Rampage may have started out as a classic arcade cabinet, but thanks to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, it's now one of the few video games to be adapted into a financially successful feature film. And in a few years, it might not be alone. Arcade games are among the few properties Hollywood hasn't licensed en masse, and there are countless movies that such games could inspire. If you enjoyed Rampage this year, imagine visiting theaters in 2020 to see a theatrical version of one of these retro favorites.
Credit: Warner Bros.
How has there not been a movie of Gauntlet yet? This classic hack-and-slash arcade game features a Warrior, a Wizard, an Elf and a Valkyrie who loot — and escape — various deadly dungeons. Along the way, they are pursued by a literal, physical manifestation of Death, who is immensely difficult to defeat. I’m not sure you even need screenwriters to generate a plot at this point. Just take the Mad Max: Fury Road approach and have these four heroes raid tombs and fight monsters for 2 hours straight. The End.
Battlezone didn't have a story to speak of, and its gameplay was basic compared to the arcade games that followed. But it was highly popular in its day, rivaled only by Pac-Man, and Hollywood has greenlit successful films on less. Thankfully, the gameplay itself might tease at an interesting story. The player is a lone tank operator in a hostile, possibly alien environment, who must survive against both enemy tanks and the occasional UFO. If Battlezone were the story of a soldier — or a full tank crew — trying to escape enemy territory on an alien planet? That could make for a thrilling movie.
Pac-Man was one of the most popular arcade cabinets of all time, and marked a significant turning point in the history of video games. Yet for some reason, the closest Pac-Man has come to his own feature film was an appearance in the tragically disappointing Pixels. That cannot stand. Unfortunately, coming up with a full-length film story requires some creative license. But if the Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures cartoon can generate three full seasons of Pac-Man fighting threats from the Netherworld, it's possible for a Pac-Man movie to pull off something similar. Can we put Pixar on this one?
Shinobi was an instant smash hit of the arcade era, quickly making the leap to home consoles and spawning an entire franchise. Better still: It’s all about ninjas who fight terrorists, and the occasional supernatural threat. How is it not a movie already? The arcade version follows Joe Musashi: a modern-day ninja on a quest to rescue the students of his clan. Borrow a few elements from later sequels, like an estranged son and a faithful ninja dog, and you'll have more than enough material to fill theater seats.
OK, War Gods wasn't an especially good game. But this forgotten arcade game from the studio behind Mortal Kombat did have potential. In War Gods' distant past, asteroids carrying a magical substance dubbed Ore fell to Earth. Over the course of human history, rare individuals would discover an Ore deposit and be transformed into god-like beings. By modern times, these gods have learned of each other's existence, and enter a great conflict to secure the remaining Ore for themselves. Supernatural battles between gifted individuals from across history has a nice ring to it, wouldn't you say?
Space Invaders remains a historic achievement as one of the first prominent arcade games, not to mention one of the first shooters ever developed. It has been referenced and parodied across countless films, TV shows and other games, so why not give Space Invaders a motion picture of its own? The game follows one or two players who defend their location from descending alien forces using laser cannons. It's simple, effective and compelling enough that Star Trek producer Akiva Goldsman announced he would produce a film version back in 2014. After 40 years, let's hope it lives up to the hype!
Unlike most games on this list, a Centipede movie actually is in the works, thanks to a deal between Atari and Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films. What exactly that film will look like is anyone's guess, since the game has no plot to speak of. The original arcade title bears some resemblance to Space Invaders, but instead of fighting alien ships, you must destroy centipedes that crawl down the screen toward your player. So … sci-fi horror perhaps? Whatever genre we end up with, the result should be fascinating to watch.