The moment of truth is finally here. After spending all of 2016 highlighting what I feel to be the best Marvel console games of all time, it’s finally time to rank them in order from least greatest to absolute greatest. Normally when I do a ranking list, with a few exceptions, I tend to just really make a list of things in no particular order but this will mark a milestone for Comic Gamers Assemble wherein I’m officially stating that these are the best Marvel games you can play across all consoles. Of course this could change over the years, especially seeing as Marvel is getting back into the console game business in a big way, but as of December 2016, this is THE official list of the best Marvel console games ever.
12) X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE UNCAGED EDITION
AVAILABLE ON: PS3/XBOX 360
As many bad Marvel movie games that there are, like most of the Sega produced Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe tie-ins, there are the rare ones that define how a character should work in a video game, like your Spider-Man 2’s and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Though forever shackled to one of the worst X-Men films, nay one of the worst super hero/comic book films of all time, the Uncaged Edition of this movie tie-in game is the single greatest Wolverine game ever released. The only thing that really holds it back from being truly great and ranking even higher is that it can get repetitive, but the repetition of what you do, namely tearing people apart with Wolverine’s adamantium claws, is something that’s unlike any other video game out there, Wolverine or otherwise. Put away your justified hatred of the film and try this game if you haven’t before.
11) SPIDER-MAN/VENOM: MAXIMUM CARNAGE
AVAILABLE ON: SNES/ SEGA GENESIS
Maximum Carnage is not the first Spider-Man game, nor even the best, however it was the first time that a game starring Spider-Man was incredibly fun. While the game is nothing out of the ordinary, super hero themed beat-em-ups were a dime a dozen in the 16-bit era, the way in which the game incorporates the source material to tell its story is something that no other comic book game had done before it, nor after it for that matter. Add in a second playable character in Venom, secret rooms to uncover, summonable support heroes and the unforgettable Green Jelly soundtrack, and you’ve got one of the rare LJN games that has was only good when it was released, but still fun today.
10) THE PUNISHER
AVAILABLE ON: PS2/XBOX ORIGINAL
After one okay and one not so okay games from LJN, Capcom produced an excellent beat-em-up using The Punisher license, however while it was a good game, it wasn’t a great Punisher game. The Punisher is all about shooting first and asking questions later, normally with large caliber weapons, and not so much brawling with street thugs hand-to-hand. This is why the THQ published and Volition developer game, simply titled The Punisher, is such a terrific piece of software. The guns, ammo and bad buys in which to use them on are plentiful and the tone straddles a perfect line of being incredibly dark, but also kind of hilarious, most evident in the gruesome torture segments. Outside of the dark humour and gun play though, The Punisher also has a story that you care about that features the voice of action Thomas Jane and cameos from characters in the extended Marvel Universe. It’s sad that this game never got the sequel it set up.
9) X-MEN: THE ARCADE GAME
AVAILABLE ON: PS3/XBOX 360*
If you grew up as a kid in the late 80’s/early 90’s like I did, your introduction to the X-Men probably wasn’t through a comic book nor even the animated series, but from a massive, six-player two-screen arcade cabinet. Konami was the king of the beat-em-up genre in the glory days of the arcade and 16-bit era with games like Batman Returns, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time and of course, X-Men. Starring five of the most popular X-Persons of all time and Dazzler, X-Men’s bright colours, fast-paced gameplay, bombastic music and hilarious dialogue made it a quarter muncher that many hoped would eventually make its way to consoles, however it wouldn’t until six years ago when it was released digitally on the PlayStaiton Network and Xbox Live arcade. Sadly the game has been delisted from both online stores so getting it legally now is about as difficult as it was finding a space on the arcade cabinet back in the day, but if you’re like me, this was a day one purchase that’s just a download or a launch away.
*this game has been delisted and no longer available to buy on consoles.
8) ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN
AVAILABLE ON: GC/PS2/XBOX ORIGINAL
Spider-Man 2 was the game that redefined how the world thought about Spider-Man games, but it was that game’s spiritual sequel that arrived in an astonishing one year later that truly showed what could be done with this new framework. Subtracting the Spider-Man movie license, adding the relatively new Ultimate Universe and a gorgeous cel-shaded art style, Treyarch brilliantly expanded on what they accomplished with Spider-Man 2 and set the bar for what a Spider-Man game could be. Like Maximum Carnage before it, it also added Venom as a second playable character that helped to break up the pace of the somewhat repetitive missions and side-tasks that unfortunately still plague Spider-Man games even today.
7) THE INCREDIBLE HULK: ULTIMATE DESTRUCTION
AVAILABLE ON: GC/PS2/XBOX ORIGINAL
After cutting their teeth on a good but not exactly great Hulk movie tie-in game released in 2003, now defunct developer Radical entertainment surprised the world with the sleeper hit The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction a little over two years later. Taking a page from open world games like Grand Theft Auto and fellow Marvel alum Spider-Man, Radical crafted the true Hulk power fantasy that I’m surprised no one has taken a second go at all these years later. As the Hulk you can leap over and scale buildings, turn cars into box gloves and of course smash lots and lots of things from the environment to Hulkbuster robots and other gamma powered characters. A large issue of why Radical’s first Hulk game didn’t quite reach the level of greatness that it perhaps could’ve was that its gameplay was pretty repetitive, which is something that can’t be said of Ultimate Destruction. Radical thought of nearly every way in which something could be destroyed and toppled over and crafted a large variety of both side as well as main mission objectives that let the player do just that. Above all else though, what makes Ultimate Destruction so terrific is that by the simply act of playing the game, you feel the power of the Hulk through your controller through an excellent use of vibrations and the power in your hits.
6) SPIDER-MAN: SHATTERED DIMENSIONS
AVAILABLE ON: PS3/XBOX 360
Noticing a downward trend in the popularity of their Spider-Man games, Activision but a lot of faith in Beenox, a studio then mostly known for porting games to other platforms, to rejuvenate the brand. Their trust was well founded as Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was just the thing the ailing Spider-Man brand needed. At its core Shattered Dimensions is a character action game like a God of War or Bayonetta, but above all else it’s a game that celebrates the character of Spider-Man with its four playable characters, each being voiced by an actor who had a history with the character like Christopher Daniel Barnes (Spider-Man: The Animated Series) and Josh Keaton (The Spectacular Spider-Man). What Shattered Dimensions also showed us is how much fun stealth could be via the Noir universe. Like a lot of games that I’ve already talked about, Shattered Dimensions could have done with a proper sequel that expanded on the template that Beenox crafted, but instead the developer now exists as one of the many working on brands like Call of Duty and Skylanders…for the time being, apparently.
5) MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 2: NEW AGE OF HEROES
AVAILABLE ON: DREAMCAST/PS2/PS3/XBOX ORIGINAL/XBOX 360*
Marvel Vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes was the second in the Vs. Capcom brand but the fifth in a series of Marvel themed fighters that started with X-Men: Children of the Atom. After many years, a sequel with its own update, and other cross overs with the likes of SNK, Tekken and Tatsunoku, it’s the second chapter of the Marvel Vs. Capcom series that is still beloved and being played at tournaments even today. It could be because of the simplified gameplay from its predecessors (the game eliminated the Medium attack bracket making it easier it play on a controller), the insanely high yet unbalanced roster of characters, the incredible sprite work or jazzy soundtrack, but whatever your reason for taking a ride, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes is a game that defies the impossible, as evidenced by the recent announcement of Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite that was seemingly willed into existence by fans of this game.
*this game has been delisted and no longer available to purchase on either PS3 or Xbox 360.
