The problem is that Licensed Games tend to be mediocre at best. But why? There are two ways to sell games: Quality of game, and reputation of name. Most games that sell fall into at least one of the two categories. Video and Card Game developers could take some time to develop an original property made with care for the end product and the idea of developing a brand new franchise.
Or, they can just buy up the name of something everyone already knows. A much easier way to make money is to make mediocre games based on licenses — a TV show, or a movie, or a comic book, or a work of literature, or anything really (andwemeananything). These games don't require nearly as much effort to make, since they're pretty much counting on the people buying them because of familiarity.
This is most obvious in Video Games, but it also applies to Board Games and Trading Card Games. Pinball games tend to avert this, as it's very hard to screw up pinball. The situation varies in the Tabletop RPG world; some licensed games are pretty poor, but many are okay and some are famously good. It helps that the writers are often dedicated borderline fanboys who are in the business for love (it's not likely to be for the money), and who know the subject-matter inside out.
Of course, the ability of licensed games to sell on name alone is a major reason for their poor quality, but it's hardly the only one. Developers are often pressured by movie studio execs to have the game ready for release alongside the movie (which, in the studio execs' eyes, practically equates these games to tie-in action figures, lunchboxes, and other low-grade merchandise), which can shorten development time. Stretching the plot of a 100 minute movie into a twenty hour game can lead to a lot of filler material or serious diversions from the movie's plot. Licensed games also attempt to emulate the most popular genres at the time in an effort to maintain appeal — side-scrollers and Fighting Games were popular in the 1990s and more recently, Grand Theft Auto clones and shooters are common as well. Sometimes they will be a confusing mesh of gameplay genres as the developers attempt to figure out just what their license could be used for to fill up enough game time to push it out the door, and that's assuming the product isn't chock full of Game Breaking Bugs because of the short Q/A window. Perhaps worst of all, many licensed games are made by people with little (if any) knowledge of the franchise they are licensing. So games based on these franchises tend to completely miss what made the franchises popular to begin with. Thus, many licensed games are designed in a manner that has nothing to do with the plot or general style of the franchise (for example, The Riddler, instead of giving Batman riddles, might just blast him with a rifle throughout the entire boss fight).
And despite what one might expect with a title based on a lucrative property, there is often ironically less money available than usual for a company to spend making a licensed game; a significant amount of the funding that would normally be channeled into the title's actual development is instead used up before development just to buy the license in the first place.
Of course, movies based off video games don't tend to go over well either, for much of the same reasons.
A related trope is the phenomenon, prior to The Great Video Game Crash of 1983, wherein many non-videogame companies had a Gaming division.
There are exceptions, of course. A pretty good chunk of these were either released years after the source material or were based off of a franchise that had been running for years, thus relieving the time pressure often inherent in licensed games. This Trope is so widespread, it's probably easier to list only egregious examples. Exceptions should be listed on their own page. See Spiritual Licensee for a way some games go around this, intentionally or not. Quite often, this Trope is a result of a product being Christmas Rushed.
Examples are listed by the medium they are based on.
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Anime and Manga
The game based on the classic anime motion picture based on AKIRA for the Amiga is notably bad, often considered one of the worst for the system. Why? It's a side-scrolling action game where you play as either Tetsuo or Kaneda, in at least four levels of extreme difficulty and unfairness. The idea of a difficulty curve is thrown out with the first level, a motorbike racing stage somewhat like the infamously difficult level 3 of Battletoads but with more random obstacle placement and the added challenge of constantly needing to pick up fuel cans; the publisher supposedly had to give out passwords for reviewers to clear it. The third level has keycards to collect, and while you don't need them all to reach the end of the level, if you don't get all of them anyway, you will be trapped and unable to complete the level. The fourth level can't be completed at all because of poor play testing; one of the platforms is placed too far away for you to jump on. It apparently even drove its developers, ICE Software of the United Kingdom, crazy.
It also helps that Hayao Miyazaki hates video games as well, even before said games were made and going back to his days at Telecom Animation Film back in 1978, before Nausicaa came out. This game, suffice to say, did little to convince him that video game adaptations of his films were worth the extra effort.
Kinnikuman: Muscle Tag Match, one of the earliest anime licensed games released for the Famicom/NES. The anime hadn't been released outside Japan, but the toyline had been distributed as M.U.S.C.L.E., which gave Bandai an excuse to export this pathetic excuse for a wrestling game under that name. The eight characters all share the same basic moves and differ mostly in how ugly their sprites were.
YuYu Hakusho: Spirit Detective for the GBA was abysmally boring in addition to sporting graphics that made the characters only distinguishable by their hair and outfits.
Some of the Non-Banpresto Mobile Suit Gundam games are pretty mediocre. Operation Troy did so poorly in its native soil that it became a No Export for You; Crossfire was poorly received by American reviewers for being slow-moving, ugly, and for not having online multiplayer; and there are some Gundam games that are plain unmentionable due to how bad they are.
The franchise has also had two CCGs in its time. At the height of its popularity in the West, Bandai made Gundam MS War, which died quickly due to poorly thought-out mechanics and limited scope (only really covering the original series and Wing). A few years later they tried again, this time taking the pre-existing (not to mention better-designed and much more successful) Japanese game Gundam War and translating the cards into English. Unfortunately, by that point the franchise was on its last legs in the West and Bandai Just Didn't Care, releasing cards with terrible translations and Engrish, eventually pulling support after only two expansion sets despite the fact that the game had a cult following.
DragonBall, a 1986 video game, based on the Dragon Ball anime and manga, which was adapted into Dragon Power in the United States, was for the most part, downright agonizing. A health system that gradually decreased was the least of the game's problems. The game would sometimes have some of the worst Guide Dang It moments, such as trying to get Oolong to drop an Interchangeable Key in Stage 2. You have to hit him enough times whilst he's flying around. If you take too long, he'll hide under a different house.
There was a Dragon Ball Z set in the Ani-Mahem trading card game. Unfortunately, it was rather overpowered compared to other sets in the game, and may have contributed to its eventual failure.
Score Entertainment made a Dragon Ball Z game - and later a compatible Dragon Ball GT game, but it suffered from balance issues as it tried to reflect the story too closely — they faithfully replicated the source material's utterly out-of-control Power Creep. Characters were helplessly, hopelessly outgunned as soon as the next set came out.
After the end of the series, Score started over with a similar yet completely incompatible game, while immediately abandoning all support for the previous one. Critics reluctantly admitted it was a better game, but everybody was so burned by the company that the new game completely failed.
Dragon Ball Z for Kinect was very poorly received due to repetitive gameplay, little content, no real story, no multiplayer, and of course the stigma of only being able to be played with Kinect controls.
The first Legacy of Goku was the first in the GBA's trilogy of Zelda-clones. On the plus side it has pretty good graphics, but that's otherwise it. The game suffers many repetitive fetch quests, horrible AI, terrible collision detection that often keeps you from landing an attack on an enemy no matter how close you are, and a broken combat system where Goku dies in three hits no matter how strong he gets, forcing you to use the Solar Flare ability to stun them, land a punch, run away, and do it all over again until they fall, which unsurprisingly isn't that exciting. Thankfully, Legacy of Goku II and Buu's Furyimproved on its faults and fit more in the other trope.
The developers of that also did a terrible Game Boy title, where you can't hit an enemy unless you take damage.
The Commodore 64 game shared its title with the N64 game. It isn't all that bad, but it doesn't seem like a Superman game. Also strange is the fact that you can die in the shooter levels, but not in the sidescrolling levels (getting hit just sends you flying backwards).
The Atari 2600 Superman is slightly less dire, given the limitations of that console. Here, Supes doesn't fight anything, instead having to dodge Kryptonite (which for some reason floats around randomly and tries to follow him around) while nabbing unpowered crooks and fixing a literal Broken Bridge, and the only powers he has are flight and X-ray vision (and strength to lift a bridge, but other than actually lifting pieces of the bridge it had no game value).
The Uncanny X-Men for the NES, published by LJN Toys and developed by some mercifully unknown company. The six available player characters were mostly blotchy Palette Swaps of each other, and the characters that used melee attacks had no animation for them. Computer-controlled characters had Artificial Stupidity. The level design, sound effects and music were like a bad nightmare. Those few players who made it through most of this poorly designed, Nintendo Hard game were in for a nasty surprise: a secret code was required to unlock the last level. This code was hidden within the fine print on the cartridge, and even that was missing a crucial button.
Most of the Marvel Comics licensed games published by LJN had their issues, though much of that was on the various developers they used. By the time they started putting out respectable games such as Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage, LJN was on its last legs as a brand, and Marvel eventually took its licenses to othercompanies.
Paperinik New Adventures is regarded as one of the best comics ever created in Italy and one of the best Disney comics in general. The videogame based on it, however? They cut all the 30+ years of history the character had, only introduced a handful of the loved new characters and made repetitive stages and boring boss battles. It's a shame that this is what most people outside of Europe think about when they think "Paperinik".
