Straight-up video game adaptations are rarely considered to be cinematic classics, with many of them not quite hitting the mark.
Upcoming, Easter egg-laden extravaganza Ready Player One is directed by Steven Spielberg and is not based on a pre-existing video game. But boy, does it look like everything you want from the genre.
Set against a dystopian future background, Ready Player One follows young gamer Wade Watts (Tye Sherdian) as he enters the virtual reality world of the OASIS. He’s in a race against time to find the hidden prize that will win him deceased creator James Halliday’s (Mark Rylance) fortune.
Adapted from Ernest Cline’s novel, Ready Player One owes a lot to the influence of the gaming world. The trailers feature glimpses of many familiar gaming characters, hailing from online multiplayer shoot-em-up Overwatch to beloved arcade classic Street Fighter.
Ready Player One isn't the only big screen adventure to take inspiration from video games without necessarily being based on one. Let's strap on our VR goggles and explore a few others...
1. The Matrix (1999)
Widely considered a science fiction classic, The Matrix has a lot of clear influences from Japanese anime to beard-stroking philosophy. Plus, there’s a whole load of video game worship.
The Matrix is the story of a virtual reality dream world that shields its users from the nightmarish realities of real life. Subsequently, when they’re jacked into the Matrix, hero Neo (Keanu Reeves) and his team are imbued with the kinds of abilities we’d expect from our favourite console games.
The fight scenes in particular owe a lot to the combat mechanics from platform games, with the merger of kung fu-style fisticuffs with impossible physical feats. Add in the once-unique bullet-time effect, along with the ample amounts of super slow motion and freeze frames that have been a trope of arcade games for so many years, and you’d be forgiven for trying to reach for a controller.
Not to mention, Neo undergoes literal tutorials for about half the film… Suddenly the gaming influence becomes even more obvious.
2. Crank (2006)
One of Jason ‘The Stath’ Statham’s finest outings is 2006’s balls-to-the-wall actioner, Crank. Beginning with an 8-bit arcade-style title sequence, followed by a first person viewpoint and a plot outlined in conveniently displayed text form, Crank’s video game influences are shameless.
The film is in constant forward motion. Fist-fights, car chases and shootouts are littered throughout our anti-hero Chev Chelios’ day, as he strives to keep his adrenaline flowing and stay alive in the process. The anarchic Crank is as close to an open-world, Grand Theft Auto-style movie experience as we’re ever likely to get.
3. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Directed by Edgar Wright, Scott Pilgrim is a love letter to video games and all that they encompass. The story is centered on Michael Cera’s titular weedy nerd and his quest for the affections of quirky bad-girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
The catch? In order to win her heart, Scott has to go from boss battle to boss battle as he must dispatch each one of Ramona’s seven evil exes.
Featuring a variety of different hand-to-hand and weapon-wielding fight scenes, as well as all the crazy noises any arcade gamer will be familiar with, Scott Pilgrim is a charmingly simple story with enough video game Easter eggs to rival the Ready Player One trailers we’ve had so far.
4. Sucker Punch (2011)
Directed by visual stylist Zack Snyder, Sucker Punch is a film with video game inspiration emanating from every pore.
When a young girl is institutionalised by her abusive stepfather, she escapes the horrors of her reality by escaping into an alternate one that happens to look like a video game lover’s dream.
From its use of swords and larger-than-life guns to the overblown action-packed battles with giant mecha and quests for magical totems, Sucker Punch wears its video game influences unashamedly on its sleeve.
All of it is coated in that signature Zack Snyder splendour, akin to watching a video game unfold, but with a neat, character-driven, psychological twist.
5. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Tom Cruise and Doug Liman’s sci-fi action movie Edge of Tomorrow focuses around a well-known video game staple: that of the respawn, as our leading man Major William Cage is killed over and over in battle, each time mysteriously restarting the day.
Cage essentially has his own real-life save point, which comes in damn handy when fighting an onslaught of extra-terrestrial invaders. With each new day, Cage’s talent for mech-assisted murder improves more and more as he is now able to perform better with each new day.
Though the film garnered a lot of comparisons to beloved Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow is instead every gamer’s struggle put up on the big screen.
Jon Fuge is an Unlimited card holder who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.