Inverse Rankings

The 25 Best Video Game Adaptations of All Time, Ranked

Fight us... in Mortal Kombat.

Originally Published: 
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The Summer Blockbuster Issue

If there are three words that infuriate gamers and cinephiles alike, it’s “video game adaptations.” From the very first attempt with 1993’s Super Mario Bros, the concept of turning a game into a movie or show has been synonymous with a flaming pile of garbage. But, believe it or not, in the past few decades, video game adaptations have evolved from decent, to watchable, to sometimes shockingly good.

Don’t get us wrong, there are still plenty of stinkers, but these days, your average video game adaptation is actually worth watching. With even more exciting stuff on the way — from ‘90s throwbacks to epic odysseys — it’s the perfect time to rank the best video game-inspired shows and movies of all time.

Inverse’s gaming and entertainment teams joined together to identify the 25 best video game adaptations (so far). Check out the list below.

25. Assassin's Creed

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2016 was a rough year for the video game adaptation. After Warcraft crashed and burned at the box office, it fell to Justin Kurzel’s Assassin’s Creed to redeem the subgenre.

On paper, it should have been a slam dunk. Assassin’s Creed reunites Kurzel with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, who had just co-starred in the director’s stunning adaptation of Macbeth the year prior. Unfortunately, his self-serious style translates poorly to a premise that’s always been inherently silly. Lyvie Scott

24. Wing Commander

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Released just two months before The Phantom Menace — and two weeks before The Matrix — the sci-fi fighter pilot flick Wing Commander was always cursed to be overshadowed at the box office. But this is a deeply underrated video game adaptation for one reason: Mark Hamill’s character from the videogames is played by Freddie Prinze Jr. Ryan Britt

23. Persona 4: The Animation


Based on the cult-classic 2008 RPG, Persona 4: The Animation tells the story of a group of charismatic high school students out to find the culprit behind a string of mysterious murders in a small town. With plenty of juicy plot twists, spectacular setpieces, and good old-fashioned teenage hijinks, Persona 4 translates beautifully into a slice-of-life adventure series. Even if you’re already familiar with the story, this weirdo riff on silent protagonist Yu Narukami is worth the price of admission. Jen Glennon

22. Warcraft


There’s perhaps no video game adaptation people love to hate more than Warcraft. Universal had its work cut out adapting one of the densest mythologies in fantasy history. Duncan Jones’ long-gestating epic, while ambitious, does get bogged down by the effort of setting up so much story (there’s a reason its full title is Warcraft: The Beginning). But there’s still a lot to like. The cast gives their all, the effects are fun, and it did gangbusters with international audiences. In a kinder world, it might have spawned an earnest, fun franchise. Sadly, it wasn’t in the cards. — Lyvie Scott

21. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time could have been a great movie. Unfortunately, it was one of Disney’s many attempts to re-create the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, which saddled the film with unattainable expectations. Absolutely no one in the cast is Middle Eastern, either, which evokes the bygone epics of Hollywood’s golden age in the worst way. If you can get past the latent Orientalism, Prince of Persia is actually a pretty fun time, but it’s definitely not the Pirates successor Disney was hoping for. — Lyvie Scott

20. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners


Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is the rare video game adaptation that perfectly embraces the themes of its source material while also expanding upon them in meaningful ways. Taking place shortly before the events of the game, Edgreunners makes the dystopian open world of Night City feel more vibrant and alive than ever before. Against that backdrop, it weaves a harrowing plot that’s simultaneously a heartbreaking love story and a commentary on how society reinforces the cycle of poverty. Hayes Madsen

19. Castlevania


While What We Do in the Shadows made vampires hilarious, Castlevania reinstated the fear these creatures of the night are meant to inspire whilst proving the best anime doesn’t have to come from Japan. An amalgamation of various titles in the Konami franchise, Castlevania on Netflix is as gory as it is glorious with breathtaking animation, impeccable English voice acting, and a truly brutal vision of dark fantasy that can inspire many Dungeon Masters and horror novelists to sink their teeth back into monsters who don't actually sparkle in the sunlight. Eric Francisco

18. Resident Evil: Apocalypse

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Although Milla Jovovich was the only returning cast member for the direct sequel to the first Resident Evil, this movie sequel is easily one of the best video game adaptations for one simple reason. Unlike its predecessor, which essentially reinvented the entire canon from the games, Resident Evil: Apocalypse re-creates the aesthetics of several cutscenes from the games. Overall, the feeling of the games and the storyline of the films merged with this movie, making hardcore fans happy, but still letting non-gamers enjoy the movie. — Ryan Britt