Film — Animation
Ariel: The Little Mermaid was developed for the Sega Genesis, and so could offer fancier graphics than Capcom's NES game The Little Mermaid, which was better in almost every other way. It also tried for greater complexity of gameplay, but ended up forcing the player to swim around labyrinthine levels with unresponsive controls and terrible collision detection hunting for Baleful Polymorphed friends to shoot musical notes at; these musical notes are also a very weak primary attack. Flounder and Sebastian can be summoned, but don't really help much. After slowly putting down Final Boss Ursula, the ending consists mainly of a "Congratulations!" screen.
Bebe's Kids wasn't a good movie to begin with, but its SNES licensed game, developed by Radical Entertainment, is one of the worst to found on that system. Wretched controls, hideous graphics, dull music, unintelligent yet tough enemies, a two-minute timer... and that's just the first level. It doesn't get better from there.
The Polar Express, a multi-platform adventure game based on the hit movie. The graphics are okay for the time, nothing phenomenal and they don't reach Uncanny Valley like the film. The gameplay features various Unexpected Genre Changes, though they're poorly played out. The voice acting for some of the characters isn't so great either. The worst part of the game has to be the timespan; it can be beaten within a few hours or less, one sitting and it makes you feel you're missing out.
Shrek is infamous for horrible licensed games. Swedish gaming magazine LEVEL once gave a Shrek game 4/10 and noted that it was surprisingly good for a Shrek game. And yes, there are multiple racing games (because when you think "Shrek" you think "racing", right?) one of which is a blatant Mario Kart rip-off. The worst part about that particular game is that every time a racer passes you, they go "Haha!" And the same "Haha!" sound is used for every single character.
Film — Live Action
The NES adaptation of Alien³ comes this close to averting this trope, and it's by LJN of all companies. It has great music, decent graphics, and is loyal enough to the source material by NES standards that it could have been great... had they not swapped the jump and shoot controls (B jumps) and given you a ridiculously low time limit to beat each stage.
It's not that it sold badly. It didn't. It was amongst the top selling Atari 2600 games selling over a million copies. It was the fact that Atari produced far more copies than it could ever hope to sell, estimated at 5-6 million. Even if the title was actually good, it was doomed from the start based on quantity not quality. The Pac-Man port was an even worse example. Despite selling 7 million carts (the number 1 selling 2600 game), again Atari produced more copies than it could ever sell and along with the copies of E.T., several million unsold Pac-Man carts were also buried in the desert.
What makes E.T. all the more disappointing is how well it's presented. It has a title screen (an extreme rarity for games at the time) which featured an image of E.T.'s face, rendered exceptionally well given the 2600's severe limitations. Even the actual game graphics look pretty good for the time. Then you actually play it...
The NES version of Ghostbusters, which was simultaneously released for the Atari 2600 without any change in gameplay.
Ghostbusters: Atari and Terminal Reality's 2009 revival is considered a great use of the license. Its sequel, 2011's Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime, is much less so, with the most obvious strike against it being the absence of the original Ghostbusters team - leaving the day to be saved by a group of fresh-faced rookies who aren't quite as charming. Also working against Sanctum are its overuse of Copy And Paste Environments, AI partners who do more to harm than help, and the general monotony of gameplay (get trapped in a room, fight a bunch of color-coded ghosts, move on to next room, rinse, repeat).
Back to the Future for the NES was for most of its stages a Vertical Scrolling Shooter with Marty as a One-Hit-Point Wonder who races against a time limit down the streets of Hill Valley on foot and a hard-to-control skateboard and collects clocks while avoiding or throwing bowling balls at swarms of bees, hula-hoop girls and people walking back and forth holding invisible sheets of glass. The music in these stages, a practically unrecognizable remix of "The Power of Love", is as repetitious and awful as the gameplay. The three indoor stages don't provide much relief, the first being a disgustingly Nintendo Hard shooter where Marty must hold Lou's Café against an onslaught of 99 merciless bullies. Perhaps the best thing to be said about this game is that its Excuse Plot follows the movie in Broad Strokes.
Its sequel, Back to the Future Part II & III (yes, into one game) was made by the same company (Beam Software) and released by the same publisher (LJN) and still isn't that good. It has you return a lot of Plot Coupons to their appropriate time period in the second part. The only problem is that Marty is again a One-Hit-Point Wonder. What makes this worse is that you had to play Part II in one sitting. You're bound to run into your clone while returning, which also kills you in one hit. Part III is much shorter and has you do the same, but less Plot Coupons needed to finish the game. The music, at least, was pretty good, although it was often drowned out by the obnoxious sound effects.
Even the pinball game couldn't avoid this trope — instead of doing anything interesting with time travel, time paradoxes, hoverboards, or getting the DeLorean up to 88 MPH, Data East Pinball slapped BTTF artwork on a generic pinball table loaded with Spelling Bonuses, threw in a few songs from Huey Lewis and the News and ZZ Top, then cashed the checks. No wonder Michael J. Fox refused to license his likeliness for the game.
The Japan-exclusive 1987 Star Wars game by Namco stars Luke Skywalker as a One-Hit-Point Wonder whose in-game sprite has black hair. There are levels requiring precise jumping in between spikes of instant death, and the Nintendo Hardness is aggravated by Luke's lightsaber having poor hit detection. This game's real notoriety, however, is not based on difficulty but because it plays fast and loose with the Star Wars canon. Before leaving Tatooine, there is a Boss Battle against Darth Vader... who turns into a giant scorpion after one hit. This sort of thing happens on every level, including several worlds that don't figure in the original movie. And speaking of worlds, there's also the fact that you'll also have to rescue your allies (who are all on Tatooine when they all meet in the film): Obi-Wan Kenobi, C-3PO, Chewbacca (who's on Hoth of all places), and Han Solo (who's already on Yavin IV) of all people - making you realize it's YOU who's flying the Millenium Falcon between worlds!
The PlayStation and PC adaption of The Phantom Menace is below average. Excellent audio (which is the common strong point of Star Wars anyway) and fairly looking full 3D graphics aside, the decent level design is doomed by unfitting puzzle/adventure levels tacked on breaking the pace, awkward controls, horrible camera placement, buggy coding, imbalanced weapons and seriously-flawed dueling mechanic can totally ruin your experience halfway through.
The Rogue Squadron games are considered to be among the best Star Wars games out there, but when you try to crop the gameplay to fit on a GBA cart you get 2003's Flight of the Falcon. Whilst certainly an ambitious attempt to give the GBA a flight sim/dogfight game (and to be fair, the music is actually pretty decent) the fact is that the graphics were not only blotchy and pixelated, but they dragged the game's speed to a chugging crawl. Add to that repetitive over-long levels and poor controls and you end up with a complete mess.
Obi-Wan, one of the Xbox's launch titles, told Ben's story before and during The Phantom Menace. Probably helped by production turmoils (it was supposed to be on the PC, a Spiritual Successor to Jedi Knight), the game had a good battle system (with Force powers and using one of the analog sticks to handle the lightsaber) being brought down by bad camera, poor graphics and level design, and repetitive combat.
A variety of games based on Bram Stoker's Dracula were released for various platforms. None of these were particularly good, but the SNES/Genesis version stands out as a disappointment: it's an action platformer with annoying combat mechanics, boring level design, a laughable attempt at presenting a story, and the inexplicable requirement in some levels of contacting an old guy who imagines weapons in thought bubbles. It's remembered more fondly at Travellers Tales, since it was the first game they developed that sold well; some of their later Licensed Games would set a higher standard.
The Home Alone video game series that THQ made in 1991 and 1992. The first one on the NES is completely awful, thanks to unresponsive controls, and your reward for beating the game in the twenty minutes? The same bad ending you get for losing. Even worse is its sequel, Lost in New York, which ranges from unredeemably terrible (Game Boy and NES) to So Bad, It's Good (Super NES). The NES and Game Boy versions feature terrible play control, below average graphics, Fake Difficulty, and also its weird assortment of enemies, including a vacuum out to kill Kevin.
There's also the game made in 2006 for the PlayStation 2, only released in Europe. On top of its lackluster gameplay, it also apparently doesn't follow its source material very well, made apparent by the clearly summer-like environments, while the film takes place in the winter, around Christmas time. Also, the artstyle used is very mediocre. It was of course published by Blast! Entertainment.
Last Action Hero had its video game adaption released in 1993. The NES version was easily one of the worst versions. Dull, lifeless graphics, irritating music and Mooks that never stop coming are some of the main problems this game has.
The Lawnmower Man had two different licensed games, one for the SNES, Genesis (not Sega CD), and Game Boy, the other for DOS and Sega CD. The latter one was a Full Motion Video game with extreme cases of both Gameplay Roulette and Fake Difficulty. Also, for no good reason, the limitations of the Genesis color palette (which degraded the quality of the pre-rendered 3D graphics) were present in the DOS version, despite the fact that it used the MCGA video mode (2^24 colors total, 2^8 on screen at once).
The NES game based off The Terminator has awful sound, stiff controls, and ugly graphics. The first level is the ONLY level you have a gun and grenades (Unlike, well, EVERY other version.), as soon as you get to the past you have nothing but your fists (you can kick too, but whats the point?).
The SNES Terminator game could use some mention too, the levels are brutally long (the 2nd level is INSANE) Sound Effects tend to drown out all two of the music tracks in the game, and it was just cruelly difficult.
