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The Best Films with Gaming Elements

Games and movies have a lot in common. But what happens when you take the best elements of both gaming and filmmaking and put them together? You get some of the most unique, heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat films ever made.

Where Cinema and Gaming Overlap

In recent years, we’ve seen an influx of films directly adapted from video games. However, other filmmakers are more interested in incorporating different aspects of the gaming world.

On the one hand, some films incorporate high-tech visual elements to give the film a video game feel. Many directors use computer-generated graphics to create realistic environments or characters. Others go for a more nostalgic tone and animate parts of the film in a charming 8-bit fashion.

On the other hand, some films borrow unorthodox storytelling from video games, with the most common narrative structure being the branching story. When a character makes a decision, they follow a particular branch that leads to an ending. To boost the replayability of a game, developers entertain other possible choices to make multiple endings.

Filmmakers have borrowed these techniques to make some pretty provocative and daring films. Here are some of the best examples of where cinema and gaming come together.

 

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Scott Pilgrim vs The World uses gaming logic and visuals to tell the story of a young man who must defeat seven evil exes in order to win the heart of his true love, Ramona Flowers.

The film was directed by Edgar Wright, known for his fast-paced rhythm in cult classics like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Talking about video games, in particular, Wright does an excellent job of breaking his films into “bosses.” Each segment has a boss which the protagonist must defeat, giving his films their iconic rhythm.

Scott Pilgrim was a critical and commercial success and has since become a cult classic like Wright’s other films. It received praise for its direction, acting, writing, humour, visuals, and soundtrack. Months after its release, it even got its own video game!

Everything Everywhere All at Once

Named one of the best films of 2022 so far, Everything Everywhere All at Once takes multiple endings and final bosses to the next level.

Evelyn, a laundromat owner and mother, gets slammed with an audit and divorce papers simultaneously. At the IRS office, a second version of her husband interrupts the appointment and puts her on a mission to defeat the great evil of the universe.

Before she knows it, Evelyn is traveling across the multiverse, gaining abilities to defeat her final boss. The film uses quantum theory to frame much of the action, making for some hilarious, heartfelt moments.

 

Run Lola Run

Run Lola Run is perhaps one of the most iconic titles on this list. At the film’s beginning, Lola’s phone rings and her boyfriend gives her a mission: to save his life in 20 minutes. Suddenly, she’s been challenged to beat all the odds as she races against the clock.

Along the way, Lola encounters obstacles and has to make split-second decisions. The film is one giant video game, complete with a time limit, challenges, and a high-stakes goal.

Often, Lola fails at her missions, but instead of the film ending, the clock flies backwards, and Lola gets another try. The film, like many video games, explores different narrative branches, all with their unique challenges and outcomes.

In one of these story branches, Lola has to play a game of roulette. She places her bet on the wheel and watches tensely as it spins. Roulette has 37 or 38 outcomes, depending on the variation, leaving viewers at the edge of their seats as they wait for the ball to land.

Run Lola Run takes twists and turns at high speed, making it one of the most video game-like films in cinematic history.

 

Snowpiercer

From the director of Parasite, Bong Joon-ho, Snowpiercer takes viewers on a wild ride that combines the surreal with the post-apocalyptic. The film takes place on a train filled with people who are the only survivors of a global ice age. The passengers are divided into classes, with the rich living in the front and the poor in the back.

When some of the poor people stage a revolt, they must fight their way through the train to reach the engine, which they believe holds the key to saving humanity.

Each carriage represents a level, and as the protagonists advance further down the train, they find their mission becoming more and more challenging. What’s more, as the protagonist navigates his mission, he finds clues and loot that give him the ability to move forward.

 

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