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Once upon a time, back before electronics powerhouses Sony and Microsoft entered the fray and came to dominate with PlayStation and Xbox, the video game console wars were fought between Nintendo and Sega. During that time, both companies churned out their fair share of classic titles that are now etched in the hearts and memories of many a gamer. And while Nintendo has endured in the competitive console market, for the most part, neither company has had much luck on the silver screen.
That could be about to change though, because this weekend sees the release of Sonic the Hedgehog, the feature film adaptation of the iconic Sega mascot. Based on early reviews and the weekend box office forecast, Sonic is already looking to do better than rival Mario did 27 years ago with Super Mario Bros. Assuming Sonic is successful, Hollywood and Sega may be emboldened to tap other Sega titles for adaptation, but which ones?
Sega may not have the clout it once did, but the company was responsible for some classic games that could be the basis for some fun, interesting and truly unique cinematic experiences. So, with the arrival of Sonic the Hedgehog, here are some other Sega classics that should get movie adaptations and follow the Blue Blur to the big screen.
As is the case with pirates, there simply aren’t enough ninja movies, folks. Not courtesy of Hollywood, anyway. Maybe Snake Eyes will usher in a renaissance for the covert Japanese warriors, who every dude dressed up as for Halloween at least once. If that happens, maybe we could see an adaptation of Sega’s Shinobi. The Shinobi series spans multiple games, but primarily follows Joe Musashi, a weak boy who works hard to become the most skilled ninja in the Oboro Clan.
Musashi fights against Zeed, a ninja crime syndicate attempting to revert Japan to its feudal ways. In The Revenge of Shinobi on Sega Genesis, Musashi fights enemies that bear striking, legally inadvisable resemblances to Spider-Man, Batman, Godzilla and Sylvester Stallone. That wouldn’t work for a host of reasons, but give me a grounded ninja story bearing the Shinobi name with some cues from the series, and I’m in.
Crazy Taxi made its debut in arcades back in 1999 before being ported over to Sega’s short-lived, but fondly remembered Dreamcast home console. In the game, the player takes control of a taxi driver to accumulate as much money as possible. To do that, the player has to get fares to their destination as quickly and as recklessly as possible, breaking every traffic law in the book and doing so with style along the way.
There’s not a ton of story involved in Crazy Taxi, which would give a feature adaptation a ton of creative freedom. In my mind, the elevator pitch for a Crazy Taxi movie would be Fast & Furious meets Stuber meets Collateral. I’m thinking tons of stunts and wild car chases in a knowingly ridiculous movie with a bit of an edge. Have the characters in the taxi for large portions of the movie and humorous interactions with outlandish cab fares, and Crazy Taxi could be a really fun video game adaptation.
Streets of Rage
One of the most popular games in the beat ‘em up genre was Sega’s Streets of Rage franchise. Although the exact story varies game to game, the gist is this: the city has been taken over by a criminal organization, and law and order is nowhere to be found. Mass violence is everywhere and even the police are acting in service of the evil Mr. X. In the face of this chaos, three former police officers and highly skilled fighters take to the streets to fight back.
Personally, anything with a title as cool as Streets of Rage pretty much guarantees a ticket purchase from me, but this Sega classic could provide a fun base for a gritty action film. No superheroes, no bright colors, no aliens; just a crime movie where three badasses go against the odds to try and make the streets safe. I’m thinking the action of John Wick with the feel and story of something like The Warriors, and you’ve got Streets of Rage.
Jet Grind Radio
Let’s be honest, the greatest rollerblading movie ever made already exists, and it’s called Airborne. But that doesn’t mean Hollywood should give up on inline as a viable storytelling opportunity and a great opportunity exists in Jet Grind Radio. Released for the Sega Dreamcast in 2000, Jet Grind Radio/Jet Set Radio follows a gang of youth’s called the GGs as they skated against the establishment, spraying graffiti across Tokyo.
The story gets pretty wild with a vinyl record that can summon a demon, but there’s some interesting thematic stuff about freedom of expression and overbearing authorities. I say lean into the weirdness and give us a highly-stylized Jet Grind Radio adaptation in the vein of Sorry to Bother You. I’d be open to live-action, but to really capture the visual style of the game, I think an adaptation would work best as an edgy animated film.
Sega’s Comix Zone is a 1995 game in the, at the time, highly popular beat ‘em up genre. The game featured a cool concept in that it was set within the panels of a comic book. Players take control of Sketch Turner, a starving artist working on a comic book named Comix Zone. While working on the book, a lightning bolt strikes one of the panels, bringing the comic’s villain Mortus to life. Sketch is then sent into his own comic, where he must defeat Mortus’ minions to save the world of the comic and the real world.
This might seem like an unfilmable concept, but not anymore thanks to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. That animated film featured tons of visual cues to make it feel like a comic book, and a Comix Zone movie could take inspiration from that and turn the dial up to 11. This concept would fit well within the current superhero-obsessed landscape, while also providing plenty of latitude to give us something that feels fresh, weird and visually compelling.
In the wake of Game of Thrones’ success, a lot of fantasy shows and films have either aired or entered development. But while medieval fantasy is in vogue, we haven’t seen too many attempts to take a Robert E. Howard approach to fantasy. Golden Axe represents an opportunity to dig into a Conan the Barbarian style of high-fantasy that would differentiate itself from some of its competitors and bring back the shirtless swords and sorcery of the '80s.
The 1989 beat ‘em up game allows players to control a dwarf, a barbarian and a princess/amazon all looking for revenge against the evil Death Adder. It’s standard fantasy stuff, but one of Sega’s most memorable classics. And while the success of Netflix’s The Witcher is surely due to the popularity of the games, books and Henry Cavill, it may also reflect an appetite for dark fantasy that Golden Axe could provide.
Ecco The Dolphin
Were none of those Sega classics weird enough for you? Well, how about a movie about a dolphin that has to journey to the lost city of Atlantis to use a time machine to get the means to defeat an alien race harvesting Earth’s ocean? That is the story of Ecco the Dolphin, a 1992 video game released on the Sega Genesis. I don’t know how anyone can read that premise and not want to see something so wild brought to life on the big screen.
This will almost certainly never happen, as the game doesn’t have the requisite modern popularity and an adaptation would be prohibitively expensive, but still. An Ecco the Dolphin movie, either live-action or animated, would be a blast, especially if it embraced the source material and went as weird as possible. Give me the underwater eeriness of James Cameron’s The Abyss, the visuals of Doctor Strange and the creature design of Guillermo del Toro.
This is just a sample of the classic Sega games that Hollywood could tap following Sonic the Hedgehog. Now it should be noted that several years ago, news broke that La La Land producer Marc Platt was working on bringing several Sega properties to the big screen, including the aforementioned Crazy Taxi and Golden Axe, as well as Virtua Fighter. However the first one on the docket seemed to be a Shinobi adaptation.
Unfortunately, we haven't heard much since then, so the status of Shinobi is unknown. But hopefully someone realizes the potential of these Sega properties sooner or later. It may not be particularly likely, but how poetic it would be that Sega, a company that, despite its valiant efforts, couldn’t survive the home console market, wound up being the one that helped push video game movies into their long-heralded and continuously-delayed golden age.
Sonic the Hedgehog opens on February 14. Check out our 2020 Release Schedule to see what else is coming out this year and let us know what Sega classics you want to see turned into movies in the comments below.