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11 Video Games That Deserve Movie Or TV Adaptations

Now that "The Last of Us" is finally airing on HBO, it's a great time to think about some other video games that would make fantastic screen adaptations. Although "Resident Evil" movies (based on the video game series of the same name) have been coming to theaters since 2002, very few other video games have received their own film or TV adaptations. However, video games have become a modern pillar in the pantheon of storytelling mediums, and with this year's "The Last of Us" adaptation from HBO, a new pipeline from video game studios to Hollywood production companies has popped up.

There have been recent film adaptations of popular games "Uncharted" and "Mortal Kombat" (released in 2022 and 2021 respectively). Netflix's "The Witcher" TV series, while technically based on the books that inspired the game and not the game itself, makes many nods to CD Projekt Red's flagship series. "The Last of Us" is airing to critical acclaim and audience anticipation, so it won't be a surprise to find some of the best-written video games of the past two decades working their way to a less interactive storytelling format in the near future. Some of the options we list below are wholly untapped, while others are optioned, or actually in varying stages of development. 

1. Dying Light

"Dying Light" was released in 2015 and became a pretty immediate favorite of survival/zombie game enthusiasts (CNET). "Dying Light" follows a government agent named Kyle Crane in a post-apocalyptic quarantine zone in the near future. As Crane, players explore a fictional Middle Eastern city called Harran that is overrun with zombies. Fans loved the open-world setting, but its most interesting feature was definitely the day/night cycle; the zombies are sluggish during the day and deadly once the light dies. 

"Dying Light" would follow in the footsteps of "The Last of Us" as a dark rumination on the meaning of survival and humanity. "Dying Light: Stay Human," the sequel game, was just released in 2022. While it follows a different protagonist, it still serves as a continuation of the larger global story introduced in the first game. The story isn't for the faint of heart; many characters perish in the face of overwhelming force, and the IP is still young when compared to other, longer franchises, but these things are also true for "The Last of Us." If there's one thing Hollywood loves, it's a near-copy of another studio's hit. 

While there is no "Dying Light" film or television show currently in production, it is something that the creators of the game series have been thinking about for a long time (Games Radar). 

2. Mass Effect

The "Mass Effect" series is one of two major IPs that headline the RPG (role-playing game) video game developer Bioware. Players design their own main character, Commander Shepard (who can be male or female), who then leads a crew of interesting characters across the Milky Way in hopes of stopping the invasion of a race of sentient machines known as the Reapers. In this sci-fi universe, Earth explorers have made archaeological discoveries on Mars that have advanced humanity's scientific development by hundreds of years.

"Mass Effect" would be an exceptional television show for a number of reasons. Bioware is famous for imbuing its games with beloved, well-rounded characters with strong backstories (Dual Shockers). From Wrex, a hulking Krogan dealing with the slow death of his race, to Tali, a young Quarian engineer away from her home for the first time, every companion character is lovingly written with a clear arc of growth. The main story itself weaves an interesting philosophical debate about the dissonance between organic and inorganic life into a plot filled with cool spaceships and dramatic firefights. 

While a film adaption of the beloved game series was announced back in 2010, the project lost steam a few years later and there hasn't been an official update on a potential adaptation since then. But Henry Cavill posted a viral shot to his Instagram in 2021; it showed Cavill in the "The Witcher" make-up trailer surrounded by blurry papers. Eagle-eyed fans spotted words like Tali'zorah and Reaper on one of the pages (IGN), so perhaps we won't have to wait much longer.

3. Elder Scrolls

"The Elder Scrolls" is a long-running game series developed and produced by industry behemoth Bethesda. Since 1994, developers at Bethesda have been releasing games set in the fantastical world of Tamriel, a land filled with all manner of sentient species, magical abilities, and enriching mythology and lore. 

"The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim," Bethesda's most recent AAA-game release in the series (2011), is considered by many to be one of, if not the, best video games ever made (Metro). "Skyrim" is the game that spawned the era of open-world RPGs in which many gamers now revel, and several games on this list have "Skyrim" to thank for its flexibility and world-building.

The great thing about the "Elder Scrolls" series is how massive it is. The lore behind the games is even more expansive than that of "Game of Thrones"; in fact, it makes "Game of Thrones" look like light reading. Just as is the case for players and modders who still enjoy "Elder Scrolls" titles to this day, there are infinite possibilities available to television and film screenwriters. Plus, it's been over 11 years since "Skyrim" was first released, and fans are always thirsty for more content set in the gorgeous cities, deserts, mountains, and forests of Tamriel. 

