I’ll be straight with you. There are a lot of games out there based on TV shows—and many of them were made in the 1990s and early 2000s. This isn’t great if you’re looking for game tie-ins to your kids’ modern TV favorites.
Game tie-ins are pretty famous for being awful. (Does anyone remember the Reservoir Dogs game? No? I thought so.) That being said, the rule isn’t universal. Exploring an existing franchise in a new medium should be seen as an opportunity to do something fun and different. It’s slim pickings out there, though. These games are a few of the ones that get things right.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja
Ultimate Ninja is a series of games based on the popular anime, “Naruto.” The games are fighting games where players pit super-powered ninjas from the series against each other. The latest is Ultimate Ninja Storm 3: Full Burst. It’s a mouthful, but fans of fighting games and of the “Naruto” series will enjoy breaking out their ninja powers. The series is rated T, and a new game with more characters is scheduled for release in 2014.
Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!
Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time” has spawned two video games. This is the good one. Available for the Nintendo DS and 3DS, Hey Ice King! is a side-scrolling dungeon adventure where heroes Finn and Jake stop the princess-hungry Ice King from making a Garbage Princess. Yeah, it sounds silly, but if you’ve ever watched the show you know exactly what you’re in for—classic, clever, “Adventure Time” silliness.
Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension
Disney’s “Phineas and Ferb” has spawned quite a few games. Across the Second Dimension, released in 2011 for the DS, Wii, and PS3, is a great introductory platformer for younger kids—your older ones might find it too simplistic. The dimension-hopping craziness will keep kids hooked, and the scientist brothers, along with their platypus pet, are smart and peppy role models for any kid.
Another popular Disney show, “Wizards of Waverly Place,” has a moderately successful game based on it. Spellbound, like Across the Second Dimension, might disappoint older gamers with its simplicity. But this DS game lets kids perform magic spells and go through a variety of mini-games, as well as a main quest featuring the characters of the TV show.
The Magic School Bus: Oceans
This is one that I used to play obsessively when I was a kid. Magic School Bus: Oceans has been repurposed for the DS, but with all the charm of the original PC version. This game teaches kids about all the different levels of the ocean and its creatures. Some of the puzzles can be challenging, but all are fun and engrossing.
Legend of Korra Mini-games
Last but not least, check out the nick.com website to access a bunch of mini-games based on the “Legend of Korra,” the sequel series to “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Korra is the playable character, and kids can use her bender powers to avoid enemies and obstacles. These games aren’t plot-based, but they’re fun diversions and worth a look for fans of the show!