The act of adapting popular video games into feature length films is something that may seem on the surface to be a modern trend but, but is in fact, a practice that goes back several decades. In almost every case, however, a popular video game usually ends up adapting into a not-so-popular movie. Why exactly video games just don't seem to translate well on the silver screen is unclear but the trend seems pretty consistent.
Several examples of video games series that have been adapted into movies are listed below to illustrate the point.
Super Mario Bros. (1993)
This beloved video game was pretty much a guaranteed flop on the big screen, featuring too many contradictory elements to fit firmly into any one established genre. Super Mario Bros. attempts to modernize a game that delights on the fact that it makes absolutely no sense. The result is a movie with a plot that makes no sense but ends up being more confusing than entertaining.
Mortal Kombat (1995)
Based on the popular fighting game known for its outlandish characters and excessive violence, the Mortal Kombat film was a mixed bag. Though its stunts and special effects don't really hold up to the test of time, Mortal Kombat was fairly successful, financially speaking. The game's intentionally over-the-top nature, however, is a little out of reach for the film's modest budget. Needing actors who could both act and fight, it settles for a main cast that couldn't really do either. It features a host of colorful but one dimensional characters pitted against each other in repetitive fight scenes.
A shoot-em-up action movie based on the popular first person shooter of the same name. Both film and game feature the same character, Agent 47, a bald headed killer with a barcode tattooed on the back of his head. The film attempts to flesh out the games amoral protagonist by giving him a tragic backstory, but at the end both the game and the movie star an emotionless killer who murders other killers for money. The result is a bleak, depressing movie with very few likable characters. The movie does have a whole lot of cool action sequences though and was popular enough.
It seems pretty clear that games just don't translate well into movies. It's a matter of structure, games like RPG's that have complex and engaging stories are meant to be played over the course of several days and aren’t easily condensed into 90 minutes.