10 Crazy Unlicensed Video Games You’ve Never Heard Of

Some are legal, some are wildly infringing, and some are weird, but they're all intriguing.

Somari Title Screen With the rise of indie gaming, younger gamers may not realize that until downloadable console games became commonplace, most of the games not released by major publishers were released without an official license from the console manufacturer. This was especially common on the Nintendo Entertainment System, as Nintendo was dominating the industry and had restrictive licensing terms. Some of these unlicensed games were major franchises, like Tengen releasing Tetris and Ms. Pac Man, or long-time computer game developer Codemasters taking their franchises like the Dizzy series to the NES. Codemasters even had their own licensed property, Micro Machines, which was one of the best games of the era to be based on an existing movie, TV show, toy line, etc. Other companies didn't get licenses more because they were cheap than anything else. It showed in the quality of the games that they put out, which could be described as competent, but less than stellar, to say the least. However, most unlicensed games were not nearly as above board. In parts of Asia where there were less strict copyright laws and enforcement thereof, developers borrowed characters or even code from existing games. Usually these ports were done to bring games over from competing and/or more powerful consoles. These less scrupulous developers would also develop complete original games, but even those would have characters from famous games and movies that they didn't actually pay for. Whether they're bootlegs or just companies that weren't on the same page as the console manufacturers, there's all pretty unique.

Formerly the site manager of Cageside Seats and the WWE Team Leader at Bleacher Report, David Bixenspan has been writing professionally about WWE, UFC, and other pop culture since 2009. He's currently WhatCulture's U.S. Editor and also serves as the lead writer of Figure Four Weekly and a monthly contributor to Fighting Spirit Magazine.