The Problem with Licensed Games
"Movies have always been a questionable source for video game adaptations, partly because they have plots and stories, and partly because people in movies don't jump around a lot or pick up power-ups very often."
—Josh "Livestock" Boruff, Something Awful
The Problem with Licensed Games is that they tend to be mediocre at best. But why?
There are two ways to sell video games: Quality of game, and reputation of name. Most video games that sell fall into at least one of the two categories. Game developers could take some time to develop an original property made with care for the end product and the idea of developing a brand new franchise.
Or, they can just buy up the name of something everyone already knows. A much easier way to make money is to make mediocre games based on licenses — a TV show, or a movie, or a comic book, or a work of literature, or anything really (and we mean anything). These games don't require nearly as much effort to make, since they're pretty much counting on the people buying them because of familiarity.
Of course, the ability of licensed games to sell on name alone is a major reason for their poor quality, but it's hardly the only one. Developers are often pressured by movie studio execs to have the game ready for release alongside the movie (which, in the studio execs' eyes, practically equates these games to tie-in action figures, lunchboxes, and other low-grade merchandise), which can shorten development time. Stretching the plot of a 100 minute movie into a twenty hour game can lead to a lot of filler material or serious diversions from the movie's plot. Licensed games also attempt to emulate the most popular genres at the time in an effort to maintain appeal — side-scrollers and Fighting Games were popular in the 1990s and more recently, Grand Theft Auto clones and shooters are common as well. Sometimes they will be a confusing mesh of gameplay genres as the developers attempt to figure out just what their license could be used for to fill up enough game time to push it out the door, and that's assuming the product isn't chock full of Game Breaking Bugs because of the short Q/A window.
And despite what one might expect with a title based on a lucrative property, there is often ironically less money available than usual for a company to spend making a licensed game; a not insignificant amount of the funding that would normally be channeled into the title's actual development is instead used up before development just to buy the license in the first place.
There are exceptions, of course. A pretty good chunk of these were either released years after the source material or were based off of a franchise that had been running for years, thus relieving the time pressure often inherent in licensed games. Not to mention; Pinball games tend to be the biggest wide-spread aversion, as it's very hard to screw up pinball.
This Trope is so widespread, it's probably easier to list only Egregious examples. Exceptions should be listed here. See Spiritual Licensee for a way some games go around this, intentionally or not. Quite often, this Trope is a result of a product being Christmas Rushed.
Note: Due to the ephemeral nature of most licensing deals, and the general impossibility of straightforward conversion of other media into video games, examples are listed by video game generation rather than by medium of origin.
Second Generation (1977-84)
- ET the Extra Terrestrial for the Atari 2600 is essentially the Trope Maker. It was produced for no other reason than to quickly cash in on the success of the 1982 movie, and was hurried through production in a matter of weeks (the average 2600 game would have a development time of between five and six months) to be on the shelves for the Christmas shopping season. Its gameplay consists entirely of E.T. falling into pits in order to search for pieces of his space telephone. It sold so badly, it contributed to Atari's profit losses and (although there were lots of games way worse at the time) made such a contribution to The Great Video Game Crash of 1983 that it got a reputation as one of the "worst games in history". More information, or experience the horror yourself.
- Superman 64 wasn't the actual title of the infamous Nintendo 64 game, but it was the real title of a Commodore 64 game. It isn't all that bad, but it doesn't seem like a Superman game. Also strange is the fact that you can die in the shooter levels, but not in the sidescrolling levels (getting hit just sends you flying backwards).
- The Atari 2600 Superman is slightly less dire, given the limitations of that console. Here, Supes doesn't fight anything, instead having to dodge Kryptonite (which for some reason floats around randomly and tries to follow him around) while nabbing unpowered crooks and fixing a literal Broken Bridge, and the only powers he has are Flight and X-ray vision (and strength to lift a bridge, but other than actually lifting pieces of the bridge it had no game value).
Third Generation (1985-89)
- Ray Bradbury helped write a text-adventure, semi-canonical sequel to Fahrenheit 451. Even by text adventure standards, it was pretty frustrating. You could be killed for something as simple as crossing the street at the wrong times of day, there were several times you had to fight off a Hound or Fireman...and the result was based on if the computer felt charitable, and you advanced the plot by contacting members of the Underground using literary quotations as pass-phrases. However, the parser system was pretty craptastic, and if you so much as left out a punctuation mark, then you lost your chance to use the phrase, and had to leave the building and come back to try again. Worse, it had plenty of Guess the Verb moments as "Talk to man" worked sometimes, while others you had to use "Ask Man" with no indication as to what. Top it all off with a Downer Ending, plus a side order of Fridge Logic, if you managed to put up with the game's quirks long enough to reach a conclusion.
- The NES version of Ghostbusters, which was simultaneously released for the Atari 2600 without any change in gameplay.
- An early-1980s game based on the British Series Grange Hill. The target demographic quickly discovered that Real Life offered the same gameplay options with vastly better graphics.
- The game's also noteworthy for having one of the most ludicrous Nonstandard Game Over scenarios in any game: You can "die" by accepting a packet of drugs from a pusher.
- YouTube reviewer Stuart Ashen featured Grange Hill in his list of the quickest game overs, and said that the fastest way to die is to walk back home and prepare to get scolded by your mother.
Ashen: Gonch's mother really does look like she's going to kill him. Look at her! She looks like a cross between an alien and a praying mantis!
- Heroes of the Lance is an excellent contender for "worst Dungeons & Dragons game ever". If the drab graphics, clunky controls, repetitive music and rotten hit detection don't turn you off, maybe the fact that the game has a nasty Unwinnable condition will do it for you (as described there). Don't suffer through it alone.
- Do you know the reason why there's a lack of Studio Ghibli video games despite their massive success and popularity? Well, way back in The Eighties when Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was released, Technopolis Soft made a video game version of it. It was a generic Shoot'Em Up (a mediocre one, based on the experience of those who played it)...for a film that has a Green Aesop and an anti-war message. Rumor has it that Hayao Miyazaki was absolutely horrified, to the point where he has never allowed his films to be turned into video games from then on.
- Kemco's Superman game for the NES, a side-scrolling Action Adventure game which provides a fun experience in neither action (Superman has pathetic attacks, moves slowly and can be harmed by bullets) nor adventure (Superman's "flight" power works like a broken Warp Whistle, and there are places which he can only reach by riding the subway). Its bizarre abstract nature is legendary.
- The Transformers for the Commodore 64 and Sinclair Spectrum back in the mid-1980s, published by Ocean Software. Memorable incidents include Autobots dying from a fall of any distance, Autobots dying from landing on a slope after flying, Autobots dying from not being pixel-perfectly positioned when switching characters, Autobots dying from the bizarre collision detection, Autobots dying for no apparent reason, Autobots dying... perhaps the game was designed by Decepticons? Except for the fact that the Decepticons were even MORE fragile, as the game inverted the typical 'touch me and you die' game mechanics—any Autobot who was flying or in vehicle mode would instantly kill any Deceptacon by ramming them. This meant that Bumblebee, who had ridiculous amounts of shields, was a death machine in car form.
- According to this interview, even the development team thought this particular Transformers game was awful.
- An early Famicom game based on the Transformers franchise, Mystery of Convoy, was hardly any better, thanks to having ludicrous amounts of Fake Difficulty — your Autobot could barely take a single hit before dying, and the game had an embarrassing A Winner Is You ending to reward players for their efforts.
- Somehow, people at Takara thought the game deserved a sequel in the form of The Headmasters. Despite numerous improvements (could take more than one hit before you die, save feature, more than two characters), it was still as bad as Mystery of Convoy and was riddled with errors. All but one of the playable characters shared a sprite, the one who didn't was depicted as the wrong character, etc.
- The Who Framed Roger Rabbit? game, reviewed by The Angry Video Game Nerd here.
- Back to The Future for the NES was for most of its stages a Vertical Scrolling Shooter with Marty as a One-Hit-Point Wonder who races against a time limit down the streets of Hill Valley on foot and a hard-to-control skateboard and collects clocks while avoiding or throwing bowling balls at swarms of bees, hula-hoop girls and people walking back and forth holding invisible sheets of glass. The music in these stages, a practically unrecognizable remix of "The Power of Love", is as repetitious and awful as the gameplay. The three indoor stages don't provide much relief, the first being a disgustingly Nintendo Hard shooter where Marty must hold Lou's Café against an onslaught of 99 merciless bullies. Perhaps the best thing to be said about this game is that its Excuse Plot follows the movie in Broad Strokes.
