Disney tends to have some of the better licensed games, although they are also known for often being quite difficult:
There are two completely distinct Aladdin games, one byCapcom (released on SNES and Game Boy Advance) and one by Virgin (released on Genesis/Mega Drive and PC) — and both of them are good. It helps that the latter game gets notoriously Nintendo Hard during the escape from the Cave of Wonders and thereafter, while still remaining quite fun.
The Lion King video games (for the Game Boy, NES, SNES, Sega Genesis and MS-DOS) by Virgin aren't too shabby either, despite the second level's notorious difficulty. To drive the point home, one of co-producers of this game admitted that very few of the people who worked on the game could actually beat it, and actually expressed delight that all of two people in the room he was talking to actually had.
The Virgin interactive games were made in partnership with the actual Disney Studios. The Disney animators designed the sprites for them and applied The Twelve Principles of Animation. Aladdin was the final game in which Capcom held the Nintendo license for, so while SNES owners missed out on this version of Aladdin, Virgin was able to release the same basic version of the Lion King for both consoles, although for some reason, the Genesis Version had more multi-plane scrolling in the backrounds.
To be fair though, the SNES version had sampled audio (i.e. the African chanting) in the music, while the Genesis version only had MIDI musicnote This probably has something to do with the system's limitation. The SPC700 SPU of a SNES is a powerful wavetable synthesizer-cum-PCM-audio co-processor, while the Genesis settled with a Z80 co-processor for PCM audio combined with a Yamaha OPL FM synthesizer for music. The PC version jumps between the two depending on what kinds of sound card the user has installed- having an Ad-Lib card, a cheap SoundBlaster clone, or even a Roland MT-32 will only net you Genesis quality MIDI, while having a Gravis Ultrasound or higher end SoundBlaster 16/AWE (or a better made SoundBlaster clone) will net you SNES quality sampled music. Covox speech thing or Disney Sound Source users get only speech, and PC speaker-only users get only beeps and boops.
Donald In Maui Mallard made the duck into a gun-wielding detective who has ninja abilities and goes into a far darker and violent adventure than the ones seen in its fellow Disney games. What could go so wrong turned out to be incredibly radical, with competent gameplay, beautiful levels, and great music by Michael Giacchino.
Goof Troop, for the SNES. One of the most beloved two-player co-op games of the console, it features very fun puzzles, nice graphics, various items to use as the game goes on, and is just generally addictive.
The Darkwing Duck NES game was a Mega Man-inspired scrolling shooter. It was...well, it was good. It occurred towards the end of the NES's lifespan so the graphics were good, especially those of the characters. The controls were responsive and precise, the music ranged from inoffensive to good, and the only real complaint with the game was the nastily difficult last level.
The first Pirates of the Caribbean game, published by Bethesda, was actually a very good pirate game. Which is because it wasn't a film adaptation at all but a sequel to an earlier game, Sea Dogs, that Bethesda bought the publishing rights to and hastily retooled into a POTC themed game, resulting in a product that, apart from the opening narration voiced by Keira Knightley and the Black Pearl being the boss, has almost nothing to do with the film.
Dead Man's Chest for the GBA, anyone? Numerous islands, a detailed (and timed) overworld with ship-to-ship combat note thankfully, not thatkind (although the sloops are quite fast, making the battles against them quite hard), weapon and ship upgrades, tons of awesome attacks, and secrets. Dear GOD, there is a ton of treasure, much of which powers you up once you get it (although the Statue of Ehecatl is kind of a letdown, because you have to get the body, legs, and head, and there is another treasure that does the same thing as it.)
The PC and PSX Hercules video game. It followed really well the story of the film, has a lot of humor, and really great gameplay, that played almost all the powers and abilites of the hero. Really good cartoon graphics, and a great platformer with lots and lots of secrets, plus some "rush levels" that were, though hard, really interesting. It is an extremely good game, as it puts a lot of the movie, plus a lot of great gameplay and levels, for the player to enjoy. Nowadays, is always watched with nostalgia for the good days.
Oogie's Revenge is a PS2 sequel to the movie. Excellent plot, Scenery Porn like you wouldn't believe, excellent voice acting and character models, the ability to attack Lock, Shock, and Barrel, and decent remakes of most of the songs. And a game engine with similarities to Devil May Cry. Albeit, fighting's a bit repetitive, and the camera can be very cruel in certain levels, but it's not bad if you're a big fan of the movie.
Although it may not fit the rigid definition of "licensed", what with the main focus being on its original characters (not to mention its connections to an actual video game franchise in "Final Fantasy") the Kingdom Hearts series, with all of its bountiful Disney characters, turned out to be quite decent and popular.
The Toy Story 3 video game has gotten surprisingly good reviews. Both because it's a solid platformer and because its Toy Box mode offers a level of customization and exploration that you would normally find in sandbox games. The games of the previous two movies (Toy Story on SNES/Genesis and Toy Story 2 on PC/Playstation/Nintendo 64) were developed by Travellers Tales, and weren't too shabby neither.
Saying the video game adaption of Toy Story 2 wasn't shabby would be selling it short (especially the PS1 version). You cannot fault its catchy music, solid platforming, and well designed levels.
A Bug's Life also had a pretty good licensed game (though this only applies to the console versions; the GBC game is more along the lines of the other page) - it was a level-based 3D platformer with above-average graphics, good music, and nice level design. It helps that it was developed by Travellers Tales, who also handled Toy Story 2.
The console versions also included an interesting mechanic involving growing various plants to help you, all from one single seed...only given you had collected the power-up beforehand. These ranged from platforms to springs to fans to health generators. This mechanic was used extensively and made for a different experience than most licensed games.
As disappointing to some that the actual movie was, the Cars 2 video game was a solid racing game with hours of content to unlock.
Sierra's The Black Cauldron is a classic and is notable for having context sensitive commands (Use/Look) instead of the then standard text parser years before "point and click" made this interface standard for adventure gaming. Innovation in a licensed game!
The least known of these, Solar Sailer, was one of the first games ever to include voice acting and made extensive use of Wendy Carlos's soundtrack.
There's also Tron 2.0, an original sequel to the game which transplanted the Tron world into an FPS backdrop, and was a surprisingly original game throughout, despite suffering slightly from problems such as cheap deaths and no autosave function whatsoever. It is still a Cult Classic among gamers despite becoming Canon Discontinuity once TRON: Legacy came out - up until that point, it was the official sequel.
Lastly, Evolution covers a ton of backstory and unanswered questions from the films.
The Magical Quest trilogy is another beloved trio of classics starring Mickey Mouse. The first game was good, Mickey gets to obtain new outfits that give him unique abilities, and it has nice music, too. The second game drops the turn-based two player in favor of two-player co-op and lets you choose to play as Minnie as well. And in the third game, Minnie is replaced with Donald, who now has unique abilities, you get to play a more interactive co-op, and it's also considered the best game of the trilogy.
Donald Duck Goin Quackers (also known as Quack Attack) by UbiSoft. The gameplay was really good; but while the music of the first versions (Dreamcast, Nintendo 64, and PC) was OK, the music from the Playstation version proved to be really awesome and truly fitting for the game's cartoony style, and it was also used for the PS2 and Gamecube remakes.
Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension for Wii and Playstation Move is a pretty decent game. It takes place during the part in the movie where they are traveling through each dimension, and it's pretty fun. Sure, the 3D models are quite low-res for PS3 standards, and it doesn't utilize the PS Move's capabilities that well, but it's a decent and enjoyable game, and highly recommended for all Phineas and Ferb fans.
The DS version was also fairly decent (as you got to play as Phineas, Ferb, and Perry, as well as unlock costumes for them) though admittedly it was extremely easy.
Kim Possible What's the Switch and Kim Possible 3: Team Possible are quite fun games. The first is Kim's only console game for whatever reason, but it praised by the fanbase (and may also be helped by the fact that you get to play as Shego). The latter is a sidescroller, a rather good one at that.
KP 2: Drakken's Demise and KP 5: Global Gemini are also fun, solid platformers. KP 4: Kimmunicator isn't a bad game necessarily, but it's not up to par with the others.
Then there's Tigger's Honey Hunt for the Playstation and Nintendo64, which actually manages to be a solid platformer; it's clear that the developers went the extra mile. It's a rather short game, but the music is amazingly good and the graphics are nice too.
DuckTales is still considered one of the best NES games ever, and is the first of a (potential) line of remastered NES Disney/Capcom games.
The remastered game received good reception, despite the show being cancelled for almost 20 years.
Piglet's Big Game for PS2, while being very simple in terms of gameplay, has a nice and fairly original story, great sound effects and original voice actors and AWESOME visual style. It even manages to deliver a few genuinely creepy moments - as far as Winnie the Pooh games go, anyway.
Gargoyles received an excellent action-platformer for the Sega Genesis. The game featured eleven stages, and its plot revolved around the "Eye of Odin", an Artifact of Doom created by the Vikings. The Eye of Odin would later be introduced to the animated series, but significantly altered both in appearance and origin. Gargoyles featured hand-drawn sprites for Goliath, Demona and the Vikings, and rendered graphics for robotic enemies like the Steel Clan. The game's only flaw - if one can call it that - is that it is very, verydifficult.
The main licensed game on the Game Boy for The Little Mermaid 2, yes the direct to video one, is a pinball game and it is VERY good! It has two big beautiful tables, one is based on the first movie and one is based on the second, and they contain lots of fun minigames in addition to the really nice tables. In fact it's probably one of the best pinball games on the Game Boy period.
Mickey's Speedway USA is a kart racing game for the Nintendo64, and it was made by Rareware! Rareware is well known for many high quality games on the Nintendo 64 including licensed titles (they made Goldeneye which is also considered a classic) so it's no surprise they did a good job with this one. It's basically just like Mario Kart with Mickey Mouse and his friends.
There are many Star Wars games that are very good, namely because developers have a whole galaxy with thousands of years of history to play around with and are therefore not obligated to be so tied to the movies; the fact that there were a total of three (later six) movies and that most of these games were developed well after the movies, giving the appropriate time and information needed to fill in any gaps, helps a lot too (see also Star Wars Expanded Universe). These games come in genres as diverse as:
Direct adaptations of the movies themselves: Super Star Wars games. Nintendo Hard though they are, they do an excellent job of adapting the various acts of the Original Trilogy.note Their 8-bit precursors broke the story in Bespin.
Sam & Max was based on a comic book, though most players probably never realised it. Of course, its creator Steve Purcell was already a graphics artist and programmer for LucasArts, and was able to make the game exactly as he wanted to.
The new series of Sam and Max games did so well commercially that not only did the (long out of print) comic anthology get republished, but the cartoon series was released on DVD. This is an incredibly rare example of a licensed game being good enough to rescue its source material from obscurity.
Likewise, Wallace & Gromit joined Sam and Max in the nostalgic cartoon adventure game hall of fame with a 8.5 rating on GameSpot.
Unfortunately, their first foray into episodic gaming didn't do quite so well. While there's certainly nothing wrong with their Bone games, only two episodes (out of a potential nine, one from each volume of the source) were made and the source comic remains relatively obscure (its collections have found some success in the kids' sections of bookstores, but these came after the games).
