If you love playing video games, you’ll probably love watching video game documentaries as well.
Whether you’re interested in learning about the history of gaming as a whole, how a specific game was made, or a particular gaming community, there’s likely a film out there for you.
We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of video game documentaries to watch. If you want to jump straight to our top 3 favorite gaming documentaries, click here. Enjoy!
A 2012 documentary following the journey of four indie game developers during the development of games Super Meat Boy, Fez, and Braid. They take you through the ups and downs of game development and dealing with success and failure. Recommended for anyone who likes a good underdog story.
Indie Game: Life After is the sequel to Indie Game: The Movie with epilogues of what happened to the original documentary’s developers and how their lives have changed four years later.
Nintendo Quest is a 2019 documentary that follows two friends who attempt to acquire all 678 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) games with a caveat: they can’t buy anything online. A fun little nostalgia trip for anyone interested in the history of Nintendo and collecting things.
One of the most famous video games documentaries, The King of Kong is a 2007 documentary that follows Steve Wieb in his attempt to claim the high score in the arcade game Donkey Kong. To do so, he must beat Billy Mitchell, the current record holder, who also happens to be less than likable. It’s a classic David vs Goliath story that is a must-watch for gamers and nongamers alike.
This is a 2016 documentary investigating the origin of game sound design from modern video games spanning back to penny arcades. It’s worth a watch if you’re interested in audio composition, but the film is moreso directed at industry insiders than general gamers.
Narrated by Tony Hawk, Video Game Invasion documents the rise of the video game industry from a quirky niche hobby to the global phenomenon it is today. The show features interviews with many OGs and game masterminds like John Romero of Doom and Quake.
Like the Video Game Invasion documentary, Rise of the Video Game also dives into the history of video gaming. The five-part series discusses everything from the first computer game ever to classics such as Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Zelda, and modern games such as Wolfenstein 3D, America’s Army, and Sim City.
If you’re at all interested in Tetris, Ecstasy of Order is well worth a watch. The film unveils how Tetris became one of the most popular games of all-time while following several gamers as they prepare for the 2010 Classic Tetris World Championship.
A documentary about retro video game collecting. If you’re a big fan of consoles like the NES, Atari 2600, or Sega Genesis and are a self-proclaimed game junkie, you might enjoy this.
Another documentary detailing the history of the video game industry and how it rose to fame. Games mentioned include Pong, Pac Man, Super Mario, Doom, and Grand Theft Auto. It’s available on Amazon Prime to watch.
A 2014 documentary about video game design featuring interviews with some of the prominent video game creators and players, as well as celebs such as Zach Braff, Chris Hardwick and Sean Astin.
Man Vs Snake is similar to The King of Kong, as it follows gamers who try to hit a billion points on the 1982 arcade game Nibbler. Billy Mitchell is also featured in this documentary. Like King of Kong, it’s a great tale about underdogs who strive to realize their dreams.
While many documentaries in this list feature the history of the video game industry as a whole, Chasing Ghosts focuses on the golden age of arcade games in the 1980s. The film interviews major players at the time – now much older – as they look back and reminisce about the glory days of arcade games.
The Space Invaders documentary is similar to Chasing Ghosts. It documents the rise and fall of arcade video games during the 1980s, and Atari’s bankruptcy as a result. The show is a great trip down memory lane and provides insight into a way of life.
The Commodore Story is a very niche documentary showcasing how the Commodore 64 PC influenced gaming and brought 8-bit gaming to new levels.
A documentary interviewing the video game designers and programmers of Atari, who personally contributed to the rise of the company and saw its unfortunate downfall.
The Smash Brothers is a 2013 documentary focused on the competitive Super Smash Bros Melee scene. The film documents the history of the game through the lens of eight of the game’s best players: Isai, Mew2King, KoreanDJ, Ken, PC Chris, Mango, and Azen. Even if you’ve never played Smash Bros, this documentary is gripping.
Bet Raise Fold is a documentary about the online poker boom and bust during the 2000s. From Chris Moneymaker winning the WSOP leading to an entire generation of Internet poker players to the eventual Black Friday on April, 2011. It’s a great coming of age story that follows three players and how their lives were affected by it all.
Free to Play is a documentary created by Valve that follows three professional DoTA 2 players as they prepare for an upcoming tournament. Viewers learn a lot about the three players, from what motivates them, how they’ve dealt with family negativity about their gaming profession, and their struggles.
The Video Game Years actually isn’t a documentary, but rather a TV show. Each episode focuses on a particular year and the most significant games of that year. The episodes start in the 70s and end in the 90s.
A history of the video game industry with a focus on the British view, and how some of the pioneers paved the way to what we now know as modern gaming.
Atari: Game Over is all about exploring “The Great Video Game Burial of 1983,” where Atari Corporation supposedly buried millions of unsold E.T. game cartridges due to negative backlash. Whether you lived through the years or just want to learn about this popular video game urban legend, this documentary is worth a watch.
A TV show spanning 25 episodes, each discussing a specific game that had a significant impact on the gaming industry and wider culture as a whole. Games discussed include StarCraft, World of Warcraft, Angry Birds, Minecraft, and The Last of Us. It’s been described from critics as “pretty much heaven” for gamers, so if you’re at all interested in any of the games mentioned give it a watch.
As the name suggests, RuneScape Documentary is all about the classic RuneScape MMORPG. Anyone who grew up gaming in the 2000s has probably played or heard about the game, and this film sheds light behind the game’s development, history, and its players. It features an interview with the game’s most famous player, Zezima.
