Alright, I had to get in this after reading all of the wonderful Top 5 content inspired by the recent San Diego Comic-Con. Our lists from the past week cover pretty much the current goods hand-picked at your local gaming market, but what about the previous generations? And I don’t mean the GameCube or XBOX 1…errr XBOX Original, aka XBOX, dammit (great progression of names there, Microsoft). I’m talking the oldies only to be found in 32-bits and below. As always, lists are not hard to make; it’s just too easy to leave out YOUR favorites. Thus, why this one had to made for the Top 5 Comic Book Games from the Old School.
Now, I’m not going to actually rank them, because that gets all messy, overly time consuming, and frankly, way too subjective. Let’s just make a cohesive list melding one into another, but I’ll put numbers next to them so it looks like it matters and we’ll see who’s paying attention at the end. Thankfully, you are able to buy, download, and/or borrow these games to go back and relive the good ol’ days. Okay, let’s just talk games, true believers, and we’ll allow the universe (or internets) to sort out the rest. Nuff said.
5. Comix Zone, SEGA 1995
You gotta start a list of comic book games with a game inside a comic book. While there’s no relation to anything Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, or whatever, you have to appreciate the excellence of the idea and execution of a good game. You play as Sketch Turner, an illustrator who gets trapped in the very panels he designed, battling the very creations Sketch’s imagination conjured. It’s an old SEGA beat’-em-up that teeters enjoyment on the blunt edge of its difficulty. It was responsive as hell, the graphics were pretty (even to this day), and the level design was super creative with how you maneuvered through the game. If Deadpool can give you the commentary and mindstate of a superhero (granted, he’s off his rocker), then Comix Zone displays the dangers of creating the pages we love to read.
4. Batman, NES 1989
We are taking you in the way-back-machine before the divine Arkham installments. Want to know the secret to making a good superhero game based off a movie? Don’t really base it off the movie; just add some cutscenes and we’re good to go. That shit hardly ever works anyways, and if it doesn’t work for books, then why should it for games. The original Batman game by Sunsoft pulled off this formula perfectly, much like Batman Returns for the SNES (another fun one worth playing/reminiscing). One of the best details to the introduction of Batman on the beloved Nintendo was its excellent 8-bit score. It just got you moving right along right as the enemies were kicking the living batwings out of your batcave. Don’t forget, kiddos, there was a time when EVERY game was nerve-wracking to beat.
3. Marvel Super Heroes, Arcade 1995 & PSX/Sega Saturn 1997
Oh boy, what a classic for fighting game fans! Up until Injustice: GAU, DC would get their bottom smashed by Marvel games on a regular basis. The Justice League fighter from the 16-bit days and Mortal Kombat vs DC could never, ever handle themselves against the likes of Marvel vs Capcom 2. Now, this wasn’t the first of the Capcom-Marvel fighting games due to X-Men: Children of the Atom (COTA), but MSH was an improvement and was the basis of where the Versus series really took off from. Marvel Super Heroes was also more dynamic. To go along with the star studded cast, it also gave you gems to be used to power your characters up (hmmm, reminds us of Street Fighter X Tekken, maybe?) as true enhancements to the already super abilities. The animations were super on-point and the music was god-like. This game was recently featured on PSN and XBOX Live with Marvel vs Capcom on MVC Origins and is definitely worth its weight. The only thing I wish for is a soundboard to mess with so I can command the announcer to constantly yell out the gems. REALITY!
2. X-Men, Arcade 1992
So many beat’-em-ups to choose from, especially from this earlier ’90s arcade era. Superman had one where the second player was Shazam. Captain America needed your help in the Avengers. Punisher punished. Even Spider-man brought along along an unlikely cast of Hawkeye, Black Cat, and Namor the “Sub-Mariner” in his own arcade brawler, but only one truly took the all of the marbles and our pocket change. Konami’s X-Men was the only cabinet to feature 6 open spaces where you could use fan favorites Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Dazzler simultaneously (just don’t get stuck on the far right wing with Dazzler). The X-cellent sound bites characterized your heroes to a tee, while the bosses were just as memorable. And in true arcade fashion, this game ate more quarters than a couch cushion. Though, with powers combined, it was possible to beat Magneto to…….start from the very beginning all over again. The Sega and SNES had a couple of X-Men games, as well as a Spider-man/X-Men team-up side-scroller, but they weren’t as awesome. X-Men from the arcade holds a special place in the hearts of those who remember playing this one as a kid.
1. Spider-Man, PSX/Dreamcast/N64 2000
Okay, I said I wouldn’t rank games on this list, but Spider-Man is the the best game on this list. There are so many Spider-Man games that have come out, will come out, and that we wished had never come out; however, this one in particular just oozes all the things we love about the wall crawler. It’s all things we should expect out of a super hero game. It’s not gonna visually look like everything available now, but superhero games should model themselves after it. You have the relatively decent voice acting paired with its fun dialogue. You get a strong cast of villains with a couple cool super friend cameos. I mean, the game has freaking Stan Lee doing the opening intro as Marvel’s red and blue staple hero swings into action. One of the best parts of the game are to found by its delightful exploration, bonuses like new costumes (Armored Spider-Man and Black/White Venom Suit) adding enhanced abilities, and the vault containing a bunch of history and stories about Spider-Man’s universe, which makes for a fun read and boatloads of replay value. From top to bottom, it’s hard to do much better, and this game should belong along the best of the best of comic book based games.
The Best ways to play these games now:
Comix Zone – You can buy this game for cheap on XBL and PSN $5
Batman – Nesticle, or any other classic gaming ROM download site, AND you can try it instantly on RetroNintendoGames.com
Marvel Super Heroes – You can purchase on XBL and PSN $15
X-Men – Same song, different price $10
Spider-man – Sadly, currently it has yet to be ported, tho, you can purchase on Amazon.com for roughly $5 [still works on any backwards compatible Playstation device and is well worth it]