Marvel has announced that beginning with “Spider-Man” for PS4 this year, they will be putting a lot more oversight and care into their video game division. This is welcome news to Marvel fans who, for many years, have had to deal with a lot of disappointing outings for some of their favorite heroes. When the MCU started with “Iron Man” in 2008, the official video game dropped the same day, which began a long line of awful Marvel movie tie-in games.
It hasn’t been all bad though. Spider-Man and the X-Men have both lent themselves to some brilliant games. Even The Hulk and The Punisher have had a win here and there. Before the Marvel Game Universe kicks off later this year, check out some of Marvel’s 15 best video games ever!
15. SPIDER-MAN: SHATTERED DIMENSIONS (2010)
“Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions” gave us something we had never really seen before in a Spider-Man game, and maybe never will again. In addition to Peter Parker’s Amazing Spider-Man that most Spidey games are centered around, you get the chance to play as a black suited Ultimate Spider-Man, Noir Spider-Man, and even Miguel O’Hara’s Spider-Man 2099. The story takes you through the multiverse, fighting a variety of Spidey villains to retrieve pieces of the mystical stone Tablet of Order and Chaos before it destroys all of existence.
Each dimension has different art styles and gameplay aspects: Ultimate Spider-Man can use symbiote tentacle attacks, Noir Spidey relies on stealth attacks in a black-and-white 1940s world and Spider-Man 2099 has epic halo jump sequences in a futuristic neon cityscape. Though it doesn’t have the open world exploration that makes other Spider-Man games so much fun, each universe’s unique landscape makes it a bit more fun to look at than the standard Manhattan cityscape.
14. X-MEN 2: CLONE WARS (1995)
“X-Men 2: Clone Wars” for Sega Genesis was the answer to fans’ prayers after “X-Men” for Genesis was frustratingly difficult, lacking in characters and badly animated. “X-Men 2” improved on all of the original’s weaknesses. Beast and Psylocke were added to the original roster of Wolverine, Cyclops, Gambit and Nightcrawler, and after the third level, you could even play as Magneto.
The plot in the game was based on the current story arc of the comics at the time, revolving around an alien race known as the Phalanx assimilating the people of Earth and cloning mutants to create an army to take over the Earth. One particularly interesting aspect of the game was that it threw you right into battle as soon as you started it up. No title screen or introductory story cutscene, just a randomly chosen X-Man tossed into a war zone. It isn’t until after the first level that you get the title screen and character selection.
13. MARVEL HEROES (2016)
When “Marvel Heroes” launched in 2013, it was buggy, lacking in depth, and generally not as much fun as it should have been; however, the great thing about an online game is that updates can completely rejuvenate a lame game into something kind of amazing. The graphics are outstanding, the combat is beautiful and fun, the sprawling story is epic and the game takes you to dozens of familiar Marvel locations.
However, if you don’t feel like continuing along the set storyline, you can patrol around Manhattan, Asgard or any of the locations and just fight bad guys. You start with a handful of selectable characters, but you can unlock over 60 different playable Marvel heroes and villains with more scheduled to be added as they continue to update. Best of all, when you finish the main story, there’s still a ton of stuff to do. You can play some one-shot adventures, take part in a 10-person raid or team up for a four-person fight with Ultron.
12. DEADPOOL (2013)
While the “Deadpool” game has its share of flaws, it remains one of the few M-rated games Marvel has put out, and it definitely earns that rating. You hack, slash and smash your way through thousands of opponents and shower the floors in computer-animated blood and guts. Sure, the story is linear, the combat is repetitive and the Deadpool you get is Danny Way Deadpool, but the “tragedy behind the comedy,” tortured sad clown that Joe Kelly or Gerry Duggan write for Deadpool wouldn’t lend itself as well to an over-the-top, high-octane comedy game like this.
The humor in “Deadpool: The Game” is vulgar, sophomoric, profane and, like we said, earns every bit of that M-rating. There’s no shortage of Deadpool’s signature fourth-wall breaking either, as the game opens up with him proposing the video game you’re about to play to High Moon Studios, calling Nolan North to do the voice acting, and tearing pages out of the script before making his own adventure.
11. SPIDER-MAN (2000)
2000’s “Spider-Man” for PlayStation and Nintendo 64 was the first Spidey game on modern consoles and there were a lot of ways that it could have been terrible. “Superman 64” had just released the year before and it didn’t bode well for the future of superhero games… but this game got it right. It was the first Spidey game to have three-dimensional graphics; along with that, one really notable improvement over previous Spidey games was hearing Peter Parker’s voice during combat, making his signature wisecracks while he was cracking skulls.
