If you've been playing games for a while, just saying the phrase "licensed game" probably makes you feel dirty. Most licensed games are released to correspond with a film, television show, or some other form of media, banking on the success of the source material to boost sales figures of the game. Far too often, these games have limited budgets, strict timelines for developers to meet, and way too much creative input by marketing drones who don't know the first thing about making a video game. The results are almost always disastrous wastes of time and plastic that will quickly be forgotten (or buried in the desert, in the case of the especially terrible ET for Atari).
However, every once in a while a licensed game manages to break free from the bonds of mediocrity and truly shine. I've managed to compile a list of ten games that had absolutely no reason to be good, yet still somehow ended up becoming classics.
Back in the 1990s, 7up had a mascot they called Cool Spot. He was basically the red dot on the 7up logo, but with appendages and dark sunglasses. I don't know who decided to give him his own video game, but that person deserves a medal. The original Cool Spot game was pure magic, featuring brilliant level design, tight controls, and a soundtrack that dominates just about anything else from the Genesis era. The only complaint you could possibly make is that some of the later levels were just re-imagined versions of the first few levels in the game, but that's no biggie. Most of us probably never got that far since the second half of this game was excruciatingly difficult and players were given a very limited amount of lives and continues. This game was so popular that it spawned a sequel, Spot Goes to Hollywood, which was also insanely good, but for some reason didn't receive the attention that its predecessor did.
Rainbow Six was loosely based off a Tom Clancy novel that has never (yet) had a film version. But the game featured some exceptional tactical gameplay that rewarded stealth and forced players to command squad members in order to successfully complete missions. It allowed players to build their own squad in whichever way they preferred, and there was almost always a plethora of various strategies that could successfully accomplish a goal. This was a game truly ahead of its time, and has given birth to a successful video game franchise that continues to this day.
Ducktales was a great cartoon series in the late 1980s. When it was made into a video game, it was put in the hands of the geniuses who created Mega Man. And it shows. Ducktales for NES shares a lot of qualities with the Blue Bomber's games: solid gameplay, the option to play through the levels in whichever order you preferred, and some of the best music of its era. In fact, many 8-bit enthusiasts hail the song from Ducktales' Moon level as the single greatest song to appear in a NES game. With so much to love, this game was a true classic.
There was a brief period in the 1990s in which Disney was pretty consistently releasing quality content. This content leaked over into the video game world, providing a fairly steady stream of great games for the Sega Genesis. For example, The Lion King and Mickey Mania were two titles that were surprisingly better than a good percentage of the games they were competing against back then. But the Genesis version of Aladdin has always towered over the rest of them. Even though the soundtrack contained mostly stripped-down versions of music from the film, pretty much every song in the game was great. Its graphics were among the best of the era, with an exquisite hand-drawn look. And to top it all off, the phenomenal action sequences included a couple of intense magic carpet rides and an unforgettable Indiana-Jones-inspired boulder chase. Aladdin was a hard game to not enjoy, no matter how young or old you were.
The folks at Turbine, makers of Dungeons and Dragons Online, were not new to the MMO scene when they started working on The Lord of the Rings Online. The years of experience they had gained while building persistent online worlds had taught them a lot about how to do it properly. The Lord of the Rings Online brought players to a Middle-Earth that felt exactly like it should, based on the beloved novels by J.R.R. Tolkien. While there were some bumps along the way, this MMO has grown into a deep experience, one that could easily consume hundreds of hours of your life. It had gameplay similar to WoW, but a look that was much more realistic and detailed. Tolkien fans looking forward to a non-WoW MMO experience found a lot to appreciate in this beautiful game.