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'God of War' and 3 other classic video games Hollywood should turn into movies
Kratos and Link are waiting for their close-up.
It's sad but true: Video games have historically had a tough time at the movie box office. From gaming’s earliest days until, well, pretty much right now, one A-list game after another has taken a stumble (or a dive) when their big-screen spotlight moment finally comes.
But thanks to the recent success of movies like Pokémon Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog (whose sequel arrives April 2022), things are beginning to look up for the gaming heroes that fans have really been rooting for all along. After all, even Super Mario Bros., Nintendo’s beleaguered 1993 attempt at making our favorite mustachioed plumber into a Hollywood A-lister, has found second life as a campy cult classic. And despite its share of derision from movie critics, Capcom’s Resident Evil spawned a string of films that struck a big chord with actual moviegoers back in the early 2000s (not to mention a whole new recent cycle of Netflix crossovers).
Fans want their gaming good guys to level up and get an extra life in theaters — and you can’t find a bigger star than Tom Holland to take on the treasure-diving role of Nathan Drake. Sony’s upcoming adventure epic may just mark that long-awaited turning point for video game movies to finally find their footing — which is why there’s no better time than now, on the eve of Uncharted’s big Feb. 18 debut — to submit our early wish list for the game franchises that deserve their shot at stardom.
1. Super Smash Bros.
We know, we know: As a video game series, Super Smash Bros. is less about the story and more about the action. But think about it: A genre-hopping menagerie of characters that square off (or maybe even team up) in ways we’re sure would be entertaining and hilarious: Banjo versus Bowser. Cloud Strife versus Charizard. Link versus Luigi. Mario versus Mewtwo. Samus versus Solid Snake.
With more than five dozen characters at Nintendo’s disposal (as of the Switch’s current Super Smash Bros. Ultimate lineup), there’s no limit to the unexpected movie mayhem fans could see if the worlds of Mario and Metal Gear (or Pikmin and Pokémon) collide. Sure, story has never been the addictive fighting franchise’s selling point. But if SEGA and Sonic can make the speedy (and successful) leap from game to film, there’s no reason Super Smash Bros. can’t go there, too. The possibilities for fun character combinations — and maybe even a story that genuinely taps their legendary lore and unique abilities — are just too irresistible. Make it happen, Nintendo!
2. God of War
Despite all the brooding menace that conceals his true emotions, Kratos was born to play the mythic leading man. Sony Santa Monica’s grudging Greek anti-hero carries a major vengeance chip on his shoulder, and he’d step straight onto the screen with a ton of backstory baggage (and what demigod wouldn’t, after being spurned by Zeus for doing everything right?)
Stoicism aside, God of War has an entire legendary playground at its disposal, not to mention a pantheon of fascinating characters and creatures to fill it. No longer constrained to the Greco-Roman world (and underworld), Kratos and son Atreus — his more-than-meets-the-eye traveling companion introduced in 2018’s God of War — are stepping on Thor’s Nordic turf these days, and in our eyes, that gives the franchise more than just one movie’s worth of frighteningly beautiful scenery to play in. Sony’s latest game shows that Marvel isn’t the only studio that knows how to bring Asgardian myths to life, and God of War’s exotic beasts and locations — regardless of which mythology they occupy — feel like the kind of big-screen places that come ready-made for any fan of dark, gritty fantasy on film. This one might need an R rating to do the game series the justice it deserves, but that’s par for the course when you’re a cast-out Greek god on a mission.
Kratos is long overdue for a God of War movie crossover — one that’s not afraid to pour on the blood and brimstone.
3. Red Dead Redemption
Approaching the whole movie adaptation concept from pretty much the 180-degree opposite direction as Super Smash Bros., Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption and its incredible 2018 sequel already have done at least half the hard work in crafting a well-told story that’s theater-worthy. Tragically flawed antiheroes and the wild west go together like bit and bridle, and over the course of just two video games, the Red Dead series already has a ton of them.
Players who’ve finished the main campaign of Red Dead Redemption II already know how close Rockstar is to perfecting narrative-driven experiences that dramatically narrow the gap between games and film. The sweeping stories of cruelty and cowboy grace, unscrupulous ambition and surprising self-sacrifice, and unrequited frontier romance are already baked in. The real challenge is in the casting: What actor could embody John Marston’s pragmatic toughness or Arthur Morgan’s deeply concealed idealism? Who’d capture the independent, no-one’s-coming spirit of Bonnie MacFarlane or the futile, one-more-score optimism of Dutch van der Linde? Rockstar nailed it big time with the games’ voice cast, so there’s every reason to suspect they could do it again — only this time at the movies. Red Dead’s wild western world teems with hardscrabble hopelessness and dusty, windswept charm in equal measure, and it’s a place that aches to be explored in epic, big-screen form. Which studio wants to lasso this one?
4. The Legend of Zelda
Since the dubious debut of 1993’s Super Mario Bros. movie, Nintendo has played it conservative with its big-time stars, reticent to cross them over into big-screen territory. Things are looking up, though, with the upcoming animated Super Mario film (featuring Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, and many more familiar voices), which is set to arrive this winter. But it's past time for the Hero of Time to get a movie all for himself.
The Legend of Zelda is probably the Holy Grail of Nintendo franchises ripe for a movie adaptation. Like Metroid’s Samus (another Nintendo icon who we think needs to make the movie leap), Link has always been a silent video game hero — a trait that doesn’t exactly translate well into a two-hour theatrical tale. But Zelda games have always told their stories through evocative imagery and “aha” moments of earned experience as much as they’ve ever relied on words. Films like Predator remain fan favorites, in part, because they take a similar approach to letting the plot unfold before your eyes rather than your ears, and we think Link could conquer his own movie — with or without a voice — just fine.
More than that, though, we just want to see Hyrule come to life in live action. From the shores of Lake Hylia to Death mountain’s superheated slopes; from the depths of the Lost Woods to the sparkling repose of the Great Fairy’s Fountain, it’s an iconic fantasy-infused setting that, for gamers, comes closer than anything we know of to capturing the mythic, magical, adventuring spirit of epic storybook places like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.
Of course there are a million ways it could all go wrong, and Zelda as a franchise has a lot more to lose than it does to gain by taking on the risk of crossing into theaters.
But as we’ve seen before, it’s far from impossible. If Denis Villeneuve can do it with Dune; if Peter Jackson can do it with The Lord of the Rings, then there’s got to be someone out there whom Nintendo can trust to do big-screen justice to its most famous silent star.