Coming off the recent success of Netflix's live-action Witcher series, and with a Last of Us adaptation in development at HBO, we're likely to see quite a few more TV adaptations of video games in the coming years. While not every title has what it takes, quite a few do. Here are our picks for ten video games that are more than deserving of the small screen treatment:
It’s surprising how few prestige TV westerns there have been. Aside from a few obvious titles like HBO’s Deadwood and Westworld, and Netflix’s Godless, the genre has been largely ignored in recent years. The lack of notable competition is part of the reason a Red Dead Redemption series has so much potential. It doesn’t hurt that the beloved Rockstar Games franchise is also one of the most cinematic in video game history. The shared story of Arthur Morgan, Dutch van der Linde, and John Marston is practically begging for the live-action treatment, and given the game’s decades-long timeline, television is the only place where a truly satisfying Red Dead adaptation could exist.
Video game fans have been clamoring for a live-action adaptation of the BioShock games ever since the first installment was released in 2007. For a long time, it seemed like a feature film would be the only way to bring the game’s vibrant underwater world to life, but things have changed a lot in recent years. Not only have TV budgets grown to the point where a BioShock TV series could conceivably be done well, but it's come to feel like the best possible option. One ten-episode season would immerse viewers in the game’s fictional underwater world better than any two-hour film could ever hope to.
The first two BioShock games have enough story to inspire at least a few seasons of television, while the 2013 sequel, BioShock: Infinite, boasts its own unique look and adventure that could give the series a chance to change direction further along in its run.
Over the course of several games, this franchise’s post-nuclear fallout vision of America has become one of the most well-realized and beloved fictional worlds in the history of the medium. The game's creators have layered each installment with hours of potential side quests and opportunities to explore, so all that would need to be done wold be to take Fallout’s beloved post-apocalyptic world, fill it with an assortment of interesting and original characters, and we’d have one of TV's most unique and exciting dystopian shows in a long time.
Though it inspired a 2016 theatrical film, it’s surprising that there haven't been more attempts to bring the Assassin’s Creed games to life in live-action form. Equal parts historical fiction and sci-fi, the series has used its central time-traveling narrative device to send gamers back to iconic moments throughout history, including the Italian Renaissance, Ancient Egypt, the American Revolution, and even the days of 17th century European pirates. Even if an Assassin’s Creed show didn’t follow established characters like Edward Kenway or Ezio Auditore, it could still use the same formula to tell a story of its own creation.
A TV adaptation could either take a straightforward serialized approach, or it could go the anthology route, similar to the original games, with the Assassins vs. Templars conflict as its recurring throughline. Either way, there’s no reason an Assassin’s Creed TV show couldn’t be a major success, especially considering the franchise’s built-in fanbase.
As TV budgets continue to rise, and more networks and streamers bet big on fantasy and sci-fi properties, the more a Horizon: Zero Dawn show begins to seem like a total no-brainer. One of the most critically acclaimed games of the past several years, Horizon: Zero Dawn takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where several tribes of primitive humans are forced to fight for their survival against countless animalistic, technologically-advanced machines. Like Fallout, Horizon’s post-apocalyptic world is a striking and beautiful creation, a place gamers have spent hours exploring.
In addition to its picturesque visual design, Horizon: Zero Dawn's female hunter Aloy is one of the most likable video game heroes in recent memory. She's got the potential to be the kind of TV character viewers stick with for multiple seasons, especially if the show took her on a journey similar the one in the original game.
Numerous attempts have been made to bring the Metal Gear Solid franchise to life on the big screen, and it’s not hard to see why. Not only is it one of the most beloved franchises in video game history, it's also chock full of well-drawn, flawed characters. While a two-hour narrative might rob many of its characters of the depth and complexity they exhibit in the original games. a TV adatation could be a perect fit. The franchise's twisty espionage story feels uniquely well-suited for an episodic structure, and a more extended series would allow for some of the quirkier aspects of the games to be brought to life.
The Dishonored franchise has several things going for it. For starters, bringing the franchise's steampunk world to life would give a live-action series a look and feel different from any other show on TV. On top of that, both of the Dishonored games follow a more straightforward plot than any of the other titles on this list, lending themselves to the type of serialized narrative best-suited to a TV series.
The story of the first Dishonored alone could fill multiple seasons of a prestige drama, and the same goes for its sequel. That means a network could conceivably get around six seasons of television from the first two Dishonored games alone.
There are several truly scary TV shows on the air right now, which is one of the things that make a live-action Dead Space TV series so interesting. Set on an abandoned mining spaceship in the distant future, the first Dead Space presented players with a simple premise, placed them in a moody setting, and pit them against a terrifying enemy in the form of hundreds of reanimated human corpses (known in the game as “Necromorphs”). The result was one of the scariest and most engrossing video game experiences of the 2000s.
Scary monsters and dark lighting weren’t the only things that Dead Space had going for it. All three of the Dead Space games — barring some weaker story choices in the second and third installments — presented players with intriguing mysteries to become engrossed in. A Dead Space TV show wouldn’t just have the franchise’s iconic monsters and sci-fi horror aesthetic to work with, but also the overarching mystery that spanned all three of the games, from which a team of writers could potentially create a multi-season narrative.
While the closure of Dead Space developer Visceral Games back in 2017 could make doing anything new with the Dead Space brand difficult, a truly lucrative TV offer could well bring Dead Space back to life.
The Mass Effect games are such sprawling sci-fi epics, filled to the brim with fascinating characters and storylines, that the possibilities for a live-action adaptation are limitless. There are a number of different directions that a Mass Effect TV show could go, whether it told the story featured in the original games, or told a completely different story set in the same intricately detailed world. Either way, there’s no reason a longform, live-action adaptation couldn’t offer the same wide-ranging appeal.
Bloodborne, like BioShock, boasts one of the more complex and fully-realized worlds of any game on this list. Released to widespread critical acclaim in 2015, the game followed a mysterious hunter as he traveled through the crumbling city of Yharnam, plagued by a disease that turned its people into horrifying, deadly beasts. The further players got into the game, the more they began to realize just how many secrets were lying underneath Bloodborne’s surface. The result was a story that dazzled gamers and critics alike with its complexity and inventiveness.
The game itself could easily fill a season or two of television, with a world that's detailed enough to provide a setting for any number of subsequent seasons. Seeing the game's gorgeous gothic world brought to life in live-action form would be a true sight to behold.
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Alex Welch has written about television and film for TV by the Numbers, IGN, The Berrics, Paste Magazine, Screen Rant and GeekNation. Follow him on Twitter @alexrwelch.