The Angry Birds
Image: YouTube

The 10 worst video game adaptations of all time

Just play the game before you make the film, please.

Sometimes we get lucky and are given a video game adaptation like The Last of Us or Fallout. Alas, more often than not, we get absolute visual slurry from a team that has either never played the game or never made a film.

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Here is a selection of what I consider to be some of the worst video game adaptations of all time. These are in no particular order, and the list is not exhaustive. I could go on all week, but why put myself through that misery?

Angry Birds (2016)

If you ever thought that a film about birds being thrown into pigs would have even a modicum of plot, substance, or interest, you’re going to be deservedly disappointed. This blatant marketing cash grab was not even the end of the desperate, hand-over-fist IP squeeze by Sony Animation. Even after receiving a pathetic 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, the studio insisted on making another film — and even a TV series!

The plot is hollow, and the film is just lazy. Despite the fine lineup of actors, including Bill Hader and Danny McBride, it remains an uninspired waste of time.

Doom (2005)

Karl Urban and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson do little to elevate this quite frankly bizarre interpretation of the classic first-person shooter. The original Doom hardly called for a film adaptation, and it certainly didn’t deserve one this bad.

Doom, the game, was a revelation. The world of shooters would never be the same again. However, it didn’t do much for narrative-based video gaming, and that was fine. Yet, somehow, the storytelling in the Doom film can only be described as regressive.

Elf Bowling: The Movie (2007)

Some of you may remember back to the era of flash games. There was one particular gory, Christmas-themed bowling game that rose to popularity in schools and offices everywhere. It was known as Elf Bowling. The premise was simple: play a frame of bowling as Santa using elves as rather bloody pins. I forgot about it and signed it off as another one of the thousands of abandonware games until I saw there was a terrible film adaptation of the Flash video game.

worst video game adapatations elf bowling
Screenshot: PC Invasion

You can watch the whole thing on YouTube for free if you so desire. I don’t think the studio cares too much about the copyright issues, but we won’t link to it just in case a bored corporate lawyer out there wants to pick a fight. The film was a flop, but for some reason, I couldn’t stop watching. It is about Santa’s evil half-brother stealing the elves. I think. It also features an incredibly off-color musical peace about the greatness of slavery.

DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)

Who better to write the Dead or Alive film based on women in small bikinis with outrageously jiggly breasts than the Gross brothers? That’s right, the game that is famous for its scantily clad women was adapted badly into a movie by the Gross brothers. Couldn’t be more fitting.

However, the film itself was a mess. Again, like so many other bad video game film adaptations, the studio decided to make a movie that had very little plot. You can get away with having a paper-thin plot in a game. Movies kind of, sort of need a story, otherwise, it’s just moving pictures. What’s wrong with picking something like Zelda or Metal Gear Solid? Why create a film all about a game that is only as deep as the shallow button combos it’s based on? Dead or Alive? More like Dead on Arrival, yaknowwhatimean?

Wing Commander (1999)

I am actually a huge fan of really bad, really cheesy space-action films, but this still has to make it to the list. The Wing Commander film from 1999 somehow features worse animated graphics than the original game that came out on DOS. These are barely held up by the flat acting and thin storyline. The video game adaptation does a bad job of living up to the original games.

Wing Commander worst film adapatations
Image: YouTube

However, if you have a few drinks and some buds over and want to throw something on that doesn’t require too much attention and will earn some laughs, this is a great bet. Just be aware the bits you’re laughing at aren’t usually supposed to be funny.

Super Mario Bros. (1993)

“See you later, lizard breath” is one of those quotes we all associate with classic Mario games. Or it would have been if Rocky Morton had directed the game. This director was also the mastermind behind D.O.A, coincidentally, but this one came out in 1988, way before the game did.

This terrible video game film adaptation is really something to behold. Super Mario Bros. is a live-action interpretation of the game in which two brothers from Brooklyn are transported to an alternate universe full of downtrodden dinosaurs. It had the cyberpunk dystopian aesthetics of Blade Runner with none of the quality. They’re tasked with taking down the Koopa to save their own planet. The 2023 version was a marked improvement.

Assassin’s Creed (2016)

This is a game, unlike many of them on this worst video game adaptations list, that actually comes pre-packaged with an excellent storyline. Love them or hate them, the Assassin’s Creed games have a rich and interesting lore. Any one of the games, storylines, or characters could easily be adapted into a fantastic movie or TV series, and yet, here it is on the list.

Assassin’s Creed worst video game adaptations
Image: YouTube

The plot is so dull that even the exceptional cast look bored out of their skulls. Silver screen legends like Michael Fassbender, Charlotte Rampling, and Jeremy Irons are wasted on a flat plot and dreary visual spectacle. Where the video game adaptation failed is by focusing on the worst part of the game. Nobody plays Assassins Creed for the time out of the Animus, and yet, that’s where the film takes place. We want more assassins, more creed.

Need for Speed (2014)

I remember seeing this trailer in the cinema before it was released and praying that they would do the classic arcade racer franchise justice, but they didn’t. And you know what, I knew deep down they never would. Sure, there is little to no plot in the games, and sure, the reason I loved them was for car modification and slick street racing, but surely they could have done better than that.

The Fast and The Furious franchise brings out a film a year based on cars, and the new ones have nothing to do with street racing anymore. However, if Need for Speed had just taken a leaf from the early days of Tokyo Drift and given us a wicked street racing film, I would have been happy. This is a video game adaptation that is less of a high-speed street race and more of a back seat of the city bus at rush hour.

Street Fighter (1994)

This game deserves to be on both the best and worst video game adaptations lists because it is a fantastic watch. It’s a laugh a minute, and it’s so cheesy you could knock a Frenchman out with it. Coincidentally, Jean Claud Von Damme is starring in it in all his glistening muscular glory. Nothing can knock him out though.

Street Fighter
Screenshot: PC Invasion

The writers of Street Fighter have never played the games and, I presume, learned about the characters over drinks and dinner. The video game adaptation is far from the source material, which isn’t such a bad thing because what ensues is a fantastic early 90s action film. Is it based on Street Fighter? Hardly? Is it a wild ride of a cheesy action film? Absolutely.

Hitman (2007)

The Bourne movies, Equalizer, John Wick. These are all films that do the silent, cold killer very well. Hitman missed the mark and sits closer to an HR educational office video than the films the video game was inspired by. Hitman could have been something sleek and calculatedly violent. Agent 47 is such a blank canvas on which to build character and nuance, and yet, Hitman is a phenomenally dull and confusing film.

This is a lazily made film with little relevance to the game of its audience. A little fan service would have been nice. Seeing Agent 47 brain someone from an obscene distance with a well-thrown suitcase would have been enough to raise the bar of this bad video game adaptation.

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Leo Gillick
Leo is a Freelance Writer for PC Invasion. He has a degree in English Literature and Film Studies and more hours buried into videogames than he cares to admit. He has worked extensively in the Videogame and Travel writing industry but, as they say, get a job doing something you love and you'll never work a day in your life. He uses his writing as a means to support indefinite global travel with the current five year plan seeing him through Latin America.