Disney is a brand that has its hands in just about everything. From movies and television to home items and toys, Disney’s conglomerate is an intricate part of pop-culture. So it’s only natural that the House of Mouse would also be involved with video games, and luckily for us their work in the digital realm has been stellar.
During the 16-bit era of gaming in the mid-to-late 90s, Disney Software worked with various game companies to create video games based on some of their biggest animated films. These included titles for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, some of which were critically praised as among the best games of that time. But now with the resurgence of the classic Disney films that inspired them, where have most of these classic games gone? Now that we get to see the reimagining of iconic films like Aladdin, The Lion King, and even Beauty & the Beast, fans should be able to once again play through some of these games from that era. Whether released alone or in a bundle, Disney fans need to revisit these great games now that their stories are being brought to life once again on the big screen.
The upcoming live-action reimagining of Disney’s Aladdin retraces the same story beats as its animated counterpart, with new actors taking on the iconic roles of these characters. Back when the first Aladdin movies were released in theaters and VHS, both SEGA and Nintendo received their own respective Aladdin games. The two were radically different from each other, but the clear better of the two was the Genesis version of the game. Aladdin was an action platformer featuring light sword combat and great renditions of the many iconic music tracks from the film. The levels were all based on locations and events from the film, including some real creative sections for the Cave of Wonders, the streets of Agrabah, and even the magical world concocted by Genie. At the time, it was praised by critics as one of the best Genesis games you could buy, mostly due to many of the visuals being worked on by Disney animators who also worked on the Aladdin film.
The Lion King was also a massive film for Disney, which featured iconic songs and jaw-dropping animation that was considered one of the best in the medium. 16-bit game versions of The Lion King were available for both the Genesis and Super Nintendo, but didn’t have many differences between the two. The levels covered most of the story from the film, giving players control of Simba as both a young cub and adult lion. Some of the biggest scenes from the movie, including the stampede of wildebeest and the ‘Just Can’t Wait to Be King’ musical number, were given their own focused levels. One notable characteristic about this was the infamous difficulty of these levels, which were tedious with their level of challenge in jumping around obstacles and avoiding danger. Fan favorites Timon and Pumba also got bonus levels that exaggerated their quirkiness in little intermissions between stages. The latter half of the game, which focused on adult Simba, rounded out the experience with a battle against Scar and the hyenas that coincided with the film’s climax.
Beauty and the Beast is one of the most famous Disney animated movies, and was one of the earliest animated films to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. The games made for this Disney animated film were very different than other Disney films that were given video game tie-ins. There were two titles created for the Genesis produced by Sunsoft, Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical Adventure, and Roar of the Beast, while an entirely different one was made for the Super Nintendo, simply titled Beauty and the Beast. What’s unique here is that all three games were different from one another and offered different things to fans of the film.
The two Genesis games had you either controlling Belle or the Beast respectively, which had different action platforming depending on which one you played. Belle’s game featured more story and dialogue than combat, while Beast’s story had more action scattered throughout. The SNES game just focused on Beast and was a straight-forward action game. No matter which one you dove into however, the same plot from the film and characters were all accounted for. Of all three games, the best one was arguably Roar of the Beast on the Genesis. The game had the action gameplay you’d find in the SNES title, but it also had cutscenes based on events from the film much like its Genesis counterpart, Belle’s Magical Adventure. Fans of the film are going to want to play all three to get the different experiences from each, but if you’re looking for the best for the film, then Roar of the Beast had it all.
All of these classic games can be found in various corners of the internet, but they desperately need a release within a collected package. Much like the Disney Afternoon Collection that was released on PSN and Xbox Live, which collected all the iconic Capcom Disney games, these Disney games deserve the same kind of treatment. It’d be perfect to have them available to fans now that their respective films are all getting live-action remakes in theaters. Ideally, having four games within a collection would make perfect sense, much like how the Disney Afternoon Collection was organized. Though it might be a challenge to get past the licensing tape since multiple publishers and studios worked on the games, Disney as a company is more than capable of making this happen. These classic, critically-acclaimed games from Disney shouldn’t be locked away within the Disney vault forever.