The 4 Best Video Game Musical Adaptations Of All Time
Every few years, another craze takes the Great White Way by storm. For a while, it was jukebox musicals—shows built around the songs of a particular band, such as ABBA’s Mamma Mia! After that, it was musicals based on movies, like Mean Girls. When musicals based on video games first started to hit Broadway in the late ’80s, they seemed like just another fad, but this wonderful world of “saving princesses and glorious fights” (to quote the Tony Award-winning Its-a Me, Mario!) has proven to be an enduring source of inspiration for some of the best musicals of the past three decades.
4) GoldenEye: The Musical
Rights issues prevented producers from staging a full-fledged James Bond musical, so instead they adapted the classic N64 game GoldenEye, based on the film of the same name. Memorable for its cacophony of sounds (every shot fired is paired with explosive brass and percussion), it’s also the very first “first-person shooter” musical. Bernadette Peters won a Tony for her role as Natalya Simonova.
3) CHOMP! A Pac-Man Musical
With book and lyrics by Oliver Stone and an atonal score by avant-garde composer Philip Glass, CHOMP! is a shade darker than most video game musicals. Set in 1978, it’s the story of John Packman, a troubled Vietnam War veteran with an addiction to “power pellets,” i.e. Quaaludes. The ghosts are his fallen platoon-mates, the maze a metaphor for his life. (“Trapped in a maze / Stuck here for days / The pills do nothing / But put me in a haze.”) Bernadette Peters won a Tony for her role as the long-suffering Ms. Packman.
2) It’s-A Me, Mario!
This overstuffed video game musical adaptation should’ve been a disaster. The protagonists are ostensibly Mario and Luigi, two Italian immigrants trying to make it in America, but there are also dragons, turtles, and mushroom people, all of whom get a big kickline scene. Somehow, though, it works. Koopa’s cigar-chomping vaudeville shtick is timeless comedy, and Bernadette Peters brought the house down every night with her show-stopping ballad “The Princess Isn’t In Another Castle Anymore.”
1) Mortal Kombat Forever
While it might be a controversial choice to some, it’s undeniable that Mortal Kombat Forever raised the video game musical adaptation to a new level of artistry. The highly-choreographed dance-fighting is wonderful, and so is the violence; red ribbons and confetti fly over the stage to represent the game’s legendary disembowelments. Less expected were the characters’ surprisingly touching backstories. Mortal Kombat showed us how they fight, but Mortal Kombat Forever tells us why they fight, be it the lasting effects of past trauma (“My name is Johnny Cage / Consumed with crippling rage”) or for the prize money (“I am Sub-Zero / I’ll be their hero / If I win it all, I might / I could sleep inside tonight”). Bernadette Peters was cruelly robbed of a Tony for her role as Sonya Blade, and while Patti LuPone’s turn as the dog in Duck Hunt was certainly adventurous, it was a clear case of stunt casting. Dammit. It’s always Patti.