One of the most curious things about Marvel's rise to power in the modern entertainment industry is the variation in gaming success between its biggest characters. For example, Spider-Man has been featured in numerous popular games, whereas some of the most well-known Avengers—think Iron Man, for instance—hardly even have solo games to show for themselves. A lot of debate can be held as to why certain characters enjoy more success in gaming, though the broadest explanation might simply be that brawling, more physical heroes, as opposed to those with supernatural or high-tech powers at hand, tend to be the most fun to control. This isn't a universal truth, but it does explain why the likes of Spider-Man and, on the DC side of things, Batman have been among the most successful comic book superheroes in the video game industry. And it also explains why playing as Wolverine is always so much fun.
In fact, for my money, Wolverine takes the cake in any discussion on Marvel heroes in games. And because I suspect more than a few Marvel and/or gaming fanatics may agree with me, I wanted to write-up a look at some of our favorite indestructible savage's best appearances in the industry. Be forewarned: this might get nostalgic...
Hey, I said it might get nostalgic. The old-school, early-'90s X-Men Arcade game from Konami snagged Paste Magazine's top spot in an article looking at the best and worst X-Men games of all time, and it's pretty hard to disagree. Sure, the fighting was pretty much akin to any other arcade brawler of the time (they were all exactly the same), but suffice it to say it was pretty awesome if you happened to be a comic book fan. And naturally, the slicing-and-dicing Wolverine character in his glorious garb was one of the most fun X-Men to control.
This game marked one of Capcom's early forays into the X-Men licensing its since made a killing off of, but it remains one of the best examples of Wolverine gameplay. In retrospect, Apocalypse was a pretty standard platformer for its era, but just as with the old arcade game, a familiar formula was enhanced by awesome characters. Kicking endless baddie ass with Wolverine en route to showdowns with big time comic book villains was the sort of thing you could enjoy for 10 hours without realizing one had passed.
X-Men 2: Clone Wars
Pretty much every ranking out there of X-Men video games has this one toward the top. It came out in 1995 for Sega Genesis and basically everything I said about Mutant Apocalypse applies to this one as well. It's a non-stop action platform brawler in which Wolverine kicks more ass than the rest (though others like Nightcrawler and Magneto were also playable).
Getting away from brawlers, which in their own various formats account for virtually the entire history of X-Men gaming, Gala Casino's Wolverine slots game is a less conventional option, but nonetheless one of my very favorite appearances of Wolverine in gaming. Why? Because despite the fact that the game is like any other slot machine, there's a gorgeously rendered, 3D representation of Wolverine just casually hanging out and checking out your slot wheel. It's bizarrely hilarious, particularly when he gets more interested as you near a bonus line-up. He also gets bored and stretches his neck. Basically it is behavior better suited to Deadpool, but instead presented amusingly through Wolverine.
Marvel: Contest Of Champions
Just as the Wolverine slot game is part of a newer genre of online games in which we often see Marvel characters, Contest Of Champions has also helped to bring comic characters into a new branch of gaming: in this case, mobile app markets. The game requires a lot of time and patience—it's kind of a constant cycle of upgrading characters for new challenges—and it's been criticized for having a little too much uniformity in fighting style between completely different characters. Despite that, Wolverine is one of the more unique options, with a variety of attacks and a powerful regeneration ability that makes him one of the best heroes to wield.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Representing a newer era of gaming and released alongside a fairly awful film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine could have been a disaster. But in my opinion, it's actually the very best Wolverine video game ever made. I can't put it much better than Crave Magazine did, when they ranked it #10 among all superhero video games ever made: it "captured Wolverine's brutality in combat" like no other effort has. This is a massive, beautiful, and amazing video game that's enhanced greatly by the voice acting of Hugh Jackman, who's been the cinematic embodiment of Wolverine for 15 years now.
And that's my list! Naturally there are plenty of decent-to-good games missing—you may notice I left out the whole Marvel v. Capcom series, as well as a number of Marvel Alliance games. This is because Wolverine kind of blends-in in those examples. In the games above, Wolverine stands out in a way that demonstrates pretty clearly he's one of the best crossovers between superhero comics and gaming.