Video game adaptations usually suck. You know it. I know it. But you know what isn’t common enough? Other media being turned into a full-blown RPG. So, as a group, we decided to take a look at some of our favorite art in other mediums and talk about what our dream adaptations would be. What if David Lynch made an RPG? What if the greatest anime of all time got turned into something that we could actually play over here?
This idea isn’t original to me, or many people on staff. Mike Sollosi and the crew over at Retro Encounter just posted not their first, but their third different take on this idea. Check out our choices below, and be sure to go give Retro Encounter a listen, too!
Intro by Zach Wilkerson
by Abraham Kobylanski
It’s not that Fullmetal Alchemist games don’t exist. But I didn’t play those PS2 games, and based on the reviews, they’re probably not worth a remaster or re-release. On the other hand, perhaps more care and borrowing ideas from some modern games could yield a game that feels like it belongs as an essential chapter of the classic anime and manga.
A new Fullmetal Alchemist RPG would follow an original story, based on further adventures of the state alchemists, involving Ed and Al Elric, Roy Mustang, Hawkeye, and the rest of the crew. Or if we’re feeling wild, it could be a prequel following Von Hohenheim.
In terms of genre, there’d be options. Breath of the Wild shows how much possibility exists through creative use of the environment. With the alchemists’ ability to transmute items out of their surroundings, imagine the creative, dynamic attacks players could put together in a sandbox like that. But with the militaristic theme and the characters’ abilities, a tactical RPG could make for interesting possibilities, too. An Atelier-style alchemy system would be included. Mini-games involving an Armstrong muscle-flexing contest and Al trying to keep a cat hidden inside his armor also would be necessary. Writer Hiromu Arakawa’s pen would be a must for an authentic story. While she’s here, let’s do a Silver Spoon game in a Persona-meets-Harvest Moon high school/farming sim, too!
The Muppet Show
by Adam Arter
The Muppet Show in its original form is undeniably iconic. The colorful puppet creations of the Jim Henson Company are fascinating artifacts of creative design, full of character and charm. Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, and the rest of the core Muppets crew are also composed of classic character archetypes that, with clever writing, would transfer excellently into a JRPG party.
Much of The Muppet Show itself focused on the meta-comedic foibles of putting on a show. Therefore, a hypothetical Muppet RPG would include “backstage” social link and time management gameplay much like Persona, focused on keeping the show running and ensuring all the Muppets are on top form for the next performance.
This could be interspersed with more traditional dungeon crawling that would allow you to raise your Muppet party’s various “showmanship” stats to battle against abstract concepts like fear and self-doubt to make each of the Muppets more confident performers. At that point, all it would need is a suitably cheerful Broadway-style soundtrack and some of the Atlus spark to make something genuinely special.
by Audra Bowling
Onyx Equinox is an animated series that has the makings of an excellent JRPG-style game at its core: an entire city has been swallowed up by the god of the underworld, and the other gods are seriously considering getting rid of humanity altogether and starting over from scratch to get the blood offerings they need. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, two of the gods make a bet. If a chosen human can seal the underworld’s gates, then the purging won’t take place. Izel, a grieving teen reluctant to help humanity after his sister is sacrificed, is their unexpected champion whether he wants to be or not.
Onyx Equinox has a party of young characters that makes up its core cast with unique skills and abilities that would translate well to various kinds of RPG combat, and even a fearsome jaguar warrior envoy. There are narrative beats of families and friendship, of different people learning to work together, of duty and sacrifice alongside betrayal, of past love and slowly blossoming romance: all bound together on an epic quest to save the world. The dark and mature plot is in stark contrast to the youth of its heroes while delving into myths that often go unexplored in media. It could make a very compelling game!
by Des Miller
If you’ve ever played Wild ARMs or watched Gurren Lagann, you should probably check out Symphogear. If I had to break it down, it’s essentially a magical girl anime mixed with mecha, idol, fantasy, and Wild ARMs. After all, it’s created by Akifumi Kaneko and Noriyasu Agematsu: the creative duo behind the Wild ARMs games and soundtracks. Symphogear feels like a spiritual successor in every way, and while there is a Japanese-only mobile gacha game, the series deserves to have an over-the-top RPG.
