Spider-Man for the PS4 is fast approaching, and we all best be ready when it drops. I’ve been playing Spider-Man games since I was a kid. My first exposure to these games is what sparked my love of comics in general, and I have some pretty fond (and some pretty awful) memories of a lot of Spider-Man games growing up. Spider-Man games are a source of contention for a lot of fans out there, but here I’ve assembled my own personal list of the greatest, the top 5 Spider-Man games of all time (yes, I’m including The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America in Doctor Doom’s Revenge!) While you wait for the arrival of Spider-Man on the PS4, take a trip down memory lane and check out some of the best Spider-Man games to exist.
1. Ultimate Spider-Man (2005)
Why it’s good: The number one, absolute best Spider-Man game that exists right now in my completely unbiased and totally objective opinion is none other than Ultimate Spider-Man developed for the console by Treyarch. The game itself is based on the Ultimate Spider-Man comics, but the plot for the game itself actually predates the “War of the Symbiotes” arc in the comics.
What makes it different: The mechanics of this game were smooth, the world was fresh, and the story kept pulling you in with all kinds of twists, turns, and cameos from all over the Marvel world (seriously, it doesn’t get much more fun than throwing Wolverine’s motorcycle at him in a bar, or racing Johnny Storm around Manhattan). What made the Ultimate comics from Marvel special was how they took pre-existing stories, and characters and gave them new life with redesigns, new origins, and basically reimagining the entire world. The Ultimate Spider-Man game managed to capture just a small pocket of that and ran with it. Not only was the story great, but the game modes themselves were on point. Switching between Spider-Man and Venom was always a satisfying moment in the story, and the developers put in work between how the two play differently. Having to rely more on your reflexes, and stringing together fight combos between enemies as Spider-Man vs. the raw brutality of going on a Venom rampage really let you experience the game in completely different ways, and allowed for a fully fleshed out world. That’s not to mention the races, combat tours, and costume unlockables that were available in-game as well. Working towards a complete 100% of everything unlocked the Symbiote Spider-Man suit, and all the others were great nods to the Ultimate Spider-Man mythos as well.
2. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Why it’s good: Getting to play as an adult Peter Parker, based off of the script of the second Sam Raimi movie was immensely fun. Even with all the added side bosses, and missions, you got a game that really showed you both aspects of Peter Parker’s life (I mean, the dude’s so broke he had to double up and deliver pizzas as Spider-Man…I can still hear that theme music in my head). The cast of this game was seriously stacked; not only did they include everybody from the film, but they managed to add a few extras in the form of Shocker, Mysterio, Black Cat, and a few others. This is pretty typical for games based off of movies, but punching Mysterio right in the face and knocking him out with one hit gets extra points. That has to go down in history as one of the best boss fights in video-game history.
What makes it different: Ultimate Spider-Man really brought it with the swinging mechanics, but Spider-Man 2 was the game that first introduced the ability to swing from buildings and touch the ground on console. You could finally go off the island! Nothing could stop you. Even in Ultimate Spider-Man, there were barriers that limited access to certain areas, but in Spider-Man 2 you could go to Roosevelt Island, you could go to Ellis Island. In fact, it was part of one of your missions specifically to go to Liberty Island! It’s like this game was rubbing it into the faces of all the other Spider-Man games before it, that not only was web swinging different, but it was now limitless. The innovation of web-swinging alone is something to be thankful for, and the side missions, and random quests that pop up just further iterate what life is like in the life of a struggling Spider-Man. This game put you through it.
3. Spider-Man: Friend or Foe (2007)
Why it’s good: As the expression goes: keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. Who would’ve thought that a game that featured gameplay from some of Spider-Man’s most prolific villains from the Sam Raimi films would be such a huge success? I mean, I guess Beenox did. So good for them for having that foresight.
What makes it different: In this case, what makes it good, is pretty much the same as what makes it different. It’s not the typical Spider-Man game with the web swinging mechanics, but it plays a little bit more like the Ultimate Alliance games, where the emphasis is put on multiplayer combat, and synchronized controls. In other words, you won’t get far without your friends (or foes??) so choose wisely who you play with, and again, choose wisely who you play with, as any combination of hero/villain could mean the difference between a win, and a loss. This game has definitely caused a little bit of tension between friends who maybe aren’t as good at video-games, but consider it a bonding experience since the skill gap isn’t impossible to overcome.
