Marvel has made its name in the mobile gaming scene with hits like the Marvel: Avengers Alliance series and Marvel: Contest of Champions, and up and comers like Marvel Avengers Academy. But long time gamers know Marvel best from multiple console and arcade era games dating back to the mid 90’s. Marvel’s partnership with Capcom, one of most the well known video game makers worldwide, brought gamers and comic book fans together for some of the coolest crossover fights in video game history. Can Mega Man blast through Captain America’s shield? Who’s claws are sharper, X-23’s or Felicia’s? Will people ever stop playing as the Sentinel in Marvel vs. Capcom 2? The Marvel vs. Capcom series strives to answer questions you never knew you had in a dizzying display of over the top fighters and wild animation.
Capcom and Marvel first partnered on the The Punisher arcade game in 1993, later ported to the Sega Genesis in 1994. The Punisher was a beat ‘em up style game similar to Capcom’s Final Fight. After moderate success with the arcade version of The Punisher, Marvel and Capcom continued their partnership with the eventual release of X-Men: Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes, both full fledged fighting games. Both games share roots with Capcom’s Super Street Fighter Turbo II, using variations of its combo system and super meter gauge respectively. X-Men: Children of the Atom also saw Street Fighter character Akuma join the fray as a secret character, marking his inclusion as the first brawl between both company’s fighters. If you were a budding comic book reader who also frequented the arcade, many quarters were sacrificed to the sacred cabinet. These games served as a gateway into either the gaming or comics world for many a nerd in the 90s.
X-Men: Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes’ immense success in both Japan and stateside laid the foundation for X-Men Vs. Street Fighter in 1996, the first formal entry in the Marvel Vs. Capcom series. Both companies’ biggest, most well known titles at the time, going head to head in one game. X-Men Vs. Street Fighter introduced tag team matches, where instead of the player selecting only one character, two were chosen and could be switched as needed during the match. Ryu and Cyclops could finally square off against one another or join forces to take down Juggernaut and Zangief team-ups.
Its sequel, Marvel Super Heroes Vs. Street Fighter in 1997 brought The Avengers back into the fight alongside returning X-Men characters. This game also introduced a fighting game mechanic called the “Variable Assist”, allowing the player to summon in their teammate from off screen to perform a special attack without switching the currently controlled character. That addition opened up a variety of combo attacks that would require the player to think about when and where to deploy them and which characters would combo best with each other.
In 1998, Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes introduced an even more varied amount of Capcom characters, now including Darkstalkers favorite Morrigan, Strider’s Hiryu and one of Capcom’s most famous characters outside of Street Fighter, Mega Man. With previous games in this series being released on the Sega Saturn and PlayStation. Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes marked the first Marvel vs. Capcom title released onto Sega’s fledging Dreamcast console. There were only three reasons to own a Dreamcast at the time: Shenmue, Jet Set Radio and Marvel vs. Capcom. That’s it. The Marvel vs. Capcom series helped to keep the Dreamcast afloat as long as it could until the PlayStation 2 hadokened the competition away.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes is what many consider the crown jewel of the series. Released originally in 2000, it’s the most ported game of the series, making its way on the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Dreamcast, Xbox, Xbox 360 and iOS devices. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 shows off the frantic gameplay and style the series has become known for. The roster expanded to an impressive 56 characters, players now controlled teams of three characters instead of two and Variable Assist returned. The game’s adjusted mechanics created an even wider variety of special combo move combinations depending on your choice of teammates. At the time, the fluid 2D animation was the best out there, though the soundtrack’s infamous jazz influences have been hit or miss with fans, to put it very, very, VERY lightly.
In the future, alien explorers sifting through the remains of earth will find the last gamer’s skeletal hand selecting Sentinel, Magneto and Storm in Marvel vs. Capcom 2.
After nearly a decade, the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise returned in early 2011 with Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. The game shifted from 2D animation to 3D and simplified some of the button controls to make it more accessible for newer players. The new X-Factor mechanic, a special mode that can be activated at anytime once every match that increases the player’s character’s stats exponentially, brought in yet another chaotic element into the gameplay. The roster featured 38 playable characters with characters like Deadpool, Thor, MODOK, Trish and Dante from Devil May Cry making their debut in the series. A few months later, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 brought in 12 more characters including Doctor Strange, Rocket Raccoon Hawkeye.
The fighting gaming world and the comic book world owe a debt to the Marvel vs. Capcom series. It introduced western audiences who were use to slower fighting games like Mortal Kombat to the faster paced Japanese style games and vice versa, it introduced Marvel fans to the world of Capcom’s games. While the licensing agreement between Capcom and Marvel ended in 2013 thus ending a partnership that had spanned two decades, the series of games they produced live on. The game mechanics it originated have been replicated many times over in other fighting games and genres. Tournaments featuring the Marvel Vs. Capcom series take place annually, with the largest tournament drawing in top players from around the world. Cherished artwork from the series has also been collected in several volumes published by Udon Entertainment.
The love for this franchise has stood the test of time and will continue to serve as an incredibly fun entry into the worlds of both Capcom and Marvel.