For nearly as long as there have been videogames, there have been videogames featuring Marvel heroes. Spider-Man for the Atari 2600? 1982. Since that blocky beginning, those games have come from nearly every studio imaginable, in every genre imaginable, for nearly every platform imaginable. Some of them were slapdash licensing plays; others loving tributes to the decades of mythology contained within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But each of them felt like a world unto itself—and if you’ve read comic books for any length of time, you usually know what happens next.
Like the comics themselves, the Marvel games grew into an unwieldy, inscrutable mountain of retcons and reboots—something that landed, on average, a few miles east of Canon and a block and a half from Weird-Ass Shit. (Hi, Captain America in: The Doom Tube of Dr. Megalomann!) That’s changing, though, and quickly. In a wide-ranging, supersized Comic-Con panel on Thursday, Marvel Games dove deep into three upcoming triple-A titles. These too span different genres and platforms, but they share something far more important: making sure everything is accessible to Marvel’s newest fans, while still rewarding its oldest.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, which not so coincidentally comes out today for Nintendo Switch, resuscitates an action-RPG franchise that dates back to 2006. Like its two predecessors, it’s a team dream run amok. As you play, you unlock character after character, and can throw them together in any quartet you like. The original MUA came out two years before Robert Downey Jr. put on the Iron Man suit and blasted Marvel into an entirely new realm of awareness; playing it then was the closest thing I’d ever felt to the seeing the breadth of the Marvel universe come to life. Now MUA3 is introducing more characters than ever—but the big difference is there are more people who know those characters than ever before.
“We’ve seen, in movies, the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man get together,” said game writer Marc Sumerak, “but we invited everyone to the party.” That stretches from mainstream mainstays like the X-Men to the Netflix-popularized Defenders to more arcane groupings like the Midnight Sons, as well as recent favorites like Miles Morales and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel. Playing the permutation game with dozens of characters isn’t just strategy—it’s fan fiction of the most gratifying kind. That goes for locations and battles as well. “When do you get to see the Guardians of the Galaxy fight Green Goblin, or Deadpool get to go to the Dark Dimension?” Sumerak asked.
After MUA3, the panel turned to Iron Man VR, a PlayStation VR title coming later this year from Seattle studio Camouflaj. The appeal here isn’t matchups or mythology as much as it is the sheer, unrestrained joy of flying; Iron Man’s helicopter-like flight pattern accommodates your natural standing position without asking your brain to make undue contortions. The panel didn’t show much footage from the game beyond a promotional video, but I played 20 minutes of it earlier this year, and can vouch for the fact that while VR is great for more than just gaming, it also happens to be great for flying through the air at 30,000 feet and shooting repulsor beams at enemy drones.