With Spider-Man: Homecoming opening to nearly $200 million worldwide and 2018’s Spider-Man game for PlayStation 4 being one of the most talked about games at this year’s E3, the webslinger is as hot as ever. The latter in particular is interesting as many are wondering if it’s going to be Spider-Man‘s best game of all time. With developer Insomniac at the helm– creators of Spyro the Drgaon, Ratchet & Clank, Resistance, and Sunset Overdrive— the potential is definitely there for it to be Spidey’s defining video game experience.
As we all wait as patiently as we can for Spider-Man’s next game, it’s the perfect time to look back at all of his previous ones. In addition to being extremely prolific in video games going back to almost the beginning of the medium, Spider-Man also has one of the better records in terms of quality within his game repertoire. There are some stinkers, sure, and other comic characters have best games that are way better than Spidey’s best games. But taken as a whole, it’s tough to argue that any single comic book character has had a better overall video game career.
This list is only about dedicated Spider-Man games, so it won’t have games he co-headlined with outside properties or games where he just makes a cameo or is part of a big ensemble.
Here is Every Spider-Man Video Game, Ranked From Worst To Best.
22. The Amazing Spider-Man / The Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie games (2012-14, multiplatform)
The game based around the Andrew Garfield/Emma Stone Spider-Man reboot movie was unremarkable and didn’t do anything that better modern Spider-Man games had already done much better. Unless you just absolutely needed to play a game based on that movie, there was no reason not to just play one of the multiple better Spider-Man games of the era instead.
The follow-up game, based on the follow-up movie, was an absolute disaster. The biggest problem is that the entire game just felt buggy and unpolished, likely a victim of having to be pushed out the door before it was finished in order to coincide with the movie’s release.
Worse, Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an unpolished version of a game that wasn’t going to be anything special to begin with. It simply retreads the same ground that a dozen Spider-Man games had done before– and without any of the innovation that some of the more interesting games, like Shattered Dimensions, brought to the formula.
21. Spider-Man: Battle for New York (2006, Game Boy Advance/Nintendo DS)
There are times when handheld systems are actually the best place for licensed games. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for instance, have generally had better handheld games in recent years than console ones. Even Spider-Man is a great example of this phenomenon, as the DS version of the Spider-Man 3 movie game is great while the console versions are anything but.
There are other times when handheld systems remind the world that they are often the place for companies to shovel their quick cash-in garbage. Spider-Man: Battle of New York for GBA and DS is definitely such a game, seeming as though it was made in about six months and for no other reason than to fool some well-meaning grandmas to buy it as Christmas presents because it has a character in it that their grandchildren like.
20. The Amazing Spider-Man (1990, various computer systems)
The coolest thing about this early Spider-Man computer game is that Spidey’s health is represented by a drawing of him on the right side of the screen that gradually turns into a skeleton the more damage he takes. Actually, that’s the only thing that is cool about this game.
Like many games of the era, The Amazing Spider-Man was a screen-by-screen, puzzle-based game. Just because the Amiga wasn’t capable of handling a Spider-Man character that could swiftly swing across the screen while wiping out a gang of bad guys and scaling massive skyscrapers doesn’t make the design decisions in this game any less frustrating – or any more Spider-Man-like.
19. Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six (1992-93, NES/Master System/Game Gear)
If you were a Marvel character who tried to have an NES game, you were going to have a bad time– the X-Men, Silver Surfer, Wolverine, and The Punisher all had pretty abysmal showings on Nintendo’s iconic 8-bit machine. Unfortunately, Spider-Man was no different with his cringe-inducing Return of the Sinister Six— which wasn’t made any better in its ports to the Sega Master System or Game Gear.
There isn’t much specific to say about Return of the Sinister Six that didn’t also apply to most licensed games of that era–cheaply- and quickly-made attempts to shoehorn some recognizable character into a generic, lifeless platform game that probably only needed to sell a few thousand copies to make its money back.
18. Spider-Man Animated Series Game (1995, SNES/Genesis)
Prior to the 2002 Sam Raimi film, the first major breakthrough for Spider-Man outside of comic books was the mid-90s animated series– the acclaimed show is still considered one of the best adaptations of a comic book property to date. It’s too bad that the video game version didn’t fare quite as well.
While the SNES version looks, plays, and sounds a bit better than its Genesis counterpart, they both suffer from poor production values– especially unforgivable as the game launched in 1995, when the 16-bit systems were in their twilight period and seeing games that pushed them to their technical limits.
It was commendable that the game tried to break from the standard beat-em-up mold of previous Spidey games, but doing something different isn’t always automatically doing something better. The controls are the worst offender: Spider-Man is one of the most nimble, agile characters in the history of anything– to have him in a game with imprecise, stilted controls is basically pointless.
