Alright, back to it. My final favs.
Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage
This game from 1994 was one of my absolute favorites on the SNES, partly because it featured some of my all-time favorite Marvel characters, and partly because the actual gameplay is just plain enjoyable and filled with bone-crunching punch/kick action with over-the-top SFX. Plus, the cartridge was red and all my friends were jealous of my red cartridge.
In fact, this game holds the title for multiple firsts. To begin with, it is the first time in video games that players were given the opportunity to play as the Lickitung’s mentor, Venom. This is significant since, if most young boys in the 90s were like me, playing as Venom made one feel like some sort of psychotic badass with a lust for flesh. His play style is just so downright angry, grabbing people with his tentacly arm and throwing people around like Martin Lawrence when the caterer doesn’t provide the exact cracker to Duck Tartar ratio. And the whole while he just stands their licking his chops, all hungry and horny for more beat ’em up juice.
This game is also the first time a video game was based directly on a popular storyline in the comics. In fact, the games cut-scenes actually feature (slightly) animated versions of some of the artwork from the books. This finally bridged the gap, meaning from hence forth the video game world could have its digital foot stamped firmly in the door of comic books, as if to say “I’M NOT GOING ANYWHERE! YOU KNOW YOU LOVE ME, GODDAMMIT! WE WERE MADE FOR EACH OTHER, BABYCAKES! Now, kiss me.” There is a soft embrace between the two lovers. The camera slowly zooms out before fading to black, thus establishing a future where video games about super heroes will forever be 100% true to character and will always be super awesome.
Or Not. COUGHsuperman64COUGH
Finally, this game is also the first Spider-Man game to receive a Teen rating (on Genesis), which is pretty legit. Take all these firsts, mix in an awesome Streets of Rage style of gameplay, some wicked sound effects and a rocking soundtrack written by the band Green Jelly, and you’ve got yourself a Spidey game for the ages.
Jumping to the new millennium, this entry is the first of many to feature Spidey outside of his standard 2D plane and right into the incomprehensible 3D world to which we are accustomed. Premiering first on the Playstation and, less impressively, the Nintendo 64, this game brought a whole new depth to Spidey and Spidey-related games. The gameplay was an entirely brand-spanking new experience. Players could now adequately web-swing in the fashion they had wanted to for a while. The very first level features the Web-Head swinging from rooftop to rooftop. We were also finally given all the acrobatics Spider-Man is supposed to have, ripping him away from the rather sluggish movements of his predecessors. Spidey could jump directly from the ceiling, web-zip to and from areas, straight pounce on fools and, of course, web the crap out of people.
In addition, the story was created solely for this game but was engaging and very true to the comic book world it was based on. There were cameos galore from various super heroes and villains, and the main plot featured a team of villains, led by Doc Ock, attempting to be villainous while framing Spider-Man in order to keep him out of their bowl cuts. It even featured a completely random sidebar when Venom gets it in his brain to kidnap MJ so he can lure Spidey into a trap in order to capture him in hopes the he’ll become some sort of creepy hero of sorts and maybe get to rub (and probably lick) shoulders with the highest levels of society. The game finishes by introducing an exclusive-to-the-game villain, when Doc Ock gets a bad case of the Symbiotes and starts raging after Spider-Man like the naked old lady from the Shining.
Whether its the excellent gameplay, the fantastic story, the classic Stan Lee narration or the high quality cast (primarily consisting of Dee Bradley Baker and Daran Norris voicing EVERYONE) this game is easily one of the greatest Spider-Man games and has, in my opinion, yet to have been truly topped as the point of reference for all Spidey games to come.
Not the sequel to the above game, this is actually the game based on the second Spider-Man movie. First things first, I am a firm believer that movie games are, on average, terrible. They exist somewhere between The Tea Party and Gary Busey on my Most-Hated List. But occasionally, some come out that don’t make you want to set fire to a box of kittens in protest. This game just happens to be one of them, and it is primarily for what it brought the Spider-Man gaming world.