There was a PC game of Terminator 2: Judgment Day in early 90s, each level of which was based on an action scene from the film. Some of those scenes don't translate well; for example, the first level consisted entirely of holding off the T-1000 with a shotgun. To make matters worse, there was only one save point per level.
Terminator Salvation. While it has decent graphics, great music, and a decent combat system that feels more than a little familiar, in general it's pretty lousy. Sure, the combat's decent — it's just a shame that the battles are so damned repetitive and generally feature the same two enemies: annoying flying robots, and spider-like robots that require flanking to defeat. To flank them effectively, it's best to have your partner keep their attention while you come around back and finish them. Too bad the AI's fairly terrible, and while the game does have a co-op option, it's not online enabled — so if you don't have anybody to play with and don't have Xbox Live, you're pretty much screwed. Oh, and it's very short, but considering how you'll spend those 4-5 hours fighting the same annoying enemies over and over again, that's probably a positive thing. Unsurprisingly, Salvation was one of the factors behind developer GRIN's shutdown...and it was their only game that can be considered a definite flop. note The negative reception of the Salvation console game led to Raw Thrills delaying their Terminator: Salvationarcade game until Spring 2010 so they could get it right. And they did- it looks awesome and had much better reception, but filled with countless cheap shots.
Total Recall (1990), published by Acclaim and developed by Interplay for the NES, frustrated many players early into the game with a movie theater showing the game's credits and Inescapable Ambushes in alleys by midgets wearing purple jumpsuits. The rest of the game bears more relation to the movie (it includes the X-ray scanner and the subway shootout), but it's mostly a mediocre Beat 'em Up with bad hit detection and a lot of cheap hits.
Toys: Let The Toy Wars Begin, made for the SNES and Genesis by Absolute Entertainment in 1993 as a tie-in to the Robin Williams film of the same name from the previous year. It's not like the makers of the game had to do much to improve the plot - the film was a goofy story about a toy designer fighting to get back his father's ailing company from the hands of a military general who plans to weaponize children's toys, and it flopped critically and commercially at the box office. The resulting game was a dismal top-down shooter with a whopping four stages, wherein the player commanded a limited amount of toys against an unlimited stream of AI enemies from the opposing general's side. The game was mercilessly panned - Gamepro and several other publications blasted the game for many missed opportunities, the lack of a two-player mode, terrible visuals (even by SNES standards) and one of the least-relevant adaptations of a film ever made.
One game that many people don't realize was intended to be a licensed game was Acclaim's Warlock, created for the SNES and Genesis two years after the second movie of the same title was released. It included gems like bad collision detection, enemies that would spawn with no warning and had little to no pattern to them, a mechanic that kills you if you fall from a height that's anywhere higher than the height of the playable character, wonky player movements (like the protagonist crouching automatically when firing forward), and having only a single life to get through the game unless you die with a specific item in your inventory (although there was a password system, thankfully) meant the game was particularly putrid. Its only saving grace was an item use exploit that effectively made you invincible and harmful to the touch during the item's effect.
One SNES magazine writer said that he was worried about his ability to give an objective review of the game, as star Julian Sands was his cousin. Then he started playing the game, and was relieved to find that it was so bad he could tear into it mercilessly.
The 16-bit version of Waynes World is possibly one of the most loathed, least playable 16-bit games ever. Bad collision detection, hideous sprites and atrociously digitized voices (especially in the Sega version) are just part of the problem with this. Mainly considered only worthwhile to mock. Read this review for more details.
Its NES counterpart fared no better. It was developed by the oft-mentioned Radical Entertainment, who also developed the first Terminator and Rocky and Bullwinkle video games for the NES a year before. Released in November of 1993, it even uses the same engine as both games. You play as either Wayne or Garth (depending on what level you're on). Depending on who you're playing as, your only attacks are either a laser gun (Garth) or a clunky, unreliable kick (Wayne). The game suffers from repetitive music, bland graphics and repetitive backgrounds and unimaginative enemies. Like both games, your only reward is A Winner Is You screen. Excellent!
Bloodwings: Pumpkinhead's Revenge. As if being based on the abysmal second Pumpkinhead movie wasn't bad enough, developer BAP Interactive thought it was a brilliant idea to set the game in a metaphysical netherworld completely unrelated to the movies, where you were forced to wander through repetitive corridors and view clips from the movie in order to obtain items, and endure pointless crystal collecting segments every time you killed an enemy. Even something as mundane as replenishing health and ammo was needlessly convoluted. And worst of all, you could be punished for taking items you weren't supposed to take with you by having your entire inventory cleared out without ever knowing which item it was you shouldn't have brought along. Spoony's grilling of this piece of shit was long overdue.
It's not that the developers of Jurassic Park: Trespasser didn't try. In fact, the game had numerous innovative aspects going for itself (real-time physics, procedurally generated animations, an experimental no heads-up-display approach where players had to look down at a tattoo on the player character's breast to see their health and the play character counts the number of bullets in her weapon aloud, artificially intelligent dinosaurs) and was a genuinely ambitious project that was to leave its mark on the industry for years... but the publishers wanted the game to come out on time, and the game was already infamous for numerous delays, so many of its supposedly defining features were either severely cut down or left completely unfinished. The game was heavily panned upon its release for its numerous glitches and its impossibly steep system requirements (owing to its huge outdoor environments, which was completely uncalled for at the time), and by the time the game was patched and most users' computers were finally good enough to run the game fluidly, the damage had already been done and the game was quickly forgotten after many a gamer's focus shifted to the fantastic Half-Life and the phenomenally awful Daikatana, and in the end the game's attempt at a groundbreaking physics engine was a tremendous inspiration during the development of Half-Life 2. note It seems that the game received a spiritual successor about seven years later in the form of Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, a HUD-less first-person shooter based on a major film by a big-name director where the player uses guns and other environmental objects to kill dinosaurs on a mysterious island. The only difference is that the latter game turned out to be genuinely good.
The most egregious problem with this particular licensed game is that they had a cheap, easy method to make a decent game. Take Street Fighter II, change the graphics, release. Instead the developers seemed Genre Blind and tried to develop a brand new fighting system, only to be foiled by the limited development time and budget they should have expected had they been more Genre Savvy.
Indeed, this ended up being Capcom's approach when it came time to port (read: completely revamp) the game for the console release as the console game (subtitled "Real Battle on Film") was built using a modified Super Street Fighter II Turbo engine with digitized sprites of the actors instead of their own art.
There was a video game based on the movie White Men Can't Jump. Not only did it come out four years after the movie, but it was based on the Atari Jaguar system. By this time, Atari was losing in the console war, and in less than a year, they discontinued the Jaguar.
The Starship Troopers MMO had space battles instead of marine-bug battles. This was because it was actually just a version of the Silent Death computer game (also developed by Mythic) with different graphics. In spite of the cost-cutting, it still came out a year after the movie.
The Catwoman game (based on the movie) was so bad that a Warner Bros. executive threatened to impose punishments into all future property licenses such that if the video game didn't get sufficiently positive reviews, the company would have to pay a fine for damaging WB's property. The irony of a WB executive complaining about another studio damaging their property is highlighted when you realize the game under discussion was the tie-in to the execrable Catwoman movie.
Dirty Dancing had a licensed PC game which was released nearly 15 years after the film was made, containing almost no music from the movie, almost no connection to its plot, and gameplay consisting entirely of mostly unplayably buggy minigames, the most functional of which is just a ripoff ofBejeweled. (For those interested, here's the Spoony One's take on the game.)
The main difference is that you're meant to win in the game. And the game rewards you for it. The game based on a nihilistic view of the human race and the human success instinct REWARDS YOU FOR WINNING. So, that's Misaimed Fandom, and the game is a blatant attempt at taking commercial advantage from a film that was deeply critical of the consumerist culture.
Enter the Matrix was a brave but ultimately doomed attempt to make a game that actually tied in with its parent title, in this case The Matrix Reloaded. It had footage shot especially for it during the shoot of The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions, and explained several critical plot points in the former film. Unfortunately, this failed for two reasons — firstly, the game just wasn't very good. It wasn't awful by any means, but the imbalanced difficulty and horribly designed game engine made it annoying to play. Secondly, what many viewers felt should have been the big action sequence of Reloaded, namely the power plant takeover, was barely even mentioned in the film because it had been reserved for the game, which pissed off quite a few people and contributed to the impression that Enter the Matrix was just an excuse for the Wachowskis to get even more money out of their fans. The game did at least get some praise for the nifty hacking minigame that was included, but mostly just contributed to the Hype Backlash that the franchise was starting to suffer from.
The PC game Torrente (based on the Spanish cop movie spoof Torrente: The Stupid Arm of the Law) is a mediocre Third-Person Shooter whose only unique point is that the protagonist is a fat, bald, dimwitted sluggard.
Alice in Wonderland, the video game adaptation of Tim Burton's 2010 film, was a decided letdown to fans of the movie. Many of the battles are unintuitive, and the player doesn't even play as Alice — rather, as five residents of Underland (though they do fortunately consist of fan-favorites such as the Mad Hatter), who have to make their way through the entire map while preventing Alice from being captured. It's not horrible, but it's extremely disappointing.
