Recursive Adaptation

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
The video game based on the hit card game based on the hit video game! Now with a special card!
"I knew Atari were idiots when they let Uwe Boll make a god-awful action movie out of the franchise, but I never thought they were big enough idiots to use that film as inspiration."
Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw, 2008 Alone in the Dark Review. May not be quite, but close.
"Grease 2: The Musical Based On The Sequel To The Movie Based On The Musical"
Sign outside of Springfield Community Theater, The Simpsons episode "The Monkey Suit"

Something that can happen when a work is adapted, and then that is adapted, and it's repeated, to the point where it gets adapted back into the original medium. Often because the original version is so far from the adapted version that it's useless as a tie-in, so the work had to be adapted back. It can also be due to Adaptation Displacement, however.

This is the result of making a Novelization of a movie based on a book, or making a movie out of a Screen to Stage Adaptation, effectively remaking the original movie. See also Recursive Import, Third Option Adaptation, and Canon Immigrant.

Examples of Recursive Adaptation include:

Anime and Manga

  • Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, manga → game → manga.
  • One Piece had a video game adaption that had an original story, and the story of the game later got adapted into a Filler arc in the anime.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima (manga) → Negima!? (anime) → Negima!? Neo (manga).
  • Dragonball Z had a double recursive adaption: the fourth Dragonball Z RPG for the Family Computer was titled Dragonball Z Gaiden, which featured a new storyline written specifically for the game. A two-part video guide for the game was then released that was essentially a Dragonball Z OVA with footage of the Famicom game spliced in between. The animated segments of the video guide were then reused for two FMV games released for Bandai's short-lived Macintosh-based Pippin game console in Japan.
    • Dragon Ball Jump Festa special, Yo! Son Goku and His Friends Return!!, was adapted into a one-shot manga by Ooishi Naho.
    • The Dragonball Z TV special Bardock: The Father of Goku featured an original storyline that wasn't in the original manga, years later Naho Ooishi wrote a manga miniseries called Dragon Ball: Episode of Bardock set after the events of the TV special. Episode of Bardock is now getting an anime adaptation. That makes it an OVA adapted from a manga which is a sequel to an anime TV special which was spun-off from a manga. Also, just to make it more confusing, Bardock as a character received Canon Immigrant status in a flashback in Toriyama's original manga.
  • Chars Counterattack: Novel (Hi-Streamer) → Movie → Novel (Beltorchika's Children). Note that both novels were written by series creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, and none of these are straight adaptations.
  • Behold Ghost in The Shell Stand Alone Complex, the manga based on the anime based on the movie based on the manga. Available at a bookstore near you.