- Its sequel, Back to the Future Part II & III (yes, into one game) was made by the same company (Beam Software) and released by the same publisher (LJN) and still isn't that good. It has you return a lot of Plot Coupons to their appropriate time period in the second part. The only problem is that Marty is again a One-Hit-Point Wonder. What makes this worse is that you had to play Part II in one sitting. You're bound to run into your clone while returning, which also kills you in one hit. Part III is much shorter and has you do the same, but less Plot Coupons needed to finish the game. The music, at least, was pretty good, although it was often drowned out by the obnoxious sound effects.
- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was a game for the NES, loosely based on the book The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Featuring mangled controls, Fake Difficulty everywhere (the mad bombers can easily take your health away in one bomb if you're right in the bomb's way and Jekyll moves really slow), Everything Trying to Kill You including cats, dogs, birds, etc. Hyde's levels aren't much better. You have to press Up+B to shoot a fireball, which isn't so bad...but sometimes it only works when it wants to. The Hyde levels are technically "timed" in a sense if you catch up to where Dr. Jekyll went insane, you'd instantly get game over (but at least you get continues). The level format is different between the Japanese and US versions.
- The Uncanny X-Men for the NES, published by LJN Toys and developed by some mercifully unknown company. The six available player characters were mostly blotchy Palette Swaps of each other, and the characters that used melee attacks had no animation for them. Computer-controlled characters had Artificial Stupidity. The level design, sound effects and music were like a bad nightmare. Those few players who made it through most of this poorly designed, Nintendo Hard game were in for a nasty surprise: a secret code was required to unlock the last level. This code was hidden within the fine print on the cartridge, and even that was missing a crucial button.
- The Japan-exclusive 1987 Star Wars game by Namco stars Luke Skywalker as a One-Hit-Point Wonder whose in-game sprite has black hair. There are levels requiring precise jumping in between spikes of instant death, and the Nintendo Hardness is aggravated by Luke's lightsaber having poor hit detection. This game's real notoriety, however, is not based on difficulty but because it plays fast and loose with the Star Wars canon. Before leaving Tatooine, there is a Boss Battle against Darth Vader... who turns into a giant scorpion after one hit. This sort of thing happens on every level, including several worlds that don't figure in the original movie.
- Kinnikuman: Muscle Tag Match, one of the earliest anime licensed games released for the Famicom/NES. The anime hadn't been released outside Japan, but the toyline had been distributed as M.U.S.C.L.E., which gave Bandai an excuse to export this pathetic excuse for a wrestling game under that name. The eight characters all share the same basic moves and differ mostly in how ugly their sprites were.
- The Famicom game A Week of Garfield starts going wrong with its Excuse Plot, where Garfield wants to save Odie (whose sprite looks half his size) despite not caring about him in the comic strip except to abuse him. In actual gameplay, it's a side-scrolling platformer with ugly graphics and primitive level design. Beating a level requires jumping around randomly to make a key appear. Difficulty comes mainly from having to face enemies like spiders with a pathetic kick attack and no Mercy Invincibility, extra lives or continues.
- The Kamen Rider Black game for the Famicom Disk System was a side-scrolling action platformer with okay graphics, bland stage design, sluggish movement and atrociously bad controls.
Fourth Generation (1990-94)
- The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends for the NES was a video game based on a 1960s cartoon. It was released on other systems, but the most infamous one was the NES version, released in December 1992 by THQ and Radical Entertainment. It features Fake Difficulty in Demonic Spiders, very stiff and unresponsive controls, no Mercy Invincibility, subpar graphics for a late NES game, and the droning and annoying music in the background that loops every 20 seconds or so. You get a YOU WIN!! screen as your reward for beating this wretched game.
- The game based on the classic anime motion picture Akira for the Amiga is notably bad, often considered one of the worst for the system. Why? It's a side-scrolling action game where you play as either Tetsuo or Kaneda, in at least four levels of extreme difficulty and unfairness. The idea of a difficulty curve is thrown out with the first level, a motorbike racing stage somewhat like the infamously difficult level 3 of Battletoads but with more random obstacle placement and the added challenge of constantly needing to pick up fuel cans; the publisher supposedly had to give out passwords for reviewers to clear it. The third level has keycards to collect, and while you don't need them all to reach the end of the level, if you don't get all of them anyway, you will be trapped and unable to complete the level. The fourth level can't be completed at all because of poor play testing; one of the platforms is placed too far away for you to jump on. It apparently even drove its developers, ICE Software of the United Kingdom, crazy.
- Ariel: The Little Mermaid was developed for the Sega Genesis, and so could offer fancier graphics than Capcom's NES game The Little Mermaid, which was better in almost every other way. It also tried for greater complexity of gameplay, but ended up forcing the player to swim around labyrinthine levels with unresponsive controls and terrible collision detection hunting for Baleful Polymorphed friends to shoot musical notes at; these musical notes are also a very weak primary attack. Flounder and Sebastian can be summoned, but don't really help much. After slowly putting down Final Boss Ursula, the ending consists mainly of a "Congratulations!" screen.
- Bebe's Kids wasn't a good movie to begin with, but its SNES licensed game, developed by Radical Entertainment, is one of the worst to receive Nintendo's Seal of Quality. Wretched controls, hideous graphics, dull music, unintelligent yet tough enemies, a 2-minute timer...and that's just the first level. It doesn't get better from there.
- A variety of games based on Bram Stokers Dracula were released for various platforms. None of these were particularly good, but the SNES/Genesis version stands out as a disappointment: it's an action platformer with annoying combat mechanics, boring level design, a laughable attempt at presenting a story, and the inexplicable requirement in some levels of contacting an old guy who imagines weapons in thought bubbles. The developer of this version, Traveller's Tales, was not too old and certainly needed the money; later Licensed Games of theirs would set a higher standard.
- Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool and Chester Cheetah: Wild Wild Quest are two of the sorriest 16-bit Mascot with Attitude platformers. The snack food mascot may be Totally Radical, but he doesn't seem like the fastest animal on land in either game.
- Eek! The Cat for SNES is a miserable platformer. Instead of simply moving Eek! through the various levels, Eek! has to safely guide an NPC to the exit by kicking or pushing him or her out of harm's way. This is frustrating, as the NPC constantly walks forward. Combined with miserable controls, the game is jam-packed with Fake Difficulty. Additionally, the Eek! game features some of the darkest, dingiest graphics on the platform, and possibly ever. To add insult to injury, it's a mere Dolled-Up Installment of an Amiga game called Sleepwalker.
- Highlander: The Last of the MacLeods, based on the Highlander the Animated Series, was a 3D Action Adventure game vaguely resembling Alone in the Dark released for the unpopular, technically unreliable Atari Jaguar CD add-on. The player character, made of all too few polygons, animates like walking through quicksand and controls as if drunk. The camera changes angles constantly and isn't too clever about not obscuring the player or enemies. The combat has bad hit detection and Mooks who can force you into a Cycle of Hurting if you let them get in their melee range. There are a lot of items which can't be used except for the one puzzle they were intended to solve and otherwise just clutter up the inventory.
- The Home Alone video game series that THQ made in 1991 and 1992. The first one on the NES is completely awful, thanks to unresponsive controls, and your reward for beating the game in the twenty minutes? The same bad ending you get for losing. Even worse is its sequel, Lost in New York, which ranges from unredeemably terrible (Game Boy and NES) to So Bad It's Good (Super NES). The NES and Game Boy versions feature terrible play control, below average graphics, Fake Difficulty, and also its weird assortment of enemies, including a vacuum out to kill Kevin.
- The SNES version of The Fellowship Of The Ring is really bad, even by the standards of that console's generation. Good luck trying to get anywhere in that game. If you lose your instruction booklet, you're pretty screwed, as it has the layouts of all of the (very large) cave maps.
- Kamen Rider ZO had a game for the Sega CD. Just picture the movie given the So Bad It's Good Godzilla-style dub, then make it playable Dragon's Lair style.
- The Lawnmower Man had two different licensed games, one for the SNES, Genesis (not Sega CD), and Game Boy, the other for DOS and Sega CD. The latter one was a Full Motion Video game with extreme cases of both Gameplay Roulette and Fake Difficulty. Also, for no good reason, the limitations of the Genesis color palette (which degraded the quality of the pre-rendered 3D graphics) were present in the DOS version, despite the fact that it used the MCGA video mode (2^24 colors total, 2^8 on screen at once).
