It’s an established fact that licensed games, especially movie licensed games, tend to be less than stellar. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still plenty of great licensed games to be found. These 10 games, ranging from current generation to 8-bit, are what I consider to be the 10 best examples of great licensed games. The only criteria is that the game be based on an existing property from any medium other than video games. Television, books, movies, comics, pen and paper RPGs, or any other medium; it doesn’t matter which, as long it was something else before it was a video game.
10. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (2004, Xbox)
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is a prequel to the cult sci-fi film starring Vin Diesel; Pitch Black. The game was released to coincide with the sequel to Pitch Black, simply titled The Chronicles of Riddick, and wound up pleasing fans of the franchise much more than the film did. The game is a first person shooter with a strong emphasis on stealth and melee kills. A defining aspect of the game was the very visceral use of the first person perspective. You weren’t just a arms holding a gun, you were looking through the eyes of Riddick. The game featured some excellent first person animations and was a nice departure from the typical corridor shooter.
9. Disney’s Aladdin (1993, Genesis)
I had this game as a kid, and I could never get very far, but even then I liked the game. Going back and playing it years later, I realized that, unlike many of the games I liked on a Genesis as a young a kid, this one actually holds up very well. The game is obviously based on the movie of the same name, and was one of a few pretty good Disney games on the Genesis. Being on a 16-bit platform, the game is a obviously a sidescroller, and a good one. The game featured some great graphics and animations that really captured the feeling of the movie, and even provided a decent challenge as well.
8. Marvel Ultimate Alliance (2006, PS3/X360/PC)
In a vast ocean of bad comic book games, Marvel Ultimate Alliance stands out as one of the better ones. The game is a dungeon crawler in the vain of something like Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, though it doesn’t feature any sort of look system. Instead of finding new gear, the driving force is unlocking new characters. There are several dozen characters in the game, with pretty much every corner of the Marvel Universe being represented. Each character has their own unique moves and powers, and they can also be upgraded and leveled individually. What really makes the game fun is the simple yet addictive combat and the cooperative play. You can play with up to 4 players, which is where the game really shines. To top it off, the game has a fun comic book storyline that sees you voyaging all over the Marvel Universe, from Mephisto’s hellish domain to Atlantis to Asgard; all the major locations are represented.
7. Kingdom Hearts (2002, PS2)
While not technically based on any one licensed property, Kingdoms Hearts is filled with characters and locations from dozens of Disney films, so in my mind it counts as a licensed game. Kingdoms Hearts is an odd game in that it is basically the combination of two extensive back catalogs of fiction from two very different companies, Squaresoft and Disney. The game itself is a very Final Fantasy-like JRPG, but with real time combat instead of turn based. The reason Kingdom Hearts really stands out as a such a great game is the combination of the high production value and solid gameplay you would expect from Squaresoft at the time mixed with over 50 years of Disney magic that would tickle the nostalgic nerve of anyone who grew up watching Disney movies; and honesty, who didn’t grow up watching Disney movies?
6. Duck Tales (1989, NES)
I never really watched the Duck Tales cartoon all that much, and I didn’t play the game until many years after it came out (it came out the year I was born after all). However, when I did play, I realized why it was a beloved NES classic. Hell, just the music for the moon stage would have been enough to make this list, but the game is more than just one of the best NES soundtracks ever. Duck Tales is a simply a top notch platformer on a system full of platformers. It got really well designed stages and tight controls, the two main ingredients needed to make a platformer great. Did I mention the music is amazing?