Comic Books



  • Both the films Bram Stokers Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein had new novelizations written, despite being based on classic novels themselves. And having included the original author's name in the title of the movie, as if to give an air of authenticity. Fred Saberhagen wrote the novelization of Bram Stoker's Dracula; Saberhagen reportedly offered his services on the Frankenstein novel as well, solely for the purpose of being able to put "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: From the author of Bram Stoker's Dracula" on the cover. Ah, What Could Have Been...
  • The Thing also had a Novelization... making it a novel based on a film based on a film/short story.
  • Hollywood producers offered Philip K. Dick the chance to write the Novelization of Blade Runner, itself a loose Film of the Book (the screenwriters had not read the original book) of his Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?? They would have paid a lot of money to do this, but, feeling insulted he refused. This led to the release of tie-in editions of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? re-titled and looking for all the world like Blade Runner novelizations. Later, when his short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" inspired the movie Total Recall. Having gone through Development Hell and many screenwriters, the script was essentially an original script with even less in common with its source material than Blade Runner. By the time of the film's release, Piers Anthony had written a novelization of Total Recall. The novelization came out in 1989. The movie came out in 1990.
  • Two novelizations of James Bond movies, for taking only a few elements of the novel (Moonraker), or just the name (The Spy Who Loved Me).
  • Black Beauty, originally a novel, had a movie made out of it. And then the movie was novelized into a children's book with pictures from the movie in the middle.
  • Several movies based on children's books wind up getting adapted into children's books again. Recent examples include Inkheart and The Tale of Despereaux.
  • Anthony Trollope's six-volume Palliser series (long) was adapted into a twenty-six episode miniseries (also long) only to be novelized again in a single volume (very, very short).
  • Fritz Leiber adapted Tarzan and the City of Gold starring Mike Henry into a prose Tarzan novel. He took pains to footnote past Tarzan adventures by Edgar Rice Burroughs to make this a canonical continuation of the Tarzan continuity of Burroughs.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series example: the episode "The Slaver Weapon" was adapted by Larry Niven from his own original (unrelated to Star Trek) short story "The Soft Weapon". The episode itself was then subsequently novelised by Alan Dean Foster as a Star Trek novel. This means that there are two print versions of the exact same story, both of which are similar but also startlingly different from each other.
  • Many The Saint comic strip arcs and TV episodes received prose adaptations by Leslie Charteris and other writers. These adaptations fit into the Saint's literary continuity. Examples include The Saint in Trouble (has a footnote to the events of The Last Hero) and Salvage for the Saint.
  • Will Murray wrote some Remo Williams comic books, at least one of which he adapted into a prose novel.
  • Max Allan Collins wrote a Bones novel. This counts as a recursive adaptation as the Bones TV series adapts Kathy Reichs' concepts from her novels.
  • Carl Dreadstone adaptations of the Universal, many of whom started in prose.
  • 1977 novelization of Lancaster version of The Island of Doctor Moreau'.
  • The novelization of Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes remake was a novelization of a remake of a film adapted from an English translation of a French novel. Yikes.
  • Joy Hakim's A History of US middle-school textbook series was adapted into a PBS documentary series Freedom: A History of US, which was released concurrently with a history book (not quite written for middle-schoolers, but for all casual readers) adaptation of the documentaries, sharing the revamped title with the documentaries. So Textbook → Documentary → history book.
  • The run-up to the Jackson The Lord of the Rings adaptation inspired this memorable parody.
  • The Magic School Bus series had books based on the TV series based on the book. They were by far the least educational of the versions.
  • Both Arthur and Franklin began their lives as popular book series. Both have since been made into television series. In turn, episodes of those series have been released as books, though they've generally avoided releasing episodes as books that were adapted from books in the first place.
  • The film adaptation of Jurassic Park was given the junior novelization treatment. So, book of the film of the book. The same is true of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Jumanji and Zathura.
  • How to Train Your Dragon: The Chapter Book. Seriously, that's the actual title.
  • The Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine was adapted into a TV show, which then was adapted back into books based on the episode (though, these books were written by someone else).
  • Moonraker has an interesting history as a book → movie → book. It was the third James Bond novel by Ian Fleming. It was then adapted into a film in 1979...but the film only incorporated the villain (Hugo Drax) and the idea of a rocket from the novel. The screenwriter, Christopher Wood, adapted his screenplay into a book of the movie, titled James Bond and Moonraker to differentiate it from the original novel.
  • The original Star Wars was actually released as an only moderately successful book a couple of months before the film first appeared at the box office and caught fire. The events of the film have since been adapted into any number of novelizations and adaptation distillations.
    • Novelizations that reach theaters prior to the film may not count.
  • Mary Roberts Rinehart adapted her short story "The Circular Staircase" in collaboration with Avery Hopwood into the mystery play The Bat, whose runaway success led to a novelization.
  • The Fox and The Hound, a novel by Daniel P. Mannix, and obviously literature to begin with, was very very loosely adapted into a Disney movie which was then further adapted into another series of books.
  • Where the Wild Things Are started as a picture book, then was adapted into a much longer and more detailed movie, and the movie has its novelized version, titled Wild Things.
  • Nearly every popular animated movie has a children's book version, including movies that are based on books or stories.
  • Conan the Barbarian, both the 1982 and 2011 versions, received novelizations. (Admittedly, an unusual entry, since the films did not especially specifically adapt the tales from the 1950's reprint volume Conan the Barbarian.) Robert Jordan also wrote a novelization of Conan the Destroyer, but no anthology or novel had used that title.
  • Significant changes were made to A Princess of Mars to get the movie John Carter, but at least the novelization included the original novel as an added feature in the back of the book!
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was based off the book Who Censored Roger Rabbit. The film then led to the book ... Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Not a straight example because only the characters were used but rather close.

Live-Action TV

Tabletop Games

  • Not quite a direct franchise adaptation, but the role-playing game phenomenon inspired the Niven & Barnes novel Dream Park and its sequels. R. Talsorian Games then adapted the novel into an actual tabletop RPG.
  • Another quasi-example: Magic: The Gathering sells a few of the decks used in its Duels of the Planeswalkers video game as pre-made decks. Of course, there's nothing but money preventing the dedicated player from making the decks himself.

