If you’re a gamer with access to a Netflix account, you’ve surely watched or at least heard of one of the many animated series based on video game franchises. I have watched every episode of Castlevania and Dota: Dragon’s Blood with my husband, Neal. Both series are phenomenal, by the way. Even if the Netflix animated series are news to you, you must know about the long running Pokémon animated series. And yes, they are still making new Pokémon episodes. The first few episodes of season 25 will be released on Netflix this October.
The sheer number of movies, animated shows, and anime based on video games is astounding. The curated lists on Wikipedia make my head spin! My childhood was full of Pokémon and Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons. I never stopped to think that there were animated shows and anime that predated these two series. Turns out the 80’s had featured shows based on Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, The Legend of Zelda, and Super Mario Bros. Even shows based on Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat predate Pokémon.
While movies in the 80’s only showcased video games as central plot points, the 90’s saw movies based on actual video games take off. Half a dozen live-action titles were released in English, including movies based on Super Mario, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat. The late 90’s also gave us the first two Pokémon animated movies (although we had to wait until mid-2000 for the North American release of the second Pokémon movie).
I have long heard critics claim that movies based on video games typically bomb. (Although, this may no longer be the case, as the Sonic the Hedgehog sequel rocked the box office and received great reviews.) However, it seems that anime and animated series based on video games generally garnish more praise. I’ve only watched two movies based on video games that I can recall, aside from the Tomb Raider series I watched as a kid, and those are Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog movie. Both were nice family friendly movies, but nothing too spectacular. On the flip side, I was obsessed with the Castlevania and Dota: Dragon’s Blood series. Even weeks after binging both series, I was still mulling over the character arcs and intriguing plot points.
One major difference between movies and anime/animated series based on video games, is that the animated series Castlevania and Dota: Dragon’s Blood actually made me want to play the video games they were based off. I know I can’t be the only one who felt so compelled to play a Castlevania game after watching the animated show, because Konami, the developer behind Castlevania, released two collection sets after the Netflix show gained popularity. Other video games have also seen increased popularity following a screen adaptation.
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners was released on Netflix just this month, and fans are noticing a large uptick in the number of Cyberpunk 2077 players on Steam. SteamDB shows the current lifetime concurrent players on Steam is the highest it’s been since the game launched, with a million players suddenly checking back into the game after watching the show. Even though Dota did not see increased players in response to the Netflix show, the main character did increase in popularity. It is worth noting that Dota’s popularity is so great that the Netflix show would probably make a marginal difference at best, as it is currently the 2nd most popular game on Steam, and the 4th all-time most popular.
The idea of movies, anime, and animated series being used to boost video game popularity shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. After all, it appears to be the driving factor behind the long running Pokémon animated series and movies, with the plot continually coinciding with video game releases. And of all the video game screen adaptations, The Pokémon Company does it best. The Pokémon animated series is purportedly the most popular video game adaptation of all time. In addition, Pokémon is the third best-selling video game franchise and the highest-grossing media franchise of all time. As a result, Pokémon is looked to as the golden standard for video game adaptations.
Even with the decades long trend of video game adaptations, it seems that the trend has been increasing over the past few years. Over two dozen upcoming movies have been announced, and some of the announcements are mind boggling. A Sony subsidiary is making a movie based on the Just Dance video game. There are also two movies based on Tom Clancy video games under production. Netflix alone is currently running 5 different shows based on video games, and almost a dozen other shows have been announced on various streaming platforms. The most surprising of which (to me at least), is Disney+ is working on a Kingdom Hearts show. It is worth noting that some of these announcements are quite dated. The Just Dance movie was announced to be in the works in 2019, and I’m just now hearing about it in researching for this column. Even so, the recently increased video game adaptation trends have caught the attention of both the entertainment and gaming communities.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve picked up a video game after watching a movie or animated series based on it. Or, conversely, let me know if you are excited about an upcoming adaptation of a video game you enjoy. Until the next time, stay cool, be you. Bye!