Mark Milian returns to the Hero Complex with big talk about some heroic games — it’s his list of the five best superhero video games ever.
Any gamer will tell you that games tied to a superhero or movie franchise (or, worse, both) are inherently bad. If we had to bet on whether “Iron Man 2: The Video Game” will be any good, we know where our chips would go. (Fun fact: There hasn’t been a good Superman video game. Not one.)
But during those magical times when the stars align and the game developers strike the right mix of brain-soothing Cheetos and Dr. Pepper, out comes a game truly worthy of the superhuman character its name is attached to.
5. Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage (SNES, Genesis)
Before this game hit Nintendo and Sega game consoles in 1994, superhero games were synonymous with repetitive beat-em-up sequences and stupid or nonexistent story lines. The Maximum Carnage game rewrote the book.
This action-adventure was based on the series of 14 comic books by the same name. While the fighting dynamics, like its sibling hero games, can feel monotonous after a while, the game is worth playing just to experience the enthralling story.
4. Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Superheroes (Dreamcast)
Why settle for one superhero when this game offers you the pick of the litter? It’s a shame so many people missed out on this great fighting game — the best incarnation in the Marvel vs. Capcom series — due to its home on Sega’s oft-ignored Dreamcast system.
Players pick from a stable of Marvel juggernauts including the Hulk, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Wolverine and, oh yeah, the Juggernaut. The game adapts well to player expertise, so if you and your friend stink at it, you can still mash buttons and have fun.
Marvel vs. Capcom predates the recently released Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, which is also a pretty good combination of heroes of comics and gaming.
The countdown continues…
3. Batman: The Video Game (NES)
Forget plot. This Batman game is an extremely well-crafted presentation. With dynamics that are similar to Ninja Gaiden, another popular action game at the time, this short adventure can be played several times without getting boring.
The new Batman: Arkham Asylum is worth an honorable mention. Lego Batman: The Video Game, too, is quite good. Though it seems like every Lego-based franchise is a hit.
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES)
After gobbling up countless quarters in arcades, this one landed on the Nintendo Entertainment System and became an instant classic. You and a friend (or three, if you pick up Nintendo’s four-player adapter) can choose from the four Ninja Turtles and battle your way through the linear levels. Once you hop on your skateboards or fall through a manhole, you’re hooked.
The predecessor to this game is also fantastic. It’s radically different (for starters, it’s a one-player affair), but almost equally as memorable.
1. Spider-Man 2 (PS2, Xbox, GameCube)
For the first time, players could actually feel like they were living the life of a superhero rather than acting in a movie. What a difference it makes.
Along the lines of Grand Theft Auto, players could take Spider-Man through a sprawling metropolis, swinging from rooftop to rooftop at their own free will. You could practically go anywhere. It was incredibly liberating and radically fun.
Sure, the fighting mechanics get stale and the missions can be boring at times. But the shift from a point-A-to-point-B playing style, which was so tied to superhero games before, to Spider-Man 2’s wide open world was, when it came out in 2004, groundbreaking.
Did we leave something off the list? Drop your picks in the comments.
– Mark Milian
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Photo credit: Top, Britt Selvitelle via Flickr