Spider-Man can do whatever a spider can, but can a spider do what a Spider-Man can? Now that we have your attention with that asinine riddle, it’s time to get down to business; and in the world of Spider-Man, that business is rounding up baddies and balancing a double life as nerdy teenager Peter Parker.
While we’re generally outside observers through comics and movies, an array of video games across multiple platforms has allowed us to control the wall-crawler and see the world through his spider eyes. As with any intellectual property, so many of those games were abysmal, but we’re bringing you positivity with this selection of Spider-Man titles.
From the tallest skyscrapers of New York City to the intricate labs of Oscorp, Spider-Man games have squared the web-slinger (and by proxy, us) against many of his greatest enemies. They’ve taken us through his most harrowing stories and his most difficult battles, both within himself and against persistent foe.
The following are the best Spider-Man games that capture both the thrill and the drama of being bitten by a radioactive spider.
15. Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin
Developer: Technopop Publisher: SEGA
Whenever there is a new Spider-Man project in the works, it’s impossible not to start thinking about what iconic villains he’ll face off against. They’re just as crucial as the wall-crawler as they’re the driving force for Spidey’s conflict as the hero of Manhattan.
Though Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin is clearly about his quarrel with criminal mastermind Wilson Fisk, he battles against an assortment of supervillains. In fact, so much of the game is devoted to his confrontations with Venom, The Lizard, Electro, Mysterio, Doc Ock, Sandman, and Hobgoblin that it’s easy to forget that Kingpin is the overarching villain.
Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin is a simple side-scroller beat ‘em up that focuses heavily on rudimentary boss battles. As a game, Technopop’s creation could use some work. As a Spider-Man story, however, Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin works. The crudely animated cutscenes aren’t much to look at, but they propel the story forward. The result is a fitting Spidey-tale interspersed with web-swinging fun and the substance needed to be one of the best Spider-Man games.
If there’s a developer that knows how to handle the web slinger, it’s Vicarious Visions. Responsible for seven different Spidey games (many of which made this list), Vicarious Visions’ third was Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro. Headlined by Electro, Spider-Man 2 picks up shortly after the events of Spider-Man (2000), with the Symbiote invasion quelled by the titular hero.
It’s hard to follow up a game about Venom, arguably Spidey’s most popular villain, but Enter Electro utilizes the rogue’s gallery of New York City well. Shocker, Sandman, and The Lizard are just a few of the cretins that go toe-to-toe with Spider-Man.
Enter Electro was panned for what some considered an “obscure” selection of villains and short playtime, but its gameplay, which tightened up the web-swinging and combat a little, remained top notch.
Developer: Western Technologies Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment
One of the best iterations of the wall-crawler was the classic animated series from the 90s. Go ahead, just try to get that theme song out of your head.
Spider-Man: The Animated Series takes the best of the cartoon series and laces it with gameplay that, while it could have used some polish and tightening, was still a lot of fun.
The true star of The Animated Series – much like the show itself – is the cast of villains. Your reward for swinging through mostly forgettable level was a one-on-one with some of Spider-Man’s best supervillains. Mysterio, The Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Rhino, Alistair Smythe, The Lizard, and more arrive on scene to give Spidey hell.
The true villain of this classic Spider-Man game isn’t from the comic books, however. It’s the sound design, which serves up an awful soundtrack that oozes Genesis-era terribleness. Throw on something in the background to drown it out and you’ll be able to enjoy this beat ‘em up a little more.
12. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
Developer: Traveller’s Tales Publisher: TT Fusion
Before you guffaw at your screen and type out your “This isn’t a Spider-Man game” comment, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes can totally be a Spider-Man game if you want it to be. Sure, you can fight your way through the robust story that somehow became a staple of Traveller’s Tales LEGO games, but you can also choose to play strictly as the web slinger and take on some side missions.
As with any of the best Spider-Man games, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes utilizes the webhead’s swinging mechanic, making traversing the vast Marvel world much quicker. Though he’s in blocky form, Spider-Man still has many of his acrobatic tricks that can take on the villains that followed him from his comics, including Doc Ock, Venom, Electro, Sandman, Green Goblin, Mysterio, and Carnage.
You may not expect any depth with a LEGO game, but the story of Marvel Super Heroes does its source material justice.
Tobey Maguire’s portrayal of Spider-Man was iconic and remains a fan favorite even more than 15 years (and several Spider-Man movies) later. Not only did Sam Raimi’s film set a precedent for superhero movies, the game proved that not all licensed video games were destined to fail. That’s not to say it wasn’t corny, because, like the movie, MacGuire’s voice over is unforgettably hokey.
