The 8 Ball 04.08.14: Top 8 Best Licensed Games
Posted by Marc Morrison on 04.08.2014
From Batman: Arkham Asylum and GoldenEye 007 to Aladdin, Lego Star Wars 2, and more, 411's Marc Morrison ranks his Top 8 Licensed Video Games!
Welcome all to another edition of the 8 Ball. A few weeks back we had our "Top 8 Worst Licensed Games", so why not do the inverse of that category and try to be positive. I picked my list just on games that I liked, that I felt had a good handle on the source material it was about. My only caveat is the South Park: Stick of Truth game. I literally just got it a few days ago, and despite putting in some time in it, I'm nowhere near to the end. So while I do like that game a lot, it's not on my list. Anyways, let's begin:
8. Back to the Future
BTTF was right on the cusp of Telltale's big gameplay switch. They had been doing point and click style adventure games for the past few years but wanted to branch out some. The result was this game, which is point and click largely, but has some action elements, and Jurassic Park, which is an action game masquerading as an adventure game. They didn't strike the right balance till The Walking Dead. Still, even if BTTF is now a bit of a throwback, I really enjoy it. The writers crafted a decent story for Marty and Doc to have to re-team together again. Alternate Doc Brown was an interesting shift for that character, and for how his life could have gone. The true highlight of the game though is the voice work from Christopher Lloyd, Claudia Wells, and above all A.J. Locascio (Marty). He nails Marty's voice, the slight nervousness of the character, but coupled with a determination to set things right. Telltale has seemingly moved on to bigger (although better is debatable) things, so I'm not sure if another BTTF game will ever be made, but I can hope so.
7. Lego Star Wars 2: The Original Trilogy
Lego Star Wars: The Video Game got the ball rolling when it came to the Lego games franchise, but its fatal flaw was that it was based on the new trilogy of movies, so no one cared. Lego Star Wars 2 made the big improvement on basing the game on actual movies we care about. So, good going with that choice Traveller's Tales. It allowed you to take scenes that most of the culture knows and poke fun at them in the Lego style. Like with almost all the Lego games, Star Wars 2 is a good game, maybe not the best Lego game (that'd probably be Marvel), but a perfectly competent licensed game to help cement the Lego empire that now rules us all.
6. Aladdin (Genesis)
If you like the SNES version of Aladdin, you need to be sterilized. We cannot have your genes infecting future generations with your abject stupidity. The fact that this is still a debate, boggles my mind. Aladdin on the Genesis has about 4 things going for it, over its SNES version: 1. A sword. 2. Way better graphics, 3. Drastically better music, and finally 4. Platforming that didn't feel awkward to play. Case closed, people.
5. Spider-Man 2/The Amazing Spider-Man
These games are pretty well tied for me, but in slightly different ways. The original Spider-Man game on the PS1 was the first really good crack at a Spider-Man game, but almost all of the game was in enclosed spaces, due to limits on the technology. Spider-Man 2 on the PS2/Xbox/GC broke this mold and just gave you Manhattan to swing around in, in a big open sandbox. It also nailed swinging right by having your web actually needing to attach to buildings in order to swing, and not by magic (like the past games). Amazing Spider-Man on the other hand introduced some decent stealth elements in the game, and further enhanced the web swinging mechanic. Now you can go into "Spider vision" for lack of a better term, while the game slows down dramatically, letting you specifically plan where you want to go, or what you want to do. Plus, it was nice to see Beenox was capable of making a good quality Spider-Man game, after the somewhat middling Shattered Dimensions and the largely terrible Edge of Tmie.
4. GoldenEye 007
GoldenEye really hasn't aged well since its debut in 1997. While it is still a largely playable game, the N64 gamepad feels fairly archaic to use now, especially given how modern shooters play. But man, in 1997, GoldenEye was all console kids had to play when it came to first person shooters. The elegance of Goldeneye was that while it stuck fairly close to the structure of the movie, it expanded both the levels and goals of James Bond, to make you feel more than a tired movie cash-in grab, see EA's 2004 GoldenEye as an example of that. The graphics (for the time) were impressive, and a bit silly, especially dropping the framerate down to single digits as you blow up everything in the silo. Plus, the multiplayer mode extended the life of this game for years after its release, only being eclipsed by Halo when it debuted.
3. Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
Goddamn, this was and is such a great game. I still think it's the finest example of stealth, at least when it comes to the first person perspective. Diesel has his trademark low-key delivery as Riddick, but the game is populated by other voice actors like John DiMaggio, Ron Perlman, Michael Rooker, Dwight Schultz and Xzibit. Xzibit alone makes this game worth buying, he is kind of hysterical when you listen to him. The game made me do something that I hadn't thought of before: make me actually care about the Riddick character. Pitch Black was "fine", but it's more of an ensemble film, while The Chronicles of Riddick film itself was really goofy. There is some slightly odd plot things in this game (the magical eye shine scene), but the game really stuck to its prison motif well, and is still a blast to play today on the updated PS3/360 edition with Dark Athena, which you can skip.
2. The Warriors
To be honest, it was actually kind of shocking that Rockstar made this game in the first place. While the 1979 movie was a decent success back in the day, it had largely been relegated to cult status by the time the game was announced. However, when the game came out it wowed critics and consumers alike by its impressive commitment to the source material, it's fun gameplay, and how it melded elements of an old school beat'em up game with more modern open-world elements. Like with BTTF, Rockstar getting most of the original cast (those left alive and still working in entertainment) gave the game a much more authentic feel to it. It would be pretty hard to fake James Remar's deep, gravelly voice. I commend this game for Rockstar giving it their all on a license that most modern gamers (at the time) probably haven't seen, let alone heard of before.
