Strange to think that in 2003, Lego was on the verge of bankruptcy. Now in 2020, the brand seems to be everywhere, having expanded beyond toys for kids, to specialist kits for all ages, TV and movie themed sets, Lego movies in their own right, and a series of popular video games.
Just because it's popular doesn't mean it's good, though. Of the 69 Lego games released since 1995, there have been some real turkeys. And if a video game isn't enjoyable to play, not even the trademark Lego wit can save it from feeling like a waste of time and money.
So if you're new to Lego games, you'd do well to check out our selection of the best Lego games to date below. Not only are they packed with mirth and enjoyment, but they're also 'proper' games that will provide you with hours of engaging, challenging fun to boot.
Interested in physical bricks too? We'll be bringing you all of this year's best Lego Black Friday deals when they arrive in a few weeks' time, so stay with TechRadar to make sure you get the best prices.
Uniting old characters and new, 2016's Force Awakens was one of the few Star Wars movies of this century to truly unite fan opinion behind it. And the Lego Star Wars game pulled off pretty much the same trick.
The fifth Lego Star Wars title, and the best to date, the game weaves in dialogue from the film, as well as several in-joke moments that hardcore fans will love and appreciate. But if you're not one of them, don't worry: the main attraction here is the fun and engaging gameplay, which ranges from blaster action to puzzle solving to spacefaring dogfights. We especially loved playing as Poe on a secret mission to rescue Admiral Ackbar, and making BB-8 mess with various machines to manipulate different bits of the environment.
There are over 200 playable characters. You can explore Jakku, Takodana, D'Qar, and Starkiller Base as mini-open worlds. The main cast of the film provide voices. And some levels even take place in between Return of the Jedi and Force Awakens, acting as an unofficial prequel of sorts. In short, Star Wars fans will adore this, and even if you're not one of them, you'll find it huge fun anyway.
Another fun game that alternates between action gameplay and puzzle sequences, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 offers a lot of variety, a ton of personality, and a bucketload of joy for fans of the MCU. Comic book writer Kurt Busiek co-wrote a lot of the storyline here, and it really shows: this is a Lego game by fans, for fans, and the love for characters such as Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Black Panther and countless others shines through.
The story features superheroes from different eras and realities of the Marvel Universe as they fight against the time-travelling villain Kang the Conqueror. That's as crazy as it sounds, and throws up bizarre anomalies such as a cowboy version of Captain America, a medieval version of Hulk, and a Spider-Gwen, which just adds to the enjoyable craziness of the whole shebang.
Gameplay wise, you get to do all the childhood wish-fulfillment stuff you'd expect, whether you're Spider-Man swinging on his webs, the Hulk hurling about large objects with aplomb, or Star Lord flying high into the skies. An engaging, often witty, and sometimes even emotional experience that will awaken the 12-year-old kid in all of us.
Lest we give the impression that the only worthwhile Lego games are movie tie-ins, allow us to introduce you to Lego City Undercover. Based on the series of Lego sets centred on urban environments, this open-world crime fighting game that's kind of like a Lego version of Grand Theft Auto... only with no guns or swearing, and you're on the side of the good guys.
In the game, you control undercover cop Chase McCain as he tackles a criminal gang led by his nemesis Rex Fury. Alternatively, you can opt for a number of entertaining side missions, which allow you to go off-piste and explore the various areas of the Lego-constructed city. Either way, there's a lot of action involved, including swinging across poles and performing wall jumps, as well as some more cerebral work, such as donning different disguises, each of which give you different abilities.
In true Lego style, there's a lot of tongue-in-cheek homage to crime shows and movies, from Columbo to Goodfellas, and the 20 districts of the game are all inspired by real-life cities. With these environments ranging from woodlands and islands to busy downtown streets, there's a lot to explore, and overall this game provides both entertaining challenges and a lot of laughs along the way.
Lord of the Rings was one movie franchise to unite us all, and the Lego game spin-off doesn't disappoint. Hitting the right balance between parody and respect for the source material, this amusing game gives you the chance to play as one of 80 characters; ranging from Frodo, Gandalf and Legolas, to Tom Bombadil, a character from the books only.
Across 18 levels, the game takes you through the events of all three films, culminating in a hidden ending, which is unlocked after everything else has been completed. Gameplay ranges from combat, from sword fights to firing projectiles, to (as you'd expect) collecting lots of magical items. Player abilities also include skills like fishing, invisibility, breaking Mordor bricks, and jumping really high.
Meanwhile, if you fancy taking a wander around Middle Earth at your own pace, there's an open world option that allows you to explore everywhere save Mirkwood and the lands south of Mordor, either on foot, on horse, or by 'fast travel' to speed things up. Featuring music and dialogue from the movies, this is a must-play for fans that's so engaging, you sometimes forget it's a Lego game at all (in a good way).
Life finds a way, and so, it seems, does Lego. While the Jurassic Park series doesn't necessarily seem like the obvious choice for a Lego game, this one is an absolute belter. Combining fantastic co-operative gameplay with a succession of comedic moments, this is an endlessly fun, open world game.
The game closely follows the first four films in the series, which means that you spend most of your time, essentially, running away from dinosaurs. There's little in the way of combat, as that would be totally off brand; so if you want a game where you bring down a T-Rex with your fighting skills, you'll have to head elsewhere. But if puzzles and challenges are your thing, such as rummaging around huge piles of dinosaur droppings to find useful items, there's a lot to love. Hilariously, if you get stuck the 'DNA' cartoon helper from the first movie pops up to offer tips in the style of 2000s-era Microsoft Clippy. Except, in this case, he's actually useful.
It's worth noting that while a number of scenes from the films are brilliantly recreated here, they're done in a fun, family-friendly way, so the kids won't have nightmares. For example, after a character is eaten by a dinosaur, the beast will later vomit them up, entirely unharmed.
There have been many Lego Batman games, but this one's the best; even though it doesn't actually have Batman in the title. It essentially does what fans felt the 2016 movie Suicide Squad failed to do: capitalise on the fact that in any superhero saga, the villains have the most fun. And there certainly is a lot of fun to be found here.
Features a two-player cooperative multiplayer mode, the game sees villains such as Lex Luthor, Harley Quinn and The Joker battle 'The Justice Syndicate', a supposed group of superheroes who turn out to be villains themselves. With a mixture of action-based and puzzle-solving gameplay, winning here is all about teamwork, which is a great lesson for the kids.
In truth, this is more a game for kids than grown ups, the gameplay being a little repetitive and the puzzles not overly challenging. But adult fans of the DC superhero franchise will still get a lot of enjoyment out of this game, not least from its original and engaging storyline, and a constant succession of amusing gags to keep you on your toes.
Puzzle solving in Lego games can sometimes feel a little forced, particularly when they're superimposed on movies that are more about non-stop action than thinking deeply. But they're a great match for the Harry Potter series, where ultimately it's brains not brawn that win out. And of the two Lego games released so far, the second title just pips the post for the most enjoyable (although if you can afford it, we'd highly recommend getting both).
Covering the last three books and four films of the series, the game is simple to pick up and play, even for non-gamers, but that doesn't stop it being immensely enjoyable. There seem to be countless environments to explore, each instantly recognizable from the movies, and the puzzles remain challenging throughout: never either maddenly difficult or overly easy.
There are a lot of laughs to be had too: messing about with Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, for example, or shooting water out of your wand at other players, while the more full-on spell duelling works well in translating the magical concepts of the franchise into playable moments.