We’ve all played them: games based on our favorite TV shows, movies, music, anime, comics, you name it. If there’s a property out there in the world, chances are it spawned a game. For the most part, that’s pretty much a death knell for said game, as licensed titles usually aren’t very good. But over the years, that sentiment has largely shifted. Back during the days of the NES, SNES, and Genesis (and many later generations), movie games like Top Gun and Friday the 13th were pretty awful, and largely the result of a handful of some pretty lazy developers. Now, it seems licensed properties have been taken a bit more seriously, and it shows with some of the more quality titles out there. It’s pretty cool when you check out the full gamut of the best licensed games when you start reminiscing over them.
With that in mind, it can be difficult to sift through game after game that’s tied to a particular property, hoping it’s good, and hoping you’ll actually want to play it. That’s why we’ve taken the initiative to put together the definitive list of the best-licensed games around to help you make an informed decision on what to play next. And there’s a little something for everyone here, whether you love horror games, beat-’em-ups, or good, old-fashioned shooters.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – Complete Edition revives the brawler that originally debuted and went dark once more thanks to licensing issues, and it’s a fantastic game. In a not-so-subtle River City Ransom homage, this beat-âem-up tasks you (and up to three additional players) with fighting your way through seven different worlds, each divided up into smaller digestible chunks. After selecting a character from Scott, Ramona, Kim, and Stephen, itâs time to jump into a technicolor, fictional version of Toronto to stave off the evil exes.
Advance little by little as a variety of enemies spawn in to tear you limb from limb, beat them to a bloody pulp, and then continue to the end of each stage. Vanquish a boss at the end and then soldier on to the next area. It’s a retro-flavored adventure through and through, and you’ll love every minute, especially with closely it sticks to the original character designs and vibe.
There have been many attempts at making a good Ghostbusters game, but Terminal Reality knocked it out of the park with 2009’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Playing like a movie-centric Gears of War with an over-the-shoulder perspective, it tells a new story in the movie universe with a player character who’s a new recruit to the Ghostbusters team. Set two years after Ghostbusters II, it tells a brand new story that could very well have been a new film installment. Not only that, but it was an exciting, challenging game on its own that included plenty of proton pack usage, original actors, and creative ghost appearances that culminated in some satisfying hauntings.
Who hasn’t wanted to jump into the cape and cowl of the Dark Knight? Batman: Arkham Asylum lets you do just that, complete with a knock-down, drag-out cat-and-mouse game with the Joker, Batman’s arch-nemesis. Control Batman as he punches and kicks his way through legions of henchmen, uses the Batmobile to get around town and even uses his grapple gun to travel around above bad guys to get the jump on them.
It’s just like being Batman himself! And as we all know, if you can be Batman, you gotta go ahead and be Batman, even if it’s just in a game. There have been plenty of Batman games over the years, but the Arkham series is one that absolutely gets it right. This is just one of the many titles that’s well-regarded among the best licensed games starring DC’s “Dark Knight.”
The ill-fated Starbreeze Studios wasn’t meant to last, but The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was a universally-acclaimed adaptation of the Riddick character, who starred in Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick. Players take on the role of Riddick himself, who’s tasked with breaking out of the Butcher Bay prison. Using a combination of first-person stealth mechanics and melee, Riddick must interact with and complete quests for other inmates if he wants a chance at getting out of the facility. It’s widely considered to be one of the best games of the Xbox era, and one of the best licensed games ever made, period.
Brace yourself for a hard truth: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is one of the most beloved RPGs of all time. And it doesn’t get much better than that. It’s a licensed game, too! This game was released in BioWare’s prime. Making your way through this tale of an amnesiac Jedi searching for their past and a way to stop the Sith feels like a trilogy unto itself. Unfortunately, though the story is as good as ever, the game does feel a bit aged. However, if you’re a Star Wars fan, you shouldn’t miss this game. Pick it up on PC and grab some mods to improve the experience. You won’t regret it. Plus, it’s getting a remake!
There was never truly a decent Friday the 13th game until developer IllFonic stepped in with the license. Then, Friday the 13th: The Game totally killed it. Literally. Because it’s Jason, get it? One player during each match takes on the role of iconic killer Jason Voorhees, while the rest do their best to take him down (they’re camp counselors, of course).
An all-star team, including Friday the 13th creator Sean Cunningham, master of horror Tom Savini, and even Kane Hodder, one of the men who brought Jason to life for gore-hungry theatergoers over the years, brought the game to life. It’s stuffed to the brim with references to the many iterations of Jason over the years, and asynchronous multiplayer that’ll have you coming back for blood every time.
