There was a long stretch of time when video games based on licensed properties were met with a good deal of skepticism regarding their quality. This stigma had been hard-earned over many years, stretching all the way back to Atari’s disastrous E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (which was so bad 3.5 million unsold copies were buried in New Mexico).
In recent years, however, skeptical gamers have been rewarded with legitimately good games based on their favorite properties. Let’s shine a light on 10 of these fantastic licensed games and examine exactly what made them so good.
Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom
It’s hard to imagine a Spongebob Squarepants game being so adored by fans that it actually warrants a remake over a decade later. Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom managed to make this happen by being one of the few licensed video games of its time to be genuinely fun.
The 2003 game played well and had some classic Spongebob jokes sprinkled throughout. More importantly, it felt loyal to one of the most acclaimed cartoons of our time. Hopefully Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated stays true to the original when it releases on June 23, 2020.
Batman: Arkham City
It is well known that people considered the Batman property to be incapable of creating a good game for years. A vast majority of games featuring the dark superhero were honestly not great at all.
Rocksteady Studios fixed this in 2009 with the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Then in 2011, they came back and perfected the formula with Batman: Arkham City. The sequel takes everything that was great about the first game and improves upon it, solidifying it as one of the best licensed games ever made.
Spider-Man has actually seen lots of success in gaming. While there are some pretty terrible games featuring the wall crawler, there are just as many games that could be considered fine or even great. One of the greats would be Spider-Man 2, which released alongside the 2004 film. This game reigned as the best Spider-Man game for over a decade.
Then Spider-Man made a graceful leap back into the gaming scene in 2018 with the release of Marvel’s Spider-Man for the PS4. This new take on the superhero took many notes from the 2004 game and brought those features into a modern setting. By doing this, it made for a Spider-Man game that will be hard to top for some time.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Star Wars is another property that has done well in gaming. Of course, there have been some missteps here and there. However, most Star Wars branded games are actually really decent or amazing.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is one of the better games to use this brand well. Playing as a fugitive Jedi, this game features fun, yet challenging, lightsaber gameplay. This combat is complemented with some satisfying Force powers. Plus, you’ll find settings that are definitely worthy of the Star Wars title. Although, it leaves the door open for many improvements to look forward to.
The Alien franchise seems like a prefect fit for the gaming industry. An iconic monster, exotic locales, great characters, and a universe with a great deal of untapped potential. Naturally, there were a few failed attempts at creating games for this franchise, most notably Aliens: Colonial Marines. (The less said about Colonial Marines, the better.)
The real star of this series is 2014’s Alien: Isolation. This game identifies everything that made the Alien films so great and brings it into the interactive medium. What you get is an adrenaline-fueled thrill ride that has to be one of the most effective horror games in recent years.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead series has seen a lot of success on television and in print. However, adapting that success into the interactive space seemed a bit tricky. Zombie survival games were on the outs with gamers in 2012.
As such, Telltale Games went the opposite direction. They ditched shooter and melee combat in exchange for a focus on narrative and character. What they ended up creating was a solid contended for Game of the Year in a year where the competition was pretty stout.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
The Chronicles of Riddick isn’t the most well-known property out there. However, it does make for an incredible game series. As a series of passion projects for actor Vin Diesel, The Chronicles of Riddick has seen quite a bit of content. Three major theatrical releases, an anime, and two video games make for a pretty extensive franchise. While the films are good as dark sci-fi, it’s widely accepted that the games are actually the best parts of this series.
2004’s Escape From Butcher Bay in particular is a strong entry. This prequel sees the anti-hero escaping from one of the most hardcore prisons in the galaxy. Players will find tense stealth gameplay, fascinating exploration, and some solid combat mechanics while playing as Richard B. Riddick.
In recent years, the Mad Max property has seen a revitalization due in most part to the critically acclaimed film Mad Max: Fury Road. However, there was another release that slid under the radar a bit. This was most likely because of the stigma surrounding licensed games.
Simply titled Mad Max, this 2015 game came out a few months after Fury Road. This post-apocalyptic adventure features slick vehicular combat, which is a sorely missed genre these days. Plus, the melee combat is well polished, which complements a satisfying upgrade system. All in all, Mad Max definitely deserves a second look from many people.
The Lego Games
The Lego games have been around for years now. In that time, they’ve done well with properties that seemingly do not fare well in gaming. Every type of superhero that you can think of, blocky renditions of classic Steven Spielberg films, and even faithful adaptions of beloved young adult novels are all under the Lego umbrella. However, the fact that they’re all consistently fun is amazing.
Goldeneye 007 was a 1997 release that set the gold standard for licensed games. Not only did it adapt a film into an incredible video game, but it also influenced the gaming industry as a whole. By popularizing multiplayer modes within games and first-person shooters, Goldeneye 007 showed that there was definitely a market for multiplayer shooters.
What is your favorite licensed game of all time? Tell us in the comments below!