Licensed games worth checking out

A common assumption is that if a game is associated via licensing to some other property/entity, it is more likely to be middling at best. With so many titles to choose from, particularly when browsing old stuff, one helpful filter is to just ignore any licensed games.

What are some exceptions to this rule that people should make? Could be just for that one sweet mechanic or for the whole meal! State the obvious and the less obvious for the benefit of all.

This thread was prompted by the discussion in the 3DS episode of the Tom Clancy-labeled strategy game that actually had some x-com roots, Ghost Recon Shadow Wars. I mention this first as an edge of what I consider a “licensed property” - labels like Ghost Recon cross from being a series to being a license (in my eyes) once there is sufficient name recognition and development teams vary enough. I haven’t played that specific game, but it sounds legit.

My real first contribution is a game I’ve brought up [elsewhere]( but want to talk more about: Starsky and Hutch (GBA).

This game is basically Driver on the psx, with great verbs like “go here,” “follow this car,” “take this car out,” “run from this pursuer,” “protect the escort,” mixed and matched with varying numbers, all while handling in such a way that you can drift like a badass all the time and requiring some tough but not impossible navigation through an overworld. Not to mention it’s a technical marvel on the system. Great in the hands and fun to work through the whole game. Further development and expansion of this game would make this the game people talk about instead of Driver 2 or 3 on the console.

Developed by Spellbound, who did a handful of other good driving games on GBA and GBC, all worth checking out. There was a beta rom set free at some point that has some good illustration of what’s under the hood (3:58 [here](

licensed games can be weird and neat, and that GBC mcdonald‘s game just came out today! And of course mcdonald’s treasure land was in our treasure ranking.

One I want to highlight is Snoopy vs the Red Baron, which unfortunately I can only find stretched footage of:

It's very blue skies, has great looking explosions, controls well, neat vehicles, and overall a pretty neat idea, AND a good use of the license in a gamey setting. And you're shooting down nazis, so that's always fun!

I also like, of course, when folks take the idea of something and really push it - pepsiman is one of the ultimate examples - the character existed before the game, but I think for a lot of us in the west, it was the game that made us aware of the whole thing in the first place:

it's also like... mostly pseudo 3D!? bizarre.


@“MDS-02”#p109713 State the obvious… for the benefit of all.

One of the GOATs, but must be experienced as couch co-op.

I feel like GBA is where devs really got a chance to make a licensed game as a calling card for what they could do. Plus you had way more years of game design informing these small project. So you look at Ghost Rider GBA

and you have a rad single plane brawler with a Souls like dodge roll with Road Rash style stages in between. Developer [Magic Pockets]( did not have to go this hard, but they did and it is probably the best game they ever made.

@“robinhoodie”#p119931 I definitely want to try this one! Gba had some wild stuff for sure - catwoman remains one of the best-feeling isometric games to me as far as just jumping around goes. The traversal is fun, and with all the pastels it‘s kind of fun to look at too. The run animation definitely holds it back, if you actually try it you’ll see it's pretty decent to maneuver around in.

@“exodus”#p119936 Since I still actively collect for GBA but already have all the big hits, this one is going right to my wish list. Just a great system for simple pixel art games.

I think most licensed games are worth checking out for at least a few minutes. They're the ones most vulnerable at being lost to time.

I keep a digital journal when I play games to take note of things I like / dislike, interesting mechanics, etc. This helps me feel like I'm never wasting time even when a game is "bad". I like it when the good stuff is right up front like the [menu music]( for Daffy Duck in Hollywood for the Master System.

Bishōjo Senshi Sailor Moon is one of my favorite licensed games. Just a great looking Sailor Moon themed beat them up.


I am a long-time advocate of Peter Jackson‘s King Kong The Official Game of the Movie. It was directed by Michel Ancel, coming off of Beyond Good and Evil. It’s this really tightly designed systems-driven resource-management-ey survival-horror game with light Immersive Sim elements, with some fantastic level design.

It had a lot of clever mechanics that made you pay attention to the level design. You could pick up sharp sticks to throw as spears. You could skewer a grub on the spear to turn it into bait to distract enemies. You could set the spear on fire and throw it at dry shrubbery to light it on fire.

@“AlecS”#p119965 it's also very easy and quick to play through, which I appreciated more than anything else! just kind of a chill game to play through.

Oh yeah, also I love the look of Maui Mallard!

Arm Joe of course (j/k)

SNES/Genesis have a bunch of decent anime-based games, one I liked a lot is Macross: Scrambled Valkyrie, a pretty nifty R-Typer:

Also not really "good" by any measure but I like how for some reason the SNES version of Jurassic Park combines isometric Zelda-esque island gameplay with Wolfenstein-style low-fps 3D sections in buildings.