The X-Men have been featured in more video games than any other superhero team on the planet. Whether its from quarter-costing arcade games, to platformers, to some of the best fighting games in the world, and even role-playing games, the X-Men are on the full spectrum of video game styles. The first X-Men video game debuted in December 1989, on the NES, but it was only the first of many. Today, there are over 40 titles with X-Men featured front and center. One of the reasons the X-Men are so praised is because of their diversity, and that same diversity is reflected in these video games. No two games feature the same cast of characters. The roster has expanded exponentially over the decades, and while old mainstays like Wolverine will always be around, we’re constantly introduced to new, exciting mutants, and fresh storylines.
It’s these qualities that make the X-Men the perfect platform for launching a multitude of video game adaptations. As a franchise, the X-Men video games hold a number of records, including the Guinness World Record for the most number of titles based on a superhero group. The results for the individual games have been mixed, of course. Not every one can be a hit. But the series definitely has its high points, which we hope to discuss here. There’s probably going to be plenty of people saying, “How could you forget XX?!” But just know we’ve done our best to rank the top 20 X-Men video games fairly, and here they are.
20 X-MEN GAME GEAR TRILOGY (1994, 1995, 1996)
Though it might never have garnered the fan base of Nintendo’s Game Boy, the handheld Sega Game Gear was quite a big deal when it was released in 1991. It had a backlit landscape screen, with color, and advanced graphics that put the Game Boy’s to shame. Sega’s X-Men trilogy (X-Men, Gamemaster’s Legacy, and Mojo World) were pretty solid releases.
The games were pretty much the same: Players had to solve mazes. The first one was released to some respectable fanfare, but Gamemaster’s Legacy improved the formula by including some underutilized villains such as Mister Sinister and Fabian Cortez. Also, the game had only two difficulty settings: “Mental,” and “Way Wicked” -- a truly bespoke piece of the ‘90s.
19 MARVEL: ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 2 (2009)
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 was an action RPG and the sequel to Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. It was released in 2009, developed for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and for n-Space. Activision did a good job of following elements of the "Secret War" and "Civil War" story arcs. The games were successors to the critically praised X-Men Legends games, and had similar gameplay.
Players selected a team of four characters from a large pool of heroes and villains, and then dungeon crawl through levels. Though it only had an aggregate rating of 70% from GameRankings and Metacritic, one system that was lauded was the “fusion” ability, where each character had a unique fusion attack with other playable characters in the game.
18 X-MEN: THE RAVAGES OF APOCALYPSE (1997)
This one not only had an interesting name, but it also had a unique approach to the X-Men that hadn’t been seen before. It was an official mod of id Software’s Quake, and required the base game to play. It was also the first superhero FPS, and the gameplay had you running around, shooting evil robot versions of X-Men.
Each mutant had their own special power to make them difficult to kill -- for instance, to beat Wolverine, you had to inflict enough damage to negate his healing power. The game received mixed reviews, but diehard X-Men and Quake fans loved it, which was an interesting combination of people.
17 MARVEL: ULTIMATE ALLIANCE (2006)
Most people liked the first Marvel: Ultimate Alliance better than the second, so we’ve ranked it higher here. It was developed by Raven Software for the PS2, PS3, Xbox, and Xbox 360. A significantly different Game Boy Advance version was also created. The game was similar to the other two Raven Software outings, X-Men Legends and X-Men Legends II, in that you select four people from a range of 22 playable characters (some need to be unlocked) and play typical beat-em-up missions.
The game’s plot was based around Dr. Doom and the Masters of Evil launching a diabolical attack on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, and Nick Fury needing your help. It received an 82% rating from GameRankings.
16 X-MEN VS. STREET FIGHTER (1996)
Before there was Marvel Vs. Capcom, Capcom and Marvel teamed up for the first time with 1994’s X-Men: Children of the Atom. Then they released 1996’s X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, which was a great fighting game that got fans of both companies excited. X-Men Vs. Street Fighter was the first time that two diverse rosters went head to head, and it was also responsible for the important innovation of “tagging in” partners from anywhere on-screen.
From this game forward, the “tag in” ability became an industry standard. The arcade game was notable for being the first entry in the Marvel Vs. Capcom series, and it would spark a revolution of sorts with games that followed.
15 SPIDER-MAN AND THE X-MEN IN ARCADE’S REVENGE (1992)
LJN was one of the most iconic video game publishers between the ‘70s and ‘90s, and people cheered when they came out with this title. It had a lot wrong with it, but it also had some saving graces. For instance, Spider-Man was a playable character, and people loved that. The game brought back Arcade and Murderworld, last seen in the original DOS game.
