Updated Nov 18, 2021

Spider-Man first burst onto the video game scene in 1982 in the form of a popular web-slinging title published by Parker Bros. for the Atari 2600. After an extended break our hero re-emerged on the Game Boy in 1990, and has since enjoyed an illustrious video game career. Not all of his games are winners, but a few have been known to imprint on childhoods (Maximum Carnage) and the more modern Spider-Man titles have pushed console technology to the limit.

This review special is not comprehensive but it covers most of the big hitters along with a few more obscure titles you might not know about. To establish the proper degree of street cred I've called in the experts at Spider-Man Notes to gauge how faithful each game is to the franchise. Each review is followed by a "Spidey Sense" rating from 1-5 along with insightful commentary.

Spider-Man (Parker Bros,1982)

System: Atari 2600
Grade: B+
Originally posted 2018/10/7
screenshotA lot of you out there probably think Spider-Man for the Atari 2600 is pretty weak because our hero doesn't actually fight anybody. It's a fair point. The game is all about defusing bombs, although you do occasionally "catch" criminals in windows by swinging over them. Spider-Man looks pretty cool decked out in blue and red and he can do whatever the [expletive] a spider can.

You begin on the lower floors of a huge yellow skyscraper with crooks appearing randomly in windows. Your goal is to scale the building and defuse the "super bomb" at the very top. You can fire your webbing straight up to quickly ascend, but shooting diagonally lets you swing from side-to-side. Nabbing bad guys earns points and more importantly replenishes your web fluid. Having your web cut by a dude in a window sends you into free-fall, but you can sling another web in mid-air to catch yourself. That's awesome.

Once you get the hang of the controls you'll be shooting web with pinpoint precision. On top of the building is a girder structure known as the "high voltage tower" (note Dr. Evil-style quotes). Here you'll find exploding bombs you can either diffuse for points or simply avoid. Near the top the Green Goblin hovers menacingly on his sled.

Sadly you can't actually fight the Goblin - only avoid him. The programmers really should have allowed you to defeat him somehow. Stage two offers a tall pink building that's far more difficult to traverse. Spider-Man is a winner. It's a unique title that requires equal parts skill and strategy.

Spider-Man Notes: Pretty neat game especially for the time period. Good start for Spider-Man video games.

Amazing Spider-Man, The (LJN, 1990)

System: Game Boy
Grade: D-
Originally posted 2021/7/7
screenshot As the first Spider-Man title for the Game Boy, this is anything but amazing. Suffice to say it fails miserably to capture the spirit and energy of our high-flying superhero. Is that Peter Parker in the Spider-Man outfit or an 80-year-old man? He walks around hunched over and that oversized head makes him look like a martian for crying out loud.

The first stage is awfully generic as you walk through alleys, punch bad guys, and jump on crates. Who left all these crates sitting around, and why are people in windows trying to hit Spider-Man with baseball bats?

The second stage challenges you to climb a building while avoiding falling bowling balls. You'll finally reach an open window at the top, only to discover you can't enter it. Apparently, you need to "jump" into it (eye roll). After descending into the subway you're swarmed by pesky spiders and bats. What is the point?

The rooftop area is so repetitive you begin to wonder if you're just moving in circles. Occasionally Spidey will inexplicably go into web-swinging mode, allowing you to breeze through the stage while remaining above the fray. It feels like cheating but who's complaining?

The game provides several continues and I do appreciate how these let you pick up exactly where you left off - even in the middle of a boss exploding! Still, when it comes to officially-licensed Spider-Man games you tend to expect a little more than a geriatric martian in a cheap Party City Halloween costume.

Spider-Man Notes: Replay value approaching zero.

Spider-Man Vs. the Kingpin (Sega, 1990)

System: Sega Master System
Grade: F
Originally posted 2007/7/11
screenshot This is a poor man's version of the Genesis Spider-Man game, and I don't like it at all. The graphics aren't too bad, and judging from the crisp, colorful title screen alone you might even assume this was a Genesis game. Sadly, Spider-Man is ruined by poor design and hazy objectives, causing confusion, frustration, and eventually rage. The action starts in front of the Daily Bugle building, in a scene oddly reminiscent of Spider-Man for the Atari 2600. As you attempt to swing and climb your way to a high open window, your efforts are thwarted by thugs in the windows but mostly by the poor controls.