4) X-MEN LEGENDS 2: RISE OF APOCALYPSE
AVAILABLE ON GC/PS2/XBOX ORIGINAL
The X-Men had pretty good run of games on both the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis in the 16-bit console wars, even the Mutant Academy series of fighting games were pretty good as well. However the combined quality of all the games that came before it couldn’t even come close to that found in the X-Men Legends games, and in particular X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse. Developer Raven created something special when they superbly melded the overhead action-RPG genre with Marvel’s merry band of mutants and the concept was expanded even further in X-Men Legends’ first and only sequel. The environments were more varied, traditional costumes made a comeback and classic villains like Magneto were now able to be added to your party alongside the students of Xavier’s School of Gifted Youngsters. About the only thing that could top this series was one that had the whole Marvel Universe…
3) MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE
AVAILABLE ON: PS3/PS4/XBOX 360/XBOX ONE*
X-Men Legends 2 set itself up for a sequel that never got made, but it’s a real easy pill to swallow given what we got in return. Expanding on what they accomplished in the Legends series, developer Raven continued working with the X-Men license, however they added the likes of Spider-Man, Captain America, Thor and Iron Man to create the first ever Marvel Universe sprawling action-RPG: Marvel Ultimate Alliance. The gameplay is similar to those who enjoyed the Legends franchise, but the addition of the rest of the Marvel Universe makes something that was already excellent somehow even better. On top of being a great game that allows you to live your ultimate Marvel fantasy in a video game, Marvel Ultimate Alliance is a great encyclopedia for those intimidated by the decades of continuity, crossovers and relaunches comics are often prone to. As of this summer you can easily download Marvel Ultimate Alliance on either the PS4 or Xbox One so you can find out for yourself exactly why people are hoping this series goes to part three someday.
*this game is also available on a number of other consoles like the PS2, Wii and Xbox Original, however I’m referring to game on the above listed consoles in this discussion.
2) SPIDER-MAN (2000)
AVAILABLE ON: DREAMCAST/N64/PSOne
You might think that being a huge and adamant Spider-Man game that I heap a lot of praise onto what many considers to be an above average game. While yes, Spider-Man is my favourite super hero of all time, I can be objective enough to divorce myself from my bias and talk about why this game deserves to be ranked so high. Back at the turn of the millennium, comic book games were something that you didn’t really look forward to playing with most of them being churned out by Acclaim. Like the Marvel movie renaissance that started back in the same year with X-Men and Blade before it, Neversoft showed that given the right care and attention, the public didn’t need to be afraid of comic book video games. Some of the mechanics may be dated, like the inability to swing a lot, the combat as well as the camera, but these negatives are far outweighed by what Spider-Man does right, and it does a lot right. The respect in which the story and characters are treated was really unheard of in comic book video games of the time, even today, and there’s so many Easter Eggs peppered throughout the game’s six chapter; Everything from hidden collectible comic book covers, references to villains not even appearing in the game and cameos from other characters from the larger Marvel Universe. It must also not be understated the ease in which anyone can pick up this game with its adjustable difficulties that make it such that even someone who only plays video games casually can have a good time. Once Sony finishes polishing up Crash Bandicoot for a new generation, they would be wise to resurrect this game in a similar fashion.
1) LEGO MARVEL SUPER HEROES
AVAILABLE ON: PS3/PS4/XBOX 360/XBOX ONE/ Wii U
“Seriously, a Lego game? Those things are for kids!” that would be a correct statement, but also an awfully wrong one. For the simple matter that Lego Marvel Super Heroes can be enjoyed by both the young, and the young at heart, is one of the many reasons why it deserves to be ranked number one in this list. Few games ooze as much passion for the world of Marvel comics as Lego Marvel Super Heroes and its readily apparent that the folks at TT Games who made this masterpiece loved every minute of assembling this game as much as we’ve all enjoyed playing it and replaying it over again. For the campaign alone that takes you from one corner of the Marvel Universe to another this game could rest easily on top of this list, but when you add in the open world where you can travel from Horizon Labs to the X-Mansion, collecting gold bricks along the way, unlocking characters and taking on missions from a fourth-wall breaking Deadpool and you’ve got a game whose length can rival many RPG’s. Don’t let the fact that this game is one that’s family friendly and partially inspired by the most popular building blocks of all time, Lego Marvel Super Heroes has something for every Marvel fan and is the Best Marvel Console Game EVER.
So there you have it, the Comic Gamers Assemble as of right now list of best Marvel console games ever. Feel that some games were ranked too high? Not high enough? Upset that one of your personal favourite games was missing from the discussion? Sign off in the comments below and look soon for my annual Game of the Year awards where I actually don’t give out any awards but still honour the comic book video games of 2016.