The X-Men have had a longstanding presence in the comic book and film industry. Comparatively, their foray in the gaming landscape has gone under the radar for the most part.
Licensed games used to be a generally derogatory term in the gaming industry. Many tie-in games are far from perfect — just look at the spotty gaming history of the James Bond franchise. Similarly, the “X-Men” license has spawned countless games over the years, beginning in the NES era and continuing to Insomniac Games’ next-gen release of “Marvel’s Wolverine.”
Unlike most superhero titles, “X-Men” games typically feature more than one playable character. Whether it stars Wolverine or the entire team, the license allows developers to create some incredibly varied adventures.
Spawning before the likes of the “Batman: Arkham” series and “Spider-Man: Miles Morales,” not every “X-Men” video game is a winner. In fact, the Cyclops-led superhero team has traditionally been a go-to for easy cash grabs. Even so, there are some great games in the “X-Men” canon. Here are the best and the worst the mutants have to offer.
Far from terrible but still not great, “X2: Wolverine’s Revenge” has some trappings that elevate it above some truly awful superhero games. Unfortunately, the gameplay and a few other odd choices hold this one back. Contrary to the box art, Hugh Jackman does not reprise his role, and is instead replaced by Mark Hamill, who Cheat Sheet notes might be the best part of the game. Still, fans might be put off by the choice when listening to the returning Patrick Stewart conversing with the wrong Wolverine.
The story of “Wolverine’s Revenge” is decent, with Ivan Deez from IGN regarding it as “feeling authentic.” The game depict’s Logan’s origins in the Weapon X facility, where he acquires his Adamantium claws. The story jumps from past to present, letting players see Wolverine interact with the likes of Beast, Sabretooth, and Juggernaut.
Gameplay is not as stellar, however. Critics have singled out the enemy AI, with Purposeless Rabbitholes calling it neither “challenging nor dynamic.” It’s a shame, too; the game manual is littered with moves to try out, but they’re worthless if enemies aren’t diverse or enjoyable to fight against. The level design doesn’t help these drawbacks either, empty evironments don’t house much other than waves of those aforementioned interchangeable enemies.
“Wolverine’s Revenge” has a lot of the makings for a good Wolverine game, but its lackluster combat and level design hinder the experience too much. Admirers of the character are probably better off playing the Gameboy Advance version, which IGN notes is an entirely different (and better) game.
Is humor and style enough to pick up the slack of an otherwise mediocre game? In this case, yes. “Deadpool” is for the hardcore Deadpool lovers, and that’s a good thing. It can be a mixed bag for casual players, but even harsher reviews of the game have praised its writing. What it may lack in innovative gameplay, it makes up for in jokes, style, and voice superstar Nolan North’s on-point performance as Deadpool.
Push Square noted that the best aspect of “Deadpool” is its willingness to poke fun at itself and video games in general. The game changes from first-person shooter to hack-and-slash brawler to 2D platformer. The game is consistently surprising, like an ongoing rollercoaster. Just goes to show that a quick-time event of slapping Wolverine can go a long way.
“Deadpool” also succeeds as an X-Men and X-Force game, packing in cameos from fan favorite characters like Mr. Sinister, Domino, Psylocke, and Cable. It is almost as if someone just slapped a comic book and video game together and this was the result. GamesRadar‘s review singles out Nolan North’s performance, praising the actor for “[selling] the zany, disturbed hero’s presence.”
Although it has a lukewarm Metacritic score, “Deadpool” is a wacky experience that should not be skipped. It’s a decent title that delivers more fan service than video game, and true aficionados would probably say that’s how it should be.
Some X-Men fighting games have stood the test of time; “Next Dimension” is not one of those. “X-Men: Next Dimension” pales in comparison to the other fighting games on this list, to the point that it’s not even a fair fight.
