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Spiritual Adaptation

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"It's a shame that there was never a good Alien game on the NES... Oh wait, actually I take it back! There were some good Alien games on the NES! They're called Contra and Metroid! Yeah."
The Angry Video Game Nerd (after playing the Alien³ NES game), The Angry Video Game Nerd

While a Spiritual Successor is for any plot that is reused without the same setting/characters, a Spiritual Adaptation is when the plot and even characters are used in a different medium. This often occurs because the creators in the new medium are not the same creators/producers of the original medium, which means they don't have access to the intellectual property rights of the original storyline.


It's particularly evident with video games; most people have certain movie characters with tons of potential they dream of playing as in an amazing game, yet as most movie licensed games are terrible, there's little chance of that happening. The storyline may deal with the same themes or problems faced by a very similar cast of characters, but without getting the license, the creators have put together an original work instead. Fans check out the new work, and recognize story elements from a work in a different medium.

A Sub-Trope of Recycled Premise, where it's the story that is reused for another work. A Sister Trope to Spiritual Successor (where any work that shares the same themes/creators is written in a separate universe), Spiritual Crossover (when one work has the characters encounter Expies from another franchise or work) and Recycled IN SPACE! (where the same premise from one work is also reused for a similar but distinct work in another setting). Compare Divorced Installment (where a work did, in fact, begin life as a straightforward adaptation, only to have the Serial Numbers Filed Off during production) and Spiritual Antithesis (where one work has the same characters and themes as its predecessor but done completely different). See X Meets Y, where two or more works are combined together and The Mockbuster where a work doesn't just have similar characters and plot from another work but deliberately rips it off to capitalize on its success.


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    Comic Books 

  • The MagiQuest simulated-adventure franchise, although much lower-tech and modest in scale, is currently the closest that fans of Niven & Barnes' Dream Park can come to savoring the fictional mega-theme park's attractions.