The game was full of humor, featured voiceovers from Stan Lee, unlockable costumes and cameos from other Marvel greats like Daredevil, Captain America and Human Torch. It even featured a “What If” mode where if you entered a cheat code, whole sections of dialogue would be changed, characters like Silver Surfer, Namor and Ghost Rider showed up in the background, Spidey and Black Cat and other little jokes hidden throughout. Though the graphics and gameplay don’t have the same capabilities as today’s consoles, it’s still an extremely fun game that holds up to this day.
10. X-MEN LEGENDS 2: RISE OF APOCALYPSE (2005)
“X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse” plays like a standard action RPG dungeon crawler in the vein of “Baldur’s Gate” or “Diablo,” populated with “X-Men” characters, each with a wide array of unique and upgradeable powers. It had a larger cast of playable characters than its predecessor, including some fun non-mutants, like Iron Man and Deadpool, and dialogue interactions were often character-specific, depending on the player character’s alignment and history with the non-player character.
Even better, the game lets you combine teams of characters from the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants with the good guys of the X-Men who have banded together to destroy Apocalypse. The “X-Men Legends” series wasn’t the first game of its kind, but it was the first game from Marvel of its kind, and it paved the way for future games like “Marvel Heroes Online” and the “Marvel Ultimate Alliance” series, which debuted just a year later.
9. MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 2: NEW AGE OF HEROES (2000)
“Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes” is not only one of the best Marvel games ever released, it’s one of the best fighting games ever released. Capcom is the company behind the “Street Fighter” series, so it had already mastered the fighting game genre and the “Marvel vs. Capcom” series took it to another level. The power moves take up the whole screen in massive gorgeous displays of over-the-top power, so every time you pull off a special move, you feel like a superhero. The game also has a massive roster of characters at 56 total, about 41 more than the original, and 20 more than its sequel “Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds” would have 11 years later.
The game also has a massive roster of characters at 56 total, about 41 more than the original, and 20 more than its sequel would have 11 years later. Though an HD remaster was released nine years later, even the original looked beautiful with its detailed backgrounds and power animations. You could create a team of three different characters and face off against three others, which meant even a single match never felt repetitive or boring.
8. THE INCREDIBLE HULK: ULTIMATE DESTRUCTION (2005)
“The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction” is undoubtedly what a Hulk game should be, and it’s fair to say, the only good Hulk game that’s ever been made. It earns the name of “Ultimate Destruction” with almost fully destructible environments and enemies. Combat is filled with a lot of creative moves like taking down a fighter jet by leaping onto the front of it and wrestling it to the ground. The boss battles are intense, creative and keep you on your toes throughout, which is unusual for superhero games where boss battles tend to amount to button mashing or doing the same technique for every one.
Unlike other games with fully destructible environments, a lot of things that you smash don’t just turn into splinters, you can actually use them to your advantage. Smash two cars into your fists and use them as boxing gloves, use a broken radio tower as a javelin or crush a car into a flat metal shield; you get to be creative. Instead of the linear story-driven levels of the previous installment, the areas are open-world and expansive, so you can roam around smashing to your heart’s desire.
7. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN (2005)
“Ultimate Spider-Man” is based on the comic book series of the same name from writer Brian Michael Bendis and penciler Mark Bagley. The series is largely considered to be some of the best Spider-Man ever written, and the game captures the feeling, the art style and the writing perfectly. One major reason for this is that Brian Michael Bendis was the writer and director on the game, so there’s no toying with the source material from people who aren’t really fans.
Aside from adapting a fantastic comic book series, the best parts of the game come from the web-swinging mechanics, which, unlike some Spidey games, have you actually attaching webs to the sides of buildings to swing around. Web-swinging is probably the most important mechanic in any Spider-Man game, and so few get it right. New York is also open-world and huge, so you can spend hours swinging around and stopping crimes. Best of all, it avoids repetitiveness by having some parts of the game where you play as Venom, where your goal is essentially destruction and mayhem.
6. X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009)
In what’s maybe the only case in human history of the video game being better than the movie, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” the game is brutal, bloody and so much M-rated fun. The story is kind of nonsensical and convoluted, but it really only exists to throw bad guys at you that you can shred to pieces, and be shredded in return. You take a lot of damage in the game and it shows with bits of flesh being torn away to reveal metal skeleton below. After you kill all the people trying to blow you apart, you can sit there and watch your skin (and clothes) slowly grow back.
Hugh Jackman reprises his role as Logan, and it includes unlockable costumes, including the classic yellow, so if you wanted to see Jackman in that iconic suit, this is as close as you’re ever going to get. If nothing else, this game is immersive into the character. It makes you really feel like Wolverine, which is what a superhero game should be. Yeah, you still have to fight that dumb Baraka-Pool character at the end, but at least you can lay your rage into him for existing at all.
5. MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE (2006)
“Marvel Ultimate Alliance” was the next logical step from the “X-Men Legends” series, bringing you 23 playable Marvel heroes to start, and 16 others that were system exclusive. The sequel had a similar amount, but they cut characters like Ghost Rider, Silver Surfer and Doctor Strange for Green Goblin, Penance and Songbird; just confusing decisions all around. The first game also sacrificed a coherent story in favor of opening up the possibilities of the world and giving you more locations. You travel to Atlantis, the Valley of Spirits, Asgard, Valhalla, Mephisto’s Hell realm and more.
The first game in the series also features far more villains and non-player characters than the first, leaving “Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2” feeling kind of bland, despite following the Civil War storyline from the comics. It won Wizard Magazine’s “Game of the Year” and Gamespot’s “Best Use of a Creative License” in 2006, and it’s easy to see why. Even now, over a decade after its release, it’s still a massive amount of fun to play.
4. THE PUNISHER (2005)
If “X-Men Origins Wolverine” earned its M-rating, then “The Punisher” took the rating system and stabbed it in the face repeatedly. The initial cut of “The Punisher” game actually received the “Adults Only” rating for such extreme violence and prolonged scenes of torture… you know, just like you’d expect from The Punisher. The developers had to take the game back and re-edit “interrogation” scenes to render in black and white to reduce the graphic nature, and the ESRB finally relented and scaled it back to an M-rating.
Those “Interrogation” sequences were the selling point of the game. When you needed to get information from a thug, you would trigger an interrogation with part of the environment, like putting a drill press to someone’s skull, curb stomping them with your boot or dunking their head in a tank of piranhas. Even by today’s standards, they were brutal, and 2005’s “The Punisher” is still one of the most violent video games of all time, and what’s more fun than violent video games?
3. SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004)
Until 2017’s “Spider-Man” game for PS4, “Spider-Man 2” has been the best Spidey game to date. For one thing, the web swinging felt real. Each web you slung actually attached to a surface and you would swing at an angle, rather than just shooting a web into the sky and swinging forward like almost every other Spider-Man game, even to this day. Even after hours of playing, you can still just swing around the city and enjoy yourself, because you really feel like Spider-Man.
The game was based on Sam Raimi’s film of the same name, but it was really more of an open world adventure with tons of Spidey villains and side missions, with the film’s plot as a vague guideline. Tobey MacGuire reprised his role as Spider-Man and legendary actor Bruce Campbell did the voiceover for the tutorial. If 2017’s “Spider-Man” wants to get it right, this is the game they should be studying.
2. X-MEN: THE ARCADE GAME (1992)
“X-Men: The Arcade Game” had the familiar side-scrolling fighting mechanics of “Streets of Rage,” but in addition to punching and kicking, you got to use all the powers of Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Dazzler. The point of the game was to fight through waves upon waves of X-Men villains like the Sentinels, Reavers, Pyro, Blob, Wendigo, Juggernaut, Mystique and others, in order to take down Magneto and stop him from wreaking havoc on humanity.
It was the first “X-Men” game that was remotely playable and didn’t feature tiny 8-bit sprites with one attack each, and on the original arcade version, up to 6 players at a time could join in utilizing each character. It was later ported to both the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, as well as versions for Android and iOS, but there’s simply no way to beat the feel of a massive arcade cabinet with a joystick in your hand. You can still find these cabinets from time to time in specialty arcades, so if you ever see one, it’s worth dropping $20 worth of quarters into with some friends.
1. LEGO MARVEL SUPER HEROES (2013)
“Lego Marvel Super Heroes” takes the number-one spot if for no other reason than it has the largest roster of playable characters of any Marvel game ever made at 155, not including downloadable extras. Heroes, villains, robots, Agent Phil Coulson, Aunt May, Stan Lee, if you can’t find at least a handful of characters to tickle your nerd fancy, then you’re probably just not a Marvel fan. Best of all, you can switch between characters whenever you want and continue with the game.
The story itself is a lot of fun and filled with that witty signature Lego brand humor. The game is filled with tons of familiar characters, Marvel locations, callbacks to comic books, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and old Marvel cartoons. Outside of the main story, you can also take the characters through Marvel’s version of New York, complete with Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, the Daily Bugle and more, where there are hours upon hours of side missions to complete and items to find. The creators of the game clearly aimed to create a fun experience for new and old fans alike, and in that, they succeeded.
What has been your favorite Marvel game? Marvel us with your knowledge and taste in the comments!
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