The Lion King was released in 1994, and quickly became one of the most iconic movies of the decade. The animated classic ultimately became one of Disney‘s hottest properties, spawning a merchandising empire that included several direct-to-video sequels, animated TV shows, books, comics, thousands of different types of toys — and at least one notorious video game that was released in the mid-’90s. The Lion King video game for Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis is best known today for causing gamers everywhere to throw up their hands in frustration, giving up on a game that made headlines for being insanely difficult at best.
‘The Lion King’ video game traumatized even veteran gamers
The Lion King video game was released in 1994, the same year as the iconic film. Although the game featured the same friendly graphics and welcoming colors as the animated film, those who bought the game in hopes of enjoying an easygoing gaming experience were quickly disappointed. In fact, as reported by CBR.com, the game became known as the most difficult of Disney’s video game titles, offering up an experience that many have described as “punishing.”
The first few levels of the SNES game has players follow along with the young lion Simba as he grows to adulthood, and are relatively uncomplicated. However, as the game progresses, more and more puzzles and complex traps are introduced into the game mechanics — until the experience becomes one that CBR paints as truly “rage-inducing.”
While many young players might have given up on the game in frustration, as it turns out, there’s a very tricky reason why The Lion King video game was designed to be so difficult.
Why was ‘The Lion King’ video game so difficult?
The Lion King video game might be infamous in gamer circles now, but the truth has come out as to why the game was made to be so hard. The creative director of the game, Louis Castle, revealed to Game Informer in an intimate interview that at the time, Disney had been doing research on video game rentals at Blockbuster. The analytics revealed that if people tended to progress past a certain point in a rented video game, they likely wouldn’t end up buying the game.
“It was critically important to Disney that they not get more than a certain percentage of the game before one night’s rental … which was like seven or eight hours of play,” Castle said.
He went on to reveal that the game developers got this information late in the process, which meant that they had very little flexibility in terms of game design. In particular, he called out how the game designers decided to make the monkey level the most challenging — but that if players got past that point, they would easily be able to flow through the rest of The Lion King game.
Game developers for ‘The Lion King’ later apologized
Louis Castle has been transparent about his role in making The Lion King game so tough — but he apologized to all those gamers who feel as though the game is virtually unwinnable. These days, some hardcore gamers still feel as though the game is as hard as they remember, with Polygon.com reporting that, although the game has been updated to be played on platforms like Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC, it stands up to the competition, remaining one of the hardest of the classic Disney video games.
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