Back to the Future The Game is an amazing game which features the voice talents of Christopher Lloyd and a guy named A.J. LoCascio, whose Marty McFly impersonation is spot-on. In addition, the story and dialogue were written by Bob Gale himself, and they even managed to get Michael J. Fox to cameo in the final episode!
The game won ninety Game of the Year awards from various high-profile sources including Gamesradar, Destructoid, USA Today, Spike, Wired and Inside Gaming, and it won these awards against financial and critical juggernauts like Mass Effect 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. It is Telltale's fastest selling title to date, and is credited as single-handedly reviving the dying Adventure Game genre. Problem With Licensed Games? Hardly.
Yo Noid. Capcom somehow managed to make a game about The Domino's Pizza Noid and make it good (though the fact that it was concurrently developed with the Japanese Game Masked Ninja Hanamaru of which, Noid can be considered a great deal a localization of, helps). In fact, looking at all the other examples — all the Disney licenses, Little Nemo, Willow, etc. — perhaps the original rule should be amended to "licensed games are generally not very good, unless they were made for the NES by Capcom, in which case they're amazing."
Donald Land, released earlier in Japan only, has nicely varied mechanics and very good graphics for the NES/Famicom.
Doki Doki Panic also qualifies, being a tie-in for Fuji Television's Yume Kōjō event (the Arabian family came from said event). Considering how Super Mario Bros. 2 was received, it's no wonder why Nintendo decided to adopt the Dolled-Up Installment and release in Japan later as Super Mario USA.
Darkened Skye for the Gamecube and PC could go in either category, really, but we'll put it here because we're generous. An advergame for Skittles with box art that does a surprisingly good job of obfuscating the fact that it was an advergame (clearly the marketing department didn't expect people to actually be interested in it on it's own merits, because it reveals almost nothing about the game, period). The pros: Genuinely funny writing and reasonably decent graphics given the time and circumstances. The cons: If the gameplay is any indicator, the programming team was just the writing team in front of a different set of computers.
Pepsiman is a fun little on-rails...er, runner. The gameplay is simplistic, yet satisfying, the level design is interesting, the game has a decent challenge, and it has some hilariously bad cutscenes of a beer-bellied man surrounded by mountains of Pepsi cans (the regular cutscenes are great too, with every stage featuring a set up by a character voiced a gloriously hammy voice actor) . The whole game has this air of self-awareness, and you can't help but get in a few chuckles while playing. Sure, it's blatant advertising marketed as a game, but it's a good example of how do do it the right way.
In its 25 year and counting run, it makes sense that JoJo's Bizarre Adventure would have a few games, and most are pretty good. The first was an RPG for the SNES based on Part 3 that was very simple, but very fun, mixing in Point-and-click elements and some amazing music. Next was JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future, the fighting game everyone remembers that started the ZA WARUDO! meme. The game itself was a fast, frenetic Capcom fighter in the vein of Darkstalkers with tight controls, interesting fighting styles based around Stands and amazing music. In the 2000's, they released a pair of bet-em-ups based on Parts 1 and 5. The one based on 1 was... okay, to say the least. It got the job done even if the animation was stilted and the fighting repetitive. The one based on 5, however was a straight up Boss Game that took you to each fight in the Part and lets you play as just about everyone. The fighting is fun and every level is filled with little references to the manga, and yes, amazing music.
However, its inclusion of Microtransactions in its online mode for extra lives (the mode itself was used to unlock alternate colors, costumes, and battle quotations; although payment was not necessary, the early restoration rate was at 1 out of 10 per 20 minutes) killed it in Japan, with first editions of its limited edition pack, which included a gold etching, selling for less than the standard edition at release.
Thankfully, the microtransaction section of the game was made much more forgiving. Still, the fact that they exist is a common criticism amongst western reviewers, on top of the fact that when compared to other fighters like BlazBlue and Street Fighter, it's not as deep.
Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3, despite accusations of being a haven for Button Mashing, is considered by many to be genuinely good. This lies in stark contrast to many of the Dragon BallFighting Games that appeared before and after then, which were almost universally mediocre.
The Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi series almost accurately recreated the fighting in the series, with some pretty interesting character choices, and a pretty solid fighting system.
It may not have a large roster when compared to, say Budokai Tenkaichi 3, but Super Dragon Ball Z makes up for it with characters that feel unique, gameplay that had the influence of developers from Street Fighter II, and a customization system that adds a ton of replay value.
There are actually many non-fighter Dragon Ball games that are good. Platform/RPG/Zelda-like games The Legacy of Goku 2, Buu's Fury and Dragon Ball Origins, while all pretty easy, are also quite fun. Attack of The Saiyans, an RPG for the DS, can also qualify if you can forgive its Surprise Difficulty.
Not to mention Rise of a Ninja on the 360, which is considered the best Naruto game yet, as well as a genuinely good game on its own merits.
Its sequel The Broken Bond has been even more accepted.
Rather notably, the above two games were made by Ubisoft, which is a pretty strong precedent for a western game developer to take an anime license and really make it shine.
The Ultimate Ninja Storm games by CyberConnect2 (Who also made the regular Ultimate Ninja games) are considered to be even better, especially the second one which has some of the highest ratings of any Anime licensed game out there.
The Shippuden game has been renowned even by people who aren't interested in Naruto at all, particularly for the tag-out fighting style and surprising amount of Scenery Porn and well-utilized Cel Shading.
Namco makes good Keroro games: The first Keroro game for the Nintendo DS, which is based on the fourth movie, is essentially a quite good Klonoa clone with more characters. Namco later made Keroro RPG, which is a cartoony Tales of Hearts with a lacking story but a solid, enjoyable battle system improved upon its predecessor, even fixing its camera problems. You would think they would cut corners for this game, but far from it, it has everything expected in a Tales game: skits, costumes, bonus bosses, lots of cameos from other Namco games, Hi-Ougis, Hard and Unknown difficulty... Both games have gorgeously animated sprites.
Treasure also had a hand in Astro Boy: Omega Factor for the GBA, which is universally considered superior to its Sonic Team-developed PlayStation 2 counterpart. It even shows up on more than a few GBA "Best Of" lists.
To quote a video that was slamming Final Fantasy VII as well, Omega Factor, "despite its cartoony look and, at times, ball-breakingly hard gameplay, offers a deep and memorable storyline, and this is coming from a guy who doesn't give two shits about the anime that it's based on."
The Ultimate MuscleGameCube fighter (and to a lesser extent the PS2 version) is generally considered above average and came out of left field for some reviewers considering how obscure the license was compared to anime licenses like Dragon Ball and Naruto).
That's largely because it was developed by wrestling game masters Aki, creators of the legendary N64 WCW and WWF games.
Most games by Banpresto, most prominently Super Robot Wars, Another Century's Episode (produced in collaboration with From Software), and the Gundam Vs Series (the latter done with Capcom). It helps that BP is a subsidiary of Bandai, the studio that actually makes Gundam and several other of the shows featured in these series—and all this before Bandai merged with Namco, too. Now, not every series is done especially well all the time, but if they mess up with one, expect that another series will be done magnificently well in the same game.
Super Robot Wars is so good that they arguably made at least one anime plot better. The SRW version of Gundam SEED Destiny has both sides manipulated into thinking the other side has been corrupted, due to footage of them either taking money from the Earth Alliance or killing civilians.
Another one exclusive to Japan is Bonds of the Battlefield for PSP and arcade. Now, the PSP version can be imported since the PSP doesn't have regional lockout, but the arcade version would be too much of a hassle to import. And such a shame too, because it not only has more content, but it uses a walk-in virtual cockpit similar to the MechWarrior Tesla pod game. The only problem with it is that it's more expensive to play two games in one sitting, but with what you're getting, it's well worth it... unless you're motion-sick.
Future GPX Cyber Formula had lots of licensed and doujin games throughout its run. While the first installments are somewhat mediocre, the later games, especially the four PlayStation 2 games, the Gamecube installment and the doujin PC games (especially the latest one, SIN Drei Plus), are highly faithful to the anime and are incredibly fun to play too. Too bad they aren't released overseas.
Queen's Blade: Spiral Chaos. Add in the unique features and you have a game that looks great, and is pretty well conceived.
Code Geass's various video game adaptations are not quite this, as they add in a few discontinuities. For the most part, the Lost Colours game has various endings all divided into two variants for each route: Bad (canonical) and Good (The SAZ succeeds and Euphemia doesn't die.). The first DS game starts off completely canonical. Then, on the next replay, messes with the plot so that Suzaku and Euphemia join as pilots, despite Euphemia never engaging in battle. After three playthroughs, the only people who ever set foot in a Knightmare and are not playable are mechanics, and a couple of extremely minor characters.
The second DS game is apparently about R2, but ignores the end of R1 and adds a few R2 characters in a decidedly non-canonical game.
Initial D Arcade Stage is one of the most popular arcade racing games to come from Sega since Daytona USA. The first three games reinvented arcade racing games, though the fourth game, Initial D Arcade Stage 4 gets very mixed reviews. Some hail it as a fresh reboot of the series, while others dislike it for having questionable physics and techniques such as the "penalty cancel".
Daytona USA is itself a licensed title, as Sega had to license the name from the International Speedway Corporation, the owners of Daytona International Speedway.
The original was also quite well-received; the sequel's online play and incredible jump forward in terms of included series (plus making the unlocking system much easier for those who didn't speak Japanese) is the only reason the original isn't played often today.
Strider. Yes, Strider, the Capcom-made side-scroller with the futuristic ninja, is very loosely based on a manga which Capcom co-produced with the intention of adapting it into a game. Don't feel bad if you didn't know...you're not alone on that.
The character Strider Hiryu is actually jointly owned by Capcom and the Moto Kikaku manga studio, which is why he has no problems appearing in the company's crossover titles.
This may not fully count, but Pokémon Yellow was heavily influenced by the anime adaption of the original video games. It took the original gameplay, but started you out with Pikachu, made all 3 starter Pokémon available in-game, had several appearances by Jessie and James as mini-bosses, and there was even a secret surfing minigame based off of the episode "The Pi-Kahuna" (Granted, to access said minigame you needed a Pikachu that knew the move Surf, which was only legally obtainable via a Nintendo event or by completing a ridiculously hard challenge in Pokémon Stadium, so most people just used Gameshark). To top it all off, every Pokémon received new sprites that resembled their anime appearances as well as being leaps and bounds better-looking than the originals.
A little more subtle, but there are several moves and other elements that were also inspired by the anime, such as Pokémon learning or being able to learn new moves. This included Squirtle and Staryu being able to learn Rapid Spin, and Charizard being able to learn Fly.
Likewise, when abilities starting being introduced for Generation III, many of the abilities were actually taken from the card game, which already had passive abilities on some Pokémon!
Pikachu is the first (and only) Pokémon to say its name in canon Pokémon games, due to Yellow Version using Pikachu's anime voice instead of its in-game cry. This made its way into the main games once again as of Generation VI.
The Ham-Jam was a game in its own. You could use your Ham-Chat to dance, and since Ham-Chat also doubles as a language, you could make your own twists to songs, and with fifty-something words to choose from, you could spend all day doing this. The best part, after all this work, you could see your little Hamtaro dance to your own song, and with your own moves. You can watch an example here
This is also the version where you get the hamster equivalent of Kefka. Seriously!.
