5. Indie Game: The Movie
This documentary follows the development and release of Super Meat Boy, Braid, and Fez while also profiling their respective creators. While the warts-and-all portrayal of many of the people spotlighted in the movie don’t cast them in the most appealing light–and unfortunately syncs up with some (but certainly not all) of my personal experiences with game developers–it’s still a fascinating film and a must-watch for anyone who has ever worked on a game, has wanted to work on a game, or is simply interested in some of the inside baseball of the video game industry. Or if you just like seeing Phil Fish get angry.
4. Wreck-It Ralph
When the trailer for a movie opens with a video game villain support group featuring Bowser, Dr. Robotnik, M. Bison, and a Pac-Man ghost, you’d have to be dead inside not to immediately start counting the days until that movie comes out. Sure, Wreck-It Ralph could’ve still been a disappointment and all of the cameos and references could’ve easily began and ended in that one scene. But as it turns out it is a hilarious, heart-warming, and reference-packed tribute to the magic and wonder of video games for both the kids of today and the gamer kids of the 80’s and 90’s trapped inside us old farts. It also spawned a fun little mobile and browser game that plays almost like reverse Rampage.
3. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie
There are few more illustrative examples of how much video games were respected in the U.S. vs Japan in 1994 than in the differences between the two Street Fighter movies released that year. We got the ridiculous live-action movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as Guile with Ryu and Ken as throwaway background characters. Japan got this dark, gritty, and thrilling anime. Also, in an era where even a Mortal Kombat movie couldn’t get an R rating, SFII: TAM featured swearing, blood, Chun-Li’s bare breasts, and absolutely brutal fighting that left several core SF characters dead or close to it. In addition to a great story that knows which characters to spotlight and which to only gloss over–while treating them all with respect and reverence–the movie contains some of the best animated fight scenes in movie history and is a legitimately great anime beyond being a video game-based one.
2. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Yep, another documentary on this list, only this one is just as entertaining to non-gamers as it is to diehards. The King of Kong is about a man named Steve Weibe who is training to beat the current world record high score in Donkey Kong. So what is compelling about that? The guy who holds the record is Billy Mitchell, who is as famous for his amazing feats in classic arcade games as he is infamous for his arrogant persona and troll-bating interview soundbites (for example, he has called himself the “Gamer of the Century”). The David and Goliath battle between these two men is as dramatic and absurd as the various other characters who make up the strange world of video game record setting and keeping, but it also completely enthralling from start to finish.
1. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
“Hey, wait a minute! That’s based on a comic book!” Yes it is, a comic book that serves as one giant love letter to video games and the people who play them, and the movie upholds that tradition flawlessly. Besides, are you really going to question whether or not a movie can be considered a “video game movie” when it contains boss fights, people that explode into coins when killed, on-screen score tallies, more references than you could possibly catch in one viewing, and a dream sequence scored to “Zelda’s Lullaby?” It’s the kind of movie you dreamed of watching and/or making when you were 10 years old, only way smarter and funnier than your movie would’ve been. There is a band in the movie named “Clash at Demonhead”–that’s how niche many of the references are. This is a movie made by gamers, for gamers, but also one that anyone who doesn’t hate fun can–and should–love. I know it’s cool nowadays to be a fun hater, but don’t be that guy. Just watch this movie and don’t fight the smile that will invade your face throughout the entire thing if you let it.
So what did we learn today? That for the most part, movies about games are better than movies based on games. Speaking of which, Joysticks just missed this list, I promise.