Wolverine Vs. Video Games: A Retrospective

The Wolverine is hitting theaters tomorrow, and amazingly, there is no tie-in game. We say “amazingly” because Wolverine has a lengthy, lengthy history of being in video games. In fact, he’s been on consoles since the NES days. But while he’s been a part of some truly great games with his fellow X-Men, his solo outings have been… less than spectacular, sometimes. Here’s a look back at Wolvie’s solo titles; we hope his emotions have a healing factor.

For the sake of not writing a book, we stuck solely to solo titles; Wolverine has not only been in literally every X-Men video game, he’s often the default character. Besides, Cyclops gets shown up enough.

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Three little letters really tell you all you need to know about Wolverine’s 8-bit days: LJN. Yep, the publisher that would put out any licensed game, no matter how terrible it was, and Wolverine was pretty terrible. It was essentially a typical brawler with some Metroidvania elements, made worse by bad music and dumb mechanics. For example, you could pop your claws, but it would cost you energy. This gives you an idea of how faithful this game is to the comics.

Mostly it’s notable for seemingly inspiring a very similar Game Boy game… except X-Men: Wolverine’s Rage came out ten years later. You know, because repetitive running around never gets old.

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Actually arguably one for the win column; although Adamantium Rage wasn’t terribly original as games went, it was a pretty solid game with environmental interaction and good animation. The strange thing is that the SNES and Genesis games are almost entirely different; the SNES version is an odd cross between a fighting game and a Metroidvania style game, while the Genesis version is a more exploration and puzzle-solving oriented game. As the two were made by entirely different companies, it’s not really a surprise there are some differences, but it’s still a bit odd to see.

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On paper, this game is a fan’s dream: It’s got nothing to do with the movies, but Larry Hama wrote an original story for it, and Wolverine is voiced by Mark Hamill. Unfortunately, the game itself is essentially a Metal Gear Solid knock-off; one of the first things Wolverine says is “I’d better keep my head down and my claws sheathed.” Yes, a buttoned up Wolverine sneaking. That’s excitement at its height.

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While the previous-gen versions were no great shakes, arguably this is the best Wolverine game ever published. As a game, it’s not bad: It’s a fairly straightforward 3D brawler helped considerably by the fact that the gameplay is well-tested and it’s not shy about being gory. Wolverine gets to actually stab people in this game! You get to see his healing factor at work! He uses profanity! It’s not a classic but it’s a highly playable guilty pleasure.

Helping substantially was a script by Marc Guggenheim, who’d go on to help bring Green Arrow to the CW. You can even still find this game, if you’re so inclined, and it seems like there’s a pattern where we see a Wolverine solo game roughly every six years. So, hey, looking forward to 2015!