All of the Hamtaro games have been considered great games, usually getting 7.5 or 8 scores in reviews. Of course, it does help that all the games were made by Nintendo first and Alpha Dream (responsible for the Mario & Luigi trilogy) later! Nintendo really liked the whole concept of Hamtaro!
Nintendo apparently liked it to the point of actually listing the games in Super Smash Bros.. Brawl's chronicle.
Afro Samurai had a video game adaptation. It's definitely not going to win Game Of The Year, but it's also definitely a solid, fun beat-em-up.
Magic Knight Rayearth had an RPG adaptation on the Saturn, which is a fairly good examples of the genre (ignoring the deplorable voice acting in the US version).
A few One Piece games, such as Grand Battle as well as Grand Adventure. The fighting is addictively fun.
And those aren't the only ones. While most One Piece games haven't seen a release overseas, they're genuinely fun to play regardless, ranging from role-playing games, mini-game mashups, and even a dungeon crawler with Tony Tony Chopper as the main character is on the Wonderswan Color.
Additionally, Unlimited Adventure was a pretty good Survival RPG/Beat 'em Up, with it's own unique level up and item creation systems. Sadly, possibly due to how behind the US release is, it's also the only game dubbed with the Funimation cast.
And Unlimited Cruise (1 and 2) isn't just a good licensed game, it's a good game overall, with ratings ranging from 7 to 10.
Don't mention the game in front of Jump Ultimate Stars players, though.
Most of the Sailor Moon video games are either fun-but-mediocre or downright bad. Sailor Moon: Another Story for the SNES, however, is a genuinely engaging RPG that manages to seamlessly meld the continuities of the anime andmanga. It's horrendously easy, but there's such great attention to detail in terms of characters and settings that you can't help but not care.
The arcade beat 'em up is also great; the sprites are amazing and executing a special attack yields an animation plus voice acting of a Senshi performing said attack.
The RPG also had voice acting for every one of the Senshi's special attacks that appeared in the anime to that point in the series and a few that were from the manga. Considering it was a SNES game it was rather decent.
While pretty much every single Shaman King game ranged from "awful" to "passable", Shaman King: Master of Spirits for the GBA is a fun, addictive Metroidvania-style game with great gameplay, great graphics and a fun little original plot; the producers were obviously careful when making the game, as they inserted both manga-only characters/spirits and anime-only characters/spirits. The game is great for long-time fans and newcomers alike, complete recommendation. The sequel, Master of Spirits 2, was not as loved due to reusing almost every single boss from the first game with the exception of the final boss, swapping Magister with Hao, but had more spirits and new stages, and is also worth checking.
Robotech: The Macross Saga for the Gameboy Advanced is an OK shmup. You can switch between Jet, Guardian, and Battloid modes, each of which has it's own individual advantages (The jet is fast, but fires slowly, Guardian mode is slower, but fires faster and can touch the ground, and Battloid mode moves very slow, but can fire quickly in all directions.)
The three PSP games released for Macross Frontier are all excellent, and all improve further from the previous installment, with the third game adding a separate Academy Mode for custom characters.
Robotech Battlecry got generally favorable reviews, if I recall. While far from perfect, it is a decent and fun game. Also, the Macross series has seen a number of passable to good Japanese releases. Scrambled Valkyrie for the Super Famicom comes to mind.
Lupin The3rd Treasure Of The Sorcerer King was the only Lupin game to reach America. It's also a decent Metal Gear Solid wannabe. Sure the controls were wonky and enemy AI was crappy. But fans liked the use of the Geneon cast, the kickass music, the ability to play as Jigen & Goemon and the writing was good, too.
All four Mechwarrior games are considered classics. Well, maybe not the first one.
Konami released two games in Japan based on the fifth chapter of Osamu Tezuka's manga Hinotori. While the Famicom game, subtitled Gaou no Bouken, was a mediocre platformer, the MSX2 game was a Vertical Scrolling Shooter which intriguingly defied the linearity typical of the genre.
Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage (also known as Hokuto Musou back in Japan),is a very solid "One-Man Army" kind of beat 'em up, based on the Dynasty Warriors engine. The creators of the original series were deeply involved with the creation of the game, not simply copying and pasting the story of the manga, but repurposing it so it could work in a video game. If you want to know the story of Fist of the North Star and doesn't want to brave the Archive Panic, then this game is definitely worth checking out.
Zillion, a fairly good Metroid-like game for the Sega Master System, was loosely based on an anime. It only barely counts as a licensed game, since the anime was co-produced by Sega and was made to promote a Sega toy (which not coincidentally resembles the Light Phaser).
Tecmo's Captain Tsubasa (Tecmo Cup Soccer Game) has great scores on GameFAQs and are really enjoyable for mixing soccer and RPG style gameplay together. The sequels, Captain Tsubasa 2-5, are even better as Tecmo developed orginal plots and opponent teams. Other Captain Tsubasa games created by Konami or Bandai can't match Tecmo's greatness unless they use the simillar system Tecmo used. But of course, Konami and Bandai's versions are still criticized because they tend to follow the anime and manga adaptions without coming up with original plots and characters.
Konami's Captain Tsubasa J: Get to Tomorrow plays like a normal soccer games with an addition of super moves feature. It's decent.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica Portable is not only PSP Hard fun part Visual Novel, part rogue-like with RPG elements videogame, it also works as the original anime's manual! Granted, the series's writer and artist were involved in its making, so much that what's in it is taken as canon by fans.
The PSP adaptation of Digimon Adventure, it faithfully recreates the plot of the first Digimon series and uses events from every episode, with all eight Digidestined/Chosen Children as playable characters, the adaptation of Our War Game and an original plot featuring all the protagonists of every Digimon season to date as postgame content, along with the fact that you can gain mega level Digievolutions for all of the Chosen Children's Digimon before the final battle with Apoclymon if you play your cards right, makes this game worth playing for Digimon fans. It's a shame Namco-Bandai has no plans to release this outside of Japan.
The Gregory Horror Show game for the PS2 is a great and fun stealth/puzzle game. Sadly, it is Europe-only, though.
The N64 game for Neon Genesis Evangelion isn't without flaws (excessive button mashing among them), but overall it's still a pretty amazing game; the soundtrack consists of 20-odd tracks from the anime all of which are done very well *
most notably Cruel Angel's Thesis, Thanatos, A Step Forward Into Terror, The Beast 2, and Ode to Joy
; several of the Angel battles from the show were adapted in a way that works very well for each individual mission, its visuals are of consistently good quality, and while it doesn't seem to have a consistent measure of difficulty between missions even on the same setting, it overall is very fun to play, and definitely comes recommended. Shame it's not released anywhere except Japan.
FullmetalAlchemist: Dual Sympathy for the DS isn't anything mindblowing and fairly easy, but it's also a pretty fun Beat 'em Up following the story of the 2003 anime, with the DS touch screen throwing in some moments for minigames and drawing alchemic circles to add a bit of variety as well.
Batman: Arkham Asylum. It's not based on any particular Batman canon, but the promises of a free-flowing combat system, a detective mode to see the world how Batman sees it, incredible amounts of fanservice for longtime fans, and writers and voice actors from the animated series joining the team built up the hype to almost absurd levels — and it more than delivered those features. By most accounts, not only does this game manage to be a good game that also stars Batman, it perfectly captures what it's like to be Batman: doing detective work, playing around with Batman's gadgets, stalking criminals from the shadows and pummeling bad guys, all gelling into a wonderful, cohesive experience. It's the highest ranking superhero game as of now, with a 91% on Game Rankings and a Guinness Record for "Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever".
The Batman Returns game was generally well received amongst fans (in particular the SNES version which was made by Konami which was a very good beat-em-up that evoked the feel of the movie by showing actual screenshots from the film along with music also from the film). The Adventures of Batman and Robin games were varied more by the different versions than by the games themselves. The SNES version is by far the most positively received version (again made by Konami which evokes the feel of the animated series in terms of good graphics, solid gameplay and music very reminiscent of the animated series). The Sega Genesis version is a lot more varied and has mixed reviews. The game is notorious for being extremely difficult and the music bears no resemblance to the animated series and is extremely different in tone and style (although it should be noted that the music is well received amongst certain fans). Batman: Vengeance is regarded more as a just above average game particularly as the aforementioned Adventures of Batman and Robin games were better received.
The Batman: The Brave and the Bold video game for Wii and DS was a side-scrolling beat-'em-up with a wide selection of characters. Whilst somewhat repetitive it was singled out for its fun factor and family-friendliness, getting a "Best Use of a Creative License" award from GameSpot.
The Sega Genesis release of Batman: The Movie is also very good, with awesome music, decent gameplay, and a reasonable difficulty curve as well as sticking very close to the film.
Batman: Arkham City follows up its predecessor but actually dethrones it as the greatest comic book and superhero game in history. It's much bigger without being overwhelming, has a darker story (in a good way), has even more fanservice, spectacular voice acting with maybe a career best for Mark Hamill, and so many more options.
It can and has been said that calling it the best comic-based game or licensed game is to grossly undersell it, when it can easily be considered to be one of the best video games of all time.
The Spider-Man video games from the first PS1 game by Neversoft up to Ultimate Spider-Man have received generally positive reviews. In fact, for a period of time, Spider-Man games were notable for being consistently better than average. Spider-Man 3 unfortunately contracted Sequelitis but the series somewhat recovered with Web Of Shadows. (And for the record, we're skipping over Friend or Foe in that series).
And preceding that, we had Maximum Carnage, an excellent beat-em-up that appeared on both the SNES and the Genesis. Too bad the sequel Separation Anxiety was a straight example.
Double subverted because not only was it a licensed game, it was published by LJN, which was notorious for cranking out terrible licensed games.
The first Spider-Man game for the Genesis was also pretty good. A decent Ninja Gaiden style platformer with the added touch of replenishing your web fluid by selling photographs of villains you took in game.
Probably the most critically acclaimed Spider-Man game was Spider-Man 2. It was basically an open world game on par with Grand Theft Auto. You could find stores and purchase attacks, and even follow the story of the movie it was based on, with a Mysterio subplot to boot, but we all know what was the most fun part of the game: taking a swing around New York City and helping out civilians.
A really fun part of the game was grabbing a random goon and webslinging all the way up to the top of the Empire State Building and throwing him/her off. Or doing a spinning piledriver from a extremely high-up rooftop heist which would have KILLED SPIDEY never mind the goon. They're allegedly just "knocked out" from the fall. The game never got old because of the countless ways you could dispose of enemies. The control scheme was really fluent too. On the PS2 anyway...
Note that one employee worked his butt off to get the swinging mechanics working. He was told if focus groups didn't like it, he would lose his job. Yeah, safe to say he kept it for his work on the PS2 version. The PC on the other hand...
Stupid 1-button-controls on the PC. Open World? Nope, you could only move in certain areas and only webswing using the few swing-targets the game allowed. Talk about drift between game-versions. The Gamespot review says it all.
There's also Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, which, while not the greatest game ever, was at least an enjoyable game and an ambitious idea for a comic book game.
