The video game movie and TV adaptations that actually work

Two characters in Like a Dragon point guns at each other, wearing colorful outfits and in front of a red staircase with bodies on it.
Image: Media Blasters

The best movies and TV to watch at home that started as video games

There’s now a long and storied history of video game adaptations, from 1993’s Super Mario Bros. to, uh, 2023’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie. There’s also a litany of upcoming based-on-a-video-game movie projects, including planned adaptations of [deep breath] Borderlands, Gears of War, Ghost of Tsushima, Minecraft, Metal Gear Solid, Space Invaders, and Just Dance.

But of the ones already out there and watchable at home, which are worth your time? Polygon is here to help.

We’re including movie and television adaptations here, but many readers will probably notice the omission of Netflix’s The Witcher. That’s no slight against the show, but it doesn’t qualify; while the series probably wouldn’t exist without the video game franchise, it is an adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s books.

Our latest update added Fallout, Street Fighter, and Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie.


Walton Goggins (The Ghoul) sits in a chair in a still from Prime Video’s Fallout Image: Prime Video

Where to watch: Prime Video

Amazon’s adaptation of the Fallout video game series was one of 2024’s happiest surprises, delivering one of the best TV shows of the year. With a great cast (whenever you hire Walton Goggins, you’re off to a strong start in that department), a satisfyingly rapid narrative, and immersive production design, it’s an extremely entertaining show ... even if it slows a bit in the final two episodes. Crucially, the decision to treat the show as a sequel to the games rather than an adaptation of them makes it feel more essential viewing than something like The Last of Us, which trudged through some very well-trodden ground. And Fallout has been a big hit for Amazon and the franchise as well — players have flocked back to the games, and a second season is on the way. —Pete Volk

Street Fighter

Raul Julia, wearing ridiculous casual villain velour, holds drinks in front of Ming-Na Wen’s Chun-Li, in front of a painting of Raul Julia’s character on a horse, in Street Fighter Photo: Jim Townley/Universal/Everett Collection

Where to watch: Digital rental/purchase on Amazon, Apple, Google Play

The duality of movies. Simultaneously excellent and very much ... not, the Street Fighter movie is broadly known as a massively panned disappointment. I am pleased to tell you the movie, in fact, whips.

With fun production design, great costumes, and an appropriately goofy tone without being too reverent to the source material, Street Fighter (partially shot by Bullitt and Rosemary’s Baby DoP William A. Fraker) is a delight for the senses ... when it isn’t a total overstuffed mess. But everything bows down to Raul Julia’s committed, gonzo performance as the villain M. Bison, bringing every ounce of his Shakespearean gravitas to what would be one of his final roles. The movie is extremely quotable (“For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday”), and every moment Julia is on screen convinces me this is a masterpiece. The rest ... not so much, but I do like the read that it is “the greatest accidental Verhoeven there ever was.” —PV

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie

Ryu gets ready to Hadouken, as electricity forms around him, in Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie Image: MGM/Toei Company

Where to watch: Prime Video, for free with ads on Pluto TV, Plex, The Roku Channel

While the live-action Street Fighter has the big sets and colorful costumes you’d want from a blockbuster adaptation, the animated movie is the far superior Street Fighter adaptation, especially when it comes to the fight scenes. The animation is crisp, and it does a significantly better job of handling the massive roster of characters compared to the live-action version. If you value Street Fighter fight scenes and choreography most in your adaptations, this is where you want to go.

I will also note that the best example of a Street Fighter fight scene isn’t found in a Street Fighter movie. Instead, it’s found in the completely unhinged Jackie Chan-starring adaptation of the manga City Hunter, which contains a four minute sequence where Jackie and friends fight as the Street Fighter characters, complete with their signature moves. Before you watch that: A content warning for some brief Dhalsim brownface. —PV


Vi (Hailee Steinfeld) in Arcane Image: Netflix

Where to watch: Netflix

Riot Games’ League of Legends animated series, Arcane, is about the early life of League of Legends champions Vi, Jinx, Caitlyn, Jayce, and Viktor. The story centers on two connected narratives. One story follows Jinx’s descent into madness after a tragic accident and the journey of Vi to save her little sister from herself, while the other story follows Jayce and Viktor’s invention of Hextech, a new creation that fuses magic and technology. Aside from its fantastic characters and writing, the first season of Arcane is also among the most visually striking and uniquely gorgeous animated series in recent memory. —Austen Goslin

Gangs of London

Sope Dirisu as Elliot Finch throwing a punch in Gangs of London Image: AMC/SKY

Where to watch: Season 1 on Prime Video, both seasons on AMC Plus

Even for fans of the show, the fact that this is a video game adaptation often comes as a surprise. Very loosely based on the 2006 PSP game, the Gangs of London show takes the basic premise and vibe (warring gangs in modern London) and runs with it, culminating in one of the best action-oriented television shows in years.