According to Game Informer in January 2021, there were rumors of a Netflix television series adapting the IP, but neither Netflix nor Bethesda has officially confirmed that an Elder Scrolls project is in development.

4. The Outer Worlds

"The Outer Worlds" is an action-adventure role-playing game that was released by Obsidian in 2019. While it never garnered the kind of cultural hype amassed by games like "Skyrim" and "The Last of Us," "The Outer Worlds" received positive reviews and added to Obsidian's great reputation for thought-provoking stories and detailed game mechanics (IGN). 

"The Outer Worlds" takes place in an alternate reality where Theodore Roosevelt never became president and thus didn't execute his work in antitrust legislation (Theodore Roosevelt Center). As a result, global culture grew even more influenced by business trusts than it has in the real world, leading to the domination of mega-corporations in humanity's colonization and exploration of outer space. 

Thanks to the game's clever commentary on capitalist values, it's never been more relevant. Aside from that, the game has a very space-Western feel, and it often feels like a spiritual successor to the popular (but short-lived) Fox TV series, "Firefly." 

As of now, there are no plans for or rumors of an "Outer Worlds" film or television adaptation, but sci-fi is definitely growing in popularity as a genre right alongside fantasy (NBC News).  

5. Knights of the Old Republic

"Knights of the Old Republic," aka "KOTOR," was one of the first Star Wars RPGs ever to come to consoles and computers. Released in 2003 by Bioware and LucasArts, it's one of the oldest games on this list, but it's still played 20 years later thanks to the game's customizable player character and a really strong story that manages to perfectly meld the fun of the original film trilogy and the complex motivations and ethical dilemmas of the prequel film characters. 

The story takes place in the "Star Wars" universe hundreds of years before the events of "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace;" it follows a protagonist as they amass a crew of unique and fascinating fighters in order to defeat the Sith lord Malak in the ongoing Jedi civil war.

"KOTOR" fully explores what it means to be a Jedi. Are they peacekeepers meant to be deployed only in very specific instances? Are they a fighting force that should stop the destruction of innocents wherever possible throughout the galaxy? It's up to the player to answer these questions, which means it will be up to the viewer of a TV adaptation. Another thing that's great about "KOTOR" is that it provides the possibility for a female protagonist, which is still sorely lacking in Star Wars despite newer heroines like Rey and Jyn Erso.

If that sounds interesting to you, we have good news: a "KOTOR" movie is currently in development.

6. Life Is Strange

"Life Is Strange" is quite unlike the other game franchises on this list. While the developers of most popular video games tend to focus on mechanics and playability just as much (if not way more) than the story, Don't Nod Entertainment, the developers behind "Life Is Strange," put story before everything in their episodic graphic adventure series. The gameplay mainly consists of exploration, environmental editing, dialogue trees, and puzzle-solving, providing interactive mechanics to keep the player engrossed while also enhancing the narrative's value. 

Each game in the "Life Is Strange" series is released in parts known as episodes, and each one follows a unique main character with a special ability specific to only the game. In the first one, the main character, Max, has the ability to rewind time, which she uses to save a friend and attempt to find a missing girl from their high school. Each "Life Is Strange" story is very different and features interesting characters, from a young boy dealing with grief to a pair of brothers looking for a new home.

A "Life Is Strange" television show was announced in 2021 from Legendary Television and dj2 Entertainment. As of 2022, the show is still in development, and it looks like it might be coming to Amazon Prime (GGRECON).

7. Horizon

When it came out in 2017, "Horizon Zero Dawn" took the gaming world by storm with its unique premise and challenging but fun game mechanics (Pushsquare). The action-adventure RPG follows a young woman named Aloy on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Far in the future, Earth has seemingly reverted to a sprawling wilderness inhabited by various tribes of humans, and, mysteriously, machines that have been designed to somewhat resemble different animals. 

Gamers control Aloy as she fights her way through throngs of dangerous extremists and the machines they control and tries to find out what destroyed the old world, of which only ruins and bits of data remain. Aloy is invested in this search not just because of her sense of adventure and curiosity, but also because of the mystery surrounding her own origins. 

Players get to take down giant rhino-shaped machines with precision arrows and scale the bones of old Midwestern skyscrapers. At times it's actually breathtaking. The IP is going strong; a sequel game involving an even larger open world and even more ancient easter eggs, "Horizon: Forbidden West," was released just last year. 

Unsurprisingly, a TV adaptation of the Playstation-exclusive game is confirmed to be in development at Netflix under the supervision of showrunner Steve Blackman (The Verge), who is responsible for the streaming giant's other hit adaptation, "The Umbrella Academy."

