When it comes to video games crossing over into other mediums, the results have been mixed at best. For example, video games and comics tend to work well. Video games and movies tend to not. However, one of the more overlooked combinations that may actually be more effective than you think involves video games and television. Historically speaking, games tend to make some pretty successful TV shows.
Consider the classic Saturday morning cartoons, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show and The Legend of Zelda, or the Pac-Man cartoon that ran around the same time. Cheesy as they are, they were still beloved at the time. Additionally, Sonic has had not just one cartoon made of him, but five (one of which is still ongoing). There have been popular shows based on Kirby, Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe, and Rabbids over the years. 2 more video game properties, Mega Man and Halo, are set to come to television as well. Of course, this is all before you mention the most successful video game show of them all, Pokemon, which has been going for 20 years and counting.
Recently, an anime show based on Castlevania was released on Netflix. I admittedly haven’t gotten to it yet, but plan on watching and reviewing it within the week. Though it did get me thinking about a few other games that may work as Netflix shows or just TV shows in general. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of 7 games that I think have such potential.
Keep in mind that these are just a few of my personal ideas. If there’s another video game or franchise you believe could make the jump to TV/Netflix, feel free to let me know in the comments. Who knows? Maybe I’ll cover them in a sequel post one day.
Barring the fact that the film adaptation didn’t pan out very well, few can argue that Max Payne has excellent cinematic potential. Clearly another movie is out of the question, but perhaps such a tragic, noir-type tale would be an ideal candidate for a Netflix show. Max Payne tells the story of a police officer whose wife and infant daughter were murdered in his home without him being there. From there and across three games, you see his fall from grace for the sake of vengance as well as his attempt at finding new life and purpose passed this tragedy that would define him forever.
One of the reasons I think this is a great idea for Netflix is that it could, in theory, be stylistically similar to another show currently on the service, Daredevil. Seeing how flawlessly they were able to accomplish one noir-based property, I believe they have what it takes to do the same for Max Payne. Such a show would last about 3 seasons — one for each game in the series — unless they plan to drag it out or start improvising (which they probably shouldn’t). I think such an idea has great potential.
Grand Theft Auto
Yet another Rockstar property, I believe GTA has a decent shot at making a good TV show as well. Granted, it could be argued that adapting the GTA series into a non-playable medium is a terrible idea, since most of the fun comes from the open-world, sandbox gameplay. That’s a fair point, and such an idea would really have to be really clever in trying to adapt such a series in a way that doesn’t beg for actual control from the audience. A solution I would propose is to adapt some of the sidequests and optional scenarios into the show as dedicated episodes. Tell an overarching story, of course, but don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path every so often with a situation-of-the-day format.
Now this is a storied franchise spanning a good 15 games across a very wide timeline. So, you have a ton of material to work with and clearly you wouldn’t even have to cover it all. Lord knows some of the games in the series have main stories longer than life itself, so go nuts.
Let’s switch gears from our talks of murder, crime, and tragedy to something more light. As far as Nintendo properties go, Pikmin may not be your choice for a TV adaptation; however, unlike almost any other game series on this list, Pikmin is the only one that has already proven itself for such a task.
Some may recall Pikmin Short Movies from three years ago, which was a collection of three shorts released on the Nintendo eShop to coincide with the release of Pikmin 3. I actually bought and reviewed the collection myself (click here to see that) and thought it was adorable. Now imagine that on a slightly more grand scale, and I think it would make a great addition to Netflix’s animated lineup.
The Legend of Zelda
Of all of Nintendo’s properties, I think this is among the most requested for a cinematic adaptation such as on TV. In fact, there already was one in the 1980’s, though it was a bit…
Some would argue the series could make a better movie series, but this isn’t a bad option either. The wonderful thing about Zelda is that there are a number of ways you can adapt it. It can be live action or animated. It can take place in just one game’s universe (for example, a strictly Breath of the Wild show) or change things up every season with a new game in the series with each Link passing the baton to the next. Pokemon does a similar thing with their anime to account for new games. I personally prefer the idea of an animated show that changes Links every so often, adapting a style and tone similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender.
The Last of Us
Yes, I am aware that a The Last of Us movie is currently in pre-production. At the time of its announcement, I was hooked on the idea. TLOU is one of my all-time favorite games and definitely my favorite story in a video game. The movie treatment on paper makes sense, because the game already has a cinematic feel and interesting dynamic between surrogate father and surrogate daughter. I like that idea and wish the production luck getting off the ground (if and when it gets out of development hell). Though, the more I think about it, the more I believe the show would work better on TV.
The Last of Us is fairly episodic, being separated by seasons Summer through Spring, which makes the transition pretty natural. In fact, I think the show would benefit from a Gilmore Girls format, where four, long episodes are separated by seasons. The story in itself is brilliant and has the unique quality of grabbing everyone in a given room instantaneously. (Try playing the game around a group of people not paying attention, and see how the room is suddenly drawn in). Plus, there’s a lot of characters and sideplots along Joel and Ellie’s journey to the Fireflies, all of which could be fully developed this way. Basically, as long as they avoid the trap of mimicking The Walking Dead, I think we’ll have a great short series on our hands.
Remember Conker’s Bad Fur Day? That N64 game by Rare about the drunken, foul-mouthed squirrel who fights a giant shit monster? Yeah, that game! Really fun platformer overall, though if handled right I can also see it as an awesome adult cartoon. Granted, this character hasn’t been seen in a while (at least not in his own game), and modern audiences may be a bit unfamiliar with him. On the other hand, if you’re not old enough to remember Conker, you’re probably too young for such a cartoon anyway.
To my knowledge, Netflix doesn’t really have a contender in the adult cartoon category right now. Other than streaming Family Guy, they don’t seem to have one of their own. Perhaps Conker could be Netflix’s answer to shows like The Simpsons, Archer, South Park, etc.
I must say that I’m stunned this didn’t already happen in the 90’s or 2000’s. I mean, there was a time where Crash was huge. He was the unofficial Sony mascot at one point after all, so how does Mario get three shows and Sonic get five, but Crash didn’t get one?
Crash has a pretty good setup for a show all-in-all. The jungle themed locations and atmosphere would certainly serve to set it apart from other cartoons. The rogues gallery is pretty massive, too, and the character of Crash would certainly sell. He’s crazy, has that mumble-speak, and has a good slapstick quality about him. I think this idea can work, though I’d argue this show would have a bit more of a Cartoon Network/Nickelodeon vibe. Though, who says Netflix couldn’t support him, too.
Finally, let’s discuss a game I have never played: Heavy Rain. A staple of the PS3 library, Heavy Rain was an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure game that placed gamer’s in stressful, difficult, split-second decisions that would effect the story irreversibly. It may not be the only, or even first, game to helm such a concept, but it is one of the most well-known and well-received. With its already cinematic nature, I believe the time has finally come where this game could actually be adapted faithfully.
Before this year I would’ve thrown such an idea out the window due to the interactive format, but Netflix is finally introducing a potential game-changer in television with the upcoming Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale. This will be the first Netflix show to allow viewers to pick their own scenarios for Puss to follow, thus changing the outcome of the series. It premieres next Thursday, and if it’s actually successful who knows what other non-kids shows could utilize this method of storytelling in the future. Maybe an already established property like Heavy Rain would be a great demonstration.
What other games could be turned into good TV shows, whether on Netflix or otherwise. Let me know in the comments below so we can discuss them together!
I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!