To say that Marvel and gaming go hand in hand would be like saying fish goes well with chips or Virat Kohli is pretty good at cricket. Since the first appearance of Spider-Man in gaming in 1982, through the ’90s-era side-scrolling beat-em-up arcades, to October 2021’s Square Enix-developed Guardians Of The Galaxy, there have been more than 170 video games featuring Marvel Comics characters. But has every story been told? Far from it. In a universe that knows few bounds, there’s undoubtedly some still left to be written.
To that end, we have some thoughts about how Marvel could still improve its vast gaming library.
Marvel has come a long way with gaming. As with the movies, improvements in technology have led to a vast uptooling in realizable possibilities, resulting in ever-better games. While those early beat-em-ups were essentially redesigns of existing engines (and indeed in 1994’s X-Men: Children Of The Atom included a guest appearance from Street Fighter’s famous Akuma character), Marvel’s new commitment to big-budget AAA console titles has served it well. Not everything’s been a hit, mind you –– witness the poor reviews for Marvel’s Avengers –– but the PlayStation 4 Spider-Man games have been excellent. The new Guardians title shows Marvel is already improving facets that didn’t work in Avengers.
It still feels like big apparent things are missing, though. Black Panther, for instance, has as yet only featured as a playable character in the Marvel’s Avengers DLC update, “War For Wakanda.” And on the genre front, there’s been no Marvel MMORPG since Marvel Heroes Omega had its servers closed at the end of 2017. While there’s been a very recent announcement that Daybreak Studios is working on one, no playable content is expected until 2023 at the very earliest (which will give rival DC Universe Online plenty of time to tweak and perfect its PlayStation 5 and beat it to market).
New Platformers or Renewed Platforms?
There is also room for Marvel to reintroduce itself in gaming categories it has abandoned over the years. With the Disney takeover, Marvel pulled out of internet slots (amongst other things) –– which seems a shame in retrospect, given that online casino gaming has since progressed to the stage at which Marvel games would be legitimately exciting. Most slots now have detailed, superior animations; some have licensed soundtracks, and a few even have mini-games. These trends have also bled over into newer categories, such as the bingo-slot hybrids known as “Slingo” games that are rapidly becoming more prominent. While this category is not nearly as expansive, the selection on Foxy Games makes clear that exciting animation and themes are already being embraced. Games like Slingo X-Scream and Slingo Centurion clarify that there’s plenty of potential for the exciting, genre-y subject matter –– in other words, a perfect breeding ground for a Marvel return to the online casino category, where the games would stand out very prominently.
This would seem like the most logical (and easiest) opportunity for Marvel to conquer a category it has dabbled in previously. On the same note, though, there’s also nothing to stop the comics giant from reviving its old beat-em-up platformers, either. While this whole genre of gaming has largely been left to the past, retro gaming is perpetually in, and here too, a major Marvel return would likely be a hit with gamers.
New Genres Altogether
We haven’t seen Marvel games excelling in character development– understandable when they have so many fully fleshed-out icons to work into games. However, the in-depth experience of taking a character from scratch –– similar to the “My Player” or build-a-character modes we see in everything from NBA 2K to Star Wars games –– could make for an excellent game. You could start off, for instance, as a freshman in the Mutant Academy and develop your character’s abilities to make a fully developed hero.
Solo character open worlds (like the potential Black Panther game we alluded to above) are also strangely absent, save for some Spider-Man titles. With only one game to his name thus far, Deadpool is surely underrepresented and makes for an excellent example of how fun this concept could be. An open-world game based in San Francisco –– using the quirky and crude humour of the franchise –– could be a feasible rival to the Grand Theft Auto series sandbox crown. A well-made Black Panther adventure in and around Wakanda could surely go up against the likes of the Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry series.
Finally, it could also be argued Marvel could stand to strengthen its mobile offerings. With nothing against the passive fun of puzzle games, it’s telling that Marvel Puzzle Quest is still among the company’s very top-ranked titles. While it’s a great game, it was released in 2013. A few new hits in this medium wouldn’t hurt!
At the time of writing, there are only two definite releases on the Marvel Games calendar: Marvel’s Midnight Suns next year and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 on PlayStation 5 sometime in 2023. Will there be surprises mixed in amongst that timeline? We hope so, and here’s hoping they take the shape of some of our suggestions above!