Last August I wrote about great video games that were based on movies (From Cinema to Console). One of the issues I had was trying to limit the amount of Disney games that appeared in the list. Disney almost always seems to escape the mantra of “terrible licenced game” and over the course of many gaming generations has produced classics that still hold up today. Even if we leave out Star Wars and Marvel games, Disney still has such a rich back catalogue to choose from. The studio has even developed their own games based on their popular IPs as well as brand new ideas. They range from Platformers to racers and even a Kinect game. Below is a quick walkthrough of some of the greatest games ever made. Of course, there will be some missing as there are so many of them.
For many retro gamers, the Nintendo Entertainment System’s Disney line-up is the pinnacle of Disney’s foray into gaming. Pairing up with Capcom, we got some classics based on the “Saturday Morning Cartoons”. This collection of games are mainly platformers but do have unique features to them. The most well known is probably Duck Tales. Based on the cartoon and comic strip of the same name, you control Scrooge McDuck as he hops from level to level in search of treasure. The game requires you to backtrack through levels several times in order to progress as items in one level can unlock areas in another. The platforming controls are incredibly responsive, with Scrooge and his pogo stick cane a joy to control. The game has some catchy music from the Moon’s theme to the iconic Duck Tales intro (which is now stuck in my head, woo-hoo!). The game did see a sequel in Duck Tales 2 but this is harder found than the first. Darkwing Duck (a spin-off from Duck Tales) also got the NES treatment. While Duck Tales verges on the easier side of things, Darkwing Duck was a bit more challenging. A platformer run-and-gun, it was very similar to another Capcom game, Mega Man. As expected, you play as Darkwing Duck as he battles his way through all sorts of perilous levels. The final platformer in the “Saturday Morning Collection” was Chip’n’Dale Rescue Rangers (which also got a rare sequel). Here you can play as either Chip or Dale as you make your way through miniature sized levels. What’s unique about this is that it can be played in simultaneous multiplayer, with you and a friend overcoming challenges together. The last game was Tail Spin, a 2D aircraft shooter. I’ve never played this one but it’s supposed to be the weakest of the lot. There’s also another platformer available based on Disneyland. Adventures In The Magic Kingdom sees you explore different levels based on the Magic Kingdom rides, from Big Thunder Mountain to the Haunted Mansion. Despite being a Disney platformer, it can be challenging in places but like the others, it’s a solid platformer filled with great 8-bit tunes.
Of course, the NES wasn’t the only 8-bit console to see Disney releases. The Sega Master System got its fair few games from the House of Mouse. Sega developed the Illusion series in house (under strict supervision from Disney) and released some excellent classics on the Mega Drive (more on those in a bit). The Master System did see three games from the Illusion series, Land of Illusion, Legend of Illusion and Castle of Illusion. All three are platformers starring Mickey Mouse. They carry the same charm their 16-bit counterparts had, with Mickey able to hop, bounce and throw soap to make his way through the levels. Despite sharing its name with a Mega Drive game, Castle of Illusion on the Master System is its own adventure and not a port. Legend of Illusion was originally a Game Gear exclusive but did see a Master System release in Brazil. I’ll eventually track it down. Mickey wasn’t the only character to receive some Master System games as Donald Duck was very popular on the system. He saw outings in Lucky Dime Caper and Deep Duck Trouble. Both are platformers that play similar to the Illusion series but Donald has a little bit more up his sleeve to deal with enemies. Originally released on the Game Gear, both games did see Master System ports in Brazil and Europe. I have yet to track down Deep Duck Trouble.
If you were a Sega fan growing up in the 90s, you know all about Disney platformers. Not only did we see games based on Mickey and friends but also popular movies. These were some of the best games on the system that came with some brutal challenges. As mentioned above, Mickey Mouse had two releases on the Mega Drive, Castle of Illusion and World of Illusion. Both are bright and colourful games with incredible soundtracks. Castle of Illusion is the more challenging of the two, with limited lives and continues, inventive (and often wacky) level designs and Mickey’s infamous butt bounce. World of Illusion offers players the chance to be Mickey or Donald as they set out on a magical adventure. There’s also a two-player mode that requires you to work together. The game is easier than its predecessor on the basis that it has unlimited continues. The platforming is improved and I actually prefer the level design in this one (even if it doesn’t make sense at times). Speaking of Donald, he got a solo outing in QuackShot. Armed with a plunger, he must navigate his way through various different levels to find the Great Duck Treasure. The plunger adds an interesting new mechanic to the gameplay. It can be used to stun enemies or climb up walls. As you progress, you’ll obtain upgrades to help you reach new areas in previously explored levels. It’s a blast to play through. The most famous movie games would have to be Toy Story, Aladdin and The Lion King. Aladdin received three different releases: one on the Mega Drive, one on the SNES and one on the Master System. What is unique about this is that the SNES and Mega Drive versions are from different studios and have different play styles. The Mega Drive version is a challenging adventure that looks gorgeous as it was drawn by the film’s artists. Armed with a sword, Aladdin has to fight his way through several levels based on the movie to rescue Jasmin and defeat Jafar. The SNES version follows the same premise but is more focused on platforming. It’s an odd one to describe the differences with playing it so I’ll just leave you with what I told Sharon, “he has a sword in the Mega Drive version but not in the SNES version”.
