It’s the year 2002 and your parents take you to see one of the biggest films of the year: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. After the film ends, your parents decide to reward you for your good grades in school by getting you a brand new game.
You rush over to the video games excitedly, scanning the shelves for something that looks cool. Then, you see it: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for the GameCube. It was fate.
While not quite like watching the movie, you spend the next few weeks casting spells, exploring Hogwarts, and collecting all of the Famous Witches and Wizards cards. After playing the game inside and out, you feel like a wizard. You feel like you lived through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Fast forward several years later to 2011. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 just released in theaters. After the movie ends, you start thinking of the fond memories you had as a child playing the old Harry Potter games. The film series might be over now, but the magic doesn’t need to end. You rush to GameStop and buy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 for the Nintendo Wii.
What you’re met with is not the magic you fell in love with. You are instead playing a mediocre linear shooter game with a fancy coat of Harry Potter paint.
So the Nintendo Wii has some awful licensed games. We’ve always known this was the case. Unfortunately, this caused all licensed games to fall under the same label of “cash grab.”
While the purpose of making licensed games is undoubtedly to make more money, the titles from the GameCube era had a lot of heart poured into them. So let’s take a look at what happened.
What made the licensed games of the GameCube so good, and why did the Wii fail to deliver the same magic? First, we’ll quickly glance at some of the GameCube’s best licensed titles.
Early Harry Potter games
Early Harry Potter games on the GameCube were great in part because they took inspiration from 3D Zelda titles. You play as Harry as he goes through his early years at Hogwarts. The games follow the plots of the movies, but the main gameplay is when Harry attends class.
He is tasked with going through dungeons constructed by his teachers to learn new spells. Each spell will then be used to solve puzzles to help Harry get back to the classroom. There’s sometimes even a boss at the end of a dungeon, with particular weaknesses to the spell Harry just learned.
There are plenty of collectibles to search for as well, most of which increase Harry’s maximum health. These games are simple Zelda clones with an extra touch of Harry Potter magic.
The Haunted Mansion
You all may remember that Disney made a movie based on one of their most popular park rides, The Haunted Mansion. Fortunately, we’re not here to talk about that movie.
Right before The Haunted Mansion premiered in theatres, High Voltage Software made a game based on the popular attraction. This, thankfully, means The Haunted Mansion is a wonderful game.
The Haunted Mansion follows Ezekiel (Zeke) Holloway, who stumbles across a mansion he thinks he’s becoming a caretaker for. However, Zeke gets roped into collecting 999 souls inside the mansion to stop the evil Atticus Thorn from taking over the afterlife.
The gameplay is very similar to that of Luigi’s Mansion. There are 27 rooms in the mansion that require puzzles to be solved in order to capture the souls. There are plenty of jump scares throughout the game, so be prepared. The final boss with Atticus Thorn is also a memory burned into my brain that I will never forget.
Yes, that Cars. Despite what you think about the Pixar film, I think anybody who is a fan of the older Need for Speed games would enjoy the video game adaptation of Cars.
Actually, the video game is a sequel to the film, following Lightning McQueen’s new life in Radiator Springs. The game features a completely open world that you can expand as the game progresses. Drive anywhere you want to go and challenge your fellow cars to races. There’s plenty to do around Radiator Springs and a ton of collectibles to find. You’ll have to hone your skills and really know how to do the best tricks to get them all.
I could go on for ages. There were plenty of awesome licensed games on the GameCube: SpongeBob: Battle for Bikini Bottom, Spider-Man 2, The Hobbit, and so much more!
So why can I list so many GameCube games from memory that stood out to me, but the licensed games I’ve played on the Wii and onward only disappoint me? I have two major theories, and I think both are worth considering.
Publishers realized licensed games don’t have to be good
I think many publishers realized licensed games barely need to qualify as a game to hit the sales they need. They can release any broken mess of a trashy game and it would still make the same amount of money as a good game.
But how is that possible? I would guess that most, if not all, of a licensed game’s sales come from brand recognition alone. I doubt I would have played any of those awesome games if I hadn’t recognized the source material. As a kid, a bad game would have gotten the sale the same way a good game would have.
With the dawn of the Wii, video games were in almost every household. Companies knew that a good amount of kids would recognize the brands and beg their parents to buy the games for them.
When I worked at GameStop, I saw this all the time. A child would see a cartoon character they really liked, so they would beg their parent to buy it for them. About a month later, the parent was coming back looking to get trade credit.
But come to think of it, I got rid of a lot of my licensed games too. I only held on to some of them. Well, that leads me to my second theory.
We’re too old to enjoy licensed games
We, as adults, were never the intended audience for Cars the video game. I fully understand if this is the reason newer licensed games don’t resonate well with me.
We start to notice the flaws. The Cars game is way too easy, The Haunted Mansion has boring backtracking segments, and the Harry Potter games have frustrating camera issues. But I never brought any of that up because in my memory they’re all fantastic.
But how likely am I to berate a new game that comes out this year with any of these issues? As we grow older, we become more critical of media. It’s just in our nature. We want to justify the time and money we spend.
Of course, there are some critically acclaimed licensed games from recent years. So maybe not all hope is lost. At the very least, I hope I let you know about some good games you could have missed out on.
So let’s hear from you now. What are your favorite licensed games? Do you still enjoy the ones coming out today? Let us know down below!