  • Simon R. Green's Deathstalker series will be immediately familiar and fun territory to any Warhammer 40,000 player.
  • The Nina Wilde series by Andy McDermott, about a semi-reluctant Adventurer Archaeologist, obviously takes more than a few cues from (and frequently references) Indiana Jones and Lara Croft. However, the number of pitched gun battles in exotic locations and rare vehicles which inevitably explode makes it far more akin to the written form of Uncharted.
  • The Hunger Games:
    • It's been called an American take on Battle Royale, and for a long time, it was thought that the (then in production) film adaptation would be the closest thing that Americans had to even seeing a legal release of the Battle Royale movie.note  This is actually the root of the Fandom Rivalry between the two works, with fans of Battle Royale accusing The Hunger Games of being a ripoff and Hunger Games fans countering that both books draw from similar influences. And on that note...
    • It's also been called "The Running Man with teenagers." Both works are set in a dystopian future revolving a televised fight to the death that's used to oppress the populace, the intent of both authors being to satirize contemporary television (game shows in The Running Man, Reality TV in The Hunger Games), politics, and pop culture.
  • The best Dungeons & Dragons novel is, without a doubt, The Deed of Paksenarrion.
  • Inheritance Cycle is a medieval fantasy adaptation of Star Wars.
  • The improbable death scenes of Another make it awfully like a Japanese Final Destination.
  • In a rather broad sense, Mogworld is a pretty good novelization of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time in terms of both works being based around video game characters in a fantasy world Noticing the Fourth Wall.
  • Solea Razvan's A Symphony of Eternity series is a mashup of Discworld and Flashman set in a universe akin to Legend of Galactic Heroes only where magic instead of technology is used in this epic Galactic War.
  • The Girl With All the Gifts may as well be the novelization of The Last of Us, only with the setting transplanted to England. Both are stories about a Zombie Apocalypse caused by a fungus in the cordyceps genus jumping to humans, in which a young girl who is immune to the fungus and lives in a symbiotic relationship with it is being transported across a post-apocalyptic wasteland filled with zombies and human bandits to a safe zone where scientists will likely slice her brain open to study her immunity. Two of Melanie's protectors in The Girl With All the Gifts, Miss Justineau and Sergeant Parks, each correspond to different aspects of the protagonist Joel's personality in The Last of Us, with Justineau being the loving, adoptive parental figure and Parks being the badass killer who develops a grudging respect for Melanie. And both end with the protagonist destroying humanity's hope for a cure for the infection, while implying that the search for a cure was a lost cause to start with.
  • The first book of Bravelands is this to The Lion King (1994). Both include a young male lion cub being driven out of his pride (and leaving behind a close female cub) after his father is murdered by another male. The cub is saved by prey animals and is adopted by them, before he eventually ventures off on his own.
  • Stephen King's It can easily be read as a literary adaptation of A Nightmare on Elm Street, albeit on a slightly more epic scale, with both IT (in the form of Pennywise) and Freddy Krueger being quick-witted, Faux Affably Evil monsters that prey on children by using supernatural powers to exploit their worst fears. IT's stomping grounds of choice are the sewers beneath the town of Derry, not unlike how Freddy's go-to dreamscape is an underground boiler room reminiscent of where he killed children in life. The 1994 film Wes Craven's New Nightmare takes the influence full-circle by having Freddy turn out to be an ancient demonic entity that latched onto the Nightmare series and took the form of its iconic villain, reminiscent of how IT is something more akin to an Eldritch Abomination. Andrés Muschietti even considered having IT take the form of Freddy at one point in the 2017 adaptation of It (both that film and the Nightmare series were made by New Line Cinema), though he decided that it would be too distracting.
  • Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is a bit like a loose Gender Flip of Beverly Cleary's Beezus and Ramona, which was published 17 years earlier. Both books are episodic Slices of Life about an average 9-year-old protagonist dealing with the crazy antics of their Annoying Younger Sibling, whom they describe as their "biggest problem," and the climax of both involves the younger sibling destroying something that meant a lot to the protagonist (Ramona ruins Beezus's birthday cake, Fudge eats Peter's pet turtle.) Both books also spawned a series of sequels named after the younger sibling, although the Fudge books keep big brother Peter as the protagonist, whereas the later Ramona books switch the viewpoint from Beezus's to Ramona's.
  • Pride and Prejudice can almost be read as a loose retelling of Much Ado About Nothing. Elizabeth corresponds to Beatrice, Darcy is like a Composite Character of Benedick and Don Pedro, Jane and Lydia both correspond to Hero (Jane as Elizabeth/Beatrice's sweet female relative whose briefly loses her love because of a misunderstanding, Lydia as the one whose damaged sexual reputation threatens to disgrace her family), Bingley is like an Adaptational Nice Guy take on Claudio, the villainous Wickham combines aspects of Don John with the worse side of Claudio, and Caroline Bingley fills out the rest of Don John's role.
  • "The Red One", a short story from From a Certain Point of View about R5-D4, the astromech that was almost purchased in place of R2-D2, can be considered a serious version of "Skippy the Jedi Droid" from Star Wars Tales.
  • Austin Grossman's Crooked, a horror Alternate History of the Cold War, features Henry Kissinger as an Anti-Villain Humanoid Abomination with necromancer powers and monstrous pacts. In that sense, the novel works as a prequel to The Venture Bros., where Kissinger fills the same role.
  • R. L. Stine said that Goosebumps was inspired by reading Tales from the Crypt comics and watching The Twilight Zone (1959) when he was young. Various books in the series also draw influence from older works, in many cases with just punny titles but also going into plot elements in some.
    • Monster Blood, about a novelty slime toy that can move around and eat anything it can envelop, is the series' take on The Blob (1958), albeit with the twist that anything that consumes the titular monster blood will grow in size. A later book, The Blob That Ate Everyone, was a more straightforward homage.
    • Say Cheese and Die!, about a Magical Camera whose photographs show the future (including the fates of people and objects photographed with it), draws its inspiration from the Twilight Zone episode "A Most Unusual Camera".
    • Night of the Living Dummy, about a Creepy Doll that terrorizes children while driving others to believe that they are acting out, is the Goosebumps version of Child's Play. Stine also said that it was inspired by The Adventures of Pinocchio.
    • Welcome to Camp Nightmare shares its twist, that the protagonists are actually aliens who will be heading off to Earth on a mission, with the Twilight Zone episode "Third from the Sun".
    • Stine has said that Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, about a piano teacher who enslaves children (or in this case, their disembodied hands) to play the piano forever, was inspired by The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T.
    • Why I'm Afraid of Bees was inspired by the Robert Sheckley novel Mindswap.
    • Phantom of the Auditorium is a straightforward parody of The Phantom of the Opera.
    • The Haunted Car is about, well, a Sinister Car that tries to kill people, and is furthermore identified as female (it's possessed by the ghost of a girl who died when she took it on a joyride), while the protagonist is a boy who is obsessed with cars. In other words, it's a kid-friendly version of Christine, though unlike Arnie Cunningham, Mitchell Moinian doesn't become a co-villain himself.
    • Calling All Creeps is rather like a kid-friendly version of Carrie.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid is often seen as a children’s novel version of Malcolm in the Middle.
  • The Dresden Files is probably the closest thing people will ever get to a novel series adaptation of Old World of Darkness. Alternatively, it works as a pretty damn good book series adaptation of Angel (albeit being made even Darker and Edgier than Angel already was, along with having a less adversarial perspective on religion).
  • Thanks in large part to how the whole series was originally conceived as "Lost Roman Legion meets Pokémon," Codex Alera can be seen as basically the ancient Roman equivalent to Avatar: The Last Airbender, particularly in how in-depth the series is in examining how Elemental Powers has impacted the everyday society of the Alerans.
  • Monster Hunter International is a series of Action Horror novels in which the protagonists are wisecracking roughnecks who hunt monsters with an assortment of the biggest guns and explosives they can get their hands on. Barring the fact that they battle explicitly supernatural enemies, it may just be the closest translation of Tremors to the page as one can get.




