More and more video games are being given the TV show treatment, and with a rich and varied array of stories and worlds that can be brought to life, it’s easy to see why. Sony is leading this charge, with its small screen adaptation of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us a resounding success, pulling in 24 Emmy Award nominations recently. But that’s just the beginning, with Sony having shows in the works for God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Twisted Metal, with the latter launching on Peacock (Stan in Australia) on July 27. With that in mind, the WellPlayed team has come together to share which video game they’d like to see turned into a TV show.
So many video games would make excellent TV shows (in theory) that it’s hard to pick just one. But after going around in circles I’ve landed on Get Even, a first-person psychological thriller from The Farm 51. The premise sees Cole Black awaken in an asylum, with his only memory being one where he fails to save a girl with a bomb strapped to her. With a VR-like device fixed to his head that allows him to explore memories and a voice known as Red encouraging him to delve into his mind to find the answers, Black must relive his past if he is to find out the truth about what happened and who he is. As a video game, I loved it, and I think this premise would make for just as compelling TV.
Many people seem to think that the aging population of game-centric humans are only hungry for a mature, adult experience in their non-interactive media. Perhaps all we want from a God of War TV series is a string of Game of Thrones-esque sex scenes, cobbled together like the very worst mini games that existed in the PS2 era. To that, I say NAY – I instead wish to confuse and delight our youth, by leveraging the amazing characters of yesteryear into a fantastic animated offering – Jak and Daxter: The Animated Series. I want my daughter to experience the same odd journey of discovery that comes with uncovering a random easter egg or cameo in a modern game, and realising that its roots are a lot further back than they might expect, and the whimsical nature of Sandover Village being whiplashed into the cruel, unforgiving landscape of Haven city feels right at home in the Saturday morning cartoon slot. Jak and Daxter are fantastic characters, with a supporting cast of oddball weirdniks that lend themselves well to an out-there tale of magical powers, fascism and the odd zoomer race.
And it might net us a new game. Maybe.
I feel like horror is a genre woefully underutilised in the television space. Often it’s too spliced with action or apocalypse porn to be truly unnerving, but if the response to Mike Flanagan’s recent work is any indication, there’s a hunger for genuinely scary, episodic programming. It’s a genre the Siren franchise has actually already dabbled in its uneven but fascinating Siren Blood Curse, itself an episodically released ‘Americanised’ remake of the first game Siren (Forbidden Siren if you’re a PAL). This gnarly little PS2-era horror franchise sees a small Japanese country town fall victim to a cult’s attempts to rework time and matter itself to serve its unnatural God. The series is packed with grotesque bug imagery, Japanese folklore, and a built-in ensemble cast of characters we could keep up with weekly in a potential adaptation. The game also features a unique Sightjack mechanic in which players can look through enemy eyes in a first-person perspective, which sounds like a killer framing device to kick off episodes with an unnerving, omnipresent view of our heroes.
The popularity of fantasy TV series has grown immensely over the past few years, so it’s no surprise that the Diablo games come to mind when thinking about the next fantasy TV show based on a video game. Not only is the lore in the game primed to be told visually, but it would be an absolute delight to see these in-game graphics come to life in a television show. The franchise also has developed a very large fan base since the game’s release in 1997, so I can imagine (if done right) that the show would be an incredible success. Blood, magic, gore and overall demonic vibes make this the perfect game to release as a TV show.
There’s a lot of content out there now, and with so many different platforms to watch the latest and greatest it can be a little overwhelming. And yet, everything I see follows a similar trend, be it high-fantasy or violent drama. There are so few shows that offer vibrant colours, unique characters or a world full of unusual situations. Anime aside, if we’re talking live-action shows, I feel like we’re due something that really breaks the mould, something that offers a new perspective on storytelling but remains grounded and relative to an audience calling out for greater levels of representation. I can find no better example of this than Life is Strange, a series that has explored a different set of character dynamics with each entry but follows similar themes of everyday people doing their best to live out a normal life, yet struggling with an altogether supernatural sense of being. As the games have proven, they don’t necessarily have to feature a direct retelling of any of them – a new setting and protagonist gifted with something they can’t comprehend would do the trick. But watching Max and Chloe in live action? I’d certainly pay whatever subscription service was streaming that.
This one might stretch the imagination, or at least the patience required to enjoy a piece of televised media. Deadly Premonition. The cult classic game from Japanese auteur SWERY. A game that folks either loved for its brazen inversion of what is expected in a polished video game title, or hated for being a janky mess where just about every element of the game is farcical and comically bad. Picture it now. A rainy, backwoods town filled with all manner of kooky denizens. A murder has occurred with a kind of spectacle that requires calling in the Feds. Along comes coffee-swilling self-professed nerd and FBI detective Francis York Morgan. Everybody calls him York. He sees grim omens about the killer in his morning brown. Despite others engaging with him, he launches into full-blown dialogues with his imaginary friend Zach. In the evening, he brandishes his firearm and eliminates zombified townspeople who shamble about crying that they don’t want to die. This ain’t Twin Peaks, baby.
These pitches don’t have to deal with the real-world constraints of budgets and other such practicalities, right?
While I firmly believe that the video game medium was the perfect place to tell this story, I’d love to see Returnal get a limited series. We could see Gwendoline Christie take on the daunting role that is Selene, slowly being overcome with crippling hopelessness on an ever-evolving alien planet. Delving deep into the psychological horror elements, give us long, unsettling moments where it’s just us and Selene, alone together in moments of loneliness and despair as she tries to draw out conversations with herself as she plays back recordings of a past life. Cut through the stretches of nothing with grand, terrifying encounters with the gothic goliaths that are the game’s bosses. It would never work and it will never happen, but I’ll still hold onto the beautiful fantasy of what could be.
That or an Infamous TV series, I’ll take either.
Ash: Is it too late to change my answer? I want InFamous too.
Adam: See, Ash gets it.
There you have it, our picks for what video games would make good TV shows. Let us know what video games you would pick in the comments or on social media.