Licensed games are generally mediocre at best and legendaryly bad at worst, but their lack of creativity and forgettable overall quality hit the mark. More often than not, licensed games are rushed tie-in products that only exist to coincide with the release of a highly anticipated movie, TV show, product launch, etc.
That being said, some licensed games have defied expectations by following the most unpredictable and creative routes imaginable. For better and for worse, these games have used their license in really weird ways. Some of these creative choices paid off and resulted in a decent game, while others are so disconcerting that they confuse gamers even today.
Licensed games based on TV shows that misunderstand their source material are, strangely enough, quite common. Take, for example, The Sopranos: The Road to Respectand Home improvementit is the game is the pinnacle of this strange trend. Home improvement was a sitcom about a suburban family, so their SNES game just had to be a fantasy platformer.
Pursuit of power tools justified things like dinosaur and robot levels as movie sets, but it didn’t explain how Tim Taylor’s power tools had literal powers or any of the sci-fi elements. The less than stellar gameplay didn’t help matters, which only drew more attention to the oddity Pursuit of power toolsThe idea for a licensed sitcom game was.
AND the extra-terrestrial for the Atari 2600 is historic in many ways. Besides being one of the first licensed games based on a blockbuster, HEY was also the game that almost single-handedly killed the American video game industry. That being said, this legacy overshadows how ill-advised the game was from the start.
Steven Spielberg’s alien movie was a heartfelt coming-of-age drama with a sci-fi twist, which meant it wasn’t exactly the best basis for an exciting adventure game, especially not for a system as primitive as the Atari 2600. HEY was a seamless cash grab, and the fact that it was even completed in a matter of months is a miracle.
8 Street Fighter: The Movie The Arcade Game Was Redundant
street fighter was created during the height of the popularity of arcade games, so it didn’t need a game adaptation to promote it. Capcom thought differently and funded a fighting game based on the live-action adaptation of their fighting game. The end result was Street Fighter: the game, a bad street fighter clone featuring the cast of the film.
Street Fighter: the gameit isselling point was that it used the same digitized graphics technology as mortal combat did, meaning its graphics were quite realistic for the time. These groundbreaking graphics didn’t justify the lackluster gameplay or its later console release, which only underscored how repetitive and pointless the game was.
seven GoldenEye 007 (2010) Shoehorned Daniel Craig in Game and Film
the original GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64 is both one of the best licensed games and shooters ever made. With such a stellar reputation, it was only a matter of time before it was remastered for the next generation of consoles. This is exactly what happened in 2010 but with a strange twist: Pierce Brosnan was replaced by Daniel Craig.
Rather than just porting the game to seventh-generation consoles, Activision reverse-engineered Brosnan’s Craig-era adaptation of Brosnan’s first James Bond film. Minus some modernized details and Craig himself, golden eyeThe plot and gameplay of remained intact. It’s better to play the N64 original than to play this forced remake.
6 The Def Jam series pits the label’s stars against each other in a gritty Battle Royale
Games featuring musicians were quite common a few years ago, but games like Aerosmith Revolution X or literally anything that featured KISS was often seen as lazy cash grabbing or obvious ego trips. Music label Def Jam challenged this trend with the Def Jam fighting games that, to some players’ surprise, were solid brawlers.
The Def Jam the games pit artists like Ice-T, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, and more against each other in brutal street fights and wrestling modes. As absurd as the idea of embodying some of the greatest rappers of the 2000s in a brawler might be, the Def Jam Games wholeheartedly committed to this extravagant plot and received praise for it.
5 Shaq-Fu Was Yet Another Shaquille O’Neal’s Failed Vanity Project
The 90s were some of the best years of Shaquille O’Neal’s career. Not only was he at the top of his game as an NBA superstar, he was one of the biggest celebrities of the era. Shaq’s stardom has led to attempts to monetize his fame, all of which, sadly, have failed so spectacularly that they’ve become classics so bad they’re good.
One of these bombs was Shaq Fu, a fighting game whose whole selling point was that the Los Angeles Lakers superstar was having a kung fu adventure. Shaq Fu was mediocre at best, and its poor controls drew the ire of frustrated players. These days, Shaq Fu It’s only remembered for its quirkiness, and its decades-long belated sequel didn’t rekindle interest.
4 Darkened Skye was a fantastic game about bowling
At first glance, clouded sky was just another run-of-the-mill fantasy game from the 2000s. On closer inspection, the game’s many references to Skittles candy become impossible to ignore. In truth, clouded sky was a tie-in game specifically designed to promote Skittles, and it incorporated candy in the most blatant way possible.
None of this was accidental, as the game’s producer, Elizabeth Braswell, decided to have as much fun with the idea of a Skittles game as possible. Instead of phoning in a tie-in game, Braswell and his team created a fourth-wall breaking fantasy where Skittles-based lore was the biggest punchline. Amazingly, Mars, Inc. endorsed it.
3 Chex Quest was a surprisingly decent and popular DOOM clone
Prizes in cereal boxes are practically a tradition, and cereal brands adding video games to their boxes were a sure sign of changing times in the 90s. In 1996, Chex kicked off this trend with the LOSS clone Chex quest. The most surprising thing about Quest Chex wasn’t a shooter featuring a cereal mascot, but that was really good.
Quest Chex was made using the LOSS motor and, insofar as LOSS clones go, this was one of the best. Quest Chex was so well received that it not only got two sequels and an official remake in 2020, but it also inspired a dedicated sequel that went so far as to create mods for it. For example, the bloody Brutal DOOM patch bends Quest Chex in a gorefest.
2 The King Games Trilogy attempted to turn the King into a gaming icon
There was a time when brand mascots had their own games, and Burger King has joined that fad. Rather than make just one game, Burger King went the extra mile and gave the King an entire trilogy. Known collectively as the “King Games”, this trifecta included the runners big boom and Pocket Bike Racerand stealth Sneak King.
Games made for mascots like the Kool-Aid Man aren’t too rare, but the amount of effort that went into the King Games was staggering. Not only were they Xbox and Xbox 360 exclusives, but the quality of King Games was considered too good for Xbox Live Arcade, so they were sold on physical copies that could only be purchased at Burger King branches.
1 Pepsiman is still one of the weirdest games ever made
No licensed game is as legendary as Pepsiman, a simple racing game featuring the eerily silent colossus known as “Pepsiman”. As the title clearly indicates, Pepsiman was a superhero-themed game funded by Pepsi. Given Pepsiman‘s immortality in pop culture, it can be hard to remember that the game was exclusive to Japan.
Pepsiman wasn’t the only mascot designed specifically for Japan, but he was the most memorable. Everything about Pepsiman’s game was too weird to believe, from the eponymous hero to the incredibly exciting theme song. For this reason, Pepsiman defied regional boundaries and was recognized by gamers around the world.
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