The beginning of the '90s featured the first truly great console war. Sega, previously a B-lister with their Master System, had found new life with the Genesis. It seemed poised to take over the world (Japan excepted)... until Nintendo's follow-up to the groundbreaking NES came out-- the Super Nintendo (or Super Famicom in Japan).
Over the course of its 13 year life (believe it or not, it wasn’t discontinued in Japan until 2003), the SNES became home to many games still widely considered the best ever made.
Luminaries like The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past, Donkey Kong Country, Super Metroid, Secret of Mana, and Chrono Trigger truly separated the console from the other 16-bit contenders.
However, that didn’t make the SNES immune to the beast that known as the licensed game. Since the early days of home consoles, a brand or an intellectual property wasn’t anything until there was a video game made of it or for it.
Skinning, or just painting one set of characters over an existing game, was rampant-- and licensed games were the biggest culprit for skinned games.
It seems pretty obvious t0 say this, but not every IP ought to be made into a game. Fried Green Tomatoes was a good movie, but who in their right mind would play a game of it? We would, but we never claimed to be sane.
Along those lines, we’ve hunted down 15 Licensed SNES Games That Make Absolutely No Sense.
14 Shaq Fu
Superstar athletes were no stranger to the video game treatment. More than a dozen pro athletes had games made for them on the Super Nintendo. However, in only one of them could a cat lady fight a mummy.
Shaquille O’Neal was not the typical start athlete-- he was gregarious, an aspiring rapper, an aspiring actor, and he made no secret of his love of martial arts movies. O'Neal’s unique personality and persona led him to opt for a fighting game on the SNES (and other systems) rather than just a basketball game.
The character designs are just fine, and we’d even be okay with a basketball-playing fighter, but the game is just plain bad.
It is routinely considered one of the worst ever made, and to-date remains a better punchline than puncher.
13 Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is notable for a number of things: pitting all-time great actor Gary Oldman against all-time great cardboard cutout Keanu Reeves, having a weird undressed manbat thing that still haunts our dreams, as well as the realization that people actually wore sunglasses in the Victorian era, for instance. It is not really remembered as an adventurous romp, however.
In the game, you control Keanu’s Jonathan Harker, in a shameless Castlevania rip-off.
You fight your way through dungeons filled with beasts of the night, and bars filled with swarthy drunks and stray dogs (seriously, you cut down a bunch of drunk guys).
You even wind up fighting a dragon at some point (we must have gone to the bathroom during that part of the movie).
You could do worse on the Super Nintendo than Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but you could also do a lot better.
12 The Blues Brothers
The 1992 NES version of this game made our list when we ran down non-sensical licensed games for the 8-bit system. The Super Nintendo version of this game came out in 1993.
The movie it was based on came out in 1980. The cartoon of the property wouldn’t come out until 1997. So there was no real reason other than “why not?!” for making a Blues Brothers game.
The game is a real odd duck. Jake and Elwood travel exotic locations and attack animals near giant mushrooms. Every once in a while they hulk out and lose their shirts.
We don’t think there was a part where a gigantic muscled, shirtless John Belushi hurls records at a pink bird next to a 10-foot mushroom in the movie… maybe it was planned for the sequel.
11 Disney’s Pinocchio
Disney actually had a pretty good track record with their platformers in the 16-bit era. Aladdin is a classic game, and the majority of Disney games of the time were solid at a minimum. Disney’s Pinocchio, too, is not a bad game. We’re just not sure why it was made when it was.
The movie it was based on had come out in 1940. The movie was released on home video twice in the ‘90s: 1993 and 1999. The game, though, came out in 1996. So it wasn’t an anniversary, and it didn’t coincide with a video release promotion.
What we’re left with is a video game made about a 56-year-old out of print cartoon.
It’s possible that Disney was testing the waters on constantly pumping out games based on all their IPs. If that was the reason, we’re guessing the feedback and numbers weren’t all that great.
