If you want to watch a decent movie based on a game, you’ll have to dig deep to find one. As source material goes, perhaps no medium has produced more awful movies than video games.
Maybe it’s bad luck. Maybe video game stories don’t lend themselves well to 90 minutes of narrative. Maybe the next video game movie will turn out to be the Citizen Kane of adaptations. But for now, the only thing we’re sure about is that video game movies are bad. Really bad.
Here are five of the worst.
5. Super Mario Bros.
Imagine a time when the Super Mario Bros. games were as every bit as popular as The Hunger Games or 50 Shades of Grey. Now imagine a movie version of those books that is not only ineptly made, but that disregards and changes nearly everything about the inspiration.
Granted, the Super Mario games weren’t based on hundreds of pages of lore. But take the goombas. Those cute, squat brown enemies that are mostly harmless in the Mario games became gigantic bouncer-like creatures with teeny-tiny dinosaur heads in the movie. Why? Who knows! That’s the level of reverence the movie paid to every part of the source material. It’s no wonder the film is nearly unwatchable.
4. Wing Commander
The Wing Commander video games are all about space combat. They take place in a sci-fi future that’s full of weaponized space craft and evil feline-like aliens. The goal is to send them to a fiery grave before they shoot you down.
Which sounds like a respectable setup for a Hollywood film. And it might have been a decent movie if not for the cliché-riddled plot, the painfully sluggish pacing, and the thinner-than-cardboard characters. Not even a John Williams-style score can keep this clunker afloat.
3. Double Dragon
The game this movie is based on stars two martial artist brothers who go after a gang leader and dozens of his minions when they kidnap an unsuspecting woman. It’s a plot so thin it could only support a beat-‘em-up video game that didn’t have to worry about distractions like dialog or characters.
So it’s probably a good thing the movie adds a new dimension to the story. Unfortunately, that new dimension involves transporting the action to a post-apocalyptic future and centers on an amulet that grants superhuman powers. With an painfully shoestring budget and acting talent to match, this movie stumbles before it throws a single punch.
2. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
It’s hard to believe any piece of cinema could make the 1994 adaptation Street Fighter look like a classic action film, but The Legend of Chun-Li does it. It accomplishes this impressive feat by failing on nearly every level — most notably failing to make viewers care about anything that’s happening onscreen.
While it’s more focused than its video game inspiration, this movie stars the titular heroine as she searches for her father, battles an Irish incarnation of M. Bison, and saves nearly all of Bangkok along the way. As usual for this type of film, the acting is atrocious and the script falls over at even the slightest gust of logic.
1. Alone in the Dark
The most prolific video-game-to-film adaptor is Uwe Boll, a man who also happens to be widely regarded as one of the worst directors working today. His singularly abysmal resume contains video game adaptations like Postal, Bloodrayne, and House of the Dead, films that make you wonder how anyone this incompetent finds funding to continue making movies.
Alone in the Dark is Boll’s most direct affront to filmmaking yet. It stars Christian Slater as a paranormal investigator who ends up fighting demons with a cast of other boring, miscast characters. The action is gratuitously gory, the heavy metal score grows tiresome quickly, and the dialog is so atrocious that it goes past being funny and ends up just being sad. Avoid this movie at all costs.