1. Batman: Arkham Asylum
I tend to forget about Arkham Asylum for some odd reason, whenever I come up with column games. I think the big reason is that I played Arkham Origins and was pretty disappointed in it, all things considered, not even being able to finish it. Still, Arkham Asylum is a damn good game. More than the Spider-Man games, it makes you feel like you are Batman as you fight goons, use gadgets and try to take down the super villains. While Asylum isn't based on any particular Batman movie, comic, or show, it's a great amalgamation of everything Batman distilled into one product. It is the supreme choice for both a super-hero game, and a licensed game.
The Better Half with Liana K
My Top 8 Licensed Games
Hooray! It's time once again for my weekly dose of trolling! And what better way to get trolled than to talk about licensed games I actually LIKE! Licensed games are one of those things where it's completely okay to insist that everything about them is shit. But there are some good ones, mainly in recent memory after making video games got too expensive to churn out movie tie-in shovelware. As usual, I went more for an honest cross-section of stuff I actually have played as opposed to selecting games that are high rated, because if you want to look up the 8 highest rated licensed games, you can go to Metacritic... oh who am I kidding, no one reads these text blurbs. You guys just look at the pictures or videos, skim the text, then vent your spleens. Have at it.
8: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
I wanted to find a way to sneak Mortal Kombat onto this list somehow because of the franchise's humble beginnings as a licensed spin-off of the forgettable Jean Claude Van Damme movie Universal Soldier. And MK vs DCU actually does have licensed characters in the form of the DC Comics contingent. While not the greatest Mortal Kombat game in terms of unlockable characters, hidden levels or fatalities, MK vs DCU's story mode did an excellent job of tying the two rosters together in a way that approached plausibility. You don't expect realism in Mortal Kombat, mainly because of Kitana's and Mileena's outfits, but at least the plot maintained the integrity of the characters.
7: Rock Band
People complained last week about the inclusion of licensed music on the soundtracks list, but psyche! Can't stop me this week! The Rock Band franchise had multiple tiers of licensing, from the music, to the instrument brands, to MTV putting its brand on the entire franchise. The model worked really well too, until it became a victim of its own success: there was so much content for Rock Band 2 that I didn't bother buying Rock Band 3: it wasn't worth the extra crap in my living room.
6: Ghostbusters (Sega Master System, 1984)
The Sega version of this early Ghostbusters game had better graphics and sound than its Nintendo counterpart, so I used this version. I played the crap out of this game as a kid, because I loved Ghostbusters. Looking back at it objectively, I can't say it was the greatest game in the world, but it did have multiple gameplay modes, an in-game economy, a choice of cars, and ghosts that, for some reason, looked like angry chickens. What's not to love?
5: The Walkng Dead: Season One
Aw man, Lee and Clementine are the best! I actually like the story and characters in this Telltale Games series better than the TV show, because the TV show suffers from overuse of rednecks, and a complete lack of Omid. Omid should be in everything Walking Dead related, because he is awesome. The Walking Dead video game never feels like there are too many characters with not enough to do. The cast ebbs and flows so the introduction of new survivors isn't an immediate tip off that someone's going to die, but the writing never hits a point where characters have to act stupid because there's nothing else for them to do. And at this point, I will glare at AMC for descending into "too many characters, not enough brains" territory too often for my liking.
4: South Park: The Stick of Truth
Yeah I used this game last week too, but I can't help it if it's freaking awesome. Stick of Truth doesn't just continue the world of South Park. It uses it to make fun of some of the most beloved video games ever, including The Legend of Zelda, Portal, Halo, Skyrim, and Quest for Glory. Yeah, the battle controls are weird at first, but once they start spoofing Rock Band and Press "X" to not die, the weird "not quite turn-based" but "not quite real time" controls make sense. South Park's aim has always been to make you laugh, not be a technical achievement... although making a functional game that looked like South Park's trademark crappy visuals couldn't have been the easiest thing in the world. HOWDY HO!
3: Baldur's Gate 2
I love this game, so I mention it a lot. Screw you.
2: Planescape Torment
I also love this game, so I mention it a lot too. Screw you harder.
1: Arkham Asylum
Now THIS one is a game I tend to forget, because I'm completely burned out on Batman. That being said, it combines the best elements of various incarnations of Batman for maximum awesome: Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill's voice acting, Paul Dini's writing, and an art direction that's more exciting than Christopher Nolan's "realistic" take, but less stupid than Tim Burton's "I'm Tim Burton so I'm allowed to f up characters" stuff. And there is no trace of Joel Schulmacher. All is right in this version of Gotham City.
Everyone will likely have different views, from that Hulk: Ultimate Destruction game on Xbox to Knights of the Old Republic. Here's a small list of games that didn't make my big one: X-Men Origins Wolverine, Simpsons Arcade Game, Tron Evolution, Turtles Arcade Game, The Punisher, Cool Spot, Batman & Robin (SNES and Gameboy), Super Star Wars, and The Wolf Among Us.
The General Roundup
It was good seeing a few other people's lists for last week's topic, or their personal picks. GTA: Vice City seemed to get the majority of comments. The only thing I remember about that soundtrack was the Flock of Seagulls song from it, which was good, but that is literally it. It's been really long time since I last played that game. Likewise, the only song I really remember from Bastion was Zia's theme. Sonic games (the old ones anyway) and WoW/Blizzard games tend to have good soundtracks, for the general record. Someone mentioned Road Rash Jailbreak as having a good soundtrack. I don't remember it at all, but Road Rash 3D had an amazing soundtrack, so much so, that I bought the CD version of it. Lastly, Crazy Taxi on 360/PS3/PC is complete garbage. The Offspring/Bad Religion soundtrack had a big hand in making that game fun. Without it, it is just wrong.