Ah, the art of the licensed game. It’s a genre of game that can range from brutally bad to surprisingly good. These games are often fobbed off as quick cash grabs. Which, in a lot of cases, is exactly what they are. However, on rare occasions, we as gamers have been treated to a selection of truly fantastic titles. It is strange that there is such a feeling of apprehension towards these titles. After all, they already have successful characters and narratives to build on. It should be easy, right? Well, it could simply be that a few spoiled the party for the rest.

Take the biggest flop of all time, ET, the Atari home console Christmas release that is aptly known as the worst video game of all time. This was a movie tie-in that possibly set a precedent for any future titles of that nature. Other notable crimes against gaming include Superman 64, Aliens: Colonial, Marines, and Rambo: The video game. These games have done nothing to salvage the shaky reputation of the licensed game library. Yet, occasionally we do receive a beacon of hope in the darkness. So let’s take a stroll down licensed game lane. Here is our list of the top five licensed games we have ever seen grace the shelves.

5. Toy story 2: Buzz Lightyear to The Rescue

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To kick off our top five licensed games of all time, we have a Disney movie tie in that provided hours of platforming fun. This was the first time that we would be invited to explore the world from the famous toy’s perspective. The format was simple: collect, platform, have a boss battle, do a race, and find the hidden item. Each level played this way with a new area to explore. Looking back, the visuals have aged like curdled milk. However, at the time, they are on par with most games of that genre.

The controls were fun and easy to pick up, with the only negative factor being the camera. Although not horrible, there were times where you would have to fight for it to center on Buzz. The soundtrack for this game was outstanding as well. It began in Andy’s room with the staple. You got a friend in me playing as you explore. Then there was the ominous music of the alleyways, the honky-tonk country vibes in the collectors’ apartment, or the industrial feel of the construction site.  This title was by no means groundbreaking, but as far as fan service goes, it hit the spot.

4. The Simpsons: Hit and Run

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This was the GTA experience for all the kids without fun uncles with little regard for age ratings on games. Much like the successful title, South Park: The stick of truth. This title offered an opportunity to live the TV show. The narrative for the game was written by Mr. Matt Groening himself and offered a fun romp through seven areas of Springfield. The story focuses on Bart being abducted by aliens and a strange conspiracy centering around a cola company.

From there, classic Simpson’s style hilarity ensues with the player in charge of proceedings. Also, the title offered a series of excellent missions, vehicle classes, costume changes, and classic references and voice acting from the genuine cast members. In some cases, Intertextuality can be a cheap trick to get fans onside, but when done as well as this, it is a joy to behold. This title has been rumored to be next in line for the remaster treatment. Plus, seeing as The Simpsons as a TV show has seen better days, this may be their last bastion of hope for a revival.

3. Spiderman 2 (PS2)/ Marvel’s Spiderman (PS4)

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A split entry here between the catalyst and the finished product. The movie tie in for Spider-Man 2 was a joy to behold. The fact that the story was handled respectably and that Toby McGuire lent his voice to the project was massive pros. However, the real fun factor for this title was the gameplay. The way we were able to control Spider-Man as we swung from building to building was immense. Spiderman titles had been handled well in the past through the previous movie tie in and various PlayStation one outings. Yet it was this one that raised the standard through the fluidity and freedom of movement on show.

This leads on to the spectacle that was this generations Spiderman title. This impeccable outing visuals, refined movement, and compelling original story rose the bar once again. This is not surprising seeing that the developers that created the PS2 classic, Insomniac, were at the helm. The game also received great DLC content, free costume updates, and its time of writing still ranks very highly on the most visually appealing game of the generation. Two amazing licensed titles rolled into one. You can’t say we don’t spoil you.

2. 007 Golden eye

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For many, this is where console FPS truly began. Based on the source material of the British espionage movie, James Bond’s 007: Golden eye, this title gave players a taste of the spy life. The campaign for this title was a decent outing, especially for the time, but the real success lay in the game’s multiplayer. Players were treated to multiple maps were they could run and gun as familiar characters from the movie. The aiming from the hip was sporadic and inaccurate, making the play frantic and inconsistent. Thankfully for this classic, it only added to the fun.

There were five distinct game modes offered in-game. These were a standard death-match, a mode where you have two lives similar to a search and destroy without the bomb and double the lives. There was a king of the hill style game, licence to kill mode, which was a one-shot kill mode. Then lastly, there was the fabled ‘Golden gun mode’ where one player could acquire the one-shot kill weapon hidden on the map.  Sadly, the title doesn’t hold up today, but at the time, this title served it’s purpose and exceeded all expectations. The truly classic FPS experience.

1. The Kingdom Hearts series

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So I hear you like licences? Then how about a plethora of universally loved Disney characters blended in with memorable Final Fantasy alumni. It sounds ludicrous, but as we know now, it was a smash hit. Kingdom hearts was the title we didn’t know we needed and weren’t sure we wanted. Thank goodness it came along, though. Throughout this cheesy hack and slash series, we have been able to explore re-imaginings of Disney worlds such as Tarzan’s jungle, Port royal, and Halloween Town, to name a few.

The musical score is Disney-esque and has inspired live orchestral stage shows. The visuals have only improved with each convoluted sequel. Also, the gameplay style has never remained stagnant and constantly changes to keep the player on their toes. Then the narrative. Well, we don’t have time for it. The reason being that this storyline is up there with the Metal gear series in terms of bamboozling narrative. Take our word for it, though; it’s good too. If anyone is in doubt that a licensed game can succeed, point towards this game. Since its initial release in 2002, the series has received thirteen releases and shows no sign of stopping. If you are searching for a franchise that bucks the stigma that follows licenced games, look no further.

That’s our top five licensed games of all time. What licensed game do you absolutely love? Did we leave any of your favorites out? What are your opinions on licensed titles? Are they worth trying, or do you avoid them at all costs? Let us know in the comments. Also, check out some more of our superb content related to Kingdom hearts. As always, thanks for reading!


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