Developer Paradox Development created a 3D arena fighter with an extremely counterintuitive control scheme. Tom Bramwell at Eurogamer specifically took aim at this control scheme in his review, pointing out that jumping can only be done with the D-Pad, while sidestepping is exclusive to the analog stick. Bramwell predicted that gamers would be “flicking their thumb confusedly back and forth between controls.”
Adding to the pain are the lackluster fighting mechanics. Fighting games are reliant on their replay value, whether it be in a casual or competitive setting. GameRevolution suggested that the game failed both demographics because “the combo system isn’t very intricate.” Without a clear progression in skill, the same buttons can be mashed over and over to take down opponents. These issues are worsened by its unbalanced roster; the sheer difference in power can be laughable, especially when you see Phoenix losing matchups to Toad.
It seems like a tradition that every licensed game series must have at least one 2D side scroller. Luckily, the X-Men franchise has a whole slew of them, and 1993’s “X-Men” for the Sega Genesis does not disappoint. Simply put, “X-Men” is a solid platformer that puts a spotlight on the best features of the Marvel team.
One of the most noteworthy elements of this game, as noted by critics like SNESdrunk, is that it actually feels like a team game. In “X-Men,” Gambit, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, and Wolverine are all selectable and have their own unique attributes — a pretty impressive feat for older hardware. It’s a giddy feeling to teleport across a level as Nightcrawler.
Many of the positives can be overshadowed by the outrageous difficulty of the game, however. Though Honest Gamers‘ review is a bit harsh, the publication does point out more than a few old school elements that haven’t aged the best. Wonky hit detection, unfair enemy placement, and poor controls all make for a hard-to-beat Marvel platformer. Fans are still haunted by the bizarre puzzle that required players to restart their console to progress.
Even so, “X-Men” rewards those who overcome its difficulty curve with a fun and ambitious mutant adventure.
Compared to “X-Men” on the Genesis, 16-bit GBA brawler “Reign of Apocalypse” doesn’t have much going for it. Sure it has four characters to play with, but the Gameboy Advance beat ’em up is halted by monotonous fights. There are definitely positives with this portable X-Men title, but they can be difficult to sift through.
The repetitive combat in “X-Men: Reign of Apocalypse” will not hold attention for long. NintendoWorldReport criticized the action, pointing out that bosses can be defeated with the same moves used against basic enemies. Even worse, the outlet shared that “there’s very little thought required to plow through a level,” resulting in repetitive beat ’em up sequences. Even the addition of co-op doesn’t cut back on the sense of tedium.
It’s not all bad, and GameSpot gave praise where it’s due. The presentation of the game is nothing to scoff at, as characters animate extremely well, and the colors and sprites keep things somewhat interesting. The effort that went into the look of the game extends to the varied locations like San Francisco, and the Xavier Mansion. It’s a shame that this same effort can’t be found in its gameplay.
“X-Men: Reign of Apocalypse” feels like a missed opportunity, particularly with its eclectic cast of Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, and Cyclops. Unfortunately, a lack of focus keeps it from reaching the heights of the other mutant outings.
Another fighting game produced by Paradox Development, “Mutant Academy 2” is an improvement on the original in every way, as well as a superior experience to “Next Dimension.” “Mutant Academy 2” combines elements from various other fighters to create an incredibly entertaining fighting game. One mechanic in particular has mutants performing air combos that are reminiscent of Capcom’s “Rival Schools.”
Writing for IGN, Doug Perry particularly enjoyed the interactions where characters can juggle each other in the air, saying these moments made the game “extra fun.” Perry also commented on how easy it is to get better at the game, thanks to the special moves for chosen characters appearing on loading screens. This aspect, coupled with detailed tutorials, helps the sequel to “Mutant Academy” go beyond a simple button-masher. Lastly, all characters are distinct from one another. For instance, Gambit is more defensive and projectile heavy, while Nightcrawler’s teleportation makes him hard to pin down.
The X-Men fighter also has some really great content for fans to see. Stages in the game include the Danger Room and, surprisingly, a Pool Party. Pool Party is a particularly great arena, because it takes place outside of Xavier’s Mansion and features some mutants hidden in the background, like Blob.
