No more mutants
Like most former first graders, Ive been enjoying the X-Men since I first saw Wolverines claws go snikt! in 1990. The problem with my devotion to the mutants is that my love for these costumed heroes can sometimes lead to poor decisions, like assuming that every video game starring Marvels Merry Mutants will be as entertaining as their comic books.
Like their history with movie adaptations, the X-Men have a spotty gaming lineage; for every good game, there are at least two bad ones. And because GamesRadar has already celebrated the X-Mens best in our list of the best superhero games of all time, its only fair that we take a look at teams low points, from the NES all the way to the 360/PS3 era. By properly cataloguing these mistakes for future gamemakers, perhaps the children of tomorrow wont feel the kind of disappointment I felt when I played my first X-Men game in 1990.
9. X2: Wolverine's Revenge (PS2)
Its crimes: Lets start with the incredibly misleading cover, which features Hugh Jackmans face to tie this in with the second film, despite Wolverines Revenge having nothing to do with the movies. It also has a narrative excuse to turn off Wolverines health regeneration powers, all in the misguided effort to add a time limit to stages, plus some superfluous stealth sections. Im not saying Logan doesnt sneak around in the comics, but I play games to see him burst out a Berserker Barrage, not carefully tiptoe around robotic sentries.
What can future mutants learn from it? As tempting as Magneto may be as a potential boss fight, dont use him in a solo Wolverine game. Youll end up with an annoying number of side objectives to explain how Logan and his metal skeleton can even approach Mags. But do follow this games technique of having Professor X as a guiding voice; if your game needs tutorial narration, there are few better choices than a telepathic Patrick Stewart.
8. X-Men: Mutant Academy (PSX)
Its crimes: Mutant Academy was adequate when it came out in 2000, but the years havent been kind to this late-era PlayStation fighter. The CG cutscenes look like Barbie dolls, and though the actual character models fare a little better, the Tekken-ish 2D combat has gotten clunky. Equally clunky is how it tied in to the first X-Men film, with the movies bland leather costumes becoming optional character skins that couldnt compare to the colorful comic book outfits.
What can future mutants learn from it? If Capcom is already publishing a celebrated X-Men fighting game, your fighting mutants can only look worse by comparison. Mutant Academy also proves you can learn from your mistakes. Before their time with Xaviers students, developer Paradox made the much worse Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, which was preceded by Thrill Kill, a game so awful it never even got released. Sadly, Paradox went on to make some juggalo-rific Backyard Wrestling games, so some lessons clearly didnt stick.
7. X-Men (Genesis)
Its crimes: The 16-bit graphics look fun better than the NES X-Men title, but this is still a poor sidescroller by any measure. The game has the most unfair enemy placement this side of Ninja Gaiden, the multiple playable mutants are unbalanced, and Wolverines claws are treated as a power-up. Then theres the fact that most of the game takes place in the Danger Room, meaning you arent actually fighting the likes of Juggernaut and Lady Deathstrike--youre just beating up deadly simulations.
What can future mutants learn from it? Developers should get in the habit of using the awesomely 90s X-Men lineup that appears in this game; Archangel and Gambit dont get the gaming love they deserve. Also, this game was pioneering in giving Wolverine regenerating health, hopefully inspiring future X-Men games to be similarly creative. But dont copy the games obtuse press reset on the console to beat the stage thing, because that confused an entire generation of Genesis owners.
6. X-Men: The Official Game (PS2)
Its crimes: Aside from the silly name (was there a competing Unofficial X-Men game?), this titles biggest sin was making this interquel boringly repetitive. You play as Wolverine, Iceman, and Nightcrawler, all dutifully voiced by their film actor equivalents, in a campaign that fills in the gaps between the second and third X-Men movies. As it turns out, the heroes spent their free time killing random henchmen and breaking crates.
What can future mutants learn from it? For starters, dont limit your choice of playable X-Men to just three--and if you do, dont make one of them Iceman instead of, say, Colossus or Cyclops. And even if making a movie cash-in is a thankless job, that doesnt give you permission to build unexciting Wolverine stages. Lastly, recent Marvel films may have made them cool again, but at the time of this games release, Hydra was a pack of loser spies that were hardly worthy of Hugh Jackmans or Alan Cummings wooden voice work.
5. Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade's Revenge (SNES/Genesis)
Its crimes: This game had both the X-Men and Spider-Man in it, and somehow diminished both franchises in the process. I give this 8-bit title credit for taking inspiration from an underrated comic storyline, but the game made basically every mistake that could possibly be made in a 2D platformer. Level exploration is confusing, and every character controls like alcohol-impaired versions of themselves. And despite the team-up name, its not even a co-op title, instead offering five different stages, one for each of the heroes.
What can future mutants learn from it? Obviously, dont develop your next game with every platformer cliche imaginable. Also, as alluring as Arcade may be as a video game villain--his whole schtick is building elaborate, game-y death traps--he shouldnt be the final boss. If players have already taken down a psychopath like Carnage and an unstoppable force like Juggernaut, a 56 billionaire that builds robots looks pretty weak by comparison.
4. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Wii)
Its crimes: No no, Im not mocking the pretty good 360/PS3 versions of this Wolvie game, though those did have an abundance of crappy helicopter battles. In contrast, the Wii version went unplayed by everyone but game reviewers, and it replaced M-rated action with boxy polygons that wouldnt be impressive on the first PlayStation. Instead of Logans gory takedowns of brutal mercenaries in the opening stages, players got to see Wolvie punching a bunch of mean lumberjacks for 20 minutes. It only got worse from there, but at least fans learned the reason behind deep Wolverines hatred of lumberjacks.
What can future mutants learn from it? I dont blame the developers for the unhappy task of making the kid-friendly version of a mature game, and the game sure looks like it suffered from budget and time issues. Next time around, when youre forced to develop the last-gen, kiddier X-Men spin-off, just go all out on the cartooniness. Make Hugh Jackman a lovable goofball that only uses his claws for friendly things, like safely cutting the cake at a birthday party.
3. Wolverine (NES)
Its crimes: The box art promises a feral Wolverine flinging himself in the air to stab whoever gets in his way, but the in-game Wolverine is far too clumsy to pull that off. The NES game drops Logan into Mega Man rip-off stages full of awkwardly placed enemies, stupid high difficulty, and ugly, artless visuals. Then, just when you think it cant get any worse, the underwater stage begins.
What can future mutants learn from it? Dont make Wolverines swimming animation look like a frog. Also, when designing an underwater stage, consider the fact that Logans adamantium metal bones should make him sink immediately. Most importantly, for the love of Stan Lee, dont make Wolverines claws a limited special attack! This guy has hand-mounted blades that can cut through anything; he should never stop using them. Ever. FOR ANY REASON. EVEN IF HE SWEARS--oops, almost spoiled Old Man Logan.
2. X-Men: Destiny (360/PS3)
Its crimes: This intensely mediocre action game made the huge miscalculation of having uninteresting original characters as the protagonists while the X-Men took supporting roles in their own game. Fans would much rather have Wolverine give advice to a protagonist with tribal tattoos than actually play as Logan, right? This game was so underwhelming that it was the final indignity for once-respected developer Silicon Knights, which closed soon after releasing it.
What can future mutants learn from it? First off, when youre making an X-Men game--how about having the X-Men actually be playable? Also, if some reports are to be believed, future X-Men creators should focus on making the Marvel game in front of them instead of planning projects down the line. Because if your X-Men game is crappy enough, your studio might not even exist after youre done with the mutants.
1. The Uncanny X-Men (NES)
Its crimes: This was the first X-Men game, and besides the iconic roster, it got basically every detail wrong. Wheres the joy in playing as Storm, Wolverine, and Cyclops when theyre trapped in a painfully ugly top-down shooter? This wannabe Smash T.V. was terribly balanced, the character models were more or less different colored squares, and the soundtrack is unlistenable. On the plus side, no future X-Men game was ever as awful as this one.
What can future mutants learn from it? They can rest safe in the knowledge that their worst X-Men title wont be as slipshod as this one. And even if your game plays as bad as this, itd be even more difficult to make something as visually uninteresting as this 8-bit misfire. Isnt it nice for developers to know where the bottom of barrel is located?