The Raid’s Gareth Evans co-created this show and directed two of the episodes in the excellent first season, teaming up with stunt coordinator Jude Poyer for some of the very best action you will ever see on TV. There are massive gunfights, huge explosions, and brutal fight scenes, all within an epic tale of gang warfare that reaches Shakespearean tragedy levels of drama. Gangs of London is also a star-making role for lead Sope Dirisu, who plays a newcomer to one of the crime families harboring a secret. —PV

Mortal Kombat (1995)

Two combatants ready to fight in Mortal Kombat, surrounded by smoke and some gargoyle statues. Image: New Line Home Video

Where to watch: Free with ads on Tubi, or digital rental/purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu

Director Paul W.S. Anderson grew up playing Mortal Kombat at the arcade, and his first of what turned out to be quite a few video game adaptations was, naturally, 1995’s Mortal Kombat. Unlike the more recent adaptation of this property, this movie actually features the titular fighting tournament. While the effects certainly look dated at times, Mortal Kombat is a colorful, delightfully cheesy tournament movie that embraces its source material (the needle drop of the title theme!) and goes to great pains to recreate the atmosphere of the bloody game. —PV

The Resident Evil movies

Colin Salmon’s face falls apart in Resident Evil. Image: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The zombie horde converges in the desert in Resident Evil: Extinction. Image: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Multiple Millas Jovovich in Resident Evil: Afterlife. Image: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
A glimpse of Milla Jovovich fighting Wesker in a Resident Evil movie, as seen through Wesker’s iconic shades. Image: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Where to watch: Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Retribution are available to watch on Netflix. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is available to watch on Starz. The rest are available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

Anderson’s most ambitious and extensive video game adaptation work is the six-part Resident Evil series. Four of those six are directed by Anderson, while all six are written by him and star his collaborator and wife Milla Jovovich. While fans of the games have long complained that the series diverts from the source material (at the time, Anderson said “under-performing movie tie-ins are too common and Resident Evil, of all games, deserved a good celluloid representation”), the movies themselves absolutely rule. As well as being an outstanding display of Jovovich’s action star bona fides, the Resident Evil movies are also a fantastic study of genre and of a filmmaker’s continuing refinement of his unique style.

The first movie, 2002’s Resident Evil, is the closest to straight horror of the franchise, and features some truly unforgettable moments (like the laser grid trap — if you know, you know). The second movie, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, is helmed by renowned second unit director Alexander Witt (Skyfall, Avengers: Infinity War) but is in my view the most forgettable of the franchise.

Things really start to kick off with 2007’s Resident Evil: Extinction, directed by Russell Mulcahy (Highlander) and best described as a “zombie Western.” Anderson returned to the director’s chair for the last three entries, all of them bangers that see Anderson refine his frenetic style of shooting action, imbued with a chaotic energy and supported by the undeniable badassery of Jovovich. —PV

Monster Hunter

milla jovovich and tony jaa in the monster hunter movie Image: Sony Pictures

Where to watch: Starz, or for digital rental/purchase on Amazon, Apple, and Google Play

Anderson went even bigger with his latest video game adaptation, as Jovovich, Tony Jaa, and the rapper T.I. take on enormous monsters with very large weapons. Embracing the scale of the video games, both in opponents and fighting styles, Monster Hunter is fun popcorn cinema, and is the rare modern blockbuster to use CG effectively to create believable set-pieces. Featuring action-comedy buddy synergy between Jovovich and Jaa and gigantic set-pieces, Monster Hunter is big and dumb in all the best ways. —PV

Silent Hill

The “Welcome to Silent Hill” sign foregrounds a person walking in the snow. Image: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Where to watch: Netflix

Like most great video game adaptations, Silent Hill finds inspiration from the games without attempting a direct translation. The movie follows Rose (Radha Mitchell) as she looks for her daughter in the horrifying and haunted ghost town known as Silent Hill. The town itself seems to transport her to another world filled with monsters intent on tracking her down and killing her. Meanwhile, her husband, Christopher (Sean Bean), chases his wife to the town but encounters nothing once he arrives.

