5 animated video game movies that didn’t suck

While video game movies are generally horrific by nature, here are five films that escape the terrible video game film curse.


By Jason Yu
Last updated on

I know what you’re thinking just from the title. Video game movies are terrible.

If you share this opinion, no one can blame you.

After all, if you look at the history of video game movies, not only have these films been bad, but universally panned by critics and fans alike. Many of these terrible video game movies, such as the American led Resident Evil series or Dragonball Evolution, rightly give video game movies a horrid reputation.

Movies like Dragonball Evolution further add to the belief that video game films suck.

Movies like Dragonball Evolution further add to the belief that video game films suck.

Movies this bad makes you want to stab your eyes out or pretend you’re not a gamer.

It really takes some serious effort to find video game movies that are actually halfway decent, let alone passable. Yet, there is a sliver of hope. Beneath all the cesspool of ghastly films are unearthed gems.

We’ll be taking a look at some of these gems. Namely, 5 animated video game movies that didn’t suck.

1. Persona 3 Part 1: Spring of Birth (2013)



Related games: Persona 3, Persona 3 FES, Persona 3 PSP
Movie genre: Fantasy, thriller
Game genre: JRPG, dating sim

A brief rundown

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Based off the popular game, Shin Megami Tensei Persona 3 by developer Atlus, the movie upholds the excellence of the famed Japanese role playing (JRPG) series.

The game stars Makoto Yuki, a new high school student in the city. But not all is well in the city.

Evil creatures lurk in the night during a special time called the Dark Hour. This is a space of time that starts at 12:00 am and lasts for an hour. Think of it as the hidden 25th hour of the day. During this time, only certain people can stay awake, while everyone else falls asleep in encased coffins.

Makoto is one of these people that can stay awake during the Dark Hour. While experiencing the Dark Hour, he sees the evil creatures inhabiting the city. They kill anyone still awake during this time.

Gun meet head. You'll be seeing this a lot during the film.

Gun meet head. You’ll be seeing this a lot during the film.

He soon discovers that he and a small group of people can fight back. By shooting themselves in the head with a gun called an evoker, they have the special ability to summon a powerful, magical creature called “personas”. From there, their personas can fight the creatures that haunt the city.

The group soon investigate how the Dark Hour was created, as well as the origins of the evil creatures.

Why you should watch it

The cast of Persona 3 posing inside their dormitories. From left to right: Akihiko, Mitsuru, Junpei, Yukari, and Makoto.

The cast of Persona 3 posing inside their dormitories. From left to right: Akihiko, Mitsuru, Junpei, Yukari, and Makoto.

For movie watchers that have never touched a Persona game, the deep, dark story is the film’s strongest point. First time viewers will also note how much emphasis the film places on character growth and character interaction (known as social links in the game), staples in the JRPG series.

For Persona fans, they’ll feel right at home with the film. Some characters, such as Fuuka and Junpei, only get minor story arcs. Regardless, they’re great to see on the big screen. Two other fan favorites, the dog Kokomaru and the robot Aegis are not present.

It’s also a welcome change to see the protagonist in Persona 3, Makoto Yuki, be given an official name. In the game series, he is not given a name, as the player chooses his name instead.

Persona 3 uses its lighting very well. The film also gives a glimpse of city life in Japan.

Persona 3 uses its lighting very well. The film also gives a glimpse of city life in Japan.

Most of the film takes place in a dark setting. This could have been a difficult film to see. Yet, using the midnight light, the movie has this nice, eerie look, yet keeping the dark feeling.

The movie also retains its hip-hop / jazz soundtrack, which is excellent to say the least. The remixed song “Burn My Dread” (see below) will get stuck in your head in no time.



This film was not intended to be a standalone, as its impossible for one movie to hit all the major details in a 50+ hour JRPG. Spring of Life should be watched with the other two sequels, Midsummer Knight’s Dream and Falling Down, to experience the full Persona 3 story.

2. Final Fantasy VII Advent Children (2005)



Related games: Final Fantasy VII
Movie genre: Sci-fi, action
Game genre: JRPG

A brief rundown

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Set two years after the events of Final Fantasy VII, the world is recovering from destruction. Just two years earlier, a former soldier named Cloud and his group defeated the villain Sephiroth after Sephiroth tried to absorb the Lifestream, the life and soul of the planet.

Yet, the long haired, evil villain wouldn’t go down without a fight. Using a powerful spell called Meteor, Sephiroth obliterated the city of Midgar.

Fast forward to present time. Cloud decides to leave his friends and isolate himself from the world. Yet, he soon receives a phone call from the Shinra Company’s president, Rufus Shinra.

