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The Best and Worst Marvel Video Game Team-Ups

With this week’s release of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, Activision is giving gamers a chance to re-enact the “Civil War” comic book crossover.

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But while the long and sordid story of the legislative action that tore the Marvel Universe apart gives us a great reason to have Captain America and Iron Man punching each other, the real fun comes when it’s time to build your team! Team-ups have always been a big part of the Marvel Universe and the video games are no exception, which is why ComicsAlliance contributor Chris Sims is getting ready for MUA2 with a look back at some of the best (and worst) Marvel Team-Ups in video game history!

CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE AVENGERS (1991)

The arcade version of Captain America and the Avengers allowed for four-player simultaneous action, giving players the chance to charge through bad guys like the Juggernaut and Ultron with Captain America, the Vision, Hawkeye, and Iron Man. It’s a lot of fun, right up to the point where you remember that Iron Man usually tends to fly around and shoot lasers out of his hands, rather than the walking and judo-throwing that the game portrayed. Still, if anybody could use some more judo-throwing in his life, it’s a guy who walks around wearing a tank.

SPIDER-MAN & VENOM: MAXIMUM CARNAGE (1994)

Spider-Man has starred in more video games than any other Marvel character, with dozens of titles that range from the Commodore 64 to the XBox 360, but the one we’ve got the fondest memories of is the SNES beat-em-up adaptation of Maximum Carnage. The game drew from the comic book storyline of the same name to the point that actual digitized comic book panels were presented between levels, featured a soundtrack from Green Jelly (Remember the Three Little Pigs song? Those guys.) and allowed for a team-up not just between Spider-Man and Venom, but cameos from everyone from Cloak & Dagger to a surprisingly ineffectual Captain America.

MARVEL SUPER-HEROES: WAR OF THE GEMS (1996)

In another example of big Marvel events providing perfect video-game style plots, War of the Gems rolled the events of Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity War into one side-scrolling experience, complete with Cap, Iron Man, Spidey, Wolverine and the Hulk teaming up to fight “doppelganger” versions of Silver Surfer, Daredevil and the Thing.

FANTASTIC FOUR (1997)

The PlayStation Fantastic Four game–which saw the heroes of the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine team with sometime-member She-Hulk to battle it out against Dr. Doom and his minions–was a commercial failure when it was released. Why? Because it’s one of the most generic beat-em-ups ever made, though it is pretty notable for the complete insanity of a jazz-funk soundtrack that is inexplicable, inappropriate, and totally awesome.

SPIDER-MAN (2000)

The first “next-gen” Spider-Man game was produced by Neversoft using the engine they’d previously built for the Tony Hawk Pro Skater games, presumably because they realized that the only thing more awesome than a late 360 Shove-It to Boneless was web-swinging through an open (but oddly foggy) city on the lookout for crooks to web up. Like pretty much every other Spider-Man game, this one features Venom, but a code unlocked a “What If” mode that, in addition to random silliness, offered up cameos from Ghost Rider, the Silver Surfer, and Uatu the Watcher.

MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 2 (2000)

One of the most fun, frenetic fighting games of all time, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 recently got a re-release in HD on XBox Live and PlayStation Network, allowing players to once again form sides of three fighters each that teamed up Marvel characters like Dr. Doom, Psylocke and even the tentacular horror that is Shuma-Gorath with Capcom’s Ryu (from Street Fighter), Megaman, and Resident Evil‘s Jill Valentine! Or, if you’re a cheating cheater-pants who cheats, Cable and Iron Man.

And who could forget the mind-numbing earworm that played over the Character Select screen?

PUNISHER (2005)

Ostensibly a tie-in to the movie (hence Tom Jane providing the Punisher’s voice), this gore-fest saw Big Frank team up with Black Widow and Nick Fury in a few stages (and a cameo appearance by Iron Man), but the real action was in the gruesome kills you could perform with level features (like impaling a mob baddie on a charging rhino’s horn during a shootout at the zoo) and the bloody “interrogations” that led to even more bloody executions. In other words, it borrows pretty heavily from the Garth Ennis run.

MARVEL NEMESIS: RISE OF THE IMPERFECTS (2005)

Apparently deciding that Marvel’s existing library of 5000+ characters wasn’t enough (which anyone who has ever wanted to see Paste Pot Pete square off against Aunt May in mortal combat knows isn’t true), EA and Nihilistic thought it was a good idea to introduce eight new characters that nobody would care about. As a video game, this was a flop, but it did introduce long-lasting stars like Johnny Ohm and Niles Van Roekel, who eclipsed even Wolverine in popularity.

No, wait, they were used in an out-of-continuity mini-series and never seen again. Sorry, we get that mixed up all the time.

MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE (2006)

With a huge roster of playable Marvel super-heroes, a story that took involved fights with everyone from Arcade to Galactus, and continuity-porn tidbits for Marvel fans (thrown in by Marvel’s own CB Cebulski, who was listed in the credits as the “Marvel Consultant”), Ultimate Alliance was hailed by most gamers as one of the best super-hero games of all time. Some, however, were extremely disappointed by the fact that there was an entire sequence set in Asgard that completely omitted Volstagg, Hogun and Fandral, the Warriors Three!

Okay, well, it was really just us, but we were disappointed enough for everyone, we promise.

SPIDER-MAN: WEB OF SHADOWS (2008)

Remember when we said that pretty much every Spider-Man game has to involve Venom? Well, Web of Shadows took that idea and ran with it, dropping Spidey into a “Dawn of the Dead”-like scenario where the entire city of New York was infected with symbiotes. The game saw Spidey choosing between a good and evil path that involved team-ups with Wolverine, the Black Cat and others and — if you can get past the horrible voice acting — there’s a lot of fun web-swinging in there too.

Do you have a favorite video game Marvel Team Up? Let us know in the comments!

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