There is a belief by some that role-playing video games, which offer an immersive and unique experience specific to each player, don’t translate well into passive entertainment. Or maybe it’s that there’s too much going on in video games to be able to narratively focus on any one character. Some might say that in narrowing the story you risk missing out on the grand mythology at the heart of beloved titles and franchises. And while those reasons may hold up when it comes to explaining why standalone movie adaptations fail, they don’t hold water when it comes to adapting video game properties to television.
In fact, in this time of Peak TV where complex characters and stories play out in lavish worlds brought to life in high-quality productions, video games may just be the perfect source material for the medium. But let’s also define what kind of video games we’re talking about here. Some titles might still be better adapted as movies (if at all), like simple fighting games, racing games, or side-scrolling brawlers where the gameplay comes first and story is a distant afterthought. Let’s also not overlook the fact that cartoons based on video games have been a part of the TV landscape for a long time, though most of those 80s and 90s series are better off forgotten (“Well excuuuuuse me, Princess!”)
While there are some great ideas for potential animated adaptations (like a wishful-thinking Studio Ghibli Legend of Zelda), our focus with this list is, for the most part, live-action. When it comes to rich, world-building titles, there are some that are truly tailor-made for an epic TV series (Netflix has been one of the first to notice this with their upcoming Witcher series). Every single purveyor of original scripted content these days wants the next Game of Thrones. Well, here you go: