Warcraft. Assassin’s Creed. Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft. Each was supposed to break the millennia-old curse of abysmal game-to-screen adaptations — and the best we can say about them is “better than Boll.” But hey! That’s just so many more ways to not succeed, right?
It’s not like there’s a shortage of great material out there to adapt. Here are some other great games and game universes that we think need to see the screen — big or small.
Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader
Imagine if Crusaders and Saracens joined forces against an extra-planar invasion during the Third Crusade. Imagine if the aftermath of that battle changed our planet forever — creating a fantastical alternate history where fact and fiction mix like cookies and cream. The nations of Europe crusade against territorial dragons and imperialist necromancers. The Spanish Inquisition hunts actual witches and monsters. Human society struggles with the moral and economic implications of magical immigration.
That’s a setting that deserves a crack at adaptation, even if the game has been largely forgotten. Historical fantasy is all too rare on the screen these days. Lionheart makes a fertile breeding ground for lots of stories and is perfect for a seasonal TV series.
ADAPT THAT, INSTEAD OF: Any Dragon Age game. Despite their rich story and worldbuilding material, the fact remains that their setting is just another sword-and-sorcery fantasy world. Lionheart’s, rooted as it is in our own world’s rich past, makes for a more original proposition — as well as one with readily available story fodder in the form of history.
This one was to see the light of day (and of film cameras) at one point. We still have the treatment of the last attempt at bringing the iconic first game in the series to the screen. And one way or other, somebody should finish the job.
Because here’s the thing about the Fallout franchise: it’s post-apocalyptic with charm. That sense of humor and hope, that strong Americana theme, that irrepressible, whimsical Fallout touch of 50s retrofuturism — these qualities stand out from the Mad Maxes and the Judge Dredds. In which other post-apocalyptic franchise can you make a scene out of something like this?
ADAPT THAT, INSTEAD OF: Wasteland. Yes, it might have inspired Fallout, but it’s not the same thing. It’s darker and grittier, and more about the struggle for survival than forging a new future. And that sort of post-apocalyptic has been done to death already. Audiences could do with more of the aspirational variety.
Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
Actually, it’s a safe bet not a lot of people do. A short-lived TV series doesn’t do Vampire the Masquerade any justice — least of all that series’s most famous video game. Forget sparkly vampires and cringy teenage undead love stories. Bloodlines is vampire fiction at its finest: dark and sensual, mature and uncompromising, chock full of fascinating commentary on vampire society and politics. Plus, the idea of an insane Malkavian protagonist swanning their way through the tensions between the Camarilla vampire government and the anti-establishment Anarchs is something that absolutely deserves a film.
ADAPT THAT, INSTEAD OF: Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption. Bloodlines’ prequel benefits from a clearly defined protagonist who has the whole “medieval man in modern times” shtick going on, but … it’s just no Bloodlines. As the joke (more of an urban legend) goes, it’s not Redemption whose mention makes someone, somewhere reinstall it.
Torment: Tides of Numenera
On screen, we’ve seen warriors and wizards of all kinds. Except one: the kind where the monsters they slay are genetic experiments from a bygone age. Where the magic healing potions they drink afterward are really ancient nano-serums. Where the very ground they stand on may be part of a machine spanning an entire continent, its purpose long forgotten.
Welcome to a world you didn’t even know was Earth one billion years in the future.
Even if Tides’ story of a body-hopping god and his quest to control the ` psyche is deemed too outlandish for adaptation, that’s just one tale in a setting that begs for its full, M.C. Escher-esque glory to be realized on screen. Numenera is peak science fantasy: a great big riff on Clarke’s Third Law, and a breath of fresh air amid all the high and low fantasy already out there.
ADAPT THAT, INSTEAD OF: Planescape: Torment. The philosophical and metaphysical themes at play there run even deeper than in Tides of Numenera. That’s not something easily adapted for a film or TV audience. Some things are better left to the written word and the video game experience.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim achieved heights of mainstream popularity most games can only dream of. What better game to bring to the screen? Even without the Elder Scrolls trappings, lots of people would pay to see an epic Hero’s Journey with hearty servings of dragon-slaying spectacle — the rugged Norse flavor is just icing on the cake.
The game has more to offer an adaptation than gratuitous heroics, too. Skyrim’s ongoing civil war makes for a gritty, grounded backdrop — plus, who doesn’t want to see that epic “guys, can we fight after the world-eating dragon is dead” peace council play out on screen?
ADAPT THAT, INSTEAD OF: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It’s a nice, simple story of saving the kingdom from a demon invasion, and it’s amusing to contemplate having the likes of Sir Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean back in some form if possible. However, Oblivion is still too “generic medieval fantasy” to chance it in a post-Game of Thrones world. Better options in the franchise abound.