Oh, boy, it’s about that time, folks. Thor: The Dark World is here, which means there’s yet another reason for nerds everywhere to put their video games down and leave their homes. Yeah, crazy, right? Speaking of games, a bit of deep pondering earlier lead me to the realization that there haven’t been many Thor games created, which is a shame, honestly. But there has, however, been a plethora of Marvel-licensed titles spread across different genres, and ten of those games hold superiority above the rest of the pack. So to celebrate Marvel week here at Nerdist, here are my top ten most iconic Marvel games of all time.
Whether or not you were a fan of X-Men, if you owned a Super Nintendo, chances were you came across this game at some point during your childhood/teenage years. Mutant Apocalypse was extraordinary for its time, with beautiful visuals and far more accessible game play than its Sega Genesis counterpart (X-Men on Sega Genesis was hard as f#*%). One of the biggest debates about the game was which of its five playable characters was the strongest. Young boys were too coy to admit it, but since I had two eyes in my head and lacked any insecurities with my masculinity, I had no problem (and still don’t) recognizing Psylocke’s superiority over the others. Feel free to debate me on that in the comments if you disagree.
Playing as Captain America and flinging his shield toward swarms of on-screen enemies made the choice of Steve Rogers as your playable character feel extremely gratifying. Then you arrive at the flying sections of the game, where Captain America is forced to fly on a ridiculous looking mini-spacecraft, and you realize that you’d much rather play as Iron Man or Vision. All character banter aside, this side-scrolling adventure was still one of the most fun and memorable experiences of it’s time. Good luck putting down this game; It damn near beckoned you to press continue with its compassionate cries of “I can’t move” spewing from downed Avengers.
This is arguably the best Spider-Man game of all time. Many may disagree, due to the fact that you couldn’t access the ground level in this game without being consumed by a poison mist. But this was the first Spider-Man game to allow you to freely web-sling amongst the roof tops of New York City in a 3D environment. It laid down the foundation for many more Spider-Man games (good and bad) in the future.
“They killed his family. They destroyed his career. Somone’s gonna pay.” Words straight off the cover of the best Punisher game of all time. Cheesy? I think so. But The Punisher is one of the few games that benefits from its cheesiness, pairing Punisher and Nick Fury up for an intentionally over-the-top co-op adventure. Unlike your typical side-scrolling beat ’em up experiences, firearms played a heavy role in defeating enemies and progressing through the game. The Punisher was pretty much what Army Of Two wishes it was today.
Capcom’s first attempt at a Marvel-based fighting game, X-Men: Children Of The Atom was a strike of gold, given how it’s paved the way for the fighting games following it. COTA introduced features such as the dynamic combo system, air combos, and destructible multi-leveled fighting environments. Aside from it being beautiful to look at, the fast-paced game play mechanics perfectly captured how battles between the X-Men characters (and secret character Akuma) would actually play out. It also helped that this game had the best soundtrack out of any Marvel-licensed game ever conceived.
Capitalizing on the success of the X-Men Legends series, Marvel Ultimate Alliance took Diablo-style game play and meshed it with over twenty-two of the most popular Marvel characters of all time. Assembling teams composed of Hulk, Thing, Colossus, and Thor, I wasted no time getting creative with my dream combinations of heroes as I zapped through this one. Four player co-op was an added bonus as well, and brought about some epic game nights during the beginning of a generation that would see local-screen game play slowly fade away. With most of the Marvel games being beat ’em ups or fighting games, Ultimate Alliance was a refreshing escape into the realm of Action RPGs.
Climb anywhere, traverse anything, destroy everything. Forget Prototype, Ultimate Destruction was the first sandbox game that made you feel like a completely unstoppable badass. Though there were points in the game where a little strategy was required, most of Ultimate Destruction had you doing Hulk-ish things like hammer-throwing tanks into giant structures or heaving Humvees into crowds of enemies, all in the name of pure, gamma-irradiated fun. Grand Theft Auto? Psh… Mindless destruction never felt this good.
This game was a match made in Symbiote-Heaven. That special red Maximum Carnage cartridge remained in my SNES longer than most releases in this current generation of gaming. Allowing players to take on the villainous Cletus Cassidy as Spider-Man or Venom, Maximum Carnage only needed 16-bits of power to immerse players into the deep conflict from the fan favorite comic book arc. There were various Marvel cameos in this game too, allowing you to summon allies like Captain America, Iron Fist, and Black Cat to come to your aid after finding special summoning items. The follow-up, Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety, was fairly good as well (it finally featured two player co-op), but Maximum Carnage definitely set the bar for the series.
X-Men Arcade is as legendary as side-scrolling beat ’em up games get. Who doesn’t remember that distinct roar of Colossus as he unleashed his special move, the panoramic-screened arcade cabinets, or the annoying boulder chucking, bite-sized Sentinels who could easily be persuaded into nailing their enemy counterparts if timed correctly. The game was also quite challenging too, with coordination between teammates being essential to completing each level. Many weekends of my childhood consisted of me going to the movies and squandering my snack budget playing through this game in its entirety, and I’m certain that I’m one of a multitude of people who can proudly say that.
The “Don Dada” of Marvel-licensed videos games, MVC2 not only set a trend for crossover fighting games but was the catalyst for much of the fighting game culture altogether. With 3-vs.-3 tag style combat and 56 playable characters to choose from, MVC2 was a fighting game/comic book fanatic’s dream. This game had the most unbalanced character set in fighting game history, one of the most annoying select screen tunes to invade eardrums, and yet still nabbed regards as the most iconic Marvel-licensed game ever created. In fact, this franchise was catapulted so much from this installment that people refer to the entire series as just “Marvel.” Bearing the name of the entire Marvel universe? Yeah, I think it’s pretty safe to say there aren’t any other Marvel-licensed titles that come close to its level of popularity.
While it’s arguable if there are more Marvel duds than studs when it comes to games, we can at least say there has been been a decent amount of great titles to come out of the Marvel universe. Hell, I could totally continue this list for another ten games if duty called for it, but that would be a disservice to the ten deserving of the spotlight. So how does my top ten measure up with yours? Please, don’t hesitate to post your lists and/or opinions down below.