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The 10 best video game movies and shows

Published May 2nd, 2024 8:08PM EDT
Arcane on Netflix
Image: Netflix

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Even a decade ago, this would have been a very short list. Film and TV adaptations of games have historically been disasters, but in recent years, the quality has started to improve. In 2024, some of the biggest movies and shows are based on video games, and even more are now on the way. Whether you’re searching for something fun for the whole family or a gripping, mature drama, there’s a video game movie or show for you.

With that in mind, we thought now would be a perfect time to rank the best video game movies and TV shows to date. First up, we’ll cover our favorite movies based on games:

Top 5 video game movies of all time

1. Werewolves Within (2021)

  • Where to watch: Hulu

You’ve probably never heard of the VR social deduction game Werewolves Within, but the movie based on the game is unquestionably the most successful video game film adaptation to date. Admittedly, that is mostly due to the fact that a bunch of very funny actors spend an hour and a half accusing each other of being werewolves while being picked off one by one, but sometimes the simplest premises result in the most effective stories.

2. Detective Pikachu (2019)

  • Where to watch: Hulu

We might never get a live-action Pokémon movie about a trainer becoming the very best, but Detective Pikachu is the next best thing. Ryan Reynolds stars as the titular Pokémon alongside Justice Smith as Tim Goodman, who is a former aspiring Pokémon trainer on the hunt for his missing father. It might not be the Pokémon movie fans expected, but it successfully translated the beloved pocket monsters to a live-action setting for the first time.

3. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022)

The Sonic the Hedgehog movies have grossed over $700 million at the box office and will likely top $1 billion when Sonic the Hedgehog 3 hits theaters this December.

They might not be the most inventive or profound adaptations, but the Sonic movies are colorful, fast, and fun, just like their title character always has been. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a modest step up from the first, bringing Idris Elba into the fold as the villainous echidna Knuckles. But the dynamic between James Marsden’s heroic Tom Wachowski, Jim Carrey’s goofy Dr. Robotnik, and Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic really pulls it all together.

4. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

This one might seem like it came out of left field, but I actually saw Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, starring none other than Jake Gyllenhaal, in theaters, and I had a great time. Gyllenhaal plays a street urchin named Dastan, who is adopted by the king.

If you can ignore the mediocre script and the whitewashing of the cast (which are solid reasons to pretend this movie never existed), there are plenty of great action scenes and great actors to keep you entertained for a couple of hours.

5. The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2022)

There was honestly a decent amount of competition for the fifth spot, including crowd-pleasers like Mortal Kombat and Five Nights at Freddy’s, but The Super Mario Bros. Movie is an undeniably impressive achievement. For a game franchise with the most bare bones of stories, this adaptation managed to imbue the characters with some real personality, had a few thrilling animated sequences, and hopefully paved the way for better Nintendo movies to come.

Top 5 video game shows of all time

1. Arcane (2021-Present)

While Arcane’s connections to League of Legends are somewhat tenuous, its placement on this list was never in doubt. Plucking characters from the popular Riot Games MOBA, co-creators Alex Yee and Christian Linke built a fantastical, believable world rivaling that of Game of Thrones or Avatar: The Last Airbender, filled with political intrigue, family drama, warring kingdoms, and characters you can’t help but root for. No other video game movie or show has come close to matching Arcane so far, which is why we’re so excited for season 2.

2. Castlevania (2017–2021)

When it premiered in 2017, Castlevania on Netflix quietly shifted audience expectations of video game adaptations for good. You may have noticed Castlevania is among the oldest entries here, and that’s no accident. What could’ve been a tedious exercise in nostalgia baiting was instead a thoughtful and thrilling exploration of 2D characters (both literally and figurately) from a classic video game, animated beautifully by Mua Film and Tiger Animation.

It all starts with a terrifying tale of revenge, as the vampire Dracula vows revenge on the people of Wallachia after they burned his human wife at the stake. Trevor Belmont, the last surviving member of a family of monster hunters, and his companions are all that stand between Dracula and humanity’s demise. How’s that for a premise!

3. The Last of Us (2023-Present)

  • Where to watch: Max

HBO’s The Last of Us is the closest you’ll find to a one-to-one adaptation on this list. While there are a few substantial deviations from the source material (including one of the best TV episodes of the last decade), The Last of Us mirrors the game of the same name by following a smuggler named Joel in his quest to escort a young girl named Ellie across the post-apocalyptic United States to potentially save the world. Strong performances from Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey help to paper over some of the more sluggish stretches of season 1.

4. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (2022)

The game Cyberpunk 2077 might not have been ready for primetime when it launched in 2020, but the same can’t be said of its animated spinoff show. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners takes place in Night City a year before the events of the game and follows a talented teenager named David Martinez who turns to a life of crime after losing everything in a drive-by shooting. Spectacular visuals from animation studio Trigger bring this dark, brutal story to life.

5. Fallout (2023-Present)

Prime Video’s Fallout series actually takes place within the same continuity as the games but tells a new story with a new set of characters. Much like director Jonathan Nolan’s former show, Westworld, this adaptation of Fallout revolves around a series of mysteries. Who was behind the nuclear apocalypse? What’s really going on in the vaults where survivors remain decades later? Will any of my favorite characters keep all of their fingers?

The violence and gore are way over the top, but the performances of leads Ella Purnell, Walton Goggins, and Aaron Moten are enough to ground an otherwise unrecognizably wild world. The latest proof that bringing games to life isn’t a fool’s errand.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.