When it comes to villains, Spider-Man is my opinion is tied with Batman as having the most recognizable rogues gallery: Sandman, Vulture, Electro, Venom, Carnage, Rhino, and Doc Ock are just some of the baddies that someone who doesn’t even read Spider-Man comics may know as they were either in a movie, an episode of an animated series, a video game, or in some cases all three.
Probably one of the most famous Spider-Man villains is the Green Goblin. He shares such an interesting history with his arch-nemesis in that he was an integral part in the famous story “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”, robbing Peter Parker of his innocence and causing him to once again know true loss in much the same way he did when he lost his Uncle Ben, a tragedy that caused him to don the costume and persona of Spider-Man in the first place. This was after of course the Goblin murdered Peter’s true love, Gwen Stacy. Since then he has traumatized the web-slinger even further by being the mastermind behind the clone saga, and over in the Ultimate Universe he and the other members of the Sinister Six ended Peter Parker’s life, an event that has since been retconned but was none the less powerful and led to the creation of Miles Morales, the new Ultimate Spider-Man.
The first game to feature the Green Goblin as a playable character that wasn’t a bonus feature. Too bad it’s just okay at best.
One area where the Green Goblin character has not been used to his full potential is in the video game world. The Green Goblin has been featured in many video games, in fact being the main protagonist in the first ever Spider-Man game on the Atari 2600 simply titled Spider-Man, and co-starring in the portable game Spider-Man: Battle for New York, but there’s never been a big-budget console game where he’s been the main focus, other than the 2002 Spider-Man movie game, which almost doesn’t count as it just recounts the events of a movie. Given Green Goblin’s history with Spider-Man, the havoc he’s caused in his life and being the only villain to be featured in three Spider-Man movies, why hasn’t there been a definitive Green Goblin game?
A lot of this has to do in my opinion with timing. Video games having gained popularity in the 70’s exploded in the 80’s thanks to home consoles like the Atari, the Master System and of course, the NES. The first Green Goblin, Norman Osborn, had died in the pages of the Amazing Spider-Man comics and wouldn’t come back into play until the mid-to-late 90’s, so just as video games were coming into their own, the Green Goblin was out of the picture. Harry Osborn took up the mantle from his “late” father, but he was never the Goblin that Norman was, and he too “died” in the early 90’s. It wasn’t until the 90’s that Spider-Man games started being produced on a regular basis from companies like Sega, LJN and Acclaim, and around that time the villains that people wanted to see most in Spider-Man games were the symbiote duo of Venom and Carnage. Going by Spider-Man games released in North America, here’s a picture of how things look:
Venom: Spider-Man Vs. the Kingpin (Sega Genesis/Sega Master System/Sega CD/Sega Game Gear), The Amazing Spider-Man (Game Boy), Maximum Carnage (SNES/Sega Genesis), Separation Anxiety (SNES/Sega Genesis), Spider-Man: The Animated Series (SNES/Sega Genesis), Spider-Man: The Arcade Game (Arcade)
Carnage: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Game Boy), Maximum Carnage (SNES/Sega Genesis), Separation Anxiety (SNES/Sega Genesis), Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge (SNES/Sega Genesis/Game Boy/Sega Game Gear)
Green Goblin:Spider-Man the Arcade game (Arcade), Spider-Man: The Animated Series (SNES/Sega Genesis)
Not counting being on multiple systems and just title alone, Venom appeared in six Spider-Man games, Carnage appeared four, they appeared together in two, and Green Goblin only appeared in two games. Even as the 90’s turned into the 2000’s and Activision released the first ever 3-D Spider-Man game from Neversoft, Venom and Carnage still played a major role in the story whereas Green Goblin’s presence could only be felt as an easter egg.
The 2000’s brought their own share of timing issues as just when Norman Osborn had come back and reclaimed his title and appeared in the first ever Spider-Man film, he was changed in the comics from being just a Spider-Man villain to a threat worthy of the Avengers. After being appointed the head of the Thunderbolts program, Norman Osborn would use positive publicity earned from the Secret Invasion cross-over event to take control of a new version of S.H.I.E.L.D called H.A.M.M.E.R.. Being as Norman ceased being the Green Goblin for a better part of the new millennium, instead operating just as himself or as the first Iron Patriot, his presence was one again limited in all Spider-Man games. As far as his video game appearances went, he was subjected to roles in movie games (Spider-Man/Spider-Man:Friend or Foe), minor appearances (Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2), handheld games (Spider-Man: Web of Shadows/Spider-Man: Battle for New York) and as a supporting villain (Ultimate Spider-Man/Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions).
Another reason that Green Goblin may not be desired as the best candidate for the main villain role in a Spider-Man game is that he’s never been much of a team player, choosing to operate more so on his own and this limits what other villains can be used to go up against Spider-Man that would appear natural. Doc Ock, as an example, is always associated with the Sinister Six, and a lot of those team members are featured in a lot of Spider-Man games: Sandman, Mysterio, Vulture, Electro, Rhino even the Hobgoblin who was featured in just about as many games as the Green Goblin in the 90’s: The Amazing Spider-Man (Game Boy) and Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six. Even Carnage, the biggest psychopath in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery worked with others in Maximum Carnage, even having a villain of his own in the form of the Demogoblin.
Video games are normally seen as things to be won with the conclusion being the hero triumphing over evil, which is something I can’t see many people getting from a Green Goblin focused game. I doubt many players are going to want to play a game wherein they’re either a Spider-Man clone as in the clone saga, or where no matter what they do they simply cannot save Gwen Stacy. This is probably one of the reasons why Gwen Stacy, despite appearing in Beenox’s first The Amazing Spider-Man game was nowhere to be seen in the sequel, even though the Goblin showed up in the plot and as a boss to be beaten.
A story that would fix a lot of these problems that would make for a really good Spider-Man game would be the closing story in the Superior Spider-Man saga: Goblin Nation. In that story the Goblin amasses an army of Goblin themed villains and asserts such control over the city of New York that not even the combined forces of Spider-Man’s army and the Avengers can stop him. The only way to stop the Goblin once and for all is for Doc Ock to relinquish his identity as Spider-Man and allowing the one and only Peter Parker to take control. Not only would a Goblin Nation game give us a Superior Spider-Man game, something I would absolutely love to see happen, but it also gives sub-bosses in the forms of Green Goblin’s lieutenants, giant robots courtesy of Alchemax and J.Jonah Jameson, a second playable character in Spider-Man 2099, and a triumphant climax where the player sees the return of Peter Parker and the fall of the Green Goblin.
In the same way that The Joker is seen as the antithesis of Batman, the Green Goblin is the same thing for Spider-Man. Whereas we’ve gotten some great Batman/Joker games in the Arkham series, we’re still waiting to see the Green Goblin take the starring villain role in a Spider-Man game outside of a movie tie-in or throw away handheld game. Stories involving the Green Goblin don’t always give the reader a warm feeling nor do they provide a triumphant win for our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, but that shouldn’t deter game developers from using the Goblin as the spotlight villain in any future Spider-Man games, especially when there’s excellent source material happening right now in which to draw from.
Goblin Nation: Both an excellent conclusion to the Superior Spider-Man saga and a great Green Goblin story. Game developers take note.