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The Top 10 Worst Video Game Adaptations in TV and Film

Our world is a vicious circle of recycling. Media is first created, then gets an adaptation; then the adaptation gets a reboot and that gets a video game. Repeat ad infinitum.

Some of the victims of this Human Centipede-esque process have been film and television attempts based on video games. Some of these live in our memories as being some pretty awesome parts of our childhoods. We’re not here to discuss those, however. We’ll get to the good stuff at a later date, but right now we’re here to turn our noses up and groan at the things we remember with a shudder. So, let’s dig right in with the top ten worst takes on video games.

10. Sonic Underground

Unf, that 90’s fashion.

Alright, there’s going to be some people up in arms over this. There is a loving bit of nostalgia for some of the Sonic cartoons, back when Sonic wasn’t, well…You’ve seen our Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric review. That should say enough.

Regardless, the plot of this entire show was that Sonic and his apparent siblings, Sonia and Manic, play in a rock band. They fought villains with the power of terrible music. Not terrible in a funny way either, just that special level of ear-grating that makes people wish for eternal silence. Oh, and when they weren’t belting out sick beats, they also searched for their missing mother.

Fans aren’t always going to be appreciative of new takes on their favorite shows or characters; that’s a given. This concept was creative, in a way, but the execution was just so flawed that it ruined any promise the creators had. There wasn’t even that much humor thrown in nor development for these new characters. A search for a missing family member is usually ripe for heartfelt moments, but this show falls victim to that need a lot of shows had to just be “cool”.

After the chaotic fun of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and the epic story and atmosphere of Sonic SatAM, Sonic Underground was not only a big let-down but an eerie omen for the disappointment to come.

9. MegaMan NT Warrior

Everyone but MegaMan is smiling… Coincidence?

MegaMan, we all love you, but you’ve been wrecked so many times by this form of media that Dr. Wiley needs a rest from robot crafting.

MegaMan NT Warrior had a premise that involved all the characters living in a virtual world and being collectible. Real folks would then collect them and use them to battle one another; it seems like a lot of shows had Pokemon envy back in the day! The formula worked for a decent amount of programmes, even if it was tedious, but this formula is just not something that translated well to MegaMan. The game series may not have had a complex story to begin with, but the possibilities were there to make something audiences could enjoy and writers could have a lot of fun with. Instead, some asshole waved his hand and said, “Just make it like that one show. People seem to be really into that.”

It’s that sickly formula that can make or break something great, like the fairly recent Walking With Dinosaurs. Here was this big, beautiful story to be told in music and silence and then some jerk decided that people wouldn’t be into it unless the dinosaurs said some wicked funny things. Sure, I loved the Cheech rooster. It really upped my experience while I ground my teeth to the root.

Pandering to an audience by rehashing popular or safe ideas is one of the biggest pitfalls of any sort of movie, animated series or idea in general. When writers, animators or artists draw from what is safe or popular, it rarely gets a response beyond disinterest or contempt. The whole show just felt like a shitty marketing ploy that failed on multiple levels.

8. The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3

You can just hear the dark thoughts emanating from
Luigi. In his frog suit, he waits… watches…

Mario games don’t have a lot of success translating to any sort of film or television premise. The Super Mario Brothers Show was a chaotic clusterfuck at best; the Super Mario Bros. Super Show! spawned more hilarious memes than it did entertained viewers; and the Super Mario Bros film… we don’t speak that name without a slight shudder.

All that given, you have to either try – or not care – an extraordinary amount to be the bottom of the barrel in the Super Mario Bros. legacy of poor adaptations. Unlike the amazing sequel it was named after, The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 delivered very little. This was another Nintendo marketing gimmick half-assed to sell the game it represented. Because, you know, Super Mario Bros. 3 clearly needed the help.

Aside from peculiar voice acting, uninteresting plots and lackluster personalities, this show just did not have enough to stand on its own, nor to be in the category of so bad, it’s good.

Another cardinal sin is that the characters were annoying. Not in a semi-charming manner like, say, Dee Dee from Dexter’s Laboratory, but just outright annoying and listless. These voice actors had very little to work with and, unfortunately, it shows in the overall presentation of every episode. The creators didn’t care, so long as the sales came in – and the writers and actors couldn’t care because they had no direction to work with.

A Super Mario Bros. show directed by Tommy Wiseau would at least be entertaining. I’d pay to see Luigi scream, “You’re tearing me apart, princess!”

7. Battletoads

That vacant grin on the right one’s face is about what I
imagine the show’s writer looked like.

While the Battletoads game built somewhat of a cult following, only the pilot of the planned TV series ever aired. This is with good reason.

