With the new Spider-Man: Homecoming movie only a few months away I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of our friendly neighbourhood web-slinger between now and then. Spider-Man is one of the most popular superheroes of all time. Having been created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1962, he has had several comic series of his own, at one point having four comic books running simultaneously, and his image is recognisable throughout the world. As well as being on countless merchandise items, he has also graced many different forms of games including pinball and hand-held LCD games. Furthermore, with the recent expansion of online gaming, and particularly online gambling, he has even made it into themed online casino games which just shows the drawing power that he has for people of all ages. He certainly gets around.
What I thought I would focus on for this post was his presence in retro video games. To date he has spawned nearly 40 games with his name in the title, and he has appeared as a character in many more. Let’s look at some of the best games from the 80s and 90s.
Spider-Man – Atari 2600 – 1982
As expected, this is a pretty basic game, but hey, it was the Atari 2600 and it was 1982. And it did have Spidey swinging about on his webbing. Not much more you can really ask for at this time. Worth a re-visit for a chuckle but not one you will be coming back to play regularly I’m afraid. It was the first Spider-Man video game though, so it has earned its place in history.
Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter – Arcade, PlayStation, Saturn – 1997
There are, of course, several games called Marvel or X-Men vs Capcom or Street Fighter. I chose this one because it was the most fun title for me. All the Marvel heroes against the legendary Street Fighter roster. The game does look gorgeous as well. I love all these fighting games and it’s just great being able to play as Spider-Man and totally kicking ass.
The Revenge of Shinobi – Sega Genesis/Mega Drive – 1989
This one’s an interesting one. Initially Spider-Man appeared as an enemy boss, but as Sega didn’t have the license to the character it was said that it was meant to be a shapeshifter that just resembled Spider-Man. Later, Sega acquired the license to the character and it was allowed to be referred to as the real Spider-Man. As the license was only for a limited period, however, in later versions of the game (post 2009) the character is replaced with a pink version. A pretty cool game though. The first version also includes characters that ‘look like’ Batman, Rambo, Godzilla and The Terminator.
Spider-Man: The Video Game – Arcade – 1990
Not many people remember that Spider-Man had his own arcade game. The character choices here are very interesting. I wouldn’t normally associate Spider-Man being best buds with Hawkeye, Black Cat and Namor the Submariner, but that’s who you get to choose to play as, as well as Spidey. I don’t think there are many other games that let you play as Namor. The main villain is Doctor Doom who isn’t normally a Spider-Man baddie either. Maybe they were just trying to push certain characters for their comic books. Comics were after all still mostly read by children back then. This is mostly a generic brawler, in the same vein as the X-Men arcade, but it does sometimes switch to 2D side-scrolling mode, which is quite surprising but also quite a nice variation. It holds up fairly well against other similar and contemporary arcade games and Spidey fans should certainly enjoy it.
Spider-Man and the X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge – SNES, Mega Drive – 1992
Confusingly this is not an arcade game. It came out on the SNES, Mega Drive, Game Boy and Game Gear. You have to defeat the evil Arcade, and you get to play as the other X-Men in this game, cementing the fact that Spider-Man did have many cool team-ups in his time. Spidey’s levels play quite like a platform game and you get to use your webbing as well as your Spidey-sense in places. Well worth a look.
Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage – SNES, Mega Drive -1994
This one’s pretty cool as you get to play as Spidey or Venom, switching between them during the game. In terms of gameplay though it can become just a bit of a punch-fest. You can climb up walls and shoot webbing but the majority of the game doesn’t really let you utilise these powers. A few sections do let you focus on these powers but just not quite enough of the game. One thing I quite liked were the sound effects of the punches etc. The game also looks very nice. Some of the sprites are great, the colours are vibrant and there are some nice comic book effects in places.
Spider-Man continued to web-swing his way into dozens of other games up until the present day and with a new movie franchise beginning I don’t see that stopping any time soon. I personally think it would be great to have a Spider-Man VR game, allowing you to fly through the skyscrapers from an immersive first person viewpoint. My Spidey-sense is tingling already.