Shinra tells the sword-wielding hero that three people are attempting to revive Sephiroth and wants Cloud’s help to stop them.

Why you should watch it

Cloud and his huge sword.

Cloud and his huge sword.

If you watched the first Final Fantasy film back in 2001, The Spirits Within, you may have had a bitter taste in your mouth. After all, while the 2001 film had gorgeous graphics, especially for its time, the story and characters were flat and devoid of any emotion.

Final Fantasy VII Advent Children redeemed the first Final Fantasy VII film.

Now a quick disclaimer. If you’ve never played Final Fantasy VII (FF VII), this film won’t draw you in.

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Tifa is ready to fight!

This film is made for the FF VII fans that experienced and grew up with the game. The movie will expect you to know the ending of FF VII, the main characters, and even the side characters, such as the Turks.

The first half of the film introduces the characters, shows the state of the world, and sets the overall environment. The second half of the movie is why the movie fits in the action genre. The movie is non-stop fighting and is the highlight of the film for many fans.

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Two members from the Turks doing their pose. Rude looking cool with his sunglasses, while Reno sports the red hair.

With the December 2015 announcement of the FF VII remake on the Playstation 4, FF VII newcomers will have a second chance to play the game in the future.

The weakest part of the movie is the story. If you can put the story aside, everything else will quickly remind you why the game is hailed as a classic. The environment, beautiful graphics, voiced characters, and music will make you want to relive the original FF VII again.

And after you’re done replaying FF VII, here’s the remake to look forward to.



3. Clannad the Movie (2007)



Related games: Clannad (visual novel), Clannad: After Story (TV animated series)
Movie genre: fantasy, drama
Game genre: fantasy, drama

A brief rundown

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Third-year high school student Tomoya Okazaki just goes through the daily motions and finds life dull. Back in his happier years, he played basketball often and lived as a kid. But with his father working the night shift and his mother passing away, Tomoya feels like is meaningless.

He loathes going to high school. Him and his friend, Sunohara, both skip school and plan to waste the rest of their high school days away.

Until, that is, he meets a sickly girl named Nagisa Furukawa. Nagisa is repeating her last year of high school due to her illness. Unlike Tomoya, despite her struggles, she actually likes school and cherishes her time doing her studies.

As Tomoya starts spending more time with Nagisa, she helps Tomoya slowly turn around his life and appreciate school again.

Why you should watch it

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There’s a high probability that watching Clannad will make you cry.

If you haven’t seen Clannad yet, you’re missing out. If you want a touching, sad story about friendship, romance, and appreciating life, you can’t go wrong with this film. You’ll most likely shed a tear and ask yourself “what am I doing with my life” at the film’s conclusion.

In fact, many fans of Clannad feel the same. After all, the visual novel and anime series, After Story, are considered some of the best animated dramas of all time.

For fans of the visual novel and animated series, many of them dislike some the changes in the film from the visual novel and animated series. It is true the film has some changes in the characters, plot, and even the ending.

The vibrant colors of the movie.

The vibrant colors of the movie.

Yet, I would argue the producers did very well in taking the 10+ hour After Story series and condensing it in 90 minutes.

The main strength in both the visual novel and animated series are its incredible length. Like a Japanese RPG, both require the viewer to invest a lot of time and grow with the characters. But with the film, an hour and a half isn’t enough to fully flesh out the characters.

Whether you watch the film, play the visual novel, or marathon the anime series, the core values of friendship, romance, and appreciating life are present in all three mediums.

4. Street Fighter II the Animated Movie (1996)



Related games: Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior
Movie genre: action, martial arts
Game genre: competitive fighting game

A brief rundown

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A fight between Japanese martial artist Ryu and Muay Thai champion Sagat goes back and forth. Ryu then unleashes a Shoryuken, a fierce dragon punch that severely scars Sagat across the chest.

Sagat, badly wounded, charges towards Ryu in a rage. In response, Ryu fires a Hadouken, ending the epic battle without a conclusion.

The leader of the evil mastermind Shadowlaw, Bison, hears about the Ryu-Sagat showdown and seeks Ryu. Ryu is known as the greatest world figher. Bison wants to employ him in his evil organization.

However, Ryu lives up to his “wandering warrior” reputation and is nowhere to be found. Bison, unable to locate Ryu, finds Ryu’s friend, Ken Masters, from the US instead. Both Ken and Ryu studied under the same master when they trained together.

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I’d hate to be on the other end of Ryu’s fireball.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, US army major, Guile, and Chun Li from China team up and plan to end Bison’s evil organization. The fates of Ryu, Ken, Guile, Chun Li, and Bison would soon intersect with one another.