For the 2012 Battleship movie, they of course released a tie-in game. Is it based on the classic turn-based original? Maybe naval combat like the last game to bear the name? Nope, it's a First-Person Shooter, and not a very good one to boot. There are a few naval combat segments, but those are pulled off rather poorly too. The Wii/DS/3DS version was closer to the original, being a Turn-Based Strategy strictly focused on naval warfare, and was only slightly better for it.
The adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. Incredibly unimpressive graphics, horrible Gears of War-like gameplay, no freedom at all during missions and really poor story-telling. Part 2 pushed it one step further by being both underachieving and awfully short.
There was a cheap movie cash-in DS game based on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Aside from the three Triwizard challenges, the other levels ranged from plausible to perplexing. For example, one of the longest levels involved chasing the golden egg through the sewer system for no other reason than because Harry couldn't keep a good grip on it.
The games based on the first (mediocre and considered only for kids), fifth (divisive, with many feeling they had dipped after three serviceable games) and sixth (widely considered a disappointment, particularly as with more time to work as the film got delayed EA still didn't do anything to spice up the game) are considered examples too.
Harry Potter for Kinect, a collection of motion controlled video games based on important scenes from the movie saga. Think this one has a fighting chance because it wasn't rushed to come out alongside a movie? Think again, it still sucks.
The Eragon video game was somewhat bad, though the soundtrack is amazing. Not surprisingly, the music was also probably the best thing about the movie. note The Eragon games for Both Game Boy Advance and DS were both radically different from the console/pc version, and were actually pretty darn good games. The GBA being a classic RPG with turn-based combat and the DS being a 3-D adventure game, which was really rather good for a DS game.
Awesome as the Iron Man films are, the next-gen adaptations of them are shockingly bad. The first game was riddled with poor controls, horrendous graphics, bugs that could force you to restart, bad hit detection, and placed you on maps where there was literally nowhere you weren't under constant fire from respawning enemies, even though Death Is a Slap on the Wrist. The second game cleaned things up somewhat and threw in War Machine as second player, but it wasn't much better than mediocre. How did they take a game where you fly through the air in an invincible power suit at the speed of sound while blasting terrorists with missiles from ten thousand feet and make it bad???
Spider-Man 3: Graphics were bad and collision detection was about non-existent, so you got to watch cookie-cutter cutouts of citizens walk through ambulances. Audio was unbearable, as Spider-Man had many catchphrases but repeated them nonstop, and they weren't even that funny. Citizens also sometimes switched voices when you interacted with them. Story was broken to little bits and the game was artificially lengthened with a billion terrible side-quests and various missions (though the one to "Retrieve the Delicious Fruit Pies" was an amusing Call Back to the Hostess cake ads). If anything, it also owes its mediocrity to Sequelitis, as the other Spider-Man games before and after are genuinely good.
Also, it features Kari Wahlgren as Mary Jane Watson. This should be good right? Wrong. SWING HIGHER!SWING HIGHER!
The PS2 version of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is borderline unplayable. It's got graphics on par with an early PlayStation 1 game, next to no voice acting, no actual ending, and just bad 2D fighting mechanics.
Transformers: The Video Game (the one of the 2007 live-action movie) wasn't merely bad (a 15-foot robot could get stuck on a broken tree branch), it was inexorably boring. Most of the game involved driving to your next destination within a time limit with a car that handles like an ice-cream van in an Alaskan winter without snow-chains. Oh, and kicking things until they explode. And the graphics were pretty mediocre, too.
It can be surmised that the writers for the game had not seen the script for the movie. Or been allowed on the same continent as it.
The video game based on Dark of the Moon (which is more or less a prequel/sidestory of the movie) was developed by the same folks behind the well-received Transformers: War for Cybertron, and yet it got hit with some less than average review scores. The main issue? It's a Transformers game where you don't transform.
But that's just the Wii and 3DS Transformers Dark Of The Moon video game devolped by Behavior Interactive. On other formats you can Transform and stuff.
Avatar's game (by Ubisoft) is visually amazing, but lacking in many of the final details of the film, likely due to being released before it. Some of these are minor things, while others are...not. It's by no means the very worst as licensed games go, but still has a storyline that both makes no sense and in places openly contradicts canon, suffers from some very bad voice acting and mistakes with the Na'vi language, as well as inexplicably low-quality models and textures for the Na'vi which really stand out against the rest.
The PlayStation adaptation of The Lost World: Jurassic Park received praise on two fronts: one, pretty cool dinosaur graphics. Two, it featured one of gaming's earliest original orchestral scores. Everything else was slammed: sloppy, repetitive game play, difficult controls, incredible difficulty of certain levels, and most annoyingly, the fact that, despite having 30 levels, you couldn't ever save.
Batman Forever on the SNES is considered to be the worst Batman game on the console. The game was developed by Acclaim, a company that was mostly known for producing games of dubious quality. The game had extremely awkward controls, gadgets that didn't work, terrible level design, and having fiendishly Nintendo Hard difficulty due to you having only 5 lives (which gets shared between both players in a 2 player game) and being forced to restart at the beginning of the game if you got a game over.
007 Legends. Mediocre gameplay, nonsensical story and idiotic enemy AI among other things led to a long list of bad critical reviews and even Eurocom going out of business after 25 years in game development.
Inverted with Gottlieb's James Bond 007 pinball, partially based on The Spy Who Loved Me. The game ignored almost everything about the films for an unusual timer-based game that required the player to make shots for additional play time. Players and operators hated the game, but at least it wasn't the license's fault...
Aliens: Colonial Marines has been panned by the vast majority of critics and a large amount of players as well, with complaints about graphical errors, terrible AI, a lack of genuine tension, and unlikable characters.
Though the dev team has been trying to make amends with patches to fix the graphics errors and AI, and bring the game closer to what it was supposed to be judging from the trailers.
There have been a number of Star Wars trading card games, some of which had the usual licensed game problems:
Before losing their license in 2001, Decipher cashed in and made some lame spinoffs, Jedi Knights and Young Jedi. The first one, based on the Original Trilogy, lasted for only three sets and used computer-generated imagery instead of movie stills. The second one was based on The Phantom Menace and had even more simplistic game mechanics. Both were aimed at the younger audience.
Then there was the Star Wars Pocketmodel Game from Wiz Kids, which utilized both collectible cards and cardboard starship miniatures. It wasn't that lame, but it never made it into Star Wars: The Clone Wars expansions, ending in 2008.
Star Wars: GalaxiesTrading Card Game was an interesting example. Apart from being the first Star Wars card game online, it was different from its predecessors in using artwork by world-class artists instead of movie stills and being focused almost entirely on Star Wars Expanded Universe material, which previous games only touched at best. Unfortunately, being tied to the Star Wars Galaxies didn't do it justice: the MMO was already in decline and restricting the game to current and former SWG subscribers limited the potential player base to several hundred people at its best. Nevertheless, the game survived thanks to MMO players buying virtual boosters while hunting rare loot items and spawned 8 sets with thousand of beautiful artworks, until it got shot down along with the MMO that gave birth to it in late 2011.
Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures is a casual "Free Realms-style" MMO based on the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series. It added its first CCG, Card Commander, shortly after the launch in 2010 - a game with incredibly simplistic gameplay, aimed at the very young audience. In 2012, it added a second game called Card Assault. Despite still being pretty lame compared to some of the aforelisted games, it is nevertheless a step up, actually including deckbuilding and Strategies, while the Card Commander is mostly luck-based and has no deckbuilding to speak of at all. These two are the only game officially supported by Lucasfilm to date.
There's an Army of Darkness card game. There was something seriously wrong with it, as it was way too easy to win without really doing anything. It doesn't help that the instructions are written the way Ash talks.
The Super NESPlatform Game of the famous 1939 Wizard of Ozfilm adaptation had a lot of problems. It was released in November 1993, featuring: clunky controls and doesn't even follow the movie at all and the demo features Dorothy falling into a Bottomless Pit during the Attract Mode. It is also infamous in having a chock full of Fake Difficulty from blind falls, a severe case of Hitbox Dissonance, (from both enemies and platforms) and no Mercy Invincibility. What makes this even worse is that there separate lives for each of the characters. The river level has you cross it over with some of the worst jump precisions in video games. Either you'll make the jump or somehow fall into the river and drown despite clearly landing on the platform. And that's only scratching the surface. The Angry Video Game Nerd makes the game's overwhelming myriad of horrible bugs and design flaws startlingly apparent in his review of the game.
Titus Interactive's RoboCop for the PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, and PC. The graphics are bland and distracting, the gameplay is repetitive and slow-paced, and the voice-acting is abysmal (with RoboCop actively taking joy in killing criminals). Lack of variety, long levels, RoboCop's slow movement speed, the ease of dying spontaneously from an errant explosion, and inability to save during a level makes for a painfully boring first-person shooter.
Pacific Rim can described as 2500 tons of awesome. The game based on the movie, opinions might be mixed especially considering the name it has to live up to.
