X-List: The 10 Best 2D games based on Disney cartoons

Posted on Mar 11 2013 - 12:54pm by Laurie-Anne Vazquez

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Epic Mickey and its sequel came, went, and left us a little like Aladdin at the Ends of the Earth: Cold, hurt and stuck with a frozen, shivering monkey.

Wait, no.

Warren Spector’s mouse adventures didn’t live up to the lofty promises and high expectations we had for them, but that’s okay. We still have Capcom and SEGA’s marvelous 8- and 16-bit games, that magical time when the Disney Afternoon program block was still on television and the Disney films were in the midst of a renaissance.

Like those shows and movies, these game adaptations are considered timeless classics. Don your favorite fedora and bomber jacket (or Hawaiian shirt) because we’re taking a look back at the top 10 2D Disney video games.

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Donald Duck’s Playground
If you grew up in the 80s, this PC game taught you math — and fruit, and monetary value, and time management — in a fun and engaging manner. A basic adventure game that featured Donald working at four different jobs to earn money for playground equipment, it won a slew of educational awards for its design and ability to help kids retain information. It’s the ’80s equivalent of Blues Clues. Yes, it came out in 1986 and looks fairly primitive by today’s standards, but play it and you’ll realize that math has never been more fun (except for Donald in Mathmagic Land, which is the only reason I understand billiards).

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Mickey Mousecapade
The first of the Capcom Disney games, Mickey Mousecapade was the ’80s equivalent of Kingdom Hearts: bits and pieces of the Disney universe mashed together in one game. The graphics may have been garish, there may have only been 5 levels, and the sprites may have looked an awful lot like Hudson Soft characters (because they were), but you got to play as Mickey. On a quest. With Minnie. While Minnie mirrored everything Mickey did — which sucked when she got kidnapped to a secret part of the level, but was awesome when you needed a shield for the friggin’ pirate boss — it was still great to play as the most iconic characters of your childhood. It was also pretty neat to fight the Cheshire Cat at the end of the first level.

 X List: The 10 Best 2D games based on Disney cartoons

Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers
You were two tiny chipmunks throwing fruit twice as big as you at enemies the size of the TV screen: how could it not have been awesome? Based on the Mega Man 2 engine, Capcom crafted this side-scrolling action game with the same attention to detail they brought to everything else: the game world is proportionate to your size, there was a 2-player co-operative mode to help out with trickier levels (including throwing one player into the enemy as a distraction), and Zipper the fly was a power-up. Oh, and the boxes look just like the ones in Mega Man. Easy breezy straightforward fun.

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This non-canon SEGA Genesis side-scrolling platformer may not have been the most original action video game out there, but the dark, moody graphics were quite impressive.  It was Batman: the Animated Series-lite, and any game that can rock dark color palettes and themes is one to be fondly remembered. The ho-hum story featured  Goliath in search of Eye of Odin talisman and all the wacky adventures that a large, gray man-monster could get into. Besides, how often do you get to play as a gargoyle outside of this (and Capcom’s Gargoyle’s Quest, Gargoyle’s Quest II,and Demon’s Quest)? Not often enough.

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World of Illusion
A semi-sequel to SEGA’s previous Illusion titles, World of Illusion stands out from the pack in how it incorporates other elements of the Disney universe into the gameplay. Drawing in design and game objectives from Aladdin, the Little Mermaid, the Sword and the Stone and Alice in Wonderland, World of Illusion was so much more than Mickey and Donald getting spirited away in the middle of a magic act; this game was proof that the entire Disney universe could be mashed together in one place and played through. It’s the spiritual precursor to Kingdom Hearts… and the great grandchild of Mickey Mousecapade.

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Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse
Think of it as a precursor to Epic Mickey. This 16-bit Genesis and SNES action platformer sees gamers adopting the role of Mickey Mouse as he waltzes through several years of Disney history — you can play as Mickey from Steamboat Willie to The Prince and the Pauper in one side-scroller put this one on our list. Released the year after Mickey’s 65th birthday, it featured 24 stages with responsive gameplay, solid control, pretty graphics, and rich sound. There were even Mickey voice samples to add to the gameplay experience. If there was something not to enjoy, we couldn’t find it.