17. Sonic the Hedgehog


Animation disaster struck when the horrifying first trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog dropped in April 2019. The blue-furred hero looked more like a creepy alien. So it came as such a shock that the actual movie was so darn good. The final version of Sonic closely resembles the original design we all love, and Ben Schwartz brings his signature infectious mania to voicing the role. The icing on the cake is Jim Carrey as a positively unhinged Dr. Robotnik. Corey Plante

16. Werewolves Within

IFC Films

Based on a VR game of the same name, Werewolves Within is a fun, delightfully zany horror comedy. Set in a Vermont town, the Mishna Wolff-directed film follows a group of people trapped together in the middle of a snowstorm who begin to suspect one of them is a murderous werewolf. Simultaneously tense and silly, the plot is elevated by its comedic cast and tongue-in-cheek tone. While it may be one of the more obscure titles on this list, Werewolves Within is also one of the more successful video game adaptations ever made. It’s a B-movie that manages to pull off almost everything it sets out to achieve. Alex Welch

15. Uncharted

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Uncharted is one of the rare titles on this list that is a perfectly fine blockbuster, but not a particularly good or faithful adaptation of its source material. This Tom Holland-led adaptation of Naughty Dog’s beloved treasure-hunting franchise lacks a lot of the personality and charm that made the original games so distinct and fun. That doesn’t, however, mean director Ruben Fleischer’s live-action take on Uncharted is without its merits. On its own, the film is an inoffensively OK, entertaining blockbuster… so long as you forget the quality of the games it’s based on. — Alex Welch

14. Tomb Raider (2018)

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Taking a camp classic and giving it the gritty prequel treatment is always going to be a risky move, but Tomb Raider proves it can be done without sacrificing the soul of its predecessor. The 2018 film brings heart to a series that previously relished in its own hollowness, thanks in great part to Alicia Vikander’s earnest performance as Lara Croft. She’s exactly what makes this film one of the most entertaining game adaptations of its time, bringing a surprisingly human edge to the character. — Lyvie Scott

13. Mortal Kombat (2021)

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While the lore of Mortal Kombat doesn't lend itself so easily to adaptation, it's still basically a mystical Enter the Dragon — you have to try really hard to mess it up. Somehow, the 2021 reboot film did just that by overcomplicating its premise with magical tattoos and reincarnating Scorpion, the most hardcore video game character of all time, into a boring nobody named Cole Young. While its predominant Asian ensemble was thrilling to see, Mortal Kombat doesn't hold up after one or two midnight screenings over pizza and beer. Not so toasty. — Eric Francisco

12. Pokémon Detective Pikachu

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This imperfect-but-underrated 2019 blockbuster is ultimately a good example of how tonally exciting and experimental video game adaptations can be. As familiar and stale as its CGI-heavy third act may feel, the film’s pulpy, noir-esque first two acts are still just as much fun to watch and experience now as they were when Pokémon Detective Pikachu was originally released in 2019. Four years later, as the number of video game adaptations that Hollywood has in development continues to grow, it’s worth remembering that not all of them have to be action-heavy adventure films and shows. Some can (and should) also be neon-lit detective stories. — Alex Welch

11. Mortal Kombat (1995)

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Now this is more like it. While the 2021 reboot has admirable qualities (and its Scorpion/Sub-Zero fight goes so hard), the 1995 version released during the series' arcade heyday simply understood the assignment better. While its fight scenes aren’t that much more violent than an episode of Power Rangers, its stronger grasp of story and the specific alchemy of its cast ensemble — including Robin Shou, Christopher Lambert, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Bridgette Wilson as a drop-dead gorgeous Sonya Blade — ensures Mortal Kombat has only aged nicely after almost 30 years. Time flies when you're kicking ass. – Eric Francisco

10. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)

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Lara Croft: Tomb Raider has no business being as fun as it is. Its schlocky, sluggish action dates it almost immediately, as do the multiple opportunities to ogle its title heroine. There’s little substance in Tomb Raider, but that’s the beauty of the early 2000s, there doesn’t have to be. Angelina Jolie is, as always, game for anything. No one’s harboring any illusions about the kind of film they’re making here. And sometimes, that’s exactly what makes a bad film good. — Lyvie Scott

9. Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?


