Ever since Marvel Studios became a fully functioning independent production house for major feature films with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, Marvel’s brand appeal and importance in contemporary pop culture has skyrocketed, leading to this year’s film industry success story in The Avengers.
The merchandise, the movies, and the comics they’re based on are everywhere, and the buzz couldn’t be more positive, with so much more on the horizon. On the video game side of things however, Marvel – and their parent company Disney – haven’t yet taken advantage of their franchises and Marvel Comics library of thousands of characters.
From awful licensed movie tie-ins for all of the “Phase One” movie films, including Thor: God of Thunder and Iron Man 1 & 2, to terrible adaptations including Silicon Knights’ flop X-Men: Destiny, developers have consistently failed for years and years to offer a triple-A Marvel video game experience.
The Marvel Universe MMO was canceled years ago, and so was THQ’s The Avengers game. What we have now are mobile games for smartphones, a Facebook game, a Kinect fighter by Ubisoft and the kids-focused Super Hero Squad Online. Not the stuff of best of year or most anticipated lists, and certainly nothing that warrants consideration come awards season.
Thankfully, Gazillion – who have an exclusive development deal with Marvel – are deep into production on the free-to-play Diablo clone Marvel Heroes, and Activision hopes to make up for their latest two Spider-Man games with next year’s Deadpool.
The jury is still out on these, and so while we hope for bigger and better things from the future of Marvel Games, there is still a lot to look back on, including what almost was another Marvel fighter came from Electronic Arts.
During the 2000s, Marvel and EA had a deal and out of it came the fighting game Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects. There was another game in development though, another fighter in the works at EA Chicago, the team behind the Def Jam series.
An artist working on that game released some artwork from it, and while it shows nothing of gameplay, it does offer a glimpse at some of the main characters involved, including Hulk, Spider-Man and Captain America. It also depicts a unique cel-shaded comic book aesthetic.
For whatever reason it didn’t come to be and the EA deal expired. We instead have the latest Marvel vs. Capcom game and fans of the genre can’t complain about that one. Even as a half-Marvel game, MvC 3 still one of the best games sporting the Marvel logo in years.
Still, with decades and decades of lore to build from, why aren’t we getting kick-ass Marvel superhero games in the vein of Batman: Arkham City?
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.