While the 2005 King Kong game averts this trope on the consoles, the DS one does not. It's a First-Person shooter where you can almost go through the entire game barely killing anything. Top it with bugs that cause Jack to fall out of the level, a bad hit detection, graphics that that make the characters look hideous, and can be beaten in less than a few hours. Even the parts where you get to play as King Kong (which is the best looking part of this game), you have very little involvement in, since it just resorts to spamming the same 2 buttons.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was a game for the NES, loosely based on the book The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Featuring mangled controls, Fake Difficulty everywhere (the mad bombers can easily take your health away in one bomb if you're right in the bomb's way and Jekyll moves really slow), Everything Trying to Kill You including cats, dogs, birds, etc. Hyde's levels aren't much better. You have to press Up+B to shoot a fireball, which isn't so bad...but sometimes it only works when it wants to. The Hyde levels are technically "timed" in a sense if you catch up to where Dr. Jekyll went insane, you'd instantly get game over (but at least you get continues). The level format is different between the Japanese and English versions.
The SNES version of The Fellowship of the Ring is really bad, even by the standards of that console's generation. Good luck trying to get anywhere in that game. If you lose your instruction booklet, you're pretty screwed, as it has the layouts of all of the (very large) cave maps.
Animorphs: Shattered Reality for the PlayStation is a classic example. Horrific controls, crappy graphics, annoying and downright weird sound, no sense of storyline whatsoever, and the main gimmick only being used in specific (rare) instances in-game; these things make baby Andalites cry.
This is not made any better by the fact that the game looks like a re-skinned Crash Bandicoot. Even the animations look almost exactly like Crash's, and the Wumpa fruit has been changed to "A" coins.
Animorphs: Know the Secret, while possibly not as offensive as the PlayStation game, was pretty subpar and had trouble being consistent with the books (such as assigning the wrong signature morphs to the wrong characters)
The Shannara video game adaptation. For RP elements it wasn't too awful, just badly cliched, but the gameplay mechanics — especially the combat engine — sucked horribly.
The NES Where's Wally? game (released by THQ in 1992), owing to the severe graphical limitations of the system, was barely playable (as all the people in the crowds are identical stick figures, and thanks to palette limitations, Wally/Waldo himself isn't always wearing the same colors!) and has none of the visual fun that made the books memorable.
Jim Henson's Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival was a minigame collection released for the NES in 1990, though the minigames all seem like early 1980s knockoffs with their amateurish graphics and shallow, repetitive gameplay often made worse by bad controls and hit detection.
There was a Nickelodeon Guts game for the SNES. However, it suffered from repetitive gameplay (Basic Training and Tornado Run were one and the same, but obviously given different names), annoying music, and the fact that the Aggro Crag, the final event, was just a glorified Basic Training level. Also, you had to get a certain amount of points in the firstplayer mode, there were more girls (6) than boys (2) when you chose your player, and there was no Mike O'Malley! Moira "Mo" Quirk (Mike's co-host), on the other hand, was there.
One notable crappy Power Rangers game is the Nintendo 64 version of Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue. The cutscenes were done in a comic style, which might be good... if they weren't drawn really, really, crappily. The gameplay and graphics weren't anything special either - British magazine N64 compared it to "constipated puppet men jerking around LEGO cities".
It also had the misfortune to be released at a time when the Power Rangers franchise was Deader Than Disco, at least in the UK, which couldn't have helped.
Some of the elder statesmen out there might remember a tactical fleet game called Star Fleet Battles. Complex even to the point of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, but balanced out over years and years of play to create a strong thinking-man's starship wargame. It even had a "turn sequence" which set out in detail which step was to follow which — basically writing the subroutine for the players. Now, what happened when somebody finally figured out you could put something like Star Fleet Battles out as a computer RPG and wash your hands of all the pencil-based bookkeeping? Starfleet Command, that's what happened. Missing several core races in the original release, horribly buggy at the best of times, sometimes could not even install on your computer without the game crashing the machine as it was transferring files.
Then there's Star Trek Pinball, a video pinball game universally panned for wantonly slapping Trek artwork on three annoyingly bad pinball games filled with grainy graphics, unrealistic physics, frequent crashes, and an advertised-but-absent LAN multiplayer feature. It is widely believed that the game was rushed as an attempt by Interplay to raise money due to problems during development of the unreleased Star Trek: The Secret of Vulcan's Fury.
Star Trek New Worlds, a dreadful clunker of a ground-based RTS featuring fuzzy graphics, ludicrously complicated resource management (You Require More Vespene Gas? How about five fucking flavours of it or you can't build anything?), and wonky AI. The only thing the game has going for it is the fantasticsoundtrack.
Hell, the arcade ticket machine version of the game was more fun, if only because you actually slapped buttons for your choices instead of clicking on cases. And you actually get a tangible reward afterwards.
The Ticket Machine however is quite cruel, you actually have to spend another set of credits halfway and its payout can be a bit cruel. However it is one of the more popular ticket games in the arcade.
Doctor Who: Return to Earth by Asylum Entertainment on the Wii. The gameplay consists, for 90% of the game, of shooting crystals at floating smiley faces with the Sonic Screwdriver (which, on top of being completely nonsensical for Doctor Who, is even more bizarre than the Out of Character Amiga platformer Dalek Attack) and shoddy stealth while dealing with an uncooperative camera and severe framerate lag on some occasions, the graphics look like they came from an upscaled PlayStation One game with special effects that make the classic series look like modern Summer blockbusters and a decent dosing of Uncanny Valley animations, the plot's an incoherent excuse to have Cybermen and Daleks in the same story, reducing their in-game intelligences to herp-derping, walls-staring levels in the process, the level designs involve tedious backtracking to fill up on crystals and (in the endgame) messy masses of floating platforms with reckless disregard for in-universe sense and the mandatory ball maze minigames are frustating enough to make you want to toss your Wiimote. The only positives are the Murray Gold soundtrack and the Sonic Screwdriver Wiimote that was released alongside it. The kicker? Nintendo reportedly paid The BBC £10,000,000 for exclusive Doctor Who games, and yet the freenote (if you live in the UK, that is)Adventure Games have far better production values. As the Official Nintendo Magazine in the UK put it, Asylum are "people who hate games, sci-fi, and everything decent about humanity". Ouch.
The Nintendo DS game Evacuation Earth, released at the same time as Return to Earth, wasn't nearly as badly received...although few considered it to be anything better than So Okay, It's Average.
Hells Kitchen received a PC game adaptation that was, while not horrible, decidedly sub-par. Spoony severely disliked it, noting that star Gordon Ramsay looked weird and pretty nearly the entire point of the show was lost — there's no competition factor whatsoever and it's almost impossible to make Ramsay angry unless you're a damn perfectionist who wants gold stars.
LOST: Via Domus for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Windows. It's faithful to the show, and even utilizes the flashback system. The high points are the story, the use of music from the show, and the very realistic environments. The gameplay is slightly reminiscent of 1990s Adventure Games like King's Quest and Monkey Island, only in full 3D. However, the game's overall lousy — you get a gun but only use it a few times throughout the entire game, and there's the recurring (and annoying) fuse-plugging minigame. The actors for Ben, Sun, Desmond, Mikhail, Tom, and Claire lent their voices for the game (mostly because they have only 4-5 quotes for the whole four hours of the game), but the rest of the characters were voiced by stand-ins. For this reason, they often sound a little different than from the show (this hit Locke the worst) and some characters (Jin, Desmond, Tom after he takes his beard off) are horribly Off Model. To top it all, the game is short, and the ending? A Gainax Ending; you get onto a boat and ride off the island...only to see Oceanic 815 break up and crash onto the island, with you waking up on the beach as opposed to the jungle, and your love interest, who was killed shortly before your flight, having been restored to life, albeit bloodied. Also, you could die randomly in the cave sections, which are all built like mazes.
It should come as no surprise that the onlyLet's Play of the game at the time of this writing is actually called "Let's EndureLost: Via Domus".
Prison Break: The Conspiracy, based on the hit 2000s TV series. We're not sure if the game was rushed in production or not, but we can be sure that it's a completely broken Splinter Cell wannabe.
The NCIS video game was very poor and described as "a point and click adventure without the venture".
The Sopranos: Road to Respect has mediocre graphics, lousy game mechanics and has you playing Big Pussy's illegitimate son who gets to beat up a bunch of thugs by button mashing with occasional character from the show cameoing for good measure (including your father's ghost).
Of The Shield: The Gameone reviewer said that it "has no appeal to anyone who has more than 50 percent of his brain intact. Anyone who isn't in a vegetative state will most likely wish that he were after getting through all 15 levels of the game."
Then there is Desperate Housewives: The Game. So very bad that most people have not heard of it - but it exists. Basically, the game is The Sims with a story line and some sims which sound absolutely nothing like the DH actresses. The game is known for a glitch which caused it not to be able to play on many laptops and computers. When the game is inserted, the computer screen will simply read FAIL. Still, the game does have a very well written story and does let you interact with many of the DH characters. Video can be viewed here or here for the Lets Play Bad Game Theater version.
24 has a trading card game. It was doomed by an odd premier release (Starters first, boosters two months later) and released during the '07-'08 WGA Strike, the only season skipped in 24's 8-season run.
There is a Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers card game, but its rules tend to make little sense. The designers seem to fail to appreciate that resource systems are more about time than actual resources.
