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Why Animation Is The Best Way Forward For Video Game Adaptations

Netfix’s new Castlevania series has already proven itself to be another hit for the streaming service, with a second season already ordered. Adapted from the third game, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, the series follows Monster Hunter Trevor Belmont, magician Sypha Benades, and Dracula’s half-human son, Alucard, as the trio set off to defeat the famous vampire. Notably, the series is the first video game adaptation to earn a Fresh rating on popular review site Rotten Tomatoes, with an impressive 90 percent score from critics.

With Nintendo and other gaming giants looking to expand their IPs into other areas of entertainment, animation could be the way to go.

Historically, Animated Adaptations Of Video Games Have Been Much More Successful Than Live-Action Films

The film adaptation of Assassins Creed was once viewed as a potential savior of the live-action video game adaptation. Sadly, the film currently sits at a low 18 percent critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, and did not fair much better among fans of the games, many of whom were sorely disappointed in the way the film turned out. The Tomb Raider and Resident Evil films, while decent performers at the box office, have similarly suffered with fans and critics.

Of course, a discussion of failed video game adaptations would not be complete without mention of the Super Mario Bros. movie, widely considered one of the worst films ever made and deeply despised by its stars. Animated adaptations, usually in the form of a series, often receive a much more positive reception. Older series based on Mario and Sonic The Hedgehog[1] are fondly remembered and loved by fans. Captain N: The Game Master, a series featuring many classic Nintendo characters, was popular enough to inspire a long-running fan-made sequel, in the form of an online comic[2].

Adding to the recent success of [3], Rabbids Invasion, a series based on the Raving Rabbids video games, recently completed a respectable three-season run, and Sonic Boom, the latest series to be based on Sonic The Hedgehog, is going strong at two seasons. While these shows may not always be critical darlings, they have succeeded in winning the hearts of fans, which is ultimately more important for the longevity of a franchise.

Animation Makes It Easier To Portray The More Fantastical Elements In Video Games

The Super Mario Bros. film’s live-action take on characters like the Goombas, Bowser and Yoshi are a perfect example of game-to-film redesigns going horribly wrong.

'Super Mario Bros.' [Credit: Buena Vista Pictures]‘Super Mario Bros.’ [Credit: Buena Vista Pictures]

That, says the film, is a Goomba, ie., the little mushroom creatures that Mario is constantly smooshing. They are supposed to look like this:

[Credit: Nintendo][Credit: Nintendo]

Successfully transferring the characters from one medium to another is another area in which the Mario cartoons of the late ’80s and early ’90s unquestionably succeeded over the live-action film.

For an animated series, the character designs were easily copied almost exactly as they were in the games, with only slight alterations to allow for more fluidity in animating the character’s movements. In the case of Castlevania, animation offers an advantage over animation from a more practical standpoint. In most live-action portrayals of vampires, their fangs remain concealed until they need to use them, and are rarely visible when the character is speaking.

This is because (particularly before the rise of advanced visual effects that could digitally add the fangs later) wearing false fangs could potentially impact an actor’s speech. This was never a problem for the animated Castlevania. In the scene in which Trevor and Sypha first encounter Alucard, his fangs become visible from the moment he speaks, allowing Trevor to quickly identify him as a vampire.

The fangs remain visible throughout the following battle sequence, with Trevor and Alucard constantly heckling each other, but Alucard’s prominent fangs in no way hamper the performance of his voice actor James Callis.

Animated Series Echo The Format Of Most Video Games

Video games often contain huge amounts of content, meant to keep players entertained for long periods of time. As a result of this, another major issue for live-action video game films is their attempt to cram many hours worth of story into a film that will last just over two hours at most. Many side characters and stories are cut, leading to complaints from fans.

Most video games are divided into different missions or levels, similar to the way an animated series is divided into episodes. This makes them the ideal format for adapting the stories of video games. A 20-minute episode is the perfect length to include all the action and narrative of the average mission in a game.

The current episodes of Castlevania are a wonderful example, perfectly adapting Castlevania 3’s first act. With the series now renewed for an extended 8-episode season, Castlevania‘s success is set to only grow. Taking the above evidence into account, it seems animation is definitely the way forward for future video game adaptations.

Check out the trailer for Castlevania here:

What is your favorite animated video game movie?


  1. ^ Sonic The Hedgehog (
  2. ^ long-running fan-made sequel, in the form of an online comic (
  3. ^ (

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