Flashy sounding special attacks, elaborate transformations, combination skills, and a concerning level of escalation are just a few of the selling points that would translate well into an RPG. The character development and growth, the progression of power, and the series themes would also lend themselves well to a forty-hour adventure. And of course, the series is also home to some incredible music, which is fitting given how crucial music and song are to the show’s themes.
So, how would a Symphogear RPG play? Ideally, an action RPG with dozens (if not hundreds) of enemies on screen paired with huge cinematic boss fights. However, an ATB system with myriad combination attacks along the lines of recent Atelier and Blue Reflection games would also fit quite well. For me, my dream RPG adaptation would be a collaboration between creators Kaneko, Agematsu, and (of course) my favorite developer, Gust.
by Gio Castillo
I love art that cycles between beautiful and grotesque. My favorite fiction pretends to be sunny and cheerful until it pulls the rug from under you and gets into serious, often horrific themes. I promise I’m not a sociopath–I just enjoy reveling in that uncomfortable feeling when shit gets real.
That’s probably why I like David Lynch. Everything I just wrote describes his entire oeuvre: thoughtful explorations of trauma hidden beneath an affable facade. Video games owe so much to him, by the way; you could instantly list ten that draw direct inspiration from his work if you’re familiar. His (arguably) signature film, Mulholland Drive, is, on the surface, a straightforward (by his standards, anyway) murder mystery tied with a women-loving-women romance. But right off the bat, something’s off.
Without setting big expectations, a first-time viewer might feel totally unmoored by the end, as if they’d just woken from an intense dream. Wouldn’t that make for a mind-blowing experience as a game? The point-and-click/visual novel format would be ideal because I can’t think of a way to shoehorn in combat. There are plenty of adventure games that have played in this lane, but those (at least the ones I’ve played) tend to be as subtle as a brick to the face (not to throw shade because I love them).
As for who I’d trust to develop, it would have been Cing, a now sadly defunct studio. Hotel Dusk: Room 215 and Last Window: The Secret of Cape West demonstrate their delicate approach to character building and dialogue. They would’ve nailed the atmosphere and aesthetic too. So here’s my alternate choice: FromSoftware. I’m saying that the Dark Souls creators would 100% understand how to translate the moody and unnerving Mulholland Drive into a compelling game. Maybe they’ll even find a way to implement backstabs and parries somehow.
Jem and The Holograms
by Audra Bowling
Jem and the Holograms is a title with a rather fascinating history. Initially an ‘80s cartoon by Hasbro about a pop girl band trying to make it in the music industry while supporting a foster home, it has seen a less-than-stellar live-action movie release and a surprisingly enjoyable comic reboot in more recent years. The cartoon and comic featured main character Jerrica not only having Jem as her singing alter ego but also as a businesswoman trying to manage multiple projects.
I could easily picture Jem and the Holograms as a visual novel, combining plot elements from the original show and the comic reboot. The art, graphics, and character designs could be fashioned after the comic’s visual flair, making for a very colorful VN with a graphic novel aesthetic. Players would take on the role of one of the Holograms, with secondary stories assigned to their more notorious rivals, The Misfits and The Stingers. They could try to help Kimber and Stormer’s blossoming romance, have Blaze decide if she wants to continue on with The Misfits while striving towards her dreams, organize a concert to help the Starlight Girls, and balance personal lives with the characters’ music personas. It has all the ingredients for a truly outrageous visual novel, especially if there is a killer vocal soundtrack to go along with it!
by Matt Warner
With nanosuits, cloaking, different types of weapons and armor, hacking, and more, the Crysis series has the basics of a potential RPG hit. You’re even allowed to customize your weapons and abilities as well. Throw in a storyline that sees you taking on aliens and the subsequent infestation as the series progresses (spoiler alert: you even get to save the world like an RPG), and you definitely begin to see general parallels to other RPGs and imagine what could be regarding upgrades for your equipment or abilities.