There was a little-known game based on Miami Vice by Capstone for DOS (reviewed here) that suffered from terrible controls, convoluted gameplay, and ridiculous bugs. The game was like a puzzle/platformer hybrid controlled entirely by the mouse and spacebar. In the review linked above, the reviewer could not figure out how to pass the second level because there did not appear to be anything to really indicate the goal of the level. That was also when he encountered several strange, albeit unintentionally amusing glitches such as Crockett and Tubbs's sprites becoming cloned and their inexplicable ability to walk across thin air where no platforms were indicated.
Game of Thrones the RPG tanked pretty badly in terms of gameplay and sales.
Like the Ludia version below, the GameTek version of The Price Is Right, published for Commodore 64 and MS-DOS in 1990 and Commodore Amiga in 1991, makes one wonder if anyone at the company ever watched the program. Games and prizes seem to be associated at random. For example, the Card Game is likely to be played for a $600 appliance rather than a car.
The CSI NY game wasn't as good as the others in the franchise. It isn't totally awful, but for some reason was mostly puzzles and hidden item stuff as opposed to the more detailed evidence collecting,tests,interviewing ect of the other two shows. Plus, the puzzles can frustrate to no end, especially the "draw a line without touching the non matching items" one and the "draw the outline" one for some. Plus,each case was short,and Mac and Stella were the only player characters,as opposed to either all of the team at various points or a original player character like the rest. And fans tend to view it as yet another example of the show getting the short end of the stick.
The company that tried to make a Babylon 5 flight simulator game honestly tried to make it a high quality game that faithfully depicted how a StarFury would handle. They took so long trying to get it right that they were still working on it after the series was over, resulting in the project being cancelled.
KISS Pinball for the PC and PlayStation consisted of two pinball boards which were utterly undistinguished aside from the graphical styling and a few voice clips. The soundtrack was made of generic rock riffs and contained no KISS songs. The PlayStation version also suffered from nauseous camera panning.
Revolution X, featuring Aerosmith is a mixed case. It makes for a rather decent, albeit Nintendo Hard (especially if you're playing alone) light gun arcade (making it essentially So Okay, It's Average), but the home conversions for Genesis and SNES are nothing short of awful, with severely downgraded graphics, limited continues (thus ratcheting up the difficulty in getting to the end) and the music looping indefinitely to the point of annoying the hell out of the player. And worse yet, the SNES version could offer Super Scope support (it's still a rail shooter, after all), but nope.
The Famicom game A Week of Garfield starts going wrong with its Excuse Plot, where Garfield wants to save Odie (whose sprite looks half his size) despite not caring about him in the comic strip except to abuse him. In actual gameplay, it's a side-scrolling platformer with ugly graphics and primitive level design. Beating a level requires jumping around randomly to make a key appear. Difficulty comes mainly from having to face enemies like spiders with a pathetic kick attack and no Mercy Invincibility, extra lives or continues.
While most of THQ's wrestling games based on WWE tend to be well regarded, two of their attempts to branch into different genres were not so lucky. First there was Betrayal, a Game Boy ColorBeat 'em Up panned for "idiot AI" among other things. Then there was Crush Hour for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, which was essentially a poor man's Twisted Metal whose only redeeming feature was the Narmtastic commentary provided by Jim Ross ("TWISTY ROCKETS!").
Those games did hit a niche (quick, fast paced arcade action; more or less what WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game was minus any of the goofy specials). However, if you're looking for a WCW game of ill repute, give Backstage Assault a go. Built on the already questionable Mayhem engine, it removes any semblance of wrestling and just goes for a clunky backstage brawler.
Hulk Hogan's Main Event for the Xbox 360, which fails to take advantage of the Kinect capabilities as promised. Unlike the other wrestling games listed here, this isn't a product based on a wrestling company, although it does promote Hulk Hogan's former role in TNA.
Heroes of the Lance is an excellent contender for "worst Dungeons & Dragons game ever". If the drab graphics, clunky controls, repetitive music and rotten hit detection don't turn you off, maybe the fact that the game has a nasty Unwinnable condition will do it for you (as described there). Don't suffer through it alone.
Even worse was Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor (not to be confused with the Gold Box game simply titled Pool of Radiance, which averts this trope). Aside from horrible balance issues and a thoroughly dull campaign, it had one spectacularly awful bug—if you installed the game to anything other than the default filepath then tried to uninstall it... kiss the entire contents of your hard drive goodbye!
Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft for the PlayStation is a D&D Fighting Game based on their horror setting. The game was so hideously bad, it's often credited with killing the setting it's based on.
Released to much fanfare and to-do, the Xbox 360 game Shadowrun was widely panned as So Okay, It's Average. It captured very, very little of the essence of the setting and was a fairly dull online shooter. The PC port was even worse, for all the reasons already listed, as well as requiring Windows Vista (at a time where it was still incredibly expensive and ridiculously buggy) to even install it. Shadowrun games in the 16-bit era were better received and have some cult classic appeal, despite the SNES version's fetch quests with completely arbitrary solutions.
Spell Fire, a hastily put together CCG based on Dungeons & Dragons and mostly reused art, created by TSR to cash in on the Magic fad while it lasted. Three years later, TSR went bankrupt and was bought by WOTC, the creators of Magic... but not before being reduced to using photos of TSR employees in extremely crude costumes as card "art."
Steve Jackson Games' Illuminati New World Order was a collectible version of their previous classic Illuminati. Unfortunately, they borrowed many mechanics and cards from the non-collectible version without thinking about how deckbuilding would allow them to be exploited, and most games of INWO were immediately won by whichever player went first.
The Transformers for the Commodore 64 and Sinclair Spectrum back in the mid-1980s, published by Ocean Software. Memorable incidents include Autobots dying from a fall of any distance, Autobots dying from landing on a slope after flying, Autobots dying from not being pixel-perfectly positioned when switching characters, Autobots dying from the bizarre collision detection, Autobots dying for no apparent reason, Autobots dying... perhaps the game was designed by Decepticons? Except for the fact that the Decepticons were even MORE fragile, as the game inverted the typical 'touch me and you die' game mechanics — any Autobot who was flying or in vehicle mode would instantly kill any Decepticon by ramming them. This meant that Bumblebee, who had ridiculous amounts of shields, was a death machine in car form.
According to this interview, even the development team thought this particular Transformers game was awful.
Somehow, people at Takara thought the game deserved a sequel in the form of The Headmasters. Despite numerous improvements (could take more than one hit before you die, save feature, more than two characters), it was still as bad as Mystery of Convoy and was riddled with errors. All but one of the playable characters shared a sprite, the one who didn't was depicted as the wrong character, etc.
Transformers had a weak trading card game primarily based on the live-action movies. It was a "3D Battle-Card Game" that certainly had its flaws: characters were represented as punch-out buildable cards that could either be built as vehicles/animals or out-of-proportion Off Model robots (here's Optimus, for those interested◊), and the game could easily be played without the card models. Only two sets were released.
There are many things wrong with Bionicle: The Game, a near-Nintendo Hard action-adventure shooter-platformer mishmash that was released barely finished in 2003. The controls render it almost unplayable, since the view doesn't change to follow the player, so you have to position the camera manually while simultaneously running, jumping, attacking, blocking and sometimes gliding. The camera keeps bumping into things and in some parts even moves from itself, throwing you off course (and off platforms) easily. The game features odd animation and amateurish voice acting, and the visual design is rather ugly, while the gameplay is surprisingly repetitive, despite the varied landscapes you play in. The game tried to superficially follow the story, but only managed to keep one or two key points, so there is no cohesive narrative. Meanwhile, the presentation could not possibly have been any more Narmy — the way the characters spout the cheesiest of clichéd lines while keeping a straight face, and with just how anticlimactic and random the final cutscene is, you would think the game was meant to be a parody, but the punchline never comes... unless you count the final prize for completing the game — a nonsensical outro and another look at the loading screen —, but then, the joke's on you.
The port for the Game Boy Advance is not as well-known as the PC and console versions, but that's probably for the better. The controls are terrible and they tried to introduce some sort of camera system, but it's just laughable and doesn't really help you. The targeting system doesn't seem to work most of the time, the graphics are terrible, and the perspective is really butchered. The music is fairly decent, but that's about the only redeeming quality; the game is almost unplayable.
The creators of Bionicle Heroes thought the game wouldn't be as fun if it stayed true to the story. So they took a Broad Strokes approach, and rewrote it from scratch, explaining that the evil Piraka have transformed Voya Nui's creatures into random monsters. That was an easy way of making Mooks out of characters who had no business wandering about on the island (though they're still referred to in-game as being not copies, but the real things). Being a LEGO Adaptation Game, the Rule of Funny was expected, but even taking this into account, they made the characters completely unrecognizable. Three of the bosses are characters that have been dead for 1000 years. Another is actually a good guy. The powers are likewise nonsensical. For example, Hewkii, a sportsman who also possessed the Mask of Accuracy (you'd think a Third-Person Shooter would take advantage of this), has a construction ability. The other powers are also random (the Toa of Fire can make plants explode?), and none of the actual mask powers were incorporated into the game. The gameplay itself is tediously monotone: you just walk on a mostly predetermined path (only one character can jump, and you don't have control over even that), shoot mindlessly, and at random intervals open secret areas. That's it. It's also way too damn easy, as you spend more than half of the game in an invincible Golden Super Mode. When you beat the six main bosses, they become playable, but what fun you have with them is lost after a while, because when you acquire the final boss, he overrides them. At least the level design is visually pleasing and creative, the unlockables are kinda fun, and the game has a nice soundtrack. If it didn't trample over the source material so brutally, it would be So Okay, It's Average. Ironic, given the respect with which Traveller's Tales treatthe various licenses they've adapted into LEGO.
