As a child I was introduced to a Saturday morning cartoon show called X-Men, it featured a unique group of super powered mutants and larger than life villains. As I grew older I noticed just how far past comic books the license had expanded with feature length films, toy lines and of course video games. Counting the Wolverine solo outings as well as appearances in supporting roles by random team members, the X-men have been featured in well over forty video games and its time we take a look at the top 5.
5. X-Men vs. Street Fighter (Arcade/PSX)
Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes would be the first fighting games to feature the X-Men. However, it would not be until X-Men vs Street Fighter that they would cement their place within the genre. It would be a rare occurrence to see me in an arcade playing a fighting game, as it is not a preferred genre of mine, unless it was this cabinet. This would be the game to bring Capcom’s ‘versus’ series to the main stream and would essentially launch its ever popular tag team fighting system. The controls were spot on and the graphics were colorful and vibrant. The exhilaration of seeing Wolverine and Ryu square off on screen for the first time simply could not be replicated.
4. X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse (SNES)
At the outset of this game you are presented with a stage select similar to that of other popular Capcom games like Mega Man. On each of these levels the player takes control of a different X-Man who plays uniquely and has their own set of special moves to match their mutant powers. The controls are solid which is necessary since mutant abilities are mapped to Street Fighter like button sequences. These initial levels only serve as a training ground of sorts as the missions that follow allow for any of the five characters to be used. Graphically this is the best of the 16 bit X-Men games with character models that are large, colorfully and beautifully rendered to resemble their Saturday morning cartoon counterpart. It was a blast to feel like a part of the cartoon with this game and it still holds up today.
3. X-Men (Arcade)
In the 80s, Marvel tried their hand at a cartoon of the X-Men by creating a pilot called “Pryde of the X-Men.” The episode was not very well received and a show never came to be, though I do strongly recommend checking it out. The silver lining however is that it would become the source material for an amazing arcade game. One of the more impressive aspects was a two screen version that housed up to six players. The gameplay was that of a traditional arcade beat em up featuring responsive controls, beautiful graphics and some infamously bad lines of voice acting like Magneto spouting “X-men, welcome to die.” It would be 18 years before we got a home version with a PSN remake. Infinite lives made this version much easier but there is no denying the fun of getting some friends together and facing off against the forces of Magneto.
2. X-Men 2: Clone Wars (Genesis)
Of the games based on the Saturday morning cartoon; this one falls short in the graphics department if matched up against Mutant Apocalypse. Characters are still recognizable to their counterparts but the sprites are a bit smaller with less detail and more of a dull color palette. Fortunately for Clone Wars it excels in every other category. The gameplay is smoother with a simpler control scheme, the music is top notch and the game even boasts a co-op mode. Characters really feel unique and have varying abilities that set them apart from one another. Wolverine can scale walls or ceilings, Nightcrawler can teleport to higher platforms and once unlocked Magneto allows the players to hover around freely. With fantastic levels, like an early one inside of a sentinel and some creative boss fights, this is one of the few games that made me sorry I didn’t have access to a Sega Genesis growing up.
1. X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (Multiplatform)
My hopes of the X-Men appearing in an RPG would finally come to be with the release of X-Men Legend and then promptly improved upon with its sequel. The story revolved around the imposing threat of Apocalypse forcing the X-Men to team with Magnetos brotherhood of evil mutants which resulted in a greatly expanded roster. Players would explore the world in a top down action RPG space with a fully customizable party of four. There was so much freedom in mixing and matching the team as characters leveled individually and the way they complimented one another changed. The adventure was lengthy, there was a ton of collectibles and the hub areas even had X-Men trivia stations. There isn’t a whole lot more that I can say about how great this game is other than that the one and only Patrick Stewart even returned to voice Professor X.