Mania Manifesto: Top 8 Comic Book Video Games -

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Mania Manifesto: Top 8 Comic Book Video Games

Not All Comic Video Games Suck

By Damon Brown     July 08, 2008

Konami's original X-Men arcade game takes the cake.
© Konami
Each week, Mania special correspondent Damon Brown, author of Porn & Pong: How Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider and Other Sexy Games Changed Modern Pop Culture, offers his unique take on society, entertainment and other issues of critical concern to Maniacs. You can also find Brown writing about technology, sex, music and video games for Playboy and Spin.
#8: Superman (Arcade)
THE SITUATION: Released in conjunction to nothing, Taito’s Superman was a two-player take on the Man of Steel. The side-scrolling game alternated between two sequences: beating up enemies on the ground a la Final Fight and flying above the metropolis shooting laser beams at bad guys. It was a sleeper hit in the late ‘80s.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: Okay, so there are two Supermans, but weren’t there a bunch more in the comics it was based on? Once you get over the red and blue twins, Superman is a kick-ass game with fast-paced flying, chest-caving punches and tough bosses. The bass-heavy sound effects makes it feel like you are really hurting people, er, mutants.
#7: Spider-Man 2 (Home Consoles)
THE SITUATION: Loosely based on the movie, Activision’s Spider-Man 2 has the webslinger protecting New Yorkers from mundane car jackers and muggers as well as from supervillians like Rhino, Calypso and Dr. Octopus. You can take missions in almost any order you wish.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: Released during the height of Grand Theft Auto fever, Spider-Man 2 was the first major game to put a superhero in an open-ended environment. The result? A crazy, breathtaking adventure through a picture-perfect replica of Manhattan. And, like the movies, all attempts before and after Spider-Man 2 paled in comparison (on that note, just avoid Spider-Man 3. Really.).
#6: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade)
THE SITUATION: The avenging turtles set out to destroy Krang, Shredder and other baddies, and save their “love interest” April. It was one of the few four-player games, handled like a fighter and featured colorful graphics straight from the comic.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: Grab three friends and the arcade game becomes a fun romp through the twisted, hilarious TMNT universe. The action is fast, the enemies are tough, but fair, and the visuals were so crisp that it took Konami several years to bring a proper version home. It was so good, gamers loudly complained about the TMNT Nintendo “adventure” title released at the same time, a game that was as frustrating and as clunky as any Superman video game.
#5: City of Heroes (PC)
THE SITUATION: The first major massively multiplayer online role playing game geared towards superheroes, City of Heroes has players protecting Paragon City. Gamers can create their own superhero from scratch.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: After playing City of Heroes, the first question is “Why wasn’t this done before?” The open-world system is great and the continual upgrades, called “issues,” add more dimensions to the storyline.
#4: X-Men Legends 2 (Home Consoles)
THE SITUATION: Half-RPG, half-action game, X-Men Legends 2 takes the character building of the somewhat narrow original and spreads the action across several intergalactic environments. More than a dozen different X-Men (and affiliates) are available for the team.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: From Wolverine’s pathetic offerings to Hulk knockoffs, it’s difficult to find a solid home game based on a comic. The buggy Marvel: Ultimate Alliance comes close, but the learning curve of the new next-gen systems proved too steep. The older X-Men Legends 2 is a great balance of nice graphics, solid controls and fun gameplay.
#3: Marvel Super Heroes (Arcade)
THE SITUATION: Taking a break from Street Fighter II sequels, Capcom reimagined the Marvel universe as a 2D fighter with characters leaping two-to-three stories in the air.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: Capcom simply answered the hypothetical question: Who would win in a battle between Wolverine and Nightcrawler, or between Magneto and Juggernaut? The fighting styles vary greatly, but the basic controls—like a looser version of Street Fighter II’s—are  easy to pick up. There was also the rush of leaping up, meeting an enemy in mid-air and slamming him to the ground. Pow!
#2: Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures (PC)
THE SITUATION: Based on the classic comic, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures brings all the gore, sex appeal and treasure lust to a MMORPG. Released in late May, the game has sold more than 700,000 copies.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: Sure, we have World of Warcraft, Everquest and the aforementioned City of Heroes, but we have very few MMORPGs that are actually based on a linage. Eidos took a risk being true to such a gruesome comic – and putting these adult themes into a video game – and, in the process, made a solid RPG with a vast universe.
#1: X-Men (Arcade)
THE SITUATION: X-Men was a beat-‘em-up featuring six characters: Cyclops, Colossus, Dazzler, Nightcrawler, Storm and Wolverine. A side-scroller shown over three connected arcade monitors, it was one of the few six-player video games ever made.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: Nothing was ever the same after you and five of your friends took on a X-Men video game machine. The graphics and speech effects were wonderful, but the stimulation from watching three different screens and the chaos of taking on literally dozens of enemies with your friends was unparalled. If you happen to see it at an arcade—assuming, ahem, you can find an arcade—drop everything, get $20 worth of quarters and clear your afternoon. It is an awesome reminder of why we need arcades, especially since, almost two decades later, Konami still hasn’t found a way to bring it home.
Read Damon’s blog at


