The Lion King: ROAR! Fun 1994 Game Tie-In for Disney Thing

Lion King on the Super Nintendo

You may know Lion King as that photorealistic Disney film adaptation in 2019 or that 1994 animated film and all that.

And that’s true. But there were also a bunch of video game tie-ins back in 1994 to celebrate (and cash-in on) the arrival of Disney’s big old lion-based romp.

But guess what!? The game was actually pretty damn good! Well, there’s a thing. Let’s roar like a cat and reminisce on this one.

The Lion King (1994) Video Game Adaptation Things That Happened

The (now defunct) American developer Westwood Studios handled this one with Disney Software. As a tie-in of one of the biggest films of all time, there was a fair bit of pressure going on in.

But with a $20 million budget to play with, the creative bods weren’t starved of resources.

Full credit to both developers for delivering what was a very well received 2D platformer launched in 1994. No issues or bother, bang on time for the release of the film. And a fully functioning movie-game adaptation!

That’s often not the case. There’s often something rushed or weird going on there, like with the Jurassic Park Super Nintendo game (which didn’t feature a save option).

True story here—Lion King the film launched in the UK across October 1994. We remember seeing it at the cinema. An we remember our parents buying us the game.

Hurray for parenting! In fact, it launched in time for Christmas 1994 (for some entirely random reason, no doubt) and we got it then. Lucky us!

That was for our SNES, but this thing also came out on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis), Amiga, Game Boy, Game Gear, Master System, NES, and MS-DOS. Really going all out there, eh?

Anyway, for us SNES gamers this is what the thing looked like.

The game really had some decent, advanced concepts going on. And it followed the film faithfully, so kids could relive scenes from the movie.

For example, that bit in the film with the stampeding things down the ravine—that bit is in The Lion King game!

Here it is from the MS-DOS version in all its glory.

We bring that up as so many movie-game tie-ins (certainly in the 1980s and 1990s) kind of ignored the basic plot of the film they were depicting.

As weird as that may sound to non-gamers, there were reasons for it.

Developers would often receive the rights to the film and have to begin work on it. Long before much was really known about the film, leading to some bizarre interpretations.

However, time constraints and rush jobs were also commonplace—such as with the notorious E.T. on the Atari.

There was also the factor of technological limitations. Developers simply couldn’t recreate the lush film worlds on 8-bit or 16-bit home console technology. These days they can, of course, but in 1994 you couldn’t do an open-world RPG with 100 hours of gameplay

Still, for The Lion King everything was managed very professionally!

The game even included two levels, Hakuna Matata and Be Prepared, based on scenes that were eventually removed from the final film.

For example, the film’s soundtrack is legendary (of course) and that was all digitised rather well. Listen to it roar!

Like watching the bloody movie, eh? And this was genuinely like playing the movie so, again, congrats to the bods behind this one.

You can now find the game (and other Disney tie-ins) on the November 2021 release Disney Classic Games Collection: Aladdin, The Lion King, and The Jungle Book.

Should you want to hunt Simba down and all that. It’s there.

Lining Up the Lion King Game Versions

Group M Pro on YouTube has very kindly put a bunch of comparisons for the various games above. That really shows off the difference in technology at the time between each system.

Unsurprisingly, the Game Boy version was the most technically limited.

It was over in 30 minutes of gameplay time, but also featured some very dodgy looking cut scene type stuff. Such as an obese Simba hoisted aloft by Rafiki.

Let’s take a closer look at this glorious encapsulation of the moment.

Game Boy Lion King with Rafiki holding up Simba

Magnificent. Okay, so it’s really not that bad. Sort of. We mean, it was the Game Boy after all. And the in-game stuff looks decent enough.

Here’s the comparison with Sega’s more powerful (full colour) Game Gear. Despite the handheld’s tiny screen, this was very impressive for the day.

As always, the Game Gear’s big problem was it had a short battery life and needed six goddamn AA batteries every three-five hours. Cripes…

That’s why, if you’re wondering, the Game Boy managed to eclipse it in sales despite being in black and white.

Well, anyway, as you’d expect the game was a big hit shifting 1.27 million copies in the USA. It was the top selling Master System game in November 1994, before smashing the Game Gear top selling game thing in December 1994.

In total, around 4.5 million copies were sold.

We recall it being a difficult game to play and getting lost quite a lot. Perhaps not exactly child friendly, as you’d expect for the film, but still a faithful recreation and a lot of fun.

Note, there wasn’t a game tie-in for the 2019 live action version.

Although Simba is a playable character in the Kingdom Hearts action RPG franchise. Which is nice and all that. The circle of life.

4 comments

  1. I remember getting the Sega Genesis(Mega Drive) version of the Lion King game for my birthday in 1994. It’s funny looking back at all the games that came out that year – Donkey Kong Country, Super Metroid, Earthworm Jim…and the game I wanted most was the Lion King.

    I remember being able to beat the game at will as a kid, but now have NO IDEA how I managed that. Still enjoy it though!

    Liked by 1 person

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