I’ve recently been looking into two things; series’ of games I can arbitrarily rank, and videogames based on comic book properties. I’m a big fan of comic books, after all, and unlike its Distinguished Competition, Marvel Comics have multiple properties that they’ve deemed fit to make into videogames.
When I looked back through Wikipedia, it became apparent that the GameCube had a variety of comic book games, yet far too many for one list. So, much like the comic books of old, I decided to pit the best of Marvel against the best of DC. Firstly, however, I needed to rank them individually. Here's how I ranked the DC games.
Anyway, here’s what I think is the list of the best games featuring Marvel superheroes on the GameCube:
12. X-Men The Next Dimension
The third in the X-Men: Mutant Academy fighting game series from the original PlayStation. Despite the character designs being based on the comics at the time, Patrick Stewart was brought in to voice Professor Charles Xavier.
Bastion has been revived, and some people need beating up before he can be stopped.
Although graphically proficient, the game is very slow moving. You want your fighting games to be swift affairs, but there’s just no pep to this game and even the “fast” attacks are slow. The levels and character designs look pretty good, but nobody plays a fighting game just to look at pretty things.
11. Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects
For some reason, Marvel allowed EA to create new characters for a videogame, and this was the result. Apart from the tie-in comic book, none of them have ever appeared again - and EA never made another Marvel title.
Alien invaders are attacking New York and its superheroes, and only a small group of heroes can make a difference.
What you want in a scrolling beat ‘em up are decent controls. This does not have those. They’re unintuitive, so take some getting used to. However, you still have to get good, because the bosses (the titular Imperfects) are tough and will destroy you with ease if you’re not paying attention. It’s just not what I’d call fun.
10. X2: Wolverine’s Revenge
Based on the second X-Men movie in name only, X2 takes its design cues from the comics, trying to appeal to both markets at once. On the plus side, the story was written by long-time Wolverine writer Larry Hama.
When injected with the Sheva Strain Virus, Logan has 48 hours to find the cure - and murder anyone in his way.
As a big Wolverine fan, I remember quite enjoying being able to wander around as the best there is at what I did. Unfortunately, the combat isn’t quite as smooth as I thought it was - and given the nature of the game that’s not a good thing. The camera and character movement have aged well enough, but it’s a weak point in gaming.
9. Spider-Man: The Movie
Based on the original Sam Raimi movie, as the name would suggest, it was the first movie tie-in on the console. It starred the voices from the movie, as well as Bruce Campbell as the tutorial narrator.
When Uncle Ben is murdered, Peter Parker takes it upon himself to bring the killer to justice - then a billionaire goes nuts and has to be stopped.
Apart from some dodgy controls, this has aged pretty well. Obviously the graphics aren’t too special anymore, but the levels are nice and big to allow for web swinging, and the amount of moves available during fights set the bar for future Spider-Man games. I may also have a soft spot for Bruce.
Set after the film by the same name, Eric Bana reprised his role - presumably over the phone, or when he was incredibly tired - for his second and final appearance as Bruce Banner.
Bruce Banner is convinced to break into Gemini Labs on behalf of his mentor Dr. Crawford, but is this all on the level?
The poor voice acting could probably have been overlooked, if the game itself was great. However, the developer seemed to have had the bright idea of setting it inside buildings for the majority of it, and limiting the height Hulk can jump for the rest of it. There’s some stealth sections where you play as Bruce, which at least keeps things interesting. The camera is in the style of Resident Evil: Code Veronica, which works for some portions and against it for others.
7. Fantastic Four
Based on the movie, with everyone reprising their roles, this was actually the whole cast’s first videogame (except for Jessica Alba), and in most cases their only one.
When a cosmic storm hits the Von Doom space station early, it changes four people in fantastic ways.
Surprising nobody, Michael Chiklis is the best voice actor in this game, which is good because the opening cutscene that he narrates is so long. It starts at the end of the movie before kicking into a flashback - then into another flashback inside the flashback. Since you can only control one character at a time, it has a good mechanic to mix the powers - for instance Sue can put a shield over someone. Unfortunately, the enemies get kind of samey, and you wind up just doing the same thing again and again to defeat them.
6. X-Men Legends
An action RPG based on the Ultimate X-Men comic, it’s nothing if not an interesting look at characters who no longer technically exist.
When the Brotherhood tries to kidnap the new mutant Alison Crestmere, the X-Men step in to stop them.
There’s certainly a lot to like about this, with its varied characters, solid voice work and a camera that works. You certainly benefit from leafing through the manual, as the in-game tutorial is poor, but then you should be reading manuals anyway. Being able to use your team of X-Men in a way that utilises their powers together is a great mechanic.
5. X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse
The sequel to the first game, still set in the Ultimate X-Men universe, it was actually the titular antagonist’s first full appearance before he had properly appeared in the comics.
When there’s an evil that scares the Brotherhood into teaming up with the X-Men, it has to be world-ending.
The first thing I need to mention, because it’s the most glaring thing, is the voice acting. Professor X and Wolverine are voiced well, but the others are very hit & miss, and Magneto is just awful. The gameplay is an improvement on the first game, and it’s certainly better, but given how bad the voice acting is, it almost drags it down.
4. X-Men: The Official Game
Based on the second and third movies of the original X-Men trilogy, as well as some bits in between, this was the final Marvel title released for the GameCube.
When the X-Men return to Alkali Lake for spare parts, they uncover more than they bargained for.
The story is spread across levels for three playable characters: Wolverine, Iceman and Nightcrawler. Each one controls differently, which gives variety to the levels, though taken on their own they can be repetitive. The controls, camera and voice acting are well done though, elevating it over some things in this list.
3. The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
Not released to tie into a movie, so it had more leeway with the characters. Still, it managed to mirror certain events from the 2008 movie.
With Emil Blonsky heading up General Ross’ task force, Bruce Banner and Leonard Samson are running out of time to cure him of the Hulk.
The gameplay is great, and the two open world areas are fun to traverse, but I can’t help but think of other open world GameCube games during the many loading screens. Hulk is also limited in not being able to jump more than five or six stories high, which given the comic Hulk can jump into space it’s kind of insulting.
2. Ultimate Spider-Man
Another Ultimate comic tie-in, this one actually fitting into established continuity because it was written by Brian Bendis, the one who created and wrote the comic.
Eddie Brock has escaped with the Venom suit, and Peter Parker has to stop him.
Aping the aesthetic style of the comic really would have put this above Spider-Man 2, even with the slightly inferior traversal, but for one thing. The levels where you play as Venom. For half of the game you’re web slinging around the city, but for the other half you’re jumping and having to literally eat people to stay alive. If it was a purely Spider-Man focus, this would have been more fondly remembered than the game released the previous year.
1. Spider-Man 2
Based on the film of the same name, with the cast reprising their roles and Bruce Campbell returning as the narrator, it should come as no surprise that this is high up the list.
It’s hard to balance crime fighting, a part time job and a full time education as Peter Parker is finding, especially when Dr Otto Octavius is in an accident and goes nuts.
I was absolutely obsessed with this game on the PlayStation 2, and playing it again on the GameCube illustrated exactly why. The flow of movement, going from web swinging to wall running, jumping and rolling is all exquisite. The web swinging alone was a feat of programming, but coupled with the rest of it makes this a super fun game.
So there you have it: do you agree with my list? Did I miss off any redeeming features or fail to notice despicable foibles? Let me know.