Not too long ago, gog.com released the Genesis versions of Disney’s Aladdin, The Jungle Book, and The Lion King (more info about the releases can be found here). This was a very welcome surprise, and I encourage anyone to check these games out (especially Aladdin). These releases had me thinking about some of the other great Disney video game releases from the retro era. This isn’t a “countdown” post, as the games I’m going to mention aren’t in any specific order. These are just a few highlights that Disney gave us in video game form.
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (1990)
This game was almost Sega’s platformer answer to Nintendo’s Mario series. You’re going through colorful worlds, with memorable music accompanying them, and you’re bouncing on enemies to defeat them. Instead of Mario, you’re Mickey. Instead of saving Peach, you’re saving Minnie. Instead of Bowser, you’re fighting Queen Mizrabel. Before Sonic the Hedgehog was released, this was the platform game standard to grace Sega’s Mega Drive. It was only the start of the Illusion series, as more games would follow. Even a 2013 high-def rerelease for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. Bonus trivia: The rerelease was composed by Grant Kirkope, instead of Shigenori Kamiya.
Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers (1990)
The “other” NES platformer based off a Disney Afternoon cartoon. Yes, DuckTales is widely regarded as the best, and most popular one. But that shouldn’t mean Chip n’ Dale should be overlooked. It’s more linear than DuckTales (although there are a few spots where you can choose which level to progress towards), and maybe a little easier than DuckTales. But what makes Chip n’ Dale stand out is the level design. The game creators did more than just make everything bigger from the perspective of the tiny protagonists. They had you interact with the environment to help you along your way. Sometimes the environment was used against you. It was one of the more creative NES platformers, in the wake of the many platformers that were made for the NES.
Disney’s Aladdin (1993)
There were two Aladdin video games. The memorable Mega Drive version, from Virgin Games. And this one, from Capcom. This version was designed by Shinji Mikami, who would go on to become known for the Resident Evil series. He has even stated that the Master System version is better than his own. Aladdin could be considered another reason why Sega did what Nintendon’t. But for those who didn’t have access to the Master System, this wasn’t a terrible alternative. The graphics, and the sound were top notch. The gameplay was solid, and you actually got to fight Jafar in his cobra form. It’s worth looking into as a Super Nintendo title. But as an Aladdin video game, you’re better off with the Master System version.
Link: Disney’s Aladdin on eBay
Of course DuckTales was going to be brought up as a great Disney video game. What could be said about this game that hasn’t already said a million times before, by fans, and more established gaming journalists? If you haven’t played the game, play it. If you haven’t heard the moon level theme, look it up. If you want to hear the original cast of the DuckTales cartoon, download the 2013 remaster on PC, iOS, Xbox 360, PS3, or the Wii U.
Link: DuckTales on eBay
Goof Troop (1993)
Shinji Mikami not only made the SNES Aladdin, but he also made Goof Troop for the SNES (his very first video game). This was one of the more odd Disney games. Goof Troop was about Goofy and his son Max living everyday life in Goofy’s hometown, with their neighbors Pete, PJ, and Peg. This game is about Goofy and Max traversing through different worlds filled with pirates, solving puzzles from top down perspectives ala Zelda, in search for Pete and PJ. If you like the Zelda games, then you might consider trying this one. It’s only five levels long. But each level varies in difficulty, depending on your ability to solve puzzles.
Link: Goof Troop on eBay
The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse (1993)
Mickey was quite successful on Sega’s 16-bit console, but how would he fare on the Nintendo side of the 16-bit era? While this didn’t garnish the attention that Castle of Illusion did, it was still a solid platformer starring the Disney mascot. It was even featured on GameCenter CX as one of the many games Chief Arino challenged. In this game, you are Mickey, and the way you play the game depends on the outfits you acquire throughout. There are four outfits for you to acquire: Default, wizard, firefighter, and climber. You will use the abilities attached to these outfits to help you rescue Pluto from an evil wizard incarnation of Pete. As a VGM nerd, I have to point out that the composer for this game is Mari Yamaguchi, who has also composed for Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts, Breath of Fire, and was a member of Capcom’s Alph Lyla.
Mickey Mania (1994)
This might be my personal favorite Mickey game. It plays almost like Castle of Illusion. But instead of a set plot to follow, you’re just Mickey playing through different levels inspired by his classic cartoons. Levels inspired by Steamboat Willie, The Mad Doctor, Lonesome Ghosts, Mickey and the Beanstalk, and more. It’s a very fun, fascinating, and a bit difficult look into Mickey’s past (from 1928 to 1990 to be precise). And this was the very first game that David Jaffe (director of the first God of War) worked on as a designer. And although this game appeared on multiple platforms, each platform either removes, or adds features to the game. Without spoiling anything; the Super Nintendo version omits one level, the Mega Drive version extends one level, while restricting another slightly. The Mega-CD and PlayStation versions extend one level, and the PlayStation version improves the graphics, and extends one level. By the way, the PlayStation version is exclusive to the PAL region, and the Super Nintendo version was the only one released in Japan.
Link: Mickey Mania on eBay
Picture this: A video game inspired by a movie about a guy getting sucked into the same video game you’re playing. Tron was a bonafide arcade game that allowed you to choose from four different mini-games, inspired by events in the movie, and you basically have to beat them. Once you beat the four mini-games, you got to beat the four mini-games again. The more you beat the games, the harder the game gets. This game remained an arcade exclusive for the longest time, until it was given a console release in 2008 for Xbox Live Arcade.
Darkwing Duck (1992)
Capcom made quite a few Disney games. But it’s this one that was probably the most “Mega Man” like out of all of them. It’s even composed by Mega Man 3 composer Yasuaki Fujita, and it allegidely runs on the same engine that ran Mega Man 5. You choose which levels to play, you use your blaster to shoot the enemies, then you fight the bosses, and you upgrade your own arsenal. Rinse, repeat, until you’re at the linear final stages. And much like the Mega Man games of old, Darkwing Duck was by no means a simple game. There was also a Game Boy version of the game. But like most console to portable ports at the time, the portable port was a very restricted/condensed version of what was offered on the console.
Link: Darkwing Duck on eBay
Like I said, these are just some of the other well-known Disney video games from the retro era. I know there’s more, and just because I didn’t mention it doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. That’s why this is “volume one.” If you want to read about more classic Disney games, let me know, and I’ll make a volume two. If you have a personal favorite Disney game that wasn’t mentioned up here, then let me know in the comments.