The release of Arcane by Riot Games and Fortiche Productions combatted the stigma that video game adaptations will inevitably fail. The incredible animation in tandem with the exceptional writing brought the League of Legends property to new audiences. Proving the potential of gaming IPs in a different medium, it got me thinking of what could possibly follow. I began wondering about video games that should be animated like Arcane.
When considering what worked for the League of Legends adaptation, I pinpointed a few of the series’ strengths. In addition to high-quality animation, it also knew how to visually present its story in unique ways. It also had a deep well of lore to draw from, without simply adapting the game’s established narrative. It knew it couldn’t recapture the essence of the gameplay. So instead, the animation focused on its own strengths and told a story the game itself could not.
Initially, I wasn’t certain whether this would be an appropriate fit for the list. Netflix is already working on a live-action series based on the Ubisoft title. Additionally, the historical realism and visuals might not translate as well as something more cartoonish like Arcane. However, I soon realised there would be no harm in drastically altering the visuals, perhaps with an anime art style.
On the other hand, the style that I think would be most fitting is the art used for Assassin’s Creed Chronicles. The game incorporated unique stylistic choices for each region in the game, varying geographically and historically. From 16th Century China to 19th Century India and Soviet Russia. It reminds me slightly of the visuals for the upcoming Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Each universe has its own unique flavouring of presentation, which I see the equal potential for with Assassin’s Creed.
When selecting games that should be animated like Arcane, it’s important to consider the available lore. The historical series about Assassins vs Templars has a wealth of stories outside of the mainline games. Fans don’t want to see an animated adaptation of the Ezio Trilogy for example. Those stories have already been covered, and a series would likely only provide an abridged version. But the series has always used the entirety of history as its playground. It would be a simple matter to create an entirely unique story in a setting previously unseen. This wouldn’t require it to be isolated from references to the games. Rather, it would stop the series from trying to recreate stories that video games simply have more time to tell.
When considering stories with already impressive visuals ripe for an adaptation, Hades immediately sprung to mind. The roguelike from Supergiant Games made the most of the limited camera to create a truly impressive-looking title. From each individual area of the Underworld to the colourful cast of characters, it’s a treat for the eyes. It could also likely be adapted into either 2D or 3D, as the game often takes advantage of both styles.
The reason I’d like to see such a series given the Arcane treatment is due to the game’s own limitations. The indie game made the most of its limited camera, but even so, most of the interactions are quite static. The game’s impressively large script is conveyed by some stellar voice acting, but with almost no animation. What I would give to see those interactions up close and with some more expressive visuals. The story itself is already beloved, as the game was the first in history to win a Hugo Award in 2021.
However, it would be difficult to adapt the series without a fixed focus on the original narrative. Hades feels like a one-shot. A prequel or sequel would be very difficult to pull off without prior knowledge of the game. Games that should be animated like Arcane should similarly be able to standalone. In the case of Zagreus’ tale, it would be better to retell than deviate, but with a focus on presentation. Perhaps the rooms of the Underworld could change drastically each episode. Similarly, all of the unique character exchanges could be acted out with more body language and environmental interactions. I’m imagining a blend between slice of life and thrilling action.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
If you need proof the concept could work, look no further than Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The franchise actually has quite the history with animation, with Star Wars: Rebels continuing the story after Order 66. The shows expanded upon and provided greater insight into the aspects of the films merely hinted at. As such, I believe the time of the Old Republic and its lore would be a perfect inspiration.
When I mention the Bioware games, fans might immediately consider an animated version of the Knights of the Old Republic. I don’t believe this would be the best avenue for an adaptation to take. The story was told well enough in the games due to being a very narrative-focused title. Additionally, the game’s big twist is widely known at this point, which would sap the tension from the series. It should also be considered that the Knights of the Old Republic Remake is currently in development. As such, that particular story could become oversaturated within the fandom.
Games that should be animated like Arcane would benefit most from rich lore that’s not too dependent on existing stories. For this reason, looking towards the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic would provide a more flexible source of inspiration. The game contains a variety of branching stories, but it’s the setting and characters that would be the greatest asset. Much like with the events of the Clone Wars, I can picture an anthology series exploring the Old Republic. Given that MMOs can be daunting for some players to approach, it would be a more accessible gateway for fans.
The Elder Scrolls
Just as with many of the previous entries on this list, The Elder Scrolls is a franchise overflowing with lore. There are perhaps entire books within Skyrim alone that could be the basis of a full-length show. And similar to the above-mentioned Star Wars: The Old Republic, it was actually an MMO that influenced this decision. Playing The Elder Scrolls Online made me realise how vast and dense the world of Tamriel is. With each country having such a distinctive look, it feels like a show that would never bore the eyes.
As far as the story goes, I would once again steer away from adapting the events of any one game. The games are designed with exploration and detours in mind. As such, Skyrim in particular feels like it would have a rather shallow or unfocused tale. Even so, the worlds themselves are so filled with side-content and mysteries that they could easily form their own stories. Overall, it would be better to construct an entirely unique adventure using the already established history of the world.
As for the visuals, this was the hardest thing to imagine. Games that should be animated like Arcane need a visually iconic style. The issue with The Elder Scrolls is its design fluctuates regularly between entries. Oblivion has not aged well, and Skyrim is sort of dull to look at. The Elder Scrolls Online has a more cartoonish look that might serve better as a starting point. Regardless, I believe animation would work best for the series when considering its most surreal elements. The complex labyrinths of the Dwemer; the unnatural domains of the Daedra. Some of the most memorable moments I imagine would not be done justice in live-action.
I believe Bloodborne has the potential to be the most unique entry on this list. Not only does the source material stand out, but also the ways in which it could be adapted. When I thought about adding it to the list, it was the visuals first and foremost that influenced that decision. The Lovecraftian imagery used to convey the Hunter’s Nightmare is haunting yet compelling. It truly captures the allure of seeking out answers in spite of the maddening consequences. It’s a world that instantly draws in suspicious eyes.
The issue with the game’s presentation is the immovable design habits of FromSoftware’s games. While the world design is engrossing, the animations for NPC dialogue are fairly low effort. As with games like Dark Souls, the effort was directed towards the animations of attacking enemies. But when talking to characters in the game, there is next to no movement. No changes in expression, barely so much as a hand gesture. It’s awkwardly stiff, like a scene containing nothing but mannequins. A TV show could fix that issue with more expressive exchanges between characters, making the world feel more real.
Games that should be animated like Arcane need to bring their iconic stories to new audiences. Many fans who never would have touched League of Legends are now engrossed because of the show. Similarly, Bloodborne is a challenging game that can be off-putting for some gamers. A show could make for an easy entry into the series. Additionally, it could shine a deliberate spotlight on the cryptic aspects of the game’s storytelling. I can even see it just being a series of shorts, with a completely silent protagonist. It’s a property that is perfect for visual storytelling.
Games That Should Be Animated Like Arcane
There are many more games outside of the ones I mentioned that are perfect for adaptations. For example, some might observe the lack of anime games on this list. That was a conscious decision based on the rather common outcome of anime tie-in games. These often suffer from the same issue as other video game adaptations, with the story being an abridged version. Look no further than Persona 5: The Animation for an example. For me, I made my decisions based on whether there was enough standalone lore or gripping visuals. These were merely some of the most striking examples that came to mind. However, perhaps it would be better if the next Arcane was something quite unexpected. After all, I’d never played League of Legends, and thus the show was the most pleasant surprise I could have asked for.