The “Video Game Curse” was Broken Way Before HBO’s The Last of Us

Well, it looks like Naughty Dog and Neil Druckman wasn’t tired of making people cry with The Last of Us. They already made gamers all over the world blubber like babies with the original game and also made them cry tears of anger with The Last of Us: Part 2. Now, they’re making not only gamers cry but also people who just like to watch good stories tear up with the live-action version of The Last of Us, which is now streaming on HBO. I honestly didn’t expect this to happen as we already knew what was going to happen right off the bat with Joel’s daughter biting the dust early on in the story. But it looks like a ton of people didn’t get the memo. Heck, even some of the people who played the game still had tears welling up in their eyes even though they experienced it before.

Because of scenes like this and how generally good HBO’s The Last of Us live-action show is, some in the media are proclaiming it to finally break the so-called “video game curse” when it comes to making a movie or a TV show based on a video game. Yes, it certainly seems like gamers have had the worst luck when it comes to their favorite game getting adapted to a movie or a television series. Even I had that impression several years ago and bemoaned the reasons why Hollywood is clueless when it comes successfully transitioning video games to other media.

So, you would think I would be elated that The Last of Us finally lifted the “video game” curse that’s plagued us for so long, right? Well, actually, I think the curse was broken a good whiles back. I honestly think we already are getting some really good video game adaptations for a while now.

First, I do have to address how the “video game curse” came about. It all started way back in 1993 with the Super Mario Bros. movie. This should’ve been a no-brainer as Nintendo and Super Mario Bros. was the biggest thing on the planet. Well, I guess Hollywood knew this as they simply didn’t care to make a good movie! It’s still amazing how much they bungled the Super Mario Bros. movie, however. It didn’t resemble the game at all, switching the colorful land of the Mushroom Kingdom with some dystopian steampunk city. I’m still amazed how bad things got!

Strangely enough, this sort of laid the foundation of all future movie and TV video game adaptations. Then again, what do you expect when Hollywood picks the people who have no idea about the source material in charge of making their live-action blockbuster? You get things like the live-action Street Fighter, DOA: Dead or Alive, BloodRayne, Alone in the Dark, Doom and the entire live-action Resident Evil franchise. Yes, every single live-action Resident Evil movie and television show, including the most recent Netflix series! While I can enjoy some of the ironically (Street Fighter and DOA: Dead or Alive are hilariously bad), there’s a certain legacy here where it becomes easy to believe that, if Hollywood is making a movie or a television show based on a video game, it’s going to suck. Even I fell victim to that trope.

However, things are actually much brighter than it seems because there has been an uptick of some really good movie and TV show adaptations based on video games. While I may have ragged on Netflix for the Resident Evil live-action series, they’ve done wonders in the realm of making animated adaptations of video games in the past. I used the plural “adaptations” because they’ve made several already, namely Castlevania, Arcane and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. Heck, I’ll throw in The Cuphead Show while I’m at it. It’s not as revered as Castlevania or Arcane but The Cuphead Show is still pretty good.

I remember these shows, namely Castlevania and Arcane getting rave reviews from both critics and fans alike. People praised them for their animation, excellent writing, fantastic worldbuilding and, yes, how faithful they were to the video games they were based on. So why didn’t critics starts saying either of them broke the “video game curse” then? I mean, if they were good and they were based on video games, shouldn’t they qualify? I guess everyone collectively forgot either about the fact they were video game adaptations or that they were good.

But those are television shows, right? We’re not supposed to take them seriously! Besides, the “video game curse” usually connotates movies, right? Okay, let’s talk about the more recent movie-to-video game adaptations then. Does everyone remember Ugly Sonic and the movie he was supposed to be in? Well, Hollywood actually listened to fans after they made an uproar over his look and delayed the film to redesign Sonic to look more like his video game counterpart. I’m glad they did because I don’t think fans would’ve taken the film as seriously if they kept his old look!

The Sonic the Hedgehog movie did more that just fine in the box office. It made enough money to warrant a sequel. And that sequel made money as well. Not only that, both films were well received by everyone. So, once again, it’s like people forgot that, of all the franchises that are out there, Sonic wasn’t based on a video game. That seems incredibly insulting, considering Sonic is one of the most iconic video game characters of all time.

It’s not only Sonic, though. There’s also Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, which was released a few months before the first Sonic the Hedgehog movie. That movie also garnered some really good reviews as well as make Hollywood a lot of money. So, we already had two really good video game adaptations back-to-back with Pokemon: Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog. Why didn’t people start saying the “video game curse” was broken then? Speaking of Pokemon, remember when the anime took over the world? Okay, it wasn’t exactly the most amazing anime out there but fans love it. In fact kids grew up watching the show and they love it! If something as big as the Pokemon anime can become a cultural phenomenon, why weren’t people saying Pokemon broke the video game curse?

Come to think of it, Japan has been breaking the so-called “video game curse” for years already. Sure, they had their “growing up” period as they did put out trash like Battle Arena Toshinden and Art of Fighting. But they eventually came around. Not only did you have the Pokemon anime, there were others, like animes based on the Persona series, Street Fighter, Professor Layton and Ace Attorney. Even just recently, they put out an anime based on Nier: Automata. I’m not even mentioning the number of movies based on video games like the live-action Ace Attorney film, which you gotta see because it does follow the games very faithfully. They even got the hair right!

So why are so many people stating HBO’s The Last of Us the savior of video game movies when there are already some that should have broken the “video game curse” way before? Well, I can only speculate but I think it’s because The Last of Us already felt like a movie. You could edit a playthrough of the game and make it look like a CGI television series. I believe HBO realized this and did something that Hollywood didn’t think of doing with other video game adaptations. HBO was smart enough to not mess with the story.

They didn’t do weird things like make the Mushroom Kingdom some dystopian steampunk city like in Super Mario Bros. They didn’t change Nathan Drake and Sully’s backstories like in the recent Uncharted live-action movie. They didn’t create some unknown character and make her the main protagonist like in the Resident Evil movies. I actually believe at least one of the higher ups at HBO has played or has seen someone play the game and fell in love with it. And, when the series was greenlit, he or she gave the order to get some of the people behind the game, like Neil Druckman, to help with its production. Which is why Joel and Elle are mostly intact from their transition from video game to TV show. I can expect HBO to do the same with the rest of the characters.

I also believe this has to do with it being more of an adult story. As good as the other movies and television shows are, they’re mostly based on “kid’s games” and not something more mature like The Last of Us. It’s easier to take it much more serious when you don’t have a little blue hedgehog zooming around cracking one-liners or a badass girl with blue haired pale girl shooting oversized guns. The Last of Us is more realistic because the setting is more realistic and the characters are more human, something most video games don’t do.

But, if proclaiming The Last of Us being the adaptation to break the “video game curse” is what it takes for Hollywood to take making their movie and television show adaptations seriously all the time, then so be it. Let it be known that the curse is now forever lifted and Hollywood will start making good movies and television shows based on video games. And good timing, too, because that means the upcoming CGI animated Super Mario Bros. Movie will be good, right?

No backsies, Hollywood!

What are your thoughts on the entire “video game curse” deal? Let me know in the comments section below!

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