Why you should watch it

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Simple. It’s a great video game movie film.

It’s been about 20 years since it’s 1994 Japan release and Street Fighter II the Animated Movie still holds up as one of the greatest video game films.

Whether you’re into the fighting game community (FGC), a 90’s kid that pumped quarters into the arcade machine, or a non-gamer, the movie is great to watch.

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Ken and Ryu star in the film.

One interesting thing to note about the movie is how it portrays more real life martial arts. Special moves, like the Hadouken, Shoryuken, and Sonic Boom are rarely used.

The fight scenes are also well done and epic. They’ll have you on the edge of your seat. Whether it’s the battles between Chun Li against Vega or the tag team of Ryu and Ken versus Bison, the fights are epic.

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Chun Li and Vega face off against each other.

The movie is also streamlined and works better because of it. Rather than focus on the 12 characters from Super Street Fighter 2, the film focuses on five: Ryu, Ken, Guile, Chun Li, and Bison.

Watching this movie will make you want to replay old-school Street Fighter 2 in an age before EX super moves, super combos, and focus attacks.

5. Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva (2009)



Related games: Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Movie genre: puzzle, mystery
Game genre: puzzle

A brief rundown

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After the events of Professor Layton and the Curious Village, puzzle master Professor Layton meets up with his apprentice, Luke Triton. They reminisce about their adventures three years ago.

Layton is then invited by his former student, Janice Quatlane, to watch her perform at the Opera later that night. Janice tells Layton that her friend Melina died one year ago.

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Janice Quatlane performs in the opera.

Yet, she returned later as a seven year old girl saying she had found the secret of eternal life. She further proclaimed that she knew everything that only the true Melina would know. This would foreshadow later events.

That night, Layton attends Janice’s play, where the theme is about immortality. After the play is finished, a masked men suddenly appears.

prof-layton-2

He proposes to the audience: “Let’s play a game.” He continues, “The winner, will have eternal life. The losers, will have to die.”

To save everyone, as well as solve the secret of eternal life, Layton and Luke decide to play the masked man’s game.

Why you should watch it

prof-layton-4

If you liked the Professor Layton games, this film follows the gaming series very faithfully. The game’s setting and puzzles that everybody loves are in the game.

As with many other video game to Japanese animated films, the Professor Layton film caters first to its hardcore fans. From the silly unbelievable, but fun story, to hearing the familiar “hint coin” sound and music from the game, fans of the series will feel right at home.

prof-layton-5

But if you’re new to the series, the film is still enjoyable. Fans of anime, especially, will get a kick out of watching the movie.

If there’s one thing about the film that’s was either mistranslated or just off, it was the bad jokes. Throughout the movie, there are many jokes abound, with many of them falling off target.

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The Professor Layton gang. Photo credits: thegeesfan

However, the main story, thankfully, is a lot better.

While the film starts off a little slow at first, it doesn’t take long for the movie’s plot to get rolling. The pressure of Professor Layton and Luke trying to find the culprit before more people die will engage you soon after. And the ending is perhaps one of the animated film’s strong points.

Two video game movies that did not make it

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Inazuma Eleven is a great, fun sports-RPG. Unfortunately, the author did not watch its film counterpart in time for this post.

There are two video game films that, unfortunately, did not make it in this review, but for different reasons.

One film that could have made it into the review, but I did not watch just yet was Inazuma Eleven. If the film is good, expect to see a positive review on it in the future.

Another film that I did watch and is very popular, but was not in the list is the first Pokemon movie. As a fan of Pokemon, it was tempting to add the film in the list. But unlike the highly addictive and awesome video game counterpart, the film does not hold up.

Between the film’s fluff, flow problems, and weak story, there was no way it could be considered even a decent film. Sorry Pokemon fans.

The animated video game movies list

To recap, here are the films that didn’t suck.

What’s your take?

We’d like to hear what animated video game movies you’d consider to be good. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be great, just not suck. Since we’re talking about video game movies and the countless ones that have bombed, we know the bar is set low.

Let us know in the comments below.


About the Author

Jason Yu

Twitter

Jason is all about Asian films, as he especially likes the horror, thriller, crime, and war genres. For some odd reason, he likes bad movies too. When he's not watching Asian movies, he's playing video games or working in the Korean music industry as media in Seoul, Korea. If you're interested in Korean music, check out his other site at Popsori.

  • tippy

    Where is the [email protected] movie or the Animal Crossing one? They were both amazing. Well the [email protected] one was better but than the Animal Crossing movie but still..