Telltale knocked it out of the park with its portrayal of the award-winning comic series The Walking Dead, introducing an original cast of characters that immediately captured the hearts and minds of everyone who played it. Introducing protagonist Lee Everett, surrogate parent to young Clementine, forced us all to confront everyday fears like losing everything to zombies while still having to fight them off and make some semblance of a life. Though Telltale Games is sadly no longer with us as a studio anymore, it left behind a legacy that we won’t soon forget: Clementine will remember this. And we’ll be left wondering why the show couldn’t be nearly as good as this game.
The iconic Alien franchise may have gone off the rails in terms of its cinematic installments, but the video game series is still going strong. Alien: Isolation took us on a terrifying trip through the remote space station of Sevastopol. As Amanda Ripley (Ellen Ripley’s daughter), players must traverse the station in search of a very important flight recorder and other secrets that unravel throughout the game.
There’s just one problem: there are xenomorphs aboard. As Ripley, you must avoid the Alien by stealthily navigating sections of the game, using distractions to keep it from lunging at you at inopportune times, deftly managing ammo, and solving puzzles to stay one step ahead. The first time you’re unceremoniously yanked out of hiding and devoured? It’s heart-stopping, to say the least. Alien: Isolation is one of the best licensed games that can be compared to the top survival horror experiences out there.
The world of Mad Max, namely Mad Max: Fury Road is the perfect breeding ground for tie-in games. But in the simply-named Mad Max, instead of taking on Immortan Joe, you tangle with his son Scabrous Scrotus, the ruler of Gas Town. Although youâll get the same vibe that the movie had, there doesnât appear to be any continuity between Mad Max: Fury Road and Mad Max the game. Still, this is a licensed game that’s every bit worth your time. Mad Max recreates the desperate, gritty feeling of the movie franchise. Its vehicular combat is some of the most visceral and well-done that the gaming world has ever seen. And if you love open-world RPG mechanics, you’ll be at home here.
The greatest James Bond game of all time is based on the movie of the same name, starring Pierce Brosnan: GoldenEye 007. Widely considered to be the single best Bond game of all time, it’s also one of the best shooters ever made. GoldenEye was revolutionary in many ways when it debuted, and remains influential to this day, from its mission structure to its adherence to the source material. Developer Rare took the run-and-gun philosophy and enhanced it by adding special tasks for players to complete.
In fact, the game itself is less about eliminating targets and more about using stealth to sneak past enemies if possible, like Bond himself. Further, the game was able to perfectly capture the cinematic essence of the source material. The actors’ likenesses (namely Brosnan’s) went a long way toward making the game feel more like jumping into the movie as well.
For those reasons and many more, GoldenEye 007 is one of the best James Bond games of all time, and gamers will continue to look back fondly on all it accomplished. Placing this retro FPS on a list of the best licensed games is practically mandatory.
South Park’s video game presence peaked with South Park: The Fractured But Whole, and there are likely more awesome entries to come. After The Stick of Truth, which was excellent on its own, this superhero-centric endeavor served up some more hilarity, this time skewering the Marvel Cinematic Universe and other hero-centric media. Your initial goal as a new member of Coon & Friends, Cartman’s superhero team from the show, is to find a nasty old missing cat to collect the $100 reward money.
The journey for $100 will take you across the breadth of South Park itself, and you’ll cross the path of practically every major character at one point or another. The ironic part of this entire journey to get the reward money is that it looks like Cartman has spent well over $100 on his Coon & Friends basement setup with a âmerchandiseâ area and other Coon-centric decor. It plays out just like a traditional South Park episode from beginning to end, and it’s infused with the show’s signature humor as well.
It’s the next best thing to watching the show itself, and even worse in some ways, with more uncensored content.
Do you really want to feel like a superhero? Like, really and truly? Marvel’s Spider-Man has some of the best movement I’ve ever seen in a game. Few titles capture the feel of being a superhero like this one and the original story is like something straight from the comics. It’s one of the few traditional comic-centric games out there that actually feels completely true to the source material. Web slinging feels excellent and I spent hours traipsing around the virtual New York just sightseeing. This is one game that will get your spidey senses tingling and even if you’re not a fan of Spider-Man, there’s a lot of fun to be had.