Asterix at the Olympic Games doesn't reach the same levels as the above, if only because it's incredibly short, and the Olympic Mode doesn't add much. However, the main Action Adventure part is still solid, and it's still better than the movie (with which it ties very bizarrely, like they wanted to distance it as much as they could).
After a string of mediocre cellphone games by In Fusio, Asterix & Obelix encounter Cleopatra by Gameloft is a big step up, with great graphics and traditional platformer levels alternated by top-view ones.
Scott Pilgrim Vs The World managed to do pretty well, with the lowest score being 6.5 by Gamespot. It was very much helped by the fact that Anamanaguchi did the music.
As a whole, the game was praised by critics for having good art direction and much more creativity than other licensed games, which was helped by the fact that several independent artists worked on it. It definitely helped that the game 1) was based off a series and a movie that openly referenced game mechanics, and 2) was designed more similarly to indie video games with its retro beat-em-up design. The game also started a new trend in licensed games in general as other companies followed up with similar "retro" and "indie" adaptations of their properties.
Video games based on 2000 AD titles Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper have fared pretty well for the most part. Probably helps that the comic is owned by a video game company.
The 2006 third-person shooter Rogue Trooper. While not necessarily an excellent game, nonetheless boasted enjoyable gameplay, above-average writing and voice-acting, and a creative twist with the animate equipment that justifies your character's One-Man Army status and eliminates any form of backtracking.
Most video games based on Judge Dredd have been good or at least decent. The 1993 arcade game by Midway is a fun (if cheesy) brawler, with great stage variety and faithfulness to the source material. The 1995 movie tie-in game is a surprisingly good platformer, and better regarded than the film it is based on. The 1997 arcade and Playstation game by Gremlin and Acclaim is a decent light gun shooter, and the 2003 game Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death is an enjoyable first-person shooter that is very faithful to the source material.
Even though Superman has had his fair share of bad games, the 1988 Superman arcade game by Taito, and The Death and Return of Superman for both the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis are both pretty sweet.
Superman: Shadows Over Apocalips was released late in the PS2 cycle, near the end of the animated series it was based on. It managed to keep the Man of Steel Nigh Invulnerable (through a ridiculous regeneration rate) but kept the game very challenging with tricky mission objectives.
Sunsoft's NES game Sunman would've been an aversion as well had they not lost the license... and had the end result been released.
Captain America and the Avengers is a surprisingly good side-scrolling arcade Beat 'em Up, later converted to consoles. Not a brilliant game by any means, and sometimes ridiculously difficult (not a big problem if you had enough quarters, but on consoles... lose all your lives? Too bad, you start from level one), but fun in any case.
The X-Men arcade game was released in an age of beat-em-ups such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons, and is widely regarded as one of the best in that category. Based on the failed cartoon pilot, some versions of the game allowed six-player simultaneous play. Unintentionally adding to the entertainment value were hilariously poorly-translated lines.
The two X-Men games on the Sega Genesis are solid cult classics, frequently appearing on lists of the console's best games. Both feature a selection of distinct characters to choose from, great graphics, excellent controls and brutal but fair challenge. The second game is better than the first, but the first is not to be overlooked (despite a few innovative but intrusive gimmicks).
X Men Mutant Apocalypse for the SNES was a great game. Combining elements of platformer and beat 'em up along with fighting game style commands to use the various abilities your characters have. Plus, the levels are tailor made to each character to use every one of their abilities. Eventually you get to levels that are the same for every character... except that these levels are more cleverly designed with alternate paths and strategies depending on the characters you use. It did a good job of reaching into X-Men lore for the different characters, fights and locals and results in an enjoyable X-Men experience.
Plot-wise unrelated but can be considered a sequel gameplay wise, there's Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems. While it follows the same story as the other excellent fighting game Marvel Superheroes, instead of being a port, it gave it a more coherent plot and uses the gameplay style of X-Men Mutant Apocalypse. The only returning character from that game, Wolverine, plays exactly the same. The other characters are replaced with other Marvel heroes such as Spider-Man or Iron Man, getting their own abilities and fighting game commands, adding super moves and letting you play as any character in any level and deciding yourself which characters abilities best fit, and having a ton of cameos and references to locals and characters across the marvel universe, even as mass-produced enemy clones. Definitely an enjoyable adventure for any marvel fan, and a good platforming beat 'em up for those who aren't marvel fans.
Despite being seen as the poster child for crappy licensed games during the third and fourth console generations, Acclaim (for the most part) turned over a new leaf in the fifth generation and created some pretty great comic book adaptions on the Nintendo 64, with Shadowman and the Turok series (the third less so than the first two) being the most notable examples.
Little Nemo The Dream Master, another Capcom classic, was good enough to create Adaptation Displacement, at least with NES-playing children who were too young to remember the 1905(!) newspaper comic and missed the anime film (which, confusingly, was released a year before the game in Japan, and was even the basis for the game in the first place, but was not released in America until two years after the game.)
Capcom also made a fun, albeit simplistic, arcade game of Little Nemo.
You know what is really kind of fun? The Space ChimpsNintendo DS adaptation, the last game published by Brash Entertainment, whose games otherwise belong to the other page. It has a nice little The Lost Vikings vibe to it, as you need to use each of the chimps to solve puzzles. Not bad for a movie that really stunk.
Shrek 2 for the 6th gen consoles was a decently enjoyable 3D beat-em-up-style game with a 4-player co-op mode (By Gamefaqs it got a 6.3 on GCN, 7.2 on PS2 and a 5.6 on Xbox).
The Rango video game has easy controls, pretty good graphics for a movie-licensed game (it actually looks closely identical to the film, and that is because the film has a short live-action segment!), and rather than awkwardly repeat the story from the film, uses a new plot and almost feels like a sequel to the film.
The DS version of the game, however, falls firmly into the former list.
Angry Birds: Rio and Fruit Ninja: Puss In Boots take the base games and add on some significant features, to the point where, even without seeing the movies, these games are easily acceptable as sequels to the originals.
Open Season had an expectedly bland video game adaptation for all major consoles. Usually, these games got TERRIBLY crappy Game Boy Advance rushjobs and were even less appealing. The Game Boy Advance version of Open Season, however, was a very well-programed and creative title by Ubisoft with a lot of Mega Man-esque elements (level select after an intro stage, wall-climbing VERY reminiscent to X, beating levels to get weapons with limited ammo, powerup shops by collecting items scattered around the levels in trickier places to get to ala bolts, etc) with a few of its own original ideas thrown in as well. The Konami Code is even included (and gives three extra lives) as a testament to the fact that the makers of the game legitimately cared about making it a good title enough to put something like that in a licensed game that likely had an incredibly strict deadline. The game is short (probably due in part to said deadline), but the two difficulty settings do give it some replay value, and it's dirt cheap.
Kung Fu Panda: The Game is a surprisingly fun beat-em-up with a wide variety of playable characters and comedic writing on par with the film itself. The sequel's game...not so much.
The video game for Over the Hedge is also surprisingly good. It's a hack-and-slash with no real major flaws. It also has a lot of diversity in the missions. Also, unlike most movie licensed games, the story isn't a butchered retelling of the movie's plot. It actually acts as a sequel of sorts, and while the story is no masterpiece, it's good enough to keep you interested the whole way through.
The Lego Movie Videogame has all the fun of any Lego Adaptation Game (more on that below), with just enough ingenuity to make it stand out on its own. And while none of the original actors returned to voice their characters, the ones who were brought in do such spot on impressions that you can hardly tell the difference.note Even more impressive considering the game actually does use footage from the movies for cutscenes, original lines included. Add a wealth of hilarious lines akin to the film itself, and you have a successful film-to-game translation.
Rare's Golden Eye 1997, based on the first Pierce Brosnan James Bond film, is one of the most successful First Person Shooters on consoles. It introduced console gamers to the FPS genre, and caused many of them to believe that it was the first of its kind, much to the confusion of PC gamers. Released two years after the movie, it turned out to be far more profitable. Seven years later, Electronic Arts released Goldeneye Rogue Agent in a blatant attempt to cash in on Rare's old game. In that game you are an MI6 agent that went rogue, and had an actual golden eye installed in his skull. Bond only appears for a cameo in a virtual reality mission. As you can imagine, it wasn't as well received.
While we are on the subject of 007, The World Is Not Enough on Playstation turns out pretty well for a FPS on that platform. The shooting mechanic feels right, the weapon sound effects feel right, the levels rarely turn repetitive(stealth action, high speed chasing sequence, boss fighting, cool and interesting ways of utilizing Bond's gadgets), and last but not least, the visual are impressive for a FPS on Playstation. Downside? AI, character animation, short.
The N64 adaptation deserves a mention too. While it's not as good as Goldeneye, it still has a lot of what made the latter great.
The Quantum of Solace tie-in game is kind of on the edge, it's a decent FPS with some neat minigames, but it's also incredibly short.
The 2010 GoldenEye for the Wii. It's made by the same developers as Nightfire, is a remake of the classic N64 game and has a fun multiplayer like the original too.
The 1997 Adventure GameBlade Runner, developed by Westwood Studios. While obviously based on the film, it avoids the usual pitfalls of licensed games by having solid gameplay, a compelling and engaging plot which doesn't simply ape that of the movie, and not being rushed out to cash-in on the film's release. It chooses to instead focus on a character whose story runs in parallel with that of the movie, and further flesh out the Blade Runner universe.
EA's Lord Of The Rings The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: The Return Of The King were very popular and well-received for their top-notch hack-and-slash gameplay and faithfulness to capturing the feeling of the films, due in no small part to getting pretty much the entire cast to voice their characters and using Howard Shore's epic score.
As were the Battle for Middle-Earth releases.
As for War of the Ring... well, let's just say it merely fits into this page at the not-so-bad part.
There was also The Third Age, an RPG following a sort of B-team to the Fellowship, with truly fun JRPG mechanics (think Final Fantasy X's CTB system), an awesome 'Evil Mode' that lets you play as the bosses against an AI-controlled version of your old party, several fun battles where you fight with a major film character in some important battle (Legolas, Gimili, and Aragorn in three different battles at Helm's Deep, Gandalf against the Balrog and the Witch-King, Faramir in Osgiliath, and Éowyn against the final Witch-King), and an extremely customizable team, both in whom you fight with and in how their own skills are built.
The Mask for SNES. The game has good graphics, a good gameplay mechanic, catchy music, and the titular character has many abilities from the movie. The game follows the plot of the movie, while at the same time taking many liberties to work as a videogame.
Despite its ridiculous and long title, Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie was pretty good and successful. Of course, this may be because Peter Jackson personally selected Michel Ancel to head up the development based on his work on Beyond Good & Evil and collaborated on its production, after dissatisfaction with the uneven quality of licensed games based on his film adaptation of Lord of the Rings.
Of course, you can throw all of this out the window when talking about the DS version. Then you may throw said version out, too.
Scarface: The World is Yours scores extra points for not rehashing the plot of the movie, instead playing out a "What If?" scenario that starts after the end of the movie, with Tony Montana surviving the assault on his mansion.
As well as being one of the few GTA followers that GTA itself took notes from, adopting the ideas of a crew you can keep track of through your phone, a ring based notoriety system based on getting out of the law's sight, and over the hood aiming into GTA IV.
Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever is a strange situation... the movie and the video game version started production at the same time, the video game being released a year ahead of the movie, and based mostly on an unused first draft of the script. The movie is terrible, while the game is one of the best and most genuinely fun First Person Shooters on the GBA.
And the Alien vs. PredatorFPS on the Atari Jaguar, pre-dating the movie by a decade and the PC versions by half a decade, was critically lauded to the point where it was arguably the system's best original title.
The first two PC games were also of excellent quality, although for different reasons. The first PC FPS was notable for the sheer, pants-wetting terror experienced in the Marine campaign. The second PC FPS was notable for having a pretty good story, even if it did tone down the whole "terror" aspect. The third game, released in 2010, received more mixed reviews, but it's generally not considered "bad".
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction was widely praised as superior to the game based on the Ang Lee film that came out prior to it. It was widely considered the best superhero game by critics (until Batman: Arkham Asylum stole its thunder) for the simple fact that it let the player do exactly what they wanted — destroy a city as the Hulk. It eventually got a Spiritual Successor in Prototype (an original IP). Though the game wasn't actually intended to be based on the Ang Lee film, the timing was close enough that many critics and fans compared them anyway. Ironically, the later 2008 film with Edward Norton, The Incredible Hulk, got inspiration from Ultimate Destruction.
Including more than one Shout-Out. Remember that awesome bit in the movie where Hulk uses a car as boxing gloves, and pummels Abomination with them? You could do exactly that in-game!
EA have gone in two different directions with their Harry Potter adaptations — chapter-based play, in which one level naturally leads to another (Philosopher's Stone and Goblet of Fire) and a sandbox style where the player has to visit specific places in Hogwarts to advance the plot (Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix). The latter are about a squillion times better than the former (particularly Order of the Phoenix, which combines the layouts from each of the games so far with the layouts from each of the movies to create a definitive Hogwarts), as they combine a ton of mini-games with the main plot, plus they give you the opportunity to fly around Hogwarts on a broom or Buckbeak the Hippogriff. (Or even climb up pipes).
Don't forget about the RPG versions of the first three games, the first two on the Game Boy Color and the third on the Game Boy Advance, which were generally well-received by fans and game critics alike. Unfortunately, since then, EA has made all of the handheld versions just watered-down ports of the console versions.
Chamber of secrets in particular was brilliantly well done. From impressive graphics from the Gameboy Colour, to outstanding music, incredible faithfulness to its source material that even added in extra content that you'd be forgiven for thinking was from the book and several ingenious cases of Gameplay and Story Integration. A truly underrated game for the Gameboy Colour.
The third game was rather well done, with how it had branching dungeon paths with puzzles specified for each character you have, a nice soundtrack, and a few good dungeons. However, it still needed some more time for beta-testing, since there were a few random glitches that could crash the game, and near the ending, it really did seem rushed.
Not to mention Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup, which has major Critical Dissonance, gaining decent reviews from the mainstream reviewers but being widely adored by fans and non-fans alike.
Chamber of Secrets deserves some extra gushing. It utilized challenging puzzles (the classroom segments), a Legend-of-Zelda-esque battle system (find the weak point on the boss), Scenery Porn, and a sandbox full of hidden secrets and sidequests that are impossible to find in one playthrough. It almost seems as though more time was spent designing this unique game than was spent on the film version of the story! (Given the movie's budget and filming times, this is saying something.)
Seconded about Chamber of Secrets. Starting with this game, the series gets gradually less action-based and a lot easier. Chamber of Secrets mainly focuses on fighting various monsters and platforming and is the only game to avert Death Is a Slap on the Wrist. You can fall down Bottomless Pits, which would force you to restart at checkpoints. By the third game, you can fall down them and immediately respawn where you were. You don't even receive a hit to your hitpoints unless you do it a few times. By the fourth game, Invisible Walls are erected and you can no longer fall and there ARE no pits in the fifth. By the fifth game, there are less than five action sequences in total and you're mostly reduced to fetch quests and sweeping the floor.
The boss fight sequences in Chamber of Secrets are especially rewarding, particularly the final battle with the basilisk. If the player is out of Wiggenweld Potions, and doesn't have full health, then they cannot get hit once. "White-knuckle" doesn't begin to describe it.
Brave Story is a PSP game based on a movie based on a manga based on a novel. (phew) It's considered a good RPG with a nice plot, unique battle mechanics, and great graphics. Hilariously, the setting itself is based on a typical RPG world.
The Genesis version of Lost World, meanwhile, despite being largely overlooked given its time of release, could easily be considered one of the last great games for that console. It combined an isometric viewpoint, fairly open-ended style (allowing the player to choose which level to tackle first from the central hub), an appreciable amount of variety in the levels themselves, and boss battles that each used a different mechanic. It played fast and loose with the story for the most part, but it was for the benefit of a good game.
The fantasy film Willow was adapted into an action-RPG by Capcom, which follows the script pretty faithfully, and also has great aesthetics.
The arcade version was one of the better examples of a 2D platformer. It shared similarities with another Capcom arcade platformer, Magic Sword.
The PC-Engine shmup Gunhed is much more popular than the film it was based on, although the only things it had in common was the name and a picture of the titular robot on the title screen, and most of its remaining connections with the source material were wiped away when it was localized to the U.S as Blazing Lazers.
The RoboCop arcade 2D platformer/shooter by Data East was quite successful, having some of the best graphics and voice synthesis of its time.
The Xbox game (made by Titus, the guys responsible for Superman 64) avertes this trope, however.
The computer game by Ocean Software (not a conversion of the arcade game) was one of the biggest selling games on the ZX Spectrum, topping the charts for years.
One exception grew from a problematic game. A game was made out of The Goonies in Japan. It involved levels that followed the plot but was a rather uninspired platformer that involved Mikey doing kung fu kicks and other assorted silliness. Konami (the game's producer) didn't even try bringing it over (although it did appear in arcades in the U.S. on Nintendo's vs. arcade cabinets). However, it did well enough in Japan that they produced a sequel, and The Goonies II did end up being released in the US, and the action/adventure gameplay proved quite popular.
The Fast and the Furious arcade games from Raw Thrills are good dumb fun, just like the movie of the same name. The latest game, Fast and the Furious Drift, has some pretty interesting track designs as well. The home port of the original F&F game, though, qualifies as a Porting Disaster. Midway couldn't even get the movie license, so they used the Cruis'n name instead, which makes sense considering that the F&F games are pretty much Cruis'n with an F&F skin.
Regarding the notoriously bad NES game and its ports: Like the Sega Master System version, the Commodore 64 version (which AVGN didn't review) was a fair sight better than the NES version, removing the gas station mechanic and "drunk drivers" entirely. Incidentally, years later a fan remake of the game was made that is a HUGE improvement over all the others, featuring a vocal song remix of the Ghostbusters theme, drastically improved graphics, memorable voice clips from the movie ("He slimed me!" and "We came, we saw, we kicked its ASS!") and, like the Master System, more than one type of ghost design.
The 2009 Ghostbusters game by Terminal Reality has received excellent praise. James Rolfe gave it a generous review As Himself rather than in the Nerd persona, telling the Nerd that his intervention is not needed since the game was neither old nor shitty). It is essentially Ghostbusters 3, as it features the original actors reprising their roles, and was written by the original staff.
The Sega CD version of The Terminator, made by Virgin Interactive (the same people responsible for RoboCop vs. The Terminator and the Genesis Aladdin game), is quite decent. It even has an awesome Redbook audio soundtrack. The only notable blemish it has is its ultra-low quality video-captured live-action cutscenes taken from the movie.
The Sega Genesis version of The Terminator is pretty good too, with great and moody synthy music that includes both a rendition of the Terminator them and a remix (which was actually a first for console releases), tight controls, and levels and intermissions with stills from the movie itself that follow the plot of the film almost perfectly. It's only real drawback is that it is insanely short, being only four levels long.
Terminator 3: The Redemption was fairly well received, certainly better than the previous Terminator 3 games.
Terminator 2: The Arcade Game was a very enjoyable Light Gun Game which benefited from simply being set in the Terminator universe and pretty ignoring the plot for the first half of the game.
Terminator: Salvation for the Arcade is another very enjoyable Light Gun Game and was much more well-received than Terminator: Salvation for the PC/consoles. Its only drawback seems to be the unbelievably cheap shots that you will be taking.
Small Soldiers Squad Commander was regarded as a rather good strategy game that was easy to play. Unfortunately, it got drowned out by its better-known multiplatform big brother, Small Soldiers (the video game). Which positively sucked!
Wanted: Weapons of Fate was delayed the better part of a year specifically so the developers could keep it from sucking. From most accounts, they did a pretty good job.
While not a brilliant game, the video game of X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a fun, gory hack-and-slash with well-working gameplay mechanics, plenty of fanservice, and expanded plot points. In fact, much like Ecks vs. Sever above, the game seems to be more well-received than the movie it's based off of! (As the developers worked on the also-very-well-received X-Men Legends, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, the two most recent titles in the Star Wars Dark Forces Saga and Star Trek: Elite Force (mentioned above), this may not actually be surprising.)
Interestingly, it also ends on a cliffhanger/possible sequel hook that is completely unrelated to the film's plot. Here's hoping Raven Software will get to make another one to tie into the film's upcoming sequel.
There's also the X-Men Legends series, a very solid Action RPG which gameplay consists of various mutant super power that just beg you to Gotta Catch Them All and spend a long time experimenting each one of them. The possibilities in these games are just endless, not to mention a pretty interesting story.
The first The Chronicles of Narnia game is a fun little adventure game with a fairly deep combat system and pretty good graphics. The second game isn't quite as good, but it's still okay.
There's a little-known Japanese-horror movie named Sweet Home, released in the eighties, who had also a videogame adaptation by Capcom for the NES and released together with the movie. The movie even starts with a commercial for the game, so you'd think they both suck, right? WRONG: while the movie is a little Narmish but still has a cool story and gives a few good chills as well, the game is a terrific RPG that loosely follows the movie plot, breaks many traditions of the genre (for example you can't raise characters' defense, you have very few ways to restore health and you can't revive those who die) and is absolutely TERRIFYING, so much that some of the game elements were recycled in another series... its name? Resident Evil. Now you know who's to blame for the creaky doors and the item management.
The videogame adaption of the 2004 film King Arthur is actually a decent action-game (when you play co-op), just a bit repetitive and you have to have seen the film to get the plot.
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, where Harlan Ellison not only wrote the expanded story, but also provided the voice of AM for the game - and did a surprisingly good job at both!
The Bourne Conspiracy isn't exactly a standout game, but it's fun enough to keep you entertained for a weekend or so. The creators seemed to be very well aware of this trope as though the plot is directly taken from the first movie with a few additions in flashback missions, the title is different and it is called "Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy" tying it more to the novels, though it bares no resemblance to them at all.
The Punisher game from 2004 was fairly well-received as a decent-to-good third-person shooter which made good use of the license; with all the brutality and gunplay you'd want from a Punisher game. Notably, Garth Ennis, largely considered the definitive Punisher scribe, wrote the story of the game, and Thomas Jane, who starred in the 2004 movie adaption, voiced the main character. A more recent PSN game has not fared as well.
