- Disney has had success in the video game industry with top-quality games like Castle of Illusion and DuckTales that received critical acclaim for their unique visual style and gameplay.
- In addition to that, Disney Infinity was a popular toys-to-life game that allowed players to use plastic figurines to bring a vast array of characters into the game, providing hours of gameplay and fun.
- Another Disney video game gem was Toy Story 3, which surprised players with its open-world town management game mode called Woody’s Roundup.
The Walt Disney Company has dipped its toes into every entertainment medium imaginable. Movies, TV series, merchandise, books, music – you name it, it’s found a way to get its name and precious IP slapped onto it at some stage. This, of course, extends to that multimillion dollar industry, video games.
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Licensed video games typically have something of a stigma surrounding them. Granted, in many cases, they can be half-heartedly rushed out to coincide with a holiday deadline or the release date of a film they’re tying into. But that isn’t always true; and indeed there are a fair few top-quality Disney gaming experiences. Here’s a look at some.
Updated on February 10, 2024 by Bobby Mills: There are more Disney games out there than ever before. What was once just the realm of cheap movie tie-ins has expanded to a respectable range of platformers, racers, RPGs, lifesims and more besides. To reflect this shift into higher-budget territory, we felt the time was right to bolster our list with some new additions. Enjoy!
13 Disney SpeedStorm
Not Quite Mario Kart, But It’ll Do
On paper, Disney SpeedStorm looks like the absolute tops. A gaggle of your favourite Disney and Pixar characters have been thrust together in a Tron-esque digital realm, where the only activity is racing, racing… and, er, more racing. And in fairness, it delivers on that concept — but it’s hampered slightly by being a free-to-play title.
Make no mistake: the actual gameplay of SpeedStorm is sublime. Matches are high-octane thrill rides as you barrel through the Monsters Inc. factory, Tortuga, Agrabah, and more, accentuated with badass, thumping sound design and eye-melting visuals. The problem is that it’s a colossal grind. The devs took the predatory mobile gaming format and applied it to a full-fat home console experience — the result is an uneven package that occasionally breaks out into greatness.
12 Lego The Incredibles
TT Games are no strangers to the Lego biz. Since 2005’s Lego Star Wars, these co-op platformers have been reliably cranked out year-on-year, and they’re (almost) all a laugh riot. Lego The Incredibles is no exception; launched to coincide with the sequel’s 2018 debut, this is as close to a ‘Lego Pixar’ game as you’re likely to get.
It isn’t just the Parr family who you can play as while fighting crime. Sure, things start off pretty kosher, with you playing through the stories of both Incredibles films – but once you unlock enough collectible blocks, the likes of Woody, Dory, Merida, and WALL-E join the roster. It’s a veritable Pixar party, and married to the typical TT Games visual wit, it’s an incredible time.
Lego The Incredibles is notable in that it marks only the second time a Disney series has received a TT Games adaptation. The first was Lego Pirates of the Caribbean, back in 2011.
Other than these two games, almost the entire Lego game roster consists of Warner Bros. IP. (Assuming you don’t count Star Wars or Marvel, which Disney did not own when the Lego series kicked off.)
11 Castle Of Illusion
We’re Under No Illusions, This Is A Classic
Launched in 1990 on the Genesis, this platformer starred Mickey Mouse and had quite the pedigree behind it, being developed by SEGA. This immediately gave it a leg-up in terms of quality, and the game was, in fact, critically lauded for its unique visual style, tight controls and inspired level design.
Playing as the perennially-popular rodent, you’ll navigate the various rooms of the titular castle, which open out into different pocket dimensions. Your aim is to save Minnie from the gnarled clutches of witch Mizrabel (not to be confused with Encanto’s plucky protagonist.) So strong was gamers’ affection and nostalgia for Castle of Illusion that it received a gorgeous HD glow-up in 2013. Ha-ha!
10 Disney Infinity
Infinite Possibilities, If You’ve Got Infinite Cash
Infinity was Disney’s answer to the ‘toys-to-life’ fad, kicked off by Skylanders in the early 2010s; they were certainly never ones to leave easy money on the table. By plonking plastic figurines of a vast array of characters onto a supplied base, you were able to beam them into the game, and take them on a host of wacky adventures.
As a value proposition, Infinity was staggering; the base game came with three ‘Play Set’ campaigns in one, each offering eight to ten hours of gameplay (though more could, of course, be purchased). Then there was the Toy Box, where you could quite easily send Mike Wazowski on a joyride through Radiator Springs with Jack Sparrow. Top that off with its sequels adding Marvel and Star Wars, and Infinity was tremendous fun – while it lasted.
Life Is Like A Hurricane
Another retro classic — this time on the NES and developed by the guys in yellow, Capcom — DuckTales remains a nostalgic favourite. It quite wisely avoids adapting any one episode of the show, and instead concocts its own narrative. The Beagle Boys have ransacked Scrooge’s money bin and made off with a host of valuable artifacts, so it’s up to the ever-daring McDuck to pogo-cane his way across the globe to nick ’em.
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The controls here were buttery-smooth, in a way that only a dev team weaned on the Mega Man formula could have pulled off. The boss fights were iconic, the level designs varied – and of course, that OST slapped. The Moon theme easily tops any ‘greatest gaming songs’ lists you care to name. For a modern take on this masterpiece, try WayForward’s 2013 redo, DuckTales Remastered.
8 Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear To The Rescue
Nostalgia Came From Outer Space
The Toy Story series has had a long and very, very sweet relationship with the gaming industry. Perhaps fitting for a film that pioneered so much technologically, it’s not really ever missed with its console adaptations; so this isn’t the last time it’ll be appearing on our list.
Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue is a childhood 3D platformer for the ages, tying into the sequel while not necessarily married to its plot (perhaps because the movie went through such development hell, nobody actually knew what the plot was going to be.) Playing as everyone’s favourite deluded spaceman, you’ll contend with the dangers of Andy’s house, Al’s Toy Barn and beyond as you assist the other toys with assorted chores. It’s… more fun than it sounds.
7 Epic Mickey
Not Your Grandpappy’s Mickey
Epic Mickey was a highly ambitious project for the Mouse House, and as such they threw the full weight of their marketing machine behind it. Their approach to resuscitating Mickey in the gaming space was certainly a unique one: hire the dude behind Deus Ex, Warren Spector, and make it as gritty as they could get away with.
Things kick off when Mickey accidentally ravages a world that Yen Sid has created for forgotten Disney IPs (like Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who serves as the world’s king). Many years pass, and Mickey’s sucked back into Wasteland by resident baddie the Phantom Blot. He’s given a choice: either save the land he so horribly broke, or finish it off. With arresting visual direction, intriguing moral compass mechanics and a gripping narrative, Epic Mickey had all the right pieces.
6 Disneyland Adventures
Still Cheaper Than A Park Ticket
Everyone loves a Disney Parks vacation. But let’s face it: they’re expensive as all get-out. Disney Interactive sought to address this issue with 2012’s Disneyland Adventures, launched first with shrugging indifference for the Kinect and then ported everywhere else. The main hook is irresistible – the entirety of the Magic Kingdom is recreated in virtual format, in painstaking detail. Every trash can, every manhole cover, every meet-and-greet spot is accounted for, and it’s a joy.
Sure, the actual gameplay is rather half-baked. You’ll meander about the park as some kid, doing odd jobs for the (curiously demanding) Disney folk. Fine, Ariel, we’ll clean up your forks, you litterer. The rote quest system and bland collectibles can’t overshadow the fuzzies you get from hugging Pooh, or taking a spin on Big Thunder Mountain, though.
5 Disney Classic Games Collection
Relive Your Childhood Scars
This HD compilation bundles together three of the most well-known Disney platformers ever made: Aladdin, The Jungle Book and The Lion King. And they’re well-known for a very particular reason. They are hard as nails.
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Almost every gamer of a certain age can detail a torturous experience they’ll have had with at least one of this dastardly trio. Aladdin: bouncing on Agrabah’s rooftops, only to be hit full-throttle in the face with a scimitar and fall all the way back down to the start. The Lion King: that interminable ‘Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ stage with the swinging monkeys and impossible ostrich ride. And the less said about The Jungle Book’s Shere Khan boss, the better.
4 Toy Story 3
Inordinately High Effort
Returning to Woody’s world, Toy Story 3 majorly impressed on its 2010 debut. What everyone expected to be yet another soulless cash-in to promote the film instead turned out to be one of the finest Disney games ever conceived. The reins on this project were handed to Avalanche Studios, who would go on to develop Disney Infinity. Evidently, they were keepers.
Toy Story 3’s masterstroke is its Woody’s Roundup mode. Sure, there’s a requisite story campaign, but you’ll blast through that in a couple of sittings. Woody’s Roundup, however, is a full-on open world town management sim, where you run a Western backwater. Erecting buildings, dressing and entertaining the townsfolk, fending off the odd alien invasion – it’s a truly vast amount of content and invokes pure childlike wonder. This game’s got a friend in us.
3 Disney Illusion Island
Rayman Called, And He’s Suing
In the 2020s, Disney evidently decided enough time had passed since Mickey’s ‘Illusion’ subseries (including the aforementioned Castle of Illusion) for that golden goose, nostalgia, to kick in — so it was time for a new installment. In Illusion Island, the mouse and his pals are lured to the lurid isle of Monoth, where they’re tasked with toppling a series of guardians and restoring the land’s sacred tomes.
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Let’s not sugarcoat it: it’s Rayman Origins. This four-player 2D Metroidvania walks, squawks and talks exactly like that iconic Ubisoft platformer, right down to the not-Lums chiming as you collect them. It’s no bad thing, however; the movement is as smooth as butter, the writing’s sharp as a tack, and there’s a good 45 minutes’ worth of sumptuously animated cutscenes in here. Not all ripoffs need suck.
2 Disney Dreamlight Valley
Giving Nintendo A Run For Its Money
Dreamlight Valley took gamers by storm when it landed in 2022. A Disney Animal Crossing clone? Surely that won’t be anything more than tedious drudgery. And yet, as if by (corporate) magic, developer Gameloft pulled off something really special, and continues to expand the title with updates.
Dreamlight Valley’s unique twist is that you’re an adult revisiting their old Disney chums, positioning it well for nostalgia. You have total power over this saccharine little hamlet, deciding who stays and who goes out of a veritable conga line of familiar Disney faces, all while dealing with a mysterious shadowy saboteur. Not to mention the ever-growing shopping lists of the residents. Minnie wants how much clay?!
1 Kingdom Hearts
May Your Heart Be Your Guiding Key
So a Disney rep and a Square-Enix rep walk into an elevator together. It sounds like the setup for an awful joke; but it’s the real story of how Kingdom Hearts, one of the most surreal gaming experiences you’ll ever encounter, was spawned.
This series of hack-and-slash RPGs is a staple of video game culture. It has been around for over 20 years and continues to enthrall and delight. And confuse. Playing as island boy Sora, you’ll hop between Disney worlds, banding together with Donald and Goofy in a quest to recover your mates Kairi and Riku – while in the background, the sinister Xehanort plots to bring a scheme relating to darkness to fruition. Trust us: that’s the short version. A delve into the KH wiki is an afternoon you’ll never get back.
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