“Mutant Academy 2” is everything a casual gamer would want in both an “X-Men” game and in a fighter. Gamers can mess around in versus mode with friends or test their skills in Arcade Mode. Chances are no matter how it’s played, you’ll have a good time throwing down with fellow mutants.
“X-Men: The Official Game” is a bland and messy monster of a game that can’t seem to get anything right. It’s a shame, too; it takes place between the second and third films, filling in the story and starring a good chunk of returning actors.
Here there are three playable X-Men: Wolverine, Iceman, and Nightcrawler. Unfortunately, GamesRadar‘s review commented on how the Wolverine levels are way too repetitive and button-mashy. Meanwhile, Panels to Pixels addressed how Iceman’s gameplay resembles the horrific “Superman 64,” since flying through rings is made into a primary objective. Nightcrawler is seemingly the only exception to the badness, with both outlets commending the fast-paced portions of the game.
It’s disappointing how uneven it all is. “The Official Game” has some really neat ideas, like Bobby’s ice slide and Wolverine’s regenerative abilities, but the execution just isn’t there. All three heroes have skill trees as well, but they ends up feeling non-essential. And as cool as the premise is, the wonky comic book-style cutscenes don’t do the story justice.
“X-Men: The Official Game” is classic bad licensed video game. Unless a diehard Nightcrawler devotee is playing, this title can easily be avoided.
Compared to the other 2D beat ’em ups so far, “X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse” is a breath of fresh air. Almost every criticism found in “X-Men (1993)” and “Reign of Apocalypse” is non-existent here. This game gave comic fans another reason to buy a Super Nintendo over a Sega Genesis.
Already a leg up on other games already mentioned, “Mutant Apocalypse” yields the most variety with its character-driven gameplay. SNES Drunk‘s overview of the game explained how each character has their own command inputs for certain moves, “Street Fighter”-style. It’s no wonder, since this game was developed by Capcom. Each character’s abilities have a chance to shine, like Beast, who can walk on ceilings and maneuver upside down, adding a great twist to level design.
Tons of amazing set pieces and battles with classic villains are present, from Apocalypse to a giant Sentinel. Fan service is key and it pays off very well in this entry. Honest Gamers gave a dazzling a review, but did find that there isn’t much replay value. “X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse” is well worth the time, whether it’s being played by an X-Men expert or not.
Some may call it a Spider-Man game. Others an X-Men game. Either way it’s awful. “Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge” is a miserable experience, despite this special crossover.
It seems like you can’t make an X-Men side-scroller beat ’em up without different playable characters in their own unique levels, and that’s present here. According to CGRUndertow, both platforming and beat ’em up action aren’t done very well. Platforming doesn’t feel fluid and characters have a hard time landing hits. Most unfortunate is how these are all attributed to the playable mutants, who feel almost indistinguishable beyond their costumes. CGRUndertow did give props to one aspect of the game: Spider-Man. Compared to his mutant counterparts, Spider-Man feels more mobile, thanks to web-swings and wall crawling. His toolkit is more expansive, which in turn causes levels to be way more enjoyable.
Spider-Man isn’t without flaws though, as the web-swinging itself is quite limited. Critics have mentioned that the level design doesn’t compliment the character, since web-swinging in a tight corridor feels oddly counterintuitive. A crossover with Spider-Man doesn’t even come close to saving this poorly designed X-Men game.
Essentially the father of the Marvel vs. Capcom series, “Children of the Atom” is a self-contained fighter with an X-Men-only roster. The success and long-lasting legacy it saw was due to the game being developed by the same team behind Street Fighter II.
Immediately grabbing attention is the cast of fighters. A ton of fan favorites are here, including Storm and Psylocke, but the real hook is being able to control more niche characters. Silver Samurai, Spiral, and Omega Red all make appearances here and were so well-received that they were later seen in “Marvel vs. Capcom 2.” All of these inclusions were perfect enough, but as GameRadar noted, Capcom also tossed in a secret Akuma from “Street Fighter” for good measure.