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Quackshot: Starring Donald Duck
You’d be hard-pressed not to put this platformer on any Best Of list, simply because it plays so well. This treasure-hunting action title starring DonaldDuck and his nephews Huey, Louie, and Dewey features well-crafted levels, deep challenges, and varied locations that range everywhere from a Viking Ship to Transylvania. All the citizens of Duckberg stop by to help Donald find his treasure, and it’s rare to see cartoon characters applied so well in another medium. The music’s good, too — as if you need another reason to dig this out and play it again.

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This SEGA platformer set a benchmark for sound and graphics in its day due to its use of cel animation in its backgrounds. The platform design is stellar, with intricate levels crafted from key scenes in the movie (the Genie bonus level is widely regarded as one of the best on the Genesis). Having the opportunity to play through one of Disney’s later classics makes this one a keeper; the fact that it looked like you were controlling Aladdin in your very own cartoon makes it one of the best Disney games ever. It may have been on both the Genesis and SNES, but we prefer the Genesis version for its oh-so-silky gameplay.

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The Lion King
Two words: Wildebeest and Stampede. Like Aladdin, The Lion King turned key elements of a great movie into fantastic levels (the Elephant Graveyard and Wildebeest Stampede primarily) that are packed with equally as fantastic gameplay. Collecting bugs as your health was a treat, but swinging from an elephant’s tale to a faithful rendering of “Just Can’t Wait to be King” made the game a must-play. Also like Aladdin, The Lion King let gamers relive the best parts of Disney’s smash animated movie- and that made it one of the best games on the Genesis.

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It’s incredibly hard to find someone who didn’t love playing this NES platformer. I happen to be one of those people — Scrooge’s pogo-cane launched me into many an abyss — but I have to give the game its due. Sending a greedy old duck around the world to collect as much gold as possible made for a surprisingly fun game. You got to go to the moon, for Pete’s sake (and the music for that stage is fondly remembered as some of the best in the 8-bit era). How many Disney characters do that?

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News and Culture Editor Laurie Vazquez really misses when all games were flat. Sure, she’s worked in television and veered off into film and television writing, but when she’s not whacking out scripts for contests (or, more likely, when she should be whacking them out) she fires up her beloved flat games. Take away her Nintendo, and she is a sad, sad girl. Just don’t take away her Futurama or her viola: that makes her mad.

7 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Terry Torres March 12, 2013 at 1:37 PM - Reply

    Excellent choices!! I myself really enjoyed Magical Quest, but I understand, since it’s not really… based on anything in particular.

  2. Valkor March 12, 2013 at 4:03 PM - Reply

    When I saw this on twitter the first thing that popped in my head was “If Aladdin (Genesis) and/or Castle of Illusions isn’t in there I am gonna rage so super hard”. Rage subsided. Great list.

    • Tim March 12, 2013 at 7:16 PM - Reply

      The SNES Aladdin ain’t nothing to sneeze at either.

      • Eric Guzman March 13, 2013 at 2:30 PM - Reply

        Excellent level design. I think I preferred the SNES sound track and the magic carpet lava chase a bit more on SNES. Both excellent games.

  3. muchacho March 14, 2013 at 3:27 PM - Reply

    Playstatin’s Hercules was pretty darn good too! Agree that these are excellent candidates though.

    • Jeffrey L. Wilson March 14, 2013 at 9:36 PM - Reply

      Speaking of Hercules, did anyone play Herc’s Adventure on PS1? Not Disney, but had a cartoony look and a really interesting death system that sent you to Hades. Now that i think of it, I think it was LucasArts. Which is now Disney. Jeez.

  4. Aflate November 18, 2013 at 10:01 AM - Reply

    Disney’s Toy Story for Genisis/Mega Drive was also brilliant, and I still enjoy taking out my Mega Drive once in a while to have a go at that game :D

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