In 2000, Sony released the Playstation 2. It would go on to sell over 155 million units, making it the bestselling video game console of al time. For the next decade, the PS2 would be the console of choice for many gamers and developers, with more games being released for it than its competitors, the Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo Gamecube.
Also happening during that time was a boom in superhero media. After the release of “X-Men” (or “Blade”, depending on who you ask) superhero films and their animated tie-ins started coming in fast and furious. To capitalize on the newfound popularity of superheroes, many games were released for the PS2. Some of these games are classics you might never forget and other are gems that you might have overlooked. No matter what category they fall under, here are the 15 BEST superhero video games for the Playstation 2.
“Spider-Man” was based on the Sam Raimi film, but was much more than a walkthrough of the events of the film,. The game began and ended the same as the film, but added more events between Peter Parker becoming Spider-Man and his climatic fight with the Green Goblin. The Shocker, the Vulture and the Scorpion all make appearances. And while Kraven the Hunter only appears in the Xbox version, his exclusion isn’t that big of a loss.
One of the most famous aspects of the game is its use of cheat codes. Players could enter codes allowing them to play as Peter Parker, Mary Jane and even the Green Goblin. When playing as the Green Goblin, much of the dialog in the game is changed to create a new storyline of Harry Osborne following in his father’s footsteps. Plus, the game was narrated by Bruce Campbell, instantly making this game a must play.
14. SPIDER-MAN 2
Much like the films, the second “Spider-Man” game for the PS2 took everything great about the first installment in the series and added more. Whereas the first game had the player simply going from point A to point B, the sequel introduced a more open world aspect to the game. In the first game, attempting to land on the ground would cause Spidey to fall to his doom. In the sequel, the player could go on the ground level and perform heroic tasks. This, along with the improved web-slinging mechanics, made the already great gameplay even better.
Much like the first game, “Spider-Man 2” expanded upon the story of the film. Instead of being an adaption of the second film and ignoring the events of the first game, this is a direct sequel to the first Spider-Man game. In addition to Doctor Octopus appearing, the game includes Mysterio, the Rhino, the Black Cat the and return of the Shocker, who is freshly escaped from prison.
13. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN
Unlike the other two Spider-Man games on this list, “Ultimate Spider-Man” isn’t based on a film, but instead the “Ultimate Spider-Man” comic book series. Instead of just being an adaption of the comic book series, though, writer Brian Michael Bendis would co-direct the game as well as write its original story. While the game would later be retconned out of canon, it was conceived as a canon storyline within Marvel’s Ultimate Universe. Not only does this game include more villains, but it also includes other heroes and characters found in the Ultimate Universe.
The gameplay is similar to that of the movie tie-ins, but features one major difference. In “Ultimate Spider-Man,” the player can control Venom. As Venom, the player must deal with the effects of the symbiote, which causes health bar to lower. The game also incorporates the more open world aspects that were found in “Spider-Man 2.” The cell shaded graphics makes it feel like you are playing the Mark Bagley illustrations found in the comic.
12. THE INCREDIBLE HULK: ULTIMATE DESTRUCTION
While the game that tied in to the 2003 film was forgettable, “The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction” was anything but. Free from having to tie into a film, “Ultimate Destruction” was free to do it’s own thing. In this open world game, players could finally control the Hulk, wonder around freely, and cause as much destruction as they want. This game had the Hulk doing truly incredible things, like running up walls and flattening buildings. These abilities are made the the more amazing when considering the technical limitations of the Playstation 2.
This game’s very creation is a little confusing. It didn’t directly tie in to the film or a television show. And while a game based on “The Incredible Hulk” film would be released a few years later, “Ultimate Destruction” was a one and done. It’s a shame, as this game was a fun one that gave us the best idea of what it would be like to be the Hulk.
11. X-MEN: THE OFFICIAL GAME
“X-Men: The Official Game” might not have the most creative name, but what it lacks in clever naming it makes up for with it’s story. The story is set between the second and third films and helps to fill the gaps between the two. Players can control Nightcrawler, Iceman, and Wolverine, who are all voiced by the actors who portrayed them in the films. While other “X-Men” games let you play as many different X-Men, this game places its emphasis on story and connectivity to the films, not the gameplay.