- There was a Nickelodeon Guts game for the SNES. However, it suffered from repetitive gameplay (Basic Training and Tornado Run were one and the same, but obviously given different names), annoying music, and the fact that the Aggro Crag, the final event, was just a glorified Basic Training level. Also, you had to get a certain amount of points in the firstplayer mode, there were more girls (6) than boys (2) when you chose your player, and there was no Mike O'Malley! Moira "Mo" Quirk (Mike's co-host), on the other hand, was there.
- The Simpsons has had quite a few great games; in fact, The Simpsons Arcade game is often regarded as a contender for "Best Licensed Game of All Time". Unfortunately, the franchise has also had quite a few stinkers:
- Bart vs. the Space Mutants and The Simpsons: Bart vs. The World were Nintendo Hard platformers with annoying controls that lead to a lot of Fake Difficulty and mediocre graphics. To spare explanation, check out the Angry Video Game Nerd's review of the games.
- The Simpsons Wrestling, for Playstation; "Worst Fighting Game game ever!" is what the Comic Book Guy would likely say if he played it. This is practically a documentary on how not to design a licensed game, it plays poorly, has little actual content, and an Excuse Plot that is only mentioned in the instruction book and has almost nothing to do with the source material. Basically, you just pick a character, and then fumble with really bad controls to fight another character, that's it. The controls are so bad that you have a better chance to win a match via Button Mashing than any actual strategy; there's not even a block option! (This game was made in 2001, long after game developers figured out blocking was an essential part of Fighting Games). It has the worst 3D animated models, and the worst flat 2D images! The one thing it had going for it was a few funny quotes made by the series' actual VAs, plus characters interacting differently depending on who the opponent is (a feature ahead of its time) but that wasn't nearly enough save this train wreck.
- Bart Simpson's Escape from Camp Deadly for Game Boy. The title of this game might suggest the show's season 4 episode "Kamp Krusty", but the only real similarity is, both take place at summer camps run by villains (in fact, the game was released about a year before that episode). The "plot' of this game involves Bart and Lisa trapped at a camp run by Mr. Burns' sadistic nephew Ironfist Burns (and no, this guy is not in the actual show; exactly why they couldn't actually use Mr. Burns as the villain is anyone's guess) who wants to kill them for… reasons. The game suffers from bad controls with input delay, and there's a lot of Artificial Difficulty and Trial and Error Gameplay involved; some enemies can OTK Bart, and there's no way of even knowing that until they actually hit him. The graphics are poor, even compared to other Game Boy titles released in 1991, and the scenery is very bland, without much to differentiate one level from the next. Sound effects are weak, and the only music is the cartoon's theme, playing over and over. Worst of all, if you actually make it to the ending, all you get is a picture of the family and the closed camp, that's it.
- The NES game based off The Terminator deserves a more detailed description, awful sound, stiff controls, and ugly graphics. The first level is the ONLY level you have a gun and grenades (Unlike, well, EVERY other version.), as soon as you get to the past you have nothing but your fists (you can kick too, but whats the point?).
- The SNES Terminator game could use some mention too, the levels are brutally long (the 2nd level is INSANE) Sound Effects tend to drown out all two of the music tracks in the game, and it was just cruelly difficult.
- Another was any of the Terminator 2 games, namely the Game Boy version, deserves a more clarified mention. You had only one life and no continues. The sequence where you have to reprogram the T-800 was also hard with a strict time limit and two mistakes results in a Nonstandard Game Over. As with the Super NES Terminator game, it was also Nintendo Hard.
- Total Recall, published by Acclaim and developed by Interplay for the NES, frustrated many players early into the game with a movie theater showing the game's credits and Inescapable Ambushes in alleys by midgets wearing purple jumpsuits. The rest of the game bears more relation to the movie (it includes the X-ray scanner and the subway shootout), but it's mostly a mediocre Beat'Em Up with bad hit detection and a lot of cheap hits.
- Toys: Let The Toy Wars Begin, made for the SNES and Genesis by Absolute Entertainment in 1993 as a tie-in to the Robin Williams film of the same name from the previous year. It's not like the makers of the game had to do much to improve the plot - the film was a goofy story about a toy designer fighting to get back his father's ailing company from the hands of a military general who plans to weaponize children's toys, and it flopped critically and commercially at the box office. The resulting game was a dismal top-down shooter with a whopping four stages, wherein the player commanded a limited amount of toys against an unlimited stream of AI enemies from the opposing general's side. The game was mercilessly panned - Gamepro and several other publications blasted the game for many missed opportunities, the lack of a two-player mode, terrible visuals (even by SNES standards) and one of the least-relevant adaptations of a film ever made.
- One game that many people don't realize was intended to be a licensed game was Acclaim's Warlock, created for the SNES and Genesis two years after the second movie of the same title was released. It included gems like bad collision detection, enemies that would spawn with no warning and had little to no pattern to them, a mechanic that kills you if you fall from a height that's anywhere higher than the height of the playable character, wonky player movements (like the protagonist crouching automatically when firing forward), and having only a single life to get through the game unless you die with a specific item in your inventory (although there was a password system, thankfully) meant the game was particularly putrid. Its only saving grace was an item use exploit that effectively made you invincible and harmful to the touch during the item's effect.
- One SNES magazine writer said that he was worried about his ability to give an objective review of the game, as star Julian Sands was his cousin. Then he started playing the game, and was relieved to find that it was so bad he could tear into it mercilessly.
- The 16-bit version of Wayne's World is possibly one of the most loathed, least playable 16-bit games ever. Bad collision detection, hideous sprites and atrociously digitized voices (especially in the Sega version) are just part of the problem with this. Mainly considered only worthwhile to mock. Read this review for more details.
- The NES Where's Waldo game (released by Acclaim in 1992), owing to the severe graphical limitations of the system, was barely playable (as all the people in the crowds are identical stick figures) and has none of the visual fun that made the books memorable.
- Fester's Quest was the first game to attempt to make an adaptation of The Addams Family, but it failed miserably. It's even a mystery as to why this game was made; released in 1989, three years before the movie came out, the franchise wasn't exactly popular at the time. Notoriously Nintendo Hard, (the commercial for the game] even warns you that it's difficult) the gameplay and controls are pretty bad. Fester moves very slow, can't move diagonally; even the most basic enemies take a long time to kill, have a tendency to gang up and get in your way, and some of them use projectiles that make Fester even slower. The big problem is Fester's gun, which automatically upgrades (or downgrades) upon getting certain power-ups, but the erratic way it fires after upgrading makes it hard to hit anything with it, and there's no way to choose the setting. Worst of all, Fester has only one life and two units of health (you can get more later, but it takes a while). Adding to the frustration is the complete lack of checkpoints; dying and using a continue sends you back to the starting point, although you do get to keep everything in your inventory. It's hard to even say, "if you're a diehard fan of The Addams Family it might be worth a look", because for the record, the plot (or what passes for it, with Fester fighting invading aliens) seems out of place for the Family, and the game barely references the source material at all. It even seems likely that a lot of the game's material was recycled from Blaster Master, an earlier Sunsoft game. Still, the game does have some fans; when IGM posted their list of the top 100 NES games of all time, this one got a respectable spot at number 45.
Fifth Generation (1995-2000)
- Animorphs: Shattered Reality for the PlayStation is a classic example. Horrific controls, crappy graphics, annoying and downright weird sound, no sense of storyline whatsoever, and the main gimmick only being used in specific (rare) instances in-game; these things make baby Andalites cry.
- This is not made any better by the fact that the game looks like a re-skinned Crash Bandicoot. Even the animations look almost exactly like Crash's, and the Wumpa fruit has been changed to "A" coins.
- The PC game, while possibly not as offensive as the PlayStation game, was pretty subpar and had trouble being consistent with the books (such as assigning the wrong signature morphs to the wrong characters)
- The GBC game is pretty terrible, though the sound is certainly better than the others. The crowning achievement is the fully implemented final level is Dummied Out, accessible with a password or hacking but not natural play, so the game ends abruptly.
