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Do Video Games Make Good Movies And TV Shows?

Microsoft has announced plans to make a television series — helmed by no less than Steven Spielberg — of the “Halo” video game franchise. One of the best-selling series of all time, it’s long been considered ripe for adaptation.

Indeed, while many films and television shows spin off video games, it’s also common for successful video game franchises to spin off media in the other direction. I looked at the 1,000 top-selling video games on VGChartz, a database of video-game sales figures, and grouped them by franchise to estimate the ranking of the most successful franchises of all time (the results were consistent with other resources). I then popped off the top 20 franchises and looked at how many had spun off television shows or movies.

Note: There have obviously been a few “Star Wars” movies. However, none of the programs in the “Star Wars” franchise was based off a video game, and that was our requirement.


It’s also worth saying that not only are all of these movies fantastic [Ed. note: They are terrible], they tended, with some distinct exceptions — “Super Mario Bros.” — to do well at the box office. According to Box Office Mojo, the “Resident Evil” movies have cumulatively made $915.9 million worldwide, the first five of 16 “Pokémon” films made $414.9 million worldwide, and the franchises are still going strong.

Eleven of the top 20 franchises were spun off or are developing derivative films or TV shows. Of the nine that didn’t, two were sports franchises, one is based on a toy that resulted in a film, and one is “Star Wars.” Another is “Tetris,” which, understandably, is difficult to cast. Claims of being “in development” should also be taken with grain of salt, as video game films are somewhat known for their extended stays in “development hell.”

So, “Halo” joins an interesting club of franchises that, to varying degrees of success, have jumped from the console to the big screen, or at least a VCR.

Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.