It’s hard to create a plot from a video game that has very little. Sonic shows generally did a decent job (exceptions on this list aside) of building a world, a plot, backstories, etc. for a game where you essentially run around, collect rings and fight a weird man with a BDSM fetish. Battletoads, on the other hand, took the approach of chucking in whatever they could think of: a princess, space travel, three dorky kids who received “super powers”, a weird villainess – also into BDSM – and that beloved “rude, crude attitude” that thrived in the late 80’s and 90’s.

Even for a pilot that was trying to get in among a plethora of weird cartoons on the market, this show just made absolutely no sense. Not even from a parody sense could this be considered anything else but hastily strung together. I feel bad for the person that was basically told, “Battletoads, the animated series. Make it happen!” It can’t have been easy to make a show from something that had no plot, no real standing characters and nothing to go on beyond, “They walk around and punch stuff.”

With poor animation, poor voice acting and some exceptionally misguided writing, the show never took off. It only left a single episode for people to cringe at and, thankfully, that was enough.

6. Pac-Man

Shown above: true art.

This show was another really good example of how some concepts just cannot be given a plot without it being weird as all get-out, nor resort to the theme of, “Famous video game character has silly adventures with his friends”. Cut and print it, we’re done here folks!

Pac-Man and his friends lived in a world of ghosts in a universe of spheres and a main villain that resembled Darth Vader. They also all have next to no personalities, which is always enjoyable to watch. The show featured Pac-Man, his wife, their baby, dog and cat. This was also the first television series based on a video game.

It set the bar pretty low with its general blandness and lack of forethought. Again, some concepts are just exceptionally difficult to translate into something enjoyable. If someone told you to make a TV series about Angry Birds, how would you dig a story out of that? Not to say that it’d be impossible. Hell, Tomba managed to put together a decent game with a the plot of “evil pig lords steal your girlfriend”. I can see a dystopian cartoon in which said birds kamikaze the wretched pig-beasts killing their young. But a show where a yellow sphere hangs out with his family and has “adventures” is just about as hard to present well as exploding birds versus lazy pigs. It’s generally not worth the attempt to try any series with concepts so lacking as much as these two. Especially taking freaking Angry Birds and giving it its own damned series!

But they’re doing one anyways. Because imagination unlocks the universe.

Even if Pac-Man was some kind of brilliant allegory for purgatory, it was still poorly written, contrived and strange in the most boring of ways. They even have a reboot currently airing in which Pac-Man has attitude, angst and is searching for those who killed off almost all of his people… ugh.

5. The Legend of Zelda

Oh Link, sass me with your whiny voice and sweet tights!

You’re all thinking it, I know you are. “Well, excuuuse me!” No. Absolutely not. The Legend of Zelda was just awful.

Link was transformed from heroic underdog into an immature, horny teenager that ingrained that catchphrase into our mushy little skulls. Sure, the main characters were named Link and Zelda, but the similarity to the games ended there. Hyrule is such an interesting place with so many different things to be used and fascinating lore; the fact that no one took advantage of this feels like another marketers’ attempt to appeal to kids by showing Link with some sass and Zelda being a snotty brat.

Oh, those teenagers! Always full of attitude and marketable to idiots who like regurgitated tactics sprayed across their programming. I’m amazed no one has done a Bad Girls Club take on the ladies of Nintendo. Then you could market to all the fans of reality TV who’d love to see white trash Peach fighting with off-her-meds, cross-dressing Zelda over who ate the last mushroom.

The Legend of Zelda had a lot of cardinal sins of cliched writing, boring adventures and just generally trying to appeal to people and succeeding only in pissing off a lot of Zelda fans. There is no excusing that.

4. Captain N: The Game Master

That look on MegaMan’s face really says it all. He just
can’t catch a break.

Why do we make a habit of picking the absolute worst voices for any characters translated from a foreign medium? Granted, they don’t always give our movies the best voice dubs, but good lord, people!

Captain N: The Game Master was a shameless ploy to hype the new GameBoy as well as attempt to remind people of Nintendo’s awesomeness. The problem wasn’t just that most of us already knew they were awesome; the characters were strangle-worthy at best and the animators were some of the laziest in history. There’s a big difference between half-assing as best you can, like in Food Fight, and just not caring. Backdrops would randomly vanish in some episodes, some characters would walk as though they were suffering an extremely intense itch, and nothing ever looked exactly right. Okay, calling it worse than Food Fight is unfair. Nothing is worse than that movie.

The characters, featuring Simon Belmont from Castlevania, Kid Icarus, MegaMan and a talking Gameboy (subtle) are all just… awful. Simon is an effeminate coward, MegaMan sounds like he’s been chain-smoking a few years, Kid Icarus adds -icus to all his words, which isn’t at all grating and once again, they fucked up Link in a single episode. At least the Legend of Zelda series was a little nicer to look at.

This show was lazy, badly written, badly acted and overall infuriating for fans of any of those characters.

3. Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm

Get over here!? More like: Get outta here!

