The world of licensed games is a strange one. In the current era, licensed games are big projects — Spider-Man on PS4, the Arkham Asylum series, and other licenses are huge, polished games. Even if you’re not a fan, these games are absolutely, definitely video games. We can’t say the same for everything on our list today.
We’re exploring the dark ages of licensing in video games, when companies would slap together some of the strangest products imaginable just to earn a couple of bucks. These games are relics of a time long past — and a lot of them were released before I was even born. These games barely have anything to do with the intellectual property they’re (apparently) marketing. They’re hilarious, unnecessary, and completely hilarious. So we’re going to list 10 of them!
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X-Men: The Ravages of Apocalypse
Why play as your favorite X-Men heroes when you can blast them into bloody chunks instead? This has to be one of the most bizarre games ever made — an officially licensed Total Conversion for Quake that was sold in stores where you murder familiar X-Men heroes. Characters like Wolverine, Forge, Storm and Psylocke appear as enemies instead of allies. The in-game explanation is that they’re all cyborgs. That doesn’t explain why there’s so much blood.
The game begins with a trip to the X-Mansion where you can select your difficulty. X-Mansion itself is pretty impressively detailed… y’know, for a game that’s just barely stepped into the 3D era. This is a straight-up X-Men FPS with ultraviolence that was officially licensed. I just have to repeat that because the concept is making my brain melt. Something like this would never happen today, but back in the 90’s Marvel clearly wasn’t thinking about the long-term health of its intellectual property. They were just barely surviving the Dark Age of comics.
Mickey Mouse 4: The Magical Labyrinth
There’s nothing that weird about the Crazy Castle series of games if you stay in Japan. These NES and Gameboy games were developed by Japanese studio Kemco, and they all follow a basic platformer-puzzler formula, with just enough Mickey Mouse content to make Disney fans happy.
Things don’t get crazy until you look at the releases outside Japan. Checking out the NA and Pal regions — that’s when this series goes completely bonkers. In North America, the first Mickey Mouse Crazy Castle games were actually Bugs Bunny games instead, just reskinned and slapped together for an entirely different license. The reskinning becomes mind-boggling when we reach Crazy Castle 4.
By the fourth game in the series, the reskinning is getting pretty desperate. In North America, Mickey Mouse 4: The Magical Labyrinth becomes a Real Ghostbusters game. In Europe, the same game instead stars the fat comic strip cat Garfield. A single Mickey Mouse platformer is somehow both a Ghostbusters game and a Garfield game — they’re practically identical, just with a change to the hero sprites. We all know about licensed shovelware trash, but to recycle the same garbage into three completely different IPs? That’s pretty ballsy.
Discover more poorly thought out corporate decisions on the next page.