With the recent release of The Wolverine and sudden surge of marketing buzz for X-Men: Days of Future Past, I can’t help but consider all the X-Men video games I’ve owned. How could I forget a memory like being surprised with a Sega Genesis for my birthday, with a copy of X-Men included? After playing the game, I almost wish I could forget such memories! Every time a new mutant movie comes out, it’s just a painful reminder of all the X-Men games I played in the past and how each one was somehow more disappointing than the one I tried before it.
Here is a list of X-Men games I encountered, not in release order, but the order in which I experienced them.
Check out that anime influenced background!
X-Men is basically the gold standard for arcade beat ’em ups. Despite being based off a pilot for an animated series that was never picked-up, the game took players deep into the mutant universe. The arcade was notorious for coming in two player, four player, and six player modes which is still pretty mind-blowing today. If you were really lucky, your local bowling alley had the dual monitor version of the game. This was such a great introduction to X-Men video games for me and I’ve always been pretty baffled why it was never ported to Super Nintendo. The game was a just challenging enough to be fun and, besides, where else could you have played as Dazzler? With a rock solid title to start, little could I have anticipated the disaster train of games ahead.
X-Men (Sega Genesis)
Don’t get your hopes up, as you can’t even play as half of this group.
Wow! What a let down to go from the exciting arcade game to the Genesis version. With the game being simply titled X-Men, I kind of assumed it would be a port of the arcade game. Ha, ha, ha-rdly! Despite the rad Skate or Die! inspired music, the game was beyond hard. How hard? To put it in perspective, once you reach a point in the game that feels virtually unattainable, you hit a dead end. No on-screen cues, no hint of what to do, you just stand there. I once left my Genesis on overnight hoping to resolve this issue the next day, but it never happened. Years later, I read in a magazine that you were supposed to reset the system to continue playing. Since that was news I never heard on the playground, I assumed it was an April Fool’s article until I came across that same tip years later online! Aghhhh, this game had potential to be great but was almost literally impossible to beat. How were you supposed to know to reset the system? This still keeps me up at night, apparently.
The Uncanny X-Men (NES)
The color palette makes it a little difficult to see your character on screen.
This game was pretty hard to track down since it was released a few years before the hype surrounding the X-Men animated series and action figures. A friend of mine had a copy and loaned it to me. I really didn’t think it could get any worse than the Genesis game, but leave it to LJN never to disappoint. Imagine if Zombies Ate My Neighbors had been an 8-bit nightmare of a game with no basic concept of physics and you have The Uncanny X-Men. The worst part in my case was that someone anonymously broke this game at one of my birthday parties and I felt obligated to replace my friend’s copy. The only store in town that had it was a used game place that charged higher than new game prices for beat up ex-rental copies. Just as I had saved almost enough allowance to buy it, I told my friend what happened. He laughed and said it was a game he ended up with from someone else and that he hated the game even more than I did. After all that, he invited me to throw the game in the trash. I felt like the biggest Doug Funnie ever.
Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge (SNES)
Cyclops and Storm stand center of attention in this Spider-Man game.
Looking back at video games in the early 1990s, it should have been a dead giveaway that a game was probably terrible if it was ported on every major system out there. This one was on Game Gear, Genesis, SNES, and Game Boy. I had the misfortune of playing the SNES take of the game. Going in, I fully accepted that Spider-Man was going to be the lead character in this game. I had no idea that the controls would be so awful that I’d never make it past the first level to ever actually see any of the X-Men in action. Honestly, I wasn’t convinced they were even in the actual game. I assumed it was all a big conspiracy from some marketing team that realized nobody would ever make it too far in the game, so they could just slap a sticker on the cartridge that promised X-Men without actually having to deliver.
X-Men (Game Gear)
This game uses all the pixels.
Even by this point, I hadn’t learned that X-Men games were typically a let down. We were hitting the road for a few weeks on a family trip and I wanted a new game to get me through the journey. Instead of enjoying grand canyons and costumed mascots, I was busy sulking in my poor decision of a game purchase. As an excuse to have fewer characters, the game starts out with most of the team kidnapped. Great! So, you’re stuck with Wolverine walking around crap infested sewers or Cyclops joyriding on elevators. Mark this one down as yet another X-Men game I never beat, especially since the Game Gear’s batteries ran out before making it halfway through a single level.
X-Men: Children of the Atom (Arcade)
After being so disappointed with X-Men games ranging from mediocre to downright bad, X-Men: Children of the Atom came as a shock for being so good. Capitalizing on the Street Fighter craze, this game finally fulfilled the fantasies of “who would win in a fight between ______ and _____?” Cyclops vs. Sentinel? Go! Wolverine vs. Spiral? Okay! … I guess. Iceman vs. Iceman? Well, that type of battle didn’t work in this game. Much like the original X-Men arcade, the screen on this one lent itself to the fun-factor. It was the first arcade I encountered with a giant projector screen and the control sticks pushed out a few feet. Even the Sega Saturn port of this game was pretty decent, which says a lot considering it was the Saturn.
X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse (SNES)
X-Men: Mutants Constipated would have been a more appropriate title here.
With such a good experience from playing an X-Men game with Capcom behind the wheel, I thought I’d gamble some more summer savings on X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse. Sad trombones are basically the soundtrack to my childhood because this was another bust. Despite great music and arcade-style graphics, X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse suffers from the over-challenging aspects as the Genesis game did. I’m probably disappointed in this game more than any other because it feels like it should be a great game, but the difficulty level just completely annihilates any good vibes in the room. Even having Psylocke as a playable character didn’t save this one. Perhaps, Psylocke would have been better as an un-locke-able character. Hahahahahaha. Okay, that was pretty terrible.
Wolverine: Adamantium Rage (Sega Genesis)
Check out this cut scene of Wolverine’s brutal death by a robot girl.
At least, the title of this game was pretty accurate. Every time I played it, I got a severe case of adamantium rage myself and threw the controller across the room. This one wasn’t particularly fun and, was again, too much of a challenge right from the start. Even though I bought it for $10 brand new in a discount bin, I still didn’t feel it was worth the admission price. In a cruel twist, if you took your sweet timing exploring the levels, Elsie Dee showed up and blew you to smithereens. On the SNES version, she caused an instant Game Over. Yeah, that’s fun.
Wolverine did not permit his likeness to the Wolverine game.
This was another game that was difficult to track down. Years after the X-Men hype died down, I finally found a copy at a used game store. I definitely would have been better off passing, but I just couldn’t resist giving an X-Men game one more chance. I don’t remember much about this game other than three letters on the front of the cartridge: LJN.
X-Men 2: Clone Wars (Sega Genesis)
I never saw much beyond this opening level.
This game skips title screens and opens right up to a snow level, which is somewhat ironic because I only played this game at winter family reunions during my college years. One year, I ended up in the basement and found that my cousins had never unhooked their Genesis from an ancient black and white TV. Year after year, I kept coming back trying to beat this game and it never happened. I always thought the cold open was cool but, despite critical acclaim, X-Men 2: Clone Wars just never worked its way into my heart. After this one, I finally decided to give up on X-Men games for good.
So, there you have it: two good games out of ten. I’m sure if I had explored the other Game Gear games, that ratio would only be more devastating. Stick to the arcade games and you’ll be fine. Venture too far to home consoles and play at your own risk!