17. Spider-Man: Friend or Foe (2007, multiplatform)
After the fantastic Ultimate Spider-Man, Spidey’s video games hit a bit of a rough patch in the mid-aughts. Following the previously mentioned Battle for New York and the disappointing game based on the third Tobey Maguire film came Spider-Man: Friend or Foe.
Despite an interesting premise– Spidey has to team up with his most well-known villains to battle an all-new evil– the game itself is a slog. Apart from being way too easy, the entire game boringly consists of entering an area with a blocked path that requires you to beat all the enemies in order to advance. That’s basically it, repeated ad nauseam, against a horde of completely generic and frequently repeating enemy types.
16. The Spider-Man 3 movie games (2007, multiplatform)
The previous Spider-Man movie games bucked two major trends– they were good games based on a comic book property and good games based on a movie. However, considering that the Spider-Man 3 movie was an absolute mess, it was inevitable that its video game tie-in would follow suit and thus break the streak of the previous entries.
The Xbox 360/PlayStation 3/PC versions of the game were mostly just too similar to the previous two games– minus the polish, interesting foes, or engaging story. And oddly, unlike the other versions, the black suit couldn’t be put on and taken off at will, instead having the game force you to change into and out of it as the story dictated. The Wii version had motion controls for fighting and web-swinging, and that turned out as poorly as you assume it would.
The DS version, however, is the anomaly here, and the only reason the game didn’t rank even lower on the list. Surprisingly, Spider-Man 3 for DS ended up being an extremely solid Spider-Man title, featuring fun, stylus-based gameplay.
15. Spider-Man (1982, Atari 2600)
While rankings like this are largely about judging each item directly against the others, they should also look at how each item sat in its particular place and time in comparison to how the rest did. To that end, Spider-Man for Atari 2600 is a surprisingly good adaptation of the character into the extremely limited technology of the time.
Compared to, say, the Superman game for Atari– which was about flying around and picking up pieces of a bridge for some reason– Spider-Man actually somewhat plays out the way a Spidey comic would, with the hero scaling a building and avoiding hazards on the way. You can look at a screenshot of the game and immediately recognize what it’s supposed to be, which is a lot more than you can say about most licensed Atari 2600 games. Most impressive is the web swinging, which actually has a decent amount of complexity and physics for their time.
14. The Game Boy Spider-Man trilogy (1990-1993)
Other than the absolute top-tier Game Boy games like Link’s Awakening, Super Mario Land 2, Pokémon, etc, Nintendo’s handheld was largely home to “good enough” at best versions of games and licenses that were done better on proper consoles. We were willing to forgive the low visual fidelity, bad audio, lack of color, and generally short lengths of Game Boy games for the sake of being able to play them on long car trips or while lying in bed at night.
The trio of Spider-Man games for the platform are certainly not top-tier games, and instead teeter just on the edge of good enough when taken as a whole. The Amazing Spider-Man is as rough as most 1990 Game Boy games but is still fun for the 45 minutes or so it takes to beat it. Its direct sequel improved things a bit, smartly being more of a beat-em-up than a bland platform game. The last of the three titles, Invasion of the Spider-Slayers, is the worst of the bunch; a nearly-unplayable mess – especially unforgivable considering how much better Game Boy games had gotten by 1993.
13. Spider-Man / Spider-Man 2: The Sinister Six (2000-01, Game Boy Color)
The Game Boy Color was an odd system– not quite a true successor, but more than just an upgrade to the original Game Boy, the platform was a way for Nintendo to eke a few more years out of the Game Boy’s decade-long dominance without having to fully invest in a proper “next-gen” handheld yet.
There was definitely a boost in horse power from the Game Boy to the Game Boy Color, as demonstrated by how much better Spidey looked in his GBC outings. No longer did gamers have to squint at a clump of grey pixels that vaguely resembled the webcrawler– Spider-Man finally looked like Spider-Man on a Game Boy screen.
The first of the two games was the handheld counterpart to the excellent 2000 Spider-Man game for PlayStation, and while not quite on par with that game, it was still a solid little portable action game. The follow-up, The Sinister Six, was a bit better, in part because it was free to be its own game and didn’t have to be structured like a shrunken-down port to a console game.
12. Spider-Man: Web of Fire (Sega 32X)
Web of Fire was the victim of bad timing, not hitting stores until after Sega had already declared their ill-fated 32X platform dead. As such, the press all but ignored the game. Web of Fire got so little post-release coverage that there’s a common misconception that the game was canceled and never actually got released.
Well, it certainly did get released, only in very small quantities– and as such, Web of Fire has become highly sought-after among collectors– the small amount of copies that are available regularly go for well over $100. It is generally considered one of the few must-have games for the short-lived 32X system. But is that only because of how rare it is?
