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(CityRegions.Com, June 22, 2020 ) IN THE NEW AGE (InTheNewAge.com)
As I was testing out one of our newest arcade game editions, the all new 4,500 games in one Classic Arcade System machine, I thought I would try out some of the X-Man video arcade games. And, here is my conclusion, listed from my least favorite to my most favorite. However, let me be clear, in my opinion I did not play any X-Men games I thought not to be fun to play. But, of course, some are more favorable to others.
About the X-Men video arcade game franchise!
The X-Men have been featured in more video games than any other superhero team on the planet. Whether it’s from quarter-costing arcade games, to platformers, to some of the best fighting games in the world, and even role-playing games, the X-Men are on the full spectrum of video game styles. The first X-Men video game debuted in December 1989, on the NES, but it was only the first of many. Today, there are over 40 titles with X-Men featured front and center. One of the reasons the X-Men are so praised is because of their diversity, and that same diversity is reflected in these video games. No two games feature the same cast of characters. The roster has expanded exponentially over the decades, and while old mainstays like Wolverine will always be around, we’re constantly introduced to new, exciting mutants, and fresh storylines.
It’s these qualities that make the X-Men the perfect platform for launching a multitude of video game adaptations. As a franchise, the X-Men video games hold a few records, including the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of titles based on a superhero group. The results for the individual games have been mixed, of course. Not everyone can be a hit. But the series has its high points, which we hope to discuss here. There’s probably going to be plenty of people saying, “How could you forget XX?!” But just know we’ve done our best to rank the top 20 X-Men video games fairly, and here they are.
Now, for the count if you will?
1. X-MEN: THE RAVAGES OF APOCALYPSE (1997)
This one not only had an interesting name, but it also had a unique approach to the X-Men that hadn’t been seen before. It was an official mod of id Software’s Quake and required the base game to play. It was also the first superhero FPS and the gameplay had you running around, shooting evil robot versions of X-Men.
Each mutant had their own special power to make them difficult to kill -- for instance, to beat Wolverine, you had to inflict enough damage to negate his healing power. The game received mixed reviews, but diehard X-Men and Quake fans loved it, which was an interesting combination of people.
2. MARVEL: ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 2 (2009)
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 was an action RPG and the sequel to Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. It was released in 2009, developed for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and for n-Space. Activision did a good job of following elements of the "Secret War" and "Civil War" story arcs. The games were successors to the critically praised X-Men Legends games and had similar gameplay.
Players selected a team of four characters from a large pool of heroes and villains, and then dungeon crawl through levels. Though it only had an aggregate rating of 70% from Game Rankings and Metacritic, one system that was lauded was the “fusion” ability, where each character had a unique fusion attack with other playable characters in the game.
3. X-MEN GAME GEAR TRILOGY (1994, 1995, 1996)
Though it might never have garnered the fan base of Nintendo’s Game Boy, the handheld Sega Game Gear was quite a big deal when it was released in 1991. It had a backlit landscape screen, with color, and advanced graphics that put the Game Boy’s to shame. Sega’s X-Men trilogy (X-Men, Gamemaster’s Legacy, and Mojo World) were solid releases.
The games were pretty much the same: Players had to solve mazes. The first one was released to some respectable fanfare, but Gamemaster’s Legacy improved the formula by including some underutilized villains such as Mister Sinister and Fabian Cortez. Also, the game had only two difficulty settings: “Mental,” and “Way Wicked” -- a truly bespoke piece of the ‘90s.
4. MARVEL: ULTIMATE ALLIANCE (2006)
Most people liked the first Marvel: Ultimate Alliance better than the second, so we’ve ranked it higher here. It was developed by Raven Software for the PS2, PS3, Xbox, and Xbox 360. A significantly different Game Boy Advance version was also created. The game was similar to the other two Raven Software outings, X-Men Legends and X-Men Legends II, in that you select four people from a range of 22 playable characters (some need to be unlocked) and play typical beat-me-up missions.
The game’s plot was based around Dr. Doom and the Masters of Evil launching a diabolical attack on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Heli carrier, and Nick Fury needing your help. It received an 82% rating from Game Rankings.
5. X-MEN: MUTANT APOCALYPSE (1994)
X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse was Capcom’s second attempt at the X-Men license, and it was a successful attempt. It was an action game with a focus on combat and limited platforming. The plot revolved around Professor X sending the X-Men to Genosha Island to free the captured mutants imprisoned there.