Two of the games from the American Girls Collection for the Nintendo DS, namely Julie Finds a Way and Kit Mystery Challenge were given scathing reviews, mainly due to piss-poor gameplay and controls. The American Girls Premiere game for the PC and Mac was a different story, though.
In a twist on this trope, Frogger: The Great Quest got a license to make a game about a classic arcade game. While some earlier Frogger remakes were actually surprisingly good, this one attempted to make it into a 3D action platformer and failed miserably. You attacked enemies by spitting at them, and when close enough you used frog-fu (no, we're not making this up, this is the exact terminology the game used). The controls were horrible, the only difficult thing was figuring out what the heck you were supposed to do, there was no replay value unless you wanted to start the whole game over again, and the voice acting was somewhere between bad and the kind of voice that makes you want to take a hammer to your head.
Even Wing Commander had a trading card game, made by Margaret Weis, who also took the opportunity to make a CCG of her own IP, Star of the Guardians. Outside of a few "hardcore" fans neither was received well.
Arthur's Absolutely Fun Day for the Game Boy Color is the one glaring example in the franchise's long line of normally well made licensed games. The music is horrible and beepy (and often emits high-pitched notes that upset people with sensitive hearing and dogs), the graphics is lazy and looks badly drawn (you control a disembodied head of Arthur's in a circle in the map screen!) and the games are boring and repetitive if not downright frustrating.
Eek! The Cat for SNES is a miserable platformer. Instead of simply moving Eek! through the various levels, Eek! has to safely guide an NPC to the exit by kicking or pushing him or her out of harm's way. This is frustrating, as the NPC constantly walks forward. Combined with miserable controls, the game is jam-packed with Fake Difficulty. Additionally, the Eek! game features some of the darkest, dingiest graphics◊ on the platform, and possibly ever. To add insult to injury, it's a mere Dolled-Up Installment of an Amiga game called Sleepwalker.
The Simpsons Bartman Meets Radioactive Man for the NES was filled with abysmal collision detection and barely-functional fighting controls. Bartman's punches were horribly slow and did next to nothing, even if he hit an enemy. Levels were long and insufferably boring with no variety in them whatsoever. The only thing people are willing to defend about the game is the music.
The Simpsons Wrestling was released for the PlayStation in 2001. It had bad gameplay and graphics, but surprisingly good music.
The Simpsons Skateboarding was released for the PlayStation 2. It had terrible gameplay and graphics. It is widely considered to be the worst Simpsons game ever.
Pick any 5th generation console South Park game. South Park Rally was a forgettable, confusing Mario Kart clone, Chef's Luv Shack was a bizarre game show with questions that made no sense if you weren't American, and the South ParkFPS has been accurately described as "the Mr. Hankey of FPS games: A turd of a game who comes to people who don't read game reviews". It got 8% from PC Gamer magazine in the UK and a 30/100 from a Finnish games magazine which also sourced the previous quote.
The PC version of the South Park FPS was horribly buggy and had performance issues, which is part of the reason why it was reviewed so badly by most. The N64 version was generally rated much better, although that's not saying much (Game Stats gives it an average of 5.9/10 from the major sites). At the very least, it had the good fortune of being built on the Turok engine, so most of the bugs had been ironed out beforehand.
SEGA made a pinball machine themed on''South Park'' as well that was a flop with both operators and players. After some operators took some heat for allowing a machine themed on a TV-MA license to be played where children are often present, many operators decided to not buy them or return them outright. The players, meanwhile, slammed the game for its unbalanced scoring, bare-bones gameplay, and lack of challenge. This machine ultimately took SEGA out of the pinball business for good. That being said, the South Park pinball machine did prove a hit among fans of the show, as it integrates the theme very well and is filled with references to the show. It thus has a Love It or Hate It status, lining up largely with those who watch the show and enjoy it and those who do not—even the most persnickety of pinball fans seem to like the machine if they are also South Park fans.
Averted however with South Park: The Stick of Truth due to personal involvement from Matt and Trey who specifically wanted to avoid this trope. Despite several delays in it's release, it received largely positive reviews.
On the surface, MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch sounds like something tailor-made for an addictive brawler. Annoying celebrities beating the snot out of each other until one of them finally lays down and dies, with a slathering of gratuitous violence and bloodshed on top? It made for an awesome show, so why shouldn't it work? Unfortunately, it came with an incredibly small roster, a short story mode that could be beaten in two hours or less, a create-a-character mode more shallow than the celebrities that it was skewering, and crappy controls, condemning it to the bargain bin.
Futurama: The Game, while not a terrible game, is merely So Okay, It's Average by most fans' standards. While the graphics do look rather nice and the character designs translate well into 3D, its main saving grace is its hilarious story, which was penned by the actual writers and performed by the voice actors of the show. Not only does it manage to lampshade a few aspects of the show, but it makes fun of a few video game clichés as well. Luckily, all of the cutscenes (and some filmed gameplay) were strung together and released as an unofficial episode, which is available as a special feature on the second film release, The Beast With a Billion Backs.
While on the subject of SpongeBob, the PS2 version of Revenge of the Flying Dutchman had a serious Game-Breaking Bug that would freeze the game when attempting to load a new area, thus making it impossible to play. Fortuntately, this was fixed in the GameCube release.
The Teen Titans game, called simply Teen Titans, is a lame excuse for a game that consists of an extremely generic plot, lazy, glitch-filled graphics and an extremely disappointing ending. Pretty much every major villain from the series is randomly running rampant and the Teen Titans have to go stop them. You can choose the difficulty level, but there's no noticeable difference between them besides the too good Pong level, and there are these two levels that are dang near impossible anyway! It's not the worst licensed game ever, but it sure has its problems.
It wouldn't be that bad if it had actually been made with 2D animation instead of the ugly 3D it got, and Raven's cloak is the wrong color. The free flash games on Cartoon Network's website look better than the game's graphics.
The one good thing it had going for it was that the entire voice cast of the actual show was onboard. But even that is kind of depressing if you stop to think about it too much.
And speaking of Raven, there's a major flaw in the game's cover art: her cape is missing. It's also worth mentioning that one of Cyborg's fingers, specifically the one that's right above Robin's hair, is slightly cut off. Take a look!◊
Looney Tunes: Cartoon Conductor was a boring music game for the DS with little to no replayability or fun.
Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal could've been a decent Ratchet & Clank clone if it wasn't marred by bland visuals, music that ranges from bad to nonexistant (save for the remix of the old Looney Tunes factory theme), bad enemies (the final boss is colossal before you fight it but shrinks down to less than half as large during the actual fight, and you can beat it in one or two minutes), and an abysmal plot with an equally-abysmal ending.
The Xiaolin Showdown game for the PS2 and Xbox (the DS version was surprisingly decent). It suffers from boring and repetitious gameplay, mucky graphics, extremely short length, you cannot die at all, and Dojo doesn't even havehis original voice actor. As one reviewer said, you can beat a level just by standing in a corner and letting the AI players eliminate all the enemies for you. The only redeeming thing about the game was the Showdown mini-games, but even those were boring and lacking.
The 2012 My Little Pony game is a freemium game made for smartphones. The problem with this game? You have to pay to win it legitimately. - and there's a lot. It's not otherwise a terrible game and it does have its fans, plus it's nowhere near as bad as it used to be in its regard, but it still requires ridiculous amounts of grinding to complete without paying.
Family Guy has a rough history when it comes to video games. The 2006 game simply called Family Guy: Video Game! suffered from braindead AI, uninspired levels and gameplay mechanics, and was just simply boring. The browser MMO had a mediocre reception from players and was shut down before even going out of beta. 2012's Back to the Multiverse, did considerably better, many reviewers stating to have enjoyed the game's comedy and writing, but subpar shooting mechanics put it into So Okay, It's Average territory for many. Then there was Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, which is ultimately nothing more than a transparent knock-off of The Simpsons Tapped Out, and not a particularly good one at that; the microtransactions are far more frequent and obnoxious, for one thing.
The Family Guypinball machine is an unusual case: It proved a poor seller but was critically acclaimed. Considering Stern did a Palette Swap and rethemed it on Shrek, which was a sales success, the Family Guy pinball machine seems to be an inversion, a good game whose license hurt its sales overall.
Daria had a game called Daria's Inferno. It was if anything So Okay, It's Average. It does feature some of the show's silly wit as Daria has a nightmare of all her annoyances... but it quickly gets just as annoying for the player, since the game requires you to use an item on the Daria characters walking around so they don't irritate her. Unfortunately in the early stages, they spawn at least ten of them per room, and the penultimate level only has Helen and Quinn appear saying the exact same things. While funny, ("Daria, could you hide your brain? You're making Quinn feel left out.") it's only funny the first few times.. and they appear for a few brief seconds and do so repeatedly.
