With over 80 years of history and a wide variety of heroes and villains to pull from, Marvel‘s larger-than-life characters and their powers provide ripe material for video game developers. Marvel has inspired many game adaptations over the years, some of which are epic adventures that faithfully emulate the superhero experience.
Unfortunately, great powers don’t necessarily translate into great games and, like other major franchises, Marvel has seen its fair share of poorly made games. And while we don’t know which side Marvel’s Avengers will fall on when it releases later this year, for now, let’s take a look at three of the best and two of the worst Marvel video games.
The 1990s saw a surplus of wonderful arcade beat ‘em ups, and a partnership between Marvel and Konami resulted in one of the very best. The X-Men were surging popularity at the time due to the animated series, and Konami took full advantage of what an X-Men game could offer when they released this in 1992.
X-Men stood out from other beat-‘em-ups. For one, it offered six-player co-op instead of the standard four. Players could choose between Cyclops, Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler and the oft-forgotten Dazzler. Unlike other games in the genre, where every character controlled more or less the same, each fighter felt distinct thanks to their mutant ability. The only downside is that it’s pretty hard to find these days. While an HD port was released on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade in 2010, it was removed in 2013.
Unfortunately, the X-Men haven’t always received great game adaptations. Released for the NES in 1989, the line-up for this top-down shooter is almost the same as Konami’s arcade game, except with Iceman replacing Dazzler. But unlike the arcade game, each character essentially feels the same.
Since the game looks and controls like a top-down shooter, the projectile characters like Cyclops, Iceman and Storm feel exactly the same. The other heroes, Wolverine, Colossus and Nightcrawler, still control similarly. They have to get a lot closer to enemies, but that makes them feel limited in comparison. And even though it’s an NES game, the graphics are incredibly poor. This is especially true in level design, though the character sprites don’t look much better.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is still one of the most pristine fighting games ever created. Capcom had been building its formula in the arcades for years with titles like X-Men vs. Street Fighter, and, in 2000, they released the crème de la crème.
The game’s timeless visuals look like they’ve been ripped straight from the comics, and its gigantic roster offers a ton of variety. Players can choose from popular heroes like Spider-Man and Captain America, but there are also lesser-known characters like Shuma-Gorath and Silver Samurai. Choosing a team of three helps to balance each match. Most importantly, the game controls like a dream. Quick-paced gameplay and a plethora of super-powered attacks make it equally fun for button-mashing beginners and accomplished pros. It controls so well, in fact, that it was added to this year’s EVO lineup to celebrate the game’s 20th anniversary.
Developers often struggle to create tie-in games worthy of their movie counterparts, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s video game adaptations didn’t make it far past Phase One. With a start this horrendous, it’s easy to see why.
Even by 2008 standards, the game looks awful thanks to terrible character models. The voice acting is pretty shoddy too even though Robert Downey Jr. and Terrence Howard reprised their roles. All of this might be forgivable if the game was fun to play. Unfortunately, flying around feels rigid and awkward, and the rest of the game is extremely repetitive. Players are tasked with constantly blowing up enemy tanks and jets with little else to do. Here’s hoping the upcoming Iron Man VR will treat the armored Avenger with a little more respect.
Few superhero games have made players feel like they’re in complete control of a character like Insomniac Game’s Spider-Man. Swinging around as the Web-Slinger feels amazingly fluid and smooth, and it made the bustling New York City one of the most fun open worlds to explore. Combat felt even better. Players could customize Spidey with a variety of nifty gadgets, learn different moves to stack up combos and choose from comics-inspired suits, each of which had a useful ability or super move.
On top of getting the feel of the character right, Insomniac also nailed his personality and world. Voice-actor Yuri Lowenthal balances the crushing weight of responsibility and witty humor the character is known for. The game is a celebration of Spider-Man’s history with tons of Easter Eggs hidden throughout the world and plenty of classic villains to take on. With a game this great, any sequel may have trouble topping it.
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Of all of the Marvel games made over the years, some are fantastic recreations of the superhero experience, while others completely miss the mark.