Gameplay-wise, “Children of Atom” is fast-paced and intuitive. The game welcomes a ton of different play-styles since no two characters are the same. Omega Red specializes in zoning with his coil abilities. Contrasting him is Wolverine who is more of a rush-down character that it is good for both entry-level and skilled players. Because the fighters are so unique, chances are there is a character for everyone.
There are only two glaring issues that keep this game from being ranked higher: obsolete mechanics and unbalanced matchups. Firstly, “Children of Atom” is the blueprint for games that came after it. As such, later entries like “Marvel vs. Capcom” have more strategic depth and a greater sense of style. Secondly, tier lists are pretty defined, with some characters being tame while others are straight-up broken (like the aforementioned Akuma). Regardless, the game is a superb Capcom fighter.
Another Wolverine-centric game, and this one still suffers from the same issues that have plagued many games on this list. A bland and repetitive gameplay loop mixed in with uninspired level design produces the disappointment that is “Wolverine’s Rage.”
“X-Men: Wolverine’s Rage” is misleading at first. Colors pop and animations are surprisingly fluid on the Game Boy Color. Presentation-wise, the portable X-Men game is leagues above some other handheld iterations. As noted in GameSpot‘s review, the backgrounds are particularly impressive and interactive at times. The outlet’s praise ended with the game’s animation, though, transitioning towards critiques leveled at the combat and level design. Players will undoubtedly find themselves in a “Groundhog Day”-style scenario with the amount of reused assets in the game. The basic level themes might change, but that won’t distract from the fact that you’re seeing essentially the same five platforms and closed corridors found throughout. Meanwhile, Honest Gamers noted that the enemy AI is laughable, resulting in boss fights that end themselves.
This grueling cycle doesn’t end there, as Wolverine’s same couple of short-range moves get old fast. Sure, Wolverine basically only has his claws to work with, but it’s surprising how many X-Men games just can’t seem to get Logan’s character right — “Wolverine’s Rage” included.
Licensed Games and arcade beat ’em ups have always gone hand in hand, with some standout releases being “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “The Simpsons.” What all these games have in common is that they were all made by Konami. X-Men, the third out of the three to come out, was a perfect match to the genre. The game became famous for its record-breaking six-player tabletop arcade cabinet, and the four-player edition is still available for purchase today.
Previously mentioned games on this list contain multiple characters to choose from, but the co-op of the arcade game takes things two steps forward. Playing as the X-Men team with other friends heightens the enjoyment and feels essential. While Inverse points out that having to recharge special mutant powers is a contradiction of the source material, the moves are easy-to-use moves and act as impressive finishers.
The game has some great style, too, with vibrant colors and faithful character designs. Probably not aging as well is the story and dialogue, with Richard George from IGN highlighting how the plot is “laughable because it makes little sense.” Wacky events just occur so that the X-Men team can move onto the next scenario in their wild journey — and that’s okay.
“X-Men: The Arcade Game” is a classic that will probably never grow stale.
Now take everything great about “X-Men: The Arcade Game” and do the exact opposite. “X-Men: Destiny” is an unimaginative disaster that was actually written by comic book veteran Mike Carey (via God Is A Geek). The controversial game made a lot of polarizing decisions in development that didn’t pay off.
Angry Joe‘s review was one of many to criticize choice to make the game single-player only. There are three brand new mutant characters to choose from and veteran X-Men make extensive appearances, so the lack of local or online co-op feels like a missed opportunity. “Nintendo Life” added to the mix of criticisms by focusing the combat department. Even though the game has unlockable suits and skills, Nintendo Life called the action too “boring and tedious.” Enemies are unmemorable and challenges are few and far between.
Finally, “X-Men: Destiny” has awful performance issues, featuring ugly designs that are worsened with severe framerate drops. Following a legal battle between Epic Games and developer Silicon Knights, every unsold copy of “X-Men: Destiny” was banned and pulled from shelves.
