Starting today on Disney+, the multiverse of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be explored in the new animated series, What If…?. Based on the Marvel comic book of the same name, What If…? will spotlight such divergent outcomes as Peggy Carter getting the Super Soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers, and T’Challa taking up the mantle of Star-Lord instead of Black Panther.
Although What If…? has never been turned into a video game, many Marvel games over the year have incorporated alternate timelines and universes into their story, some even going as far as to base themselves on popular elseworld stories. Let’s spotlight those games from consoles, handhelds and PC that have dared to venture away from the established norms of the classic Marvel Universe.
X-MEN II: FALL OF THE MUTANTS (PC)
This sequel is seen as a parallel of sorts to a story that went by the same name featured in Uncanny X-Men issues 225-227. In it, the X-Men and the Freedom Force, a group of mutants led by Mystique, find themselves up against and entity known as the Adversary. This being was inadvertently brought into existence by Forge, who sought to rescue his military brethren through the use of magic.
X-Men II plays as a top-down strategy game of sorts where you can build a team of X-Men to solve various puzzles using their abilities. It also happens to be one of the few games where you can control Archangel. The story plays out as an alternate take on the events of “Fall of the Mutants”, even going as far as to be introduced by none other than the Watcher.
X-MEN: REIGN OF APOCALYPSE
An homage to Konami’s classic arcade game, X-Men: Reign of Apocalypse is a brawler set in a world in which Apocalypse has conquered the world. As either Cyclops, Rogue, Storm or Wolverine, you do battle with many classic X-Men adversaries like Magneto and the title character, but also many of your allies. Though they’re in their classic uniforms and not modeled after a story like “Age of Apocalypse”, characters like Cable, Gambit, Beast and Psylocke are among Apocalypse’s army in this universe that the X-Men are fighting to escape.
THE ULTIMATE UNIVERSE
Started in the year 2000, the Ultimate Universe was an initiative by Marvel to refresh brands like Spider-Man, the X-Men, Avengers, and Fantastic Four. Along with updating the origins of their characters for the new millennium, the Ultimate Universe gave new readers a safe jumping on point free of decades of established lore and continuity.
The action-RPG X-Men Legends and its sequel, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse wasn’t advertised as being set in the Ultimate Universe, however the default costume designs of the heroes and villains are heavily influenced by Ultimate X-Men.
The game that would launch alongside 2005’s Fantastic Four includes two bonus missions that become unlocked upon completing it on normal and hard. In them, the team is sent to Doctor Doom’s home country, Latveria, on request from Nick Fury. Fury himself is voiced by Andre Ware, the same actor who portrayed the character in both Ultimate Avengers animated features. Like the X-Men Legends titles, the team is featured in their Ultimate outfits here.
Perhaps the most famous title that was birthed from the Ultimate Universe was 2005’s Ultimate Spider-Man. At one point, its story was even considered canon before it was later retconned in the “War of the Symbiotes” storyline.
Ultimate Spider-Man not only allowed you to play as the web-swinging wonder, but also Ultimate Venom. In this world, the Venom symbiote is terrestrial in origin having been developed as way to cure diseases by the parents of Peter Parker and Eddie Brock. Brock is still the symbiote’s host here, however it’s consuming him and the only way to stop that is to absorb fresh DNA. In the game, this is gruesomely done by sucking in enemies and civilians.
A year after Ultimate Spider-Man’s release in 2006, a pair of games for the Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance arrived titled Spider-Man: Battle for New York. These too are set in the Ultimate Universe and has the player switching between Spider-Man and the Ultimate Green Goblin.
SPIDER-MAN: SHATTERED DIMENSIONS
2010’S Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions featured four playable Spider-Man from across the multiverse, all charged with reassembling the pieces of an artifact known as the Tablet of Order and Chaos. Joining the original Spider-Man are his successor from the year 2099, a Noir variant from the early 20th century and the Spider-Man of the Ultimate Universe who is wearing the symbiote costume. Though this wasn’t the first piece of multimedia to bring Spider-Men together from across the multiverse – that honor belongs to the series final of Spider-Man: The Animated Series – this game would inspire the “Spider-Verse” event which led to it being adapted into Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
LEGO MARVEL SUPER HEROES 2
Featuring a villain that is about to play a large role in the MCU, Kang the Conqueror, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is set in a world of Kang’s own design, Chronopolis. Perhaps the biggest multiversal crossover ever to appear in a Marvel video game, Chronopolis’ open world is made up of sections from the Noir Universe, the future world of 2099, the Old West and present day New York City among others.
X-MEN: MOJO WORLD
The plot of the conclusion for the first trilogy of X-Men games has Mojo commissioning Spiral to gather X-Men throughout history in a bid to rule Mojo World. It’s an interesting concept for a game, especially one starring the X-Men, it’s just a shame that little is done with it. There’s a level that takes place in the future, and Bishop’s sister Shard is also playable, but other than that all you get is Cyclops in his classic outfit from the early issues of X-Men.
SPIDER-MAN: EDGE OF TIME
This sequel to Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions moves away from a disruption of realities into one of time. When Walker Sloane travels to our present from the year 2099 to give rise to the Alchemax Corporation early, he accidentally disrupts the fabric of time, creating an alternate future where Peter Parker himself is warped into leading the villainous company. With the use of a temporal link, both the present day Spider-Man and his 2099 counterpart must work together to set both of their times right.
DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
Easily one of the most iconic X-Men stories of all time, “Days of Future Past” has Kitty Pryde travelling backwards through time to prevent a future where mutantkind is enslaved and on the verge of extinction. In the film adaptation of the same name, this task fell on Wolverine with some assistance from Kitty.
The cult favorite hack-and-slash movie tie-in X-Men Origins: Wolverine recounts the plot of the film, however its narrative is framed and bookended by Wolverine telling the story from a “Days of Future Past” like dystopian future.
“Days of Future Past” was turned into a video game and launched alongside the film version. Played as a side-scroller for mobile devices by Canadian studio Glitchsoft, this game is unfortunately only available through emulation unless you own a device that has it already installed.
This seminal story from writer Peter David and artist George Pérez threw the Incredible Hulk into the far future where he went up against one of his greatest enemies: himself. In an alternate timeline, Hulk, now going by the name Maestro, rules over a wasteland with the only remnants of the world’s superheroes existing as trophies in a museum.
The Maestro would make his video game debut in 1997’s The Incredible Hulk: The Pantheon Saga as the final boss. In the arena where you confront him you can see relics like Captain America’s shield as you battle yourself in search of parts for a time machine. When all are collected, you send the Maestro to the moment where the bomb explosion gave birth to the Hulk.
More recently, “Future Imperfect” has been loosely adapted in Marvel’s Avengers for Hawkeye’s debut in the game. When using tachyon energy to visit the future in an attempt to win a war against the Kree, the Avengers find themselves transported to the Maestro’s wasteland. There they run into an older version of Hawkeye, modelled from his the “Old Man Hawkeye” persona first seen in the story “Old Man Logan.”
Like The Pantheon Saga, you confront the Maestro as the final boss of the Future Imperfect expansion where, like in that game, relics from the character’s heroic past are laid about.
For more on “Future Imperfect”, check out this video from Panels to Pixels.