Despite being more than 53 years old, the X-Men are in pretty good shape.
With Hugh Jackman’s grizzled turn in Logan winning rave reviews, Legion wowing on the small screen, a follow-up to Apocalypse in production, and multiple comic books still running, the franchise is more than capable of keeping fans interested.
Of course, Marvel’s mutants are no strangers to video games either. The quality of their virtual outings varies wildly, from the excellent to the virtually unplayable (we’re looking at you, X-Men: The Official Game on Nintendo DS!).
Today, though, we’re just focusing on the best …
X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse
Capcom’s second X-Men game was celebrated when it hit the market in 1994, and it’s still a lot of fun today.
You’re given the chance to play as five X-Men, probably the most popular characters of the 90s – Cyclops, Beast, Psylocke, Wolverine, and Gambit. The gameplay is platform / combat based, as you’d expect given the era, but each hero has their own goals and moves, which helps to keep things fresh.
The plot packs in a lot of great stuff, including Genosha, the Brood, Apocalypse, Omega Red, and more X-Men material of the time.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine – Uncaged Edition
Okay, so the first Wolverine movie may have been a disappointment (to be kind), but it did spawn one great tie-in game.
Unlike the other versions released on other platforms, the X-Men Origins: Wolverine – Uncaged Edition is a lot of fun, allowing us to play the visceral, blood-splattered Logan game we’d always wanted to.
Slicing through endless thugs really made Logan’s adamantium claws feel as lethal as they should, and the fast-moving, high-octane action made the game a blast from start to finish. Sure, it was pretty short, but it showed how great Logan’s tie-ins could be with a little imagination.
X-Men Legends was something of a departure from previous tie-ins when it hit back in 2004. Rather than playing with Marvel’s merry mutants in a scrolling beat-em-up / platformer or fighting game, this was an RPG mixed with action – kind of a Baldur’s Gate: X-Men Edition.
This terrific game really made you feel like you were a part of the team: not only were you free to explore the mansion, you also got to speak with other characters hanging around the various rooms, try simulations in the Danger Room, and even play ‘flashbacks’ (basically levels based on iconic moments from the series’ past).
Getting to put your own team together was a blast, as was levelling them up and changing their costumes. There was a ton of content to unlock along the way, and countless nods to the comic-books’ history, with Sentinels, the Shadow King, and even Asteroid M showing up.
If you can get your hands on a copy, give it a go. It still stands up today.
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse
Released just a year after the first X-Men Legends, Rise of Apocalypse was an improvement in some areas, a slight disappointment in others. For a start, the graphics didn’t appear quite as polished as before, and some of the environments were less appealing.
Still, the roster was increased significantly, with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants free to play. You could make a team comprising Magneto, Mystique, Cyclops, and Jean Grey (for example), as well as plenty of other combinations. Heck, you could even unlock Deadpool and Iron Man later in the game.
X-Men Legends II is definitely one to play if you can get it, especially for hardcore fans.
X-Men: The Arcade Game
When this was released waaay back in 1992, Konami gave as many as six players the chance to step into the boots of their favourite X-Men. Cyclops, Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, Dazzler, and (of course) Wolverine were all up for grabs, with their own abilities.
It’s a side-scrolling beat-em-up in the vein of Final Fight, Streets of Rage etc., and still plays nicely today. The graphics are bold and bright, while the characters all control as they should, with some nice environments and villains along the way.
It may not be the best X-Men game ever made, or the most original, but this is easily one of the strongest of the team’s virtual adventures.
X-Men vs. Street Fighter
Two of the biggest franchises of the 90s just HAD to come together one way or another, right?
X-Men vs. Street Fighter came along in 1996, five years after the mutants’ comic-book broke records with Chris Claremont & Jim Lee’s superstar run (the first issue apparently sold more than 8m copies!), and the unforgettable Street Fighter II saw release.
The game obviously shared its playing style with Capcom’s iconic brawler, but introduced the ability to switch between two characters in the same battle (which increased to three in later Marvel / Capcom crossovers).
The X-Men roster featured a decent mix of heroes and villains, with the usual suspects all available (Gambit, Juggernaut, Magneto, Rogue, Sabretooth etc). It’s still pretty weird to see these characters on-screen with Capcom legends like Chun-Li, Ryu, and Akuma, but the gameplay rocked – as fast-paced and challenging as Street Fighter usually is.
Outside of the arcade, though, your experience of X-Men VS Street Fighter would have varied, depending on whether you bought the PS1 or Saturn version. The former was stripped-back and had no tag-team fights, which came as a bit of a blow, while the latter managed to be a terrific port of the original game.
X-Men Mutant Academy 2
The first Mutant Academy was released in summer 2000, to coincide with the first X-Men movie, but while it had a nice roster of fighters and costumes from the film (which were incredibly dull), the game failed to set the world alight.
Still, when Mutant Academy 2 arrived on the PS1 after just over a year, Paradox Development had made some impressive improvements.
For a start, there were more characters, with the likes of Nightcrawler, Havok, Forge, and Psylocke available to play (as well as Spider-Man, if you unlocked him). The environments, gameplay, and modes had been tweaked too, for a fuller, more rounded experience.
For X-Men fans, there was plenty to enjoy, but it wasn’t perfect: the difficulty tended to be pretty high, and some combos were too tricky for their own good.
X-Men 2: Clone Wars
X-Men 2: Clone Wars (not to be confused with the clone wars from another huge franchise) was the sequel to the 1993 Sega Genesis / Mega Drive game (which we’ll get to later).
Based on a comic series running at the time, this saw several X-Men struggling to bring down an alien race, the Phalanx, who have a nasty habit of cloning other mutants in their quest to take over the world.
The graphics were, and still are, gorgeous, with colourful environments and well-detailed sprites. Gambit, Beast, Psylocke, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and Cyclops were all available to play as, while well-known locations (the Savage Land) and enemies (Apocalypse, Sentinels) featured prominently.
X-Men: Children of the Atom
X-Men: Children of the Atom was Capcom’s first fighting game based around the iconic mutants, and came before their crossover with Street Fighter.
This tied in to the beloved animated series (still an incredible watch), and featured voice work from the show’s actors, with gameplay in the classic Capcom-brawler mould. Colossus and Iceman stood out from the usual crew on the heroes’ side, while villains included such favourites as Omega Red, Spiral, Silver Samurai, and Sentinels. Multi-tiered environments also appeared, and while they’re pretty par for the course now, it was fresh at the time.
Again, depending on the version of this you played, you’d either love it or … well, you probably wouldn’t hate it, but it wouldn’t blow you away either. The arcade and Saturn versions were praised, while the PS1 port suffered from a few technical issues that diluted the experience.
Nevertheless, this was an important step in the X-Men’s video-game career.
X-Men (Sega Genesis / Mega Drive)
The first X-Men game on the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive let you play as Gambit, Cyclops, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler; while each had their own recognisable abilities, these consumed energy. As a result, you had to depend on kicks and punches more than, say, Cyclops’ optic blasts or Gambit’s card-flinging tricks. While this might have been pretty frustrating at the time, it kept the game more challenging and made using said powers a little more special.
Meanwhile, the visuals were great and the gameplay was fun, but the difficulty tended to cause some irritation. There was also the infamous ‘reset button’ affair: later in the game, after beating the grotesque Mojo, you were told to ‘reset your computer’ to progress.
What did this mean? Cruelly, you had to tap your console’s reset button to move ahead – but if you hit it too hard or for too long, you’d find yourself back at the start, with no way to recover your lost progress. It was a clever idea, but did little to please gamers.
What’s your favourite X-Men video game? Let us know!