Though hardly 5-star games, the 16-bit Jurassic Park games avoided this. Notably, the Genesis version allowed the player to play as a raptor, and the SNES version, though principally presented in overhead isometric view, included some of the earliest FPS play (it was released only MONTHS after Doom.) If only there'd been more then 2 dinosaurs in the FPS levels...
John Woo Presents: Stranglehold is a fun, gory and StylishThird-Person Shooter that plays just like an interactive John Woo movie. In fact, both John Woo and Chow Yun Fat (Who plays Inspector Tequila.) collaborated in the making of this game, which takes place after the event of their movie Hard Boiled; the game is essentially Hard Boiled: Part 2. And the next movie they're making will follow the plotline of Stranglehold!
Die Hard has had a few games worth mentioning that avoided suckiness:
Die Hard Trilogy takes the first three films in the franchise, and gets 'em on one disc, with THREE games, each with separate playing styles. Die Hard had a nice 3rd-person view while going around shooting up terrorists and saving hostages, Die Harder is a rails-shooter whose playing mechanics look more than a little familiar, and Die Hard with a Vengeance is a driving game, where you speed through New York to take out bombs before they go off. And the music? Fitting, yet uber-memorable!
Oddly enough, the SNES adaptation of Alienł was a surprisingly enjoyable and atmospheric action-adventure game - something like a non-linear version of Contra - with a fine musical score.
Its Sega Genesis counterpart is also good, with many people preferring it gameplay-wise. It trades exploration for more fast-paced arcade action.
While Avatar has its problems (namely repetitive gameplay, bad graphics, a rather weak storyline that contradicts film canon, and somewhat odd controls in places), it is generally a pretty fun game that looks great, has a good atmosphere, and allows you to side with either the Na'vi or RDA, supporting those who wanted the humans to win in the movie. And for those interested in the film's lore, the game also has quite a bit of interesting tidbits on the planet Pandora and its flora and fauna.
The Mummy for Game Boy Color. a decent puzzle/adventure game, but where it really shines is the atmosphere and the soundtrack. developed by Konami and likely a few Castlevania programmers as well.
Street Fighter The Movie. The arcade game is utter crap that belongs to the bad category. The home version? It has the same awkward graphics, but there's a twist. It essentially lifts its engine from Super Street Fighter II Turbo, and as such is a pretty decent fighter.
There were two licensed games based on the 2010 Alice in Wonderland movie. The Wii version (a 3D action adventure) got fairly average reviews, but the DS version was hailed by many critics as an aversion of this trope. Even though it didn't follow the movie, reviewers were surprised by the stylized cartoon graphics and the 2D platform-puzzle gameplay.
If Japan-only games can count, Super Back to the Future Part II for Super Famicom is a decent platformer that actually caused the AVGN to have a sigh of relief.
Of the three The Blair Witch Project games at least the first one is quite good. The second one less so, but the third is all right. Thankfully none of the games have you playing as helpless kids stumbling around in the forest, but people who actually can defend themselves from the horrors in the forest. Each game delves far into the backstory of the film, rather than taking place in the modern day.
Heck, even The Angry Video Game Nerd pointed out that those were the kind of Godzilla games he wanted to play as a kid instead of the mediocre games he ended up with for the old school Nintendo.
Likewise, there was a pretty decent fighting game Godzilla: Monster War, which was released for the Super Nintendo. Unfortunately, it was only released in Japan.
The A Series of Unfortunate Events game. It's incredibly fun, it features some of the best lip-sinc seen in a licensed game, the voice acting is phenomenal, and its overall a rather good game.
Would you believe that there's a Home Alone game that fits here? How about more than one?
First, there's the release for the Amiga and DOS. Let's see... good graphics and music for the time (1991)? Check, especially for the PC version. Fun gameplay? Yep. Oh, and to top it all off, the PC version has a Good Bad Bug that allows Kevin to fly.
Second, the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis version is worth checking out. The presentation is a little more goofy and cartoony than the source, while the gameplay is more complex than your bog-standard platformer: Kevin spreads traps across five houses in his neighborhood and assembles an arsenal of home-made weapons. Player/enemy health is abstracted by "loot" and "pain" meters; Kevin's goal is to cause enough harm to Harry and Marv before they raid all the safes in each house, keeping them from making a getaway until the police arrive.
The Army of Darkness iPhone game is a rather fun tower defense game, and has fairly good reviews on iTunes.
While Captain America Super Soldier, a game based on Captain America: The First Avenger is nothing more but a blatant clone of Batman: Arkham Asylum, the game itself isn't that really all that bad, and the satisfaction of wielding the Mighty Shield and kicking some HYDRA ass is as awesome as it sounds. While it lacks Batman's mandatory stealth sections (since a super-soldier has little need for stealth) it adds some tricks in terms of the combat that Batman didn't have: super moves that charge when you pull off a good hit or counter, a heavier emphasis on projectile throwing in combat via the shield (which controls very similarly to Batman's batarangs), an incredibly badass blocking mechanic, whereby gunshots ricochet back at the enemy, and the ability to take enemies hostage and force them to fire their weapons at other enemies.
In addition, Chris Evans, who plays Cap in the film, again reprises his role for the game and does a pretty damn good job.
The Scorpion King: Sword of Osiris for the Game Boy Advance is a surprisingly high-quality action/platformer, with fun gameplay that takes elements from Castlevania and Metroid and combines them into a Rock-solid experience. If you know how well Way Forward treats its licenses this should be no surprise.
Sega's adaptation of New Line Cinema's The Golden Compass. While it had plenty of issues (mediocre graphics, cookie cutter gameplay) it also captured the heart of the source novel far better than the movie did and presented a more in-depth plot (it's also the only place so far where footage of the film's many deleted scenes can be glimpsed). In many ways it's like an interactive version of the book. Great for fans of the series, not so great for hardcore gamers.
The PS2 tie-in game for Ghost Rider is basically a God of War clone with a bit of Devil May Cry and Road Rash thrown in, and the creators really know how to take the best elements of those games and mix it into one good licensed game.
The WarGames licensed game by Coleco (originally released for the Colecovision) was fairly well received.
Legend Entertainment's Gateway and Gateway 2: Homeworld, based on the Heechee Saga, are excellent games.
The Nancy Drew computer games are almost always good, featuring lots of Scenery Porn, good music, complex stories, and a huge variety of interesting characters. Their appeal is really widespread: they're fundamentally kid-friendly, but the challenging puzzles (on multiple difficulties) and occasional scary bits endear them to older gamers, and fans of old-school adventure games in particular. They also have a lot of appeal for young girls and prompt many of them to get interested in gamin. They've won several awards and claim to have outsold Myst (although they also admit that it's basically law of averages; they've released 30 games as of 2014, whereas Myst has less than 10.) Their release schedule is also insanely productive. They've been releasing at least two full games a year since 2001, and best of all, they go for a fraction of the price of most big-time console releases.
Dune II was a so-so adaptation, bearing a passing resemblance to the original novel, but it was an incredibly successful and popular game — verging on Adaptation Displacement for fans unfamiliar with the novel, and it is the progenitor of Command & Conquer and the entire Real-Time Strategy genre. It was pretty advanced for the early 90s, and is still playable today — provided you can find a mod that overcomes the "command each individual unit separately" problem.
In fact, Feist then spun the plot from the game into the Riftwar Legacy trilogy of novels, the first (Krondor: The Betrayal) being a direct novelization of the game (and not surprisingly the weakest part of the trilogy).
Callahans Crosstime Saloon, based on the book series by Spider Robinson. The game's designer, Josh Mandel, drove to Spider's house one day and played the game with him for eight hours, and Spider then wrote a glowing review of the game and praised Mandel's work in the prologue of The Callahan Chronicles.
The Witcher (based on novels by Andrzej Sapkowski). Despite numerous bugs in the first version, the game is actually quite good.
And after having the bugs fixed and gameplay improved for the enhanced edition, it is very good indeed. Patch 1.5 and the Director's Cut patch just add more to the goodness. Oh Yeah!
The Director's Cut and special edition changes being free downloads to owners of the original helped too.
Chaos Legion was a Nintendo Hard hack-n'-slash that received mostly mediocre reviews, but is generally favored by people that like repetitive hack-n'-slashers. It was based off some obscure Japanese novel that nobody really knew about.
Which may in itself be something that averts this and then some. Although Turbine obviously chose their release title to capitalize on the movie trilogy, the original name (Middle-Earth Online) was far more fitting to the scope, if not the detail the game goes into. Very little of the player's experience surrounds the plot of Lord of the Rings, but rather, as much of Tolkien's work as they can possibly get away with - even to the point of using alternate names for places or NPCs they depict, where their licence limitations come into play.
Legend Entertainment's Death Gate is one of the best adventure games ever made. The story, the voices, the characters... but also the puzzles. Destroying a magical double by casting a mirror image of the "self immolation" spell to trick the double into casting the REAL self immolation spell? A-W-E-S-O-M-E. And with the exception of two or three infuriating Moon Logic Puzzles (and even these were clever) the whole game is awesome like that.
Interplay's 1991 Lord of the Rings game was quite a nice Ultima-style RPG, managing to make up additions to the game that actually fit the Tolkien world. (Such as shops in and around the Shire that were owned by a "Sharkey", or meeting one of the rangers that Aragorn sets to watch the Shire)
It gets better. It was basically a tech demo for the cutscenes used in Final Fantasy VIII, but it wound up proving itself a very good game, making it the beta for another licensed series.
Below The Root for the Commodore 64 and Apple II is another example of a book-based game done right. It's a very inventive adventure game with a lot of features that were unique for its time but are taken for granted in modern CRPGs, including a choice as to the age, sex, and race of avatar, the NPCs reacting differently to you based on the age and race of your avatar, and certain game mechanics behaving differently based on your avatar. The game was good enough that a lot of people who played it didn't realize it was originally based on a series of books by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, incorporating plot points, characters, locations and abilities from the books into a new story that could stand on its own. Even better? It was probably the first licensed game that was considered Canon for the material it was based on.
The same publishers came out with a brilliant The Wonderful Wizard of Oz text adventure that incorporated virtually all of the first book, about two-thirds of the second book, and a Shout-Out to the third. Seeing as the book is much less known than the movie, and the later books are even more obscure, they mixed and matched elements to present some clever challenges. Their Alice in Wonderland adaptation (from 1985) also used a highly-primitive version of DialogueTrees to interact with the Wonderland residents.
RIZ-ZOAWD, oh RIZ-ZOAWD! The 2D sidescroller based on the Wizard of Oz movie for SNES may have been bad; but the loosely adapted RPG for Nintendo DS, made by Media.Vision Entertainment (best known for the Wild ARMs series), is truly an enjoyable RPG for everybody. And let's not get started on the music.
Would later be released outside of Japan as The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.
Tales of Phantasia was actually based on a novel (Albeit unpublished) called "Tale Phantasia".
Ukrainian game studio 4A Games made Metro 2033, a First-Person Shooter based on the ridiculously popular (in Russia) online novel of the same name. The game itself is actually beyond "decent", crossing over into the "downright good" category. 4A Games are now working on a sequel, Metro Last Light, which has branched off into its own continuity, but is written by the author of the original novel. Judging by the gameplay footage released so far, it looks like it's ironing out all the flaws of the original and introducing more metro-related lore and an advanced stealth system.