- Bloodwings: Pumpkinhead's Revenge. As if being based on the abysmal second Pumpkinhead movie wasn't bad enough, developer BAP Interactive thought it was a brilliant idea to set the game in a metaphysical netherworld completely unrelated to the movies, where you were forced to wander through repetitive corridors and view clips from the movie in order to obtain items, and endure pointless crystal collecting segments every time you killed an enemy. Even something as mundane as replenishing health and ammo was needlessly convoluted. And worst of all, you could be punished for taking items you weren't supposed to take with you by having your entire inventory cleared out without ever knowing which item it was you shouldn't have brought along. Spoony's grilling of this piece of shit was long overdue.
- It's not that the developers of Jurassic Park: Trespasser didn't try. In fact, the game had numerous innovative aspects going for itself (real-time physics, procedurally generated animations, an experimental no heads-up-display approach where players had to look down at a tattoo on the player character's breast to see their health and the play character counts the number of bullets in her weapon aloud, artificially intelligent dinosaurs) and was a genuinely ambitious project that was to leave its mark on the industry for years... but the publishers wanted the game to come out on time, and the game was already infamous for numerous delays, so many of its supposedly defining features were either severely cut down or left completely unfinished. The game was heavily panned upon its release for its numerous glitches and its impossibly steep system requirements (owing to its huge outdoor environments, which was completely uncalled for at the time), and by the time the game was patched and most users' computers were finally good enough to run the game fluidly, the damage had already been done and the game was quickly forgotten after many a gamer's focus shifted to the fantastic Half Life and the phenomenally awful Daikatana, and in the end the game's attempt at a groundbreaking physics engine was a tremendous inspiration during the development of Half-Life 2.
- As an interesting note, it seems that the game received a spiritual successor about seven years later in the form of the below-mentioned Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, a HUD-less first-person shooter based on a major film by a big-name director where the player uses guns and other environmental objects to kill dinosaurs on a mysterious island. The only difference is that the latter game turned out to be genuinely good.
- KISS Pinball for the PC and PlayStation consisted of two pinball boards which were utterly undistinguished aside from the graphical styling and a few voice clips. The soundtrack was made of generic rock riffs and contained no KISS songs. The PlayStation version also suffered from nauseous camera panning.
- One notable crappy Power Rangers game is the Nintendo 64 version of Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue. The cutscenes were done in a comic style, which might be good... if they weren't drawn really, really, crappily. The gameplay and graphics weren't anything special either.
- The Shannara video game adaptation. For RP elements it wasn't too awful, just badly cliched, but the gameplay mechanics—especially the combat engine—sucked horribly.
- In a rare example (see the others below) a Star Trek-based licensed game was a real stinker. Well, sort of Star Trek. Some of the elder statesmen out there might remember a tactical fleet game called Star Fleet Battles. Complex even to the point of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, but balanced out over years and years of play to create a strong thinking-man's starship wargame. It even had a "turn sequence" which set out in detail which step was to follow which—basically writing the subroutine for the players. Now, what happened when somebody finally figured out you could put something like Star Fleet Battles out as a computer RPG and wash your hands of all the pencil-based bookkeeping? Starfleet Command, that's what happened. Missing several core races in the original release, horribly buggy at the best of times, sometimes could not even install on your computer without the game crashing the machine as it was transferring files.
- Star Trek New Worlds, a dreadful clunker of a ground-based RTS featuring fuzzy graphics, ludicrously complicated resource management (You Require More Vespene Gas? How about five fucking flavours of it or you can't build anything?), and wonky AI. The only thing the game has going for it is the fantastic soundtrack.
- The Playstation and PC adaption of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is below average. Excellent audio (which is the common strong point of Star Wars franchises anyway) and fairly looking full 3D graphics aside, the decent level design is doomed by unfitting puzzle/adventure levels tacked on breaking the pace, awkward controls, horrible camera placement, buggy coding, imbalanced weapons and seriously-flawed dueling mechanic can totally ruin your experience halfway through.
- The movie Street Fighter had a particularly bad video game adaptation, which doesn't seem all that out-of-the-ordinary until you realize that the movie was itself an adaptation of probably the most influential Fighting Game ever made, Street Fighter II. The home version for the PS and Saturn were relatively decent by comparison, but the arcade version was really that bad.
- The guy primarily responsible for it later came to the Internet, apologized, and left a post-mortem account that's well worth the read. ...and yes, we forgive you. Updated link to the story post.
- The most egregious problem with this particular licensed game is that they had a cheap, easy method to make a decent game. Take Street Fighter II, change the graphics, release. Instead the developers seemed Genre Blind and tried to develop a brand new fighting system, only to be foiled by the limited development time and budget they should have expected had they been more Genre Savvy.
- The infamous Superman game for the N64, based on the animated series, is another licensed game that's a contender for Worst. Game. Ever. It featured clumsy controls, mediocre graphics, and a horrendously dull plot, where Lex Luthor's diabolical scheme was to trap Superman in a virtual world... and literally make him jump (or fly, rather) through hoops.
- There was a video game based on the movie White Men Can't Jump. Not only did it come out four years after the movie, but it was based on the Atari Jaguar system. By this time, Atari was losing in the console war, and in less than a year, they discontinued the Jaguar. The game itself was a shameless attempt to cash in on the name of a popular movie, and is just two-on-two basketball with nothing to do with the movie at all. The controls are bad, the graphics are bad, and the dialogue is nothing but one cliche after another. Even if you like video basketball, this was a game to avoid.
- The Starship Troopers MMO had space battles instead of marine-bug battles. This was because it was actually just a version of the Silent Death computer game (also developed by Mythic) with different graphics. In spite of the cost-cutting, it still came out a year after the movie.
- The Powerpuff Girls had a few bad games in this era:
- In 2000, BAM! Entertainment got the idea to put out three games for Game Boy Color, one for each Girl. Kind of the same idea as Pokemon. The results, well….
- The first game, (Blossom's game) was The Powerpuff Girls: Bad Mojo. This game may have been doomed from the start, as someone had the bright idea to release it on the same day as Dexter's Laboratory: Robot Rampage, meaning BAM! had in effect, put two of their own games in direct competition with each other. Both games were marketed for younger audiences, and such buyers are usually on a limited budget. It's doubtful this helped sales. But that was hardly all. The animation and controls were poor. Blossom moved like a robot, controls are clumsy, and floaty, and the game had abysmal framerate drops. The plot was pretty dumb even compared to other Excuse Plots; Mojo takes over Professor Utonium's house and uses the lab to create monsters, so Blossom has to fight them, and with Bubbles and Buttercup nowhere to be found, has to do so alone. (Possibly, the events of the three games are happening simultaneously, and the Girls have split up for some reason.) In this game, you have to fight enemies, rescue citizens, and grab collectibles, all of which becomes tedious quickly, and the game actually becomes easier if you just fly past and ignore them. And speaking of which, the enemies really don't look like they're in the wrong game, as they have nothing to do with the cartoon. For example, flying jellyfish and a weird demon-thing. The boss battles are a little better, and you get to fight some villains from the show like Princess and Roach Coach, but mostly you just fight Mojo again and again, and this repetitive quickly. And of course, there are the glitches. For example, the Rowdyruff Boys disappear when you try to confront them in battle for absolutely no reason whatsoever. The music is Ear Worm hell, and even plays through the introduction and cutscenes, grating on the player's nerves and ruining any attempt to follow the dialogue.
- The second game - (Buttercup's game) was The Powerpuff Girls: Paint the Town Green. The biggest difference here was that the protagonist is Buttercup and the villains were the Gangrene Gang, but little else. The basic enemies were the same as the first game, the collectibles were the same and Buttercup was controlled the same as Blossom - badly. The boss battles showed more variety, as each member of the Gangrene Gang is different, but still got boring fast. There's also a glitchy boss battle with Fuzzy Lumpkins where your stun attack sometimes doesn't work on him for no reason. And the soundtrack was the same too, grating and annoying.
- Very few reviews exist for the third game, The Powerpuff Girls: Battle HIM! (which as the title implies, has Bubbles go up against HIM) possibly because nobody wanted to play it after playing the first two. Any masochist who does will feel the urge to throw their Game Boy Color away. Bubbles is a lot stronger and faster than Blossom or Buttercup was in the previous games, but the controls are still bad. This game also has bad level design and Trial and Error Gameplay; you never know whether the pit you're flying over has an item below that you need to fly down and take or whether it's a bottomless pit that will kill you if you try. The Boss Battle with the Boogie Man is even glitchier than the one with Fuzzy in the previous game; sometimes Bubbles' punches simply don't harm him at all even when the stun attack works.
