There’s little sense in denying the fact that the Marvel Cinematic Universe for a decade has had an unparalleled pop-cultural impact and nearly single-handedly made superheroes cool again.
Comics and movies aren’t the only things Marvel has to its name, however. While DC may have the lead with the Batman: Arkham series, there are quite a few games based on Marvel properties which are worth spending some time with them. But before we dive into discussing the biggest and best Marvel games, let’s take a look at Marvel itself, as well as some of the games which are unfortunately quite hard to come by these days.
What is Marvel?
Marvel Comics itself, in the form we know, started in the early 1960s. Their titles were aimed more towards audiences older than was a standard at the time, and changed the way superhero stories were written, compared to the traditions of earlier decades. Superheroes became more human and more identifiable as a result. The fantastic team of writer Stan Lee and artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko created a rich world filled with hundreds of characters, both superheroes and regular people, each with their own story. Marvel’s fortune would wax and wane over the years, with a threat of bankruptcy looming over the company too often.
This fortunately changed and the company entered its golden years with the expansion into the movie industry. At this point Marvel is truly a household name, a position won in a huge part thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which since 2008 (Iron Man) has been steadily creating a standard for how blockbuster movies are made, with other companies attempting to get in on the “cinematic universe” trend with their own creations. Although X-Men movies had an eight-year head start and are still going strong, MCU is a behemoth which can’t be stopped and gave Marvel’s current parent company Disney Inc. fuel to acquire other gigantic studios.
Marvel games giving a good view of that crazy universe
Video games have been with Marvel since the late 1980s, with Spider-Man and the X-Men as the most frequently featured heroes, due to the incredible popularity of their respective lines at the time. In the 2000s a stream of new games slowed down, but we’d still receive ensemble titles like X-Men Legends II or Marvel Ultimate Alliance, as well as single-hero epics like the still fondly remembered Spider-Man 2. After that, there were many movie-tie ins of variable quality, and a plethora of games designed with smartphones in mind, like a match-three Marvel Puzzle Quest or a fighting game Marvel: Contest of Champions.
From this wealth of games, we picked several which are unquestionably interesting and still available for purchase, because what good is a game which you can’t get? Here comes our take on the coolest games based on Marvel properties.
Best Marvel Video Games
Spiders gonna spide
Who would have thought that we’d get a game about Spidey which would beat, at this point legendary, web-slinging of Spider-Man 2? Insomniac by all accounts knocked it out of the park(er) with this game, making full use of the license and making something gamers and gaming media alike wouldn’t stop talking weeks after launch.
How’s that for proving web swinging is cool again even in video games? In addition to swinging, Spidey also fights and sneaks a lot, in a manner similar to Batman: Arkham games, albeit with thematic use of webs and more ways to interacts with the environment.
Story-wise, Insomniac’s Spider-Man follows the life of a more experienced Peter Parker than we’re used to (23-years old here), who has eight years’ experience as the webhead under his belt, so he is fast enemies with most of his rogue gallery already. The game initially puts Spidey against Mr. Negative and his criminal organization, but as the game’s story progresses you’ll help Pete take down several of his most iconic antagonists.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
|Leading hero/team:||Ensemble crossover|
This is the ultimate showdown
Comic books are no strangers to crossovers, whether within their own setting or between different ones, like Marvel/DC joint runs. In the case of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom series not only settings cross over, but also the medium itself: characters from Marvel comics fight against iconic characters from Capcom properties.
It’s a traditional fighting game taking place on two-dimensional arenas, where characters from both universes can duke it out, with some story to tie it all together. Since this is a typical fighting game, it may be difficult to enjoy the story mode if you’re not familiar with the genre. Overall, there are 36 fighters carried over from Marvel vs. Capcom 3: The Fate of Two Worlds and the Ultimate upgrade brings 12 more. It’s a very competent tag-team-based fighting game, too.
Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions
Before the Spider-Verse
Shattered Dimensions is a largely forgotten game, which is a shame, because, especially for its time, was quite amazing. It had a properly Marvel-ous plot involving a multiverse and magical artifacts, spectacular combat, and the gameplay diversity introduced through several playable Peter Parkers was honestly astonishing.
A magical tablet was cracked in a fight against Mysterio, and reality crumbled soon after that. Madame Webb contacted the Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Man 2099, and Ultimate Spider-Man to track down the tablet pieces in their own dimensions to prevent a cataclysm. Each Spidey has a different theme, though none as distinct as that of Spider-Man Noir, which has a strong aesthetic reminiscent of the old hard-boiled private eye movies, including the world turning black and white if Spidey stays hidden.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2
|Leading hero/team:||Ensemble cast|
LEGO Marvel Multiverse?
If the roster of LEGO Marvel’s Avengers isn’t enough for you, then you’re going to love this one. It features an utterly absurd number of Marvel characters, many of them with additional variants derived from alternative timelines and limited runs. There is a very good chance that your favorite look for your favorite character has a cute LEGO version in this game.
The store revolves around the time-traveling warlord Kang the Conqueror, who messed up timelines AGAIN and created an amalgam city of Chronopolis, where many famous locations from comics and movies share the space…time. Your task is to untangle what’s been tangled and defeat Kang. Easy enough, right? All of that sets a decent backdrop for a usual LEGO-brand gameplay, albeit with characters having unique interactions fitting their themes, like Spider-Gwen being able to bust out a drum set.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
|Leading hero/team:||Ensemble cast|
Ultimate Alliance 2 is largely concerned with adapting the events of the comic book version of Marvel Civil War, to a reasonable extent. You get to form a team of four heroes and take it on missions, which are played out in a manner similar to dungeon crawls.
Eventually, you’ll need to choose whether you’re going to be for registration of superpowered individuals or against it, which will determine later stages of the game. There is also a progression mechanic, thanks to which characters can improve their abilities as they gather experience points. Each hero has four core powers they can use but supported by the progression it is quite sufficient for smooth and dynamic gameplay.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
|Leading hero/team:||Ensemble cast|
Logan ‘Wolverine’ Sniktbub
Movie-based games usually aren’t the best, although there are a precious few of them which are actually not only playable but also quite awesome. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is one such game. Arguably it can also be seen as better than the movie it’s based on since it expands the story, and characters get more time to develop.
The game is also much more brutal than the PG-13 source material, which is only suitable for a production about a man with razor sharp claws and a bad temper. X-Men Origins: Wolverine as a game is an action-adventure production with a heavy emphasis put on hand to hand combat. Logan has a large number of abilities available, including an incredibly satisfying lunge, making him jump towards a distant enemy for large damage. Logan’s health is also reflected in his appearance, so with 1% HP left you could see his skeleton, and then watch as the skin and muscles grow back in real time.
Thus concludes our list of the best Marvel games which can still be acquired by an intrepid lurker. Unsurprisingly, Spider-man is perhaps the most popular Marvel character to star as a video game protagonist, where other champions prefer to appear with their team’s support, just in case. At the time of writing, there are two as of yet unannounced high-budget Marvel games coming up, one of which made by Square Enix. Time will tell if they will avenge the negligence of the past few years.
It seems that the hype for Marvel comics characters will continue, even though some of the phase I heroes like Captain America or Iron Man may soon be goon from MCU, other will come and continue their legacy. With that and the new deal that will provide Marvel Cinematic Universe with all X-Men and Fantastic Four characters, it is just the matter of time before new great video games with Marvel comics heroes will be developed.