to confront his past and face his demons.

The 2018 prequel Red Dead Redemption 2 took place 12 years before the original game and focused on Marston’s associate Arthur Morgan. In the game, Morgan and his fellow outlaws struggle to come to terms with the industrialised world, finding themselves with a disturbing lack of relevance. While both are beloved by fans, the original game tells a narrative that would be perfect for a TV adaptation or movie, with Marston a hero for the ages that would likely catapult the career of any actor who took on the challenge. Sure, you could go for an up-and-comer, but for us, the casting choice is simple. Just give it to Walter Goggins and let him go nuts.

6. Life is Strange

Designers: Sebastien Gaillard, Sebastien Judit, William Beacham, Baptiste Moisan, Christopher Sica
Publishers: Square Enix, Feral Interactive, Square Enix Europe
First release: Life Is Strange; 30 January 2015
Genre(s): Graphic adventure
Developers: Don’t Nod, Square Enix, Deck Nine, Feral Interactive
Latest release: Life Is Strange Arcadia Bay Collection; 27 September 2022

Life is Strange is one of the best narrative-focused gaming franchises to come out of the 2010s. What’s more, it’s also one of the most inclusive and diverse video games series, with franchises including not only female protagonists but people of colour and many LGBTQ+ characters. While each game does focus on a different set of characters, the original game and the time-travelling powers that main character Max Caulfield exudes would be an interesting concept to see brought to live action. With great characters, time-travel and a massive mystery at the centre, an adaption of the first Life is Strange would make for a fantastic television experience. If it were to be a success, other games from the franchise such as Before The Storm and True Colors could also find themselves hitting the small screen.

7. Until Dawn

Developer: Supermassive Games
Platform: PlayStation 4
Initial release date: 2015
Designer: Nik Bowen
Engine: Decima
Composer: Jason Graves
Mode: Single-player video game

Gaming developer Supermassive has a reputation for creating immersive, story-driven releases – all of which include fantastic visuals and motion capture performances from well-known actors. Until Dawn, first released back in 2015, was the first game from Supermassive to experiment with this idea.

The game plays out like any classic teenager horror film and would be a fantastic story to adapt to film or television. How do we know? Well, the original game featured an all-star voice cast that would make for the perfect transition.  The original release featured the vocal talents of Academy Award-winning actor Rami Malik, alongside Hayden Panettiere and Brett Dalton.

The only difficulty with adapting this game would be that it has multiple endings and character outcomes. Therefore, the fate of each character would likely be hotly contested in a movie or TV show, something that could honestly add even more excitement to the adaptation, in a similar vein to Netflix’s recent choose-your-own-ending hit Kaleidoscope.

8. Metroid Prime Series

Initial release date: 18 November 2002
Composers: Kenji Yamamoto, Kouichi Kyuma
Developers: Retro Studios, Nintendo, Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development, Nintendo Research & Development 1
Series: Metroid, New Play Control!
Platforms: GameCube, Wii
Awards: BAFTA Games Award for Gamecube Game
Designer: Mark Pacini

The Metroid Prime video game franchise was one of – if not the – first game series to introduce the idea of a badass female protagonist. And while the series may not have produced many new games recently, people’s love and appreciation for it remains as strong as ever. Series protagonist Samus Aran would be a great heroine to break into the live-action world, with the sci-fi action and elements of the Metroid series capable of mirroring the likes of Star Wars or Alien.

A live-action film version of Metroid was once in development by Lion Rock Productions. Warren Zide and Craig Perry of Zide/Perry Entertainment optioned the film rights for the franchise back in January 2003. However, these rights expired and no other TV or movie adaptations have gained traction since.

General FAQs

What is the best video game adaptation?

Over the past decade, there have been a number of highly-successful video game adaptations for film and TV. The most successful have been The Wither, The Last of Us, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu and Resident Evil.

How many episodes is The Last of Us on HBO?

There are 9 episodes in the first season of HBO's The Last of US TV series. The series has already been greenlit for season two, meaning there are more episodes on the way.


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Eleni Thomas
Contributor

Eleni Thomas

Eleni is an Australian journalist with a love for all things video games and pop culture. Having completed her Bachelor of Journalism at RMIT University in Melbourne, Eleni currently writes full time for entertainment out Dexerto as well as across a variety of other outlets as a freelance journalist. She has a particular passion for writing and talking about female representation and LGBTQ+ diversity across all industries.

She was recently nominated for the best new Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism Awards. You can contact Eleni at [email protected]