- In the end, these three games were pretty much three versions of the same game, and all were bad. More than likely it was a shameless cash grab done to exploit a popular series.
- The Powerpuff Girls: Chemical X-Straction. This game was released in 2001, and the reason it's not under Sixth Generation titles is because it was released for Nintendo 64 and Playstation, meaning they released it when the superior Sega Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 were already out and both GameCube and Xbox were only a few weeks away. But then, this game was little more than a shameless reskin of Tom and Jerry: Fists of Fury (a video game adaptation of a movie adaptation of a cartoon, made by the same company as this game) so at least they have that as an excuse. Again, the Excuse Plot of this game is pretty dumb; the Girls are baking pies, and Bubbles decides that, since the pies are made with sugar, spice, and everything nice (the three base ingredients the Girls themselves were made of) why not add some Chemical X (the accidental fourth ingredient) to make the pies "super"? Unfortunately, Mojo Jojo steals the pies, he and the other Townsville villains eat them, they gain superpowers, and the Girls have to go and beat them all up. The gameplay here is, well, if you've ever played Power Stone, start with that, but give it bad controls, bad animation, a lot of input delay, and difficulty that's all over the place, and you have a general idea. The fights range from too easy to drawn out and frustrating, and all of them are boring. The game is incredibly short (you can finish it in about an hour) and while each Girl can unlock something by beating Mojo, the Final Boss it's impossible to unlock everything, as once you beat him with one Girl, you can't unlock anything else. Each Girl has a story mode, but all three are pretty much the same, although the "true" ending can only be achieved with Blossom. For some reason.
- Now, if you're playing it on Playstation, the problems end there, but the Nintendo 64 version is much, much worse. First of all, it's way too easy. Each Girl has an "explosion attack" which is practically a One-Hit Kill attack because it depletes the enemies' health quickly when used in succession. The limited memory of the N64 cartridge causes many of the better content in the Playstation version to be omitted. There's no voice acting, the cutscenes have no animation (just pictures with lines of dialogue) and only one piece of music (the cartoon's theme tune) plays throughout the whole game, on a continuous loop! Even fans of the show are going to find that annoying sooner or later.
- In 2000, BAM! Entertainment got the idea to put out three games for Game Boy Color, one for each Girl. Kind of the same idea as Pokemon. The results, well….
- As mentioned above, BAM! also released a Dexter's Laboratory adaptation on Game Boy Color on the same day it launched the first of three Powerpuff Girls titles, and this was also the first of three. Were they any better? Sadly, no. Dexter's Laboratory: Robot Rampage, was, in fact, nothing but a reskin of Elevator Action EX, another game from BAM! for the Game Boy Color. The objective was to move Dexter up and down floors in his mecha-suit, avoiding enemies, and opening as many doors as possible, something that may have reminded a lot of fans of Hotel Mario. It had generic music, generic enemies (basically all were the same robot, but different colors) and Mandark as the main antagonist, which might have been cool if he didn't also act like nothing more than a generic bad guy.
- Addams Family Values, released in 1995 for SNES. Slightly better than Fester's Quest, but as this was a direct movie tie-in, and like most such games, was pretty bad. Moby Games described this as "an action-adventure game with slight RPG elements". By "slight', that basically meant Fester (the protagonist) gained hp as he leveled up, but not much else. Unlike Fester's Quest, the game had a lot of humor that was indeed loyal to the franchise, but the graphics were bad, the game mechanics were almost broken, and the gameplay was just dull, consisting mostly of Fester going from point A to point B, getting an item, and back to point A. The save points were the worst part, requiring players to write down a ridiculously long passcode before turning the game off in order to save progress.
Sixth Generation (2001-05)
- The Ai Yori Aoshi Visual Novel adds nothing interesting to the manga series' story, and is pretty much a superfluous material for fans of the manga.
- The Catwoman game (based on the movie) was so bad that a Warner Brothers executive threatened to impose punishments into all future property licenses such that if the videogame didn't get sufficiently positive reviews, the company would have to pay a fine for damaging WB's property. The irony of a WB executive complaining about another studio damaging their property is highlighted when you realize the game under discussion was the tie-in to the execrable Catwoman movie.
- On the surface, MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch sounds like something tailor-made for an addictive brawler. Annoying celebrities beating the snot out of each other until one of them finally lays down and dies, with a slathering of gratuitous violence and bloodshed on top? It made for an awesome show, so why shouldn't it work? Unfortunately, it came with an incredibly small roster, a short story mode that could be beaten in two hours or less, a create-a-character mode more shallow than the celebrities that it was skewering, and crappy controls, condemning it to the bargain bin.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. To quote the last review, "It was at this point that we realised we were already drowning in a sea of warm, brown, sticky goo, and that it wasn't chocolate."
- Dirty Dancing had a licensed PC game which was released nearly 15 years after the film was made, containing almost no music from the movie, almost no connection to its plot, and gameplay consisting entirely of mostly unplayably buggy minigames, the most functional of which is just a ripoff of Bejeweled.
- For those interested, here's the Spoony One's take on the game.
- The Dungeons & Dragons game Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor had, aside from horrible balance issues and a thoroughly dull campaign, one spectacularly awful bug—if you installed the game to anything other than the default filepath then tried to uninstall it... kiss the entire contents of your hard drive goodbye!
- The Fellowship Of The Ring for the GBA (licensed from the book, not the movie) was a tedious RPG riddled with bugs, some of them game-breaking.
- There was a particularly crappy video game adaptation of Fight Club, released in 2004. Perhaps worse is that there are people who actually believe the movie was based off of the video game. How's this for irony, the movie is ranked the 11th best film of all time on IMBDB, but Metacritic lists the game adaptation as the 17,332nd best (that means there are only about 200 games that are considered worse, and some of those are duplicates due to being the same game on different ports).
- The game has absolutely no merits of its own that would make it stand out if it weren't a film tie-in, which it barely even is. It is nothing but a generic Fighting Game with bad graphics, gameplay that is way too easy, no plot of its own to stand on, (even when compared to games like Street Fighter II that have little more than an Excuse Plot) with boring characters, boring dialogue and boring cutscenes (did we mention this game was boring?) There are only three fighting styles (which copy the fighting mechanics from Tekken and Street Fighter and every playable character can use all three, meaning the whole concept of different characters is pointless.
- The main difference is that you're meant to win in the game. And the game rewards you for it. The game based on a nihilistic view of the human race and the human success instinct REWARDS YOU FOR WINNING. So, that's Misaimed Fandom, and the game is a blatant attempt at taking commercial advantage from a film that was deeply critical of the consumerist culture. It even manages to make a serious continuity error in one cutscene by making a scene showing Tyler and the narrator as different characters, implying the developers didn't even watch the movie.
- Notably, it also includes Fred Durst as a playable character. Whether the game is cursed further by his presence or somewhat redeemed by the ability to break all his limbs is up to the player.
- In a twist on this trope, Frogger: The Great Quest got a license to make a game about a classic arcade game. While some earlier Frogger remakes were actually surprisingly good, this one attempted to make it into a 3D action platformer and failed miserably. You attacked enemies by spitting at them, and when close enough you used frog-fu (no, we're not making this up, this is the exact terminology the game used). The controls were horrible, the only difficult thing was figuring out what the heck you were supposed to do, there was no replay value unless you wanted to start the whole game over again, and the voice acting was somewhere between bad and the kind of voice that makes you want to take a hammer to your head.
- Futurama: The Game, while not a terrible game, is merely So Okay It's Average by most fans' standards. While the graphics do look rather nice and the character designs translate well into 3D, its main saving grace is its hilarious story, which was penned by the actual writers and performed by the voice actors of the show. Not only does it manage to lampshade a few aspects of the show, but it makes fun of a few video game cliches as well. Luckily, all of the cutscenes (and some filmed gameplay) were strung together and released as an unofficial episode, which is available as a special feature on the second film release, The Beast With a Billion Backs.
- Gods and Generals (by Stellar Stone, "developers" of the infamous Big Rigs) that came out in 2003. It was a Civil War-themed FPS, riddled with bugs, sloppy gameplay, horribly outdated graphics for the time, and to top it off, terrible AI and more bugs to top it off.
