Live-Action Video Game Films: Awesome as Ever?


Despite being notoriously awful (or awfully awesome), live-action video game-inspired movies just keep coming. Case in point: The World of Warcraft movie won’t be out until at least 2015-ish, but that doesn’t stop the Internets from obsessing. News and gossip about Blizzard’s first foray into the hallowed archives of live-action video game movies seems to pop up almost daily in geeky gamer newsfeeds.

While making a live-action movie out of any media that wasn’t live-action to begin with almost never works (looking your way, Smurfs), there are a few superb examples of film adaptions that scored big time. Transformers was pretty awesome, and so was Speed Racer.

While these video game to live-action movies may not be as good as those classic cartoon ones, they’re worth a watch for gaming families. If nothing else, it’ll be fun to enjoy the nostalgia and kitsch factors together. After watching, you can take your kids on a tour through the pixels of your childhood.

Super Mario Bros. (PG)

So what if this movie is famously awful? You didn’t click here to read about Academy Award-winning films. You clicked to see what we had to say about a film genre that rarely gets things right. The king of live-action video game kitsch has got to be the one that blazed the trail for the rest: Super Mario Bros.

In a parallel universe (this already sounds amazing, right?) two plumbers fight to save the princess in Dinohattan. Yep, like Manhattan, but with dinos. Mario is played by Bob Hoskins (Eddie from Who Framed Roger Rabbit) and John Leguizamo (that sloth thing from Ice Age) plays Luigi in the movie that showed all of us what happens when good actors make bad choices. It’s not that bad, I guess. It’s entertaining enough, it’s just a bit heavy on the ’90s vibe and a bit light on the Mario superness.

Just like any cult classic, there are those that LOVE this movie. That could be you …

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PG)

Before you throw stuff at me, hear me out. I know that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was originally a graphic novel and a bunch of other things before it was a video game. But the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game was ALWAYS my my first choice quarter-waster, and for a good chunk of time was the only game I ever wanted to play on my SNES. So to me, this movie belongs here.

I remember this flick being pretty awesome, but that was a long time ago. I watched it over and over without ever thinking it was ridiculous, which says a lot for five guys dressed up as turtles and a rat. It’s definitely going to feel dated to those who are watching it for the first time, but its one of the better ones, holding up 20 years later.

Mortal Kombat (PG-13)

I don’t really have anything bad to say about this movie. Whether it’s out of respect or sheer terror at the prospect of its die-hard fans ripping my arms off, you’ll never know. Less violent than the notoriously bloody video game, this movie actually packs a decent plot, cool martial arts and interesting scenery making it one of the more universally enjoyable picks on this list.

Wing Commander (PG-13)

“In the final battle for Earth,” Freddy Prinze Junior spins more ’90s video game movie gold. Based on the classic sci-fi space simulator and directed by the same guy who filmed the cinematics for the third game in the series (which starred Mark Hamill and John Rhys Davies, by the way), this film didn’t please many critics, but still may be an interesting little piece of gamer history to add to your family’s repertoire.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (PG-13)

I’ve never been much of a Tomb Raider fan, but there’s just something about this movie that I love. Angelina Jolie pulls off a very convincing Lara Croft, and the narrative, cinematography and action are all great. For older kids that pooh-pooh retro games, the recent Tomb Raider reboot makes this film the perfect place to start your family’s living room live-action video game series.

Prince of Persia (PG-13)

Disney’s Prince of Persia adaptation rode in on the wave created by the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and as such is a just a fun slice of Disney adventure pie.

In the game, the hero acrobatically swings around the desert landscape, periodically stopping time with a magical dagger. The time stops are what makes this game fun, and the movie-makers used this to its full advantage.

Streetfighter (PG-13)

Another of the video game live action movies that most people will tell you didn’t quite make it, this adaptation of the Capcom classic we all know and love (hadouken!) really only has one thing going for it: Jean-Claude Van Dame.

If your family digs Streetfighter games and can see the silver lining in films that are so bad they’re good, you may have found yourself a winner.

Bonus: Sonic

Earlier this year, Blue Core Studios released a little 18-minute labor of love over on YouTube. The film based on the Sonic the Hedgehog series (with no licensing affiliations whatsoever) has made waves in recent months because, get this, people freaking love it.

This just goes to show that a good live-action video game film is entirely possible.


Did we forget one of your favorites? Disagree with something on the list? Leave a comment or take it to the NWC forum, we’d love to hear from you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *