How does this HBO Max series stack up against its competition?
In a television adaptation market saturated by Netflix and a movie market slammed with box office flops, HBO Max exploded onto the video game TV scene Sunday with The Last of Us. Highly anticipated, the first episode did not disappoint with the streaming giant scoring its second-largest debut in the last ten years. Time and time again, video gamers have campaigned for their favorites to find a home with the right script-to-screen combination. As audiences chomp at the bit for more, critics run in the other direction.
In the last decade, television has successfully adapted video games with the episodic structure as a more conducive medium for these characters. While movies get lost in production budgets instead of scripts. Where The Last of Us is succeeding is putting a popular video game on the mainstream radar so television and movie lovers unfamiliar with the game are drawn to the apocalyptic tale in ways other adaptations have not done. Starting the year off with a bang, how does this HBO Max series stack up against its competition?
A female-led action-adventure game, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider earned itself multiple films with two high-profile leading ladies as its titular character. With multiple game-play versions and sequels released from 2001-2008, Tomb Raider focuses on Lara Croft, a fictional archeologist scouring the world for lost artifacts, solving dangerous puzzles and navigating hostile environments along the way.
To the disappointment of gamers, none of the film versions were anything like the games. Angelina Jolie donned the bow and arrow for two movies: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003). Alicia Vikander reimagined the role with the 2018 reboot Tomb Raider. To no avail, none of the films have been able to manifest a captivating plot paced for a two-hour runtime that audiences gravitate toward. Perhaps HBO should consider a new series?
With Paramount+ throwing its hat in the adaptation ring, Halo was given a new episodic life. Merging military and science fiction the video first-person shooter game series was launched in 2001, originally developed by Bungle. Like many of these classic, iconic games, Halo has multiple versions and remasters available to play.
A quick nine episodes, the TV series failed to strike a powerful chord with its original gamer audience, but critics applauded its ability to remain true to the game's material. Despite drawing from too much from its co-genre competitors, Halo has the opportunity to recover later this spring with season two.
One of the most recognizable fantasy games, World of Warcraft finally earned itself a feature film with Warcraft. Created around the fantasy world of Azeroth and the humans and creatures that inhabit it. The Blizzard Entertainment production is a real-time strategy gameplay made up of five core games.
The movie plot focuses on an Orc horde invading Azeroth as a group of humans and dissenting Orcs join forces to stop the war. With a plot that is difficult to follow if viewers hadn't played the game, the feature eliminated audiences that couldn't keep up; however, with stunning CGI and visual effects, those who were there for the action (or original fans) were entertained with the action fantasy.
Originally developed by NetherRealm Studios and MORE, Mortal Kombat has become a multimedia franchise that has withstood the test of time since 1992. The games boil down to a sci-fi fantasy-themed combat adventure, with the original release being the first video game to reveal a secret fighter if players completed and fulfilled certain missions.
The feature film Mortal Kombat hit screens in a hybrid way in 2021 with a theatrical release and a simultaneous HBO Max streaming release. Premiering in an age with excellent visual effects, the movie was able to deliver its video game's promise of graphic violence and intense fight scenes, but that was it. Fans of the original game appreciated the action and ability to mindlessly watch this action film.
Another Sony and Naughty Dog publication, Uncharted is another treasured video game that has been around for decades. The game is an adventure gameplay about a group of treasure hunters with the main protagonist gamers portray being Nathan Drake. Nathan, alongside other historical figures, travels across the map to explore mysteries rooted in history, fantasy and folklore.
A big-budget action film, 2022's Unchartedfeatured a big-name cast with Tom Holland starring as Nathan and Mark Wahlberg as Victor "Sully" Sullivan. The pair chase an alleged fortune amassed by Ferdinand Magellan. Critics easily picked apart the production as leaning too much on the standard adventure film tropes, while audiences applauded the adaptation of their beloved game.
With over a dozen different versions and releases since the original in 1986, Castlevania has transcended time and mediums including its successful television adaptation. A gothic action adventure with a splash of horror and fantasy, this tale follows vampire hunters from the Belmont clan as they battle Dracula and the creatures he controls.
The Netflix series aired for four seasons with each season increasing the episode count. As the series continued, it gained more and more acclaim for expanding its storytelling with excellent visuals. Given the video game's success across consoles and spinoffs, Netflix could very well continue the same path.
From books to video games to Netflix series, The Witcher appears to be Netflix's only live-action attempt at adapting video games. Based on a series written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, the video game and TV series follows Geralt of Rivia, a traveling monster slayer as he is one of the remaining witches in the realm.
The live-action series spoke to audiences with its perfect casting and costuming behind Geralt with Henry Cavill donning the iconic silver locks and burly physique. Season one started out mediocre, but the renowned Netflix original hit its stride in season two, earning the show three Primetime Emmy nominations in 2022 for stunt coordination, visual effects and sci-fi costuming. The fate of the series remains to be seen with the departure of Cavill after the yet-to-be-released season three.
A collaborative effort published by Sony Interactive Entertainment and Naughty Dog, The Last of Us first hit PlayStation consoles in 2013. Both the television series and video game center around Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) in a post-pandemic zombie-apocalyptic America as the pair attempt to survive a cross-country journey.
Critics and audiences marveled at the series premiere as HBO Max remained true to the source material while cultivating a new cinematic life as it delved deeper into the original story. From the casting choices to TLoU Easter Eggs true gamers spotted, the series came out swinging.
Depending don't the vantage point, Netflix ties itself for first (or a close second) with Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. The anime series is based on Cyberpunk 2077 where the distinguishable line between human and digital is seriously blurred as artificial enhancements become an addictive normal.
The original game, brought to players by CD Projekt, received massive hype but fell victim to a botched release with an error-prone and buggy first round. While the game inevitably sold well following patch fixes and updates, the title itself was scarred until Netflix released its adaptation, spinning a positive light back on Cyberpunk.
Based on Riot Games' League of Legends, Netflix brought to life an original story of two iconic League champions. The game debuted in 2009 and is a multiplayer online battle arena. A combination of medieval, magic, and steampunk, the League is just as popular today as it was over a decade ago.
Arcane: League of Legends features the voice talents of Hailee Steinfeld as Vi, Kevin Alejandro as Jayce and Kevin Spisak as Silco and Pim. With a beautiful blend of animation styles, Arcane maintains its status as one of the best game adaptations to hit screens (so far).NEXT: 'The Last of Us' & Other Highest-Rated Video Game Adaptations on Rotten Tomatoes
Writing from downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Ali’s either watching movies or growing her list to watch. Her blog, peskethings, is about film reviews and whether to see it or skip it. She has a Bachelor’s in English and minor in creative writing. When she’s not writing for Collider, or her blog, you can find her exploring Wisconsin with friends and family.