The Movie Is Almost Always Worse Than The Video Game

Movie versions of your favorite games don't level up

It's hard to cram the World of Warcraft into a couple hours. — (Legendary Pictures)
Feb 21, 2016 at 3:19 PM ET

If you groan at the suggestion of yet another video game being turned into a movie, you’re right: A Vocativ analysis of fan reviews of 30 years of silver screen video game adaptations reveals the game is better than the movie, 98 percent of the time.

Almost every single theatrical adaptation of a video game since 1986 has received worse fan reviews than its source material, according to an analysis of movie and video game reviews on IMDb. The only time fans have rated the adaptation as better than the video game was 2006’s Dobutsu no mori, the Japan-only, silver screen adaptation of Nintendo’s popular simulation game Animal Crossing. That movie wasn’t very good (fans rated it just 4.5/10 from 525 reviews), but that was still better than the miserly average rating of 4.3/10 handed down to the series of games.

Our analysis of 61 movie adaptations, not including straight-to-DVD adaptations or fan-made movies, found that one genre, and one particular video game series, have been turned into movies more than any others: Role-playing games and Pokemon. Role-playing games accounted for 39 percent of all adaptations between 1986 and 2015. Eighteen of those movies alone were based on the popular Pokemon series. Not all of those were released internationally; while four Pokemon movies made it to U.S. theaters, beginning with Mewtwo Strikes Back in 1999, later installments have only made it to the silver screen in its native Japan.

Some big screen versions were bigger stinkers than others. Need For Speed, released in 2014 and starring Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, averaged a mediocre 6.5/10 from over 130,000 reviews on IMDb, a tiny fraction lower than fans’ rating of the classic video game series. By common fan consensus, the absolute worst film adaptation of a video game, and quite possibly of anything ever, is 2003’s House of the Dead. While its playable namesake earned an impressive average rating of 7.7/10, the movie had a comparatively pathetic 2/10. Talk about being dead on arrival.

Not all movies based on games in the survival horror genre have utterly failed. Fans agree that the Resident Evil series is pretty killer: the 16 games reviewed on IMDb have an average rating of 7.8/10. The movies have fared only slightly worse, and every single one has been a box office success (2012’s Resident Evil: Retribution cost $65 million to make but earned $240 million at theaters worldwide) which probably explains why there are seven of them, with two more live-action and animated movies due for release in 2017.

Unsurprisingly, fans’ contempt for movies based on video games hasn’t put Hollywood one bit. Warcraft, based on the series of role-playing games dating back to 1994, is set for release in theaters June, and even Angry Birds is getting a silver screen adaptation in May. And there’s Rachet & Clank and Assassin’s Creed movies coming out, too.

Someone needs to tell Hollywood it’s running out of lives.

Note: For movies not based on specific video games, Vocativ took the average of every video game in that series for which at least 100 reviews were available on IMDb.