The story was written by Chris Claremont, a comic book and “X-Men” legend, and Zak Penn, who was involved with the writing of the two films this game falls between. The game is a fun attempt to help reconcile the continuity films in the “X-Men” series. It’s unclear if the game is still canon in the “X-Men” film series, if anyone over at Fox is even keeping track of such a thing.
10. X-MEN LEGENDS II: RISE OF APOCALYPSE
“Rise of Apocalypse” has everything found in the first “Legends” game but its additions and improvement make it vastly superior. The sequel brought along with it more mutants and more of their spectacular powers. The game’s story is a continuation of the first game and the two games exist in their own canon, freeing them from having to fit into any pre-established continuity. The game’s story is epic in scale and, while based on other X-Men stories, follows its own unique story.
Unlike “The Official Game” where the player was limited to playing as only three mutants, in “Legends II” the player can control 15 different mutants, with Deadpool, Iron Man and Professor X all being unlockable characters. While “Marvel: Ultimate Alliance” would later let the player control characters from the Marvel Universe who weren’t mutants and improve upon the gameplay, “Rise of Apocalypse” still stands among the best superhero games on the PS2.
9. MARVEL: ULTIMATE ALLIANCE
Released later in the console’s life span, “Marvel: Ultimate Alliance” is a game that pushes the limits of the Playstation 2. This game allows the player to control many different Marvel characters. In addition to the usual characters you’d expect, like Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Daredevil, the player can also control other Marvel characters, such as Spider-Woman, Deadpool, Ms. Marvel and Luke Cage. Each character has their own abilities and can be used in different situations. Other console versions might have featured different characters, but the but majority of them are still found on this Playstation 2 version.
The game dove deeper into the Marvel Universe than any other game, seemingly cramming every character and comic connection into the game that could fit. The player’s actions have consequences on the story and on the game’s ending. That, along with the number of different four character party combinations, give this great game a large replay value.
8. MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 2: NEW AGE OF HEROES
While it may just be another installment in the Marvel vs Capcom series, “Marvel vs Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes” is still a top notch fighting game. The big improvement in this game was that players chose three characters to use throughout the battles, as opposed to the two that players chose in the past.
The “Marvel vs. Capcom” series is not only a great superhero game, it is also an amazing fighting game. It has tons of different characters all with different powers and abilities. Instead of generic characters or characters that are clearly rip offs of more famous heroes and villains, here you play with the real deal. Cyclops, Hulk, Storm and Venom are all playable, among other characters. The 2.5d graphics might not push the console to its limits, but the animated 2d graphics work perfectly for these Marvel characters. And if for some reason you don’t like Marvel characters? Well, Capcom characters make up half of the game.
7. BATMAN: RISE OF SIN TZU
Like its predecessor, “Batman: Vengeance,” “Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu” borrows its art style from “Batman: The Animated Series.” And while the quality of storytelling isn’t quite up to the standard set by “The Animated Series,” it is always a joy to see those Bruce Timm Designs, especially in three dimensions (even if they are “The New Batman Adventure” redesigns as opposed to the original designs). The beat-em-up gameplay might be too simple for some, but what makes this game great is the art design and the story.
The game introduces Sin Tzu, a new villain created by Jim Lee. The character hasn’t shown up since, the inclusion of this original Bat-villian does help the game to stand out. Other villains appear, but nowhere near the number that show up in the Arkham series. Those games have caused many to overlook previous Batman games, which makes sense because they’re far superior, but “Rise of Sin Tzu” is one that should not be forgotten.
6. BATMAN BEGINS
The Christopher Nolan “Batman” films might not be the most obvious choice for a video game adaption, but “Batman Begins” is a surprisingly fun game. It somehow manages to work as a game while still closely following the film’s plot. Obviously the game has to expand upon certain events and tailor them for compelling gameplay, but no new major plot points or characters are added into the game.
