Remember when movie adaptations of video games were universally terrible?
That’s a distant memory because, as a culture and a collective, we’ve seized upon a solution: TV shows. Ever since some bright spark decided to stop shoehorning 30-hour video games into a rigid three act structure, adaptations of classic video games have gone from strength to strength. Netflix, in particular, has had an incredible run, producing and streaming some truly incredible TV shows based on the video games we all love.
But, for now, here are some TV shows, based on video games, that you can watch right now.
I’ve waxed lyrical about Cyberpunk: Edgerunners before, and I’ll do it again.
This was my favourite anime of 2022, and maybe my favourite show period. Visually, there’s nothing quite like Cyberpunk: Edgerunners and narratively it’s as tight as a drum. The short, frenetic pace of the 20-minute episodes put you on a roller coaster almost immediately. You’ll 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. Unopposed in the schedule, this perfectly made adaptation of the Naughty Dog classic is all anyone wants to talk about — and with good reason.
Not quite as schlocky as The Walking Dead, but more approachable than Station Eleven, The Last of Us is striking a delicate balance. It’s probably our favourite live action video game adaptation ever. Extremely good.
(I’m keeping this at number 2 for now. If it sticks the landing I might push it up.)
Arcane is loosely based on the lore of League of Legends, a competitive online multiplayer MOBA played obsessively by millions. It’s probably the last game you’d expect to see made into a TV show, but here we are.
Because Arcane doesn’t just exist — it rules. It 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 in the soundtrack. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.
Technically The Witcher is based on the series of novels, which eventually became a trilogy of critically acclaimed video games, but let’s be real here for a second: The TV show doesn’t happen if it wasn’t for the runaway success of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
Regardless, for now, the show is excellent. We’ve got an interesting twist in the tale with Henry Cavill leaving the show and being replaced with Liam Hemsworth, but even if that falls apart, there are still a few quality seasons of The Witcher in the books. Give it a go!
Netflix/Screenshot by Oscar Gonzalez
I love Castlevania the video game, but at this point I feel like — in terms of cultural relevance — the Netflix TV show has completely eclipsed it.
It’s truly wild that a big budget TV show, based on a somewhat overlooked video game series can be such a huge hit, but that’s a testament to just how good Castlevania is. The best part — it continues to get better. We’re four seasons deep now, and there’s no dip in quality yet.
The Pokemon Company
It’s almost hard to consider Pokemon as a video game adaptation. After literally hundreds of episodes across dozens of TV series and movies, I think of the show as something separate to the games.
Regardless, given the cultural impact of the Pokemon show, I’d be crazy to leave it off this list. So here it is!
Alright, hollup. Let me cook.
Yes, I get it. This new TV version of Halo dramatically diverges from video game’s relatively straightforward story. Yes, Master Chief takes his helmet off and that’s upsetting. But come on man… Halo was never The Last of Us. It was never going to hold up to straight forward adaptation.
I think what we get, ultimately, is a fairly solid sci-fi action show that I quite enjoyed watching. This one was renewed for a second season on Paramount, so we’ll be seeing more Halo on our TV screens quite shortly.
Cuphead is a strange one. It’s a cartoon, based on a video game which is, in itself, a homage to cartoons made in the 1930s.
It doesn’t 100% work, but it’s a lot of fun, and beautiful to look at. Episodes are nice and short too.