The History of Video Game Movies (Part 1: The 1990s)
Video games have been made into movies for almost three decades now. In this article, I’m going to talk about the very earliest examples.
Before getting into the first live action video games movies of the early 1990s, I’d like to mention what is apparently the first adaptation of a video game into film.
I’m referring to a somewhat obscure animated version of Super Mario Bros. released in 1986 (one year after the original NES game). It was called Super Mario Bros.: Peach-Hime Kyushutsu Dai Sakusen! and directed by Masami Hata.
They never released it outside of Japan or dubbed it into any other language. The English translation of the title is “The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach.” This would be the first of many anime versions of video games.
The anime is kind of “meta” in a way as the plot involves Mario and Luigi getting stuck in a Famicom game.
The first live action adaptation of a video game was also based on Super Mario Bros. The film of the same name came out in 1993 and is one of the most infamous movies of all-time. It was a huge disaster both commercially and with critics and is often mentioned as one of the worst movies ever. Super Mario Bros. only made $21 million back out of its $48 million budget.
It was so bad that it seems to have scared Nintendo off making any movies based on their properties. There has not been a live action TV or film version of a Nintendo series since.
The film was directed by husband and wife team Annabel Jenkel and Rocky Morton, who were known for creating the Max Headroom TV show, but not much else.
Bob Hoskins starred as Mario and John Leguizamo played Luigi. They were referred to in the movie as “Mario Mario” and “Luigi Mario” due to them being known as the “Mario Bros.” This is somewhat logical, but I believe this has never been the case in any of the games.
Dennis Hopper played a version of Mario’s arch-nemesis Bowser, but he was called King Koopa as he was in some of the cartoons. The role was also offered to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Keaton.
Bowser looks totally different from the games, as he is basically a reptilian-looking human instead of a creature that is clearly of a different species. Yoshi is also much more realistic and looks nothing like the original character.