10 Home Alone
The idea of a Home Alone video game seems like a home run. The movie was a hit (check), is aimed at kids (check), is full of action (double check), has a likeable and memorable protagonist (yep), and clear-cut villains (also yep). The idea of setting traps to fight bad guys appeals to us in a big way in a video game.
So the way that Home Alone makes absolutely no sense is in how the game itself was executed.
First off, Kevin McAllister lives in a house that is terrifyingly, surrealistically big-- each hall is an endless corridor filled with duplicate furniture.
There are cartoony mobsters in the house already that can be fought off with a squirt gun, as well as a human-sized roach for a boss. We just wanted a game about repeatedly doing enough damage to kill two stupid criminals with Micro Machines, not a Kafka-esque nightmare.
9 Eek! The Cat
Bear with us on this one. The game, Eek! The Cat is based on the popular cartoon that ran from 1992 to 1997 in the U.S. The titular cat is always working to protect others, and usually winds up getting very hurt in the process. The game mirrors that premise pretty closely.
What makes no sense is this: the game, which was made by Ocean Software, was a skin job. The original game, Sleepwalker, was released the year before… for charity.
Instead of a cartoon cat, you played as a dog and you protected your sleepwalking boy owner. It was the official game of the Comic Relief charity. All proceeds of Sleepwalker went to the charity.
So why on earth would Ocean skin their charity game as a shameless cash-in just a year after it came out? That move just undoes all the goodwill Ocean made for themselves.
8 Hanna Barbera’s Turbo Toons
The classic cartoons of Hanna Barbera (Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Grape Ape, etc.) were attempting something of a resurrection in the ‘90s. It didn’t take, though. Part of the problem must have been the brilliant marketing efforts in an attempt to modernize the franchises-- yes, we’re being sarcastic.
Hanna Barbera’s Turbo Toons is a great example. For instance, the game was never released outside of Europe (typically that sort of move is reserved for cricket games). The game involved the beloved cartoon animals of Hanna Barbera racing each other-- on foot.
The pseudo top-down racer was a foot race with a convoluted track and no sense of action or speed. There was a famous Hanna Barbera cartoon called Wacky Races (which became a great cel-shaded Dreamcast kart game), but instead they wanted Snagglepuss to jog slowly past Top Cat.
Bravo, Hanna Barbera. That’s why you got bought out so long ago.
A little-known rule of the ‘90s was that if you had 30 friends or more, there was a 60% chance you’d have your own platforming video game. So it should come as no surprise that just about every movie under the sun was a potential licensed game waiting to happen.
This is how we got stuck with Warlock, a game made about a horror-ish movie that’d been shelved for years after it got made.
We won’t fault you if you don’t know of or remember the movie that Entertainment Weekly said had effects “so low-budget they might have come out of a joke shop.”
The game is just another dark-ish action platformer that borrows heavily from Castlevania. We would’ve much rather played a game based on Leprechaun or Puppet Master.
6 Bébé’s Kids
By this point, you probably wouldn’t be surprised if there was a game based on a bus bench ad (don’t worry, there isn’t… that we know of). However, there is a game that was based on Bébé’s Kids.
That the cartoon feature (and subsequent spin-off animated series) ever got made is maybe more insane than the concept of a game being based on the movie.
The movie was an animated extrapolation of one part of a stand-up routine by comedian Robin Harris. The movie got released two years after he died of a heart attack following a live show.
It follows Robin being forced to look after the troublesome (and vulgar) children of his crush’s friend at a theme park. The movie was bad, the show was worse, and the game was somehow worse than that.
5 Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball
Bill Laimbeer wasn’t your typical sports star. A 4-time all-star and 2-time champion, he was one of the faces of the “Bad Boys” Pistons teams.
Basically, he was famous for being a jerk, a thug, and something of a dirty player. With that in mind, his basketball game had a focus on the thing he was most famous for in basketball-- the fighting.