Before a little series called “Marvel: Ultimate Alliance” came along, Raven Software was perfecting its superhero RPG formula with “X-Men Legends.” This character-driven action-adventure game is a fabulous title that really captures the essence of the X-Men’s teamwork.
At first glance, this title comes across as another button-mashing beat ’em up, but that is not actually the case. Yes, depending on the player, fights may start to feel a bit old over time, but “X-Men Legends” does everything in its power to avoid this. Intricate skill trees and tons of contrasting playable characters keep the gameplay loop fresh, as does the ability to pick four mutants at a time. CGRUndertow‘s review praised the game’s replay factor, pointing out that players “can experiment with lots of combinations” to stay invested.
Meanwhile, GameSpot‘s Jeff Gerstmann appreciated the game’s sense of progression, as team members net experience points over time and gradually level up. Most importantly, experience is shared among all characters, whether they’re active or not. This means that there’s no need to endlessly grind for a particular character to gain momentum.
Overall, “X-Men Legends” is a focused and exciting game; one where players will be able to tell just how much work was put into it. As noted by USgamer, it’s the first experiment that gave way to the “Ultimate Alliance” series, and yet it still holds its own today.
As great as the title character’s sprite looks, “Wolverine: Adamantium Rage” just too many problems. This is a case of bad control layouts, poor game objectives, and awful difficulty.
Controls are the glue that holds a game together; when these don’t work, the game falls apart. Reviewers have torn this game a new one for its control schemes. Some of Wolverine’s moves are useless, while others just feel awkward to implement. A leaping jump done with the D-pad and an ineffective kick attack are just a few of Wolverine’s lamer actions that bog down gameplay.
Steemit‘s review goes in-depth on the issues with the game design. Wolverine has a healing factor and refillable health, which is nice, but the time it takes to fill back up is ludicrous. Not helping this mechanic is an invisible timer that will force Wolverine to keep moving or die, which makes his regeneration ability kind of meaningless.
Wolverine must clear levels by defeating a certain number of enemies. Which enemies must be killed to continue? Well, the game doesn’t say, making it very difficult to meet your goals. This leads to a process of elimination that destroys any hope for fun in an already lackluster side-scroller.
After “Children of the Atom,” Capcom decided to create a crossover between Xavier’s Mutants and the “Street Fighter” franchise. An unlikely combination, “X-Men vs. Street Fighter” is an impeccable 2D fighter with vibrant colors, gorgeous designs, and solid competitive mechanics.
Fighting game YouTuber Maximilian Dood dove deep into the history of the game, focusing chiefly on its impeccable design. Merging two different IPs is already tough, but marrying iconic comic book characters with a juggernaut arcade series is nigh impossible. Somehow, famed Japanese illustrator Bengus was able to create a distinct art-style that combined the two worlds seamlessly.
“X-Men vs. Street Fighter” is not only a great X-Men game, but also a brilliantly designed fighting game. As noted by Fighters Generation, the sheer amount of content in the crossover title is incredible. It contains many techniques from past Capcom games like super jumps, air combos, hyper combos, and more — but if casuals just want to button-mash their way to victory, they’ll still have a blast doing so.
The game is a tag team tournament, so picking two complimentary characters and creating unique combos is essential. Granting the ability to pick either two Street Fighter characters, two X-Men characters, or a mix of both is an awesome hook to the game, which eventually led to the expansive “Marvel vs. Capcom” series.
“X-Men vs. Street Fighter” is a landmark title that will keep fighters invested for hours. Replayability is abundant because of different team combinations that are a joy to experiment with. Hopping into matches is always a treat as well. There is a reason why arcade cabinets of the Capcom classic are still being sold.
Taking the worst parts of old school NES games and slapping Logan on it, “Wolverine” deserves its place as one of the worst X-Men games of all time. With a title like “Wolverine,” early gaming fans might have expected this to be a definitive experience with the popular mutant. It was not to be.