    Tabletop Games 

  • Ever wonder what Romeo and Juliet would look like as a musical set in working-class 1950s New York, with the Montagues and Capulets replaced with rival street gangs? Watch West Side Story and find out.

    Theme Parks 
  • This happens frequently with the haunted houses at Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights event when they don't own the property the house is based on, especially in its earlier years in the 90s and 00s. These days, they're more likely to officially license the property to make a house out of, though the rights to some may be held by other theme parks (namely Disney and Six Flags).
    • The RUN series of houses is big on this. The first one from 2001 is this to The Running Man, while the sequel house RUN: Hostile Territory from 2005 is based more on Hostel. The 2015 house RUN: Blood, Sweat, and Fears makes the Running Man influence even more blatant with its '80s retro-apocalypse setting, while also drawing inspiration from The Hunger Games (itself often seen as a YA version of The Running Man; see Literature above).
    • 2004's Horror In Wax is this to House of Wax (1953).
    • 2005's Demon Cantina is this to From Dusk Till Dawn. They eventually got a From Dusk Till Dawn house in 2014, albeit based on its TV adaptation.
    • 2008's Interstellar Terror is this to Event Horizon.
    • 2010's Legendary Truth: The Wyandot Estate is this to The Legend of Hell House.
    • 2011's The Forsaken is this to The Fog.
    • The "Body Collectors" are strongly based off of the Gentlemen from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Hush".
    • Universal will likely never be able to use The Joker or Harley Quinn at their parks (not with Six Flags holding the rights to use DC Comics characters), but for the time being, they have Jack and his sidekick Chance, the Monster Clowns who delight in terrorizing, torturing, and killing people with sick games. Chance's 2015 redesign especially is almost a dead ringer for Harley in the Batman: Arkham Series. This became even more apparent when Chance was made the icon of the event in 2016, the same year that Suicide Squad (2016) was released, a decision that many fans believe was made in part to capitalize off of Margot Robbie's popular take on Harley Quinn in that film.
  • Years before Universal Japan would open Super Nintendo World, they essentially adapted Super Mario Galaxy into the original attraction Space Fantasy: The Ride, a whimsical science fantasy ride where guests help a cosmic princess and her adorable starry sidekicks save the solar system.

  • Monster High has been described as the closest fans will ever get to a Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School franchise.
  • The Grossery Gang action figures in the Putrid Power lineup are often favorably compared to Food Fighters, an 80s action figure line that didn't have any supplemental media to back it up enough to survive longer. The comparison was pushed even further with the Bug Strike wave of action figures, which gave the characters army outfits.
  • The Transformers: BotBots line is often compared to the "Changeables" line of Happy Meal toys from McDonald's, being robots that transform from food items.
  • The toyline that spawned LEGO Elves: Secrets of Elvendale could easily be considered the closest thing to a Labyrinth LEGO set we have, since it focuses on a teenage girl going on a quest to rescue her younger sibling from a handsome goblin king.

    Web Animation 


    Web Videos 
  • In-Universe, this occurs in The Nostalgia Critic's review of The Princess Diaries 2, when Benny the assassin says he didn't know they made a video game of The Purge, but the Nostalgia Critic says it's actually Grand Theft Auto VI.
  • Discussed in Honest Trailers (see under "Animated Films"):
    Epic Voice Guy: And don't tell me there's no way to make a good Fantastic Four movie! It's called The Incredibles, and it's perfect!
  • Creep Catchers: Inspired by Dateline's To Catch a Predator. A Canadian grassroots movement (not so much an organization) dedicated to confronting would be child predators. As with Dateline, they pose as children in chatrooms and wait for would be "creeps" to take the bait and arrange a meeting. They will film their encounter and often aggressively persuade the "creep" to own up to their actions in light of the evidence in the chatlogs. The encounter is then posted on social media such as Facebook and Youtube as a shaming tactic. Their encounters with said "creeps" can get confrontational and some of the members have been charged with assault. They are especially noted for the theme song that was created by K-Blitz and adopted by individuals who act as creep catchers. Several individual unaffiliated groups use the name "Creep Catchers". Justin Payne, calls his operation P.O.P or "Prey on Predators" but still has used the K-Blitz theme song.
  • Like the aforementioned Death Battle, Epic Rap Battles of History can also be seen as an updating of WWWF Grudge Match for the YouTube age in how it pits both historic figures and pop culture icons against each other, though here, it's done through Battle Rapping rather than an Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny.

Alternative Title(s): Spiritual Licensee