The Tom and JerrySNES game is just another bland platformer, where the player, as Jerry, plays through a series of stages, running around until he hits the end of each stage and fights Tom. Along the way, he can pick up peas that he can use to throw at his enemies. The music is composed of nothing but random beeps. The game's multiplayer aspect is no better; to quote a YouTube commentator:
So, lemme get this straight, both players, not even playing at the same time, have to complete the level, and if one dies they switch.
The NES game based on The Incredible Crash Dummies, where your character's on a runaway unicycle for some reason, your only weapon does nothing but freeze enemies for a second, and it's possible to have your head knocked off thereby reversing all your controls, is usually regarded as one of the more frustrating licensed games on the system. The Game Boy one, which instead of being a action-platformer is made up of quirky minigames of the dummies working as stunt doubles or quality control at a munitions plant, tends to be regarded a bit more favorably.
TMNT games in general are a mixed bag. The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game on the NES was considered by most an uber-example of Nintendo Hard, while the follow-up arcade games (especially the first one) and their console adaptations are considered classics of the Beat 'em Up genre. Later adaptations of the various 2000 series' are a mixed bag at best, with 2013's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Out Of The Shadows being considered especially grievous, with confusing controls and buggy gameplay (and an Art Shift given to the Turtles away from the 2012 series it's based on). Its follow-up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2013 fared slightly better (they at least looked like their TV counterparts), but was sited with its own bugs and easy gameplay (due to being designed for smaller children).
Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW! is a generic, tedious dungeon crawler that gets none of the elements of other games in its genre right, the game is canon to the show and reveals Princess Bubblegum's "parents" and real age.
Regular Show: Mordecai and Rigby in 8-Bit Land tried to be a fun little homage to classic 8-bit games, but unfortunately the game was rushed to store shelves and is plagued with problems such as bad level design and glitches.
Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool and Chester Cheetah: Wild Wild Quest are two of the sorriest 16-bit Mascot with Attitude platformers. The snack food mascot may be Totally Radical, but he doesn't seem like the fastest animal on land in either game.
For a short time, Burger King had three Xbox (360) games that starred their namesake King character. Gameplay was simplistic and boring, the graphics were totally underwhelming for the platform and reviews ranged from bad to awful. Their only redeeming quality was that they were $4 and the main character was Creepy Burger King Mask Guy which puts them dangerously close to So Bad, It's Good territory. (The game Sneak King involved sneaking up on hungry people and forcing them to eat Burger King food.) With these in mind, they sold millions and became cult classics for many gamers.
The graphics are somewhat justified by the fact that they were playable on both the Xbox 360 and the original Xbox, with the game made to take advantage of the 360's backwards compatibility. It doesn't explain the texture pop-ins that sometimes look worse than a PlayStation game at times.
Strong Bad: Say it with me, The Cheat: Licensed video games are never good.
The later entries in the EA Sports NASCAR series suffered this, especially the two 7th generation entries, '08 and '09. Both were noted for mediocre gameplay, muddy graphics and buggy netcode that occasionally crashed online races, and '09 even went so far as to remove the manufacturer logos from the cars, basically rendering it an inaccurate visual representation of the sport. At least one review called the series "The Casey Mears of EA Tiburon".note Two things for context: 1) Tiburon also works on the Madden NFL and NCAA Football games, as well as Tiger Woods Golf. 2) Calling something the "Casey Mears of anything" is basically code for High Hopes, Zero Talent among NASCAR fans, given that Mears was fired from Hendrick Motorsports after the '08 season due to poor and declining performance. Sales collapsed hard across all platforms, and EA dumped the license after shoving a Wii-exclusive kart racer out the door in early 2009. No one can agree whether the new Activision/Eutechnyx NASCAR series is a victim of this or not.
To elaborate on the situation with the Activision era games, NASCAR: The Game 2011 and NASCAR The Game: Inside Line (the latter was re-released for the PC market on July 24, 2013 through Steam as NASCAR: The Game 2013) were each riddled with dozens of problems and so difficult that even some Sprint Cup drivers had trouble playing them. Because of these issues, Activision ended up losing their contract to Deep Silver when it came time to start development on NASCAR '14. However, Eutechnyx remained the developer, and reviews indicate that, while vast improvements were made, they're still a long way from resolving the game's issues.
Acclaim and LJN Toys (which merged in 1990) were really, really bad for this during the 8- and 16-bit days. Acclaim didn't learn its lesson and continued to produce crap until its eventual bankruptcy (and limited revival as a distributor of Korean MMORPGs). LJN and Acclaim were so bad at this that they received extreme scorn as The Angry Video Game Nerd's most hated game companies.
Similarly, a lot of THQ's input from the early 1990s consisted of crappy licensed projects (with such gems as Home Alone, Where's Waldo? and Wayne's World under their belts).
Capstone Software made some enjoyable FPS games called Witchaven, but the majority of their games were movie licenses, such as the Dark Half, a point and click adventure game, Zorro, which was similar to the original Prince of Persia games. They also somehow created games based on Homey D. Clown, from In Living Color, and an action game based on L.A. Law. All of their games were released for computers, not for consoles, so it's likely that if you played on consoles in the 80s, and early 90s, you probably never heard of them.
Brash Entertainment did nothing but these games, with their Alvin and the Chipmunks and Jumper tie-ins receiving some of the absolute lowest scores this generation. Naturally, the studio was quickly shut down 18 months after being formed. note Incidentally, Brash were working on a Saw game just as they went under; Konami eventually snagged the publishing rights from their ruin and the final game ended up being somewhat decent. Well, except for the combat system.
Ludia is quickly developing a reputation among game show fans for developing and releasing the worst game show adaptations for video game consoles (specifically Wii) in decades. Seriously, has anyone at the company ever watched these programs?
Family Feud Decades was a grand idea to celebrate the show's 35th Anniversary, but managed to massively fail. Not only is the classic theme used for menus only (gameplay itself uses the ever-hated "party" theme), the set representing the 1990s is from Anderson's tenure instead of "Dawson's Return" (which would've kept the same set structure for all four decades). In addition, the 1976-85 set had the Bullseye displays.
Family Feud 2012 is even worse. It uses a set that looks only superficially like the current one, music that only vaguely resembles the theme tune and doesn't even play at the right times, an obnoxious stereotypical-game-show-host-type guy, and has some of the worst graphics Ludia's ever done. There's large periods of silence while the ugly characters (though at least you can use your Miis) perform overy-long and repetitive actions. They couldn't even get the show's graphics or sound effects right, and the reveal in Fast Money is done in completely the wrong way. At least the 2010 version was passable.
The $1,000,000 Pyramid managed to do an even worse job — idiotic computer AI, extremely-slow gameplay, and a massively broken payout structure (the Million is awarded for every Winner's Circle victory, which is done by way of the front-game format). The biggest mistake was using the classic 1982-91 logo style with the Donny Osmond version, and pre-release screenshots clearly showed the Osmond logo on-set! Naturally, the fanbase wondered what the hell Sony had been inhaling.
The Price Is Right Decades was supposed to be essentially a love letter to the fans, but turned out to be mediocre — pricing games are still played for cash, the Carey-era theme is used in all years, Hurdles is completely botched (rather than the three hurdles being sets of two products where you must guess which is lower than the Hurdler's price, it's a higher/lower game), and the Showcase Showdown is even worse (you have to beat a preset "leader", and are forced to go again if you tie on the first spin).
Worst of all, many very superior fan-made renditions were yanked off the internet by cease-and-desist orders so these abominations could be released. The fanbase, who had been consulted by Ludia about the PYL game and provided more than enough resources to let it surpass Curt King's unofficial PC rendition, became very disgusted at Fremantle Media...which didn't exactly have a good reputation with them as it was.
Just pick any film made between 1988 and 1993, and there's a good chance Ocean Software made a side scrolling platformer (possibly with extra top-down levels) out of it...regardless of how suitable the subject matter was.
Noteworthy examples would be their take on the Addams Family movies and animated series. At least on the SNES, the results were actually worth checking out. The first Addams Family game was a pretty enjoyable and clever platformer and The Addams Family Values was interpreted as, no joke, a parody of the Legend of Zelda games.
Pack-in-Video developed a good chunk of video games based on either movies or TV shows in the late 1980s to early 1990s. Some were either otherwise average or just bad. Some of those games include Knight Rider, Friday the 13th, Predator, Rambo, and Die Hard...all of which were released on the NES, published by either LJN or Acclaim (although Die Hard was published by Activision).
Radical Entertainment was responsible for quite a number of bad licensed games in their early years; the aforementioned Terminator for the NES was their first game, no less. It makes one wonder how the hell they went from dreck like Bebe's Kids to great games like Prototype.
Anything made by DSI Software is guaranteed to be garbage. March of the Penguins and M&Ms Kart Racing are a couple examples.
Every character in the latter game speaks in the same male voice, even Green. This should speak volumes about how much effort was put into it.
Blast! Entertainment Ltd. was a short-lived studio (it lived from 2006 - 2009) that published nothing but those types of games. All of them were so bad that no one with a clear mind would ever buy their games.
Their most infamous title is Little Britain: The Video Game for the PS2, which was nominated by various UK critics for being the worst licensed game ever made at the time of its release. The same critics also noted that it was the worst game they ever played on that system.