10 Best Video Game Movie Adaptations

Video game movies have a bad reputation, and deservedly so. For every good video game film, there’s an Uwe Boll monstrosity. Most video game movies currently out there are shlocky horror or badly acted martial arts camp. On top of that, a lot of critics just don’t get video game movies; they don’t understand why you’d want to adapt a video game in the first place, and so they judge them more harshly than movies based on a book or on original IP.

But we’re living in a new Golden Age of video game movies. Filmmakers and critics who’ve grown up with video games are starting to make their own video game movies, and many of them are turning out to be fantastic. We’ve seen movies based on popular games prove to be box office smash hits, and movies based on Halo, Gears of War, Kane and Lynch, and even Clock Tower will hit theatres soon.

Here are the ten best video game movies as of November 2022, objectively ranked by IMDB rating and Metascore. This list is all over the place in terms of genre, from silly kids’ movies to graphic horror films. It doesn’t include short films that were created as ad spots. We’ve also chosen to only include one movie per series, so if you’re a giant fan of certain sequels, you won’t find them here.

These are the best film adaptations of video games, according to fan reviews:

MovieRelease YearIMDBMetascoreWhy It’s Good
Sonic the Hedgehog20206.5/1047Fast-paced kids’ movie fun
Silent Hill20066.5/1031Underrated horror masterpiece
Pokemon: Detective Pikachu20196.5/1053Love letter to Pokemon
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time20106.6/1050Good old-fashioned swashbuckling
Resident Evil 20026.6/1033Camp horror cult classic
Warcraft20166.7/1032Ambitious fantasy epic
Tron: Legacy20106.8/1049Daft Punk soundtrack + aesthetic delight
The Super Mario Bros. Movie20237.3/1046Nostalgia with gaming’s top mascot
Dofus: Book 1- Julith20157.5/10N/A (no English-language release) Gorgeous animated fantasy based on kid’s MMO
Final Fantasy: Advent Children20057.2/1088Lush, visually stunning sequel to brilliant game

10) Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

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6.5/1047“…a fast-paced joyride that’ll ring in entertainment for both fans and children.”- IGN

Hey, we’re as surprised as you are. This one edged out masterpieces like The Angry Birds Movie 2 for the number 10 spot. But if all you know about this movie is “creepy teeth Sonic will haunt my nightmares forever!” you could be in for a treat.

Sonic (2020) is definitely a by-the-numbers children’s movie, with Jim Carrey chewing the scenery as Dr. Robotnik and Sonic having to share the screen with a dull human policeman played by James Marsden. But it was clearly made with love, care, and attention to detail. It’s full of in-jokes that fans of the series will love, and Sonic’s redesign is a delight to see in motion. This movie also uses a surprising amount of practical effects, considering the amount of CGI onscreen — and who doesn’t love a filmmaker keeping that art alive?

You might notice that, while the IMDB score is relatively high, the Metascore is awful. This is going to be a recurring theme on this list. Critics do not get video game movies, and most of them don’t even try to meet them where they’re at. Fans of the series these movies are based on, and people who enjoy campy romps, tend to rate them higher than critics who are expecting something with a little more polish.

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If you haven’t seen the original Sonic design, for your own sanity, don’t go looking for it. It’s good-old-fashioned nightmare fuel.

9) Silent Hill (2006)

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6.5/1031“a twisted masterpiece of set design“- Empire

If you like Silent Hill, horror filmmaking, or cross-cultural film analysis at all, you need to watch the original Silent Hill movie.

Silent Hill is the rarest of birds — a video game movie that fully understands the property it’s adapting and uses it to say things the original game developers never intended. It manages to capture the feeling of Silent Hill in more-or-less live-action, and the effects on display are as impressive as they are grotesque. Akira Yamaoka’s iconic soundtrack is in full force here — though it’s spliced in odd ways. The chemistry between the two leads is also fantastic.

If you like the original game, you may be disappointed that some of the horror was toned down for a film release. Alessa’s backstory, in particular, is both more and less disturbing. The choice to make Harry a woman was driven by sexism. And, as usual, Pyramid Head shows up without rhyme or reason. As a straight adaptation of the original Silent Hill game? Silent Hill isn’t faithful. As a horror film? It’s fantastic, on both a technical and creative level.

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Fun Fact: The monsters in this movie were played by dancers, to capture the eerie and otherworldly movement of Silent Hill’s twisted abominations.

8) Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

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6.5/1053 “…video game movies haven’t had the best track record, this movie is by and far the best example of how to do one right.”– IGN

This movie is pure fan service. If you like Pokémon, you will love every single second of it. The world of Pokémon is fleshed out and looks gorgeous. Pokémon from just about every generation at the time this movie was released are represented, and they’re beautifully animated. Toho’s renowned animation studio had a hand in this, and it shows; they bring these pocket monsters to life with the same care and attention to detail that they use for Godzilla himself.

