When you think of licensed games, you generally think of a lot of low-quality titles shoved hastily onto shelves to coincide with movie releases and pick up a few quick bucks. That is to say, most of them are disappointing. But every once in a while, one of these licensed games manages to stand out from the pack excel – and we thought we’d look back at some of these successes.
Some of these may be surprising to you, and others might be quite familiar. Regardless, this would be our list.
We may as well start with the gold standard of licensed games. GoldenEye 007 was one of the defining titles of the Nintendo 64, praised on all sides not just for it’s great single-player content, but also for its groundbreaking multiplayer mode. The game is up there with Mario Kart 64 and the original Super Smash Bros. as one of the best multiplayer games Nintendo 64 ever supported, and is still remembered fondly today. There was even a remake planned, but it ended up being unfortunately canned due to rights issues. It’s something we’d still like to see, but in the meantime the original remains a glowing example of how to build an iconic game out of an existing film franchise.
The Batman Arkham Franchise
This is another game (or franchise) it’s not surprising to see here. Batman is one of the most recognizable fictional characters in the world, and has a presence in gaming far beyond high-end consoles. Various flash and other online arcade games have promoted the Caped Crusader. Some of the slot games featured at UK sites have featured superhero themes over the years, including a few based on Batman. And more recently, there have been mobile games revolving around the iconic character. But the Arkhamseries launched Batman to new heights in gaming. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with flash games or themed slots, but this franchise really brings the dark world of Gotham to life, and makes you feel like you’re in full control of the superhero as he battles the Joker and stops various nefarious plots. It’s exactly what a licensed console game (or series) should be.
With Toy Story 4 now in theaters, what better time is there to talk about this oft-forgotten classic from almost 20 years ago? This 3D platformer took the familiar plot of the Toy Story 2 film and brought it into the gaming world, with Buzz taking the lead role. In the style of many other platformers (like Banjo-Kazooie and Mario 64), this game saw Buzz tasked with toiling through massive, open-ended levels and tracking down collectible items. It’s a great romp that deserves a more prominent place in gaming history than it seems to have – if not for the gameplay, then at least for the incredible soundtrack that accompanied the PlayStation version!
In a rare instance when the game was better received than the film upon which it was based, X-Men Origins: Wolverine simply captured the spirit of the titular character in a way the film failed to do. Armed with an “M” rating, as opposed to the film’s relatively tame PG-13 status, this game took a page from God of War’s book, focusing on the hack-and-slash capabilities of the character that can sometimes be pushed aside for ratings reasons. As a result, Origins wound up being one of the most brutally enjoyable takes on this character the gaming world has ever seen, bolstered by a satisfying combat system and a very loose take on the movie’s dull plot.
The TMNT are no strangers to games, but their best work definitely came in the arcade and classic Nintendo days. Of a few hits from that time, Turtles in Time was (clearly) the best. It was an absolute gem of a four-player title that’s still great to play with a group of friends. It may be a tough nut to crack at times when it comes to difficulty, but then again that just makes kicking Shredder to the curb that much more satisfying in the end. The game can be a little hard to track down today, but if you’re looking for something similar, a free fan game called Rescue Palooza does a pretty good job of approximating the same style – and ropes in 60 playable characters!
Ducktales for NES is considered one of the best licensed games for a reason. Well, for multiple reasons, really. This was a licensed NES title from Capcom that put Scrooge McDuck, the crotchety old adventuring waterfowl, in a platforming league with all-star classics like Megaman, Mario, and the rest. With tight controls, a very fun pogo cane mechanic, and one of the best soundtracks on the NES, it’s no wonder Ducktales was a hit. Ducktales: Remastered, meanwhile, brought the classic back into the modern day with gorgeous hand-drawn artwork, gameplay as fun as that in the original, and an impressively faithful update of the aforementioned soundtrack.