Especially in the midst of the success of the Ace Attorney anime and the convention season, everyone loves talking about what games they think would make good anime–particularly Japanese games for obvious reasons. I’ve watched a pretty fair share in anime in my day, I even co-host a podcast on anime. My point being, I think I know enough about anime and the anime industry that I could make some pretty sound predictions about Japanese games that wouldn’t make good anime. But just to make sure we’re on the same page for this list, let me lay out some rules and disclaimers:
This is NOT a list of my least favorite Japanese games. I’ve exclusively selected games that I like for this list to help get my point across.
- All the games on this list are Japanese, but they’re not all JRPGs
- All these are games have not received an anime adaption
- I’m not saying that these would 100% definitely make bad anime–nor am I implying that they ever will get anime. I have no way of knowing if any of these will ever get an anime, nor would I have any way of knowing if they were bad unless I’ve watched them. These are just educated guesses–games that I think would have a significantly higher chance at having a bad anime regardless of circumstances.
- When I say “anime” I mean anime–not an OVA, not a movie, not a special. I mean a full-blown anime with at least 12 episodes, though almost certainly more. The fact that most anime from the last decade are 12, 24-26, or 52 episodes should be kept in mind, though. I’m assuming the anime would be an adaptation of the games (EX: Persona 4, Ace Attorney) NOT a continuation, re-imagining, or separate story of any kind (EX: any of the .hack// anime, Advent Children)
On that note…
Zero Escape (999/Virtue’s Last Reward/Zero Time Dilemma)
Any Zero Escape game–especially Zero Time Dilemma–would make a horrible anime for the same reason Watchmen made a horrible movie and Bioshock would make a horrible anything-but-a-game: The medium this story was told through is no accident–it’s a story that only works as a game. The major theme of the series is learning that your decisions–not the characters in the game, but you, the player–in the game come at a cost, and ultimately, you have to go through every decision to reach a true ending. In an anime, you’d lose that theme: It’s a theme that only works as a game because it’s a theme that thrives on the player’s decision’s. Moreover, without spoiling it, I’ll say that it would also ruin the point of the ending of Zero Time Dilemma, as it also plays into the theme of the player’s choices–not the characters in the game, but the player themselves–will always come at a cost. It’s a very subtle but graceful way of breaking the fourth wall that only works through a medium in which you yourself can make a conscious decision–a medium like a game. In an anime, you don’t have to make decisions, the characters do, and therefore the theme is lost. Again: Bioshock does the exact same thing which is why the idea of a Bioshock movie absolutely sickens me. Watchmen does this as well (although in comic book form) which is partially why the movie never stood a chance at being good.
The entire Silent Hill franchise
Silent Hill is a very tricky beast when it comes to adaptation. As you may or may not know, there have already been 2 Silent Hill movies made in the West. Personally, I think they’re okay movies as long as you’re not considering them to be adaptations of their games (Silent Hill 1 and 3) but rather, a re-imagining. If nothing else, like their games, they’re visually stunning. But there’s a number of reasons why I think any given Silent Hill game wouldn’t make a good anime: First and foremost, the visuals. Silent Hill games are generally made to look like horror movies, which is why we see a realistic art style and dynamic camera angles in each entry. By making it look, well…anime, it loses its tone of realism, and thus a lot of the seriousness would be lost as well as the idea of it being like a horror movie–because now it simply doesn’t look like one. Secondly, it’s a survival horror series: By making it an anime–something you watch rather than experience, you lose the survival aspect of it–therefore losing even more of what makes it Silent Hill. Finally, another important theme in Silent Hill is exploration: Wandering around the almost barren, unfamiliar streets of Silent Hill and exploring–at least when you’re not greeted by a locked door. It’s one thing when you’re the one doing the exploring–it’s another watching someone do it. Although I doubt it would be awful, and of the games on this list I think that (if it were Silent Hill 1-4) a Silent Hill game would have a higher chance of being at least somewhat more interesting than the rest of these, but because so much of the already short Silent Hill games are spent exploring and solving puzzles, I doubt simply watching it (which you’d almost certainly have to because Silent Hill games are so short) would be as fun. Without a doubt it would lead to pacing issues that simply aren’t present in the games. I think that, if done properly, a really good Silent Hill–and I mean really good–movie is very possible. It’s already been proven that it can at least be okay. I just don’t think that, primarily due to the length which would definitely cause pacing issues, art styles, and lack of involvement, a Silent Hill anime would likely get really stale and repetitive really fast.