As a matter of fact, Web of Fire belongs in everybody’s 32X collection because it is one of the best games released for the system. The visuals are the star of the show, with Spidey sporting some of his fastest, smoothest animation to date. There isn’t anything exceedingly revolution about the gameplay, but it’s a very well-made 2D Spider-Man action game.
11. Spider-Man: Edge of Time (2011, multiplatform)
Modern Spider-Man games haven’t been shown in a positive light on this list so far, but Edge of Time is definitely among Spidey’s better recent games. At the time of its release, people were a little too hard on Edge of Time for failing to live up to its excellent predecessor, Shattered Dimensions, and for being a more straightforward Spider-Man game. A little distance has come to show that Edge of Time is a much better Spidey game than people originally gave it credit for.
Maybe a straight-up Shattered Dimensions 2 is what people wanted, and maybe that’s what developer Beenox should’ve delivered. But the company deserves credit for not resting on its laurels and going a slightly different way with its second crack at a Spider-Man game.
Edge of Time still plays a bit with the whole “multiple Spider-Men” thing by having players switch between present-day Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099. Although their play styles and the aesthetics of their respective worlds aren’t as drastically different as Shattered Dimensions, it still does a fine job of keeping the game from feeling like a standard Spidey adventure.
10. Spider-Man / Spider-Man Vs. The Kingpin (1990-93, various Sega platforms)
While they varied slightly in title, the Spider-Man games released in the early ’90s for the Sega Master System, Genesis, Game Gear, and Sega CD were roughly all different versions of the same core game. The Genesis version, simply titled Spider-Man, is the most well-known, and it was said that over half of Genesis owners at the time of the game’s release bought the game.
While the Master System and Gear Gear versions were naturally slightly stripped-down versions of the Genesis game, the Sega CD game– taking on the extended title of Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin— really blew it out by taking advantage of the CD-ROM format. Among the additions to the already-great game were animated cutscenes with voice acting, new attacks, two additional levels, a new CD-quality soundtrack, and a slightly more non-linear structure.
9. Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage / Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety (1994-95, SNES/Genesis)
In the mid-90s, the villain known as Carnage had becoming Spidey’s biggest bad– so much so that he had to team up with arch-nemesis Venom to stop him. This was represented in a pair of beat-em-ups that allowed gamers to play as both Spider-Man and Venom and take down Carnage together.
The Double Dragon-style beat-em-up had long been a vessel for bringing comic book properties with gaming, going back to the’ 80s with the Superman arcade game and into the ’90s with Captain America and the Avengers and X-Men. To be honest, all of these games are pretty much the same and none of the do much to reinvent the wheel– but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a blast to play.
Not being an arcade game first meant that the two Spider-Man/Venom games had fairer, more balanced difficulty that wasn’t specifically designed to bilk gamers of their quarters. Not having to design the levels to allow for 4+ characters made for tighter stages and pacing.
8. The Spider-Man movie games (2002)
As previously mentioned, 2002 wasn’t the best time for video games based on comic properties or movie properties. In spite of Spidey‘s recent resurgence as a strong video game brand, there was cause to be skeptical of the movie tie-in game of the first Spider-Man film. However, the game ended up serving as a both a solid tribute to a great movie, and a worthy next-gen follow-up to the previous two Spider-Man console games.
Spider-Man games hadn’t quite gone open world yet, so this game is still a fairly straightforward level-by-level affair. Interestingly, the game has stretches where you play as Peter Parker in his early attempt at a Spider-Man costume, mostly just a red hoodie with a spider drawn on it.
The outside areas are the main draw here, using the added horsepower of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox to represent Spider-Man swinging high above the streets of New York in a way never before possible.
7. Spider-Man: The Video Game (1991, arcade)
Although Spider-Man: The Arcade Game doesn’t seem to have the same level of nostalgia as its peers X-Men or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game, it certainly deserves to as it is every bit as good.
This Sega-developed arcade brawler team Spidey with Black Cat, Hawkeye, and Submariner, and in a neat twist, there are segments of the game where the view zooms out and it turns into a platformer before coming in close again and resuming being a beat-em-up. It helps to keep the action fresh, which is one of the biggest problems with games in this genre.
It’s really too bad that this game never came to a home system, especially since it was developed by Sega, who obviously had a deal with Marvel to develop Spider-Man games for consoles several more years at least. Spider-Man: The Arcade Game has become a bit obscure for no particular reason, which is tragic since it’s one of Spidey’s best games.
6. Spider-Man: Web of Shadows (2008, multiplatform)
Following the Spider-Man 3 movie games and Friend orFoe, Spidey was officially in a slump in his video game career. Fortunately, Web of Shadows was just the game to set him back on the right track.
Featuring exciting aerial battles, an interesting original story, incredible boss fights, and visuals that finally brought Spidey to the “HD era” properly, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Web of Shadows were a treat for Spider-Man fans.
