if the continued success of the marvel cinematic universe has proven anything, it’s that audiences love a good superhero team-up. in movies, comic books and video games, that holds true. thousands of superhero stories have been built around the simple task of forcing distant characters to team up or duke it out with one another before returning to their usual adventures. while that concept has helped inspire movies like justice league and comic crossovers like dark nights: metal, it’s been especially prevalent in superhero video games. from high-profiles releases like marvel vs. capcom: infinite to fan-made superhero crossovers, tons of unexpected characters have popped up in titles sold on more famous faces like batman or spider-man.
now, cbr is counting down some of the superhero video game cameos you totally forgot about. in this list, we’ll be looking back at some of the most surprising appearances in titles from all eras of gaming. while some of these guest-starring roles firmly take place in familiar comic book universes, some of the more eyebrow-raising examples take place in games that couldn’t have less to do with superheroes. regardless of where they happen, these superhero cameos have given gamers new and unexpected ways to interact with some of the world’s greatest heroes.
15. teenage mutant ninja turtles (injustice 2)
even though the teenage mutant ninja turtles have met tons of offbeat comic heroes, they hadn’t interacted with dc’s heroes until recently. but since james tynion iv and freddie williams ii introduced batman to the turtles in 2015’s well-received batman/teenage mutant ninja turtles, the two franchises have consistently crossed over. as warner bros. interactive and netherrealm studios announced, the turtles can now duke it out with batman and dc’s other heroes in injustice 2.
along with the dc characters, atom and enchantress, leonardo, michelangelo, donatello and raphael join the fighting game as downloadable characters in “fighter pack 3.” while a release date and other details are still unclear at the time of this list’s publication, some fans have noted that leonardo said that the group fights “as a team” in the announcement trailer, possibly hinting at tag-based combat. no matter how they fight, the turtles will make injustice’s arena a much radder place.
14. hellboy (injustice 2)
since the iconic movie monster freddy kruger surprised gamers as a downloadable character in 2011’s mortal kombat, netherrealm studios’ fighting games have included a jaw-dropping slew of surprising fighters. while other games have included fighters like predator‘s alien predator and alien‘s predatory alien, injustice 2 also included mike mignola’s supernatural hero hellboy. in the game, most of hellboy’s attacks are based around his famous right hand of doom and reference some of his comic adventures.
even though hellboy has been published almost exclusively by dark horse comics since the hero’s 1993 debut, he was released as a fighter in the dc game as part of “fighter pack 2” on november 14, 2017. besides hellboy, injustice 2 features two other non-dc guest fighters, mortal kombat‘s sub-zero and raiden, who appear after kombat‘s scorpion made a highly-downloaded cameo in 2013’s injustice: gods among us.
13. the new avengers (tony hawk’s pro skater)
as skateboarding hit popular new heights around the turn of the millennium, tony hawk’s immensely popular skateboarding games gave gamers a way to experience the extreme sport from the comfort of a couch. while most of the characters in neversoft and activision’s series were based on real skaters, the tony hawk series was infamous for its notable fictional guest stars.
along with characters like star wars’ darth maul and jango fett, the series included several marvel characters that were licensed to activision at the time. using a variety of spider-powered tricks, spider-man joined 2000’s tony hawk’s pro skater 2 as one of the franchise’s first guests. despite his heavy adamantium skeleton, wolverine preformed countless gravity-defying feats in 2001’s tony hawk’s pro skater 3. in 2003’s tony hawk’s underground, iron man became the last marvel character to grind on tony hawk’s endless rails a few years before his cinematic debut.
12. spawn (soul calibur ii)
while it never became a cultural phenomenon like street fighter or mortal kombat, namco’s soul calibur franchise is still one of the more successful and better-reviewed fighting game franchises. when soul calibur ii was ported from arcades to home consoles in 2002, each one of that era’s major consoles featured an exclusive character from another franchise. while the playstation 2 version had tekken‘s heihachi and the gamecube had the legend of zelda‘s link, the image comics icon spawn was the xbox-exclusive character.
since todd mcfarlane’s spawn achieved mainstream success in the 1990s, the supernatural hero was an ideal candidate to bring comic fans into soul calibur’s world. thanks to an existing relationship mcfarlane toys, namco was able to use the undead al simmons in the original game and its 2013 rerelease. although he traded his trademark cape for an axe called agony, spawn could use his necroplasm blasts in combat.
