Licensed games are a pretty divisive topic in the gaming industry. For every five excellent licensed games, there seem to be ten that are absolutely horrible. Tomorrow, Batman: Arkham Knight will be released, and LEGO Jurassic World was released last week. In celebration of the release of these incredible games, I’ve compiled a list of ten incredible licensed games that prove that these games can succeed, and, in some cases, can become essential titles for any gamer’s collection.
When LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game launched in 2005, I couldn’t get enough of it. The characters, collecting, and excellent replayability made it an instant classic. In 2007, the ultimate LEGO Star Wars experience was released – LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. This game allows players to play through all six Star Wars films with a ton of fun characters. There’s really no cap on the replayability of this game, either – the smooth local multiplayer system was (and still is) fantastic, and there is always something new to find. The LEGO video games have proved that licensed games can be amazing, and they continue to do so – their latest release, LEGO Jurassic World, is fantastic as well. You can check out LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga for around $20, and you can pick up LEGO Jurassic World (which allows you to play through all of the Jurassic Park films, including the newest one – Jurassic World) for $59.99.
Superhero games are difficult to make – just ask Titus Software, the minds behind Superman: The New Adventures (Superman 64). It was beginning to look like making a really great superhero game was just not possible. That is, until Batman: Arkham Asylum blew the minds of gamers all over the world in 2009. The exploration, collecting, and combat in Arkham Asylum is amazing, and developer Rocksteady managed to make things even better with their 2011 release Batman: Arkham City. In my opinion, Arkham City is the greatest superhero game of all time. That might change after I play Arkham Knight, but for now I still love Arkham City very much. The next release, Batman: Arkham Origins, was good, but it’s not an essential. Batman: Arkham City belongs in every gamer’s library, and hopefully Arkham Knight will step things up even more. Arkham Knight launches at midnight tonight for $59.99 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.
Fans of the Lord of the Rings have been looking for a way to take an adventure through Middle-earth since Tolkien penned the first entry in the series. There have been some successes (Lord of the Rings Online, The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, LEGO Lord of the Rings) and failures (Lord of the Rings: Conquest, Aragorn’s Quest, The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age) along the way, but the wait finally ended last year, when Monolith Productions gifted us with Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Whether you’re looking at this game as a Lord of the Rings adaptation or just an action RPG, there’s no way around the fact that the game is fantastic. Though the DLC was a tad disappointing, Shadow of Mordor brings a huge amount of content that grabs the player’s attention and doesn’t let go until the very end – and then, you’re going to want to start all over again. The best way to experience this game is on Xbox One or PlayStation 4 – do not waste your time on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 versions. Though the combat is strong in all of the versions, the nemesis system, gorgeous environments, and just general stability lives on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. You can get Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor along with all of its DLC by buying the game of the year edition for just $49.99
This is a bit of an odd game, but I had to put it on this list because it’s just a really fantastic video game. Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!! sounds like an absolutely ridiculous experience, and it totally is. But the weird thing is that it works. The environment and sense of humor are taken directly from the Adventure Time television program, but the gameplay is a throwback to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Zelda II is probably the weirdest title in the Zelda series, but it had some really cool ideas that Hey Ice King uses in a phenomenal way. When you’re exploring the world, you’ll be seeing a top-down view of Jake and Finn. But when you enter an area or a dungeon, the game shifts into a 2D view, like a side-scrolling platformer. Zelda II had this same idea, and both games use it in a way that makes playing through these games enjoyable and memorable. Hey Ice King also has a second quest once the main story has been beaten, which is really awesome. It’s pretty cheap, and you can pick it up for Nintendo 3DS or Nintendo DS (though I recommend the 3DS version) for around $10.
Whenever we talk about licensed games, somebody brings up Telltale Games. Telltale has tackled a whole lot of licenses over the years, including Fables (The Wolf Among Us), Borderlands, CSI, Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, Game of Thrones, Homestar Runner, and many more. Even though they have such a diverse portfolio, there is one game that most people immediately think of when Telltale is mentioned – The Walking Dead. The game is widely seen as Telltale’s best game, and there are a lot of reasons why that opinion makes sense. Both seasons of The Walking Dead are a lot of fun to play, and the quick decision making that Telltale loves to use in their games brings an element of replayability, which is hard to do in a game that is almost strictly focused on story, which is based on the comic book series – not the television show. If you have a PS4, Xbox One, or PC, you can grab the Telltale Games Collection for $109.99, which features every game that Telltale has released since the first season of The Walking Dead. The latest titles are Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones. If you’re just looking to check out the first season of The Walking Dead, you can grab the full season for around $20.
