Why Was Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ Original Video Game so Frustratingly Difficult? Suddenly, It All Makes Sense
Aladdin remains one of Disney‘s most popular animated films. It’s a verified classic, which you cannot necessarily say about its video game adaption. While it’s by no means bad, the Aladdin video game for the SEGA Genesis was a cruel and unforgiving monster to play. Over the years, it’s gained a reputation as one of the hardest games of the era, but one question has always remained: Why would someone do this to children? Well, there might actually be an answer to that.
Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ enraged a generation of gamers
A lot has been said about Aladdin on the Genesis. While a 1990s console platformer being hard is about as newsworthy as there being a new Marvel movie coming out soon, Aladdin was notorious for just how difficult it turned out to be. It might not top the lists of the hardest games of all time, but it’s certainly earned a place near the middle, at least.
“I always felt the Genesis one was a bit long and difficult as a kid, and I still have that same feeling today,” said one veteran on the Digital Press forums. Others highlighted moments like the infuriating escape from the cave or the dungeon with those “damned skeletons” as some of the game’s most punishing. Many even admitted to breaking controllers in frustration while trying to beat it.
The ‘Aladdin’ game developers were likely told to do this on purpose
Surprisingly enough, this intense difficulty might not have been something that naturally occurred during development. In an interview with Game Informer on YouTube, Louis Castle, creative director for The Lion King on the Genesis and SNES, talked about the mandate for extra difficulty set down by Disney themselves. Allegedly, the company had been analyzing statistics related to their games and rentals at places like Blockbuster, having found that games that could be beaten in less than a day (the normal rental window) were less likely to get bought. As a result, they instructed Castle and his team to increase the difficulty to lengthen playtime.
This is by no means a sure explanation for what happened with Aladdin, mind you. After all, Castle only worked on The Lion King, so he can only speak for that game. Even so, it’s not unreasonable to assume this kind of directive was in place for all of Disney’s licensed games during that period. The logic seems to work out from an outsider’s perspective, too, to the point that even some places like Reddit came to the same conclusion. After all, if someone can’t beat the game before they have to return it to a game rental store, they might bite the bullet and buy it outright instead of spending one, two, three, or however many more days-worth of money it would take to finish it.
Another Disney movie also got a difficult video game adaption
Speaking of The Lion King, it has a similar reputation to Aladdin for being ungodly difficult. In the interview, Castle highlighted the game’s second level, where they intentionally ramped things up. In a hellish recreation of the “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” song sequence from the film, players would need to coordinate multiple swinging actions, automatic movement, directional movement, and platforming puzzles, at many points, being forced to jump in and hope that things worked out due to not being able to see the full extent of the puzzle on the screen. It was so bad that many have joked about that game only has two levels since no one ever made it to the third before giving up.