The development of the game was fraught with legal problems, making the game a mess. The story is along the lines of the Uncanny X-Men arc of the same name. The gameplay was fun but very difficult, where normal enemies could kill you in a couple hits. Still, it’s considered a cult classic these days.
14 X-MEN: NEXT DIMENSION (2002)
X-Men: Next Dimension, or X-Men: Mutant Academy 3, was a fighting game that was simple, but fun. It had great graphics, the special moves were easy to pull off, and the character controls were easy to navigate. You could either do the typical versus mode, or play arcade mode, where the story was based around Magneto hatching a scheme involving Forge, serving as the sequel to the events in the comic story “Operation: Zero Tolerance.”
This is a game that kind of went under the radar, but it was well received by most who played it. The game expanded on the concept of the first two Mutant Academy games by adding new characters, 3D maps, and the story mode.
13 X-MEN: MUTANT ACADEMY 2 (2001)
X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 is considered far superior to the first game in the Mutant Academy trilogy. The game allowed players to pick between several heroes and villains, and included many signature moves from the comics. The game also included a behind-the-scenes look at X-Men: The Movie costumes and concept sketches.
There were four modes to play: Academy Training, Arcade, Versus, and Survival. There were 18 playable characters (as opposed to 10 in the first entry), controls were tighter, and combos were easier to master. Released for the first PlayStation, most agree that Mutant Academy 2 was the trilogy’s high point.
12 X-MEN: MUTANT APOCALYPSE (1994)
X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse was Capcom’s second attempt at the X-Men license, and it was a pretty successful attempt. It was an action game with a focus on combat and limited platforming. The plot revolved around Professor X sending the X-Men to Genosha Island to free the captured mutants imprisoned there.
Combat was solid, and the sprites were colorful and nicely designed. There were only five main stages and two boss battles before the showdown with Magneto on his space station, Avalon, but it was still a fun game. Three of Electronic Gaming Monthly’s four reviewers declared it to be by far the best X-Men video game to date, citing the large levels and the difficulty.
11 LEGO MARVEL SUPER HEROES (2013)
Though not strictly an X-Men exclusive video game, Lego Marvel Super Heroes did feature a lot of X-Men characters, so we decided to add it to the list, because it really was a great game. It often finds itself in the top 10 Marvel and X-Men video game polls. It’s an action-adventure game that featured beat-em-up and puzzle solving scenarios.
It’s the best-selling Lego video game of all time, and received great reviews: an 84% from Metacritic, and 9/10 from IGN, who praised it as “the best thing to happen to Marvel games since 2006’s Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. It’s warm and witty, multi-layered approach to the brand ties in hundreds of Marvel’s most iconic characters, settings, and stories.”
10 DEADPOOL (2013)
Another game that isn’t strictly X-Men (especially considering how much Deadpool makes a big deal about the lack of X-Men in the Deadpool films), the Deadpool video game received high praise upon its release. The game was only the second M-rated Marvel game, and was one of the most faithful attempts at adapting a comic to a video game.
The game was written by Daniel Way, one of the longest-running Deadpool comic writers, and followed every trope you’d expect: interacting with players, breaking the fourth wall, cameos, unicorns, and references to Mexican food. The gameplay got a bit repetitive, but the ridiculousness of the game redeemed itself time and time again.
9 X-MEN (1993)
The X-Men game from 1993 was not the first on a home console, but it was one of the first of the 16-bit generation, and caused quite a stir when it came out. Many people overlooked this Sega Genesis gem, but it was highly anticipated by diehard fans, especially considering the popularity of the ‘90s X-Men cartoon.
The game was absurdly difficult, but it delivered in other ways. It had a great roster of Wolverine, Gambit, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler, and support appearances by Storm, Rogue, Iceman, Archangel, and Jean Grey. The story gave players access to fantastic environments, and even though it was extremely difficult, people loved it.
8 X2: WOLVERINE’S REVENGE (2003)
This game was a movie tie-in for X2: X-Men United, though the game’s box-art featured Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Character design for the game was inspired from the comics, and the story was written by Larry Hama, involving Logan in a race against time to uncover his past and find the antidote to the deadly Shiva virus coursing through his veins.
Though Patrick Stewart revised his role as Charles Xavier, Mark Hamill (strangely enough) voiced Wolverine. The gameplay pit Wolverine in beat-em-up missions, and players had a bunch of vicious combos at their disposal. The game looked beautiful, so even though some reviewers criticized it for its lack of variety, for the most point, people enjoyed it.