The Lion King sees you control Simba as he grows from a cub to an adult. It’s a standard platformer where you’ll avoid hyenas, roar at bugs and be thrown around by monkeys. Ah, the monkeys. It is probably one of the most famous levels in video games for its difficulty spike. From what I know, the level was designed to be challenging so you couldn’t beat it while renting it. The level requires precise jumps, a knowledge of which monkeys to use and quick fingers. Toy Story is another Disney game that’s on the harder side of the difficulty scale. Toy Story seems to be a series that has gotten some great games across multiple generations. The original on SNES and Mega Drive used digitised graphics, which still look great today. It’s a 2D adventure that takes you from Andy’s Room to Pizza Planet and even on chase through the streets to catch up with Andy. The SNES also saw its own set of Micky Mouse games in the form of Magical Quest. Sadly, I haven’t tracked these ones down yet.
Mickey’s Wild Adventure is a game that straddles both the fourth and fifth generation of games. Originally released as Mickey Mania, it saw releases on the SNES, Mega Drive and Mega CD. Each had their own minor differences (or cut content if we’re calling a spade a spade). I vaguely remember the SNES version but my memory is mainly with the PlayStation release. Mickey’s Wild Adventure has you guide the titular mouse through his old movies, from Steamboat Willie to The Prince and The Pauper. It starts off in monochrome like Steamboat Willie, which is a lovely touch. The game looks and sound fantastic on the PlayStation and controlling Mickey is great for the most part. I still have trouble with the Moose Hunters section. Pixar did see releases in this generation with A Bugs Life and Toy Story 2. I remember renting A Bugs Life when I was younger but never really getting far. The early levels of the game all looked samey to me but maybe it’s time I tracked down a copy to try again. Toy Story 2 on the other hand is fantastic. You control Buzz in a 3D environment. Here, you’ll fall with style as you make your way through the wonderfully crafted levels to rescue Woody. The gameplay is a platformer with collectathon themes as you must collect Pizza Planet tokens to progress. The levels are fairly open, allowing you to explore at your leisure. This one also saw ports to the Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast (I haven’t tried either). For me, the pièce de resistance of Disney’s PlayStation games has to be Hercules. It’s a 2.5D action platformer that’s simply incredible. It looks and sounds fantastic, with each level capturing the artistic style of the movie. It follows the plot of the film but adds in Herc’s fights that were glossed over in the film (e.g., the Medusa fight). The controls are solid and the gameplay is challenging but not too challenging. Its definitely one to have in your PlayStation collection.
HD and WiiMotes
There are a few Disney games I’ve leapt over but I don’t have much experience with them. I do have experience with a number of Disney’s HD games (as well as a certain Wii/Wii U series). Let’s get the Wii one out of the way. Epic Mickey (you knew it was that one), had you control Mickey as he attempted to defeat the Blot. The game did introduce a rather unique mechanic in the form of painting and thinning. Here, you could solve puzzles by painting in platforms/ buildings and thinning out obstacles in your way. While the Wii Remote isn’t the most accurate, it is cleverly used here to stand out amongst Mickey’s other platforming adventures. Epic Mickey would see sequels on the 3DS (Power of Illusion) and Wii U (Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two). Epic Mickey 2 even added in co-op gameplay with a friend taking control of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Disney also released Disney Infinity at this time, as a world building game that used real figurines to unlock content (similar to Skylanders). I have two of these but have never actually played them. Now that they’ve stopped making it, I might try to track down all the characters.
Disney Interactive Studios did have some fun games at this time. Disney Universe is not the best game around but its decent in multiplayer. Similar to the Lego series, you smash your way from level to level dressed as different characters from Disney’s history. Each level is based on a Disney or Pixar franchise. There’s not much else to it. DIS also released the wonderful Toy Story 3. The game follows the plot of the movie closely but does introduce the Toy Box. Here, you’ll unlock new items for your town and explore the locations around, searching for new things. You can unlock buildings, characters and take on a variety of missions. It’s a mode you can easily sink hours into. The other DIS game isn’t based on a Disney franchise but it’s so good I wanted to include it. Split/Second is a racer with explosive levels, and I mean that literally. Similar to the BurnOut series, you can earn points during a race and use them to activate traps that will knockout your opposition or completely alter the level. It has a range of cars and tracks to unlock and is a literal blast to play. Car handling varies but I’ve always found it to be fairly easy to control.
This deserves its own section. Back in the 2000s when I first heard of Kingdom Hearts, I was blown away. A game with Final Fantasy and Disney characters! You take control of Sora as he sets out to… eh… I don’t really know. Something, something, Heartless. The series has had so many spin-offs and sequels, I couldn’t really explain the plot if I wanted to. One thing I do know is that each world looks incredible, from Hercules’ Coliseum to Hollow Bastion. The series has covered movies such as Tron, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Pirates of the Caribbean and Mulan. It’s also included cameos from Final Fantasy characters such as Cloud, Squall, Auron, Tifa, Yuna and Sephiroth. The game looks incredible and the voice acting is brilliant. The gameplay has also evolved throughout the series. I found the original to be difficult due to the controls and the camera but both Kingdom Hearts II and Kingdom Hearts III have made great improvements in this area. I haven’t played through all the games in the series yet but I do have Kingdom Hearts The Story So Far and I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into it.
Of course, there are loads of great Disney games I’ve missed but I haven’t played a lot of them yet. What are your favourite Disney games? What Disney games would you recommend?