Spider-Man Evolved: A Video Game Retrospective

Spider-Man, as a character, is fast approaching his 50th anniversary in comics. Andhile his video game exploits don’t run nearly as long (yet), ol’ web-head has seen his fair share of adventure in the realm of gaming. With the impending launch of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, we’re paying tribute to the red and blue pajama web-slinger with a video game history lesson, covering the past twenty years of Spidey adventures; from the Commodore days to the current next gen gaming landscape.

1990: The Amazing Spider-Man

Developed in 1990 for Commodore’s Amiga system, "The Amazing Spider-Man" (pictured left) was an action platformer with Spidey out on a mission to save his wife Mary Jane from the fish-bowl helmet clutches of his nemesis Mysterio. In order to find and save his wife, Spider-Man needed to navigate a series of environments inspired by classic film, designed by Mysterio the cinephile. The early/mid 90’s were a good time for ol’ web-head in the realm of video games, and it all started here with "The Amazing Spider-Man" by Oxford Digital Enterprises.

1990: The Amazing Spider-Man vs. Kingpin (aka Spider-Man)

"The Amazing Spider-Man vs. Kingpin" was the first Spider-Man title to hit Sega’s consoles. The game premiered on the Master System and was later ported over to the Mega Drive/Genesis, Game Gear, and finally the Sega CD. The game was a critical success, noted for its faithful adaptation of the comic characters to video game form, as well as its winks and nods to the Spidey mythos; like taking photos and selling them to the Daily Bugle in order to purchase more web-fluid. Also, depending which platform you purchased the game for, you were treated to different levels, updated graphics and minor improvements to gameplay. For Sega CD players, there were also alternate endings, one of which saw Mary Jane thrown in a vat of acid with the Kingpin escaping. Ouch, Spidey, tough break.

1991-1993: The Amazing Spider-Man (Game Boy trilogy)

From 1991 to 1993, three Spider-Man games were created for the Nintendo Game Boy. The first, entitled "The Amazing Spider-Man," was created by Rareware and saw Peter Parker donning the red and blue on a quest to, once again, save Mary Jane from a group of supervillains. The second title, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," released the following year, this time developed by B.I.T.S., and was a side-scrolling beat-um-up were Spidey attempted to clear his name after being set-up by the Hobgoblin and wrongly accused for crimes committed. Finally, in 1993 the same team that developed the sequel, B.I.T.S., released the third title in the trilogy, "Spider-Man 3: Invasion of the Spider-Slayers." This game’s story ran in tandem with a storyline currently sweeping through the Spidey comics where Manhattan was being attacked by deadly spider robots.

1992: Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six

"Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six" was the first Spider-Man video game on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game was developed by B.I.T.S. (developer of the Game Boy Spidey trilogy) and was an action platformer with Spider-Man trying to beat each member of the Sinister Six; Electro, Sandman, Mysterio, Hobgoblin, Vulture and Doc Octopus. The game was later ported over to Sega’s consoles and featured updated graphics.

1992: Spider-Man/X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge

Don’t let the title fool you, this was was not an arcade, coin-op title. Instead, the title refers to the game’s villain, who had captured four members of the X-Men (Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm and Gambit), making it Spider-Man’s job to rescue them and save the day. That’s right, Spidey saving Wolverine’s ass. This game was also the first Spidey title to release cross platform in the 16-bit era, first on the Super Nintendo in 1992, later on the Mega Drive/Genesis in 1993. "Spider-Man/X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge" was later ported to the Game Boy and Game Gear handhelds.

1994: Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage

Being a gamer of the 16-bit era, that red game shell is hard to forget. In the mid 1990s, Marvel kicked down the doors with two major Spider-Man storylines in the pages of the comic, both of which were adapted into video games. The first title was "Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage" (pictured below right) releasing on the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive/Genesis in 1994. The game featured a plethora of characters from the entire Marvel Universe and is widely regarded one of the greatest Spider-Man video games of all time, mostly due to the nostalgia factor amongst gamers.

1995: Spider-Man and Venom: Separation Anxiety

As mentioned prior, the second Spider-Man video game based off a major comic storyline in the mid 1990s was "Separation Anxiety." Much like its predecessor, "Maximum Carnage," "Separation Anxiety" was a side-scrolling beat-um-up where you played as Spider-Man or Venom and set out to stop the evil symbiote Carnage. "Separation Anxiety" also featured a surplus of Marvel cameos, but was unfortunately met with much less fanfare than "Maximum Carnage."

1995: Spider-Man

Due to the success of "Spider-Man: The Animated Series," Western Technologies and publisher Acclaim released "Spider-Man" for the Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, incorporating elements from the wildly popular cartoon. Much like previous Spidey games, "Spider-Man" was a side-scrolling action platformer. However, the list of boss characters was quite impressive with everyone from The Owl, Rhino, Hammerhead and Green Goblin represented. "Spider-Man" also featured an appearance by the Fantastic Four.

1996: Spider-Man: Web of Fire

By 1996 the Sega 32X was dying. As one of the last titles released for the add-on, Sega teamed with Acclaim to publish their first Spidey game since "The Amazing Spider-Man vs. Kingpin." The new title, "Spider-Man: Web of Fire," saw Spidey teaming up with Daredevil to stop a HYDRA invasion of New York City. However, the game did not perform well critically, being panned for its ridiculous difficulty, awful controls and sub-par visuals.