7 X-MEN: LEGENDS (2004)
Raven Software’s first foray with the X-Men license was a smashing success. X-Men Legends was one of the first X-Men action RPGs, and it introduced an incredibly sensible-yet-never-before-seen system where players selected a team of four mutants to battle through levels. The plot focused on a young student, Alison Crestmere, as she joins Xavier’s school and learns what it means to be an X-Man.
The in-depth story featured loads of familiar faces, gameplay was fun and fast-paced, and it pioneered the sweet concept of special team-up moves. It also featured appealing cel-shaded graphics, making it look like the game had been taken straight from the pages of the comics. Needless to say, Legends was a critical hit and massive success.
6 X-MEN: CHILDREN OF THE ATOM (1994)
Capcom and Marvel’s first joint venture, X-Men: Children of the Atom, is very often near the top of any top 10 Marvel/X-Men video games list. Fans of both franchises were in for a treat when this game came to the arcades. This fighting game featured the X-Men as they appear in the ‘90s animated series, and the story was loosely based on the “Fatal Attractions” comic arc, pitting Professor X against Magneto and his Acolytes.
Fans of arcade brawlers loved this game, and it received widespread critical acclaim, so much so that it was later ported to the Sega Saturn, PC, and Sony PlayStation. It also sparked a long-running collaborative friendship between Capcom and Marvel.
5 X-MEN ARCADE (1992)
Konami’s wildly popular X-Men arcade game was the fist to meld the worlds of beat-em-up fighting games and the mutant X-Men together, and the concept struck like gangbusters. Players could choose one of six X-Men: Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Dazzler (who?) and then brawl with their friends.
The game was re-released for Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network in 2010, with iOS and Android ports released in 2011. Due to rights issues, though, none of these versions are currently available -- you have to find an old school arcade if you want a chance to play this revolutionary game.
4 X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009)
It isn’t very often that a video game based on a movie outshines the movie, but this is one of those cases. It didn’t help that the Wolverine Origins movie is considered pretty terrible, but X-Men Origins: Wolverine, defied all expectations. For the first time, Wolverine’s rage was finally realized in game form.
It was influenced by games like God of War, and glorified the violence, thanks to its “M for Mature” rating (at least in the Uncaged Edition). This over-the-top violence added to the enjoyment factor for everyone, and it ended up getting quite good reviews, with IGN’s Greg Miller calling the Uncaged Edition of the game “an awesome guilty pleasure.”
3 MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 2: NEW AGE OF HEROES (2000)
Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 is widely considered to be the crowning achievement of Marvel Vs. Capcom fighting games. Even though it’s technically not an exclusive X-Men game, 17 of the featured 23 playable characters in Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 were X-Men heroes or villains. Many of them were completely new, never before seen in a Capcom fighting game (Cable, Silver Samurai, Rogue, Marrow).
This is the gold standard to which all future Marvel-related fighting games would be compared, and it still has a huge community today, with tournaments around the world. Because it’s not strictly an X-Men game, we didn’t have the heart to put it number one on the list (unlike many other lists out there).
2 X-MEN LEGENDS II: RISE OF APOCALYPSE (2005)
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse succeeded in taking everything from X-Men Legends, and making it better. This game is often considered the best X-Men video game out there. With Apocalypse as the big bad, and the combo system of combining two powers to devastating effect, this game outshined the first in almost every way.
It was notable for its expanded roster of playable characters, and its huge number of cameos and references. The game dug deep into Marvel’s storylines, presenting a tale that included Ka-Zar, Vindicator, Shanna the She-Devil, Blink, and many more. With an 82% from GameSpot and Metacritic, it’s considered one of the best X-Men games of all time, without a doubt.
1 X-MEN 2: CLONE WARS (1995)
Many “best of” X-Men video game lists mysteriously have this one missing from the top 10, but we refused to make that mistake. X-Men 2: Clone Wars was superior in every way to the insanely difficult 1993 X-Men game. The difficulty went down, and it was based on a popular X-Men comic book crossover, the “Phalanx Covenant,” which is recognized by X-Men fans when they see Phalanx as the main, shapeshifting villain.
It had a large roster, challenging bosses, great graphics for the time, and numerous cameos. The infuriating mutant power energy gauge from its predecessor was removed, too. This was one of the best Sega Genesis titles out there, and certainly one of the best X-Men games, if not the best.