It’s time to pull on a mask and take to the streets to protect the world from supervillains – as we check out the Best Marvel Games of All Time!
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has dominated cinema screens since the release of the first Iron Man film in 2008.
Though of course films and TV shows based on Marvel comics have existed for decades, it wasn’t until Marvel began building up their shared comic book universe on the big screen that they truly saw consistent and long lasting success on our screens – and the characters have never been more popular.
There have been countless Marvel titles over the years, ever since the very first of them – Spider-Man on the Atari 2600 – appeared in 1982.
If you’re a more recent fan of the Marvel superheroes, you may have missed some of the excellent titles that have been released over the years – sometimes even crossing over into other universes, such as in Capcom’s fighting games (though we’ll be sticking to Marvel only games for this list – and mostly staying away from film adaptations too).
Which ones are the best though? Let’s find out as we take a look at the Best Marvel Games of All Time!
10.The Punisher (PS2/Xbox, 2005)
Though created in the 70s, The Punisher’s popularity as a character truly exploded in the 80s, thanks initially to the dark, unusually mature comic book mini-series The Punisher: Circle of Blood – published in 1986.
From there on, the gun-toting, violent killer Frank Castle – who took out criminals by shooting first and rarely bothering to ask questions – became so popular that a movie was made starring Dolph Lundgren as Castle (in 1989), with two more following in the 2000s (with Thomas Jane playing the character in the 2004 version and Ray Stevenson as Castle in 2008’s Punisher: War Zone).
Thomas Jane also voiced the character in this video game adaptation, which was co-written by one of the most popular Punisher writers of all time – Garth Ennis. In this suitably violent third person shooter, The Punisher can interrogate criminals at specified ‘hot spots’ – leading to cut scenes so graphic and gory that they were featured in black and white, with even more changes to reduce their impact in the UK versions.
Nevertheless, this was still a pretty violent game – at a time when there was a bit of a moral panic about video game violence, thanks in part to Rockstar’s GTA and Manhunt games causing mostly media-led controversy.
It was a great adaptation of the character, which more than earns it a place on the Best Marvel Games list.
9. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (PS2/PS3/Xbox 360/Wii)
Talking of violence, X-Men Origins: Wolverine the movie suffered in part due to its sanitised, family-friendly approach to the mutant carnage it depicted, securing itself a PG-13 rating in the US and a 12 in the UK. Of course, the story itself was an absolute mess – so it wasn’t just the lack of violence that dulled its effectiveness.
It seems that the creators of X-Men Origins: Wolverine didn’t get the memo about toning down the violence, however – this 18-rated adaptation of the movie goes all out to show copious amounts of blood and limbs flying all over the place, right from the start of the game. It’s almost comical how over the top it is in terms of its gore – especially when you consider the film it’s based on.
In part, that’s what made this third person action adventure such a joy to play; it really made you feel like a super powerful, rage-induced killing machine – and Wolverine’s feral nature has possibly never been better presented in video game form than in this loose movie adaptation.
8. Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage (SNES/Mega Drive, 1994)
You won’t find many LJN games on this list; the toy manufacturer’s licensed games were renowned for being awful.
Yet this Software Creations-developed title, which bore the LJN logo (though Acclaim had purchased LJN by the time this was released, which may explain why Marvel games had been improving somewhat by then!), was an excellent scrolling beat ‘em up, with some unique mechanics thanks to the powers of the playable marvel characters – Spider-Man and his symbiote enemy/partner, the anti-villain Venom.
Based on the 1993 Marvel Comics crossover of the same name, Maximum Carnage features lots of cameos from other superheroes and villains, with animated cutscenes recreated directly from panels of the comic itself.
It was one of the very first video games to be directly based on a comic book story arc, rather than using the characters in an original story. The first print run of the game even came on striking red cartridges!
With excellent presentation – including a soundtrack by rock band Green Jelly – and a great adaptation of the source material, it’s odd that Maximum Carnage wasn’t met with a particularly positive critical reception upon release.
Yet it’s aged gracefully and remains a playable and addictive beat ‘em up to this day – it even made it onto our Best Beat ‘Em Up Games list!
7. Deadpool (PS3/PS4/Xbox 360/Xbox One, 2013)
It’s hard to believe now, but the first Deadpool movie starring Ryan Reynolds was stuck in production hell for years, with the movie studio just not considering it a viable proposition. The fourth wall-breaking merc-with-a-mouth wasn’t widely known beyond comic fans and Reynolds himself had already played the character in the disastrous X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Yet leaked test footage, featuring a much more faithful (and genuinely funny) version of the character set the internet ablaze and convinced the suits to put the movie into production – and the rest is history.
This third-person action adventure game was released a few years before the first film – and took a similarly anarchic, self-referential approach to the character as could be seen in the comics (and, subsequently, the Deadpool movies).
Though much of the game feels like a standard third person licensed title, what really elevates it is a sharp, funny script and excellent voice acting – with video game voiceover icon Nolan North as the titular character.
It was truly faithful to the spirit of the licence and – while receiving a mixed critical reception – really did the character justice.
6. X-Men (Arcade, 1992)
Another of Konami’s excellent licensed 90s beat ‘em ups – which followed their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Simpsons cabinets), the X-Men machine came in two player, four player and even a huge six player variant. That’s right: up to six players at a time could take on Magneto and his legions of minions.
