The world of Marvel has become so expansive and influential that we are used to seeing the world’s favourite heroes just about everywhere we look: in television commercials, in children’s toys and fresh takes on graphic novels, and of course, in the theatres. The success of Marvel films has been unprecedented, to the point that each new year’s biggest headline film tends to be the next upcoming Marvel release. And yet for all of this success, the comic titan’s most prolific modern heroes, The Avengers, have struggled to gain footing on popular video game platforms.
This isn’t to say that Marvel as a whole has been unsuccessful. In particular, several Spider-Man games have done quite well on major consoles, and the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man 2 game, based on the spring film of the same name and set to be featured on all major consoles (including next-gen) is already generating a great deal of excitement. The Avengers, however, have met their only real success in gaming on the fringes of the video game world, without a true breakthrough on major consoles.
Oddly enough, the online casino community houses a number of the most noteworthy Avengers games we’ve seen to date, as it’s a common practice for Internet slot and jackpot games to feature popular film and character themes in order to generate activity. The Avengers are naturally common choices for this sort of use. At the Betfair online casino, there are games devoted to each individual Avenger (at least from the film). Iron Man is the face of multiple slot offerings and there’s one game specifically devoted to The Avengers film. But at the end of the day, these games are essentially cinematic experiences that only use the artwork and names from Avengers tales.
The app market, too, has a fairly extensive selection of Avengers titles available for download, and some are quite enjoyable gaming experiences. These games tend to be more closely related to the action and adventure of the films and comics. Given the capabilities of modern smartphones to portray bold and beautiful graphics, they look quite nice, too. The most recent example is Marvel: Avengers Alliance, which available for iOS and Android. In this title, players can enjoy recruiting a team of Avengers (and other Marvel heroes) to battle iconic villains. Yet the bottom line is this game, like pretty much every other Avengers-themed app experience, is simply limited in scope. It’s satisfying, but brief.
So why don’t Avengers games tend to catch on when made for major consoles? One theory is that everything is simply too grand and the heroes perhaps too gifted to make for interesting gameplay. Whereas Spider-Man is grounded and forced to rely on web-slinging (wonderful in most games) and hand-to-hand combat, the likes of Iron Man and Thor can simply fly with free range in all directions and fight, essentially, with superpowers. Hulk can’t technically fly, but watch The Avengers and he pretty much does the same thing. It’s all rather difficult to translate to gaming form. Think about popular action gaming franchises: Call Of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and dating back even franchises like Prince Of Persia, or even Super Mario! People prefer heroes who walk, run, and jump, and who fight with handheld tools… at least when it comes to gaming.
And this is why Captain America stands to be an exception. The leader of the Avengers is still in some ways the most human of the bunch (unless Tony Stark comes out of his suit), and his movement and combat style is far more similar to what gamers are used to. But this isn’t the only reason that a fresh Captain America game might do very well on major consoles. Here are a few more.
It’s done well in the past—It may be essentially forgotten for many gamers, but Captain America: Super Solider was actually arguably the best non-Spider-Man Marvel game we’ve yet seen. The game scored a 60 on Metacritic, which is by no means great, but it’s something to build on for the franchise.
Captain America deals with humans—Iron Man’s associates dabble in high-tech suits and military weaponry. Thor’s are gods. Hulk has none. But Captain America deals with soldiers and agents, which extends his own humanity and makes for a more playable game for the same reasons that the Captain himself is more appealing to action gamers.
The new film is a hit—Captain America: The Winter Soldier has earned shockingly strong reviews, establishing itself as one of the greatest Marvel films. That’s certainly some momentum to build on should Marvel wish to take another stab at major console gaming!
The likeliest course of action is probably for Marvel to continue releasing app games and allowing arcade sites to use its characters’ likenesses while a next-gen console game for all of the Avengers seems possible. But given the factors above and the popularity of the new film, a big and bold Captain America game may actually be quite successful should they give it a try.