However, what would be interesting is to consider what path would be ideal for Crysis. Should it keep its general FPS format and go a Fallout New Vegas route, or should it go the way of another FPS, Gears of War, with a turn-based tactical approach? Regardless of the direction, Crysis practically begs to be made into some form of RPG. The ingredients are there; they were just used to create a different dish. But, of course, since a fourth Crysis was recently announced, and we expect it will feel similar to its predecessors, I doubt this genre shift would happen anytime soon.
Make no mistake, though: if developer Crytek ever chooses to take Crysis on an RPG route, I’ll be suiting up to take on Crynet and the Ceph.
X-Men: House of X
by Audra Bowling
X-Men: House of X recently rebooted Marvel’s X-Men comic book line: mutants have come together on the mysterious island nation of Krakoa, tired of living amongst humans who constantly fear and hate them. Instead, they wish to be seen as equal allies with other nations of the world, offering their advanced technological marvels to those who recognize Krakoa as a true country. The world-building in Krakoa and the areas around it (including a second mystery island, a pirate ship, a space station, and a recently terraformed Mars with Storm serving as its queen regent!) is fascinating, with each new X- title adding further insight into the mutants inhabiting the area.
A choice-heavy BioWare-style WRPG would be a fantastic way to translate the comics to a game format. Players could create their mutant character, help shape their personality and origin, choose their beginning power, and travel Krakoa, all while interacting with familiar faces from the X-Men titles. They could choose which teams to join, gain experience that could open up secondary abilities, and decide matters that could impact mutant-kind. Expansions could have players going on to other Krakoan territories or Marvel locales. Krakoa opened up a wealth of possibilities for the X-Men, and an RPG could easily explore them interactively!
by Sam-James Gordon
Mean Girls is a 2004 movie that follows Cady Heron as she begins a new life at an American high school; she lived in Africa for most of her life and was home-schooled by her parents. There is no Amnesiac Hero trope here, but it could serve the same purpose in a JRPG.
Early in the film, Cady makes her two first friends, Janis and Damian. They give her a tour around her new school and, while doing so, provide a brief overview of the various friendship cliques within the canteen. This just screams Social Links. Perhaps even reputation Factions?
“But Sam, where would the RPG gameplay come in?” I hear you ask. One scene in the movie gives us all we’d need for a dungeon-crawling reality shift. In a daydream, Cady imposes the territorial behaviours of African wild animals onto her fellow students, and they enact a full-on turf war for her viewing pleasure. While it might not be quite as compelling as the Dark Hour or Midnight Channel, it could also have some great crossover with Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s protagonist, Ichiban, and his… extremely vivid imagination.
With all that said, if a Persona-style high school romp doesn’t work out, it definitely has enough characters to spawn a gacha game that nobody asked for. I prefer my idea for sure.
Five Deadly Venoms
by Michael Sollosi
Five Deadly Venoms is a 1978 martial arts film from the legendary Shaw Brothers Studio in Hong Kong, and its premise is so intriguing and its character superpowers so wild that I’m surprised it hasn’t already been remade six times. Five former students of a master assassin infiltrate a small town in 18th-century China, all searching for their former master’s hidden fortune. Each assassin has mastered deadly killing techniques based on a specific animal. A sixth student, who didn’t complete his training, is asked by the dying master to track down the other five and prevent their powers from being used for evil. The five killers don’t know each other’s identities, but alliances, betrayals, and (of course) kung fu all take center stage in this cult classic.
My ideal Five Deadly Venoms game centers on a player-created character (Sixth Brother’s role in the movie) investigating the town, uncovering the identities of the Five Venoms (each with a different philosophy towards both martial arts and ways of living), and eventually choosing to side with one of them. And of course, a skill tree full of extravagant wushu and plenty of fights against mooks and masters to style on. I’d play that game five times just to see how the Centipede, Snake, Scorpion, Lizard, and Toad endings differ. Are you listening, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio?
