There once was an era where, if you had a successful movie or video game, you would then license it so some developer could churn out a half-assed cash grab as quickly as possible. But there have been a few stragglers who refuse to just pump out garbage — these brave developers have taken their licensed properties very seriously, and they deserve some credit for that. So here’s that credit! These are the video games that actually stuck to their source material.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game (arcade)
Unlike the disastrous NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this arcade game captured the spirit of the TV show really well. Not that it was super tough — this game is mostly just beating up foot clan robots, then beating up an end boss before fighting Shredder at the very end of the game. Still, the history of licensed video games shows that even the more simple properties can be total messes.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3/ Xbox 360)
There are… a LOT of Batman video games. Some of them are quite good, others are absolute garbage, but the Arkham series is the one that best reflects Batman himself. The first game in the franchise, Arkham Asylum, is kind of a hybrid between the ’90s’ Batman: The Animated Series (using a lot of the same voice talent) and the darker runs in the comic book itself. Arkham Asylum feels like one of those grand mega-event comic books, like “Hush” or “Knightfall”.
Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (Xbox)
This game was maybe one of the biggest (and best) surprises of my video game playing life — it was not only enthralling, but it may actually be the best installment in the entire Riddick universe. Yes, it fleshes out details from the character’s past (including how he got his night vision eyes), but even if you knew absolutely nothing about Riddick or his mythology, Escape from Butcher Bay is still an incredibly engrossing game, having compelling gameplay, atmosphere, and story.
Alien: Isolation (PS4/Xbox One)
There have been a lot of shoot-’em-up Alien games that were clearly going for more of an Aliens feel (which still didn’t really get it right), but Alien: Isolation was the first game that really captured the nightmarish hell of being stalked by an animalistic Alien in a dark, foreboding spaceship. Of course, the game itself isn’t great; how much you love it will really depend on how appealing a few hours of what I just described sounds to you. But this list isn’t about if the game is good, it’s how well it portrays its source material. And Alien: Isolation nails it.
X-Wing/TIE Fighter (PC)
Star Wars video games are most successful when they stick close to the universe’s lore but don’t try to adapt stories we’re all familiar with. The PC games X-Wing and TIE Fighter came out while people were nuts about flight simulators (a fad I never understood), so they tried to go a little more in-depth with their controls, as opposed to the later, more arcade-y Rogue Squadron games.
GoldenEye 007 (N64)
Now, the story in GoldenEye 007 doesn’t make total sense unless you’ve seen the movie, and it includes some levels that are very much exclusive to the game, but still, this game follows the movie real close. James Bond shoots… a lot of henchmen, while remaining relatively unscathed himself, so that part’s in here. There’s also a lot of fun gadget work, a tank driving level, and weapons beyond just guns and hand-to-hand combat. Plus, the multiplayer pays tribute to Bond films of the past — GoldenEye 007 is a serious Bond-fest.
South Park: The Stick of Truth (PC/Xbox 360/PS3)
This game very much feels like the South Park movie (lord God, I’m only just realizing how long ago that came out) in that it crams in as many characters and settings and call backs as it possibly can, all the while building an absolutely grand and insane story. South Park games have come a long way since the original, terrible first person shooter that was the franchise’s first on the N64.
Wow, imagine if every game developer put this much effort into their damned licensed properties. Which game would be vastly improved? Let us know on Twitter @Smosh!