Showing items 1 - 9 of 9
ponyboy76 7/8/2008 4:11:16 AM
Numbers 8,6, 3 and 1 were my favorite freaking games to play back in the days. Spidey 2 was also a pretty damn good console game.
evilbeagle 7/8/2008 6:34:24 AM
The arcade games on the list were great, and no matter how good the home systems get, they'll never replace the magic of these arcade games. Maybe I've just killed too many brain cells over the years, but I miss the simplicity of some of those great side scrolling adventures!
almostunbiased 7/8/2008 7:42:18 AM
I loved going to the arcades when I was young. Space invaders, Joust, Defender, Asteroids, Tempest, and of course Dragon's Lair were all classics. I played the X-men game, but it wasn't one of my favorites. It was a great game though. Is the Conan game a monthy subscription fee game? Does anyone know? I used to play GuildWars because it was free.
Chance375 7/8/2008 8:10:34 AM
How could they leave Hulk Ultimate Distruction off of this list?!?!?
Jakester 7/8/2008 9:48:46 AM
Not a bad list, Damon. Heck, I'm still on City of Heroes/Villains every fricking day. It's the only MMO I play. The old Sega CD Batman game was great, as well -- it was like a bonus episode of B:TAS! I'm jazzed for MK vs. DCU, too.
AMiSHPiRATE 7/8/2008 11:01:27 AM
arrr, what the blastoid? You list Marvel Super Heroes and not Marvel vs Capcom 2 (which had everything form MSH and like ten deca-billion things more)? I also note that with the exception of spiderman 2, these are all multiplayer games. Sure, it's fun to trash things with your buddies, but what about some other solo hits like X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse or the first X-Men for the genesis (though supposin' that also be multiplayer, but not built for it), Little Nemo the Dream Master (totally classic!), Turok on the N64, or even freakin' Spy vs Spy for the C64 (though I suppose that one needed to be multiplayer to work)! What gives, man?
smegforbrain 7/8/2008 6:46:07 PM
"#7: Spider-Man 2 (Home Consoles)" Ultimate Spider-Man was a little better. "#4: X-Men Legends 2 (Home Consoles)" This game had plenty of its own bugs as well. One of my favorites was there was a Spider-Man arcade game with several characters, and it would zoom in and out from the action and stuff. I haven't played it in 15 years. And yes, Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction should be very high on this list.
kaybar 7/8/2008 7:06:32 PM
My brother and I would literally get red-faced and sweaty playing the TMNT arcade game, man was that badass. I was about to cry foul that none of the Golden Axe titles were mentioned on the list...but then I remembered that was never a comic book (I think).
SinisterPryde 7/9/2008 1:17:18 AM
Umm, not to be too picky, but I wouldn't count either City of Heroes or Conan as "comic-book" games. City of Heroes being inspired by, but not based on comics, while Conan was a book series long before the comics were done. If these are included, then there are far many more games to be added like some of the Star Wars games, Indiana Jones, Aliens, Forgotten Realms (Dungeons & Dragons) or any other game featuring super-hero characters that were "inspired" by comic books. Which isn't to say that Conan and City of Heroes/Villains aren't good games, just that their source material isn't strictly comic books.


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