Pre-game for the "Sonic the Hedgehog" movie with these classic (erm, bad?) video game movie adaptations.
Everyone's favorite blue blur, Sonic the Hedgehog, zooms into theaters (and your heart, if you let him) this Valentine's Day. It will be a hard-won finish line for the production team—in case you missed it, the movie's CGI star underwent a redesign that cost at least $5 million.
But even though he's a hedgehog that ran so fast he turned blue, Sonic is a little late to the video games-turned-movies party.
While you could count how many video game movies have been actually good on one hand (if you were also a T-rex), many of them are fun. Here's a noncomprehensive and non-ordered list of videogame movies that walked so Sonic could run.
Super Mario Bros. (1993)
It's not original to suggest that the Mario Bros. franchise might be some metaphor for drug use (oho, look! They eat magic mushrooms!). But some alterant must have played a part in the production of 1993's Super Mario Bros. movie. It is uncontestably absurd, and continually finds ways to one-up its own absurdity for the whole 1.5-hour runtime. Somehow, the aesthetic of grimy sci-fi movies from the '80s and '90s like Blade Runner and Demolition Man infected a more "realistic" take on the already-sparse story of Mario. Immense joy comes from trying to make sense of the whole affair ("wait ... is that supposed to be Wario??") even as the movie contradicts its own logic just so more futuristic bumper-cars can crash into things. Come for the horrifying interpretation of classic Mario enemies, stay for the special musical segment of "Walk the Dinosaur".
Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)
Okay, so Detective Pikachu might be the best videogame movie released to date. The world it depicts, where humans and adorable CGI Pokémon coexist, is technicolor magic and heartstopping nostalgia. It's what every kid playing the games, from Red to Emerald, to Diamond and Sword, dreamed of. Also, it weirdly paired with some noir-ish, Blade Runner vibes again. While Detective Pikachu's tiny little script-legs can't quite keep up with the silly plot it generates, it's such a fun time. Watch it again for this face:
Tomb Raider (2018)
2018's Tomb Raider reboots the Angelina Jolie interpretation and stars Alicia Vikander for the gaming heroine Lara Croft's origin story. This reboot mirrors the reimagining of the game franchise with a focus on grittier survival gameplay. The movie falls more in the cinematic tradition of action-adventure movies like Indiana Jones and proves a fun romp on those merits, but there are enough easter-eggs for fans of the games to have an extra good time. Read our review of Tomb Raider (2018).
2016's release of Warcraft, a dramatic story set in the World of Warcraft universe, was critically panned almost universally. Actually, by all accounts, it was pretty rough as a movie. But as a depiction of a fantasy world that so many have gamed countless hours in, it does pretty alright. The special effects are exceptional, and the fully CGI characters are fully expressive and show real emotion at a time when Thanos still kinda looked like butt.
Videogames are full of fantastical worlds and characters, so due homage should be paid to the CGI strides that have made it possible. But if you aren't a Warcraft fan, or don't geek out over good special effects, maybe skip this one.
Street Fighter (1994)
Let me level with you, dear reader. There are more videogame movies than could make this list, I could only hope to present a well-rounded palate—a survey piece of the literature. I wanted to leave you with a reflective finish, a cleanser with gravitas. Street Fighter came to me. Its lineage is almost mythical. The Street Fighter games inspired 1994's Street Fighter: The Movie, which, like the ouroboros devouring itself, produced Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game. Somewhere along this Jacob's Ladder, 1994's movie brought a wonderfully campy plot full of singularly awful dialog that is sure to delight.
But the real miracle to come out of Street Fighter: The Movie was this scene, with what might be one of the best lines in movie history, delivered by Raul Julia.
It's proven difficult to translate what makes a videogame great onto the silver screen, but we celebrate the efforts.
What's your favorite movie based on a videogame? Did we miss it on our list? Tell us in the comments below!