Activision’s collaboration with Marvel produced popular games like X-Men Legends and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance.
Many Marvel games were delisted after Activision’s licensing deal expired in 2014, leading to increased prices for physical copies and the unavailability of digital copies.
The return of Activision-published Transformers games to Xbox and Steam storefronts offers hope for a similar agreement for Marvel games as Marvel and Capcom’s recent collaboration brings back older titles.

While Marvel has seen recent success in AAA gaming with titles like Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man series and has plenty of new titles on the way, such as Marvel’s Blade or Marvel’s Wolverine, there’s a whole era of games based on the popular superhero-filled universe that has been largely lost to time due to its scarcity on modern consoles, and it includes some of my favorite titles involving these characters. Activision and Marvel had a lucrative licensing deal that started in 1998 and saw the studio receiving exclusive rights to Spider-Man and X-Men-related games, and after several contract extensions, this collaboration ran until the release of the ill-fated The Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie tie-in in 2014.

As a kid and a teenager when most of the Activision-published Marvel games were released, many of them served as my introduction to several Marvel characters alongside the comics and ’90s Fox Kids cartoons. While we have seen many technological advancements in the gaming space that can make titles such as the PlayStation’s Spider-Man feel dated in comparison to the likes of the PS5’s Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, there have been occasions where I do find myself digging out my old discs and returning to those games from yesteryear for the sake of nostalgia, and the fact that more often than not, their stories and gameplay still hold up in many ways.


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Activision’s Collaboration With Marvel Saw Some Of The Characters’ Best Games

X-Men Legends And Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Are Still Rated Extremely Highly

A lot of the Activision era consisted of movie tie-ins – as was the norm for every major blockbuster of the time, and even some not-so-major ones – that weren’t always the best, with the exception of titles such as 2004’s Spider-Man 2, which saw the web-slinger in an open-world with physics-based traversal for the first time, or X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was actually better than the movie it was based on. However, there were some classic Marvel titles that came from this collaboration that told their own stories or adapted comic book runs.

For example, both X-Men Legends and its sequel, X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse, are often regarded as some of the best games featuring Marvel’s primary mutant team ever, and the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games – which played similarly to X-Men Legends but expanded the roster to include other heroes and villains from the wider Marvel Universe – are also held in extremely high regard to this day. Others, such as Ultimate Spider-Man, adapted the Venom arc from writer Brian Michael Bendis’ 2000s comic run, letting players also play as the iconic Spider-Man foe, with a cel-shaded look that was inspired by artist Mark Bagley’s designs and hasn’t aged if players pick it up today because it didn’t need to strive for realism like many other AAA games’ graphics often attempt to.

While I’d argue that Spider-Man’s foray into multiversal stories with spider-variants came from the 90s Animated Series’ multipart Spider-Wars finale arc, the 2010 Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions game has also been praised for kickstarting the idea of the Spider-Verse, with writer Dan Slott having scripted the game before penning the 2014 comic arc. Now, the concept of the multiverse is prevalent across plenty of Spider-Man media, with the MCU’s Spider-Man: No Way Home using it as a way to bring three different live-action versions of the character together with Tom Holland, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield teaming up, and the award-winning animated Into the Spider-Verse using the concept as a love-letter to Spider-Man media while also telling a great coming-of-age story for Miles Morales.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
and its successor,
Spider-Man: Edge of Time,
were both reportedly
planned to be remastered in 2018
, but these projects were apparently scrapped.


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Many Marvel Games Were Delisted When Activision’s Licensing Deal Expired

With Steam Keys For Titles Like Deadpool Now Reaching An Extortionate Price

While the only way to play many of the PS2 and Xbox era titles is with a physical copy and the original console or via emulation anyway, titles that were released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation, such as Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, the aforementioned X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 and Deadpool had their digital copies pulled from storefronts after Activision’s licensing deal expired prematurely in 2014 following the failure of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. As a result, physical copies have also increased in price, and for PC players, Steam keys for titles such as Deadpool are being sold by third parties for prices as high as $800. The game is a fun action shooter, but it’s certainly not worth that amount.

Some Marvel Xbox games are playable on Xbox 360 through backwards compatibility with their physical discs, but weren’t brought over to the Xbox One or Xbox Series S/X’s backwards compatibility program.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance and its Civil War-inspired sequel, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, briefly reappeared as a bundle on PC, PS4, and Xbox One in 2016 after being announced at San Diego Comic-Con. The bundle included graphical and UI-based improvements for modern gaming and newer features such as Achievements and Trophies, with the earlier game being based on the Xbox 360’s Gold Edition. Unfortunately, this deal seemed to only be for a limited time, as these versions were delisted in 2018 with no warning.


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The New Transformers Games’ Relisting Gives Me Hope An Agreement Could Also Be Made With Marvel

Marvel Has Also Recently Worked With Capcom To Bring Back Games From An Earlier Era

Recently, the Transformers titles made by the Activision-owned High Moon Studios returned to Xbox and Steam storefronts, although they currently aren’t available for purchase. The fact they returned after being delisted similarly to the Marvel titles could show that Activision is open to renegotiating a deal surrounding its past IP-based titles to bring them back to modern audiences. This observation did lead to some hopes that Deadpool, which was also made by High Moon for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 and was re-released previously on PS4 and Xbox One to capitalize on the success of the 2016 movie before becoming delisted again, could finally make a return as well.

If so, it would be great to see these titles become available for modern audiences again. A decade has passed since the Activision deal ended, and many newer gamers may have completely missed out on this era of Marvel gaming. While I kept hold of my old discs and consoles, having the option to load these titles up on newer platforms with improved graphics and performance would certainly be something I’d be interested in for convenience, as I wouldn’t have to jump between multiple platforms as much anymore.

Recently, Marvel and Capcom teamed up again with its Marvel vs. Capcom Fighting Collection to bring seven titles from the 90s and early 2000s to modern platforms with new features such as online multiplayer across both a physical and digital release. This is particularly good news after titles such as Marvel vs. Capcom 2 New Age of Heroes were previously available on the Xbox Live Arcade on Xbox 360 and PlayStation Store on PS3 before being pulled in 2013 due to the expiration of Capcom’s licensing contract, which resulted in an outcry from fans keen to see the title return, so a physical release ensures players should be able to access these games on modern devices even if the digital copies get pulled again.

The seven titles included in the Marvel vs. Capcom Fighting Collection are as follows:

X-Men: Children Of The Atom (1994) Marvel Super Heroes (1995) Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Superheroes (1998) Marvel vs Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (2000) Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter (1997) X-Men vs Street Fighter (1996) The Punisher (1993)

Some other acclaimed Marvel titles from the PS2 and Xbox era, such as 2005’s
The Punisher
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
were published by other companies such as THQ and Vivendi Universal Games, respectively, although I’d still like to see them get some kind of re-release some day.

With Marvel returning to its Capcom era of gaming, and Activision seemingly looking to bring back its past IP-based titles, such as Transformers: War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron, gives me hope that the two studios could finally work together on some remasters to bring back some of their better games. Considering the popularity surrounding the X-Men at the moment, with the acclaimed X-Men ’97 series and the team entering the MCU via the new Deadpool & Wolverine movie, X-Men Legends would be a great place to start.

“}]] Could some long-delisted Marvel games return?  Read More