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
by Mario Garcia
Alright, hear me out: Spider-Ham would make for an iconic RPG animal mascot. His cartoonish antics and comedy fit the trope to a tee, and the rest of this RPG party would also pack a punch. The spider-folks each bring something unique to the table with their varied personalities, backgrounds, and animation styles that would help establish that charming hodgepodge dynamic that many stellar RPG parties strive to achieve. Spider-Man Noir as a brawler, Peni Parker as a machinist, Peter B. Parker as a rogue, it’d be great! The party alone already gets me hyped for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to get the RPG treatment.
Let’s talk about how this RPG with slice-of-life visual novel elements would play. There’s so much RPG-esque material to work with: Miles adjusting to a new school, conflict with his dad, gaining his powers, meeting interdimensional spider-folks, and ultimately saving interdimensional reality all sound like they’d fit well into an RPG plot with visual novel portions between the spider-combat. The movie’s inspired animation style and banger soundtrack would also help the game look and sound amazing. “What’s Up Danger” remixed as a battle theme? Count me in. This description of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as an RPG barely scratches the surface, and I already want this game made like yesterday.
by Peter Triezenberg
The world of The Raid, a duology of martial arts films starring Iko Uwais and helmed by Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans, is uniquely suited for adaptation into an action RPG. Much in the vein of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s Yakuza franchise, characters in The Raid traverse a seedy criminal underworld and engage in intense, bone-crunching brawls, often using whatever is in their immediate vicinity as a weapon. Machetes, claw hammers, baseball bats, baseballs, a refrigerator, a grill — you name it.
The fast-paced pencak silat battles seen in the movies would make for excellent RPG combat. (Pencak silat is a combat style focused on incapacitating or killing your opponent in as few moves as possible, and it’s one that Iko Uwais and co-star/choreographer Yayan Ruhuan have mastered.) In fact, when the first movie came out, its structure was sometimes compared to that of a video game, as its protagonist fights his way through an apartment building floor by floor and eventually takes on a boss at the end. What’s more, the sequel introduces a trio of competing factions (a local Indonesian gang, a Yakuza clan, and a third party playing the two against each other), opening the door to more nuanced character interactions and decision making. In a perfect world, you could even get the actors from the movie to do motion capture to make things that much more realistic.
The Neverending Story
by Tina Olah
When I was a small child, no fantasy movie captured my attention quite like The Neverending Story (alright, maybe Return to Oz, but that’s a tale for another time). An epic quest, a vast and gorgeous world, and giant creatures who come to the hero’s aid; heck, this is the stuff our favorite RPGs are made of! Yet oddly enough, while The Neverending Story has already seen a few game adaptations (including the stunningly mediocre Auryn Quest), it has yet to be made into a lengthy single-player RPG. Alas!
Ideally, a Neverending Story RPG would focus on exploration, with none of the film’s beautiful environments left behind; this especially includes the strange landscapes appearing for two seconds during a montage of Atreyu riding his ill-fated horse, Artax. What could possibly lurk in those forgotten places? As for visuals, the idea of seeing Fantasia in a hand-painted graphic style a la Child of Light or Legend of Mana makes me squeal with glee and matches quite nicely with the film’s storybook theme. And, of course, your journey would absolutely include a ride on Falkor, everyone’s favorite flying dog. Er, Luck Dragon.
Taking things a step further, I would love to see a complete adaptation of Michael Ende’s original novel (filled with even more strange characters and scenery), though I’ll happily settle for an RPG based on the first movie or two. Let’s forget about that third film, an artifact meant for $1.99 bins nationwide.
Kamen Rider Fourze
by Tyler Trosper
Originally premiering as a manga by Shotaro Ishinomori, Kamen Rider has thrived for decades as multiple tokusatsu (special effects) shows. While the Kamen Rider franchise is no stranger to video game adaptations, there aren’t many you can categorize as RPGs. However, as the series showcases different stories and characters every season, any company has a deep library of tales to pull from for an RPG.
