Video Games at the Movies: An Imperfect Relationship

  It was inevitable that two of the most popular types of interactive media would eventually become bed-mates and birth a love child. Video game-based movies have been gaining more and more steam over the years, due in part to the huge popularity of our favorite games and the expensive licenses they hold.   While […]


It was inevitable that two of the most popular types

of interactive media would eventually become bed-mates and birth a love child.

Video game-based movies have been gaining more and more steam over the years,

due in part to the huge popularity of our favorite games and the expensive

licenses they hold.


While this may seem like the perfect union for

game enthusiasts, just like any relationship, their electronic synthesis is

riddled with problems. We’re taking a look at some of the notable highs and

lows of the brainchild that game developers and movie directors created. Do

great games equal great movies?


Super Mario Brothers (1993)


It shouldn’t really be surprising that one of the

first video game movies that the world got to experience was Super Mario Brothers in 1993. With such a huge global following from the game series, Nintendo would have been ignorant not to capitalize on it. Such a classic game would easily be translated into a great movie, right? The SMB movie was easily one of the worst movies in existence.


The world’s most famous video game character was

butchered by horrible acting and a virtually non-existent plot that didn’t remotely follow the canon of the series. John Leguizamo as Luigi? Aren’t the Mario Bros. Italian? Why was Bowser “President Koopa” instead of “King Koopa”? There were too many things wrong with this film to list. While the movie did nothing to

enhance the series, it was the first major motion picture in the U.S. about

video games. While innovation may be one of Nintendo’s strong suits, there was

nothing new or appealing about this movie.

Street Fighter (1994)


Street Fighter is perhaps the most notable entrant in the world of fighting games. The series has grown a huge following over the years, which is why it was such a shame when this movie fell horrendously below mover-goers expectations. With Jean-Claude Van Damme as Guile, the story revolves around our favorite flat-top sporting hero as he goes on his journey to foil the evil M. Bison’s plans (insert cliché storyline here).


While this movie was generally regarded as terrible by critics and fans of the series, it became a cult hit and did huge numbers in the box office. Predictably, a barely-playable game followed the film. Die-hard gamers still seem to give this movie a pass despite all of the things that was wrong with it; this is Street Fighter we’re talking about after



Kombat (1995)


The MK series has always been a successful one, especially in the ‘90s. Through its memorable fighters, bloody fighting moves and unforgettable fatalities, the series solidified its position in pop culture long ago. When Midway sold the rights for the movie, it was destined to be a hit. Mortal Kombat managed to do what several video game movies before it

could not do: be watchable. While it may have received below-average reviews,

it did get a “thumbs up” from Gene Siskel of Siskel and Ebert fame. It ended up grossing nearly $120 million worldwide.


Video game heads loved the movie because it stayed relatively close to the plot of the games and included the characters we all know and love. It was the second-largest opening of its time right after The Fugitive. Mortal Kombat was followed by Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, but it wasn’t nearly as successful.

Pokémon: The First Movie (1999)


Pokémon is one of the most famous anime franchises to hit U.S. shores. Poké-mania ravaged any and every child that it got its hands on. TV shows, video games, books, clothing, food, numerous editions of the card game; it was everywhere. Fans knew a movie was coming eventually. Pokémon: The First Movie chronicles the adventures of Pokémon trainer Ash and the sickeningly cute Pikachu as they battle the forces of evil and realize true friendship. The film grossed over $163 million worldwide and was followed by several theatrical and straight-to-DVD releases.  

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider



It was only a matter of time before our favorite gun-toting, rope-swinging digital vixen got her own live action movie. Angelina Jolie had some huge knee-high boots to fill in the role of Lara Croft. Tomb Raider follows the archeological adventures of the title character through numerous locales all over the world as she looks for relics that directly control the flow of time.


While the movie was often criticized by critics for being “too serious”, the movie had no problems with racking up at the box office: it made over $300 million worldwide, making it the largest debut and highest grossing video game movie ever. Since its opening, it has continued to hold down that spot. It was followed by a sequel, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, in 2003.

Resident Evil (2002)



has experienced massive success with Resident

Evil. The critically acclaimed series is known for its storyline, memorable

characters and nail-biting game play; the theoretical inception of the movie

was both hit and miss in this regard. The movie introduces a new character,

Alice (played by Milla Jovovich), as she battles various monsters that have

become a staple of the series.



from various games in the series appeared in the movie, so while it wasn’t a

direct mirror of the games plot, it at least attempted to stay true to the

series’ roots. While it wasn’t well-received by critics, the movie did well in

the box office, garnering over $102 million worldwide. It was followed by two

sequels – Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) and Resident Evil: Extinction (2007).

Doom (2005)


If you

asked any fan of shooting games what title truly defined the genre, you would

most likely hear “Doom”. The effect Doom has had on numerous shooting titles is undeniable. The video game spawned numerous successful sequels, garnered tons of video game fans worldwide and eventually slapped them all in the face with a half-baked movie.


The film starred Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as “The Rock” of WWE fame. Plagued with the use of an unneeded first-person view, bad acting and numerous plot holes that deviated from the game, the movie bombed in the box office. Needless to say, the prospect of a sequel has not been visited.

Even with the rather extensive list of video games

movies that have been released since the early ‘90s, there are still quite a

few over the horizon. Max Payne, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Tekken are all in the process of being produced to the delight

of many die-hard fans. A Halo movie is also in the making for a tentative release in 2009, though no substantial details have surfaced about it just yet.


Rockstar, the company that produces the insanely-popular Grand Theft Auto series, recently attempted to secure a movie for their notable video game; they were unable to do so because of an older movie that had already been made by the same name. Only time and ticket sales will tell if these titles suffer the same fate as many titles before them or if they will be box office smashes.