- Enter the Matrix was a brave but ultimately doomed attempt to make a game that actually tied in with its parent title, in this case The Matrix Reloaded. It had footage shot especially for it during the shoot of The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions, and explained several critical plot points in the former film. Unfortunately, this failed for two reasons—firstly, the game just wasn't very good. It wasn't awful by any means, but the imbalanced difficulty and horribly designed game engine made it annoying to play. Secondly, what many viewers felt should have been the big action sequence of Reloaded, namely the power plant takeover, was barely even mentioned in the film because it had been reserved for the game, which pissed off quite a few people and contributed to the impression that Enter the Matrix was just an excuse for the Wachowskis to get even more money out of their fans. The game did at least get some praise for the nifty hacking minigame that was included, but mostly just contributed to the Hype Backlash that the franchise was starting to suffer from.
- The subsequent two Matrix titles, The Matrix Online and The Path of Neo are somewhere in-between. Most people don't consider them to be especially bad (apart from the PC version of Path of Neo, which was widely regarded as a Porting Disaster), but the general consensus seems to be that they're So Okay It's Average.
- The Simpsons: Road Rage was an otherwise not-offensively-bad driving game that was completely ruined by Loads and Loads of Loading. We're talking one minute long load screens followed by 15 second tasks. And that's before we bring in Sega suing Fox over allegations of Road Rage being a rip-off of Crazy Taxi.
- Pick any 6th generation console South Park game. South Park Rally was a forgettable, confusing Mario Kart clone, Chef's Luv Shack was a bizarre game show with questions that made no sense if you weren't American, and the South Park FPS has been accurately described as "the Mr. Hankey of FPS games: A turd of a game who comes to people who don't read game reviews". It got 8% from PC Gamer magazine in the UK and a 30/100 from a Finnish games magazine which also sourced the previous quote.
- It should be noted that the PC version of the South Park FPS was horribly buggy and had performance issues, which is part of the reason why it was reviewed so badly by most. The N64 version was generally rated much better, although that's not saying much (Game Stats gives it an average of 5.9/10 from the major sites). At the very least, it had the good fortune of being built on the Turok engine, so most of the bugs had been ironed out beforehand.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: Legend of the Lost Spatula, published by THQ in 2001, is sort of an odd case; the graphics are decent for a Game Boy Color game, the music is really nice, and there are plenty of Continuity Nods throughout. It has the potential to be a good game, but is almost completely wrecked by unintuitive jump physics and a bizarre camera system that makes it impossible to see what's immediately above or beneath you, and even then there are only four unique enemy behavior patterns (discounting bosses).
- The Teen Titans game, called simply Teen Titans, is a lame excuse for a game that consists of an extremely generic plot, lazy, glitch-filled graphics and an extremely disappointing ending. Pretty much every major villain from the series is randomly running rampant and the Teen Titans have to go stop them. You can choose the difficulty level, but there's no noticeable difference between them besides the too good Pong level, and there are these two levels that are dang near impossible anyway! It's not the worst licensed game ever, but it sure has its problems.
- The one good thing it had going for it was that the entire voice cast of the actual show was onboard. But even that is kind of depressing if you stop to think about it too much.
- Not even foreign films are safe from bad video game adaptations. The PC game Torrente (based on the Spanish cop movie spoof Torrente: The Stupid Arm of the Law) is a mediocre Third-Person Shooter whose only unique point is that the protagonist is a fat, bald, dimwitted sluggard.
- While most of THQ's wrestling games based on WWE tend to be well regarded, two of their attempts to branch into different genres were not so lucky. First there was Betrayal, a Game Boy Color beat em' up panned for "idiot AI" among other things. Then there was Crush Hour for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, which was essentially a poor man's Twisted Metal whose only redeeming feature was the Narmtastic commentary provided by Jim Ross ("TWISTY ROCKETS!"). Fortunately, THQ learned their lesson and stuck to wrestling games with the WWE license, which is what wrestling fans usually want when they hear about an upcoming game based on their favorite wrestling company anyway.
- Well at least they tried to for nine years. 2012 will see the debut of WWE Brawl, which will be a pure beat em up game without a wrestling ring.
- Yu Yu Hakusho: Spirit Detective for the GBA was abysmally boring in addition to sporting graphics that made the characters only distinguishable by their hair and outfits.
- The Polar Express, a multi-platform Adventure game based on the hit movie. The graphics are okay for the time, nothing phenomenal and they don't reach Uncanny Valley like the film. The gameplay features various Unexpected Genre Changes, though they're poorly played out. The voice acting for some of the characters isn't so great either. The worst part of the game has to be the timespan; it can be beaten within a few hours or less, one sitting and it makes you feel you're missing out.
- How in the world could someone have messed up a Samurai Jack video game? With a cartoon that has such an awesome hero with equally-awesome enemies and settings, a video game adaptation should have been easy, but Samurai Jack: The Shadow of Aku (released in 2004 for Playstation 2 and GameCube) was anything but. Mary Jane Irwin of IGN criticized the game for its annoying combat system, "uninteresting" story, and lack of any real challenge. The visuals were the worst part; her review noting that "Everything is incredibly angular and the only way to describe it is awful. It's just sad that in no way was the show's incredible presentation translated into the videogame." GameSpot's Alex Navarro called it "utterly forgettable" and said, "its lack of depth, style, or technical polish essentially ruins whatever chance it ever could have had to appeal to anyone outside of the most diehard of Samurai Jack fans". Possibly the only good part was the score, but all-in-all, Jack's video game debut was a failure.
- The Powerpuff Girls: Relish Rampage At least Chemical X-Straction was no worse than other stuff released for those systems in 2001, but this game - which was indeed released for PlayStation 2 and GameCube - didn't have that excuse. First off, the plot actually seems interesting; narcissistic arch-villain Mojo Jojo wants to run for mayor, and plans to brainwash the citizens of Townsville into voting for him. His brainwashing device attracts the attention of the Pickloids, alien pickle-people who invade and start abducting citizens. With giant jars. So, the three heroines have to fly in to save the day. Now, on the plus side, this sort of plot seems right up the cartoon's alley, the dialogue in the cutscenes are kind of funny, and it even has some political satire thrown in. Sadly, however, there's only about seven minutes of cutscenes total, and the gameplay is a different story. Townsville looks pretty… dull, and the missions you have to go on are repetitive. You have the Girls fly around, beat up some mooks, then beat up the boss, then do the same thing again and again. The missions are short, as is the whole game. The fights have little to no strategy; you punch, kick, and use the Girls' laser-vision, and there are no other moves to gain or unlock. The targeting system is pretty bad, made worse by an equally bad camera that often makes it hard to see what you're aiming at. Finally, there are glitches that sometimes cause the Girls to get stuck on an object or between two or more objects, often enemies you're trying to fight. And while the dialogue of those cutscenes is funny, the visuals and animation are ugly and crude, with far too much emphasis on the color green, and while the music is okay, the sound effects are poor.
- BAM! did no better with Dexter's Laboratory tie ins on the Game Boy Advance:
- Dexter's Laboratory: Deesaster Strikes, released for Game Boy Advance, was only slightly better than Robot Rampage (meaning it's at least playable). The Excuse Plot has DeeDee use Dexter's clone-o-matic, creating dozens of half-size clones of herself (124, exactly) and Dexter now has to catch them all and fix the machines they break. It seems an interesting idea that does catch the spirit of the source material until you realize it's a reskinned clone of Ape Escape. Movement is done with the D-pad, which isn't an easy way to move on a 3D platformer like this. Catching the DeeDee clones isn't easy, because Dexter is much slower than they are and has to corner and trap them while fighting enemies that usually can't be killed, only stunned. The worst are glitches that make some items fail to work, or don't register as picked up, or disappear, causing you to lose your progress. And for that matter, there's a confusing save system; when you lose all of your lives, it reloads from your last save, so if you save the game when you have only one life left, you'll reload with only one life left, and the game becomes almost unwinnable. Should you manage to catch all the DeeDee clones and fix all 42 machines, the ending is bland at best.
- Finally, there was Dexter's Laboratory: Chess Challenge, which was kind of a Dexter's Laboratory themed version of Battle Chess. Why they would try to market a chess game to kids - with very unfair AI, even on Easy mode - is a mystery. The animated cutscenes are slow, looking like they were made with Microsoft Paint, the music was just as bad, and the dialogue between the characters - who never shut up - got annoying quickly. Even if you do play chess, this gets boring fast, and it even seems like it was unfinished and rushed.