11. darkseid (injustice mobile)
like most modern fighting games, netherrealm’s injustice: gods among us rolled out on mobile platforms around the same time it was released on consoles. while the graphics were unsurprisingly less refined than its console counterpart, it was still a robust experience with some outrageous exclusives. in addition to exclusive alternate skins like wally west’s modern flash outfit, the ultimate dc villain, darkseid, was only playable on the injustice mobile app.
in the game, darkseid’s attacks revolve around his brute strength and his omega beam energy blasts. in his special move, the ruler of apokolips transports his opponents to his world for a brutal beating from his furies, lashina and big barda. despite his mammoth status in the dc universe, darkseid was only included as a pre-order bonus and downloadable character in injustice 2.
10. spider-man and batman (revenge of shinobi)
starting in the late 1980s, sega’s shinobi franchise gave gamers notoriously difficult challenges in some of the most graphically-advanced games of the era. in 1989’s the revenge of shinobi, the third game in the series, ninja joe musashi tried to take down the zeed criminal operation in one of the first sega genesis releases.
over the course of his rampage-filled revenge, musashi fought a number of bosses who looked almost suspiciously like famous characters like godzilla, john rambo, batman and spider-man. while the game was initially released with all of those characters, batman and rambo were quickly taken out of the game. since sega held the rights to make spider-man games in that era, he became an officially licensed character in the game’s 1990 update, even after godzilla was also replaced. years after sega lost the spider-man license, the wall-crawler was also pulled from later rereleases.
9. chloe sullivan (the political machine)
even though she’s made a relatively small number of comic book appearances, smallville‘s chloe sullivan is one of the more recognizable members of superman’s supporting cast. created for the long-running wb show by alfred gough and miles millar, clark kent’s confidant, portrayed by alison mack, was one of the only characters who appeared in all 10 seasons of the show.
in one of the stranger video game cameos, another “chloe sullivan” appeared in the political machine, a 2004 u.s. presidential election simulator from stardock and ubisoft. in a game that’s largely populated by real world politicians, chloe sullivan is one of the title’s only built-in fictional characters. unlike the superman character, the game’s chloe hailed from new york instead of metropolis or smallville. still, this character shared many traits with smallville‘s chloe, including her appearance, better-than-average media savy, little political experience and high levels of intelligence and integrity.
8. nick fury (the punisher)
although neither of them usually has super-powers, both nick fury and the punisher can probably count themselves among the most dangerous men in the marvel universe. even though the pair of tough guys hadn’t shared the most extensive history in the early 1990s, their similar weapons-based fighting styles made them sensible partners for capcom’s the punisher. released in arcades in 1994 and on the sega genesis in 1994, this game marked the beginning of marvel and capcom’s long-running partnership.
in the side-scrolling beat ’em up title, players took control of fury and the punisher and fought villains like bushwacker and the kingpin. although fury didn’t wear his traditional blue s.h.i.e.l.d. uniform, the game matched the high-octane action that fueled that era’s punisher comics. although it’s not the most well-known game, the punisher has a legacy as an immensely fun release that’s been called one of marvel’s best games.
7. static (injustice mobile)
even though he starred in his own beloved animated series, static shock, static has never really come in from the outskirts of the dc universe. the electric teenage hero was originally created by dwayne mcduffie, denys cowan, derek dingle and michael davis in 1993 as part of milestone comics, a diversity-focused dc imprint that was ultimately folded into the main dc universe.
despite his semi-iconic status, static only appeared in the mobile version of netherrealm’s injustice: gods among us. from his outfit to his floating metal platforms, the game featured several nods to static’s cartoon. his electromagnetic powers made him a hit with gamers, and static was regularly cited as one of the most wanted characters in injustice 2. while static hasn’t yet appeared in that game, fans’ hopes were sparked when marco nelor’s unused static concept art revealed how close he was to making another appearance.
6. u.s. agent (marvel super-heroes vs. street fighter)
thanks to their decades-long collaboration with marvel, capcom has produced some of the most celebrated crossover fighting games ever. while the marvel vs. capcom sequels are widely considered the franchise’s highpoint, one of capcom’s earlier releases, marvel super-heroes vs. street fighter, featured a few secret characters who still haven’t appeared anywhere else in the franchise. while these characters usually had names like “armored spider-man,” the u.s. agent made his video game debut in that 1997 title.
created by mark gruenwald and paul neary in 1986’s captain america #323, john walker was essentially meant to be a more aggressive, nationalistic counterpoint to captain america. although he’s just a palette swap of captain america, the game treats him as a unique character with his own written dialogue. after this game and a cameo in marvel vs. capcom, u.s. agent’s costume was simply used, occasionally, as an alternate costume for captain america.
