Posted September 1, 2012 by Matthew A. Ramirez in Movies & TV

Top 5 Reasons Most Video Game Movies Flop

Top 5 Reasons Most Video Game Movies Flop


By noon, I’ve usually checked all of my favorite online magazines on video games, movies, and whatnot. Two of them announced the possibility of a God of War movie and Metal Gear Solid. I had to keep my heart from leaping with joy. When has a video game movie ever made it big? The truth is most video game movies flat-out suck, and as much as we try to love them, most are absolutely unbearable. But I won’t hate on them too much, I sincerely believe God of War isn’t such a bad idea.


But let’s revisit a few movie adaptations of our favorite video games. Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat, there’s one for every gamer. Unlike movies, made to tell a story, video games aren’t always made for that purpose. While Mass Effect has serious cinema-worthy story-telling, Tekken doesn’t. They stand for very different things. Mass Effect is story driven while Tekken is made for raw combat. So how would these two video games rank as movies? Most of us were lucky enough to miss out on the film-adaptation of Tekken back in 2010. On one hand, it can be pretty difficult to come up with at least an hour-long plot from a game with little to no plot at all. On the other, you take a story-centered game like Mass Effect and we’re talking about 40+ hours of game time crammed into two and that’s only a single installment alone. That sums up reason one: purpose. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love fighting games and I would love nothing more than to see Tekken 2’s King star in a mind-blowing fighting film, but what story is there to tell? Forget about fighting games for a minute and consider other favorites like Call of Duty or classics like Starfox. Anything that falls into fighting, strategy or even puzzles is completely out of the questions and eliminates a good portion of video games off the “movie possibilities” roster.


Time is yet another reason video-game movies have tanked. Even the shortest games can end up adding up to over five hours of gameplay when the average movie is about two. You have to put the average movie-goer into the equation. I’m pretty sure you and I would both be first inline for a Final Fantasy movie premiere, but not everybody thinks that way. Anything over two and a half hours and the average movie-goer is gone or asleep. Statistically speaking, not great. But let’s say someone did try to make a film out of a massive game like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Final Fantasy VII. These are both games with well-rounded three-dimensional characters, amazing settings and an even better story. They’re also games that can log into 60+ hours of gaming. You’d have to cut out parts that any fanboy or Geek would consider essential.

Let’s say that a big-time film production company decides to finance The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. How much money would they be willing to dish out on a film with extremely high expectations, a hardcore fan base, and a pretty big price tag? On top of that, you have to consider the possibility of the movie being a complete and total failure based on previous history alone. That takes me to reason number three: budget. 

I’m not going to deny the fact that some games do get lucky. Who would have ever thought that Tomb Raider would be taken on by Paramount Pictures and Angelina Jolie? You can hate on the movie all you want but the fact that it had a prequel says a lot about its popularity. I’ve been a Tomb Raider fan since the day I was born, and the way I see it, Tomb Raider fans simply got lucky. Very few film distributors are willing to dish out so much money on such a high-risk project. You have to spend money to make money, and Paramount took the risk.


Take Uwe Boll, the director of both BloodRayne and Far Cry. Both amazing games, yet horrible movies. They also happen to rank at the bottom of the list of all video-game adaptations. It also turns out he finances his own films. Just comes to show that the only person willing to spend that money was him.

Money might feel like a bit too impersonal of a reason though. Any gamer will tell you that there are a few series they follow religiously. You may hate the game down to the very core but you can’t deny the familiarity. In my case, it’s The Legend of Zelda, any game from any generation. The protagonist, Link (for those of you who don’t know), has been redesigned a million and one times so there may not be one unique Link. However, having any actor, no matter how great he may be, casted as Link could ruin the essence of the character. Voice acting is highly important. If a movie was made based on Red Dead Redemption and John Marston didn’t sound the same, the movie is screwed. Link may not have a voice but that is the magic of it. Every player reads the character differently, and if a voice and face was found to substitute Link, there would be a lot of controversy. The voice might be too high-pitched or he might be picked too buff.

I’ll place it into context for you. What if Star Wars: A New Hope was remade and Han Solo was replaced by Johnny Depp or Robert Downey Jr.? It wouldn’t be the same. They may do a good job at it, they all have the character resume to do it but they simply wouldn’t cut it. Characters would be my fourth reason.

My last and final reason is player participation. I can’t deny that Skyrim would make for an awesome film, but player participation is so deeply embedded into this game that any one path would be too restricting. As a gamer, I live through the suspense of making the right or wrong choice. I choose my path and how I get to it. Not just that. Not only do I see the boss fall but I destroy him myself. That can be the essence of gaming, and the game would be quickly stripped away from it the moment it hits the big screen.

Take an episode-based game like The Walking Dead. You play the character, and the decisions you make from your character. You can decide to be a cold-blooded killer or a simple man trying to get through the post-apocalyptic world he’s in. You might choose the path I didn’t, and that immediately changes your view of The Walking Dead. Try putting that into film and getting us to agree on anything.

You can’t please everybody. Movies, whether they’re based on video games or not, will always have fans and critics. Just like books, the fans can easily turn against you. You’re taking an entire universe and cramming it into two hours worth on screen-time, and that’s without taking in all the other considerations I took when writing this article.

I would love to see all of my favorite video games at the movie theater, and I promise you I would be the first in-line, but video games weren’t cut for that. Anybody care to disagree?


– Matthew A. Ramirez

Matthew A. Ramirez

Matthew is a Star Wars fanatic first, human second. He lives and breathes for video games, books, and anything out of this world. His life is heavily influenced by his Peter Pan Syndrome. He's a Slytherin and a Lannister. He currently studies at Florida International University as an elementary education major and pursues web design & development during his free time. He lives in Miami, FL with his girlfriend, Ana and their cat, Khaleesi.