Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, The Super Mario Bros. Movie has turned into a massive success thanks to its fantastic cast, hilarious script, and colorful world. And considering the movie’s giant box office haul (it made $377 million in its opening weekend alone), it’s safe to say it’s already the most popular movie of 2023 and that we’ll likely have more Mario movies coming our way in the future.
This was a much-needed win for the video game movie genre as well since films adapted from video games often turn into critical failures and box office busts. But perhaps this is the start of a new era where video game movies are serious business in Hollywood. In the near future, we’re going to see adaptions of popular games like Borderlands, Firewatch, and Five Nights at Freddy’s, and players are hoping they can all live up to the games that inspired them.
But gamers already have a few must-watch movies out there adapted from video games. Some are genuinely good, while others are so bad you can’t help but watch and feel captivated by the sheer disaster of it all. If you loved The Super Mario Bros. Movie, you’ll love these five films as well.
Super Mario Bros. (1993)
Long before The Super Mario Bros. Movie, everyone’s favorite mustachioed plumber had his first film adaptation back in 1993 with Super Mario Bros. Starring Bob Hoskins as Mario and John Leguizamo as Luigi, the movie took a drastic turn from the bright and colorful video games. The fanciful Mushroom Kingdom had instead been turned into Dinohattan — a gritty, underground world that oozed ’90s punk vibes.
The human world (Manhattan) lives parallel to the dinosaur world (Dinohattan), until one day when Mario and Luigi accidentally discover a way to enter the other dimension. In the movie, Yoshi is now a raptor and the Koopas are giant, towering soldiers with little tiny dinosaur heads.
The movie was, to put it nicely, totally crazy. Naturally, like most misunderstood films, it was bashed upon release. Siskel & Ebert even said at the time, “It doesn’t work at all. This movie isn’t either high- or low-tech enough … it doesn’t have a compelling story or fresh characters.” Super Mario Bros. turned into a box-office bomb and was considered one of the worst movies ever made for decades.
But in recent years, many viewers rediscovered the film and have come to embrace its campy charm and bonkers concept. The movie was nothing like the video games and instead offered up a whole new crazy world to experience — one filled with humor, action, and excitement. Nowadays, Super Mario Bros. has become a cult favorite and is finally getting the love and recognition it deserves.
DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)
You didn’t know Dead or Alive had a movie adaptation? Well, you’re not alone … most people have no idea this movie exists. Thanks to a tormented production and a butchered release schedule, DOA: Dead or Alive ended up having many of its screenings in Europe and Asia, with only a very limited release in America that came with virtually no press at all.
Why? Because the movie is what most people would describe as absolute garbage. In the film, a group of fighting experts from around the world are brought to a mysterious island to compete for $10 million. The contestants all come from different backgrounds — martial arts, pro wrestling, espionage — and have no idea the real reason they’ve been brought to the island is so a nefarious old man can learn all their moves to become the greatest fighter in the world thanks to his special pair of sunglasses.
Surprisingly, the movie is incredibly colorful and highly saturated. The costumes are elaborate, the cleavage is ample, the settings are striking, and the whole thing feels over the top. It’s like the movie was made by a horny, angry 14-year-old boy who teamed up with a theater director obsessed with pageantry. It’s bombastic, but it’s also a lot of fun.
It’s not supposed to be super childish and funny, but it absolutely is. And that has made the movie incredibly fun to watch. Besides, what else would you expect from a movie adapted from DOA, a fighting franchise most famous for its jiggling breasts, skimpy bikinis, and beach volleyball?
Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
The biggest surprise of 2020 (well, the second biggest surprise of 2020) was how successful the film adaption of Sonic the Hedgehog turned out to be. Thanks to an adventurous story and an awesome cast that included Jim Carrey, James Marsden, and Tika Sumpter, Sonic the Hedgehog ended up being a pretty damn good movie. This was a surprise to many people since Sonic has had a string of critically panned games for about two decades now.
One thing the movie did really well was faithfully translated the Sonic story into the real world. Complete with gold rings, Sonic’s super speed, Dr. Robotnik, and more, the movie authentically brought the Sonic universe to life, despite transporting the Blue Blur into the human world.
On top of that, Sonic himself was a lovable character. He acted tough on the outside, but in reality, Sonic was lonely and in desperate need of a friend. Seeing his friendship with Tom (Marsden) grow throughout the film felt special and, despite being totally cheesy, you couldn’t help but love it. In 2022, Sonic got an equally successful sequel that grossed over $405 million globally, and a third film is currently in preproduction.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)
Much like 1993’s Super Mario Bros., Detective Pikachu took a beloved franchise and turned it on its head. Despite Pokémon being considered by many to be a cutesy kid’s franchise, the movie transported viewers into a dark and gritty world where Pokémon are involved in crimes and cover-ups.
The movie’s bizarre concept is so absurd that it’s hilarious. It was also the first time fans got to see their favorite Pokémon brought to life, including Blastoise, Charizard, Jigglypuff, Pysduck, and, of course, Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds). Joining Reynolds in the cast were Bill Nye, Rita Ora, and Justice Smith, among others.
While the Pokémon games are extremely popular among the fan base, Detective Pikachu appeals to a broader audience thanks to its distinctive style and interesting noir-infused story. The movie became a massive hit, grossing over $433 million at the box office. In March, Deadline reported that a sequel is in the works and will be written and directed by Portlandia co-creator Jonathan Krisel.
For anyone who loved how The Super Mario Bros. Movie stayed close to the source material, you’ll also love Uncharted. Based on the wildly popular PlayStation series, Uncharted starred Tom Holland as Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter in search of his next adventure. In the film, he, along with Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), venture out in search of treasure and to find Nathan’s missing brother.
The story, characters, and style of the film are all incredibly true to the games, making it one of the most faithful video game adaptations ever. While the movie received a lackluster critical response, it went on to be a huge box-office hit, grossing over $401 million in theaters, leading to rumors of a potential Uncharted 2 in the future.
Some have criticized the movie (and game) for being “Tomb Raider with men” … which is basically what Uncharted is. But that isn’t necessarily bad. The original Tomb Raider was filled with adventure and danger, but it came out a few decades before CGI could truly keep up with the movie’s lavish scenes. Uncharted used modern graphics to create a treasure-hunting story with cutting-edge effects. It also added a lot of emotion to the story, something Laura Croft never offered as a character. If you want a video game adaptation that’s both faithful to the game, but also genuinely good, Uncharted is the perfect film.
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