Wolverine's Clawful History in Marvel Games
12.02.2024 - 21:57
/ Ryan Reynolds
If there’s any Marvel hero who can challenge Deadpool or Spider-Man in the popularity department these days, it’s Wolverine. That’s why it’s fitting that the ol’ Canucklehead is joining Spidey in getting a big-budget action game from the folks at Insomniac.
That's right -- things are looking up for Wolverine in games and movies again. Aside from the Insomniac Wolvie game that's in the works, Hugh Jackman is also returning to the character, joining Ryan Reynolds for Deadpool & Wolverine, which will finally properly unite the two heroes. In the MCU to boot! We just got our first official trailer for Deadpool 3 during the Super Bowl, and man, are we excited.
Wolverine has a fascinating history in the video game realm. It took years for developers to figure out how to translate both his distinctive look and his unique powers from page to screen. Let’s take a look back at Wolverine’s clawful evolution in video games.
The X-Men may have been around since 1963, but it would be decades before they grew to become Marvel’s dominant franchise (thanks in no small part to Wolverine himself). The franchise didn’t appear in video game form until 1989’s Uncanny X-Men on the NES. We suspect many fans wish they hadn’t, as this is generally regarded to be one of the worst superhero games ever made.
Wolverine himself was spun out into his own NES game in 1991. This overhead action game earned equally scathing reviews, and it embodies many of the problems developers faced in trying to accurately depict the hero. The iconic Marc Silvestri cover art is a far cry from the generic, pixelated blob gamers actually control. The game’s biggest sin is tying Wolverine’s trademark claws to his health meter, forcing gamers to hunt down hamburgers and soda to replenish his steadily depleting energy. That would become an unfortunate trope in many early X-Men games.
In this early period, it would fall on Konami to give gamers a taste of what a good X-Men game looks like. Konami’s X-Men arcade game follows the same beat-em-up formula as classics like The Simpsons and TMNT. It’s based on the animated pilot Pryde of the X-Men, so it features Wolverine in the classic brown costume he wore throughout the 1980’s. It was visually a huge leap from its X-Men predecessors, with colorful, large sprites that channeled the energy of the early ‘90s comics. Sadly, it still made the mistake of limiting how often players could tap into each character’s mutant power. That would continue to be a trend for a while to come.
The early to mid ‘90s marked a golden age of X-Men games, though perhaps more in quantity than quality. 1992’s multiplatform title Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge set the tone for this era, offering fans a side-scrolling action