Marvel’s popular web-slinger has appeared in a number of video games over the past few years, and a lot of them have started to adapt more to his style of roaming around an open city world, flinging webs with each move he makes and battling any criminals he spots on the street. But his games weren’t always this way – there were also a number of old-school favorites, like his side-scrolling efforts Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin on the Sega Genesis and Sega CD, Maximum Carnage for Sega Genesis and Super NES, and Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge for the 16-bit consoles.
But even with all these great games on the market, there are easily a few Spider-Man video game appearances that you might have missed. Not only did Spidey partake in his own adventures, but he also guest starred in a couple of other titles. And he got his start in video games far further back than you may realize – we’re talking 1982, folks.
Let’s take a look now at some noteworthy Spider-Man video games and guest appearances that you might have missed – unless you’re a true web-head, in which case, we greet you with a mighty “Excelsior!”
Spider-Man’s Humble Beginnings
After the surprising success of Superman on the Atari 2600, Parker Bros. decided to give the superhero market a try with the system, debuting Spider-Man in 1982. In this self-titled game, the web-slinger makes his way up a building, defusing bombs left behind by the Green Goblin. But there’s a catch – there’s a timer that basically acts as how much web fluid Spidey has left, and if it manages to run out before he can defuse the “super bomb” at the top of the building, he loses a life. While Spider-Man for Atari 2600 has very basic gameplay, it’s true to the comic book material – and good fun to play.
Oh, and if you really want to know where Spidey got his start in the arcades, try tracking down his old-school pinball machine. It’s great.
Let’s Pay A Visit To the Arcade
1991 was a great time for Marvel-licensed arcade games. Data East found some big-time popularity with its Captain America & the Avengers four-player game, while Sega followed suit with its own multiplayer adventure, featuring Spider-Man, Sub-Mariner, Hawkeye (who was also in Captain America) and Black Cat. The game featured a who’s who of Spidey’s classic villains, from Scorpion to Kingpin to Venom, and didn’t let up with its Final Fight style combat. The action also zoomed out on occasion, where players could shoot projectiles at enemies (like Spidey’s webbing) and climb up to new areas.
The game saw moderate success in arcades, but, sadly, Sega opted never to bring the experience home, unlike Data East did with Captain America for Sega Genesis.
Spider-Man Versus…a Ninja?
Sega really wanted to go all out with its sequel to its hit ninja franchise Shinobi on the Sega Genesis, and it did just that, providing better visuals, more gameplay tactics, and a bigger challenge level than the first game could ever muster. But it also created a unique boss battle where Joe Musashi, the main character, would face off against a shape-shifter with unique abilities – namely to transform into different characters, like Godzilla, Batman and Spider-Man. (Unofficially, mind you.)
As a result, Sega faced legal trouble and had to make some modifications with later versions of the game, although it was able to keep Spidey intact since the company already had the rights to his character for another game, The Amazing Spider-Man. You’ll notice, when playing this game, the legal trademark leading up to the title screen.
Still, Spidey versus a ninja. Now that’s a battle worth watching.
Helping Out Frank Castle
In 1990, LJN released a shooting game for the NES called The Punisher, filled with the kind of mayhem you could expect to find in a game featuring Frank Castle. It would later go on to be re-released for the Game Boy, under Acclaim, with the co-name The Ultimate Payback! The gameplay is about the same – you shoot non-stop at enemies while using an on-screen cursor – but it features regular cameo appearances from Spider-Man, who swings in and saves innocent people on occasion. While it’s not nearly as meaty an appearance as he’s made in other games, it does add some star power to the game – and it is fun to see him swoop in and lend Castle a hand.
Webbing + Skateboard = Spidey Hawk
Spider-Man has made some great guest appearances in games over the years, but nothing will top his work in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. Following the release of his self-titled game for PlayStation, Neversoft, the developers behind that game and the Tony Hawk sequel, opted to make him an unlockable guest star in the sequel. He’s got plenty of sweet moves too, such as being able to spin a skateboard, grab it with webbing, and repositioning himself before he lands. Plus, the team thought it would be cool to give Spidey his own bonus unlockable video, with a skateboarder wearing his trademark costume.
He’s probably one of Pro Skater’s best guest characters…and, yes, that’s including Star Wars’ Darth Maul.
BONUS: The End of the 32X Era
To put it bluntly, the Sega 32X was a dud. Sega’s attempt to jump into the 32-bit market with a Sega Genesis add-on just didn’t cut it like the team was expecting. It closed out its run with the release of Spider-Man: Web of Fire, a side-scrolling adventure game where Spidey finds himself head-to-head against HYDRA as they hold the city hostage utilizing a giant electrical grid placed over the city. While the action is only decent compared to other games at the time (including Sega’s previous Amazing Spider-Man game, which is a cult classic), it still garnered a good deal of attention from collectors. In fact, copies usually go on eBay for $150 and higher, and even higher with case and inserts.