Seventh Generation (2006-Present)
- Alice in Wonderland, the video game adaptation of Tim Burton's 2010 film, was a decided letdown to fans of the movie. Many of the battles are unintuitive, and the player doesn't even play as Alice—rather, as five residents of Underland (though they do fortunately consist of fan-favorites such as the Mad Hatter), who have to make their way through the entire map while preventing Alice from being captured. It's not horrible, but it's extremely disappointing.
- Two of the games from the American Girls Collection for the Nintendo DS, namely Julie Finds a Way and Kit Mystery Challenge were given scathing reviews, mainly due to piss-poor gameplay and controls. The American Girls Premiere game for the PC and Mac was a different story, though.
- For the 2012 Battleship movie, they are of course releasing a tie-in game. Is it based on the classic turn based original? Maybe naval combat like the last game to bear the name? Nope, it's a First-Person Shooter.
- For a short time, Burger King had three Xbox (360) games that starred their namesake King character. Gameplay was simplistic and boring, the graphics were totally underwhelming for the platform and reviews ranged from bad to awful. Their only redeeming quality was that they were $4 and the main character was Creepy Burger King Mask Guy which puts them dangerously close to So Bad It's Good territory. (The game Sneak King involved sneaking up on hungry people and forcing them to eat Burger King food.) With these in mind, they sold millions and became cult classics for many gamers.
- Deal or No Deal. If you don't want to follow this video out of fear of the Cluster F-Bomb, then just lots and lots of clicking on briefcases.
- Hell, the arcade ticket machine version of the game was more fun, if only because you actually slapped buttons for your choices instead of clicking on cases. And you actually get a tangible reward afterwards.
- The DS version somehow manages be a Porting Disaster of such a simple concept: the numbers are not random, but based on predetermined patterns.
- The Ticket Machine however is quite cruel, you actually have to spend another set of credits halfway and its payout can be a bit cruel. However it is one of the more popular ticket games in the arcade.
- Doctor Who: Return to Earth by Asylum Entertainment on the Wii. The gameplay consists, for 90% of the game, of shooting crystals at floating smiley faces with the Sonic Screwdriver (which, on top of being completely nonsensical for Doctor Who, is even more bizarre than the Out of Character Amiga platformer Dalek Attack) and shoddy stealth while dealing with an uncooperative camera and severe framerate lag on some occasions, the graphics look like they came from an upscaled PlayStation One game with special effects that make the classic series look like modern Summer blockbusters and a decent dosing of Uncanny Valley animations, the plot's an incoherent excuse to have Cybermen and Daleks in the same story, reducing their in-game intelligences to herp-derping, walls-staring levels in the process, the level designs involve tedious backtracking to fill up on crystals and (in the endgame) messy masses of floating platforms with reckless disregard for in-universe sense and the mandatory ball maze minigames are frustating enough to make you want to toss your Wiimote. The only positives are the Murray Gold soundtrack and the Sonic Screwdriver Wiimote that was released alongside it. The kicker? Nintendo reportedly paid The BBC £10,000,000 for exclusive Doctor Who games, and yet the free  Adventure Games have far better production values. As the Official Nintendo Magazine in the UK put it, Asylum are "people who hate games, sci-fi, and everything decent about humanity". Ouch.
- The adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. Incredibly unimpressive graphics, horrible Gears of War-like gameplay, no freedom at all during missions and really poor story-telling.
- The Eragon video game was somewhat bad, though the soundtrack is amazing. Not surprisingly, the music was also the only half-decent thing about the movie.
- The Harry Potter games have this as well.
- It should be remembered that the Eragon games for Both Game Boy Advanced and DS were both radically different from the console/pc version, and were actually pretty darn good games. The GBA being a classic RPG with turn-based combat and the DS being a 3-D adventure game, which was really rather good for a DS game.
- The Harry Potter games have this as well.
- Speaking of Ghostbusters, Atari and Terminal Reality's 2009 revival is considered a great use of the license. Its sequel, 2011's Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime, is much less so, with the most obvious strike against it being the absence of the original Ghostbusters team - leaving the day to be saved by a group of fresh-faced rookies who aren't quite as charming. Also working against Sanctum are its overuse of Copy and Paste Environments, AI partners who do more to harm than help, and the general monotony of gameplay (get trapped in a room, fight a bunch of color-coded ghosts, move on to next room, rinse, repeat).
- Hells Kitchen received a PC game adaptation that was, while not horrible, decidedly sub-par. Spoony severely disliked it, noting that star Gordon Ramsay looked weird and pretty nearly the entire point of the show was lost — there's no competition factor whatsoever and it's almost impossible to make Ramsay angry unless you're a damn perfectionist who wants gold stars.
- Awesome as the Iron Man films are, the next-gen adaptations of them are shockingly bad. The first game was riddled with poor controls, horrendous graphics, bugs that could force you to restart, bad hit detection, and placed you on maps where there was literally nowhere you weren't under constant fire from respawning enemies, even though Death Is a Slap on The Wrist. The second game cleaned things up somewhat and threw in War Machine as second player, but it wasn't much better than mediocre. How did they take a game where you fly through the air in an invincible power suit at the speed of sound while blasting terrorists with missiles from ten thousand feet and make it bad???
- Lost: Via Domus for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Windows. It's faithful to the show, and even utilizes the flashback system. The high points are the story, the use of music from the show, and the very realistic environments. The gameplay is slightly reminiscent of 1990s Adventure Games like King's Quest and Monkey Island, only in full 3D. However, the game's overall lousy — you get a gun but only use it a few times throughout the entire game, and there's the recurring (and annoying) fuse-plugging minigame. The actors for Ben, Sun, Desmond, Mikhail, Tom, and Claire lent their voices for the game (mostly because they have only 4-5 quotes for the whole four hours of the game), but the rest of the characters were voiced by stand-ins. For this reason, they often sound a little different than from the show (this hit Locke the worst) and some characters (Jin, Desmond, Tom after he takes his beard off) are horribly Off-Model. To top it all, the game is short, and the ending? A Gainax Ending; you get onto a boat and ride off the island...only to see Oceanic 815 break up and crash onto the island, with you waking up on the beach as opposed to the jungle, and your love interest, who was killed shortly before your flight, having been restored to life, albeit bloodied.
- Some of the Non-Banpresto Mobile Suit Gundam games are pretty mediocre. Operation Troy did so poorly in its native soil that it became a No Export for You; Crossfire was poorly received by American reviewers for being slow-moving, ugly, and for not having online multiplayer; and there are some Gundam games that are plain unmentionable due to how bad they are.
- No Export for You, of course, doesn't mean that a particular Gundam game is bad. Sadly, the best of the games are equally - or even more - likely to suffer from this. But yes, there are a LOT of shitty Gundam games.
- And Artdink is starting set up a somewhat notorious mecha game developer. When you compare the quality of other mecha games out there. There is this uneasy feeling that Artdink's Gundam/Macross series is less than acceptable when compared to it's other licensed mecha game cousins.
- Prison Break: The Conspiracy, based on the hit 2000s TV series. We're not sure if the game was rushed in production or not, but we can be sure that it's a completely broken Splinter Cell wannabe.
- The Wii adaptation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It's a Minigame Game, but the big problem is that there are only four of them. Altogether it takes 15 minutes to beat the game, and it's a disc-based game rather than a downloadable title. Sadly, the Loading Screen is the best part.
- Released to much fanfare and to-do, the Xbox 360 game Shadowrun was widely panned as So Okay It's Average. It captured very, very little of the essence of the setting and was a fairly dull online shooter. ShadowRun games in the 16-bit era were better received and have some cult classic appeal, despite the SNES version's fetch quests with completely arbitrary solutions.
- The Sopranos: A Piece Of Work for PS3 and Xbox. "Become a made man or turn into a bear." Okay, it was just a parody on Chainsawsuit. So far.
- Spider-Man 3 was another one. Graphics were bad and collision-detection was about non-existent, so you got to watch cookie-cutter cutouts of citizens walk through ambulances. Audio was unbearable, as Spider-Man had many catchphrases but repeated them nonstop, and they weren't even that funny. Citizens also sometimes switched voices when you interacted with them. Story was broken to little bits and the game was artificially lengthened with a billion terrible side-quests and various missions (though the one to "Retrieve the Delicious Fruit Pies" was an amusing Call Back to the Hostess cake ads). If anything, it also owes its mediocrity to Sequelitis, as the other Spider-Man games before and after are genuinely good.
- Also, it features Kari Wahlgren, that's right, Kari freaking Wahlgren as Mary Jane Watson. This should be good right? Wrong. SWING HIGHER! SWING HIGHER!