Spider-Man: The Movie was the first time we got to see just about all of the wall-crawler’s techniques in place. Usually relegated to beat ‘em up-style games, Treyarch’s version introduced stealth and attacking from different surfaces to avoid ranged weapons. A better range of combat and abilities allowed players to tinker with Spidey’s agility and web tricks.
Sure, some of those stealth segments could use a lot of work and the inability to explore the city felt limiting, but both were necessary for the eventual evolution of the series and the character’s presence in these best Spider-Man games.
There is plenty of opportunity to play as many of Marvel’s greatest heroes, but there is a ton of fun to be had as the web-slinger in Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Unlike LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, Ultimate Alliance gives players the choice to control one character throughout the narrative, making it possible to main as Spider-Man and master his agile trickery and abilities.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance pulls story elements from the Civil War storyline and culminates in a battle against a common enemy – The Fold. The top-down gameplay of Ultimate Alliance is deeper than it may initially appear and every character brings something different to the table. Players choose a team of four playable heroes out of more than 20, Spidey and Spider-Woman being among them.
The web-swinging may not be what we’ve grown used to in Spider-Man games, but the hero shines with fast-paced combat and an array of web-based special attacks.
A step above Spider-Man: The Movie and a drop below its predecessor, Spider-Man 3 expanded upon the comically cringeworthy third Sam Raimi movie with even more Spidey one-liners and villains.
The focal story is on Spider-Man and his conflict with Harry Osborn/New Goblin, Sandman, and Venom, but Scorpion, The Lizard, and Kraven the Hunter come along for the ride, as well. The result is the biggest Spider-Man game of its time and one of Spidey’s most harrowing tales.
Spider-Man 3 features a host of Spidey-tricks and more in-depth combat that make beating up the baddies even more fun. Swinging through New York is reminiscent of its forerunner, though the world is a bit more open to give players more opportunities to send Spidey falling off giant skyscrapers.
Admit it – that’s what these games turn into at some point during your playthrough.
8. Ultimate Spider-Man
Developer: Treyarch/Beenox Publisher: Activision
In 2000, two years before Sam Raimi gave fans the MaGuire Spidey, Marvel launched the Ultimate Spider-Man series. The reimagining featured a young Peter Parker going through the gamut of being bitten by a radioactive spider and squaring off against new versions of classic villains.
Among one of his earliest foe in the new series was Venom, who underwent many changes from the original incarnation. It’s that genetically created creature that Parker squares off against in the Ultimate Spider-Man game. Even better than that is the fact that players get to take control of the unstoppable symbiote in segments that focus on brute strenght. Ultimate Spider-Man switches between the two characters for a complete look at the narrative. With that comes gameplay differences that make Spider-Man and Venom very different to play. As you can expect, Venom is a little more fun as he absorbs people to gain health and can throw larger objects, like cars.
Following in the footsteps of other Spider-Man games, this one pits the pair against a large gallery of villains, including Shocker, R.H.I.N.O., Silver Sable, Electro, Green Goblin, Boomerang, and Beetle.
While interdimensional travel can very-much-so seem like a gimmick to increase the potential for content in a game, in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, it helps spin yet another deep Spidey tale from the minds at Beenox.
Web-swinging, stealth, hand-to-hand brawls, web attacks, and Spider-Man one-liners are all there, but now players get to experience them as different Spider-Men. Shattered Dimensions introduces four unique Spideys from different comic universes, including Amazing, Noir, 2099, and Ultimate. Rather than just reskin the classic Spider-Man, Beenox was sure to make each iteration different.
For instance, Spider-Man Noir focuses on stealth combat while Spider-Man 2099 is all about making use of the abilities of the advanced suit. Each Spider-Man has to face off against a villain from their universe, including Kraven, Hammerhead, Sandman, Hobgoblin, Scorpion, and Electro. Shattered Dimensions continues the trend of fast-paced combat integrated with seamless web-swinging, though it’s without the open-world fun of the movie video game series.
6. Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage
Developer: Software Creations Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment
Not only was Maximum Carnage the first Spider-Man game to let players control Venom, it was also the first to base its story off of a comic book arc. Using the Maximum Carnage arc, the side-scrolling beat ‘em up pits Spider-Man and Venom against the titular Carnage and his band of devilish cronies. Unlike most Spider-Man games, two players can tackle the fight against Carnage as either Spider-Man or Venom.
After you’ve pummeled your way through city street and rooftop levels, battling a generic assortment of thugs on your search for Carnage, you’ll take on Shriek, Doppelganger, Carrion, and Demogoblin in slightly repetitive boss fights.
Maximum Carnage is your standard brawler with a selection of combos, grabs, and special attacks integrated with web-swinging and wall-crawling mechanics that can turn the tide of a fight. While the gameplay is fun and, at times, chaotic, it’s the characters and story that make Maximum Carnage a classic.