Combat was solid, and the sprites were colorful and nicely designed. There were only five main stages and two boss battles before the showdown with Magneto on his space station, Avalon, but it was still a fun game. Three of Electronic Gaming Monthly’s four reviewers declared it to be by far the best X-Men video game to date, citing the large levels and the difficulty.
6. SPIDER-MAN AND THE X-MEN IN ARCADE’S REVENGE (1992)
LJN was one of the most iconic video game publishers between the ‘70s and ‘90s, and people cheered when they came out with this title. It had a lot wrong with it, but it also had some saving graces. For instance, Spider-Man was a playable character, and people loved that. The game brought back Arcade and Murderworld, last seen in the original DOS game.
The development of the game was fraught with legal problems, making the game a mess. The story is along the lines of the Uncanny X-Men arc of the same name. The gameplay was fun but difficult, where normal enemies could kill you in a couple hits. Still, it’s considered a cult classic these days.
7. X-MEN: NEXT DIMENSION (2002)
X-Men: Next Dimension, or X-Men: Mutant Academy 3, was a fighting game that was simple, but fun. It had great graphics, the special moves were easy to pull off, and the character controls were easy to navigate. You could either do the typical versus mode, or play arcade mode, where the story was based around Magneto hatching a scheme involving Forge, serving as the sequel to the events in the comic story “Operation: Zero Tolerance.”
This is a game that kind of went under the radar, but it was well received by most who played it. The game expanded on the concept of the first two Mutant Academy games by adding new characters, 3D maps, and the story mode.
8. X-MEN: MUTANT ACADEMY 2 (2001)
X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 is considered far superior to the first game in the Mutant Academy trilogy. The game allowed players to pick between several heroes and villains, and included many signatures moves from the comics. The game also included a behind-the-scenes look at X-Men: The Movie costumes and concept sketches.
There were four modes to play: Academy Training, Arcade, Versus, and Survival. There were 18 playable characters (as opposed to 10 in the first entry), controls were tighter, and combos were easier to master. Released for the first PlayStation, most agree that Mutant Academy 2 was the trilogy’s high point.
9. X-MEN VS. STREET FIGHTER (1996)
Before there was Marvel Vs. Capcom, Capcom and Marvel teamed up for the first time with 1994’s X-Men: Children of the Atom. Then they released 1996’s X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, which was a great fighting game that got fans of both companies excited. X-Men Vs. Street Fighter was the first time that two diverse rosters went head to head, and it was also responsible for the important innovation of “tagging in” partners from anywhere on-screen.
From this game forward, the “tag in” ability became an industry standard. The arcade game was notable for being the first entry in the Marvel Vs. Capcom series, and it would spark a revolution of sorts with games that followed.
10. LEGO MARVEL SUPERHEROES (2013)
Though not strictly an X-Men exclusive video game, Lego Marvel Superheroes did feature a lot of X-Men characters, so we decided to add it to the list, because it really was a great game. It often finds itself in the top 10 Marvel and X-Men video game polls. It’s an action-adventure game that featured beat-em-up and puzzle solving scenarios.
It’s the best-selling Lego video game of all time, and received great reviews: an 84% from Metacritic, and 9/10 from IGN, who praised it as “the best thing to happen to Marvel games since 2006’s Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. It’s warm and witty, multi-layered approach to the brand ties in hundreds of Marvel’s most iconic characters, settings, and stories.”
11. X-Men: Children of The Atom (Multiplatform)
Now that we are four games deep into the Marvel Vs. Capcom series, it's easy to forget the slow progression that led to that series, beginning right here with the all-X-Men fighting game Children of the Atom. Laying much of the groundwork for what would eventually make up the Vs. franchise, CotA took the basic Street Fighter gameplay and amped everything up to 11.
The first steps of any new franchise are inevitably going to be wobbly, and CotA had some polishing to do of its new concept--but much of that only feels so in retrospect.
12. X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 (PlayStation)
It goes this way for pretty much every fighting game franchise--the first installment lays the groundwork but is a bit rough around the edges, and it's in the first sequel that everything comes together and fulfills the original ambitions of the debut installment.
Mutant Academy 2 honors this tradition by taking a surprisingly good fighting game and following it up with a good sequel.
