History of the LEGO Video Games

This week the new LEGO Star Wars game comes out, which includes all 9 core movies (sorry Solo and Rogue One). I’ve played plenty of these fun LEGO games, and I thought it would be cool to look back at all the games we’ve had so far, and why these games are so popular, with so many franchises under their brick.

Pre-Star Wars

The first Lego video game, Lego Fun to Build (1995) was on the Sega Pico, a kiddie console, which barely counts. The real first one was Lego Island (1997), which was a PC game, which led to a series of Lego games, a couple a year, almost exclusively on PC. There were a few Game Boy games (Lego Stunt Rally) or a PlayStation 1 or 2 (Lego Island 2, Lego Racers), and even the Bionicle’s series. However, none of them really took off.

These were all made by Lego Interactive, a subdivision of The Lego Group, and the division shut down in 2004. However, a small team from that division went on to found their own company, Giant Interactive Entertainment. Luckily for them, Lego Interactive had an incomplete contract for Lego Star Wars: The Video Game, and they were able to pick it up and continue the project.

Lego Star Wars: The Video Game

In 2005, the new Giant Interactive Entertainment released Lego Star Wars: The Video Game, a Lego-fied version of the Prequel Trilogy, and was enjoyed by many. While by no means an “amazing” game, it was amusing, very easy, and had the perfect sense of humor for the trilogy that was under a lot of critique. No matter how much you didn’t like Jar Jar, Midichlorians, or Anakin’s relationship with sand, the fun of swinging lightsabers, cutting down droids, and meta-Lego humor was just too great to overlook. We had a hit.

Almost immediately after, Giant Interactive Entertainment was acquired by Traveller’s Tale’s, who was known for making a bunch of Pixar video games, and worked with Lego Interactive, and Giant Interactive following, for the game. The immediately got to work on Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy.

Just like how so many people preferred the Original Trilogy of films, the video games was also much more appreciated by fans. All the fun of the first game, but with the characters and story that people liked? Of course it was more successful, and sold over a million copies in the first week!

They bust out The Complete Saga the next year, just the two games together, and they realized it was time to see if they could replicate this success. In fact, either The Original Trilogy or The Complete Saga are still considered some of the best Lego games yet.

Building More

In 2008, both Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Batman: The Videogame are released, both also favorable with audiences. Indiana Jones added more interactivity with your environment, adding bottles, swords, and guns that could be picked up, as well as building and riding in vehicles. Lego Batman was the first time that, instead of just recreating the movies, Lego created an original plot. All of Batman’s Rogues Gallery has escaped Arkham, and Batman has to get them all back. However, you get to play as both Batman (and Robin) fighting the villains, but also as the villains, doing their dastardly deeds.

There are a lot of games that follow, so I’m going to go ahead a speedrun through these:

  • 2009- Lego Rock Band, a fun version of the very popular group activity game Rock Band, which was kind of like Guitar Hero but included more instruments. Really more of a Rock Band game with a Lego skin, then a Lego video game.
  • 2009- Indiana Jones 2, which added Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to the first game, but then cut down on the original trilogy, so wasn’t as popular. However, this game did introduce 2-player Split-screen, so players didn’t have to stand directly next to each other anymore.
  • 2010- Harry Potter: Years 1-4, didn’t add much to the gameplay, but was still enjoyable. An easy win, since Harry Potter has (especially at that time) such a big fanbase.
  • 2011- Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, which added some new mechanics, like Story Swap, allowing you to switch between teams in separate locations for multi-part objectives, as well as real-time strategy of commanding large armies across battlefields. Mixed reviews, especially since it was of the bad movie Star Wars: The Clone Wars and only the first two seasons of the Clone Wars series.
  • 2011- Pirates of the Caribbean, while this game didn’t add anything new, I will say that the puzzles in this game are some of my favorite in any Lego game, and it really feels like you have to come up with crazy solutions like Jack Sparrow.
  • 2011- Harry Potter: Years 5-7, nothing particularly notable here
  • 2012- Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, was the first of the Lego games to include voice acting, which some people love, and some do not. Honestly, some of my favorite bits of the Meta-comedy in the earlier Lego games come from trying to communicate a movie with pantomime and props. It really added so much to the slapstick comedy that you can get away with when characters burst into tiny Lego pieces.
  • 2013- The Lord of the Rings, which introduces having an inventory. While this game also had voice acting, there wasn’t any original recordings, but just pulled the audio from the films. Special note, one of my wife Chanel and I’s memories when we were newly dating was playing this game all in a single nine-hour sitting.
  • 2013- Marvel Super Heroes, 2014- The Hobbit, Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, 2015- Jurassic World, and 2016- Marvel’s Avengers, all had nothing notable to add.
  • 2016- Star Wars: The Force Awakens, added Multi-Builds, which allowed you to destroy and rebuild certain areas in the world, allowing new paths to be opened, and also added Blaster Battles (3rd Person shooter) and flying ships, though some flying has been included in previous games.
  • 2017- Marvel Super Heroes 2 added a 4-player competitive mode.
  • 2018- The Incredibles, nothing notable, and in fact is considered one of the worst of all the Lego games.
  • 2018- DC Super-Villains adds your personal character, “The Rookie” to be the central character of the story. For once, you aren’t playing a pre-established character, but get to have your own original Player Character.

Skywalker Saga

Finally, tomorrow Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will be released, where all 9 core movies will be playable. There will be over 300 playable characters in the game, new lightsaber combats, including combos of light and heavy attacks, aimed Force powers, and new over-the-shoulder view for blaster fire. Of course, by continuing to use the dialogue from the films, the playful nature that these games built their reputation on does get lost, as these games start to just feel like any other.

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