5. Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse | 1992
We thought long and hard about Mickey’s stature in pre-3D videogames. The general consensus is that Castle of Illusion, a Genesis/Mega Drive classic, is one of, if not the best Mickey games of all time, though in hindsight we believe that’s due to a total lack of decent entries up to that point. If you look back with today’s criteria in mind, then we absolutely have to go with the SNES Magical Quest – it’s got branching paths, big colorful bosses and best of all, alternate costumes that could be swapped at will:
Above: They do things!
The first four levels revolve around these outfits and their specific abilities. When you begin as plain ol’ Mickey, you can only run, jump and throw items. Then you don a magical turban, find a magical fireman’s coat and finally a Bionic Commando-style grappling hook that functions just as well as the NES classic (no surprise, as they’re both from Capcom).
Above: The turban lets Mickey shoot magical beams and breathe underwater
Above: A trip to hell itself isn’t so bad with this fireman’s outfit
Above: Swinging is fun and easy with the extending arm
This is another brilliant example of using a license properly, not falling back on it entirely. Mickey alone could have sold this game, but as was common in Capcom’s early Disney games, the gameplay was fleshed out beyond contemporary offerings and would have proudly succeeded without the license at all.
Above: A general store would sell you goods… if you could find it
The best moments come late in the game, when you have to use all of Mickey’s suits in tandem to solve puzzles and tackle enemies that any one costume could not. Hey, we’re not saying it’s fit to stand up against modern side scrollers, but in its day (and even a few years beyond) Magical Quest was one of the most well-rounded Disney games available.
4. Aladdin | 1993
Above: Rated “GA” for Georgia
Oh, to be alive during the First Great Console War. Specs aside, SNES and Genesis exclusives fought battles on playgrounds like valiant war heroes. Now normally, Capcom was the reigning king of Disney development, having consistently cranked out quality product that did the brand justice… yet there was still one schoolyard aspiration left sorely unaddressed.
And wouldn’t you know it? This time the Genesis did what Nintendidn’t. Or at least Virgin Interactive did, and with the help of the Disney animators no less. While the SNES Aladdin fell back upon faux 3D shading and single pixel button-eyes, the Genesis version looked infinitely more fluid and expressive.
Above: Daggum, that looks just like the movie film!
To top it all off, the Genesis version didn’t shy away from the sword-slashing aggression, whereas the SNES Aladdin seemed to prefer a Disneyfied focus on throwing apples and defensive parkour handsprings. But if you still need further proof that Sega/Virgin “got” Disney games years before Kingdom Hearts, look no further than the hidden nods found buried within greater Agrabah.
Above: Can anyone see the Beast?
Digital DisneyTrivia: Both the Genesis and SNES versions of Aladdin were eventually ported over to the… NES!? Although, the port of Capcom’s version was incredibly “unofficial” it finally won out in the visual department.
3. Tron 2.0 | 2003
It’s beyond fair to say that gamers have kept Tron alive with far more vigor than Disney itself. The Tron games have been delighting the masses since 1982 on multiple platforms even though it took Disney over a quarter of a century to recover from its fatal box-office error and concoct a sequel. In the meantime, fans finally got the pseudo sequel they deserved in the form of 2003’s critically lauded PC game, Tron 2.0., thanks to Monolith Productions, the developers of No One Lives Forever and the F.E.A.R. series.
Although, to truly see what a revelation it was, you gotta look at the pixelated puke that had come before:
Bruce Boxleitner reprised his role as Alan Bradley, while the player assumed the digitized skin of his son Jet, who must combat a corrupted version of the original Tron program. But do you really care about the plot? A good Tron game need only do one thing right:
Above: BAM - Tron 2.0’s tricked out Cyber Hog!!
Not to discount the gorgeousness of 2.0’s neon lined environments, nor the wonderfully tech savvy 1337 speak (the sniper rifle is called “LOL”), but the Light Cycle arenas remain the game’s crown jewel. All the nausea-inducing camera angles and impossible turns of Tron’s deadly game of competitive Snake were preserved, and you could bring the action online where it ran like a fanboy fever dream.
Above: As if Rez were a first-person shooter
Best of all, with the original cast members appearing, authentic levels based on technology reflective of the day (such as PDAs and firewalls) and the fact that the title of the upcoming film shares its name with the security program found in Tron 2.0, it appears the game could be considered canonical even if it never intended to be.
Above: Disney can keep with the times, it’s just a very slow process
Digital Disney Trivia: Many Disney animators refused to work on the Tron film in 1982, fearing that computer animation would replace them. Cut to 2009 - Pixar is Disney’s most profitable film producer, oversees the entire entertainment division, and remains completely committed to the production of quality 2D animation.