Video Games

  • Street Fighter II, the game that started the whole fighting game boom of The Nineties and arguably created the genre, inspired a Live Action Adaptation simply titled Street Fighter, which in turn inspire not one, but two fighting games based on it, both titled Street Fighter: The Movie. The arcade version was made by Incredible Technologies. The console version, often mistaken to be a port of the arcade version, plays more like a standard Street Fighter game (specifically like a slower Super SF II Turbo) and it's generally considered a decent game, albeit not at the same level as the other games in the series.
    • Street Fighter II the Animated Movie also had its own game version, albeit one that came out only in Japan. Instead of being a traditional fighting games, it was some weird pseudo-life sim where you controlled the newest model of Shadaloo's Monitor Cyborgs and develop his fighting abilities by watching FMV footage of the actual movie (along with new scenes made for the game) and "analyzing" the characters' special moves. There is a Super Turbo-style fight sequence in the end, but the Cyborg's moves are the same ones that Ken has in Super Turbo (including his Shoryu Reppa).
  • Pokémon had video game → collectible card gamevideo game. (And the promotional cards that came with the game and its strategy guide are based on those from the video game, adding another layer...)
    • Also, Yellow Version is video game → anime → video game.
      • Which went double-recursive when Ash and Gary finally battled each other in the anime: Ash uses Pikachu while Gary uses an Eevee, which are the Pokémon their game counterparts start with in the Yellow Version.
    • Weren't there some trading cards based on the anime? And wasn't the anime somewhat based on the manga? If so... that would make the video game of Pokémon Trading Card Game "video game → manga → anime → trading card game → video game."
      • No, the anime was not based off the manga. It had multiple manga adaptations though. So in the case of the anime, "video games → anime → manga AND video game."
    • It gets better. The Surfing Pikachu card is a reference to Pokemon Yellow, and is included in the video game version. That's video game → anime → video game → trading card game → video game.
  • Double Dragon inspired an animated series produced by DiC and Bohbot Entertainment, which had an American-developed fighting game tie-in titled Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls. The Movie also had its own fighting game version for the Neo-Geo, which was developed by Technos themselves.
  • Hoo boy, Super Robot Wars. Initially a series of games centered around anime crossovers which eventually got a sub-series of games based on its Original Generation. Said subseries got its own Animated Adaptation and an OVA sequel. And then the first two OG games got a remake that changed plot elements to accomodate scenes from the anime, and a bonus segment based on the OVA. And after that, a Gaiden Game was released that continued the plot of the bonus segment and threw in elements from what was essentially a radio play. Together with all the Canon Immigrants getting tossed around between series and mediums, Super Robot Wars has more loops than your average roller coaster ride.
  • Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, which was a creative localization of Puyo Puyo based off the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog animated series, which was based off of the Sonic the Hedgehog games.
    • If you want to stretch it that far, Sonic Spinball is a video game loosely based on (read: has cameos from) the Sonic the Hedgehog Sonic Sat AM and Archie Comics series (which were, as above, based on the original games), which eventually got its own comic adaptation.
    • There was going to be a straight example of this—that is, a Sonic game based on the SatAM cartoom, which in turn was based on the video games—but it was canceled.
  • Tomb Raider has an interesting example, in that it started as a game, and then became a movie which was a failure for fans of the game. And then the games became failure for fans of the game. Eventually, they borrowed elements from the movie to make the new game series (also putting a "Lara Croft" before the title, similar to the movies), which has actually made it more successful and relevant than its been in years.
  • F-Zero: GP Legend—a video game based on the anime of the same name, based upon the F-Zero franchise of video games.
  • Pac-Man → the Saturday morning cartoon Pac-Man → Pac-Land, a sidescrolling platformer based on the cartoon.
    • In Japan however, it became a (slightly) Dolled-Up Installment. It was still Pac-Land, but with changes made to certain sprites, including Pac-Man himself, where he looks more like Namco's official artwork.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, the Triangle Heart 3 ~sweet songs forever~ added mini-scenario (game) → Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha series (anime) → Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable - The Battle of the Aces (game)
  • Metal Gear Solid had a 12-issue Comic Book Adaptation published by IDW, which was then adapted into a PSP game titled Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel.
  • The 2006 installment of Midway's Spy Hunter series was actually based on the movie that was based on the game series. Except the Spy Hunter movie upon which the game was based never ended up being released. Apparently they got tired of waiting, and decided to just release the game with no context.
  • BombermanBomberman JettersBomberman Jetters video game.
  • Touhou series (video game) → Strange and Bright Nature Deity (Manga spinoff) → Fairy Wars (video game continuation of a story from the SaBND manga)
  • Not across mediums, but across companies: Konami's Guitar Freaks → Harmonix's Guitar Hero → Konami's Rock Revolution.
    • Another Rhythm Game non-pure example; Pac Man and other old arcade games → Pac Man Fever by Buckner and Garcia → Pac Man Fever on Rock Band, including a song about Donkey Kong available on Xbox 360 and Play Station 3.
  • Roadside Picnic (novel) → Stalker (short story[1]) → Stalker (Tarkovsky movie) → STALKER (video game adaptation) → numerous novelizations → movie based on one of them.
  • Tak and the Power of Juju started out as its own game series, became a cartoon, and Tak from the cartoon appeared in Nicktoons Unite!.
  • Autobahn Raser: racing game (1998) → In Name Only movie adaptation (2004) → racing game based on the movie (2004).
  • The additional cars and tracks from the home versions of San Francisco Rush 2049 were incorporated into the Updated Rerelease /Special Edition of the arcade version, as well as two of the BGM's from the Dreamcast version to go with the new tracks. The tracks also had new shortcuts added.
  • Gradius / Nemesis(arcade)=>Gradius(NES)=>Vs. Gradius(arcade)
  • Rogue Squadron N64 & Game Cube games => X Wing Series comics => Star Wars: X-Wing PC game => Star Wars films.