Besides, if the Silent Hill game that got an anime happened to be Book of Memories, that alone would be a red flag.
The entire Kingdom Hearts franchise
As dearly beloved (ba dum tssss) as Kingdom Hearts is, it should come as no surprise that it’s on this list. First of all, the length. Between all the games, it would probably take so long to finish a Kingdom Hearts anime that covered everything that Kingdom Hearts 3 would probably be out by the time the anime finished–and that’s assuming that its production company would give it all the time it needs rather than restricting its episode count like practically every anime to have come out in the past 10 years as I mentioned at the beginning of the article. Second, Kingdom Hearts is infamous for its horrible, incomprehensible writing. Especially if it had to be shortened and thus further rushing the already questionble writing, you’ll do Kingdom Hearts no favors. If you take the game play out of Kingdom Hearts, you’re left with a story that loses itself in its alleged symbolism, clearly doesn’t know where its been or where its going, and tries entirely too hard to be emotional and unpredictable to the point where it becomes the entire opposite: Dry, predictable, and forceful (and thus highly unsuccessful) in its “emotional plot twists.” The characters make it no better, since almost all of them are two-dimensional tropes rather than characters. The whole thing would look like a desperate attempt by the devs to see how many Disney characters they can throw in before Disney will finally sleep with them and give them some royalties.
In other words, I’m saying a Kingdom Hearts anime would be awful because it would be Once Upon a Time, but animated.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
When I think about why Ocarina of Time is such a fun game, I think about the freedom of the game: Freedom to forget the story and go on side quests whenever you want, freedom to leave the temple and explore, a huge open world with so much to explore and dozens–if not hundreds–of secrets to uncover. Sure, none of these things are required to beat the game, but they make it exponentially more fun. Ocarina of Time isn’t a very story-driven game–at least not very much compared to other Zelda games. This is a game that emphasizes the player’s freedom and wants you to get distracted and take your time and do what you want, when you want. This is a theme common in Zelda games, but is most prevalent in Ocarina of Time–at least out of the Zelda games I’ve played. I’m not an expert when it comes to The Legend of Zelda. Far from it. However, without the sense of freedom to do what you want when you want–not to mention the game play and the puzzles–I think Ocarina of Time would suffer more than any other Zelda game to rely entirely on its writing, characters, and story alone–free of side quests or distractions of any kind–as an anime would have to. Because it was made to be such a free game, the story isn’t as interesting as it is in other Zelda games–particularly Majora’s Mask, which has excellent storytelling in addition to freedom and fun game play. In short, Ocarina of Time wouldn’t be very interesting to watch because it would likely turn into another generic adventure anime with no particular highlights. Whereas games like Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess, for example, could still be found generally enjoyable relying on just their writing, Ocarina would struggle exponentially more than them because it simply has less writing because the game emphasizes freedom and game play more than any other Zelda game. The fun of Ocarina of Time comes from its freedom and game play–not the writing and story.
Anything Donkey Kong related
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, to help get my point across, I exclusively used games that I love for this list–including Kingdom Hearts, which I know is probably hard to believe at this point since I trash talked it so much, I’m sure. This doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t watch any of these anime though: If an anime were announced for any of these titles tomorrow, I’d absolutely watch them. I just wouldn’t count on them being good unless it were a side story or a retelling of some kind. Regardless, I’d like to encourage leaving comments with your thoughts: What are some games you like that you think would make awful anime? Why? Do you disagree with any of the games on this list? Did I leave anything out? Again, in the pursuit of knowledge, I’d like to heavily encourage feedback.