Elden Ring is ripe for an HBO Max animated series

Elden Ring is ripe for an HBO Max animated series

FromSoftware’s latest dark-fantasy epic Elden Ring has been out for less than two months, but it’s already proven to be another landmark video game in the medium. The way it transcends what’s been considered the norm in games of its genre is akin to the impact the likes of Super Mario 64The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had at the time of their releases. With Elden Ring, the game takes FromSoftware’s past Souls-like titles like Dark Souls IIIBloodborne, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and creates an ambitious open-world action RPG by blending them with the rewarding level of exploration and traversal in Skyrim and Breath of the Wild.

However, as acclaimed as this new IP is as a game, it has boundless potential outside of the format as well. It seems that Bandai Namco recognizes that too, as a press release from the Japanese video game publisher stated that “We will continue to expand Elden Ring, not only as a game but using all parts of the IP (such as characters) in various ways, so please look forward to it.” Even before this, it could’ve been seen as foreshadowing ever since it was announced that A Song of Ice and Fire author George R. R. Martin helped write the foundational lore for Elden Ring‘s world of the Lands Between. With the game’s marketing, Martin’s ties to HBO for Game of Thrones projects, and the grand scope of the game’s lore, Elden Ring makes a strong case for making an HBO Max animated series its next site of grace.

Animation is the blueprint for gaming adaptations

Split image of Castlevania season 3 and Arcane promo posters for Netflix

Within the gaming community, the “video game curse” became a long-running joke whenever it came to on-screen adaptations. This mainly applied to live-action theatrical adaptations, with them by and large consisting of cheap and cynical box-office cash grabs off a brand name alone. However, despite the “throw everything at the wall” approach that Netflix has built a reputation for doing in the streaming space, they seemed to have nailed down the video game formula — whether they intended to or not.

Netflix’s Castlevania animated series was arguably the first great game adaptation, as what came before could only largely hope to be middling. The overall production value — from the writing, acting, art style, and animation — was top-notch in creating an engrossing universe filled with characters that have compelling story arcs.

The anime-inspired art direction looked superb onscreen thanks to Texas-based Powerhouse Animations Studios, driving home the point that animation doesn’t inherently equal to “Saturday morning cartoon” atmosphere — though there have been plenty of great ones of those over the decades. Castlevania‘s worldbuilding and lore were rich and dense, and while it certainly opts for a more stylishly gothic aesthetic and tone, it could be a worthy blueprint for how to adapt a video game dark-fantasy world like Elden Ring. Especially so considering game director Hidetaka Miyazaki and co.’s penchant for sprawling, detailed (and even cryptic) lore.

And while notably different in tone and subgenre, the recent acclaimed hit Arcane — based on the MOBA game League of Legends — should still make it loud and clear how animation can appeal to such a wide range of age demographics. The show has a stellar cast from top to bottom, including Academy Award-nominee Hailee Steinfeld, and gave one of the best showcases for 3D CG animation complemented by 2D. Elden Ring would likely do best in a hand-drawn 2D art style but, if nothing else, what Arcane brings to the table for the reputation of gaming adaptations should speak volumes for both mediums’ versatility — especially when working in harmony with each other.

The HBO and George R. R. Martin factors

Split image of author George R. R. Martin, Elden Ring promo still, and HBO Max logo

While the aforementioned ties to A Song of Ice and Fire scribe were a big marketing and selling point for Elden Ring’s new world, FromSoftware has had a great reputation and growing fan base for over a decade now that helped instill trust in fans for new IP. Martin had helped write the foundation for the lore and history of the Lands Between, with Miyazaki and the rest of his development team building on top of it. In many ways, it was a match made in heaven given the grim, western dark-fantasy worlds that span Demon’s Souls, the Dark Souls trilogy, and Bloodborne.

Bandai Namco in particular must know what having such a name attached to a AAA, open-world action RPG means, especially after that press release vaguely suggesting where the future of the Elden Ring IP will go. Currently, George R. R. Martin has a massive deal with TV titan HBO in expanding his world beyond the main Game of Thrones series. House of the Dragon is already primed for an August 21 release, but several ideas are being thrown around behind the scenes for the near and distant future. Coincidentally, should reports prove to be true, one or two animated GoT spinoffs are being discussed.

At this point, it’s just a matter of connecting two very close dots, as Martin himself could be a gateway into Elden Ring growing on HBO Max. Granted, the idea of distracting the acclaimed author from finishing The Winds of Winter and starting A Dream of Spring would elicit groans from other fans, but having him involved in an Elden Ring animated series through a producing capacity could be all it needs to get the green light.

HBO has a largely stellar reputation for creating quality TV projects and for attracting creative talent and giving them the liberty to craft something compelling. And disastrous final season aside, Game of Thrones proved that the premium network can more than handle profound and narratively dense fantasy stories.

A wealth of fantastical opportunities

Elden Ring still of the Tarnished fighting the dragon Agheel on horseback

Besides their demanding difficulties, FromSoftware’s dark-fantasy Souls games are known for their unconventionally subtle storytelling approaches. They don’t opt for increasingly cinematic, movie-like narratives and instead embed the subdued plot more deeply into the gameplay. Fans discover the ongoing story and the world’s history through the concise NPC dialogue, environmental cues, and item flavor texts. It leaves a lot of room open to interpretation, imagination, and an enticing sense of discovery for fantasy buffs.

It’s all there if fans choose to do some light detective work by looking at community content creators like VaatiVidya to learn about these universes, which resemble a captivating novel like any of Martin’s fantasy works rather than a run-of-the-mill open-word game. Because of this, an HBO Max animated series could explore countless places in Elden Ring‘s past (or future) to tell more cinematic stories.

Split image of Malenia fighting Radahn, and Godfrey and his lion Ash of War

The game’s present centers around the once-banished Tarnished being called back by an old god in the royals’ time of need, as the Golden Order (a code that binds the world’s natural laws in place) has been broken, the rules of life and death no longer apply, and madness-ridden Demigods are running amok. A series could easily go back in time during the days of Queen Marika, her Elden Lord husband Godfrey’s fall from grace, the Shattering, or almost infinitely more.

If Bandai Namco wants to grow this into a full-fledged franchise beyond video games, things like comic books and animated shows/movies almost seem like a given. All the moving pieces seem too convenient to ignore between animation being more appreciated beyond childrens’ content and a famous writer with a pipeline straight to one of the world’s most premium networks — and their budding streaming service.

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