Western Animation


  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Theme park ride → movie → revamped theme park ride.
  • Transformers started out as toys, went to an animated series, which then introduced new toys, some of which were used for new Transformers series, or for The Movie, which got its own line of toys.
    • Another Hasbro franchise to which something similar happened is My Little Pony. It started out as a line of plastic toy ponies with accessories, and in order to boost sales, an animated series was produced. Three generations later, since My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic was launched, the toys are more and more based on the animated series which in turn is based part on the first generation toys (or how Lauren Faust characterized them), part on the third generation (In Name Only, though).
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Radio play → Series of books → Radio plays based on the last three books that didn't start as radio plays. Plus, a fondly-recalled 1980s television series based on the first two books (and, by extension, on at least the first radio series), and a forever delayed but finally-released 2005 film version of the first book, which varied enough from the 'original' for a Broken Base to result. Plus, a towel. Um, don't ask, but it's All There in the Manual. Oh, and recently the canon has added a sixth book in the trilogy by another author, several years after the Author Existence Failure (a term based on a phrase of his from Hitchhiker's, ironically) of Douglas Adams, the man behind most of the above.
  • Scrabble: Board Gamesgame showboard game.
  • Civilization: CivilizationSid Meier's CivilizationSid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game.
  • A recurring MST suggestion for Riff Trax is... Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Movie!
  • The game of Mornington Crescent on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue inspired two books detailing the history of the game: The Little Book of Mornington Crescent and Stovold's Mornington Crescent Almanac. The later radio Mockumentary In Search of Mornington Crescent is essentally an Audio Adaptation of these books.
  • The theatrical version of Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The theatrical version was notably Darker and Edgier than the Lighter and Softer Disney adaption, keeping the dark tone of the book (having Esmeralda and Quasi die at the end, Frollo being a (former) priest, ect,) whilst keeping the plot points from the Disney version (Clopin being a sort of narrator, Frollo being a Complete Monster, the lack of Gringorie, ect).
  • Japanese pro soccer player Hidetoshi Nakata cites the Captain Tsubasa manga and anime as his inspiration for pursuing a career in soccer. He got a cameo in Inazuma Eleven 2 via a secret character based on and named after him. Said character became an Ascended Extra in the third game and consequently also appeared in the corresponding arc of the anime adaptation. In short, anime → real life → game → anime.
  • Cabaret: Real Life → book (Berlin Stories) → fictional play (I Am A Camera) → Musical → Movie (Which has a closer plot to the play, but uses songs from the musical.)
  • Adrian Mole started out in 1982 as a BBC radio play called The Diary of Nigel Mole. The Adrian Mole books were then adapted for Radio 4, with the same voice actor, Nicholas Barnes. In 1985 Sue Townsend wrote some original Adrian Mole material for Radio 4's summer holiday programming (again with Barnes), wich later became "Adrian Mole at The BBC" in her True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole book. So radio → book → radio → radio → book. Further books have come out at random intervals every few years since, featuring Adrian's diaries from the age of 13 3/4 to over 40.
  • Baby's Tears started out as a Konami original song in Dance Dance Revolution SuperNOVA. It got drastically remixed (different instrumentals, different lyrics, slower tempo; about the only thing that stayed the same was the melody) into an Anime Theme Song as the opening theme for the Sky Girls OVA. The anime version subsequently appeared alongside the original in DDR SuperNOVA 2, listed as "Baby's Tears (Sky Girls Opening Theme)".
  • Rice Krispie Treats Cereal: cereal → dessert → cereal.
  • A weird one occurred after Homestuck cosplay at various convention: A bystander appeared on a photo and quickly went memetic with fanart, cosplay, and fanart of the cosplay.
  • The Mauser C96 was copied in Spain and China, with some of the better copies being select fire automatic with box magazines instead of the original's semi-auto, stripper-clip only mechanics. Mauser, seeing these clones become fairly popular, produced their own C96 variant with box magazines and full-auto capability.
  1. expanded into a script, by the same people plus Tarkovsky