The PlayStation 2 and Wii versions went an interesting 2.5D route that wasn’t as good, but was still a better approach than just being a worse-looking port of the other games. And the DS Web of Shadows integrated a bit of Metroid/Castlevania-style exploration and turned it into more of an adventure game.
The main things keeping Web of Shadows from true greatness are its repetitive nature, and some glitchiness that should’ve been fixed before the game got out the door. Still, it was an announcement to the world that all of Spidey’s good games weren’t already behind him.
5. Spider-Man: Mysterio’s Menace (2001, Game Boy Advance)
Vicarious Visions, the developers of the two Game Boy Color Spider-Man games, already had the groundwork laid for a great handheld Spidey game. The company put that experience to use with Mysterio’s Menace for GBA, which is not only the best 2D Spider-Man game of all time but one of Spidey’s best games, period.
For starters, Mysterio’s Menace is gorgeous, with beautiful animation on the characters and multi-layered, photo-realistic backgrounds. The music is phenomenal in Mysterio’s Menace, even having the music from a night club sound muffled when Spider-Man is outside the club, then crisp and loud after he enters it. The game also controls like a dream, having both the tightest and funnest gameplay of any 2D Spider-Man game. Despite being a handheld game, Mysterio’s Menace even plays a bit with being non-linear, letting players jump all around to various points of the game at will– not to mention the open-endedness of the levels themselves.
4. The Spider-Man 2 movie games (2004, multiplatform)
It’s interesting that, while web-swinging has always been one of the most fundamental aspects of Spider-Man as a character, most of his games kind of treated it as an afterthought. It wasn’t until the games based on the second Spider-Man movie that an advanced, physics-based system was built to allow for true three-dimensional web-swinging.
In fact, the web-swinging system in Spider-Man 2 was so well done that you could have fun literally just swinging around the city for hours and hours. Coincidentally, it was also the first truly open-world, sandbox-style Spider-Man game, so players were free to do just that. But Spider-Man 2 isn’t just a web-swinging simulator– there is also a fantastic action/adventure game underneath all of that satisfying swinging. You’re free to either progress through the story missions, do the many side quests, or ideally, a combination of the two.
3. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (2010, multiplatform)
Most comic book characters don’t only have one definitive “version”. Adaptations outside of comics typically just pick one particular version as a basis and rarely ever try and explore different interpretations of a character within one movie/game/etc. Developer Beenox decided to do just that with the excellent Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.
Shattered Dimensions takes four different Spider-Man universes and puts them together into a single game, with each having a distinct look, feel, and play style.
The Amazing Spider-Man universe is the traditional one as seen in most Spidey games; Spider-Man Noir is a stealth-based game in a largely colorless world; Spider-Man 2099 gives Spidey a cybernetically-enhanced suit with added abilities; and Ultimate Spider-Man has Spidey using the powers of his Symbiote suit that gives him Venom-like abilities. And it goes beyond just different selectable characters, as each of the four worlds looks completely different than the rest, making them all feel like they are from separate games.
2. Spider-Man / Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro (2000-01, PlayStation/Nintendo 64/Dreamcast)
A Spider-Man game from the makers of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and at a time when there wasn’t a new movie or TV show to promote? It seemed like an odd idea, and most of us didn’t know what to make of it– until we played it. What we got was one of the best comic book-based video games of all time; a statement that still applies to this day.
Comic book characters hadn’t made the transition into 3D gaming very well– see Superman 64, for instance. But developer Neversoft took their already rock-solid THPS engine and built an amazing 3D action game that avoided all of the common traps and ended up being one of the most satisfying action games of the generation, period.
The technology wasn’t quite there yet for full 3D exploration of the city– you couldn’t go from the top of a skyscraper all the way down to the city below, for example– but at a time when we didn’t know any better, it felt like the most accurate Spider-Man virtual world possible.
1. Ultimate Spider-Man (2005, multiplatform)
After several years of Spidey’s video game outings having to be tied to corresponding movies, Ultimate Spider-Man was a game based directly on the comic books. This change was announced in the game’s striking visual style, which used cel shading to make the characters look like they jumped straight off the pages of the comic. Beyond that, Ultimate was a lot more over-the-top and fantastical than the games based on the live-action movies, which had left Spidey feeling a bit too grounded in boring reality for a lot of fans’ tastes.
The Ultimate game also brought people on board who worked on the comics, and they provided the basic drawings on which the character’s in-game models would be based, as well as writing every single line of dialogue. This dedication to authenticity showed through beautifully, and made for a game that felt more authentic than any Spidey game to date.
At the end of the day, Spider-Man is a comic book character first, and Ultimate is the game that best captures the essence of a Spider-Man comic rather than a Spider-Man movie, cartoon, etc. That basically makes it the best Spider-Man game by default.
What’s your favorite Spider-Man game? Sound off in the comments!
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