The 10 Best Video Game Adaptations of 2023


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From Emmy-nominated zombie dramas to billion-dollar children’s blockbusters, these are the adaptations that elevated gaming’s Hollywood presence in 2023

ILLUSTRATION BY MATTHEW COOLEY. IMAGES IN ILLUSTRATION: NBC UNIVERSAL, NETFLIX, SONY PICTURES TELEVISION

In the past, when you’d think of “video game movies,” your mind likely shuddered at the thought of John Leguizamo’s cringey slapstick in 1993’s Super Mario Bros. or Raul Julia’s scenery-chewing final role as M. Bison in the disastrous Street Fighter. Over the last thirty-odd years, Hollywood has floundered in their attempts to properly monetize the growing cavalcade of adaptable IP sitting at their feet from the video game world.

Amid the trash heap, there’s been a few bright spots – Paul W.S. Anderson’s Mortal Kombat makes for great hangover viewing and the Tomb Raider films helped catapult Angelina Jolie into action stardom – yet most fall somewhere on the scale from “so bad they’re good” to “I’d rather eat glass.” But times are changing.

With superhero films facing a downturn, studios are looking for their next big wellspring and, after a string of modest successes in the past decade with the likes of Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog, video games are beginning to look like the golden goose. Gaming has reached a point where they’re already rivaling the storytelling capabilities of movies and prestige TV, and the shift has begun for video game adaptations to move beyond the bargain bin into cross-quadrant success.

Game publishers have seen this too, with companies like Sony building their own film and TV wings like PlayStation Productions, dedicated to overseeing the transition of their properties from console to the silver screen. The last few years alone have seen the live-action debuts of massive games like Uncharted, Halo, Assassin’s Creed, Warcraft, and second passes at previous successes like Mortal Kombat and Tomb Raider.

But 2023 was the turning point. The highest grossing year ever for video game movies, it also introduced a level of sophistication and (gasp!) critical acclaim that seemed forever out of their grasp. Like film executives learning (at a glacial pace) to take superheroes seriously, the key to making games work as movies was to, you know, play the games, doing the legwork to figure out what made them work in the first place. And yes, there will be many, many more failures along the way, but the potential for a whole new world of entertainment isn’t just on the horizon – it’s already here.

So, from killer clowns and robots to all kinds of mushroom people, with lots of anime violence in between, here are our picks for the best video game adaptations of 2023.

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Christopher Cruz