Experience a whole new side of the Lord of the Rings universe with Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. The game continues the same narrative that began in Shadow of Mordor, as it follows lead character Talion, infused with the spirit of the elf lord Celebrimbor. The duo work to forge a new Ring of Power in an effort to fight against Sauron, and along the way must cleave through enemy Uruks and Ologs while amassing allies to take on Sauron when the time is right. Even if you’ve never cracked open a Lord of the Rings book in your life, there’s plenty of reason to get excited about this follow-up, because it does just about everything it sets out to do correctly, all while respecting the source material.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is a sweeping return to form for games based in the Dragon Ball universe, with a major shift from the 3D, open-air fighting of games like Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 and its predecessor to straightforward, classic 2D fighters. It doffed the additional freedom that larger play areas offer for tight quarters brawling, which is a great switch-up for the anime-inspired games.
The game rounds up over 20 combatants culled from Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball Super for an interesting mix of faces. From the beginning of the game, youâll jump straight into a cute hub world with chibi-fied avatars of each of the characters represented in-game. You can interact with others around this hub world to purchase items with Zeni or coins, start online matches, play a game in the Arcade/Story Mode, and mess about with options.
It’s everything you could want from a Dragon Ball fighter and more. This dream scenario coming true for anime fanatics is well-deserving of getting honored on this checklist of the best licensed games.
Licensed games aren’t all shooters and beat-’em-ups. They’re fanciful platformers, too. SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a fun undersea adventure where you’re tasked with defending Bikini Bottom from Plankton’s sea of robots. You’ll play as SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy as you swap between characters and use all of your unique abilities to defy the advancing robots.
It’s far from a perfect game, but its lighthearted humor and potential as a speedrunner’s game have kept it in the public eye over the last few years. It may not seem like much, but it’s a super sweet adventure for fans of the show and a great platforming adventure for everyone else. This remake is especially great because it’s available on contemporary consoles and fixes many of the original release’s issues that remained present over the years.
When you’re trapped in the U.S.S. Voyager and it’s suddenly transported into a hull space teeming with dangerous Borg, you’ve got to make it your mission to defend yourself and the rest of your team from the terrifying aliens. This shooter is full of tense moments that have you working alongside the Voyager crew to set phasers to kill as you use nine weapons with two firing modes, power your way through 40 missions, and test your might across various multiplayer modes. If you’re a Star Trek fan, this is a must-play.
If you love Grand Theft Auto and The Simpsons (a truly hilarious combination), The Simpsons: Hit & Run is the game for you. The Simpsons must investigate a series of strange incidents happening around Springfield, like robot wasps hanging around, a new brand of Buzz Cola suddenly appearing, and black vans showing up to spy on the family around town.
Looks like there’s a ton of weirdness going on across seven different levels, and it’s your job to investigate throughout madcap mayhem just like all the vehicular violence seen in GTA. This might very well be the most fun you’ll ever have when playing with The Simpsons. Springfield’s most iconic cartoon family has been in some bad games, no doubt. But at least you can always refer to this one as one of its strongest video game representations and one of the best licensed games lucky enough to feature them.
DuckTales! Woo-hoo! Originally released on NES, this adventure is anything but “fowl.” It’s a platformer crossed with a Metroidvania that has players taking control of Scrooge McDuck as he searches for treasures to increase his coffers. He can attack enemies, open objects, and bounce with his cane. There are five different levels to explore, and familiar DuckTales characters to mingle with as you really see why life is like a hurricane for this duck family. It’s far from a duck blur, though. It’s a complex, exciting platformer that’s far from a cash-in on a popular animated show.
If you love the idea of playing as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, or Raphael and beating the stuffing out of enemies, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game is the perfect option. This side-scrolling beat-’em-up is one of the most exciting ways to play as the Turtles, and you get to follow after Shredder and his goons as they take April O’Neil away. Save the day with Splinter and pulverize the baddies into dust in this classic arcade game. You’ll want to revisit it again and again.
The Evil Dead movies are some of the finest that horror has to offer, and though there have been several Evil Dead games over the past few years, none have been as satisfying as Evil Dead: The Game. Play as a variety of Ashes (including the Ash vs. Evil Dead incarnation) as you work with other players to clear out each area of Deadites, or play as the baddies to possess the good guys and make each match a living hell for them.
You can even take the form of trees and cars if you’d like to run over characters or trap them in your branches. It’s everything a fan of the movies could ever want, and then some. It’s so refreshing to see Bruce Campbell get a win in the sub-genre of licensed video games along with all the other triumphs he’s garnered during his illustrious career.