Spider-Man: Why the 2002 Video Game Is A Secret Marvel Masterpiece

Spider-Man 2002 Game Header

Of all the superheroes to make the transition to video games, the most consistently solid, entertaining titles have starred Spider-Man. The Marvel web-slinger has starred in his own games since the dawn of early home gaming on the Atari, but Spidey's digital adventures took a leap forward in 2002 with Spider-Man.

While it wasn't Spider-Man's first 3D game, this tie-in to director Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man film starring Tobey Maguire expanded the world of Raimi's trilogy significantly. It also firmly built on the foundation for all future 3D titles starring Spider-Man and featured Maguire and Willem Dafoe reprising their roles from the movie. Now, CBR is taking a look back at what makes this 2002 video game an overlooked superhero game gem.

Continue scrolling to keep reading Click the button below to start this article in quick view.

RELATED: The Best Superhero Games on PS4 (And Where to Buy Them)


Scorpion Sam Raimi Spider-Man game

As loose adaptation of the movie, Spider-Man details Peter Parker's origins as the Marvel superhero following the murder of his beloved Uncle Ben. Concurrent with Peter's aspiring superhero career, Norman Osborn develops a super soldier serum to help his struggling defense company OsCorp and seeks to hunt down the web-slinger to examine him due to his superhuman abilities. As Spider-Man continues to elude him, a desperate Norman uses the untested serum on himself and transforms into the Green Goblin, arming himself with experimental weapons technology.

In addition to the battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin through the streets and rooftops of Manhattan, the game expands the scope of the film's story to reveal that there are actually two superpowered figures in New York with arachnid DNA.

Over the course of the game, Spider-Man discovers that one of these individuals is Scorpion, who's also on the run from OsCorp robots tasked with bringing him in. Additionally, the Xbox version of the game includes an exclusive subplot with Norman hiring Kraven the Hunter to track down and capture Spider-Man, which leads to a cage match between the two in the city zoo. Outside of the main story, Vulture and Shocker also launch their own crime spree through Manhattan, putting them on a collision course with Spider-Man when the wall-crawler wasn't dealing with Norman's schemes.


While 2000's Spider-Man and 2001's Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro had introduced limited 3D gameplay after a decade of side-scrollers, there were still major kinks to be worked out in the transition; the 2000 title didn't even let players fight enemies on the ground while its sequel restricted levels to grids. Although web-slinging levels in the 2002 game still had the character perish if he fell too close to the ground, the game featured a mix of the level types, boasting more intuitive aerial and ground combat sections.

RELATED: Falcon Soars Into Marvel Strike Force Mobile Game With Avengers Update

The developer, Treyarch, added a whole list of fighting moves and upgradable web-slinging techniques for players to encourage the use of seamless combos, since  gamers would be graded on completion time and style points. This led to the inclusion of several moves pulled straight from the film, which allowed players to reenact several favorite moments from the movie.

Successful completion of the game at the hero difficulty level would unlock Harry Osborn as the Green Goblin for subsequent play-throughs with the story explaining that an alternate Goblin had been hired by Norman to hunt his son for some reason. Spider-Man himself got unlockable costumes including his civilian guise as Peter Parker, the homemade wrestling outfit seen at the beginning of the film and an unused design by acclaimed comic artist Alex Ross for the movie.


PS4 SPider-Man Webs

Contemporary reviews hailed Spider-Man as the greatest game starring the superhero to date, though there was criticism regarding some of the indoor levels, the camera angles, and relatively short length. Released on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube, the game would sell millions of copies worldwide, with six million copies sold in the United States alone.

It's success would prompt future Spider-Man games to fully embrace the open-world possibilities of the character with a universally acclaimed tie-in to the film's 2004 sequel being regarded as one of the greatest movie tie-in and superhero games of all time to this day. Expanding on the possibilities presented by the 2002 title, the first Spider-Man movie tie-in game quietly became one of the most influential video games for the entire genre and continues to serve as a clear reminder that not all movie tie-in games have to be cheap cash-ins on the source material.

Crisis Gives Tom Welling's Clark Kent the Farewell He Deserves

More in CBR Exclusives