If you don’t like Pokemon… well, this is very much a children’s movie starring Ryan Reynolds as a wisecracking animated character. It’s a good example of the genre, don’t get me wrong. A film being aimed at children doesn’t make it an inherently bad film. But the plot, characterization, and comedy mostly follow the beats you’d expect, and if you’re not a fan of Pokemon or children’s media, you can probably skip this one without missing much.

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“I work for the CNM blog making Pokémon listicles all day, okay? “Top 10 Cutest Pokémon.” Newsflash, they’re all cute!”

7) Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

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6.6/1050“handsome, fast-paced and innocuous adventure”– Hollywood Reporter

By all accounts, this movie’s just plain fun. It’s a campy romp in the style of The Mummy or Pirates of the Caribbean. The main character’s the titular Prince Dastan of Persia, who, together with a Princess, must stop an evil villain who controls the Sands of Time, contained within a mystical dagger. It’s full of swashbuckling action and one-liners, and light on plot and characterization.

Critics, of course, panned it, because it was a campy movie based on a video game, and even a movie based on a theme park ride would get better reviews at the time. But fans of both the games and the movies enjoy this one– and considering how passionate video game fans can get, that’s saying something. If you like classic swashbuckling action, give it a go.

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Calling it now: Homura Akemi would love this one.

6) Resident Evil (2002)

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6.6/1033“Is this the future of horror or just some bizarre fluke? Don’t ask me, I’m having too much fun to care.”– Austin Chronicle

Even as early as 2002, video game movies had a bad reputation. And horror movies weren’t much better. But the Resident Evil movie managed to buck that trend by being an absolute delight. It takes the basic premise of Resident Evil and turns it into an action movie. An evil lab is growing bioweapons, and the zombies and zombie dogs it created have run amok. Our protagonists have to break in and destroy the computer that controls the lab. Along the way, they meet a mysterious girl who’s struggling with amnesia.

Critics at the time weren’t sure what to make of Resident Evil- it was an action/horror movie! Based on a video game! It wasn’t allowed to be good! Why was it so enjoyable? But fans loved the movie; they felt like it captured the atmosphere of the games, campy acting and all. Resident Evil’s become a bit of a cult classic, and it’s spawned more sequels than the Umbrella Corp spawns viruses.

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Fun Fact: the makeup department had trouble wrangling the zombie dogs. They kept licking off their blood and gore makeup.

5) Warcraft (2016)

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6.7/1032“Tasked with brokering a peace between event-sized thrills, gaming lore and high fantasy, Jones embraces Warcraft’s world with laudable commitment…”– Total Film

Like death, taxes, and weird third-party controllers, the Warcraft movie was an inevitability. World of Warcraft has a huge and devoted fanbase; Blizzard likes money. It’s a match made in heaven, and sure enough, Warcraft became the highest-grossing video game adaptation of all time. It’s a big-budget blockbuster, with a ton of mo-cap acting, lush scenery, and intense magic effects. The story mostly takes place in the timeline of Warcraft I, when a horde of orcs, fleeing their dying world, invade Azeroth.

Warcraft, like so many movies on this list, is a love letter to the fans. The movie exists just as much to bring Azeroth to life on the big screen as it does to tell its own story. There are plenty of in-jokes, lore asides, and sequel hooks that will go over the head of anyone who isn’t a Warcraft fan; the film’s story seems to take a backseat to these references at times. Still, it’s the kind of lush, intense big-budget fantasy movie people have been craving since Lord of the Rings left theatres, and if you’re hungry for more of that, Warcraft has your back.

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Fun fact: Uwe Boll, notorious adapter of awful video game movies, reportedly begged to direct Warcraft. A Blizzard representative told him, “We will not sell the movie rights, not to you”¦ especially not to you.”

4) Tron: Legacy (2010)

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6.8/1049“A triumph of art direction, sound design and Gallic phat beats, but could do with a script upgrade and fun.exe patch.” – Empire

Is Tron a video game movie? You could make a case either way. On the one hand, Tron has definitely had its share of video game adaptations at this point, from 80s arcades to a PS4/XBox 1 Endless Runner. On the other hand, Tron was a movie first and a video game second. On the third, vestigial hand, Tron is a movie that’s fundamentally about video games, in a way that some of the games on this list just can’t aspire to be.

The son of the original film’s protagonist ventures into the virtual world, seeking his long-lost father. Along the way, he makes new friends, explores an upgraded version of Tron’s virtual world, and listens to some sick Daft Punk beats (yes, they did the entire soundtrack, and yes, it’s by far the best part of the movie). The film’s equal parts loving homage to the original Tron and attempt at updating its 80s computerscape to the standards of modern CGI. It’s spectacle over substance- but if any franchise deserved that treatment, let’s be honest, it was TRON.

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I might need to spend less time in the Wasteland. This third hand is becoming a problem.

