Spider-Man (SpiderMan) does whatever a spider can: but can he make a good video game? Turns out: yes, he can! We’re still reeling from all the news made at E3 this year, and one announcement that surprised everyone at the Sony conference was Spider-Man on the PS4.
With a flashy trailer, slick graphics, and proven pedigreed developer Insomniac Studios (Ratchet & Clank, Song of the Deep), we could not be more excited to step in the shoes of the wall crawler once again. Let’s take a look back at some of the best games that dared to put ‘Spider-Man’ in their title, and see how nostalgia stacks against honest to goodness gameplay in this list of web-slinging, foe punching adventures.
Spider-Man: The Arcade Game
A frenetic, four-player beat ‘em up game released by Sega in 1991, this game not only lets you wallop baddies as Spidey, but also lets your friends join in as Black Cat, Hawkeye and Namor (provided they were willing to shed their quarters). Despite an unusual choice in team-up casting, the game was as brilliant as many other arcade brawlers at the time, and may in fact be underrated in that sense. The game’s graphics effectively invoked the feel of Erik Larsen’s signature art style, and pitted you against classic Spider-Man villains. The final battle capped off the game giving you a showdown with Fantastic Four’s Dr. Doom! The game is fantastic, and would list higher were it not for the fact that it was a quarter sinker, and is completely unavailable in the modern era by any legal means.
Spider –Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage (Super Nintendo, Genesis)
This was the default web-head experience for many a young gamer in the 90s, and it was not a bad way to be. Released in 1994 at the height of symbiote craze in comics, and capitalizing on the then ongoing story-line in the comics of the same name, Maximum Carnage lets you and a friend play as Spidey and Venom in another Final Fightesque beat ‘em up. Your goal? To stop Carnage and his horde of symbiotes from conquering New York! While not as pretty or polished as The Arcade Game, the action was just as hectic, and the game even included cameos from many other Marvel heroes as a nice bonus, including Captain America, Iron Fist, and Morbius. While Maximum Carnage would be trumped in later years by better offerings, for close to a decade this was considered by many to be the seminal SpiderMan game, and no other game can take that away.
Spider-Man (PSX, N64, Dreamcast, PC)
The first game on our list not to be a straight beat ‘em up, Spider-Man (originally only) on the Playstation combined elements of puzzles and platforming into the mix, as well as full 3D control of the Spider. One could crawl on almost any surface the game offered, swing across gaps freely, and use the 3D camera to fire webs in the direction one wanted, all elements that would be built upon in subsequent games. Built by Neversoft on the same engine as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (explaining Spidey’s presence in THPS2), it was not a pretty game, but it still managed to capture the feel of the 90s cartoon’s aesthetic quite well (even borrowing the voice actor for Spidey), and
the entire experience is narrated by Stan ‘the Man’ Lee himself! Excelsior!
Spider-Man 2: The Movie Game (Xbox, PS2, Gamecube, PC)
Released to coincide with the Sam Raimi sequel, this is the game that would basically define the majority of Spider-Man games from here on out. Clueing into the style of Grand Theft Auto, Peter is given an entire, open world sandbox of New York City to web-swing around. You can follow the plot of the movie (with a few side stories to pad out game time), or just help random citizens along the streets from the criminals that infest NYC. Heck, you could even just goof off by searching the city’s every nook and cranny for collectibles, it’s really up to you. The combat was superb, the voice acting movie quality, and the graphics spectacular (for the time). Most importantly, they perfected the web swinging mechanic. The game has not aged as well when compared to newer offerings that copied its formula, but they simply wouldn’t exist without this gem of a game.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
For years Spider-Man games had been open world sandboxes after the standard set by Spider- Man 2, so it was a surprise when developer Beenox decided to go old-school to a level based style adventure that hadn’t been seen since the Playstation 1 era. The gamble paid off by giving the game a unique and clever twist: the game was split between four web-heads, each with their own unique play-style! Classic Spider-Man played mostly similarly to the way one would expect, with a mix of webbing and punches to smite his foes; futuristic SpiderMan 2099 (Miguel O’Hara) is much more agile and has talons, taking opponents down with quick, furious strikes; Ultimate Spider-Man can activate the symbiote suit, which extends tentacles that lash out and decimate foes; and Noir Spider-Man, most unfamiliar and fascinating of, goes straight stealth, preferring to pick off enemies from the shadows and use darkness as cover. Besides play-style, each distinct Spider-Man has his own universe, which has its own corresponding art style, each unique from one another.
SpiderMan: Web of Shadows (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
This game is almost a mix of Maximum Carnage, and Spider-Man 2; in Web of Shadows, Spider-Man is desperate to save New York City which is being bombarded by a horde of Venom symbiote. The story becomes so desperately unhinged because it almost feels like a zombie apocalypse scenario, Spider-verse style. As you swing around the city trying to fix every dire situation you can, you must also stave off the alien being infecting you—or you could give into it, and unleash its awesome power (not unlike Prototype). There were multiple endings, mostly dependent on how much you gave into your primal, blacksuit fueled urges. The action and web-swinging were as great as ever, and there was a symbiote Wolverine to boot. Some critics complain that the wallcrawler is too out-of-character but hey, that’s only if YOU decide he should be!
So my friends, there we have it, the Spider-Man games you should definitely get your hands on and play again before Sony gives us their PS4 rendition—and should you somehow ‘thwip’ your way through all those, there is decades worth more Spidey games to check out beyond that, some of which I’m sure a few of you were steamed didn’t make it on here (Ultimate Spider-Man, mostly, I’m sure). If you want to share your favorite games starring Petey and the gang, hit us up down in the comments below!