Basketball with punching had already been done with Midway’s fun and cartoony Arch Rivals, so instead Hewson Consultants (the video game company that has a name that sounds like a law firm) imagined a future where Laimbeer had been made the commissioner of a sports league that glorified violence.
The game also allowed you to bomb rival basketball players. We don’t get it, either.
5. Izzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings
Unless you were a kid when the Olympics came to your hometown, you probably don’t remember a single Olympic mascot. There have only really been two that have ever been remembered past the closing ceremonies for their games.
Sam the Eagle of the 1984 Los Angeles Games was a cute bird with a patriotic top hat that Disneyland built an animatronic show called America Sings around.
The other memorable mascot is Izzy, from the 1996 Atlanta Games. Izzy was remembered more for being an awful mascot than anything else. The Olympics organizers tried really hard to market Izzy, who was an alien or something.
This led to a bad platformer video game (as did everything else in the ‘90s) that copped the entire look of the first level from Sonic the Hedgehog’s Aquatic Ruin Zone, but without the fun.
4 Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit!
If you were to write down a list of shows from the ‘90s least suited for a video game, the Tim Allen sitcom Home Improvement would fall between Judge Judy and the Evening News. Yet, the Super Nintendo was the exclusive home to an action platformer starring Allen’s Tim “The Toolman” Taylor.
How does one make an action platformer about a cable home improvement show host who likes to make noises like an animal? Why, have him use a flamethrower to fight dinosaurs and mummies, of course.
The game made a half-hearted attempt to say the baddies were just from other television shoots, but it was just an excuse to excuse an excuse of a game. By now, you might have realized it is a good idea to check the internet just to make sure there’s not a Super Nintendo game made about you.
3 Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow
Who the heck is Maui Mallard? Well, it’s Donald Duck. Why? Because Disney Interactive Studios just felt like making Donald Duck a detective send-up of Tom Selleck’s popular Hawaiian-shirted detective, Magnum P.I.
Who or what is Cold Shadow? Why, it’s Maui Mallard’s ninja persona, because we guess detectives like to have secret ninja identities.
The game is actually really good. The animation and the controls are wonderful.
So we give Disney a pass on the fact that the game was never explained away, and that there is no good reason to have made Donald a detective or a ninja without some kind of backstory.
The U.S. version never even calls him Donald Duck, despite the fact that the international version of the game is called Donald Duck in Maui Mallard. Our guess is that Disney got hold of someone else’s good platformer and decided to paint Disney characters over it.
2 Rap Jam: Volume One
It's the game you never you knew you needed. Didn’t you ever wonder what it would be like to play as one-hit rap wonder Naughty By Nature in a game of violent street basketball against Queen Latifah? No? We didn’t either.
This ill-conceived crossover game also featured the likes of Coolio, Onyx, Public Enemy, Yo-Yo, Warren G, LL Cool J, and House of Pain. The presumptuous “Volume One” in the title becomes all the more funny when there was never a follow-up.
On the court, all the players looked like a badly digitized version of Wesley Snipes from White Men Can’t Jump (with differing skin tones). The court is spare, and the action is anemic.
However, despite the hip-hop tie-in, there is no music playing during the game at all. This might well be the worst basketball game of all-time.
1 Captain Novolin
To top this list, a game would have had to have a licensed premise so insane that you’d never guess it in a million years. Grocery Store Receipt: The Reckoning? Too obvious. The Smell In Your Grandma’s House 2? Way too simple to make a game from. We’ve got a real humdinger for you: insulin.
Captain Novolin was licensed from Novolin, a brand of insulin made by big pharma company Novo Nordisk. You played the titular hero as you made your way to rescue the diabetic mayor of Pineville.
Alien bad guys took on the form of walking nightmare junk foods, and your superhero could die if his blood sugar levels were too high or too low.
The idea of educating children of the risks of diabetes is a worthy cause. However, having a video game sponsored by a drug brand is pretty sick.
What are we missing from the list? What other licensed SNES games make no sense? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section!