Mortal Kombat as a kids’ cartoon? What could possibly go wrong! When most of us think of the Mortal Kombat series, we think of ripping spines out, or freezing people and breaking them into pieces, or punching Johnny Cage forever.

Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm had some pretty decent artwork and animation, sort of taking a G.I Joe approach to the whole look and feel of the show. The problem here is that Mortal Kombat is about, well, combat. Bloody, violent combat for the fate of two realms that have to muster up their best warriors to kick each other’s asses.

This show comes off like Captain Planet; except Captain Planet doesn’t have a horned helmet, Gaia isn’t his concubine queen, and he never jammed his fist down the throat of a litterbug. Someone, make that a reboot immediately!

The cartoon had some pretty okay action scenes but the characters were trying to teach kids a life lesson. There’s just something not right about characters you’ve seen literally eat one another trying to talk to you about proper hygiene or morals. The characters themselves were also a bit on the whiny, spoiled side.

One of the first episodes I ever watched involved a conflict between Sonya not listening to Stryker. So, they duked it out with awesome bicycle kicks, right? Sigh. No. What we got instead was an episode with Stryker nagging like an old housewife with Sonya pretty much shouting, “Whatever, you’re not my real dad!” until she accidentally gets him hurt. Lesson learned; don’t be so stubborn to other people’s perspectives. Or, you know, you could just take his head off.

These characters are supposed to be lethal, awesome killers. If I wanted to watch warriors bitching or boasting to each other the whole episode, I’d go watch DragonBall Z (disclaimer: I love DragonBall Z).

Plus, the show made me want to punch Stryker and Johnny Cage even more. That is just unacceptable.

2. Bubsy

Hello, I’m Bubsy! You might remember me from such
failures as everything I’m in.

Have you ever seen one of those cheap knock-off movies from people who saw the original and thought, “Oh, I bet we can do that too and make lots of money!”

Bubsy is the result of that mentality from video game studio Accolade, who clearly had some Mario and Sonic envy. He’s sassy, full of puns and brings you terrible gameplay! Oh yeah, Bubsy was really set up to succeed from the get-go. Who couldn’t love this lisped bobcat with his clever design and catchphrase of, “What could possibly go wrong?” Ergh.

Like Battletoads, Bubsy only got one pilot episode before the would-be creators called it quits. The episode features our titular hero who’s all about lazing around, ignoring his niece and nephew on their birthday and trying dangerous, reality altering technology without a care in the world. Neat.

The animation here was poor, at best, and almost every single character was so grating and so uninteresting, that the only part that tops it is when the villain literally uses her claws on a chalkboard. Twice.

Fortunately, it wasn’t picked up for a full series, sparing viewers a slew of puns, cruel humor towards armadillos (for some reason) and more chalkboard screeching. If Bubsy 3D: Furbitten Planet is the worst of the worst, this pilot just barely scrapes above it.

1. Anything by Uwe Boll

Pretty much how I imagine most of his first screenings end.

Perhaps this is a bit of a cheat, but this man ruins just about everything he touches. He’s the dementor of the movie world, sucking out all the effort, creativity and pride of video games and spitting it back onto his films. BloodRayne, DOOM, Alone in the Dark; all left defiled and sobbing by this man’s absolute lack of caring.

With a penchant for gore that ends up typically looking silly rather than disgusting, plots that can barely call themselves plots and superbly poor takes on the main characters of the games – or no representation at all, in some cases – he just spells disaster for any game he sets his eyes on.

BloodRayne wasn’t even that great of a game series to begin with, and while House of the Dead was good, cheesy fun, it was a very stylized sort of fun with terrible voice acting and a horrid story. I guess Boll felt a sense of kinship in that case.

Not to say that these games couldn’t have been good movies. I’m a firm believer that anything can be good if done correctly and given a bit of love. Boll doesn’t even try in any of these movies. He makes them as cheaply and poorly as possible to rake in a quick buck. This man did to several game franchises what Michael Bay has done to Transformers, except none of his movies are entertaining in even a silly, bad way. Sometimes, the actors care so little that they’ll actually move when they’re supposed to be lying there dead!

No one looks at the script ever and goes, “Maybe this needs a rewrite.” No one looks at the scenes and goes, “Maybe we should take another shot.” Everything is not just sub-par, but the sort of sub-par that flips you a giant bird while you stare at it, bewildered. Uwe Boll’s movies are that massive spider on the wall while you’re on the toilet, staring at you, just daring you to protest its presence.

Have any of these shows left you slamming your head against a hard object? Do you have some doozies of your own that we may have missed? Let us know and stay tuned for the top ten best adaptations from video games to film or television.

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  • VD Peruvian

    I think MegaMan: NT Warrior was a good show in its first season, but when it entered its second season, it tried to fix the problems it got wrong, and instead, was a fairly mediocre season. Cut Pac-Man a break since it was the early 80’s, but everything else other than these two deserve to be on the list.