The past few months have seen endless speculation that Spider-Man was set to take his rightful place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and earlier today we received confirmation that the rumors were true. After the middling Amazing Spider-Man movies, it seems that the web-head might be given a film befitting the character’s immense popularity — but will we see a similarly worthy video game adaptation?
It’s not like there haven’t been great Spider-Man games in the past. At this point, the character has been starring in games for the majority of his fifty-year lifespan, so it’s no surprise that at least some of those titles have lived up to expectations. That said, the first to make a real impact with fans were perhaps the side-scrollers that launched for the Sega Genesis and SNES back in the 90s.
Early Spider-Man Games
However, those games struggled somewhat to properly replicated the free-flowing web-slinging that makes Spider-Man such a fun character to control. The artfully titled Spider-Man, released in 2000, brought the character into the world of 3D gaming, and is still fondly remembered to this day for its varied story, broad list of fan-favorite antagonists and masses of bonus content.
That game was developed by Neversoft, which led to the arachnid’s inclusion as an unlockable character in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. However, Vicarious Visions took over development duties for the sequels to Spidey’s first 3D outing, releasing Enter Electro for the PlayStation and Mysterio’s Menace for the Game Boy Advance over the course of 2001.
The following year, the release of the hugely successful cinema debut of Spider-Man called for a video game adaptation, as was far more common for blockbusters back then. Developed by Treyarch — now of Call of Duty fame — the game was a solid effort, but would soon be eclipsed by the title released alongside Spider-Man 2 in 2004.
The Success of Spider-Man 2
With an open world and a major focus on the feeling of web-swinging, Spider-Man 2 remains one of the most fondly remembered superhero games of all time. Despite minor issues like its repetitive side-missions, the game remains the best outing that the character has had in a video game.
Subsequent titles would attempt to replicate the winning formula of Spider-Man 2, but few would reach the same heights. These games would largely fall into one of two categories; straightforward follow-ups that didn’t change all that much and suffered from a sense of diminishing returns, or titles that offered different playable characters and felt watered down as a result.
Playing as Venom in Ultimate Spider-Man and the various lesser-known versions of Spider-Man himself in Shattered Dimensions was great for hardcore comic book fans, but neither attempt offered all too much in terms of refining the gameplay formula. The most recent Spider-Man games have been mediocre film tie-ins that suffered from a pervasive lack of imagination.
Now, it would seem that the character is set to embark on a new chapter of his life on film, and it’ll be interesting to see what that means for future video game appearances. The nature of Spider-Man gives him great potential as a gaming protagonist, but his interactive outlook might not be as promising as it first seems.
Spidey Comes Home to Marvel
Blockbuster tie-ins have fallen out of favor over the past decade, and Marvel movies in particular aren’t known for their video game adaptations; Iron Man and Captain America had a few sub-par games between them, but the fact that an intriguing Avengers game was thrown out should speak volumes about how much of a focus the studio has on video games.
That said, things could change with Spider-Man back in the fold. It’s a property that’s hugely popular with audiences of all ages and ripe for endless video game adaptations. That being said, it’s not yet clear how these developments will affect the video game license for the character, but it’s safe to expect a major video game tie-in when the character’s first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe releases in 2017.
When that happens, we can only hope the results are closer to the excellent Arkham series of Batman games than the low standards often set for superhero video games. Nevertheless, this is an exciting time for Spider-Fans — their beloved web-slinger might be about to reach his highest level of popularity yet.
What do you think is necessary for a good Spider-Man game? Will a new title release alongside Spidey’s return to Marvel?