It's also entirely fanmade (its existence as an NES game is a hoax). Still a fun game though.
The Living Books series of edutainment games were adaptations of popular picture books, including Arthur, The Berenstain Bears, and Little Critter. They proved to be immensely popular among children of the 90s for their ability to bring familiar books to life in a special way, and a few are still being sold for mobile platforms.
The first console adaptation of American Idol unfortunately played more like Gitaroo Man and did not actually involve singing. Thankfully Konami stepped up to the plate and eventually fixed this with special American Idol versions of Karaoke Revolution.
While most Star Trek games fall into the "problem" side, some have been quite good, including:
Star Trek: Bridge Commander was quite a fun game. It had an innovative game set-up, original storyline, and had appearances of Picard and Data. Probably turned out so well because it was made by the same guys who gave us X-Wing and TIE Fighter.
The Starfleet Command series was a starship sim/real-time tactics simulator that allowed you to wage battle in huge ships, firing broadsides at each other as if it were something out of the age of sail... and once you get past the confusing (yet stylish) HUD, and the steep learning curve, it's a lot of fun. Great soundtrack, too. This one may have benefitted from having its mechanics based on the long established tabletopgame Star Fleet Battles.
Star Trek: Invasion, a PlayStation space combat game that is surprisingly good, featuring a thrilling, self-contained and original story in the Star Trek: TNG saga, a simple yet addictive gameplay mechanic, a somewhat Nintendo Hard difficulty (full-fledged Nintendo Hard if you choose the Lieutenant difficulty), excellent level design with Unexpected Gameplay Change, lush, eye-candy visual and excellent audio quality. The only things you can fault this game is the flawed control and... well, Nintendo Hard.
Star Trek Online, the Star TrekMMORPG, has gorgeous graphics, and at least intended to capture some of the feel of the original series. Additionally, the space combat is some of the most playable of any Star Trek game - having been compared favorably to the later Star Trek: Starfleet Command games.
Though it's main (perhaps only) mistake was not exposing it enough when the MMO market was dominated by World of Warcraft and the upcoming Rift. There was not enough interest generated for it to succeed.
After going Free-To-Play, STO has been hailed as one of the best F 2 P models currently around.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the Xbox is a suprisingly good little title. Most other games within the franchise range from mediocre to abysmal.
Sequel BtVS: Chaos Bleeds was also well received by fans, it featured the voices of most of the cast, minus SMG who by this point had divorced herself from the series and Alyson Hannigan who was unavailable at the time. It featured excellent gameplay and a good overall story arc since it was scripted by the main show writers and based on a lost episode of the series itself.
Despite the SNES Ultraman being rather poorly recieved, the Ultraman Fighting Evolution series by Banpresto has been praised by fans and non-fans alike for their great fighting dynamics and loads of characters from the franchise.
The Doctor Who Adventure Games for PC seem to be getting fairly decent reviews. Not bad for a series of freebies.
Doctor Who Legacy has been getting 10/10 scores from hardcore fans and casual gamers alike, and is created by people who are deeply immersed in the fandom themselves. It's got an amazingly well-written plot and the gameplay is about as addictive and solid as can be.
24: The Game is a relatively decent 3rd-person shooter that mixes in little mini-game sections that surprisingly aren't annoying, and even some driving segments, that while admittedly flawed, aren't unplayable (though there are driving missions that see you get chased that could really aggravate some gamers). It even ties in with the series by featuring an original story set between seasons 2 and 3 that, unlike so many other licensed games that feature an original story set within the same universe, is actually canon, features every single cast member from that point in the show reprising their role for the game, and uses the same musical score as the television series.
Michael Jackson's Moonwalker for Genesis; with surprisingly good digitization of Michael's songs for the era and an appropriately surreal plot it managed to pull off the license very well, and even appeared on one of Gamespot's "greatest games of all time" lists. Unfortunately, it's a bit too easy, so you won't take very long to beat it. The arcade version was pretty good too.
Snoopy vs. the Red Baron proved to be a competent enough flight sim with respectable use of the Peanuts license. Its sequel, Snoopy Flying Ace, went on to be praised for having exceptional multiplayer and was even labeled "the best dogfighting game of this console generation" in its IGN review.
Pinball machines tend to invert The Problem with Licensed Games trope, with most of the popular pinball machines in recent times being all licensed properties. Of course, the economics of pinball are completely different than that of most home video games — instead of selling many copies of software for $50, the pinball manufacturers are selling $6,000 machines to movie theaters, arcades and other public venues that are trying to sell casual plays for a few quarters, so it's perhaps not that surprising that licenses do well. In addition, the development cycle of a pinball machine, at 6 to 12 months, is much shorter than that of a video game, where a well-polished modern one will take years. (For instance, each main series Pokémon game takes 4 to 6 years.) This shorter time allows pinball developers to avoid the issue of advance knowledge that's subject to change. Add that to pinball tables not needing a large amount of information from the source material and that one can easily design a playfield and attach practically any theme to it, and you get a type of game whose quality of its licensed products is based entirely on the competence of its makers.
The last commercially produced pinball machine from a major manufacturer without a license in mind was in 2001 (High Roller Casino, if you care — as of December 2008, there have been 21 licensed games made since). To be fair, this does not consider games from smaller "boutique" manufacturers, such as Pinball Manufacturing's Big Bang Bar (2006), WhizBang's Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons (2011), or Spooky Pinball's America's Most Haunted (2014).
Video games emulating arcade pinball machines haven't traditionally done well in the past, due to limitations in computing power. This is no longer an issue due to more powerful hardware, and games like The Pinball Arcade and Zaccaria Pinball offer arcade-perfect emulation of the original tables.
The Wrestling Games based on WWE tend to be very well done, and are the major driving force behind the genre. Of course, in North America at least, they tend to make up about 90% of the genre, so if they didn't drive it, nobody would.
This wasn't true in the NES days, though. Almost every WWF game released for the console was horrible, and the games weren't widely considered halfway decent until the SNES. The first unquestionably good WWF game wasn't until WWF Wrestlemania 2000 on the N64.
To sum it up, WWE games were pretty much mediocre until THQ got ahold of the license.
You know those commercials which are meant to promote the video game consoles themselves and almost always show off first-party games (Such as a Wii commercial with ‘’Metroid Prime’’ and ‘’Super Mario Galaxy’’ footage)? N64 ones used footage from THQ's WCW games.
Nearly any game based on a FASA license proves an exception to this rule (though it must be admitted we are going from game to game, so the mechanics are similar). BattleTech spawned numerous games, the vast majority of which were top-tier titles. Shadowrun had a very well-received top-down sandbox shooter before DMA Design/Rockstar North popularized it on the Sega Genesis, and a decent one on the SNES. The PC Crimson Skies game was well received by gamers and critics, and though the Xbox sequel is generally considered inferior to the original, it's certainly not a bad game by any means. Even the lesser known licenses often did well when converted to video games; Renegade Legion was turned into an excellent adaptation of the board game, as well as a later space sim that unfortunately was released right alongside Wing Commander 3 and so never got the attention it deserved. The sole exception to this would likely be the Xbox360 Shadowrun game, and even that, at worst, would be somewhere in the middle (as long as you're not too worried about faithfulness to the source material). Justified in that FASA didn't have the license to Shadowrun at the time.
Unfortunately, FASA themselves eventually went under. Luckily enough, a new company was formed that acquired the old FASA properties, including Crimson Skies, Shadowrun and MechWarrior.
A company founded by one Jordan Weisman, the founder of FASA. Circles are fun...
Heavy Gear was originally a tabletop game, much like FASA's Battletech mentioned above. Activision, after losing the Mechwarrior license, got the license for Heavy Gear, then proceeded to make an immensely satisfying mech-sim game out of it. Building on the original Mechwarrior 2 engine and their experience with making 3 games for it, they managed to add in a wide array of customization, very fluid controls, and fast, frantic gameplay (aside from the usual problems of traveling from fight to fight that tends to plague mech-sims). It had both an engrossing campaign mode with FMV cutscenes as well as a create-a-pilot mode for both the Northern and Southern armies. It received a sequel with another strong, tightly contained story story, an even more advanced engine, and even more weapons and Gears to pilot and blow up. It also offered a very flexible free-play mode available from the word go. Heavy Gear 2 had extremely dramatic visuals, great sound work, and finally proved that video game mech-sims could handle melee combat just fine by allowing players to equip axes, swords, or just go in with fists swinging if they wanted.
Case in point being the Baldur's Gate series, which arguably revived the entire then-dying CRPG genre, kept Dungeons and Dragons alive as a franchise in its Darkest Hour, and ensured the dominance of the Forgotten Realms setting over D&D until and including the present day.
Dawn of War has gained a reputation for enhancing the sales of Warhammer 40,000 products because it was that much fun. Dark Crusade seems to have had the strongest impact. Relic is making Space Marine as well.
The Soul Storm expansion plays this straight, its loathed for its bugginess, unbalanced units and the loading time for the campaign screen has to be endured to be believed.
It's so bad the developers of the previous Dawn of War titles resorted to Lampshade Hanging via a character in Dawn of War 2.
Many people will be more familiar with the Dawn of War series of games moreso than 40k, to the point that some people will claim that the actual table top game is the licensed one.
Let it not be said that Do W was the first sucessfull digital rendition of the Warhammer universe(s). Long before it were the dilogy of Real Time Tactics "Shadow of the Horned Rat" and "Dark Omen" for the "Fantasy Battle" setting, and turn-based "Chaos Gate" and "Final Liberation" for the 40K.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, based on the Old World of Darkness, was critically lauded and was incredibly faithful to its source material... It was also, unfortunately, buggy as all heck. Reviews would spend a full page detailing the bugs and how unpleasant they were.. but end with "But forget everything I just said and buy this game."
And the sheer array of patches made available since (some of which merely fix the bugs and some of which also reincorporate Dummied Out content) make even this argument moot.
Magi-Nation was an RPG based off of the card game of the same name. Despite being Nintendo Hard, it was still highly playable.
Acclaim made an excellent arcade game based on Magic: The Gathering called Magic The Gathering: Armageddon. It functioned a bit like a mix of a fighting game and real-time tactics, and was innovative and fun to play. Unfortunately, it's also a bad case of Keep Circulating the Tapes, as Acclaim closed down its arcade division just as the game was finished, meaning only a handful of cabinets were made and no console port to boot.
Micro Machines and its sequels took the popular toy cars, boats and planes and turned them into a top-down racer with obstacles like cereal boxes and rubber ducks. Utter genius.
Similarly, the Hot Wheels racing game was pretty fun, despite the track being slightly wider than your car a lot of the time.
There are also LEGO games made before these, which are also well-liked by the people who played them. Among the most well-known are LEGO Racers, LEGO Island, and Rock Raiders. There is a side effect to the people who loved these, however; if you loved them, chances are you hate the licensed ones mentioned above, as many complain they are too similar to each other, so they get excited whenever a non-licensed one is announced.