Half extended metaphor for the differences in how men and women experience the world and half terrifying realization of some of the video game franchise’s scariest monsters, Silent Hill isn’t just a great video game movie adaptation but one of the best and most underrated horror movies of the 2000s. —AG

DOA: Dead or Alive

Jaime Pressly, Sarah Carter, and Holly Valance fight Eric Roberts in DOA: Dead or Alive. Image: Dimension Extreme

Where to watch: For free with ads on Tubi, Plex, and Pluto TV

Let’s start with the disclaimer: This is an adaptation of a fighting game franchise that can be described as “hot people in limited clothing duke it out.” The movie is quite faithful to this idea, in a delightfully trashy way that works because of how damn good it looks. The colors pop, the actors shine, and the fight scenes rule. You just have to be willing to sit through some appropriately stilted video game dialogue.

It helps that Dead or Alive had the legendary Corey Yuen behind the camera as the director. The Hong Kong filmmaker and choreographer directed some terrific movies in his home country, including the Michelle Yeoh star-making vehicle Yes, Madam, and is best known in the States for being Jet Li’s personal action director in his Hollywood movies (as well as the action director of X-Men). —PV

Like a Dragon

Two characters in Like a Dragon point guns at each other, wearing colorful outfits and in front of a red staircase with bodies on it. Image: Media Blasters

Where to watch: YouTube

Legendary director Takashi Miike (Audition) has made quite a few video game adaptations, including this fun take on the Yakuza franchise. Playing into the ample comedic material from the video games, Miike takes full advantage of the opportunities available to him when recreating the rules of a video game world in a live-action setting. —PV

Ace Attorney

The Miles Edgeworth character in the Ace Attorney movie. Image: Toho-Towa

Where to watch: For digital rental/purchase on Amazon, Google Play, and Apple

Miike followed up Like a Dragon with this delightfully faithful version of the Ace Attorney franchise. Appropriately over-the-top with exactly the kind of hairstyles and stylistic cues you would expect from the franchise, this is a delightful and very different kind of legal drama. —PV

The Valorous Marksman/BiuBiuBiu

A screenshot from BiuBiuBiu, showing a mobile battle royale overlay but with real people in it. Image: Huawen Pictures

Where to watch: YouTube

This 2021 Mandarin-language movie is only kind of a video game adaptation, but it’s remarkable and worth mentioning either way. This is a sports drama set in the world of esports, following a young man who was once an esports prodigy and is now struggling to raise his child. When a huge tournament with a big prize pool opens up, he decides to get a team together for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The sports drama elements of BiuBiuBiu (amazing title, by the way) work fine, but this movie really shines when it comes to how it depicts the gaming sequences. Instead of just showing our protagonists playing the game on their phones, directors Hu Guohan and Zhou Siyao instead take us inside the world of the game in a shockingly immersive way, re-creating the janky movements of mobile games with startling accuracy.

Here’s a taste:

The result is an exciting action movie that feels years ahead of its time. —PV

Werewolves Within

Ranger Finn Wheeler brandishing two axes and covered in blood in Werewolves Within. Image: IFC films

Where to watch: Hulu, Shudder, AMC Plus

Director Josh Ruben and writer Mishna Wolff’s 2021 horror comedy Werewolves Within is one of the best video game adaptations precisely for how many liberties it takes with its source material. Loosely inspired by the 2016 VR game of the same name, Ruben and Wolff’s film stars Sam Richardson (I Think You Should Leave) as Finn, a kind albeit hapless forest ranger who transfers to the small town of Beaverfield searching for a new start. Unfortunately, he ends up smack dab in the middle of a crisis when the townsfolk suspect a vicious lycanthropic murderer is lurking in their midst. Filled with quippy dialogue, thrilling twists, and charismatic comedic chemistry between Richardson and co-star Milana Vayntrub, Werewolves Within is a video game movie that outstrips its inspirations to become a delightful horror flick all its own. —Toussaint Egan

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