Elden Ring this, Elden Ring that, Elden Ring is everywhere. FromSoftware’s RPG has become inescapable as millions of Tarnished run at foes big and small across the Lands Between. It’s been an undeniable success, and will certainly be remembered as one of the defining games of 2022, so it feels almost fated that TV execs are going to want a slice of the pie.
Come on, it has to happen, right? A Thai ad for the game already kind of it into a soap opera. And we’ve seen a spike in videogame adaptations in recent years, with varying degrees of success—I’m looking at you Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. There have been duds, but there have also been a few that we’ve become obsessed with.
We’ve had The Witcher series on Netflix, which has several spin-offs already, and while it’s technically an adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels and short stories, the influence of The Witcher 3 is unmistakable. Netflix also released Arcane in 2021, the League of Legends animated series, which kicked ass. From the music to the animation, the worlds of Piltover and Zaum came alive in all their radiant beauty and underworld ugliness.
Amazon is rumoured to be working with Sony on a God of War show, and Sony is already deep in development of its The Last of Us show, starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, and recently released the Uncharted film. Though the latter may have flopped critically, the film was a commercial success, taking over $140 million in the box office. Even the absurdly complicated world of Destiny looks like it’s going to be adapted. And it’s not just the big, relevant games: a Twisted Metal series starring Anthony Mackie is also on its way.
See? The list of projects seems endless. And it’s a bit easier to adapt something with a long legacy and an established fanbase than trying to create something new from scratch. Fans will want to try to love it, just like they loved the game. Sure, they’ve probably been burned before, and that’s bound to make them sceptical, but even if they’ll be the first to call a series shit if it doesn’t deliver, there’s always the flicker of hope that it will be great.
Even if the game is all about charting your own path and delving into its mysteries at your own pace—not exactly easy to capture in film or TV—its themes and oddities are ripe for an adaptation. A fantasy world with dragons, action, and epic adventure are common topics already, but throw in gods that attach limbs to their bodies as a hobby, giant hand spiders and rotting, blood-red lands, and you’ve got yourself something a bit more novel.
Since the heroic Tarnished at the centre of everything is a player-created character, that leaves the door open for anyone to play them. What’s the bet that Henry Cavill is already asking his agent about his upcoming availability? And while Elden Ring’s NPCs are enigmatic and understated, this means they could be reworked and reimagined in a thousand ways. There’s a lot to work with.
Then there’s one of the project’s original highlights: George R. R. Martin’s involvement. Though it’s unclear what actual influence he had on the Lands Between, just the association would be powerful enough to get Game of Thrones fans interested in a whole new fantasy series. The marketing is there, even if we don’t know how much of a hand GRRM really had in crafting the game’s lore. That’s a big name to put front and centre.
Oh, and I’m betting on a series rather than a film because the current trends show that series are more popular as video game adaptations. Uncharted, Mortal Kombat, Monster Hunter, and Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City haven’t got half of the positive reviews compared to Arcane, Castlevania, or The Witcher.
With the big streamers constantly looking for ways to keep eyes on their platforms, it makes even more sense for Elden Ring to be a TV show, encouraging people to keep up their sub, not just while they devour the first season, but also so they can catch any potential future ones. And given how dense and complex the Lands Between are, a series would be the only way to give Elden Ring the time it deserves on screen.
So what would an Elden Ring show even look like? Would it be animated or live-action? Maybe it could go down The Witcher route and do a bit of both. Animation would be the better for capturing Elden Ring’s out-there aesthetic, but live action with heavy CGI often ends up being taken more seriously in the west, where adult animation has had a harder journey into the mainstream.
Despite this, I fear too much CGI would make the series look tacky. I’m a firm believer that films should use practical effects where possible, and that simply wouldn’t be achievable with some of the visual elements of Elden Ring. There’s a larger audience for live action, especially if it can inspire comparisons with Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, but hopefully successes like Arcane can change this attitude.
And who’ll make it? Netflix and HBO would probably be the frontrunners here. Between The Witcher and Game of Thrones, they both have histories with large fantasy series. HBO has better grounding with George R. R. Martin’s work, but on the other hand Netflix has done a very good job of creating videogame adaptations that have resonated with fans. There’s Amazon too, of course, which is no stranger to fantasy adaptations, with The Wheel of Time—which was greenlit for a second season—under its belt and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power in development.
Personally, I’d like Netflix to have a go at it. There is something very camp about Elden Ring, something over the top and even hilarious at times. When you play, it almost recognises its absurdity with a wink. What other game allows you to boot a potman up the arse to get him unstuck? Netflix did a great job with The Witcher’s lighthearted moments, and I think that could translate to Elden Ring well. And I’d far prefer an animated version of the series from it, à la Arcane.
While it’s not hard to imagine an Elden Ring show being developed, could Netflix or its competitors actually make an Elden Ring show that’s good? People like different aspects of the FromSoftware library for vastly different reasons. I like the hard combat and unpicking the lore stitched between the NPCs, locations, and ghastly items you find. A show might not be able to capture the challenge, but it could provide lots of badass action, and possibly with more panache. The enigmatic story beats, meanwhile, could be fleshed out to the writer’s content, though this runs the risk of upsetting fans who appreciate FromSoftware’s light touch when it comes to the histories and stories of its strange worlds.
Still, I’d love to see other Tarnished NPCs flit in and out of the adventure. The build up to the Godrick fight could have an entire episode where the main character gets to know Nepheli (the NPC you can summon for the fight) before facing the Grafted Lord as a great team. I’d like to hear more about the politics behind the Two Fingers, and have a better idea of who your Tarnished was before being gifted grace. It could be an opportunity to delve into some of the characters like Blaidd that get relatively short amounts of screen time in the game, cut up between huge boss fights where companions are lost along the way.
So it seems inevitable, and it’s probably workable, but I’m not actually sure if I want an Elden Ring series at all. I need to explore and struggle and retrace my steps to get the full effect of FromSoftware’s vision. I need to feel like I can’t trust NPCs, and that there are consequences for my actions. I need to get bashed over the head by Margit to feel the relief of ending his miserable life myself. And so much of what makes Elden Ring special is wrapped up in its systems, whether that’s stuff like Sites of Grace and the death mechanics, or the way that the experience is so collaborative, with players jumping in to help each other or leave messages everywhere—how do you replicate that?
If—but more likely when—a company makes a series, it’s going to take a lot of work to recapture the magic of Elden Ring.