Generally speaking, licensed games can suck.
From the near mythological awfulness of E.T for the Atari 2600, to Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green, licensed games generally range from broken messes to soulless cash-grabs.
And while that’s true in most cases, believe it or not, games based on licensed properties can actually be pretty fantastic. No, really – I’ve got a list to prove it. Here are just five of the very best licensed games.
5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Based on my favourite TV show of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is far better than it has any right to be. A game based on a cult TV show which was based on a campy film flop, it released exclusively on the original Xbox. It’s also made by The Collective who had previously made two licensed games – the much maligned Men in Black: The Game, and the critically acclaimed Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Fallen. And as it turns out, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is actually really good.
It’s a third person action game that takes place during the TV show’s third season and features all of the show’s cast, most of whom are voiced by the actors that played them on the show. Well, all except Sarah Michelle Gellar, that is. The sound-alike does a good enough job, and helps add legitimacy to the game but what really stands out is how well made the gameplay is. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is mostly melee combat based, but it adds in some light platforming and puzzle solving. Sure, it’s probably carbon-dated now but for its time, it was good to be a fan.
4. The Walking Dead: Season One
I can’t think of another game that married its licence to its game as well as Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Telltale managed to ingeniously incorporate its adventure game-light mechanics and episodic content delivery with the long-running comic series by Robert Kirkman. It tells a great, harrowing and branching storyline about life in the early stages of the zombie apocalypse and gives you tough choices to make that change how future installments play out.
Sure, it’s all pretty binary and the game funnels you down the narrative path it wants to, but at the time there was nothing like it. The Walking Dead is so effective that a death in episode three made me yell “no!” and frantically search the internet for ways to prevent it. Unfortunately, it was inevitable, but any game that can make me feel and act that way is worthy of any list.