When I was growing up, the first movie that used video games as a major plot device was The Wizard. You might remember that movie starring Fred Savage, where a major secret was given away in Super Mario 3. As much as it was about video games, the story was actually about two brothers who go on a trip by themselves. The first movie based on a video game wouldn't come until years later, and would start a new trend that continues today! I only mention a handful of them, and these are the games that had a huge impact on me. I'm not listing all of them, because we'd be here all day. So sit back and enjoy.
'Super Mario Bros'
I first read about the possibility of a Mario movie in a book Nintendo sent me as being a subscriber of Nintendo Power called Mario Mania. It was mostly a walkthrough for Super Mario World, but it had a few other bits, like past Mario games, characters in the Mario universe (thus far), and an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto. The book mentioned that a movie was (at the time) in the works. The short description was very loosely foreshadowing the plot. After that short little bit, I moved on and forgot all about it.
Then Nintendo Power decided to remind their readers that a Mario movie was still in production, and I found out that Bob Hoskins and Denis Hopper were going to be in it. It seemed like it was going to be a good one. It was still a little ways away, so I still had to wait. Then in the near summer of 93, it was finally coming out. So I went to see it...and...
What was I watching?
Okay, so there was no way a movie was going to replicate the game perfectly. I didn't mind the sci-fi aspect of the movie, as there's no way the vibrant world of the game would translate well as a movie. Having Denis Hopper play Koopa (why not Bowser?) as a humanoid worked pretty good, and a few nods to the game series, like the Bob-omb, made it into the movie. There were a few things I took issue with, like why was Mario trying to seduce someone in a club? Who are these other characters that had nothing to do with the games? The movie even made the mistake of suggesting that a sequel would be made. But for the die hard fans, a sequel, in webcomic form, has been made.
I have come to the conclusion that the movie is actually enjoyable if you're not familiar with the source material. Now Nintendo seems to be embracing the movie world again with their partnership with Universal, a company that sued them over Donkey Kong ripping off King Kong in the 80s, for an animated movie. It remains to be seen how this would play out.
However bad the Mario movie might have been, it is scores above the Double Dragon movie in every category. As I stated before, the Mario movie is enjoyable if you're not familiar with the source material. The Double Dragon movie; however, would be a stinker even if the game didn't exist.
If you've never played Double Dragon, in the arcade, or in any home incarnation, let me tell you about it. The intro of the game showed a woman, presumably the girlfriend of a main character, confirmed in the instruction booklet, getting slugged in the gut and carried away by the bad guys. It's time to fight! You, and possibly a second player, must clobber your way through an army of street punks to rescue this girl, only to fight each other after beating Machine Gun Willy. Now how would this game translate to a movie? Well...
It's a post apocalyptic movie where street gangs rule at night, and a madman named Koga Shuko (played by Robert Patrick of Terminator 2 fame), who uses a medallion called the Double Dragon to turn into a shadow and possess other people. Of course, Billy and Jimmy, the brothers who are the stars of the games, fight against this guy. Marian, the poor girl that gets kidnapped in most games and killed in one, is not a damsel in distress in the movie. Besides Billy and Jimmy, Abobo, and Linda Lash are the other characters from the game to represent in the movie, though Abobo's transformation into a mutant was highly unnecessary.
The Double Dragon movie was abysmal, but the games still hold up...well, most of them. If you want to know more about the series as a whole, please check out this video.
When it came time for Street Fighter to become a movie, the only game they could really base it one was Street Fighter II, which was upgraded for years before Street Fighter III came out, with its own upgrades. Using the original Street Fighter was obviously a no go, as the only playable characters were Ryu and Ken, and the game didn't play so well, but it did prove popular enough to warrant an almost sequel which became I, and of course, Street Fighter II.
The game had no plot. Put two guys on screen, and have them fight it out. The characters had little to no backstory. Ryu was a fighter that was out looking for his next challenge. Chun Li was an Interpol agent that was out for revenge. Guile was a Major in the USAF, also out for revenge. Sagat was looking to settle the score with Ryu, as Sagat was the last fighter in the original Street Fighter. Balrog was a disgraced boxer. Vega is a psycho. M. Bison is a megalomaniac that wants nothing less than world domination. Somehow, the game worked, as it got your money in the arcades and home ports.
