In 2005, TT Games delivered one of the most iconic games of the 21st century, LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game. Upon release, it was an immediate success, and fans ate it up. It led to TT Games being put in charge of maxing every subsequent LEGO game.
However, there was a time before TT’s LEGO game formula would be put to use. From 1997 to 2004, LEGO co-published a multitude of games with unique gameplay. A whole era of games that predate the TT Games’ generation exists that fans are not even aware of. These games offered really unique experiences that LEGO fans can still enjoy today.
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LEGO Racers (1999)
Before the LEGO movie franchise canceled The Billion Brick Race film, there was another huge LEGO racing crossover in 1999. LEGO Racers combined all the characters of the LEGO themes at the time in a high-octane racing game, akin to Mario Kart. The game allowed players to even build their own car!
The game was a huge hit on the Nintendo 64 and was even a finalist for The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences’ “Children’s/Family Title of the Year” award. The success of the game led to two sequels, and a whole LEGO theme was produced that would go on until 2013.
LEGO Rock Raiders (1999)
Rock Raiders had one of the coolest premises of any LEGO theme. It follows a group of space-traveling miners as they try to escape being stranded on an alien planet full of rock monsters! The game was cross-platform, releasing on both the PlayStation and PC. However, both versions are completely different.
The PC version is a real-time strategy game, while the console version is more action-oriented. There were also three bonus missions in the PAL version of the game released overseas. The eccentric environment of the game, paired with colorful characters and great vehicle designs, helped Rock Raiders to hit all the right boxes for LEGO video game fans.
LEGO Creator (1998)
LEGO Creator predates the iconic LEGO Digital Designer as the first game/software that would allow players to make original LEGO creations. LEGO Creator came at a perfect time in 1998 when educational video games were becoming more and more popular.
The game allowed kids to freely create LEGO builds and design their own city. Players were guided by the charismatic wizard Majisto, a character first introduced in LEGO castle sets. The video game really spoke to its audience, and it was turned into a series, spawning three additional games; these were LEGO Creator: Knights’ Kingdom in 2000, LEGO Creator: Harry Potter in 2001, and finally, LEGO Creator: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in 2002. Like Racers, the game also spawned a line of sets with the same name.
LEGO Knights’ Kingdom (2004)
Based on the second incarnation of the LEGO Knights’ Kingdom theme, this game would be one of the final LEGO games to not be developed by TT Games. Knights’ Kingdom told a very interesting story about a group of knights and one of them who fell to evil.
LEGO Knights’ Kingdom also featured top-down gameplay, similar to that of the original Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda games. The game introduced a really cool jousting mechanic alongside a tournament mode. While the game is not incredibly well known, it is a great product of the past that is totally worth playing.
LEGO Alpha Team (2000)
One of the most unique of the early LEGO titles, Alpha Team introduced a group of highly skilled secret agents as they stop supervillain Ogel’s evil plans. The gameplay was very unique for the time where the player would control the character and solve puzzles using LEGO builds to allow the character to advance.
Alpha Team also had very interesting locations with a distinct biome: land, water, and Arctic. These missions were then adapted into two main lines of sets that were released in 2001 and 2002, followed by the final “Mission Deep Freeze” line from 2004 t0 2005. Alpha Team remains one of LEGO’s most slept on properties and is still just as fun to play today.
Galidor: Defenders of the Outer Dimension (2002)
Viewed by many as a failure for The LEGO Group, Galidor was a very interesting experiment. The property received a TV show and even LEGO sets! The game had a very fascinating development history where the console versions were all canceled, but a version on Game Boy Advance still saw the light of day.
It was not until 2008 that the unfinished console version began circulating on LEGO video game bundles for PC. The game is a ton of fun and includes really exciting platform elements. Galidor is very comparable to the gameplay of the first two Harry Potter video games based on the first two films. While many view Galidor as the weird property that almost bankrupted LEGO, it still stands on its own as a great entry of the early LEGO video games, even though the game has very little to do with LEGO anyways!
The only tycoon simulator from LEGO, LEGOLAND was the perfect game for budding minds. It allowed players to design their very own LEGOLAND theme park location through a fun story involving the whole LEGO universe!
Despite the gameplay being very similar to the Rollercoaster Tycoon games, LEGOLAND still managed to stand on its own with its very kid-friendly interface. In addition to its story mode, the game also included “Free Play” much like the TT LEGO games would later implement. LEGOLAND was the quintessential LEGO game for young kids as it encouraged creativity but also made its players use their brains for puzzles.
Soccer Mania (2002)
Soccer Mania is technically the first officially licensed property to be spun into a LEGO video game. Before adapting huge franchises into LEGO games became the norm, Soccer Mania was actually created in conjunction with FIFA, based on the LEGO Sports theme of products.
Like Racers, the game was a massive crossover featuring characters across all the LEGO lines. The game is similar in many ways to Nintendo’s popular Mario Strikers series. The amusing power-ups and slapstick humor make the game all the more endearing and undoubtedly worth revisiting.
LEGO Studios: Backlot (2002)
Created for the new LEGO Studios line of sets to inspire kids to get into filmmaking, Backlot was an extremely advanced web game produced by LEGO for their website. Included in the game were three different stages where the player would control the main character as he navigates through the studio lot.
The character goes on adventures handing people different items throughout the lot. Notable guest characters include fan-favorite Johnny Thunder from Adventurers and Matoran Takua from Bionicle. The game was a huge hit on the site and remained available until the early 2010s. Archived versions of the game exist; however, with Adobe Flash no longer being supported, playing the game is nearly impossible now. Backlot was a great product of its time and was a huge stepping stone in online web games.
LEGO Island (1997)
Arguably one of the best LEGO video games of all time, LEGO Island is the one that started it all. Without counting 1995’s LEGO Fun to Build (which was exclusively released in Japan), LEGO Island was the first video game based on LEGO to be sold worldwide in 1997.
The game had an open-world environment where the player could control pizza delivery boy Pepper Roni as he goes around the island completing fun little missions. There was also a main narrative that could be followed, as well, featuring the villainous Brickster, who keeps escaping from his jail cell. The game received two sequels and a line of sets based on the third game in 2002. To this day, many fans still view the game with very fond memories.