The FGC documentary is all about shedding light into the best fighting games of our times and their communities. Much of the film focuses on Street Fighter and prominent members like James Chen and Seth Killian, and also follows LordKnight through his Evo journey.
Fans of Minecraft will like this one. It’s all about the history of Mojang, which created Minecraft, featuring interviews with the founders and developers on how they created the game and their thoughts moving forward.
Made by Microsoft themselves, Halo 2: Anniversary is an hour long documentary all about the Halo franchise. It discusses Halo 1 and 2’s development from the creators and designers themselves.
Created by Machima, this 190 episode series explores the most popular games, brands, and companies of the video game industry.
The Life 2.0 documentary is all about the game Second Life. The film seeks to explore the alternate reality universe and its participants, and what makes the game so compelling and immersive to players.
No, that’s not a typo – they had to call it Moral Kombat to avoid copyright issues. The film examines the polarizing subject of violence in video games with a specific lens on the gory Mortal Kombat series.
Beyond the Game is a Dutch documentary made in 2008 about Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. It features world champions Xiaofeng “Sky” Li, Manuel “Grubby” Schenkhuizen and Fredrik “MaDFroG” Johansson as they prepare for the World Championship Cybergames tournament.
An hour-long documentary that follows a group of students as they vie for jobs in the video game industry.
While many of the films here feature players, The King of Arcades is all about arcade owner and punk rockstar Richie Knucklez as he attempts to keep his arcade business alive through economic hardship.
This documentary is all about how New York’s Chinatown Fair, a historical video game arcade, has influenced the fighting game community and NYC itself. A unique look that captures the arcade and post-arcade era, particularly for anyone who lives in New York City.
Playing Columbine is a thought provoking documentary describing the making of the game Super Columbine Massacre RPG. At its core, the film is about artistic expression, freedom of speech, and boundaries in the video game industry.
A 2008 documentary that follows seven die-hard MMORPG players, all of whom live second lives in various fantasy worlds online. An intriguing look into the lives of hardcore gamers.
Thank You For Playing is a heartwarming film following Ryan Green and his family as he creates a game for his terminally ill son. This film will take you through an emotional and inspirational journey.
Gaming in Color explores the LGBQT side of gaming, from the people who play to the themes in games to the gaymer culture as a whole.
An interesting documentary focused on the interactive fiction (text adventure) genre. It’s a wonderful film that oozes with passion from the creators of some of the best games in the early years of PC gaming.
GTFO is an documentary investigating sexism in the video game industry. The film explores what it means to be a female gamer and the issues surrounding it in today’s world.
The Road to Eternity is a documentary all about the massive hit game Pillars of Eternity. Much of the documentary was actually filmed as PoE was being developed, giving insight into what goes on at a small independent game studio.
A short documentary about the small subset of remaining professional Quake World players.
Street Fighter is one of the most beloved fighting games ever. This documentary was made to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the game and explore the ins and outs of Street Fighter that is sure to hit you with a wave of nostalgia.
Pixel Poetry explores gaming as an art form and how technology has allowed games to transcend its medium into something broader.
There are also a ton of great YouTube channels that regularly make great gaming documentaries. Whatever game you like, there’s probably a video about it among these channels.
- Classic Gaming Quarterly
- Nostalgia Nerd
- Gaming Historian
- Wrestling With Gaming
- Slopes Game Room
- My Life In Gaming
- Tophat Gaming Man
- Double Fine Adventure
Top 3 Best Video Game Documentaries
If you could only watch three of the documentaries in this list above, these are the ones we’d recommend.
The film has essentially already reached cult status among gamers and Super Smash Bros players. Everything about the documentary – from the music to the player interviews to the crowd hype – makes this insanely enjoyable. You can just feel the passion everyone involved has for the game.
The Smash Brothers documentary arguably single-handedly ushered in the “Platinum Era” of SSBM. The film renewed interest in the game and spurred new tournaments, increased viewership, and player participation, all for a game nearly 15 years old at the time the film was released.
What makes all this even greater is the documentary was created by one person, Travis “Samox” Beauchamp, on a shoestring budget of just $12,000. It’s reminiscent of how the entire Melee Smash Bros community has been a grassroots effort from the start.
Samox has been working on a follow-up documentary titled Metagame primarily focusing on Adam “Armada” Lindgren and the modern era of the “Five Gods.” Editing has been completed and Samox is working to get the film on Netflix.
The King of Kong
Even if you never grew up playing arcade games, you’ll still enjoy The King of Kong. If you did grow up in the 70s and 80s, though, you’ll probably appreciate this documentary even more.
What makes The King of Kong so fascinating is it touches on universal themes we can all relate to: striving for a goal, handling adversity when the odds are stacked against you, and dealing with corrupt, unfair organizations. It’s a great David vs Goliath story with a clear protagonist you root for and an antagonist you love to hate.
After you’ve watched it, Google “Billy Mitchell” for an epilogue of what’s happened since.
Free to Play
Free to Play is an excellent documentary that’s well filmed and emotionally engaging. If you’ve ever played DoTA, League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, or any other MOBA, you’ll really appreciate the storyline of three top players preparing for the upcoming championship.
The film is particularly nostalgic for anyone who’s played DoTA, as you’ll likely recognize the “good ‘ol days”. Released in 2014, the total prize of the tournament in the movie was $1.8 million – prizes now exceed $25 million.
If you haven’t played MOBAs, the film is still highly relatable. It provides insight on the sacrifices that professional gamers have to make, the kinds of criticisms they have to deal with from friends and family, and what it takes to become successful.
Free to Play is a remarkable look at the e-sports industry at the time and also how far e-sports have come in the years since.