Cute is out. Horrifying realism is in.
As the real world continues to shift further and further into a bizarro, nightmare version of itself, complete with packets of nug sauce nestled in presidential gravy boats, the world of entertainment has likewise transformed. Our cartoonish childhood faves are now monstrously surreal.
In May, redesigned versions of many of the original 150 Pokémon will be revealed in Warner Bros. neo-noir caper, Detective Pikachu. We already saw a few of the newly realistic pocket monsters when the first trailer dropped. That was enough to make the internet lose its collective mind. Pikachu had tufts of fur. Jigglypuff was a piece of anime cotton candy. Mr. Mime was… a dude.
Then, just in time for Thanksgiving feasts, Sega’s most famous mascot will be looking like a snack. For his live-action debut in Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog, the Blue Blur got hot. His physique finally matches his workouts; dude’s got a pair of muscular thighs that look like they belong to a D-1 cross-country runner. His body is covered in fine, blue hair. His pupils may or may not be three-dimensional.
Even the art director for God of War, Raf Grassetti — fresh off retrofitting the histrionic action series with a more subdued, down-to-earth style — got in on the action. They released a series of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate fan portraits that brought the roster into (sometimes discomfiting) high fidelity. If you ever wanted to see what Mega Man would look like as a pasty teen in Apple Store body armor, now’s your chance.
So, given that Hollywood (and our buddy Raf) is hellbent on bringing the things we loved as children into the fluorescent light of day, I thought I might as well suggest the next games that deserve “Wow, they gave Wario spider veins” treatment. So here are five games just crying out for gritty cinematic adaptations!
Tetris has always been a cultural Trojan horse — a brick wall from behind the Iron Curtain. The arcade version’s cabinet was adorned with the architecture of designer Alexey Pajitnov’s native Russia and onion domes flanked each player’s onscreen column.
Weirdly enough, there’s already a movie version of Tetris in the works. My suggestion to the filmmakers? Take the Tetris Cold War-era background and make it literal. In the film, Tetris is not a harmless game, but a Soviet weapon; Pajitnov is no longer a humble programmer, but a weapons designer.
The new Russian weapon rains cinder blocks from the sky, destroying buildings and dismembering anyone in its path. America’s only hope? Organizing the blocks into lines. This overloads the deadly projectiles until they disappear.
Potential tagline: “This time, the only ‘Tetris effect’ is blunt force trauma.”
Paper Mario has sharp writing, a playful sense of humor, and a storybook art style. All of that can remain intact as it makes its inevitable transition to LEGO Movie-style animated film. However, the horrors of adulthood will be present at all times. How you ask? This time, Mario and friends are assembled from tax forms and student loans.
Mario wears many, many different hats — sometimes literally. And in Dr. Mario, that hat is a stethoscope (which is actually a necklace or, more accurately, a science amulet). This Mario, too, is made of paper; the green kind that doctors and the crooked healthcare industry rake in hand-over-fist. Fittingly, this version of the chirpy Puyo Puyo precursor will be refashioned into a scathing critique of Big Pharma.
This Mario is a bad doctor, who never holds off on writing a scrip. He’s quick to throw heavily marketed pills at any situation to make his problems disappear. Ironically, this only makes his job harder, as the viral bugs he needs to squash become resistant to antibiotics.
Leading Man: Hugh Laurie
Brad Pitt already played this character in Inglourious Basterds. Look at this shit. They even both have neck scars — like maybe Aldo Raine took a katana to the neck at some point? Anyway, this one is a slam dunk since you can already watch it right now.
Pac-Man recently received a conspiratorial reappraisal from Colin Ritman, the LSD-dropping game designer played by Will Poulter in Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. The name of Namco’s brightly colored mascot, Ritman argued, had dark undertones. “PAC” was supposedly an acronym for “Program and Control.” Pac-Man is trapped in a maze. His decisions have no real consequences. His life is slavery. You know how this goes. You’ve played one BioShock, you’ve played them all.
While Ritman’s theory is bunk, Pac-Man is in desperate need of a gritty reboot. I suggest the little ⅞ of a pizza go full Cronenburg. Weirdly muscular jaw. Skin made of melted cheese, sloughing off his body. Eating fruit like Denethor and letting the blood red juices dribble down his chin.
I’m here for it. The die (and Ryan Reynolds) is cast. We have passed the point of no return. If one childhood fave has to be terrifying, let them all be terrifying. There is no respite from this hellscape. Nor shall there ever be.
Gotta go fast… into oblivion.