Spider-Man appeared in video games since the early 80s, but it wasn’t until the 2000 title for the PlayStation that a developer really captured the many threats and conflicts in the wall-crawlers life.
The robust story starts off with a misunderstanding involving Eddie Brock and evolves to include many of Spidey’s worst enemies. Though Spider-Man (2000) is quite ugly by today’s standards, it’s worth playing through for the well-crafted story and numerous boss battles against Venom, Doc Ock, Rhino, Scorpion, Lizard, Mysterio, Carnage, and a fun merging of two villains in the final act.
Its gameplay may be well beyond dated at this point, but Spider-Man (2000) is still a fantastic entry in the best Spider-Man games for its epic and original story.
It starts with a forlorn Spider-Man walking through a battleground of S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers and symbiotes as transport ships explode around him. Moonlight Sonata helps set the mood just before Spidey leaps from the rooftop, a series of voiceovers referencing his complicated relationship with the black suit symbiote. We’re clearly coming into the start of a dark tale as New York is overrun symbiotes and left decimated by the alien presence.
When Web of Shadows released, it was Spider-Man’s darkest story told through a video game. It highlights Spidey’s ongoing conflict with the symbiote, which results in rifts with his personal relationships. While the main conflict is a vastly enjoyable part of Web of Shadows, some of Spidey’s side encounters are equally as fun.
As symbiotes spread throughout New York, many of the spandexed hero’s allies become his strongest foe, creating iconic one-on-one fights. In these battles and throughout the game, the gameplay really focuses on Spider-Man’s enhanced speed and strength, especially when he dons the signature black suit.
There have been many iterations of the Marvel vs. Capcom series since it started as a Marvel vs. Street Fighter game in 1997, but sometimes you can’t beat a classic. Though the roster is limited compared to more recent releases, we’re really only here for one fighter.
Spider-Man’s presence is a given in a Marvel fighting game, and his off-the-wall, fast-paced combos are a necessity against the roster Capcom brings to the ring. Clash of Super Heroes is the best way to create an iconic brawl between Venom and the wall-crawler. As both can web-swing across the screen, it can turn into a frenzied mess that’s a fun mix of chaotic. Frankly, it’s exactly how we’d expect a real fight between them would go.
It may not offer the same deep narratives we’ve grown to expect from Spidey games, but Marvel vs. Capcom does the hero justice.
2. Spider-Man 2
Developer: Treyarch Publisher: Activision
This is where it all began. Whenever you play an open-world Spider-Man game, remember that without the 2004 video game adaptation of Spider-Man 2, the wall-crawler’s potential would have been lost for a bit longer. This digital take on Sam Raimi’s movie sequel further proved that licensed video games do have a shot at landing on “best of” lists.
Until recently, Spider-Man 2 was the best Spidey game all around. Its story, which follows the movie while borrowing aspects from various comic books, is solid and filled with a decent variety of villains. It may not be the biggest Spider-Man game to date, but its size isn’t a drawback.
Spider-Man 2 is an icon within the hero’s long list of video game adaptations. The ambitious size of Manhattan, the addition of side missions and random emergencies, and a series of unlockable abilities gave players plenty to enjoy. Much like the Grand Theft Auto series, it’s too easy to lose yourself in exploring the city – and doing so through web-slinging is far more interesting than by car.
1. Marvel’s Spider-Man
Developer: Insomniac Games Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Some may claim we chose Marvel’s Spider-Man because it’s the most recent, and therefore the best looking and biggest entry in the franchise, but Insomniac Games earned the praise it received for its take on everyone’s favorite webhead.
To make the perfect video game, all components have to come together flawlessly. While Marvel’s Spider-Man is far from the perfect game, it is the perfect Spider-Man experience. Where so many of his digital adventures only feature the spandex-clad hero, Marvel’s Spider-Man lets players see the world through Peter Parker’s eyes as well.
The switch between swinging through a highly detailed New York to working in Doctor Octavius’ lab or even trying to get to the bottom of a scoop as the tenacious Mary Jane is welcomed to a series that’s always been about beating up the bad guys.
While gameplay is smooth and balanced, the true star of Marvel’s Spider-Man is the story. Yuri Lowenthal brings the 23-year-old protagonist to life with a great range of emotion that’s needed for the emotional rollercoaster the second half of the game sends us on.
That we have a sequel to look forward to is possibly the best part of what is unequivocally the best Spider-Man game to date.
“With all the freedom it gives you to web-sling through New York City and stick goons to walls, Spider-Man for PS4 is the best Spider-Story I’ve had the pleasure to experience, and even on its own is a brilliant game.”