The six player machine was a truly impressive beast, with two screens – though it cleverly created an illusion of a single, extra-wide screen – and the playable characters on offer being Cyclops, Colossus, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler or Dazzler.
Though fairly short, it was – as befits an arcade title – pretty challenging and liable to relentlessly deprive you of your loose change. Though digitally re-released for PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2010, these versions were sadly removed from sale in 2013 due to licence expiry.
The wonderful pixel art, perfectly adapting the 90s versions of the comic characters, has aged beautifully. The brief snippets of voice acting, along with the awful dialogue, give the game an endearingly cheesy charm too, with unforgettable lines such as “I am Magneto, master of magnet!”
5. Spider-Man (Dreamcast/N64/PS1, 2000)
Developed by Neversoft, creators of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series, this version of Marvel’s Friendly Neighbourhood Wallcrawler uses the same engine as the first Tony Hawk title.
Through a plot contrivance – Doctor Octopus gassing the city to make the air poisonous below a certain level – it cleverly gets around needing to explain why falling too far results in a lost life for the game’s hero, which was a common annoyance that never made sense in Spider-Man games.
Taking a colourful, humourous approach to the story, this version of Spider-Man was fun, amusing and full of Marvel cameos – and the third person web-swinging action was brilliantly done. Though the visuals and camera controls haven’t aged well, the gameplay still shines – more than earning Neversoft’s Spider-Man a place halfway into the Best Marvel Games list (it made the cut on our Best PS1 Games list too!).
4. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (PS3/Xbox 360/Wii, 2010)
Yep, another Spider-Man game makes it into the top 10; this one was a multiverse-spanning epic that brought together Spider-Men from four different dimensions – years before animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse did the same to hugely successful effect – to fight an attack on reality itself from big bad Mysterio.
The four Spideys on offer – the regular Spider-Man, hero of the future Spider-Man 2099, gangster-era Spider-Man Noir and fresh-faced teenage Ultimate Spider-Man all had differing playstyles, moves and drastically different environments to play around in.
Though not an open-world game, the large levels allowed for a lot of exploration and secrets to uncover, with huge ability trees to unlock for each character too.
The distinctive look and feel of each character’s levels and enemies gave the game a great feeling of variety, the story was brilliantly written with excellent cutscenes – and the comic book-style visuals gave the game a stylised look that’s made it age a lot more gracefully than a few games on this list.
Though Activision were responsible for a few unusual and inventive Spider-Man titles (shout out to Web of Shadows for a unique, character-driven approach – which features on our Rare Xbox 360 Games list – and Edge of Time for a cool, time travel-based plot), they arguably never reached the heights of the compelling Shattered Dimensions again.
3. Lego Marvel Super Heroes (PS3/PS4/Wii U/Xbox 360/Xbox One, 2013)
Since Lego Star Wars came to consoles in 2005, the formula for the third person, stud-collecting fun was brought to a huge range of franchises.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes wisely opts to focus on not just a single hero or team’s story – but instead takes on the daunting task of encompassing pretty much the entire Marvel universe, with an impressively featured, open world New York City as its hub.
With hundreds of characters to unlock – covering a huge range of both familiar and obscure heroes and villains – there’s so much to see and do in this excellent Marvel title.
Each character has been brought to life with powers and abilities that are true to their comic book counterparts too, making this an absolutely essential game for Marvel fans. Not just one of the best Lego games to date, this is also one of the very best Marvel games period.
2. Marvel Ultimate Alliance (PS2/PS3/Xbox/Xbox 360, 2006)
With Marvel’s dominance of the cinema since 2008’s Iron Man, it’s almost impossible to imagine just how obscure some of the Marvel characters were before then.
Even Iron Man himself wasn’t a particularly well-known character – and in Marvel Ultimate Alliance, he doesn’t make an appearance until well into the game’s story!
This action RPG – in which players take control of a squad of four characters at a time, making use of team-based stat bonuses (for example, if you use all four members of the Fantastic Four or stick to X-Men characters to make your team) – pulls a similar trick to Lego Marvel Super Heroes, in that it opts to take in the sights and sounds across a whole universe’s worth of characters and locations.
It also features some characters that were pretty obscure back in the day such as Doctor Strange and Moon Knight, but with the current Marvel Cinematic Universe making them familiar to mainstream audiences, it’s arguably never been a better time to go back and check out their more comic accurate representations in games such as Marvel Ultimate Alliance – and its inclusion on our Best PS2 RPGs list shows just how highly we rank this game!
1. Spider-Man (PS4/PS5, 2018)
There’s definitely enough Spider-Man games out there for them to form their own list – and this one would definitely be at the top of it!
Insomniac – well-known for creating Spyro the Dragon and Ratchet & Clank – created this Sony-exclusive, narrative heavy, third person, open world action adventure; not based on any other iteration of Spider-Man, they brought their own unique spin on the lore with a hugely compelling story, brilliant handling of familiar characters (with arguably the best representation of Doctor Octopus ever; his story here is heartbreaking and beautifully told) and finely tuned, perfectly implemented web-swinging and combat.
It’s a phenomenal, visually stunning game that takes some seriously surprising narrative turns and – despite the misstep of a few stealth-based missions, in which you control the powerless Mary Jane Watson – is a genuine blast from start to finish (it earned itself a place on our Best Open World PS4 Games list too!).
Not only is it the very best Marvel game, but Insomniac’s Spider-Man is one of the finest games of the last few years period.
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Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.