First of all, this version was much better than its predecessor, based on the original film. The first game attempted some of what this game achieved, but it ultimately pulled the stuck-up prom date act and refused to go all the way. Most gamers initially felt satisfied with the mere glimpse of what could be, but later went home and cried in their pillows to shut out the burning feelings of grief and anger they felt having been denied what their hormonal cravings so fervently demanded. What I am talking about, of course, is Spider-Man in an open world. The first film game gave us a taste, but was still very much enclosed. We could swing around different sides of buildings, even going about as high as we want. But certain paths were off limits and the ground was insta-death. When the second game came out, many gamers would gladly forgo the mission at hand simply to swing around New York, leap from rooftop to rooftop, and even search for certain landmarks. With the addition of random street crimes and emergencies, we truly felt as though we were living a day-in-the-life of Spidey, with all the repetitiveness and annoyances and stress, just none of the hot, naked redhead action (don’t get too bummed, we’re talking Kirsten Dunst here).
The result was a much more casual Spider-Man experience. One could simply turn the system on, swing around a bit, rush a few people to the hospital, start a community bake sale, punch a few bank robbers in the testicles, dive off a skyscraper, donate blood, pick up eggs for Aunt May, web zip a gang member’s ribs right out of his torso, start a BeeGees tribute band, and even walk down a sidewalk like a normal 9 to 5 stiff! You could spend hours doing whatever the hell you felt like doing, all while Mary Jane is locked in some dock house somewhere enjoying the cold metal caresses of Otto Octavius and constantly refusing to take a gander at his ninth appendage.
The open world dynamic was amazing and enjoyable when first revealed, but, unfortunately, was quickly played out by many of the Spidey games to follow. Eventually, it felt too gimmicky, with games focusing on making a “more dynamic New York” instead of focusing on making a combat system that didn’t involve me repeatedly tapping one button.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
One of the more recent iterations of the Wall Crawler was released in 2010 and featured a refreshing break from the open-world we had, at this point, become accustomed to. This game was released to moderately high critical acclaim and was very different from it’s predecessors. The game featured four versions of Spidey from different universes teaming up with the help of Madame Web to stop Mysterio from destroying the Multiverse. In other words, the plot was something that easily confused the crap out of someone not used to the concept of multiple realities, but was still engaging and interesting enough to make for an all around fun game.
The first thing that grabbed my attention about this game was the diversity in the cast. Beenox called in four veteran Spider-Voices to play each version of the hero, with my favorite being Christopher Daniel Barnes, who had originally voiced Spidey in the 90’s cartoon, in the role of Noir Spider-Man. Neil Patrick Harris also delivers an absolutely stellar performance as Amazing Spidey, with Josh Keaton and Dan Gilvezan doing incredible jobs as Ultimate Spidey and 2099 Spidey respectively. Add into the mix big voice-acting names such as John Dimaggio as Hammerhead, Jim Cummings as Kraven and Nolan North as Deadpool, you’ve got yourself a perfect video game cast.
I believe what makes this game great, though, are the levels themselves. As I said, this was definitely a refreshing and much needed break from the open-world games we had been given. Had the trend of open-world games kept up, we were soon going to have a Spidey game wherein a crime happens in New Mexico and we have to hop a Grey Hound and get drooled on by vagrants for 35 hours. It was nice to have a game focused on the start-to-finish level dynamic. In addition, the four characters each featured four unique combat types and four unique art styles, making the game delightfully varied. The ultimate objective of each level was fairly basic:
Guy has stolen magic fragment and now HOLY CRAP he got some crazy powers, yo. You should probably punch him. A lot. Or throw things at him. Whatever you got to do to feel like a big man.
Regardless, it was the variety of baddies and gameplay that made this game special. The combat in the game was some of the best seen thus far, rarely feeling overly bulky or abrasive and requiring the player to actually utilize a bit of strategy before simply zipping in to a clobber-fest. The game’s importance finishes off with replayability and collectibles, making it an enjoyable, almost arcade-like game that all can take part in.
So, how do you feel about my list? Was I right on with these? Did I miss any? Are you secretly a fan of Superman 64 or Martin Lawrence and are thus as offended as you are criminally insane? Let me know.