- The PS2 version of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is borderline unplayable. It's got graphics on par with an early PlayStation One game, next to no voice acting, no actual ending, and just bad 2D fighting mechanics.
- Terminator: Salvation. While it has decent graphics, great music, and a decent combat system that feels more than a little familiar, in general it's pretty lousy. Sure, the combat's decent — it's just a shame that the battles are so damned repetitive and generally feature the same two enemies: annoying flying robots, and spider-like robots that require flanking to defeat. To flank them effectively, it's best to have your partner keep their attention while you come around back and finish them. Too bad the AI's fairly terrible, and while the game does have a co-op option, it's not online enabled — so if you don't have anybody to play with and don't have Xbox Live, you're pretty much screwed. Oh, and it's very short, but considering how you'll spend those 4–5 hours fighting the same annoying enemies over and over again, that's probably a positive thing. Unsurprisingly, Salvation was one of the factors behind developer GRIN's shutdown...and it was their only game that can be considered a definite flop.
- The negative reception of the Salvation console game led to Raw Thrills delaying their Terminator: Salvation arcade game until Spring 2010 so they could get it right. Luckily enough, it looks pretty awesome.
- However it is Nintendo Hard, no way to instantly take out Terminators in one shot (and a health bar to boot) and some enemies are Demonic Spiders which simply overwhelm you. Plus there is no way to regain lost health or protect yourself like similar games of its genre.
- Transformers: The Video Game (the one of the 2007 live-action movie) wasn't merely bad (a 15-foot robot could get stuck on a broken tree branch), it was inexorably boring. Most of the game involved driving to your next destination within a time limit with a car that handles like an ice-cream van in an Alaskan winter without snow-chains. Oh, and kicking things until they explode. And the graphics were pretty mediocre, too.
- The video game based on Dark of the Moon (which is more or less a prequel/sidestory of the movie) was developed by the same folks behind the well-received Transformers: War for Cybertron, and yet it got hit with some less than average review scores. The main issue? It's a Transformers game where you don't transform.
- Transformation does seem to be available in multiplayer.
- The video game based on Dark of the Moon (which is more or less a prequel/sidestory of the movie) was developed by the same folks behind the well-received Transformers: War for Cybertron, and yet it got hit with some less than average review scores. The main issue? It's a Transformers game where you don't transform.
- Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal could've been a decent Ratchet and Clank clone if it wasn't marred by bland visuals, music that ranges from bad to nonexistant (save for the remix of the old Looney Tunes factory theme), bad enemies (the final boss is colossal before you fight it but shrinks down to less than half as large during the actual fight, and you can beat it in one or two minutes), and an abysmal plot with an equally-abysmal ending.
- Looney Tunes: Cartoon Conductor was a boring music game for the DS with little to no replayability or fun.
- Avatar's game (by Ubisoft) is visually amazing, but lacking in many of the final details of the film, likely due to being released before it. Some of these are minor things, while others are...not. It's by no means the very worst as licensed games go, but still has a storyline that both makes no sense and in places openly contradicts canon, suffers from some very bad voice acting and mistakes with the Na'vi language, as well as inexplicably low-quality models and textures for the Na'vi which really stand out against the rest.
- There was a cheap movie cash-in DS game based on Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. Aside from the three triwizard challenges, the other levels ranged from plausible to perplexing. For example, one of the longest levels involved chasing the golden egg through the sewer system for no other reason than because Harry couldn't keep a good grip on it.
- Mostly averted with the main FIFA Soccer games but the World Cup and European Championship games tend to suffer from this up until the Euro 2008 game.
- The NCIS video game was very poor and described as "a point and click adventure without the venture".
- Usually, the Super Robot Wars franchise is a great crossover adapting many Humongous Mecha series. But the ball was dropped hard for Super Robot Wars K. Between flaws like the malfunctioning Partner Battle system, poor storywriting and a main character that fans hardly like, it's no wonder that this game is considered the worst entry.
- Acclaim and LJN Toys (which merged in 1990) were really, really bad for this during the 8- and 16-bit days. A similar Video Game company, THQ, has gotten better with it over the years, but Acclaim didn't learn its lesson and continued to produce crap until its eventual bankruptcy (and limited Revival as a distributor of Korean MMORPGs). LJN and Acclaim were so bad at this that they received extreme scorn as The Angry Video Game Nerd's most hated game companies.
- Brash Entertainment did nothing but these games, with their Alvin and The Chipmunks and Jumper tie-ins receiving some of the absolute lowest scores this generation. Naturally, the studio was quickly shut down 18 months after being formed.
- Incidentally, Brash were working on a Saw game just as they went under; Konami eventually snagged the publishing rights from their ruin and the final game ended up being somewhat decent. Well, except for the combat system.
- Ludia is quickly developing a reputation among game show fans for developing and releasing the worst game show adaptations for video game consoles (specifically Wii) in decades. Seriously, has anyone at the company ever watched these programs?
- The home versions of The Price Is Right were passable, if cheap (the Big Wheel skewed heavily in favor of computer players for some reason). While the first version was released in 2008, the graphics and music heavily suggest it was two years late.
- Press Your Luck 2010 was an inexcusable shell of the popular game show, with computer opponents that don't know how many months are in a year, glitchy sounds and graphics, a boring and repetitive emcee, and a Big Board that was easily exploitable thanks to it only rotating between three screens (yes, you too could be like Michael Larson).
- Family Feud Decades was a grand idea to celebrate the show's 35th Anniversary, but managed to massively fail. Not only is the classic theme used for menus only (gameplay itself uses the ever-hated "party" theme), the set representing the 1990s is from Anderson's tenure instead of "Dawson's Return" (which would've kept the same set structure for all four decades). In addition, the 1976-85 set had the Bullseye displays.
- Family Feud 2012 is even worse. It uses a set that looks only superficially like the current one, music that only vaguely resembles the theme tune and doesn't even play at the right times, an obnoxious stereotypical-game-show-host-type guy, and has some of the worst graphics Ludia's ever done. There's large periods of silence while the ugly characters (though at least you can use your Miis) perform overy-long and repetitive actions. They couldn't even get the show's graphics or sound effects right, and the reveal in Fast Money is done in completely the wrong way. At least the 2010 version was passable.
- The $1,000,000 Pyramid managed to do an even worse job — idiotic computer AI, extremely-slow gameplay, and a massively broken payout structure (the Million is awarded for every Winner's Circle victory, which is done by way of the front-game format). The biggest mistake was using the classic 1982-91 logo style with the Donny Osmond version, and pre-release screenshots clearly showed the Osmond logo on-set! Naturally, the fanbase wondered what the hell Sony had been inhaling.
- The Price Is Right Decades was supposed to be essentially a love letter to the fans, but turned out to be mediocre — pricing games are still played for cash, the Carey-era theme is used in all years, Hurdles is completely botched (rather than the three hurdles being sets of two products where you must guess which is lower than the Hurdler's price, it's a higher/lower game), and the Showcase Showdown is even worse (you have to beat a preset "leader", and are forced to go again if you tie on the first spin).
- Worst of all, many very superior fan-made renditions were yanked off the internet by cease-and-desist orders so these abominations could be released. The fanbase, who had been consulted by Ludia about the PYL game and provided more than enough resources to let it surpass Curt King's unofficial PC rendition, became very disgusted at Fremantle Media...which didn't exactly have a good reputation with them as it was.
- Just pick any film made between 1988 and 1993, and there's a good chance Ocean Software made a side scrolling platformer (possibly with extra top-down levels) out of it...regardless of how suitable the subject matter was.
- Pack-in-Video developed a good chunk of video games based on either movies or TV shows in the late 1980s to early 1990s. Some were either otherwise average or just bad. Some of those games include Knight Rider, Friday the 13 th, Predator, Rambo, and Die Hard...all of which were released on the NES, published by either LJN or Acclaim (although Die Hard was published by Activision).
- Radical Entertainment was responsible for quite a number of bad licensed games in their early years; the aforementioned Terminator for the NES was their first game, no less. It makes one wonder how the hell they went from dreck like Bebe's Kids to great games like Prototype.
- In fact, that may have been the point. This was the first licensed game made by Sunsoft, they figured they'd need something recognizable, and while The Addams Family fit the bill, it wasn't popular, and thus the licensing rights would be easy to get.
- (if you live in the UK, that is)