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Marvel's Games Need Variety More Than They Need Prestige

If the MCU is starting to feel tired, can the games inspired by it avoid the same fate?

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Marvel superheroes in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order.
Image: Nintendo/Marvel Games

Back in 2018 when Insomniac Games released the first Marvel’s Spider-Man game, it felt like a breath of fresh air after a pretty inconsistent, years-long run of Spider-Man games, and Marvel more broadly. In the last few years, it’s been proven that the PlayStation-exclusive sandbox game wasn’t a fluke. Whether it’s been the surprisingly earnest Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy games from Eidos and Crystal Dynamics, or Insomniac’s equally impressive sophomore spider-outing starring Miles Morales, in addition to eventual games to come, it’s clear that Marvel wants a streak of games as diverse and successful as the MCU itself, if not moreso.

In September during its annual D23 event, Disney plans on holding a showcase for its many licensed games in development. The company has already bragged that the showcase will have the grand reveal of the Marvel game in development at Skydance New Media, headed up by Uncharted’s Amy Hennig. Billed as an “ensemble game,” just those two words have some curious if Skydance is developing a game for the Fantastic Four or perhaps even the X-Men. And this isn’t even counting the solo game for Black Panther rumored to be in development over at EA, or Insomniac’s Wolverine game.

Image for article titled Marvel's Games Need Variety More Than They Need Prestige
Image: Insomniac Games/Marvel Games

The news of future Marvel games exists in the same relative time as there’s been repeated discussions of burnout for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Between the frequent glut of new shows and films and incredibly poor working conditions for VFX studios, it can feel like the franchise has lost its spark or worse, is effectively wasting folks’ time until a cameo or mega-crossover is ready for primetime. Maybe the MCU can’t have a capital-F failure, but it can exhaust, especially as more shows and films release every year.


Video games are a different beast than movies, but in the eyes of players, all it takes is a handful of similar games or mechanics to get sick of something. The battle royale trend eliminated anything that wasn’t PUBG, Apex, or Warzone within a handful of months, a similar fate that befell the looter shooter and music genres before it. Adding to this is a growing dislike of Prestige Games: though they often sell well and garner acclaim, the dedication to be interactive films first and games second has begun to wear thin, even more so when they just outright become films or TV shows. And right now, that Prestige space is where Marvel’s console titles have been operating in.

Beyond just the simple nature of interactivity, what’ll make or break Marvel games going forward will be if they’re willing to shake things up, genre wise. The aforementioned Guardians game succeeded as an action-adventure with some light narrative choices, and while Marvel’s Avengers doesn’t entirely succeed as a live service title, it’s got solid brawler combat and RPG mechanics. Insomniac’s Spider-Man titles are open-world titles that are just big enough to not make swinging around lose its shine, and the incoming Midnight Suns takes Marvel’s heroes to the strategy genre. There’s a solid range of diversity here—seriously, “XCOM, but Marvel heroes” sounds like something you didn’t realize would be cool until you heard it—but there can be more.

Image for article titled Marvel's Games Need Variety More Than They Need Prestige
Image: Firaxis/2K Games

This is as good a time as any to get genuinely experimental—with the absolutely absurd amount of characters they have on hand, the sky’s basically the limit. Turn-based RPGs, visual novels, a Marvel version of The Sims, or hell, why not a dating sim? There’s plenty of niches to fill. And even if these games fail or underperform, they’ll be interesting, something that Marvel and its parent company could both afford to be.


Do the dating sim first, though. With how often that’s been used as a punchline during April Fools’ Day, a legit, not half-assed one would be exciting to see.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.