Breaking the “Video game curse”

Marina Martinez

More stories from Marina Martinez


Video game characters shown beside their movie/TV show counterparts. All noticing the differences in each other except Pikachu, who is just wearing the hat from his movie counterpart.

Despite never owning any kind of gaming setup, I’ve always loved video games. I would visit my friends with an Xbox or PlayStation and they would show me some of their favorite games. Many filled with interesting storylines and lore, amazing fighting sequences and cool visuals. So I thought if they were adapted to be seen on the big screen they would be fantastic, right?

Sadly, many films adapted from video games end up failing due to their poor visuals and writing. These adaptations are victims of “The Video Game Curse,” which seemingly plagues all video game adaptations. In recent years though, there have been adaptations that may have started breaking free from this so-called curse.

The Last of Us [2023]
It can be hard to adapt a video game that focuses heavily on story, as it would be unsatisfying to see an exact copy of something, especially when it’s something you already enjoy. This is where “The Last of Us” excels because it adds in unique changes to the story that add on to the world building, creating a more developed world for the story to be set in. The producers try to take a more realistic approach for the show, which is why it works so well as an adaptation of the game.

I liked this a lot because they went more in depth on how the infection started and how it works. I thought this was a great approach as a game is more of an active experience, while TV shows and movies are more of a passive experience. They change how the Infected play into the story, making them appear less than in the game and harder to kill.. Infected are used to build suspense or action. I definitely see the Infected in the show as way more terrifying than the ones in the games. There is also more development for the characters, such as adding more backstory to Ellie’s character and having Joel deal with panic attacks due to the trauma he has experienced. They take everything from the game, translating it into a well-thought-out, nine-episode series, while also adding in aspects that amplify the storytelling. Not to mention the outfits of the characters and costumes of the Infected looked amazing.

Arcane [2021]
I found this series just scrolling through Netflix, not knowing anything about it beforehand. The artstyle looked amazing, it seemed to be an interesting story and I decided to give it a go. And after the first episode, I was completely hooked. It’s a series which is a complete masterpiece from its characters to its story. One of the biggest reasons behind its success was it being under the supervision of Riot Games, developer of “League of Legends,” which is the game the show is based on. A loose prequel of the games, along with a mixed 3D and 2D art style and well choreographed fight scenes, is intriguing to watch. I love that the show is animated due to animation being able to capture aesthetics of a game better than live-action. The whole world has a painted look which is beautiful. I especially adore how the characters are drawn, each achieving being in the same artstyle and being distinctly different in things such as facial structure and body types. With all these factors, it’s a show that attracts players of the game and non-players alike, making it a perfect adaptation.

Sonic movies [2020 & 2022]
When the first trailer for this movie came out, I was terrified by the design for Sonic. I am very glad they changed it once fans started rioting on social media, I’m pretty sure that was the main factor in saving this movie. The story follows Sonic growing up alone on Earth, wanting the joys of having a family but never being able to obtain one as there are many who want to take advantage of his power. Its storyline works, despite differing from the games and prevents the movie from falling victim to the so-called curse. This makes the characters, who are the only things that are shared between the films and the games, be the most important part of the film, and they did an absolutely amazing job. Sonic is kind and quick-witted, he is a likable protagonist learning valuable lessons throughout both films, but I would be lying if I said he was my favorite. The character I think of the most from these movies would definitely be Robotnick. In both films he is satisfying to watch as a villain who is indeed a worthy and dangerous opponent, while also being the funniest character on screen for me. I loved seeing him in the second film with his original iconic mustache and giant robot from the games. An adaptation will not work if you don’t stay true to the characters no matter how much story from the games you put in. This is why both Sonic movies work so well, having the characters stay true to who they are while also involving recognizable aspects from the original story.

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu [2019]
There have been many anime series and movies based on the Pokémon games, always with the main protagonist being Ash Ketchum and his Pikachu. This film however, plants us in a world similar to one we live in, starring a boy named Tim trying to figure out what happened with his father with the help of his father’s Pikachu. I enjoyed the movie far more than I originally thought I would due to my lack of knowledge in Pokémon. But once the credits rolled, I immediately wanted to rewatch it because of how much fun it was. The movie excelled in being different from the usual game story as well as the story from the anime. I was able to understand how things work without being that well-versed in the Pokémon world. The humor is great, and the CGI is well-used. Most of the Pokémon are well-designed, being almost exactly copied from the 2D world to real life. The story might not have been the best, but the concept is definitely interesting. It’s a very fun adaptation that is able to bring nostalgia to fans. It might not be the best adaptation but it’s certainly a movie that wasn’t ruined by “TheVideo Game Curse”.

None of them broke the so-called curse for all adaptations, there will always be bad video game adaptations. All four of the adaptations above have been able to be good adaptations in different ways and so have plenty others. Shows like “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” and “Castlevania” have been successful as well. In the end, it all comes down to the people who produce the adaptations and how they work with the original source material.