Netflix seems to be infatuated with video game adaptation as of late. The streamer already found success with The Witcher (though the series is technically based on the novels written by Andrzej Sapkowski) and Arcane (based on League of Legends), and Resident Evil and Bioshock projects are in the works. However, it’s a show based on a smaller indie game that is the real jewel in the crown.
Netflix’s best video game adaptation to date is The Cuphead Show. This charming animated series is everything fans of the critically acclaimed game could have wanted.
The Cuphead Show manages to be both respectful to the source material, while also further developing the game’s universe and character. Not to mention, it’s a delightfully fun watch which harkens back to classic Saturday morning cartoons. Let me explain, why The Cuphead Show is such a knockout.
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The Cuphead Show is delightful
The Cuphead Show follows the misadventures of the eponymous hero and his brother Mugman. The pair of humanoid crockery get into all sorts of mischief across the show’s first 12 episode season. Episodes are self-contained (bar a two parter in the middle of the show’s run) and each is only around 10 minutes in length.
While the brevity of episodes did have me initially worried that they would feel rushed, The Cuphead Show feels very reminiscent of classic Disney and Looney Tunes shows. The premise of each episode is fairly straightforward, and the resolution always comes around just as the idea has been stretched as far as it can go.
The Cuphead video game was renowned for its impressive hand-drawn art style which was a loving tribute to the golden age of animation. While The Cuphead Show is clearly animated using more modern computer-based methods, it still manages to capture the look of cartoons from the mid-20th century for the most part. Heck, I'd recommend giving the show a watch just to enjoy in the throwback art style alone.
There’s no denying that the series definitely aims for a younger audience with simplistic storytelling and an abundance of slapstick comedy. Netflix even categorises it as a kids show, but The Cuphead Show still manages to retain some of the more grown elements found in the video game.
For example, the very first episode sees Cuphead and Mugman stumble upon a carnival which is actually a front for The Devil to steal souls of unsuspecting visitors. This is hardly the most appropriate storyline for a children’s show, but it’s essentially a distilled version of the game’s core plot.
The Cuphead Show’s trim length (the entire first season is little more than two hours long) and simplistic storylines definitely won’t appeal to gamers who take themselves too seriously. But, if you’ve got little ones around or are looking for a show that will remind you of cartoons from your youth, The Cuphead Show is an easy recommendation.
Plus, if you do give the show a shot and come away equally as impressed you'll be pleased to know that Netflix has already confirmed more episodes are coming. Another 36 episodes have been commissioned, with the next batch reportedly set to launch in summer 2022.
Why Cuphead is perfect for adaptation
I think another reason The Cuphead Show works so well is that Cuphead itself is a game ripe for conversion into a TV show. This video game adaptation has been able to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that Netflix’s other attempts have fallen into.
Pretty much since they were announced shows like The Witcher and the upcoming live-action Resident Evil series have been plagued by fanboy outrage. Passionate gamers have taken to the internet to complain about everything from casting decisions to small lore inconsistencies. Some of these criticisms have been valid, but as is often the case with the internet a lot of it is just fanboy toxicity.
Thankfully The Cuphead Show has managed to avoid this unsavory element. The game itself boils down to a series of well-designed boss battles tied together by an overworld. This simple structure has allowed the show’s creators to run wild with their own ideas without fear of backlash from furious fanboys.
It's understandable that Netflix wants to adapt the biggest video games out there, they have the most subscriber recognition, but there’s something to be said for taking a less developed gaming world and giving it some additional depth via a new medium. Perhaps we could get a trippy Hotline Miami series next?