Featuring an impressive-for-its-time 18 playable characters--including a fun appearance by Spider-Man--the game improved on its predecessor in basically every way. One of the best 3D fighters on PS1.
13. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Multiplatform)
We always hear about great movies that led to bad video games--but sometimes the reverse happens, and a bad movie leads to a great video game. The disappointing X-Men Origins: Wolverine somehow spawned the incredibly fun video game of the same name, and it remains one of the best digital representations of the character.
Smartly ripping off titles like God of War and Devil May Cry, Origins features smooth, satisfying hack-and-slash combat in gorgeous locales. And the updated Uncaged Edition brought the violence into hard M-rated territory, years before the movies finally went there with Logan.
14. X-Men Vs. Street Fighter (Multiplatform)
While X-Men purists might have resented having to share half the roster with Street Fighter characters, there's no denying that X-Men Vs. Street Fighter is a better-made game than Children of the Atom in basically all categories.
Introducing the now-iconic tag mode--though sadly absent from many home versions--X-Men Vs Street Fighter forced even seasoned fighting game vets to completely rethink how they played.
Look, obviously Marvel Vs. Capcom is better...but just among X-Men-headlining games, this is the best fighter there is. And subsequent MvC games have increasingly been more Avengers-focused anyway.
15. X-Men Legends (Multiplatform)
There seems to be this assumption that comic book games must be all-out action titles. In fact, many of the best ones aren't that at all--such as the with the excellent action/RPG title X-Men Legends.
Few games are a bigger celebration of their source material than the X-Men Legends games--and later, their evolution into the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance series. It just feels like one big love letter to fans, from fans. That it also introduced a lot of console fans to the world of PC-style dungeon-crawler hackfests is just the icing on the cake.
16. X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse (SNES)
Gamers have debated whether Mutant Apocalypse is better than X-Men for Genesis almost as passionately as they have argued over which 16-bit system had the best Aladdin game.
Whichever one we put ahead of the other, we were bound to make the other half angry.
But we had to make a call, and ultimately, we went Mutant Apocalypse. In a lot of ways, Genesis X-Men is the better game. But at the end of the day, MA is just more fun and more playable--and also looks quite a bit better. Also, MA has Psylocke, and 'nuff said there.
17. X-Men 2: Clone Wars (Genesis)
While everyone is busy squabbling over whether Genesis X-Men is better than Mutant Apocalypse for SNES, we'll be busy playing the game that is better than both of them, the best 16-bit console X-Men game of all time.
One of the rare games to have a "cold open" which just instantly dumps you into the action, Clone Wars makes one awesome decision after another, not the least of which is letting you play as Magneto! Gimmicks aside, it's just an incredibly well put together side-scroller than doesn't get nearly as much recognition for how fantastic it is.
Whether it was being able to "break" the game by using Nightcrawler's teleportation, the perfectly-utilized assist characters, or that brilliant fourth-wall-breaking moment when you are tasked to "reset the computer," X-Men isn't just one of the best comic book games--it’s among the best games ever made, period.
18. X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (Multiplatform)
X-Men Legends was a huge hit, and with that success, the game's publisher saw that the sequel was worth spending a little more money on to smooth out some of the original's rough edges--the result of which is the absolutely excellent X-Men Legends II.
Unlike most of the games on this list, you can easily get swallowed up by this game even if you know nothing about the X-Men.
Many still even prefer Legends II to either of the Ultimate Alliance games, but that's all a matter of personal taste. You can't really go wrong with any of them.
X-Men (Genesis)Few comic book games based on any property are more beloved that X-Men for Genesis, and rightfully so--after years of either outright disappointing games, or games that were fun but shallow beat-em-ups, this game finally brought some depth and adventure to comic book video games.
19. X-Men (Arcade)
X-Men (Arcade) Both X-Men Legends games--and at least the next four or five entries after that on this list--are objectively better than the 1992 X-Men arcade game.
To that end, most artsy indie movies are "better" than most summer blockbusters, too--but we all know which we typically enjoy watching more.
It's a very by-the-numbers beat-em-up that shows all its cards within the first 30 seconds you play it. And nobody ever wants to be Dazzler. But so, what--X-Men for arcades was, and still is, just a whole lot of button-mashing fun. And that's all we need it to be.
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