It’s official, the next-gen is truly here. Though hard to find the next set of consoles from Sony and Microsoft are out there somewhere (I honestly still can’t believe I managed to snag a PS5 myself frankly) and though Nintendo hasn’t been following the traditional console model for a while, the Switch is pretty much their current generation and has been out for a couple of years already.
So with what is generally considered the 8th generation of consoles winding down (though it still seems like they’ll be getting noteworthy releases for the next year or so), it seems like a good time to look back at the best games based on Disney IP of this last generation. Not many games bearing core Disney characters were released but we had ports of classic games, stuff from Star Wars and Marvel, so there’s plenty to choose from. All in all, it was a pretty good generation of gaming for Disney fans. Hopefully the next-gen brings even more fun ways to interact with some of our favorite names in the Disney mega IP empire.
A couple of quick notes, I did consider Spider-Man: Miles Morales for this list because it is also on PS4 and is an amazing game, however since it is pushed primarily as a PS5 title and really shines on that console, it’ll be considered for a future list of this sort. And though it did not make this list, the Disney game I’ve spent the most time with is easily Marvel’s Avengers. I’ve written a ton about it, will do more as new stuff comes out, and aside from the campaign mode actually being pretty great I still play the “Avengers Initiative” mode a few hours a week. But it is still a game with some very rough edges that came out in a pandemic environment at the end of a generation and out of whack microtransactions, and much like an entry that made the list, if it takes some time to become a pretty awesome game, maybe it’ll be something remembered fondly in the next generation. So let’s get on to the five best Disney games we saw released in the last seven or so years:
#5. Star Wars: Battlefront II
Just 2–3 years ago, most people were rightly criticizing Electronic Arts for their handling of the Star Wars license. After all, they are the only game company for the time being that can make Star Wars games aside from Lego titles, so they better make some good ones. And man did they get off on the wrong foot. Star Wars Battlefront was fun but lacked much in the way of depth, there wasn’t really any games between it and the sequel, and when Star Wars Battlefront II launched, fans were pretty much ready to riot. While the gameplay certainly was fine the lackluster campaign and microtransaction-driven rewards system that was pulled at the last minute, but not adjusted to reflect earning rewards in-game in any meaningful manner resulted in negative reviews across the board. Electronic Arts had thoroughly bungled the Star Wars license to the point people were practically demanding Disney revoke it or at least let other companies make games with it in addition to EA.
To their credit though, Electronic Arts really turned their fortunes with Star Wars around in the last two years. It took a lot of work, but Star Wars Battlefront II is now a fantastic game and it still has a pretty solid player base that is not going anywhere so it is a great time to pick this title up (specifically the “Celebration Edition”) and just have access to a smorgasbord of Star Wars content.
#4. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Like I said in the last 2 years, Electronic Arts surprisingly went from completely botching the Star Wars license to miraculously being the best thing about the IP (an honorable nod to Star Wars Squadrons, but I couldn’t do a list that was almost all Star Wars). Though there was certainly reason to be wary of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Had there ever been a truly good single-player action-platformer game based on Star Wars? Like Force Unleashed was ok (the less said about the sequel, the better), but really no. In all the decades since the first movie released there really hadn’t been a good game where you are just a Jedi that has lightsaber duels and uses force powers in an action game (if anyone brings up the Jedi Knight games, those are really more FPS titles with lightsaber mechanics awkwardly tacked on).
Also, the game looked kinda rough with a bland protagonist and it launched roughly too with numerous bugs and performance issues. But the bugs got ironed-out (while the bland protagonist remained) and what you had was a really solid story with a great supporting cast, some good action, and yeah the best Star Wars action game to date. I can’t wait to see the next entry in the franchise and EA clearly did not know they had a huge hit in their hands as they are now ramping it up to be a full-on franchise so let’s hope they don’t screw it up.
#3. Kingdom Hearts 3
Fourteen years. We had to wait fourteen years for the proper full sequel to Kingdom Hearts II. It’s not that there weren’t Kingdom Hearts games during that period, there were quite a few, actually. But they were spread across multiple consoles (almost all portable) until recent collections were released. How does a game deliver after fourteen years of waiting? Well in some ways arguably it did not. While it wrapped up some loose ends, I think some people were expecting this to be if not the final chapter in the series, at least an end to Sora’s story, and in that sense Kingdon Hearts 3 is really just another entry in the series and it seems far from over. Which would be fine except we don’t want to go another nearly two generations of consoles without another proper entry.
But if you take it as it’s presented, another entry in a long-running franchise, I think Kingdom Hearts 3 is arguably the best game in the series thus far. The game looks incredible, the worlds are varied, almost all new, and really fun (though why the ONLY track that plays in Toy Story is “You’ve got a friend in me” to the point it drove me insane is a mystery, that franchise has other songs) and while it definitely could still be an easily broken spamfest of special attacks, the combat is the most entertaining in the series. I personally am super excited to see what crazy direction the series takes next (especially after the hints Melody of Memory provided) as long as I don’t have to wait till I’m in my 50s to experience it.
#2. The Disney Afternoon Collection
For a lot of us in the 90s, The Disney afternoon was what Disney was to us. Sure there were the cool renaissance movies like Little Mermaid and Aladdin, but we spend so many more hours with Scrooge, Chip N’ Dale, Baloo, and Darkwing Duck. That was Disney to us.
And a big part of that was the video games based on those seminal cartoons. Bucking the trend of licensed gaming trash, you had five really incredible games (and also Talespin) that still stand the test of time.
The collection of titles alone makes it worthwhile for any Disney fan (especially for Rescue Rangers 2 & Ducktales 2, both rare games), but this is not some simple collection of quick ports. The rewind feature should be a must for any retro collection, and there are some pretty cool extras including some fun gallery stuff, though it could have benefitted from going deeper on how the games were made and their influence on game design. Nevertheless, if you are a Disney fan and don’t own the Disney Afternoon Collection, remedy that immediately.
There was a pretty good chance that at worst Insomniac’s take on Marvel’s most iconic superhero would still be pretty good. After all, this is the same studio that brought us Spyro and more importantly, Ratchet and Clank. Still, licensed-superhero games are always a risky proposition and arguably the last good game starring everyone’s favorite wall-crawler was in 2004 with Spider-Man 2.
But Insomniac didn’t just deliver a good Spider-Man game, they delivered a spectacular one. It manages to be its own thing that’s still definitely Spider-Man with its own takes on familiar characters that work incredibly well, no more evident than in the main plot thread of the relationship between Peter Parker and Otto Octavius. From the first second, you know exactly where that story is going and it’s still compelling as hell to watch. Also massive points for bringing up a villain most people have never even heard of who sounds like a complete joke (Mister Negative) and instantly establishing him as a serious threat.
But the great story wouldn’t be enough to make this the best game based on a Disney property in the last generation without some great gameplay to back it up. The combat borrows pretty liberally from the well-established “Arkham” formula, but it still feels more free and loose and able to mix it up as Spider-Man would as opposed to the more refined and methodical Dark Knight.
But the real star of the game, as it should be in any Spider-Man game, is absolutely the swinging. It feels great to swing around in this game and it’s a wide-open Marvel version of New York and you can literally just spend hours swinging and doing very little else in terms of game progress. Insomniac’s Spider-Man is the best game starring Spider-Man to date, the best Disney game of this past generation, and when I look back, arguably my personal favorite as well.
That’s all for this week but there is a major Avengers content drop happening next week with a new character, Kate Bishop, and some new story content so definitely look out for my thoughts on that. See ya real soon!