Instead of being a beat-em-up like other “Batman” games, “Batman Begins” relies more on stealth elements, with sneaking around being a major point of gameplay. This style blends well with the story and helps keep the game from being too tonally different from the film it is adapted from. This would be the only game based on “The Dark Knight Trilogy,” which is a shame. “Batman Begins” is a game that somehow manages be both a compelling game and a faithful adaptation of the film.
5. LEGO BATMAN
Released towards the end of the system’s lifespan, “Lego Batman” provides the same witty writing and simple yet fun gameplay found in all the other games in the Lego series. The game isn’t directly tied into any of the major Batman films and, with “The Lego Batman Movie” years away, is forced to follow an original story. Some elements, including the music and villain pairings, are taken from the Burton/Schumacher films.
The thing that makes all the games in the Lego series so great is that the player can chose to breeze through the game or devote hours to making sure they do absolutely everything there is do. The gameplay may be simple, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. The lighthearted tone is uncharacteristic of a Batman game, but a welcome change in pace. Two sequels would follow and add more characters and features, but this is the only installment for the PS2.
4. SUPERMAN: SHADOW OF APOKOLIPS
“Shadow of Apokolips” is a vast improvement over the other game based on “Superman: The Animated Series,” “Superman 64.” Instead of just flying through rings, this game has the player performing the kind of heroic tasks that you’d expect from the Man of Steel. The game’s graphics might be painfully bland, but the fact that the original cast of the television series reprises their roles helps to make up for it. The sprawling city of Metropolis is hard to translate to video game with the PS2’s graphical capabilities, but the game tries it’s best.
The game has Superman dealing with some of his best villains, including Darkseid, Parasite, Metal, Livewire and, of course, Lex Luthor. The story is a tad bit contrived, but it has to be to incorporate all of Superman’s foes all in one adventure. While there has still yet to be a great Superman game, “Shadow of Apokolips” is a pretty good one and by far the best we have.
3. TEEN TITANS
Based on the Cartoon Network series version of the Titans, “Teen Titans” is surprisingly similar in tone to the series. Just as the cartoon had a wacky and often self aware vibe to it, the game has the five Titans transported inside of a game that they were sent that features them. The voice cast from the show is all here and the game’s graphics are pretty similar to the animation in the television show.
The gameplay is nothing groundbreaking or even really anything to write home about. But, like other entries on this list, the appeal of this game is that it’s a brand new “Teen Titans” story with the voice actors. While “Teen Titans” might already have a lost episode (aptly called “The Lost Episode”), this game is like a lost adventure in the same tone as the original “Teen Titans” series that fans of the show could’ve easily looked over.
2. JUSTICE LEAGUE: HEROES
“Justice League Heroes” is not based on the television series from the 2000s, but is instead an original story written by Dwayne McDuffie with an original art style. Superman, Batman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna and other members of the Justice League are all playable. The characters don’t have all of their abilities and some powers are toned down to work within the parameters of the game.
The game doesn’t go as deep into the DC Universe as “Ultimate Alliance” does with the Marvel Universe, but it features far more characters than any other DC based game on the system. That said, the story doesn’t feel as contrived because it doesn’t feel the need to fit in as much as possible. Despite McDuffie’s authorship, the story isn’t anything spectacular. The game is still a fun one that is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already.
1. THE PUNISHER
“The Punisher” is different than your average superhero game. Much like its title character, the game is dark, gritty, violent, and definitely not for kids. The only game on this list with a Mature rating, it doesn’t hold back. The game isn’t a fighting game or a beat ’em up, but instead a shooter. Players control the Punisher through a story that is similar to that of the 2004 movie, but not a direct adaptation.
The game has other Marvel characters pop up as well. Iron Man, Bullseye, the Kingpin and Nick Fury all make appearances. In a time before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, seeing the Punisher (voiced by Thomas Jane) interact with other characters in the Marvel universe was a novelty. What makes other Marvel characters appearances all the more surprising is the fact that they showed up in such a mature and adult-oriented game. “The Punisher” is a superhero game unlike any other.
Which superhero video game was your favorite? Was it a PS2 title? Let us know what you think in the comments!