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Why Do Movies Adapted from Games Never Work?

by Abdus Subhan
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Last modified on July 12th, 2023 at 8:59 pm

Movies Adapted from Games

From Mortal Kombat and Super Mario Bros. to Warcraft, Movies adapted from video games have been notoriously bad for decades, and despite some recent attempts to buck the trend, the quality of these adaptations remains underwhelming. It seems that filmmakers can’t seem to capture the essence of video games in a way that translates well to the big screen. But why is that?

Sticking to the Source Material

One reason why video game adaptations tend to be bad is that they often rely too heavily on the source material, rather than using it as a foundation for a new creative work. Many filmmakers assume that they can simply take the plot of the game and make a movie out of it, but this approach rarely works, for a couple of reasons. Most pressingly, video games are interactive meaning that the storytelling is often designed to work within the unique constraints of the medium. When you take those engaging, interactive elements out of the equation, you’re often left with a story that isn’t that compelling or engaging on its own.

Games are Longer than Films

Another challenge is that video games often have complex and sprawling narratives that can be difficult to condense into a two-hour movie. Video games are designed to be played over tens or hundreds of hours. As a result, they often have multiple branching storylines, side quests, and other elements that contribute to the overall experience. Trying to cram all of that into a movie can lead to a disjointed and confusing narrative that doesn’t make sense to audiences, unless they are very familiar with the source material. So if you buy accounts to watch movies and play various games then it will be good to go.

Films are Less Immersive

Simply put, video games are designed to be immersive, interactive experiences that put the player in control of the action. Movies, on the other hand, are not. They are comparatively passive experiences where the audience watches events unfold on screen, without needing to interact or even engage with the story. This fundamental difference can make it difficult to translate the excitement and intensity of a video game to the big screen. Action scenes that may be thrilling in a game can come across as flat and uninspired in a movie. 

For example, playing any level in Super Mario Bros. is incredibly engaging for the player, but for someone watching it can seem rather trivial. With more complex games, like Apex Legends or World of Warcraft, this is taken to the extreme with the levels of player engagement and immersion being very high. Translating that thrill to the comparatively passive medium of film proves incredibly difficult to do.

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You Can’t Play a Film!

Video games are often judged on their gameplay mechanics, graphics, and other technical aspects, rather than their storytelling alone. While the story is certainly important in many games, it’s often secondary to the gameplay itself. The inverse is true for movies, which are most often judged on their storytelling and character development. This can be a challenging shift for filmmakers who are used to working in a medium where technical achievements are often more important than narrative. It can also be difficult for players who enjoy a game, to step out of the “player” mindset and into the “viewer” mindset required for films.

Original Developers Rarely Get Involved

Another factor that contributes to the poor quality of video game adaptations is the lack of involvement from the original game developers. In many cases, filmmakers are more interested in capitalizing on the popularity of a particular game franchise than in creating a faithful adaptation. Not to mention, paying renowned designers can get expensive fast. This can lead to changes to the source material or tone that can quickly alienate fans of the game and fail to capture the spirit of the game.

Making Films is Hard…

Finally, there’s the simple fact that making a good movie is hard. Even the most talented filmmakers can struggle to create a compelling story and engaging characters. When you add the additional challenge of adapting a beloved video game franchise, the stakes become even higher, and the pressure to deliver a hit can be overwhelming causing the house of cards to come tumbling down.

From unfitting stories to the lack of immersion, films of games have consistently failed to capture the magic of their source material. If filmmakers want to create successful video game adaptations, they will need to find new ways to capture the essence of video games without falling victim to the challenges we have discussed. But we may also need to realise that perhaps games simply aren’t meant to be films.

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