Adaptations of video games are becoming more and more popular. The Witcher, although more an adaptation of the book, brought a lot of attention to the popular video game series. Regardless of its literary origins, The Witcher demonstrated that the division between video games and film/television, although defined, is not as rigid as it seems. And while some projects struggle to get off the ground, there is not only a lot of talk about which games should be adapted, but many projects are currently being worked on behind the scenes.
So when Cory Barlog expressed his desire for a God of War TV show, I couldn’t help but mull this concept over. A TV show is much longer than a film, and so video games of significant scope and length are perfect for TV adaptations. Portal, for example, might make a great movie, but it doesn’t necessarily have enough content for a TV adaptation. So, fascinated by this subject, I dove deep into my gaming library in search of games that would make a great TV show. I excluded games that have been movies or TV shows and games that are in the midst of that transition.
So Netflix, if you are reading, pay attention. These are 5 video games perfect for TV adaptations.
Horizon Zero Dawn
So many might not think that a game about fighting robot dinosaurs would have a particularly good narrative, but Horizon Zero Dawn’s plot is stellar. Not only that, but the game is quite grand in scope, with a world begging to be explored. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where society has crumbled under the reign of robot dinosaurs (a genuine threat), the game follows Aloy, an outcast from her tribe and a hunter, as she seeks to discover the cause of the fall of civilization.
Her discoveries lead to a fair deal of intrigue, and you can’t help but gasp at some of the story’s revelations. In terms of entertainment value, shooting robot dinosaurs is a great time in the game, so I guarantee it would be entertaining to watch on a TV show. But the action would also support an intriguing plot taking place in a fascinating setting. Aloy is a strong character, and so are the supporting characters, and they all really enrich the narrative. All of this to say that viewers would enjoy both the quiet, reflective moments of the show as well as the loud, action-packed moments.
A direct adaptation of the first game’s plot is possible due to its considerable length, but the world lends itself well to additional seasons with original plotlines. Even though Horizon Zero Dawn 2 is the world’s worst kept secret, there are still plenty of stories to tell regardless of the second entry’s plot. It would be an exciting, engaging, emotional, and fascinating TV show.
Dishonored is a stellar series with absolutely fantastic and dynamic gameplay. But the series also has an admittedly simple though engaging plot. Dishonored 1 and 2’s stories boil down to revenge, but the context surrounding the narrative and the characters within it move the story forward adeptly. And it is all malleable, easily transferrable to the screen.
Dishonored has a steampunk setting, with magic and technology littering the world. The magic is exceptionally unique, with spells and powers being gifted by the mysterious Outsider. Whale oil and bones power both magical abilities and technology. In the end, this action-stealth adventure surprises players with a world full of lore and intrigue, making it the perfect setting for a TV show.
The characters are also a huge strength for Dishonored. Although Corvo and Emily are a bit bland (something that can and should be remedied in a show), the supporting characters are incredibly strong. Again, The Outsider is fascinating. Daud is an incredibly complex character and one that I always want to learn more about. Vera Moray is incredibly creepy and intriguing, and Piero and Anton are geniuses that constantly surprise the player (and hopefully the viewer).
With these strong characters and enthralling setting, Dishonored could be an excellent TV adaptation. And its existence isn’t an impossibility, as one writer has expressed interest in bringing the show to the screen. Let’s hope she does!
Red Dead Redemption
To me, it wasn’t even a debate whether Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption deserved a TV adaptation. Grand Theft Auto is fun, the satire is poignant, but Red Dead Redemption, between both the first and the second game, has a collective story that is simply phenomenal.
First, let’s discuss the setting. Red Dead is a Western, which has a universal appeal. It pays homage to the classic Western genre, but Rockstar positions their games at the end of the Wild West. The government is cracking down on outlaws to the point where they are ceasing to exist. Therefore, Red Dead Redemption would offer viewers a unique take on the Wild West they haven’t seen before.
The plot is, again, simply phenomenal, with gameplay being almost secondary to the story and its spectacular cast of characters. The show could begin with Red Dead Redemption 2 and works its way forward chronologically. Starting with Arthur’s heartbreaking story with the first season, the TV adaptation could cut out some of the fluff the game has and tell a more concise tale. The second season would be John’s story. If people wanted a third, showrunners could move forward with Jack’s life. In any case, there are hundreds of hours of storytelling to work with. And the basic skeleton of the plot, without all the fat, lends itself well for adaptation.
Mass Effect could never be a movie – it has to be a show. Simply too much happens in this epic space trilogy to condense it all to a few hours of screentime. In a world where Star Wars and Star Trek dominate sci-fi film and television discourse, a TV adaptation of Mass Effect could provide a breath of fresh air. It has a unique universe, ripe with exciting species and tumultuous history. The plot is also tense and engaging, with the Reapers being a huge threat that demands multiple seasons to defeat.
Commander Shepard is a bit plain in the games, but he had to be so players could imprint their own personality onto him. But the right script and a skilled actor could bring the character to life in a unique way that the games couldn’t. Otherwise, almost every single member of Shepard’s crew throughout the trilogy are memorable and lovable (wink) characters.
Mass Effect has political intrigue, sex, action, danger, character development, and an engaging plot – all the necessary elements for a hit TV show.
To Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and HBO:
Would you kindly make a Bioshock TV adaptation?
Bioshock blew a lot of minds back in the day. The combat was unique, but, more importantly, the plot, its implications, and its consequences took players’ breath away. The entire concept is incredibly refreshing. Andrew Ryan, in the vein of Ayn Rand, built a city under the sea where freedom and economic liberalism reigned supreme. Of course, this went south pretty fast. People began injecting themselves with dangerous, unregulated chemicals that gave them powers but also drove them insane.
As Jack, you venture through this underwater hell to escape, interacting with various, usually insane, characters along the way. The narrative is insightful and impactful. The big reveal of the game will still take viewers by surprise, although it may lose its meta consequences. The Big Daddies and Little Sisters are hopelessly creepy but compelling. In fact, that observation applies to the entire city of Rapture.
Each episode could cover a different character, such as Andrew Ryan, Augustus Sinclair, and Sander Cohen. Jack could become a much more fleshed out character, bringing a new element to the story. It would be action-packed, frightening, macabre, and fascinating.
Also, I’ve already cast the film! Leonardo DiCaprio is Jack, and Joel Edgerton is Andrew Ryan. Thank you for your time, and you’re welcome.
Why All The Effort?
The increasing popularity of video game TV adaptations is exciting. Nothing can mimic the games, but it always exciting to see your favorite stories presented in different ways. But it is also essential for people of all ages and backgrounds to experience these incredible tales. It raises awareness for the validity of video games as a valuable art form.
They aren’t all violence and numbered scores – they include tales of human aspirations and faults. Just like films and books, they tell a story that the player relates to so that we may cry and laugh along with our favorite characters. And adapting these projects allows the world to experience this. Adaptations allow for artists’ work to be shared on a much larger scale. That is why the titles above, and many more, need to be adapted for television. Who knows? They might just be the next big thing!
What games do you want to see made into a TV show? Do any of these excite you? What about the current film or TV adaptations? Let us know in the comments below!
I am an English (Writing Specialization) major at the University of Nevada, Reno, and I also LOVE video games. I’ve been playing everything I could get my hands on since I was a kid playing my Nintendo GameCube. When I’m not playing the latest titles or replaying Dark Souls for the umpteenth time, I am usually trying to write my novel or write and edit for clients as a freelancer.