5. green lantern john stewart (injustice)
while netherrealm’s injustice franchise might be famous for its plethora of guest stars, both iterations of the fighting game have found another way to expand their already-sizeable rosters, “premier skins.” instead of just giving existing characters a new costume, these skins completely transformed fighters into new characters in injustice: gods among us and injustice 2.
although this has given gamers a way to play as several beloved characters, the franchise’s most famous alternate skin fighter is the green lantern john stewart. although hal jordan is the game’s main lantern, stewart defined green lantern for a generation that grew up with justice league unlimited. as in that cartoon, stewart was voiced by phil lamarr and used a familiar range of green lantern’s light-construct attacks. even though he wasn’t a main character, stewart had a beefy role in the accompanying injustice comic series and appeared as a premier skin again in injustice 2.
4. the batmobile (rocket league)
in the summer of 2015, psyonix took the gaming world by storm with the immensely successful rocket league. in the ingenious title, players take the wheels of giant rocket-powered vehicles for a gravity-defying soccer match. although it was initially released to little fanfare as a free download on playstation plus, it’s grown into a gaming phenomenon that’s become a competitive esport.
since rocket league‘s initial release, the title has grown through downloadable content to include famous vehicles from other media franchises, like back to the future‘s time-traveling delorean. as part of a march 2016 promotion for zack snyder’s batman v. superman: dawn of justice, the batmobile joined rocket league‘s arena. although it’s clearly based on that film’s version of batman’s vehicle, it’s sleeker, slightly simplified in-game design recalls previous batmobiles from 1989’s batman and batman: the animated series.
3. bloodshot (shadow man)
in the early 1990s, valiant comics produced some of the most commercially successful and critically-acclaimed comics of the decade. after the developer acclaim entertainment bought valiant, some of valiant’s characters successfully jumped into video games with titles like shadow man. in that 1999 third-person action title, the voodoo-powered shadow man protected the earth from the deadside in one of the nintendo 64’s few horror games.
shadow man was well-reviewed enough to warrant a sequel and also marked the game debut of another valiant hero, bloodshot. as one of valiant’s more popular characters, the super-powered ex-government assassin was supposed to star in his own title, which would’ve been based on shadow man‘s game engine. although work on the title was abandoned in 1999, bloodshot appeared as a secret playable character on the n64 and sega dreamcast versions of shadow man, where he could be unlocked by entering a secret room.
2. namor the sub-mariner (spider-man: the video game)
even though konami’s x-men arcade game holds a special place in the hearts of a generation of gamers, it wasn’t the first marvel beat ’em up to hit arcades. one of that iconic title’s successful predecessors was sega’s 1991 release, spider-man: the video game. in that title, players took control of spider-man or one of his amazing friends and tried to defeat the kingpin and doctor doom.
besides spider-man, players could play through the game as black cat, hawkeye or namor the sub-mariner. while black cat and hawkeye travel in some of the same circles as spider-man, namor’s inclusion here is simply mind-boggling. although he doesn’t have an extensive history with the web-slinger, the king of atlantis appeared here instead of one of spider-man’s more frequent team-up partners. with a number of water and electricity-based attacks, namor encountered spider-man foes like venom for the first time in this game.
1. the entire dc universe (scribblenauts unmasked)
while recent games from lego have included hundreds of dc comics characters, none of them hold a candle to scribblenauts: unmasked: a dc comics adventure. with an astounding 2,040 characters, the 5th cell creativity-based puzzle game almost contains the entirety of the dc universe. in the 2013 game, players took control of maxwell, a boy who could summon anything with his magical notepad. the game’s challenges could be solved by a player’s creativity or their knowledge of dc lore.
from aztek the ultimate man to zatanna, scribblenauts is built around embracing minor characters and using them to solve simple challenges in famous dc locales like gotham city and metropolis. for often overlooked characters like bloodwynd and tomorrow woman, this game marked their first appearances anywhere in years. even if they only helped put out a small fire, scribblenauts gave every member of the dc universe a moment in the sun.
keep it locked to cbr for all the latest in comics and pop culture news! let us know what your favorite video game cameo is in the comments below!
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