Angry Video Game Nerd had qualms with the game… to say the least. For starters, Wolverine can’t use his claws without the health bar immediately draining, meaning the developers actually discouraged players from using Wolverine’s most famous asset. If that doesn’t put players off, control inputs for the game are incredibly delayed, which makes platforming excruciating. Rounding out these problems is the enemy placement, which is the pinnacle of unfair design choices. Making it from one side of the screen to the other is nearly impossible.
A review on MobyGames continues the tirade against “Wolverine,” specifically calling out the rage mechanic. After defeating a number of enemies, Wolverine goes into a randomized rage attack mode that is impossible to control. Thankfully the mode is temporary. Unfortunately, after it wears off, players have to go back to playing this disaster of a game like usual. Avoid this game at all costs.
Movie tie-in games for the most part have traditionally been cheap cash grabs to capitalize on upcoming films. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is a rare exception where the game is remarkably superior to the movie. Although the film is frequently considered to be one of the worst superhero films ever (via Wired), the game adaptation of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” manages to fix everything wrong with Wolverine’s previous hack and slash adventures.
Unlike the PG-13 movie, this M-rated game depicts Logan decapitating and dismembering his enemies, allowing a raw and unfiltered look at the character that’s more in line with the critically acclaimed “Logan.” Greg Miller at IGN expanded on the M-rating’s importance when discussing gameplay. Wolverine games typically feel limited with what he can do, with his claws often not being used to their full potential. This game, however, offers players “a bunch of sick execution moves,” which help to diminish any feelings of repetition during fights.
There are also a bunch of unlockable costumes that range from classic comic book outfits to Hugh Jackman’s tank top from the film. Wolverine enthusiasts will get the sense that the developers have a strong connection to the character and want to do him justice. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is one of the essential X-Men games. It has gore for fans of Wolverine’s darker side, costumes for hardcore fans, and even some much-needed improvements on the game’s source material.
Taking the top spot as the worst X-Men game is “The Uncanny X-Men” for the NES. Developed by LJN, the same masterminds behind “Wolverine” for the NES, this entry barely feels like a functioning game, much less an X-Men adventure.
For the most part, the previous “bad” X-Men games mentioned before have one good thing in common: they at least look like they feature the X-Men. The characters and backdrops of this game will have comic book fans scratching their heads at what is being represented. Reviews of the game have remarked that visually, the game isn’t “remotely impressive,” even with the limitations of the NES. AVGN offers input on this front as well, saying that “characters look like stiff, mangled, colored shapes that barely represent who they’re supposed to be.”
The actual gameplay side of things isn’t much better; characters move around environments from a topdown perspective shooting extremely short-range projectiles. The loop is unbearably dull, to the point that even a two person co-op mode doesn’t improve the experience, or even make it easier. “Uncanny X-Men” does offer an important video game history lesson, however: It showed early on what not to do when making an X-Men game.
“X-Men Legends” would have been closer in the running for the best game adaptation of Marvel’s mutants if “X-Men Legends 2” wasn’t such a huge improvement over it. In many ways, “X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse” is the pinnacle of the X-Men in the gaming medium.
One of the biggest differences in the two “Legends” games, as noted by IGN, is how the sequel puts a spin on the four-character team formula. “Legends 2” gives players access to the evil side of mutants, with Magneto’s villainous Brotherhood making a rare playable appearance. Both the X-Men and the Brotherhood must band together in order to stop Apocalypse, making the stakes higher than ever. GameSpot praised the unique character interactions that change based on which mutant is selected by the player, making the heroes and villains feel much more alive.
The original “Legends” featured a fantastic single-player and multiplayer campaign, but “Legends 2” adds four-player online co-op gaming to heighten the entertainment. These added features, along with extra content and a huge catalogue of costumes and characters, makes the game a significant advancement from its predecessor.
The definitive X-Men experience, “X-Men Legends 2” still hasn’t been beat.