BIONICLE: Maze of Shadows, based on the popular novel of the same name, was fairly decent for a dungeon crawler game. BIONICLE Heroes for the DS and GBA systems fared much better than their console counterpart, the former being similar to Metroid Prime Hunters.
And even though it was never actually sold, the very first game made for BIONICLE, Templar Studios' Mata Nui Online Game, a first person point-and-click adventure game, is often considered by fans as one of the best, if not the best, BIONICLE games ever.
While the other Transformers games were the predictable trash mentioned in the other page, the PS2 game by Melbourne House, based on Transformers Armada, is widely considered the best Transformers game ever by both fans and critics (or at least, it was). Impressive graphics, decent controls, expansive stages, enemies that were pretty damn smart, and nice extras.
To a lesser extent, the multiplayer portion of the Revenge of the Fallen game. While the single-player campaign falls into the predictable trash, the multiplayer will keep you entertained for a while especially.
Unsurprisingly, the same developer has been handed the tie-in of Dark of the Moon. Reviews are fairly positive, although it is definately inferior to Transformers: War for Cybertron it's still a solid game.
WFC's sequel, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, is even better. Some have called it the Arkham City of Transformers. It has more iconic characters, a much more involved plot (for example, you kill Megatron in the third level, then later, as Soundwave, get to bring him back to life, then play as HIM, so you can kick Starscream's ass after he takes over the Decepticons), several forays into stealth and brawling sections, lots of mythology gags, a fairly deep upgrade system, and a final level that can most accurately be described as "EVERYONE FIGHTS EVERYONE ELSE!"
The DS games Based on the first Movie are considered pretty decent as well. Good graphics,large Levels,tons of Vehicles to use,and a decent Leveling System. While they aren't perfect (They do suffer from a few too many Escort Mission's) they are considered pretty decent, and can be gotten Dirt Cheap.
While Digimon did start out as a Virtual PetSpear Counterpart of the Tamagotchi, it still technically counts for the various Digimon games. While the quality can vary and the Pokémon games are usually better, the Digimon games are usually enjoyable titles, which vary from RPGs (of various types), to fighting games (mostly Super Smash Brothers clones), a GBA racer, and a couple of MMORPGs, and even tactical RPGs. Unfortunately, a good number of these games were released on the Bandai Wonderswan and thus suffer from No Export for You, especially the ones starring Ryo Akiyama, which resulted in some confusion when he turned up in Digimon Tamers and joined the main cast.
In 2011, a board game based on the extremely popular Gears of War video game series was released. Despite every expectation about what appeared to be a crappy tie-in to a pop culture phenomenon, the game turned out to be quite good. It was good enough to earn itself a rating of 7.58 on Board Game Geek and land itself the title of the 208th best board game of all time, even beating out chess.
It also helps that the Brothers Chaps have written genuinely good adventure games before — Peasant's Quest is often lauded as being on par with or possibly better than the late 80s adventure games it mocks.
The concept itself is parodied in the fifth episode when Strong Bad says "Say it with me, The Cheat: Licensed games are never good," in a licensed game. Furthermore, the entire plot of the third episode was kicked off when Strong Bad was trying to get a licensed game working.
And also, ‘’Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People”, as mentioned in the Telltale section.
The episodic Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness by Hothead Games (and now being continued by Zeboyd Games), has been surprisingly well-received by critics and fans alike, as it retains the art style and much of the humor from the webcomic that it's based on.
Another unusual case is Turtles in Time and its Video Game Remake... ReShelled. The original game is widely hailed as a gaming classic and received an even better SNES port. The high-def remake left the gameplay alone, but replaced the soundtrack and adapted the arcade original instead of the SNES game - both decisions caused uproars. This decision might've not been able to be avoided, though, as it was rumored that the makers of the Reshelled port, Ubisoft, had troubles licencing the original soundtrack, so they had to make new music to compensate.
In order to make sense of why it might've been hard to license music, it's necessary to explore TV copyrights. Most of the music from the original Konami TMNT games used the familiar "heroes in a halfshell! Turtle power!" musical harmonic signature, or other major cuts from the 1987 series theme, within a lot of the stage music. The producer of the 1987 series, Fred Wolf, is heard to be very stubborn about giving ANYONE permission to use anything that was he ever had a hand in (he won't even like the official Mirage TMNT site use any stills from the series; he holds all the rights to the show, and neither Mirage nor Eastman and Laird had a say in that series). This probably was why the new music was a necessary evil.
Amid the many, many bad games based on it, The Simpsons has a few games considered to be of good quality:
This particular game took YEARS to have it finally hit home consoles due to Konami not being able to secure rights to The Simpsons home console games. However, it FINALLY saw the light of day on home consoles when it was released on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 on their respective digital stores.
Though many of the Simpsons games from Acclaim were terrible, one SNES game, while not great, wasn't terrible, either. Bart's Nightmare fared rather well, with its difficulty being the only bad mark on the game.
Konami's games based on the Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs franchises were decent games in their own right — and quite faithful to the source material's visual and musical style, at that. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about the later games of the series made by Warthog Games and Terraglyph.
Tiny Toons: Defenders Of The Universe was supposed to be a platformer/beat-em' up made by Treasure for the PS2 which is pretty damn fun. Most of the main cast of Tiny Toon Adventures are playable characters (Including Fifi LaFume, Shirley The Loon, Furrball, and even Montana Max), they all have their own unique abilities, and the game is really fun. Sadly, the game was never released despite being just about finished for unknown reasons (Rumors are that it was because of a budget crisis with Conspiracy), angering many fans. However, the game can be played on a PS2 emulator, and a walkthrough and gameplay videos of some of the characters can still be found on Youtube.
Tiny Toon Adventures: Scary Dreams/Buster's Bad Dream for the GBA is also good and very underrated, and challenging.
The Animaniacs game for the Sega Genesis is a decent platformer in which you must take advantage of each Warner's ability to solve puzzles and progress through the levels. It helps that the writing is an admirable attempt at capturing the tongue-in-cheek spirit of the cartoon, and is often genuinely funny.
The SNES Animaniacs was also very good. It did a very good job of capturing the look of the show and while it had less dialogue, managed to capture the slapstick feel of the show and the fact that Animaniacs usually parodies many different genres by having the levels be sets for different types of movies, and while all the characters have the same moves there are subtle differences in their properties. It doesn't have the different abilities of Animaniacs for Genesis, but it was a solid platformer with very clever level design and very fun music.
Plus, the music was absolutely AWESOME. IIRC, they also made a game based on The Movie, which was just as good if not better, for most of the same reasons.
Spongebob console games in general are typically this. They're commonly ranked among the best licensed games ever, minus certain ones like Supersponge. Most of the games, once the sixth gen came along, feature their own continuity; several elements are reused from each game and the visuals are almost always the same, which is pretty impressive for licensed games.
Lights, Camera, Pants (the console version at least) is a rather enjoyable Minigame Game with excellent music (one mini-game is a rhythm game centered around it) and the Mermaidman and Barnacleboy cartoon that the players compete to earn roles in clocks in at just over half an hour!
The makers of Beavis And Butthead In: Virtual Stupidity were explicitly told that they could rush a crap game out the door since it would sell anyway. Their response: "Uh, no." They proceeded to make one of the finest point and click adventure games ever.
Fans may remember a little game called Sheep, Dog 'n' Wolf quite fondly (also known as Sheep Raider in some regions), and for good reason: The game was a surprisingly creative stealth game with memorable gadgets (including one that allows you to travel through time) and funny expository dialogue from Daffy Duck.
Sunsoft produced several excellent licensed Looney Tunes games for the SNES: Road Runner's Death Valley Rally was an entire game-long reference to nearly every classic Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote short ever, Daffy Duck in The Marvin Missions referenced the Duck Dodgers original cartoons (as well as Marvin's appearances in some Bugs Bunny shorts), and Bugs Bunny Rabbit Rampage managed to combine references of dozens of Bugs cartoons, from "Bully For Bugs" to "Bunny Hugged", in an overarching plot in which an animator clearly out to get Bugs turns out to be Daffy attempting to get revenge for "Duck Amuck."
Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time on the PS1 is actually a pretty fun game. It's spiritual successor, Bugs and Taz: Timebusters, wasn't too shabby either.
Looney Tunes Collector Martian Alert and Marvin Strikes Back!/Looney Tunes Collector: Martian Revenge! for the GBC were great Zelda-esque Looney Tunes games faithful to the style of the show with many of the characters from the show in them and the games are very fun.
Desert Demolition for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive is a very fun game as well. In addition to being able to play as Road Runner like the other Road Runner games, you also get the option of playing as Wile E. Coyote and using the various Acme gadgets to catch Road Runner.
The simply titled "Looney Tunes" for Gameboy Colour is an oft-forgotten gem. It's a surprisingly fun platformer spanning 7 levels, each taking control of one of the Looney Tunes. Whilst nothing special, its by no means a bad game and is surprisingly well made.
The Dreamcast Wacky Races game was a pretty competent Mario Kart clone featuring a ton of tracks and modes, as well as capturing the humor of the original show. Moreover, while most of the characters were voiced by sound alikes, two of them were voiced by the original actorsnote John Stephenson as Luke; Janet Waldo as Penelope Pitstop.
Scooby-Doo! Night of 100 Frights. It's a game based off the classic series, and they didn't play around. The cutscenes and dialogue are like something out of the series, it appears to be set in the 70s, its full of Crowning Music of Awesome, and it overall keeps very true to the cartoon. The voices are spot on, the new characters fit well into the series, and it even has a Laugh Track like the cartoons. It has few, if any, relations to the newer incarnations of the series; it's just a throwback game, complete with numerous monsters from the classic cartoon. The camera angles may be a bit sloppy at times, and it may be a bit hard to jump around at times, but overall its a great game; not to forget it has some cute Holiday Mode features.
Ed Edd N Eddy The Mis Edventures is a respectable game adaptation of the series, perfectly capturing the look, feel and humor of the show, and throwing it all into an enjoyable, if short, platformer.
There exists a Felix the Cat video game for the NES and Game Boy, and both happen to be surprisingly enjoyable Mario clones, with fun gameplay and appealing graphics and music.
Scooby-Doo Mystery Mayhem didn't sell too well but it got a few good reviews that praised the creepy atmosphere (Music including), the voice-acting and the fun gameplay.
Taxan's G.I. Joe game for NES is a very fun action platformer somewhat reminiscent of Contra where you play as varied members of the Joe team to destroy Cobra bases.
Phantom 2040 for the Super Nintendo proves to be an interesting Metroid-style game that actually has several different possible paths, choices, and endings, lending a lot of depth that's not even seen in the Metroid series itself. Add some catchy music and a nifty "list of things you should know" at the Phantom's base and it proves to be quite fun.
While the PS2 and Xbox versions of the Xiaolin Showdown game belong on the other page, the DS version is surprisingly decent. Unlike the horrid PS2 and Xbox versions, the DS version has enjoyable gameplay, is somewhat challenging (and you actually can die in this version), and levels that aren't restricted to a rectangular box.
Codename: Kids Next Door: Operation V.I.D.E.O.G.A.M.E is a very fun Ratchet and Clank-esque game with all of the voice actors from the show, good graphics and decent music, and is rather challenging with good gameplay.