The Last of Us pilot — out now on Disney+ Hotstar — was a tremendous showcase of breaking the video game adaptation curse, by putting faith in the source material’s writing. The inclusion of Neil Druckmann — the writer of the original 2013 PlayStation game — coupled with Craig Mazin’s (Chernobyl) filmmaking expertise on the HBO show, strengthened the belief in core fans that this could be special, and it did indeed deliver beautifully. While a good chunk of the pilot felt like a shot-by-shot remake, it was nuances in filming techniques that made it even more special. Scrambled eggs looked naturally pale yellow instead of orange. Characters could be seen actually eating their food instead of fiddling around with it. Above all, this being an HBO show, most shots were handheld, which only serves to pull you into the emotionally trembling psyche of the desperate survivors.
Despite bearing a similarly dystopian, post-apocalyptic setting as most zombie-killing pieces of media, The Last of Us veered course into the humane aspect. Here, the focus is on the unlikely duo of the hardened survivor Joel (Pedro Pascal) and a teenage girl Ellie (Bella Ramsey), who through the course of the video game assume a father-daughter relationship. That effect of sentimentality is further expanded through minor alterations in The Last of Us show’s writing, which help us relate to Joel’s heartbroken state. The pilot was superbly well done, and it only gets us excited for the weeks to come!
That said, this HBO series wasn’t the only piece of traditional media to nail a video game adaptation. So while we wait until every upcoming Monday for a new episode, here’s a list of a few great movies and TV shows adapted from video games that you can watch or re-watch, to keep you busy.
Save for the Blade Runner-esque world-building — plagued with machines, sex, and body modification — Cyberpunk: Edgerunners runs almost separately from the actual video game, simply using the universe as a device to capture the underdog tale of a street kid, David. With Studio Trigger being involved as the animator for this one, we’re presented with an exaggerated, dynamic art style that plays with bodily physics and benefits from its neon-lit colour palette.
For an anime of this calibre, it is certainly adult-oriented, featuring plenty of gore, bullets, and violence, in addition to a set of eccentric characters, who grow on you with time — posing questions within you on which side to root for. It also gave the once-tarnished Cyberpunk 2077 a new lease on life.
Silent Hill (2006)
Based on the popular horror game series first released in 1999, the first Silent Hill film was released in 2006, and closely follows the events and characters of the game, but with a few changes for cinematic improvements. While the movie explored far too many different horror themes and sub-plots including supernatural creatures and a strange cult, it has been largely praised for capturing the tone and feel of the video games it’s based on.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Although the initial CGI designs of Sonic were hilariously inaccurate, the final movie turned out to be an enjoyable live-action adaptation of one of the most beloved video game characters of all time. The movie benefits from excellent performances from James Marsden and Jim Carrey as the antagonist Dr. Robotnik, as well as some neat throwbacks to the original Sonic games from the 1990s. It might silly at times, but fans of Sonic will be pleased nonetheless.
When it comes to extensive lore-building, no one holds a candle to Riot Games, which is now serving double duty as a game developer and a production company. Watching a standard League of Legends game might appear trivial and fuzzy to an outsider — seeing as it’s just a bunch of tiny champions charging up ultimates and firing spells onto large towers on either side of the map. But there’s an entire spectrum of drama beneath that; a minor portion of which is explored in the watercolour-themed, steampunk spectacle, Arcane.
This 2022 Game Awards-winning series explores the origin story of orphaned sisters Vi and Jinx, as they are separated amidst brewing tensions in the posh, utopian city of Piltower. With a dense storyline that touches upon the aspect of duality, be it the lead characters’ morals or the cities in conflict, and an even electrifying soundtrack to boot, Arcane is deservedly a must-watch for both fans and novices in the franchise alike.
The Witcher series
For fans of Henry Cavill, now might be the best time to catch up on his stint, playing the Geralt of Rivia, before season 3 hits Netflix in summer. Post that, Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games films) takes on the role of the mostly silent monster hunter, who seeks to understand the complexities of the Elder Blood coursing through Ciri’s (Freya Allan) veins. Sure, The Witcher series doesn’t technically count as a video game adaptation, seeing as it’s derived from the original Andrzej Sapkowski novels and all. But it certainly fits as a companion piece, which serves to deeply expand the lore within the CD Projekt Red games.