3) The Super Mario Bros. Movie

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7.3/1046“No convoluted backstory, no sardonic attitude, no pretension whatsoever: just easy, straightforward video game fun, elevated by splashy visuals, tight controls and an attention to detail that borders on perfectionism. -New York Times

Everyone knows Mario. And, thankfully, the Super Mario Bros. Movie gets that. Because it is, essentially an hour-and-a-half nostalgia trip for the franchise. The characters are shown in their most likeable characterization ever, the world is full of references and nods, and the plot is… well, let’s just say it’s faithful to the original games. In short, the creators of the Super Mario Bros. Movie did the impossible (and what other Mario adaptations have failed at in the past): they created a movie featuring floating blocks, teleporting pipes, and evil turtles and made it work.

This movie is not without flaws — the aforementioned plot is threadbare, there is a lot that doesn’t make sense if you haven’t played the games, Seth Rogen plays Donkey Kong — but at its heart it is a love letter to a franchise that almost ever gamer has fond memories of. It also happens to be Illumination Entertainment’s best movie, and it’s most heartfelt since Despicable Me! Fans of Mario — or Nintendo in general — need look no further.

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Almost as good as Jack Black/Bowser’s “Peaches” Music Video

2) Dofus: Book 1- Julit (2015)

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7.5/10N/A (French film, not in wide English release)“And the least we can say is that we are in no way disappointed, the work summoning imagination, humor and emotion at the same time, while maintaining throughout its 1h38 a sustained rhythm which should capture the attention of the little ones.” – Abus de Ciné, translated via Google

If you’re not familiar with French-language children’s media, you’re probably wondering what the heck a Dofus is or why it’s ranked so high on this list. Dofus is a French-language MMO that’s primarily aimed at a younger audience. It’s made by the creators of Wakfu, and it’s wildly popular in France and French-speaking countries. It currently has a larger playerbase than MMOs you might have heard of like The Secret World or Star Wars: Galaxies, and most French millenials who are gamers have a certain degree of nostalgia for the game. And its associated media– multiple TV shows, mostly — have the production value to match.

Dofus: Book 1 is a children’s fantasy movie set in the world of Dofus. It’s a pretty typical children’s adventure story– you’ve got your innocent young hero, your wise old mentor, your missing parents, your black and white dragon eggs that serve as MacGuffins, and so on. What really stands out about this movie is the animation. The backgrounds are beautiful and detailed and clearly drawn from the game’s world; the character designs are fantastic, and the animation is fluid, especially in the fight scenes. And while this clearly takes a lot of inspiration from anime, it also takes a lot of inspiration from French comic art, which has a very different style to it than the heavily Disney-influenced stuff you get in the US. It’s a delight for the eyes.

Sadly, if you don’t speak French, you can’t legally watch this one and have it make much sense. If this film had a Metascore, or if it was legally available in English anywhere, it’d crack #1 with ease. As is, it’s inaccessible to a huge chunk of folk, which is a crying shame.

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Dofus: somehow, the French answer to both Runescape Classic and Wizard 101.

1) Final Fantasy VII- Advent Children (2005)

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7.2/1088“Coming from a team that’s used to making CG cinemas less than five minutes long, Advent Children is a surprisingly auspicious debut. Here’s hoping they do it again.” – 1UP

One of the first movies on this list to crack a C grade, and deservedly so– Square Enix’s team are still some of the best animators and CG storytellers out there. This was their first attempt at a feature film, and the official, canonical sequel to Final Fantasy VII. Advent Children was released primarily as a direct-to-DVD film, but also received a PSP release. And it came out at the exact right time to get the critical attention it deserved… at least, from game reviewers.

Advent Children’s proved controversial over time. Some FFVII fans love the redesigned characters, expanded backstories, and new conclusion to a story they loved. Other fans dislike the redesigns, plot, and interpretations of the characters. And non-fans reported being confused by the film, because you need the context of an hours-long RPG to understand what’s going on.

Even with that context, though, some fans found Advent Children to be confusing or muddled. But that was a deliberate choice. The writers of Advent Children didn’t want to make a Hollywood movie, where every scene is explained to you over and over again; they designed every scene to be open-ended, and make you ask questions. Ultimately, how you feel about Advent Children will heavily depend on how you interpret it.

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(Note: This is not a video game.)

Those were the ten best video game movies, as ranked by IMDB. But this list will almost certainly be outdated before long; we’ve got new video game movies coming out left and right, from Super Mario Brothers to Firewatch. With a new generation of critics at the helm — critics who understand that video games can be art — and a new generation of video game movies on the way, you just know some of them will crack an IMDB 8/10 before long.

Did we miss a video game movie you love? Are you mad The Angry Birds Movie 2 or Street Fighter 2: The Movie didn’t make the cut? Let us know in the comments!

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Malcolm Schmitz
Malcolm Schmitz

Malcolm Schmitz is a freelance writer from the United States. He loves life sims, JRPGs, and strategy games, and loves modding games even more than he loves playing them.

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