We’ve ventured into a galaxy far, far away and have protected the earth from the likes of M.O.D.O.K, but we haven’t explored much of the wonderful world of Disney in a big triple-A title or small indie experience lately. While Star Wars and Marvel have a treasure trove of content to draw from, Disney movies have a ton of potential in the video game space, especially for fans of platformers.
Disney has a grand history in gaming, but one of its greatest eras was during the NES and SNES generations. Aladdin received an excellent video game adaptation that’s bursting with life and animation innovation. Players were able to take one jump ahead of the bread line and clash with the guards. There was also some tricky, albeit fair, platforming. The animated series DuckTales also saw a game on the NES that had Scrooge McDuck jumping on his cane. The levels turned out to be a tour-de-force of game design, and the music of the Moon level is still remembered to this day. We saw its remaster by WayForward in 2013, but despite the potential of bringing back the Capcom classics for a new audience, there was absolutely no momentum for similar projects.
Later on, Disney was hit and miss in the gaming landscape as the PS1 and PS2 generations sprung up. Treasure Planet had excruciatingly mediocre platforming levels with some Tony Hawk-inspired maps laid in between with the solar surfer. In addition, Hercules, Monster’s Inc, and Toy Story 2 all captured the hearts and minds of kids growing up in the ‘90s and the ‘00s.
Disney’s last hurrah was with the Disney Infinity series, an innovative toys-to-life title that let players make their own levels while experiencing fully realized campaigns based on the Disney movies they loved. The Pirates of the Caribbean pack was especially memorable as it had a relatively big open world to explore.
Ever since Infinity’s downfall, Disney’s been relatively silent. The Kingdom Hearts series continues to dive players into the company’s immersive worlds, but there is a lack of interest from the rest of the gaming development community to make fully realized games based on successful properties like Frozen, Moana, Big Hero 6, Tangled, and Toy Story. Most have gone to mobile, but it would be great if these beloved Disney films get the Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order or Marvel’s Avengers treatment.
In the spirit of Imagineering, picture these scenarios.
New retro remakes by independent creators or smaller studios
There have been a few retro revivals over the past few years. Sonic Mania was the revitalization of the classic run of games that brought the formula to the 21st Century. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night successfully delivers on the promise of returning to the PS1 Castlevania formula. We could see the same happening with our favorite Disney brands under talented indie developers.
“An indie storyteller, a creative could work on another property within the Disney and Pixar collection of IP in a different way,” SVP of Walt Disney Games Sean Shoptaw told IGN earlier this month. “Those smaller indie kind of experiences that are more personal… I think those are opportunities too.”
Imagine a remaster or a sequel to the classic Aladdin, for example, brought back to life like the excellent Streets of Rage 4 from DotEmu. Or, we could see an indie studio such as Studio MDHR (Cuphead) or Moon Studios (Ori and the Blind Forest) tackle a license (Mickey Mouse, Zootopia, Frozen, etc) and twist it into a Capcom-like platformer you’d expect from the ‘90s. There is so much potential, but Disney seems to be pretty strict as they denied FDG Entertainment (Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom) the license to DuckTales. Heck, we’d even love it if Capcom joins the fray and has the Mega Man 11 team working on a new Disney project like the good ol’ days.
An open world title
But we could take it one step further. Disney has the properties that would make for an outstanding adventure game. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is ripe for new stories within its charismatic world. While we now have a DLC tie-in chapter in Sea of Thieves, with Jack Sparrow starring in the adventure, we could see triple-A studios take this one step further with a fully realized game.
Imagine if Ubisoft took the license, made a huge open environment with plenty of plunder to be found, and put in the Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag ship gameplay? It’s a match made in heaven. It would be a whole lot more interesting than Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. Thwarting evil in a Big Hero 6 open-world game inspired by Insomniac’s Spider-Man would be fantastic too.
While many of the current-era Star Wars and Marvel games have been great so far, it would be amazing if Disney opened its heritage of movie classics to interested developers. We’d love to swashbuckle as Jack Sparrow or play a 2D platformer as Aladdin or Hercules once more sometime soon.