However, the series that jumped out at me as an RPG contender was no doubt Kamen Rider Fourze. In that series, the main character, Gentaro Kisaragi, arrives at Amanogawa High School with one goal: to befriend as many people as he can! When strange things start happening around the school, he eventually becomes Kamen Rider Fourze and creates the Kamen Rider Club with several of his newfound friends.
Why would it make a good RPG? Gentaro literally gets stronger, gaining new abilities known as Switches, by gaining new friends. Persona, anyone? Persona 5 did a great job adding new abilities when leveling up your social links, and Kamen Rider Fourze would fill that mold perfectly! Uchuu kitaaaaaa!
The Dresden Files
by Wes Iliff
The RPG space needs more urban fantasy. And what better way to ring that bell than with The Dresden Files, the premier urban fantasy series for the discerning wizard detective lover? The series has all the hallmarks of a great RPG. You’ve got a good dozen central characters, ranging from the titular wizard to knife-wielding vampires to regular old humans who manage to kick it with the big boys. Bombastic damage spells? Let me introduce you to my good friend fuego. And what better RPG enemies and bosses could you ask for than toad demons, werewolves, and fallen angels?
Heck, we’ve even got it easily broken down, with individual cases building up a robust narrative. The successful tabletop Dresden Files RPG built in the Fate system can provide a solid framework for classes, skills, and enemies. And hey, if you don’t want to break established canon, let us create our very own wizards and go into the mystery-solvin’ business for ourselves! But just try and pretend sweet-talking a well-spoken demon insect trapped in a magic circle or bribing excitable fae with pizza aren’t just perfect sidequests.
We need this game. And failing that? You, dear reader, should check out some Dresden Files novels.
by Audra Bowling
ExoSquad is a sci-fi mecha cartoon that ran from 1993 to 1994. In it, Earth has successfully terraformed Venus and Mars. A conflict with space pirates serves as a distraction that the neosapiens, a race of artificially created humans, use to launch a full-scale assault on Earth and its colonies. The show follows Able Squad, a team of mech pilots in the Terran military, as the fight to reclaim the solar system escalates. Known for its more mature story beats alongside themes exploring prejudice and moral ambiguity, ExoSquad was a surprisingly harrowing tale full of likable and realistic characters stuck in a grim situation.
I could see an action RPG as an excellent for ExoSquad. Players could choose which character or mech to control for a given mission, fighting hordes of onscreen enemies while collecting materials to strengthen said units. Missions would come with objectives to complete, and advancing would unlock other playable characters from the cast, such as Avery Butler, Colleen O’Reilly, Shiva, Sean Napier, Jonas Simbacca, or Thrax: all with personal story goals too. The game’s narrative could delve into the events left untold by the series’ untimely cancellation by detailing the various war-weary factions of the solar system banding together to survive a looming alien invasion.
by GC Vazquez
If Psycho Goreman isn’t the ideal setup for a turn-based RPG, I don’t know what else could possibly fit the criteria. It’s a sci-fi action horror-comedy centered around an intergalactic destroyer of worlds who’s been cosmically bound to a little girl with weird hobbies. Slapstick, gore, and a wonderful showcase of fun costume designs, Psycho Goreman follows the antics of Mimi and Luke, two siblings who discover a mysterious gem in their backyard. This turns out to be a control device for the Archduke of Nightmares, later dubbed “Psycho Goreman” by Mimi, or “PG” for short. This movie’s got space-assassins, a council of order run by techno-angels, and belligerent bystanders turned into puddles of human goo. Use the control gem to command PG like a Pokémon in battles against the space cops sent to destroy him, or have him flanked on both sides by a rabid little girl and her overly cautious brother. Psycho Goreman even has several subplots and running gags easily adapted into different features or RPG mechanics. PG’s fascination with hunky boy magazines could be used as collectible items which give him better stats. Mimi and Luke’s love of their made-up sport, Crazy Ball, could be adapted into a full-fledged mini-game with recruitable NPCs à la Final Fantasy X’s Blitzball. They could call their layabout father to save their game if you wanted to take its urban setting in a more Earthbound direction. All in all, Psycho Goreman is built for an RPG adaptation, and this writer desperately needs one to exist.