It’s taken some time, but we may be entering a golden age of video game adaptations thanks to, at least partially, streaming platforms. It seems like these stories are faring much better in television, which makes sense when we consider the sheer scope of most game universes and the sacrifices that must be made to fit all the essential information within a reasonable theatrical runtime – some recent films, such as Detective Pikachu or the two Sonic installments, appear to have dissipated the “video game movie curse” though.
We’ve had plenty of animated series that worked well enough in recent years, and the Halo TV series is leading the charge on Paramount Plus with a solid live-action effort which proves there’s hope out there for sizable projects based on video games. Next year, HBO’s The Last of Us will surely make some waves too. And if we look further ahead, famous properties such as Fallout, Mass Effect, and BioShock are next in line for live-action productions headed for streaming.
Below you’ll find five picks that we think would make for fantastic space-set series and films (theatrical or not) in the right hands. There are plenty of memorable sci-fi stories in video games that should be experienced by non-gamers as well. We truly believe that they have the potential to become one of the best sci-fi TV shows or best sci-fi movies of all time.
If you’re looking for awesome video games that deal with outer space and what could be out there, you might want to check out our lists of the best space exploration games and, if you’re feeling brave, of the best space horror games.
Born from ex-Call of Duty devs, Titanfall has already spawned two games and one “battle royale” spinoff, Apex Legends, set in the same universe. While the first installment didn’t pack a single-player campaign, it did a lot of world-building, and the sequel knocked it out of the park with both an amazing solo adventure and the super exciting multiplayer component.
The story takes place centuries into the future, in a region of star systems called “The Frontier,” where the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) and the Frontier Militia battle for control with the help of Titans, tank-sized mech suits that can also operate independently. In Titanfall 2, the story borrows DNA from The Iron Giant and pays homage to the tech and colorful fauna seen in Avatar. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In a world where six Transformers films and James Cameron’s 2009 space adventure made billions at the box office, this could be an easy win with the right talent and a chunky production budget.
2. Dead Space
This one’s an easy pick for a potentially thrilling space-set horror film. In fact, it almost happened around a decade ago with Eagle Eye director D. J. Caruso. However, the project slowly drifted away alongside other planned adaptations of EA-published video games.
The first game follows Isaac Clarke, an engineer who must navigate a mining spaceship overrun by monsters called necromorphs that appeared following the discovery of an alien artifact. On top of that, psychosis begins to affect Isaac as he progresses through increasingly twisted environments in one of gaming’s darkest settings ever.
Anyone into sci-fi and horror will instantly say it’d have been the perfect project for John Carpenter (The Thing) two decades ago, but Visceral’s game, clearly influenced by the filmmaker’s best, arrived too late for that possibility to become real. Two animated direct-to-video films accompanied the first two games, but talk of more animated or live-action projects died down with the third installment. We’re now waiting for a remake of the original Dead Space, so it might be time to shop the IP around again.
This one is relatively close to happening if plans don’t take a sudden turn, as developer-publisher Bungie and Sony (now owner of the company) recently commented on the possibilities of bringing the massive IP to film and/or television. In fact, we had heard before about Bungie’s hopes for Destiny as a transmedia franchise.
Created by Halo veterans, Destiny is set in an expansive sci-fi fantasy universe that doubles down on its space opera influences. Players of the multiplayer first-person shooter take on the role of Guardians, protectors of the Earth’s last safe city in the far future as they wield a mysterious power, the Light, to defend Earth and other planets of the solar system from alien threats.
With Destiny 2 now set for a long life through yearly expansions and a “live narrative” that will close the universe’s first saga in 2024, it seems like the perfect time to consider a live-action or animated TV series that could complement a larger-than-life overarching story full of promise.
4. Outer Wilds
This pick is sort of a wildcard, but one that would please gamers and animation aficionados at the same time. Furthermore, Annapurna’s involvement as the publisher makes a translation into film or TV a realistic option.
Outer Wilds is an action-adventure game with heavy emphasis on non-linear exploration and puzzles, since the characters and their solar system are stuck in a mysterious 22-minute time loop that always ends with the sun going supernova. It’s an out-of-the-box game that garnered tons of critical acclaim and already packs a cartoony art style and plenty of sense of wonder. An animated adaptation almost writes itself.
Both Prey games (2006 and 2017) could be turned into highly attractive TV series or movies, as both horror and brainy sci-fi are extremely hot right now. That being said, we feel like the reboot (trippier but less niche) would have better chances nowadays.
The story takes place in an alternate timeline in which humankind explored the stars far earlier and encountered a hostile alien race with strange physical and psychic powers. Its starting point is, in theory, fairly similar to Dead Space’s, but the direction Arkane took with this game is radically different, and the tone certainly isn’t as oppressive.
If we consider its art style and some of the wackier stuff that goes down, such as the player character turning into a mug thanks to “mimic matter,” an animated adaptation could also work. The 2017 game also shares quite a bit of DNA with BioShock, which is getting a Netflix film adaptation in the near future, so its premise may be more attractive to Hollywood studios than we think.