Fallout succeeds where others failed by taking place within the storyline of the video gamesVbrunophotog via Wikimedia Commons (resized), CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)

In May 1993, the film, Super Mario Brothers, was released. It is, to say the least, very odd. Instead of the bright and colourful Mushroom Kingdom of the games, this film is set in the nightmarish city of Dinohattan. Instead of goombas and bomb-ombs, this film features mutant dinosaur people. Instead of Bowser trying to steal Princess Peach, Dennis Hopper is employed as a sort of Donald Trump parody. In short, 1993’s Super Mario Brothers barely resembles the games that inspired it. But, originally, that was the point.

“In making Fallout the show, they would ‘treat it like we do a game’”

The pitch from co-directors Rocky Morton and Annabelle Jankle hinged on a comedic twist that would arrive in the last scene. Everything would unfold as in the final version except, at the very end, Nintendo executives would arrive wanting to talk to the Mario brothers. This would reveal that the film was the real story of Mario and Luigi and the video games but a poor adaptation. That scene was shot but the studio cut it before the release. Consequently, the one scene directly linked to the games, commenting on the nature of adaptations and justifying the film’s deviation from its inspiration, was erased. Without that scene, we’re left with a film that has absolutely nothing in common with the games.

Fallout, conversely, fully embraces Bethesda’s game, to the point of situating the show within the canon of its source material. Fallout, the show, is set directly after the events of Fallout 4, the game. It’s therefore as much a part of the world as any other entry in the series and carries equal responsibility for advancing the continuity of the universe created by the games. Todd Howard, director of Bethesda and executive producer of the show, stated that he was “opposed to retelling one of the games we already did,” instead desiring something “that would stand up as another entry in the series”. In making Fallout the show, they would “treat it like we do a game”.

Fallout captured the authenticity of the games so well that it triggered a ridiculous resurge in their salesYouTube (Prime Video)

In that, they have been unprecedentedly successful. Nat King Cole’s ‘Orange Colored Sky’ (Flash! Bam! Alakazam!), one of many Americana anthems that populate the discography of the Fallout universe, blares over the first cold open. Fallout’s biggest icons, the Pip-Boy, Stimpaks, Rad-X and even the Prydwen, are periodically paraded around, ensuring the audience (read: fans) routinely extract the satisfaction we get from recognition and repetition.

“The show really made you feel like you were playing the games”

So well was the authenticity of the games captured that it triggered a ridiculous resurge in their sales. In Europe, sales jumped by a staggering 7,500% and, in the UK, Fallout 4 (released in 2014) became April 2024’s best-selling game. For a period during the Easter break, my feed was nothing but Fallout and I was regularly being shown “beginner’s tips” for a game released over a decade ago. The show really made you feel like you were playing the games, leading many (me included) back to the original source.

Where Super Mario Brothers attempted to divorce itself from its source material – believing itself to work better as a standalone story – Fallout heads in the complete opposite direction, indulging fans in its verisimilitude to the games. Where 2022’s Halo (considered a failure by fans and TV critics alike) styled itself as a spin-off from the games, occurring in an alternate timeline, Fallout is audaciously placed within the series’ storyline, respecting every in-game law as it is, itself, technically in-game. Where studios previously believed fidelity in adaptation didn’t apply to “lesser” source materials like video games since those are for kids and kids are stupid, it is now the key to commercial and critical success. The code has been cracked (or terminal hacked, if you will) for game adaptations and Hollywood has caught on.

“Game adaptations have swooped in to save company execs and shareholders from doing any extra creative thinking”

Now, I’m no McKinsey consultant but even I know this must translate into a lot of money. And so do Bethesda. And so do Amazon. And so do every other game and media company hoping to profit off this new, Marvel-esque cash cow. Borderlands, Minecraft, Zelda and countless others have already been greenlit for TV or film adaptations. In our current IP-obsessed media culture, where everything must be based on existing properties, putting video games on screen seems a natural marriage. Just as we seemed to be leaving the predictable, “amusement park” superhero flicks behind in favour of more original and riskier films, game adaptations have swooped in to save company execs and shareholders from doing any extra creative thinking!


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For the record, I really liked Fallout. It allowed me to re-experience a universe I genuinely love and I’ll be the first to admit that, like a trained seal, I clapped every time I saw a Pip-Boy, Vertibird or Iguana-on-a-stick. However, like anything in our hyper-capitalist world (and one of Fallout’s guiding themes), everything is a product. Fallout’s success only affirms studios’ confidence that game adaptations are the way forward – adaptations that are essentially extended advertisements, convincing fans to spend more money on the games and company execs that there’s a safe and highly profitable way to adapt video games that doesn’t end in ridicule.

It looks like game adaptations will be vital to the future of film and television, whether we like it or not. Let’s just hope that whatever comes, it will be as good as Fallout.