So with a game that had an expanding roster of characters to choose from, a movie just had to be made. Even more curious is the fact that Capcom, the creators of Street Fighter, financed this project. So, what's the plot? Certainly not a worldwide street fighting tournament, because how do you sanction that type of thing?
How about this? M. Bison, played with gusto by Raul Julia, kidnaps a bunch of civilians and holds them for ransom, threatening to kill them if his demands aren't met. Enter Guile, played dryly by Jean Claude Van Damme, who wages a one-man war against Bison. Liberties were taken with the characters. Ryu and Ken are now con men. Chun Li is now a news reporter. Dhalsim is a scientist, played by one of Mola Ram's lackeys in the Temple Of Doom. Balrog is one of the good guys. Blanka is a mutant that used to be Guile's friend, as opposed to being a feral mutant in Brazil, like the game. And who is this Captain Sawada guy?! The saddest part is that Street Fighter was Raul Julia's final film.
The salt in the wound is the game based on the movie, which is Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game. Fortunately, things do get better.
Mortal Kombat was a dream to players like me, and a nightmare to our parents. Mortal Kombat also inspired rating systems for video games. The game used digitized actors portraying the characters on screen, a technique perfected by Midway, as they dabbled a lot in that with NARC and NBA Jam. They were also not afraid to make their games absolute gore fests, which both Mortal Kombat and NARC were, as well as Smash TV and Total Carnage, which were both improvements of the Robotron formula. So with all the attention that Mortal Kombat was getting with the controversy surround it and its sequel, it's only natural that a movie was going to be made.
The Mortal Kombat movie doesn't stray far from its source material. Only slightly. The sorcerer, Shang Tsung, invites fighters from all over the world to compete in the tournament known as Mortal Kombat. The biggest difference is that both Scorpion and Sub Zero were Shang Tsung's servants, and not bitter enemies, though it is mentioned. The three heroes are Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, and Sonya Blade, with Raiden (I'm not spelling it Rayden) looking on as a supporter who can't fight in the tournament, unlike in the game. Elements from the second game appear, in the form of Kitana, Reptile, and Outworld.
The movie was done better than most, as the game actually had a backstory. The movie follows it better than the others on this list. Shang Tsung hosts a tournament that will decide the fate of earth. Liu Kang turns out to be the chosen one, a canon ending in the first game. Even Goro was done perfectly, as it's a guy in a suit with a mechanical puppet. Mortal Kombat was a great movie, but I can't really say the same about its sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. It had too much going against it, having a feel like a made for TV movie, bad CGI, only two principal actors returning, and a plot device that was never explored in the games, axing any chance of a sequel that would have surely saw Quan Chi as the main villain.
Still, the game series is still going strong, with people on YouTube and the rest of the internet anticipating the next game.
This one is very recent, however, it's based on a game that's older than most on this list. Rampage was a very fun arcade game, and as a kid, I could only imagine a movie based on Rampage. I never thought it would actually happen.
Rampage, the movie, has a lot of differences with Rampage, the game. In the game, the monsters are mutated humans, while in the game, they are mutated animals. The bad guys created the mutation serum on purpose in the movie, while the monsters came about by pure accident. In the game, you went all over the country, as in the game, the monsters only destroy parts of Chicago. In the movie, George was the hero, along with the character that Dwayne Johnson plays. In the game, the monsters can go either way, but must destroy cities to advance. There's not much else to say, but I talk about the Rampage series in another article, Rampage Memories.
I didn't bring up Resident Evil, as it's so over done, it's not even funny anymore. I also didn't bring up the Doom movie. I think one movie starring the Rock is good enough. I would love to see movies based on Zelda, Metroid, and Wolfenstein. However, this seems to be the next one to come...
Hail to the king, baby! You can't see me!