8. Dragon Age

A Game Awards Game of the Year award-winner, "Dragon Age" has basically everything someone might look for in a successful fantasy IP. Set in a fictional world known as Thedas, the franchise, which has produced three separate games so far, follows different heroes and their companions as they fight forces of evil. 

Dragon Age is a really fun set of games with magic, dragons (duh), and too many factions, races, and competing interests to count. The first game in the series, "Dragon Age: Origins" is a turn-based RPG that follows a custom player character who seeks to stop the rise of another blight. The blight is a wave of illness and darkspawn that threatens to overwhelm the world, and mysteriously enhanced warriors known as Grey Wardens are the only people who can stop it.

There are dozens of origins to choose from when making your character. You can be an apostate elf forever seeking to avoid capture by the templars, a dwarf prince framed for the death of his brother, a young noblewoman forced to join the Wardens after the massacre of her family... and more. And these are all just the different prologues you can choose from before the main story even gets started.

While a cartoon series set in the Dragon Age universe was released this past year by Netflix, the streaming service is also heavily rumored to be developing a live-action adaptation based on the series as well (Giant Freakin Robot). 

9. God of War

While the "God of War" video game franchise has been around since 2005, its second most recent installation, 2018's "God of War," is one of the most successful games of the series. "God of War" won Game of the Year in 2018, beating out several other wildly successful games such as "Red Dead Redemption 2" and "Marvel's Spider-Man." Polygon wrote, "That the environment's ubiquitous navigational hints are an emotional story reveal, not just a means of the developers guiding us through the world, speaks to the way Barlog and his team justify every pebble of this game with an emotional intent, a small function in the astonishingly cohesive whole."

The story follows a champion named Kratos who has ended up in ancient Norway following the events of the first set of games. After the death of his wife, he and his son, Atreus, embark on a long journey to spread her ashes atop the highest peak in the nine realms. The game involves magical and mythological elements and an interesting dynamic between a father and son heavily influenced by grief and toxic masculinity.

Unsurprisingly, "God of War" has been optioned for a TV adaptation by Amazon Prime Video, and a new series based on the hit game has already been ordered by the production company. 

10. Watch Dogs: Legion

As technology has continued to advance, the fears around a surveillance state a la "1984" have come into clearer focus for many people. The "Watch Dogs" series of video games aims to modernize a vigilante approach to dealing with technological authoritarianism. There are several games in the popular Ubisoft series — the first was released in 2014 — but the most recent installment, "Watch Dogs: Legion," has a particularly compelling premise.

In a near-future London, a series of large terrorist attacks have been blamed on a vigilante hacker organization known as DedSec. As a result of the attacks, the U.K. has initiated a police state in the city, contracting the brutal, private security firm known as Albion. The game has no central protagonist; instead, players can recruit anyone they see walking down the street. Every potential recruit has different talents, with available Londoners ranging from hit-men to fanatic football fans.

It doesn't necessarily have the most interesting storyline (it's a little difficult to focus on narrative when there is no designated player character), but the premise is ripe with aesthetic value and would attract viewers both interested in action-thrillers and opportunities for ideological discourse. 

Even though Ubisoft announced plans to adapt the "Watch Dogs" series alongside its other properties, "Assassin's Creed" and "Far Cry," in 2013, they have only most recently confirmed that the movie is still in development in 2016. There hasn't been an update since (Engadget). 

11. Fallout

"The Fallout" series is another mega-popular IP from Bethesda that takes place on Earth after a nuclear war has decimated civilization. The IP has been around for a long time, with the first title having been released in 1997. The game looks very different nowadays. It's an open-world RPG shooter that operates with the expansive player freedom for which Bethesda is known. The first few games were set in California, followed by "Fallout 3," set in Washington, D.C., and the particularly popular "Fallout: New Vegas" (PC Gamer). The most recent installment, "Fallout 4," came out in 2015 and is set in Massachusetts, aka "the Commonwealth." 

"Fallout 4" follows a customized character as they wake from cryogenic stasis in a pre-war bunker only to find that their spouse is dead and their son has been kidnapped. It's a particularly cool premise because it allows the player to experience the world of "Fallout" as someone who was alive before nuclear armageddon. "Fallout" games have a great sense of humor and a retro aesthetic that alludes to how world events diverged from reality in the "Fallout" universe (SVG). 

Amazon Prime has been working on a TV show adaptation based in the world of "Fallout" for a few years now, and the project is far enough along to have cast actors like Walton Goggins and Ella Purnell (Vulture).