Why Are Games Being Adapted Into TV And Film
Film adaptations of video games have existed since 1993 with the release of Super Mario Bros, and have existed on the home screen since 1982 with the release of the Pac-Man cartoon. These early adaptations primarily focused on a younger audience, but more recent adaptations are focused on an adult audience.
A prime example of this is the Netflix animated series ‘Castlevania’. Although the game had not received its own standalone adaptation until the Netflix series began, it was featured in the 1989-1991 cartoon ‘Captain N: The Game Master’ through the characters The Count, who is a villain, and Simon Belmont, one of the heroes in the show. This show’s target audience was under 18s, yet the Netflix series is targeted at adults.
The premise of the Netflix show is that when vampire Count Vlad Dracula’s human wife is burned at the stake over false claims of witchcraft, he summons an army of demons and overruns the country. To combat this, an exiled monster hunter Trevor Belmont takes up arms against Dracula’s forces, aided by the magician Sypha Belnades and Dracula’s son Alucard.
The original Castlevania game was released in 1986, and itself was not directly marketed to a younger audience. However, video games were (and still are) primarily played by kids more so than any other age group, and thus it was inevitable that children would also play the game and take an interest in it, which explains why Castlevania characters can be seen in the old Captain N cartoon show. Eventually, these children grew up, and are now fully grown adults. This means that they are far less interested in the basic storytelling from kid’s shows, which means that they need the content to be made especially for them as an older audience.
Therefore, the new Netflix series is more directed towards an older audience, who may have played the older games from the extensive Castlevania catalogue. The animated style is authentic and brings back nostalgia for some of the older graphics but is also modern and flashy enough to draw in new and fresh audiences who may not have even played any of the video games, and the themes and plot points of the series may be serious enough to entertain an older audience, while still being interesting and relaxed enough for a younger age group to take a liking to the series, especially for a younger age group that has only played the most recent Castlevania games.
Super Mario Bros
Nintendo’s star character, Mario, was the first to be adapted onto the big screen with the release of ‘Super Mario Bros.’ in 1993. Unfortunately for Nintendo and the movie’s producers, the adaptation would be a critical and financial failure, grossing $39 million against a budget of $44 million and receiving a rating of 29% on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 35 on Metacritic. The movie was targeted towards a young audience and was meant to be a fun and energetic comedy, but it was very loosely based on the games.
Recently, in April 2023 ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ was released and despite critics not warming to the movie very well, audiences have loved it, with an audience score of 96%. The film has also been an enormous financial success, with a budget of $100 million, the movie has managed to gross $1.23 billion in only a month and a half. The movie has also stuck more authentically to its source material, using animation instead of being live-action like its predecessor. This has also helped to create vibrant and colourful scenery, which makes it very attractive to young audiences and will definitely draw and keep their attention. Being one of the eldest video games, Mario still has many fans that are much older than its young target audience, and for those fans, the film makes sure to include plenty of familiar characters, such as Donkey Kong, Bowser, Princess Peach and most surprisingly, Spike, who was an antagonistic former boss from the 1985 NES game Wrecking Crew.
After the failure of the original ‘Super Mario Bros.’ in 1993, Nintendo was hesitant to license its intellectual property (IP) to another company in order to make another film, but it has obviously paid off with the ludicrous profits made from the 2023 release. Because there are more and more video game adaptations that are successful, there are more studios that are willing to take the risk of making a video game adaptation themselves, which is then snowballing as there becomes less and less risk involved and more profit to be made.
The Last Of Us
‘The Last Of Us’ was a hit game released in 2013 by the developers Naughty Dog and publishers Sony Computer Entertainment. Upon release, the game received a PEGI 18 rating for its gore and violence, which wouldn’t prevent many young gamers as the game was a critical success and received 10/10 ratings from multiple reviewers, as well as many accolades from various award-givers, winning some Game Of The Year awards as well as others for the game’s fantastic story. As of 2019, it was reported that the game had sold over 20 million copies.
Released in January 2023, ‘The Last Of Us’ television series rose to critical acclaim exceedingly fast, with some critics stating that the third episode of season one is “one of the finest hours of television” and the show has an approval rating of 96% based on 467 reviews.
Unlike ‘Super Mario Bros, TLOU focuses on the video game’s main characters Ellie and Joel and sticks to a similar story. Niel Druckmann, the writer for both the video game and the television series, felt that the most important element of adapting the game was to “keep the soul” of the story and the character’s relationships, and although Druckmann was open to changing aspects away from the game, he always wanted a strong reason. The co-writer Craig Mazin was also a major fan of the video games and wanted any changes from the original story to “fill things out and expand, not to undo, but rather to enhance” emphasising that there would be no random encounters that were not apart of the original story, but instead cut-content from the game would be introduced, such as the story of Ellie’s mother, Anna.
The great success of ‘The Last Of Us’ shows how a generation has grown into adulthood, and yet still loves playing video games, as well as watching any content associated with their favourite games. As more and more people grow into adulthood while playing video games from a young age, more and more people are interested in video games while growing into their mid-twenties or mid-thirties and later. This means that extra content in relation to those fan favourite games, such as movies or television series, are becoming much more socially acceptable and much less of a risk to investors, which makes it easier for writers and producers and directors to get the funding to make new content, creating a loop where video game adaptations become more and more viable.
Written by Mark Murphy Director