“Listen Up, Gumshoes!” It takes a lot for an educational game to be adapted for television, but Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? knew exactly how to pull it off: make it a game show. More than 30 years later, it’s an almost adorable relic (there’s a disclaimer before a whole season because the Soviet Union dissolved between filming and airing). It doesn’t exactly hold up, but it brought educational games from “the only games uncool kids were allowed to play” to “source material for a PBS game show.” Not much of an upgrade, but it’s something. — Dais Johnston

8. Pokémon

So many video game adaptations seek to make their original source material palatable to unfamiliar audiences. Conversely, the Pokémon animated series and its first motion picture — Pokémon: The First Movie — succeed as complementary stories to the video games on which they are based. The screen adaptations capture the same childhood wonder as the games, fleshing out the familiar world through the adventures of Ash Ketchum. The first games in the series — Red and Blue — were released alongside the cartoon and the movie to global audiences in 1998 and have become forever intertwined in the hearts and minds of fans. Willa Rowe


Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

It's not that HALO is terrible, per se. But the cinematic grandeur present in the Xbox sci-fi shooter series set expectations so high, anything short of a bullseye feels like a misfire. Despite impressive production design (including stunning replication of the MJOLNIR armor) and wise recycling of the games' sound effects, a handful of questionable creative decisions kept HALO from being the seismic hit the IP deserves. (Do we really need to see Master Chief's face?) With a second season now in production for Paramount+, we're still hoping fortunes can turn around. — Eric Francisco

6. Silent Hill


2006’s Silent Hill film isn't a mindblowing piece of cinema, but it's a decent video game movie that feels like it understands the source material. It nails the aesthetics and feels surreal at times, harkening back to the wildest moments from the classic horror series. It's a film that doesn't get enough love but is worth a rewatch all these years later, especially for fans of surreal horror. Joseph Yaden

5. Devil May Cry


Devil May Cry’s anime was before its time. It was released during an awkward era where only a few games had the pleasure of being made into an animation, yet it still managed to charm audiences with stories about demon-hunting protagonist Dante’s day-to-day life. It takes place between Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 2, a transitional phase in our hero’s life. The DMC anime was notably less dramatic than the games, but it had enough engaging characters and stories that it still made a believable addition to the series. — Jess Reyes

4. Resident Evil (2002)

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It’s hard to believe that, at one point, the Resident Evil games weren’t associated with Milla Jovovich. But in 2002, Resident Evil proved you could make a movie based on a wildly popular first-person shooter zombie game and give it heart. The first Resident Evil definitely isn’t a perfect movie, but as video game adaptations go, it’s close to being the best for one simple reason: it reinvented the emotional focus of the game by giving us a new hero. As the amnesiac clone “Alice” (whose name is never spoken in the first movie), Jovovich gave the Resident Evil ethos a new kind of action star to root for. And without her, it’s unlikely the franchise would have clicked. — Ryan Britt

3. Arcane


Heading into its late 2021 premiere, Arcane initially looked and felt like nothing more than another animated video game tie-in, but it quickly became clear that there was more to Arcane than that. Set in the League of Legends universe, the nine-episode first season tells an unpredictable, surprisingly brutal story — one featuring an overabundance of richly drawn characters and locations. At its best, Arcane manages to create the same sense of immersion and danger as Game of Thrones. If that sounds like too high a compliment, then you haven’t watched Arcane. No other video game adaptation has ever made quite as much of an unexpected impact. — Alex Welch

2. The Super Mario Bros. Movie


Universal and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie isn’t the best video game adaptation ever, but it certainly isn’t the worst, either. As a matter of fact, the film’s biggest flaw is that it feels just a little too safe. It’s a visually stunning animated adventure with a handful of memorable action sequences and a forgettable, zero-calorie story. With that in mind, it’s ultimately Jack Black’s pitch-perfect, scene-stealing performance as the villainous Bowser that justifies its existence. Unfortunately, Black’s performance is also so good that it’ll leave you wondering what The Super Mario Bros. Movie could have been had it fully embraced the same heightened, screwball tone. — Alex Welch

1. The Last of Us

Liane Hentscher/HBO

Before the year even started, I called The Last of Us the best TV show of 2023. Five months of great TV later, it may have lost that title, but it is without a doubt the best video game adaptation ever. Because of the 2013 game’s cinematic quality and creator Neil Druckmann’s involvement as co-showrunner, the story is incredibly faithful. But the few new additions, like Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey’s crackling chemistry and the heartbreaking 80-minute love story episode, only highlight what made the game great in the first place: how even in the zombie apocalypse, it told an exquisitely human story. — Dais Johnston

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