Remember when movie adaptations of video games were terrible?
It’s a distant memory, because as a culture and a collective, we’ve latched onto a solution: TV shows. Ever since some bright spark decided to stop shoehorning 30-hour video games into a rigid three-act structure, classic video game adaptations have been going from strength to strength. Netflix, in particular, has had incredible success producing and streaming some truly amazing TV shows based on the video games we all love.
currently airing on HBO, is a beneficiary of this transition, and it looks like many more are on the way.
But for now, here are some TV shows based on video games for you to watch right now.
I’ve waxed lyrical about Cyberpunk: Edgerunners before and I will again.
This was my favorite anime of 2022 and possibly my favorite show period. Visually, it’s nothing like Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, and narratively it’s as tight as a drum. The short, frenetic pace of the 20-minute episodes puts you on a roller coaster almost immediately. You will finish this show without breathing and start watching it all over again.
We’re barely halfway through the first season of The Last of Us, but it’s already a smash hit. Graphically unopposed, this perfectly crafted adaptation of the Naughty Dog classic is all anyone wants to talk about – and with good reason.
Not as crazy as The Walking Dead, but more accessible than Station Eleven, The Last of Us strikes a delicate balance. It’s probably our favorite live-action video game adaptation sometime. Extremely good.
(I’m keeping this at number 2 for now. If it sticks on the landing, I might push it up.)
Arcane is loosely based on League of Legends, a competitive online multiplayer MOBA played obsessively by millions. This is probably the last game you’d expect to see turned into a TV show, but here we are.
Because Arcane doesn’t just exist – it rules. This was arguably the best show Netflix released in 2021. It has a gorgeous, completely unique aesthetic that elevates everything. It’s beautiful to look at and the story also delivers in spades.
But yeah, a quick trigger warning: Imagine Dragons does feature heavily on the soundtrack. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.
The Witcher is technically based on the series of novels that eventually became a critically acclaimed video game trilogy, but let’s be real here for a second: the TV show wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for the remarkable success of The Witcher 3: Wild hunting.
Regardless, the show is excellent so far. We have an interesting story twist with Henry Cavill leaving the show and being replaced by Liam Hemsworth, but even if that falls apart, there are still a few quality seasons of The Witcher in the books. Try it!
Netflix/Screenshot by Oscar Gonzalez
I love the Castlevania video game, but at this point I feel like – in terms of cultural significance – the Netflix TV show has completely overshadowed it.
It’s really weird that a big-budget TV show based on a somewhat neglected video game series could be such a big hit, but it’s a testament to how good Castlevania is. The best part – it keeps getting better. We’re now four seasons deep and there’s still no drop in quality.
The Pokemon Company
It’s almost hard to think of Pokemon as a video game adaptation. After literally hundreds of episodes in dozens of TV series and movies, I think of the show as something separate from the games.
Regardless, given the cultural impact of the Pokemon show, I’d be crazy to leave it off this list. Here it is!
Okay, slop. Let me cook.
To understand. This new TV version of Halo dramatically deviates from the relatively simple video game story. Yes, Master Chief takes off his helmet and it’s upsetting. But come on man… Halo was never The Last of Us. It would never stand up to direct adaptation.
I think what we end up with is a pretty solid sci-fi action show that I really enjoyed watching. This one has been renewed for a second season by Paramount, so we’ll be seeing more Halo on our TV screens very soon.
Cuphead is weird. It is an animated film based on a video game that itself is an homage to cartoons created in the 1930s.
It doesn’t work 100%, but it’s very fun and beautiful to look at. The episodes are nice and short.
The best TV and streaming shows of 2023 you can’t miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and more
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