The liberation of Esoteric by Riot Games and Fortiche Productions have fought the stigma that video game adaptations will inevitably fail. The incredible animation in tandem with the exceptional writing brought the League of Legends ownership to new audiences. Proving the potential of gaming IPs in a different medium, it got me thinking about what could possibly follow. I started to wonder what video games should be animated like Esoteric.
When you consider what worked for the League of Legends adaptation, I identified some strengths of the series. In addition to high-quality animation, it also knew how to visually present its story in a unique way. He also had a deep source of lore, without just adapting the game’s established narrative. He knew he couldn’t get back to the essence of the gameplay. Instead, the animation focused on its own strengths and told a story the game itself couldn’t.
Initially, I was not sure this would be an appropriate fit for the list. Netflix is already work on a live series based on the title Ubisoft. Additionally, the historical realism and visuals might not translate as well as something more cartoonish like Esoteric. However, I soon realized that there would be no harm in drastically altering the visuals, perhaps with an anime art style.
On the other hand, the style that seems most appropriate to me is the art used to Chronicles of Assassin’s Creed. The game incorporated unique stylistic choices for each region of the game, varying geographically and historically. From 16e Century of China in the 19e Century India and Soviet Russia. It reminds me a bit of the visuals of the next one Spider-Man: Through the Spider-Verse. Each universe has its own unique flavor of presentation, for which I see the same potential with Assassin’s Creed.
When selecting games that are to be animated like Arcane, it is important to take into account the lore available. The historical series on Assassins vs Templars has a plethora of stories outside of the main games. Fans don’t want to see an animated adaptation of the Ezio Trilogy for example. These stories have already been covered and a series would likely only provide an abridged version. But the series has always used the entirety of story as a playground. It would be a simple matter to create a totally unique story in a setting never seen before. This would not require it to be isolated from references to games. On the contrary, it would prevent 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 adaptation, Underworld immediately occurred to me. Supergiant Games roguelike made the most of the limited camera to create a truly impressive title. From each individual area of the Underworld to the colorful cast of characters, it’s a feast for the eyes. It could also be adapted in 2D or 3D, as the game often takes advantage of both styles.
The reason I would love to see such a series given the Esoteric processing 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 pretty static. The game’s incredibly bulky script is conveyed by a stellar voice acting, but with almost no animation. What I would give to see these interactions up close and with more expressive visuals. The story itself is already enjoyed, 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 focusing on the original narrative. Underworld feels like a one-shot. A prequel or sequel would be very difficult to achieve without prior knowledge of the game. Games that should be animated like Esoteric should also be able to be autonomous. In the case of Zagreus’ tale, it would be better to narrate than to deviate, but with an emphasis on presentation. Perhaps the halls of the Underworld could change drastically with each episode. Likewise, all of the unique character swaps could be played out with more body language and environmental interactions. I imagine a mixture between slice of life and thrilling action.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
If you need proof that the concept might work, look no further than Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The franchise actually has quite a history with animation, with Star Wars: Rebels continue the story after Order 66. The broadcasts have grown and provided better insight into aspects of the films just mentioned. As such, I think the Old Republic era and its traditions 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 do not believe that this would be the best avenue for an adaptation to take. The story has been told fairly well in the games as it is a very narrative title. In addition, the great twist of the game is widely known at this point, which would undermine the tension of the series. It should also be considered that the Knights of the Old Republic remake is currently in development. As such, this particular story could become oversaturated within the fandom.
Games that should be animated like Arcane would benefit the most from a rich story that doesn’t depend too much 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 the characters that would be the biggest asset. Kind of like with the events of the Clone Wars, I can imagine a series of anthologies exploring the Old Republic. Since MMOs can be intimidating for some players, this would be a more accessible gateway for fans.
As with most of the previous entries in this list, Ancient scrolls is a franchise brimming with tradition. There may be whole books in Skyrim alone that could be the basis of a complete show. And similar to the above Star Wars: The Old Republic, it was actually an MMO that influenced this decision. Playing The Elder Scrolls Online made me realize how much vast and dense the world of Tamriel is. With each country having such a distinctive look, it looks like a sight that would never bore the eyes.
As for the story, I would again avoid adapting the events of any game. Games are designed with exploration and detours in mind. As such, Skyrim in particular, it feels like it would have a rather superficial or fuzzy story. Even so, the worlds themselves are so filled with secondary content and mysteries that they could easily form their own stories. All in all, it would be best to build an entirely unique adventure using already established history of the world.
As for the visuals, that was the hardest thing to imagine. Games that should be animated like Arcane need a visually iconic style. The problem with Ancient scrolls is its design fluctuates regularly between inputs. Oversight did not age well and Skyrim is a bit boring to watch. The Elder Scrolls Online has a more cartoonish look that could serve as a better starting point. Either way, I think the animation would work better for the series considering its more surreal elements. The intricate labyrinths of the Dwemer; the unnatural domains of the Daedra. Some of the most memorable moments I imagine wouldn’t be done justice in live-action.
Transmitted by blood
I believe Transmitted by blood 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 above all the visuals that influenced this decision. Lovecraftian imagery used to convey the hunter’s nightmare is bewitching but compelling. It truly captures the allure of finding answers despite the maddening consequences. It’s a world that instantly attracts suspicious glances.
The problem with the presentation of the game lies in the steadfast design habits of FromSoftware games. While the design of the world is captivating, the animations for the dialogue of the NPCs require relatively little effort. As with games like Dark souls, the effort was directed towards the animations of attacking enemies. But when you talk to the characters in the game, there’s hardly any movement. No change of expression, barely a wave of the hand. It’s strangely steep, like a scene containing only mannequins. A TV show could solve this problem with more expressive exchanges between the characters, making the world more real.
Games that should be animated like Esoteric must bring their iconic stories to new audiences. Lots of fans who would never have touched League of Legends are now absorbed because of the spectacle. In the same way, Transmitted by blood is a difficult game that may put some players off. A show could facilitate entry into the series. Plus, it might deliberately bring to light the enigmatic aspects of the game’s storytelling. I can even see that this is just a series of short films, with a completely silent protagonist. It is a perfect property for visual storytelling.
Games that should be animated like arcana
There are a lot more games outside of the ones I mentioned that are great for adaptations. For example, some might observe the lack of anime games on this list. It was a conscious decision based on the common result of anime bonding games. These often suffer from the same problem as other video game adaptations, with the story being an abridged version. Look no further than Persona 5: animation for exemple. For me, I made my decisions based on whether there were enough stand-alone lore or compelling visuals. These are just a few of the most vivid examples that have come to mind. However, it might be better than the next one Esoteric was something quite unexpected. After all, I had never played League of Legends, and therefore the show was the most pleasant surprise I could have asked for.