Kingdom Hearts stretches the definition of a licensed game since the concept itself (a mix of Disney worlds and characters with Final Fantasy elements) is pretty unique. However, the use of so much Disney lore – and its quality – is enough to land it here on this list. Kingdom Hearts fans are some of the most intense people I’ve ever met. This game has captured the hearts of countless players, and it’s easy to see why. Fluid combat, an intricate but interesting story, and the ability to explore worlds from our favorite Disney classics are all ingredients of an instant success. I didn’t specify a specific game here, but I’d recommend Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX (PS3, around $20), Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX (PS3, around $40), and Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance (3DS, around $30). If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy and Disney, this series is bound to become one of your all-time favorites.
Rare is one of the greatest video game developers of all time, so it’s only fitting that they created one of the greatest video games of all time – Goldeneye 007. The game hit the Nintendo 64 in August of 1997, and it completely changed the way that first person shooters were seen. The visuals are amazing, and at the time of release it was absolutely mind-blowing to be able to see the detailed environments and effects (like glass, smoke, and bullet holes) that were so central to Goldeneye 007. If you haven’t already played this title over and over again, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. A copy of the original N64 cartridge will cost you quite a bit, but you can pick up a remastered version for somewhere between $15 and $20.
I wasn’t even aware that Metro 2033 was based on a book until I picked up Metro Redux on Xbox One and looked deeper into the story. Dmitry Glukhovsky wrote a novel called Metro 2033 in 2005, though it didn’t make it to the U.S. until 2010 – the same year that the video game launched. The book revolves around a group of citizens who survived a global holocaust and have taken to living in the Moscow Metro system. Though the game deviates from the plot quite a bit, Glukhovsky was involved in the development of the game as well as its sequel (Metro: Last Light). The end result is an incredible blend of a survival horror game and a first-person shooter. If you want to check out Metro 2033, you can get it on Xbox 360 or PC for around $15. If you’re playing on Xbox One or PS4, you can get both games completely remastered in HD and complete with all released DLC in a bundle called Metro Redux for around $40.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have tried their hands at pretty much everything – television, movies, broadway, music, and video games. The two continue to surprise people, as they keep putting out quality content. Though some of the previous South Park games were disappointing to say the least, South Park: The Stick of Truth is the definitive South Park video game. It’s really cool to explore South Park at your own pace – this is the first time that the town has ever been fully mapped out. There is also a ton of fan service in this game, so South Park fans shouldn’t hesitate to pick this up. Even if you’re not a South Park fan, the game is a good turn-based RPG that provides a lot of excellent humor. The game lovingly pokes at some iconic video games (Bioshock, Skyrim) and some classic video game tropes (there’s a crack about door puzzles that’s just perfect). As far as games based on television programs, this is one of the greatest adaptations ever made. You can pick this up for around $20, though the limited edition is still pretty common and can be found for around $45.
The final game on this list shouldn’t have been a good game. Toy Story 3: The Video Game seemed like it was set to fail – nobody really thought twice about the game. When high-profile movies release in theaters, there are often games set to accompany them. More often than not, these games are unbearably awful – we’ve suffered through The Smurfs Dance Party, Transformers: The Game, Hannah Montana: The Movie: The Game (which has one of the most ridiculous titles ever), Blues Brothers 2000, and way too many more. But Toy Story 3 was different – this game is special, even today. The version developed by Avalanche Software (PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, Mac, PC) is really great. The story mode is pretty cool, but the highlight here is Toy Box Mode. In this mode, you’re free to create and customize levels and missions, develop and maintain your own city, and just explore. There’s a lot of freedom in this mode, and it’s insanely addicting. It’s likely that this element of Toy Story 3 inspired some of the gameplay found in Disney Infinity. If you want to check this game out, you can pick it up for around $25. The PS2, DS, and iOS versions are cheaper, but they’re not worth your time.
So there you have it! Do you agree with the games on this list? Are there any awesome licensed games that we didn’t include? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and keep checking back with Load The Game for the latest gaming news, previews, reviews, and more.