4. Spider-Man (2000)
Why it’s good: It’s honestly hard to pinpoint what makes this game so good. For a lot of people around my age, this game is almost pure nostalgia, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a legitimately good game in there. All the unlockable suits, the rogues gallery, the story, everything just meshed together in such a crazy story that really made it feel like you were playing something straight out of a comic book. I mean, it starts out with Spider-Man being framed by a doppelganger for stealing a “reformed” Doc Ock’s science equipment, and who else is there, but Eddie Brock to get caught in the crossfire and blame Spider-Man for everything? If that’s not the most Spider-Man plot of anything you’ve ever read, then I don’t know what is.
What makes it different: This was pretty much the OG Spider-Man game. I mean, it’s not really, there are plenty of Spider-Man games before this one, but this one really nailed what it was like to feel like Spider-Man in a 3D environment. Like I said, it’s the one that sticks out in my memory as one of the first Spider-Man games I ever got to play, and it pretty much paved the way for everything we have today in terms of console games. It’s hard to say what makes this “different’ because this was one of the earliest Spider-Man games we got, and they set the bar pretty high. The bar was so high in fact that I could never even beat the game now that I think about it, but maybe that’s just me…
5. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (2010)
Why it’s good: So many Spider-Men, so many voice actors, so much history, all in one game. There’s a lot of creative drive going into this one, and the fact that each Spider-Man is voiced by a different voice actor who’s played Peter Parker in a past iteration of a Spider-Man TV show is just icing on the cake. This game plays like a mini Spider-Verse between the Amazing, Ultimate, Noir, and 2099 universes to give you the Spider-Men of the past, present, and future. It’s a beautiful amalgam of Spider-Man lore, all wrapped up in a fun game, and each Spider-Man has a pretty unique skill set in each universe (also yes, there are suit unlockables. All good Spider-Man games have suit unlockables).
What makes it different: Apart from the fact that it has 4 Spider-Men as the protagonists, instead of just one, and the uniting of all the voice actors under one roof, this game also doesn’t rely on web swinging a lot (in fact there’s no free roam, and not a lot of places to just swing around), but instead it focuses on the different play style of each hero, and makes you utilize their powers in different settings, putting emphasis on how each hero uses their skills. I’ve already pointed out the voice acting in this one, but it’s something that needs to be pointed out again because it’s pretty important: each Spider-Man is voiced by someone who has in the past given their talents to a previous Spider-Man property. To break it down: Neil Patrick Harris does the voice of the Amazing Spider-Man (he voiced Peter Parker in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series that was on MTV back in 2003), Christopher Daniel Barnes gives his voice to Spider-Man Noir (Barnes was the voice of Peter Parker in the 90’s animated Spider-Man TV series, so big nostalgia factor for a lot of people there), Josh Keaton voices Ultimate Spider-Man (Keaton has voiced Spidey a lot, but most notably as Peter Parker in the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series. You might also recognize him as Young Hercules from the Disney Hercules film), and finally Dan Gilvezan as Spider-Man 2099 (You’ll recognize the Spider-Man of the future as a blast from the past, as he voiced Peter in the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends cartoon in the 80’s). Not only does this game put emphases on individuality, but it specifically points out how individual characteristics are actually what make each of us stronger when we unite together…well, maybe not us but definitely Spider-Man.
- Web of Shadows (2008): This game was a lot of fun to play, and switching between the symbiote, and the classic suit lead to a bunch of different fight combos to take on your enemies. Not to mention that choosing an alignment meant choosing who you could/couldn’t call into battle to help, and also determined the fate of New York City, but the game itself just seemed…sloppily put together. There were a few clunks, and it never seemed to run as smoothly as it should’ve even though the content and the story was fun.
- Amazing Spider-Man (2012): This game was actually a lot of fun. It was based on the film, and the web swinging/web zip mechanics felt like a breath of fresh air. The fighting style gets compared a lot to the Arkham Asylum games, which is a fair comparison to make, but that just makes the combat all the more fun as you try and string together the best combos along with your spider-sense and your upgrades. And of course, there are some dope suit unlockables, this time with different stats and boosts for each one!
- Spider-Man (2002): This is just getting a mention because it was dope to fly around as the Green Goblin with that cheat code.
What was your favorite Spider-Man game? Did it make the list? Be sure to share the article, and go back and replay your favorite Spidey games (and maybe check out a few you missed) in preparation for Spider-Man for PS4 swinging through September 7th!