Spider-Man can kick, punch, sling web, swing, climb, and even activate icons. How did Sega map so many functions to just two buttons? Not very well! Even when you know exactly what you're supposed to do, the clumsy controls make everything an onerous chore. The second stage takes place in a warehouse, where you slug it out with thugs in blue helmets and orange jumpsuits. You need to kill each and every last one of them before Dr. Octopus will appear, and it took me quite a while to figure that out! Kicking thugs causes them to bounce around like basketballs - pretty cheesy!!

The third stage places Spidey in some nasty sewers with falling red drops, rising green bubbles, and pesky rats scurrying around. This stage also features nasty pit traps that are next to impossible to escape from. Even the layered background music sounds like a jumbled mess. I wanted to like Spider-Man, but this game is just a monumental waste of time.

Spider-Man Notes: Although this game is subpar, it laid the groundwork for the excellent Genesis version.

Spider-Man (Sega, 1991)

System: Genesis
Grade: B-
Originally posted 2001/9/9
screenshot This side-scroller is plenty of fun if you can deal with all the clichés. Spider-Man is your typical, old-fashioned, jump-kick-punch game. You beat up one thug after another, and they all look exactly the same. Spider-Man can crawl on the walls, ceilings, the sides of buildings, and through vents. The controls are tricky at first, and can be frustrating at times. But your web-slinging ability is great fun, allowing you to swing freely as well as tie up the bad guys. You'll face six villains, including Dr. Octopus, the Hobgoblin, and Venom. The graphics and sound are about average. The action gets repetitious, but the boss battles are pretty interesting. Spider-Man is a challenging game, and it doesn't provide a password, but it does deliver some old-school fun.
Spider-Man Notes: Satisfying Spider-Man game on every level. One of the top-5 Spidey games ever!

Spider-Man/X-Men: Arcade's Revenge (LJN, 1992)

System: Super Nintendo
Grade: D
Originally posted 2001/3/5
screenshot Arcade's Revenge makes a fine first impression, but it wears off quickly as the game slowly descends into mediocrity. The graphics and animation look great, and uptempo music makes you feel energized. In the first stage you play as Spider-Man who must deactivate a series of bombs in a building. Your web-slinging skills are necessary to scaling the building, but the control scheme is awkward.

You can only shoot web sideways and touching anything sends you into a free-fall. You can easily cling to walls, but this is annoying when you don't want to cling to walls! Spider-Man must disarm the bombs in a certain order. This is annoying and tedious, but get used to it, because you'll have to replay this stage every time you put in the game! That's right, the selectable levels (featuring X-Men characters) aren't available until after you complete the first stage!

Subsequent stages are diverse but bizarre. Gambit battles giant chess pieces while avoiding huge rolling balls. Storm swims through her stages, and Wolverine battles giant toys in a fun house. I couldn't tell if I was playing X-Men or Mickey Mouse's Castle of Illusion! The X-Men characters are a little easier to control than Spider-Man, but the gameplay is just so-so, and the game is in dire need of a password feature.

Spider-Man Notes: Spider-Man moves very fluidly and the number of Marvel characters is a definite plus. This game will try your patience however and what’s up with that Spidey-sense sound effect?

Spider-Man (Acclaim, 1992)

System: Game Gear
Grade: C
Originally posted 2018/4/12
screenshot The cartridge label says Spider-Man and the title screen reads Spider-Man Vs. The Kingpin, so which is it? The graphics are very nice. There are some handsome building skylines, and even the sewers look good! The animation could use some work however. Spider-Man struts like a bodybuilder, and when he beats up thugs they bounce off the screen like basketballs! What the hell?

The first stage is set in front of the Daily Planet building with police shooting at you from the sidewalk and people punching you from the windows. Apparently you've been framed by the Kingpin so everybody thinks you're bad. Swinging around on a pixelated web strand reminded me of Spider-Man (Atari 2600, 1983) but the swinging controls are worse. To complete the first stage you just need to climb into an open window - easier said than done!

Most stages are just open areas with random enemies you beat up until the boss appears. Spider-Man can bind enemies with his web before moving in for a flurry of kicks and punches. The second stage takes place in a spacious warehouse where you kick pigs (?) and punch henchmen wearing motorcycle helmets. Defeating Doctor Octopus isn't hard thanks to your rapid-fire low kick. One innovative feature is the ability to take snapshots which earn you money later in the game.

Between stages you have the option of resting in your apartment to replenish your health, and why wouldn't you? Because there's a ticking time bomb - that's why! Doctor Strange makes a cameo in the game, giving you a rainbow-colored medallion. I didn't have the heart to tell him it clashed with my outfit. It did come in handy however when I fell into a spiked-lined sewer pit and it allowed me to magically escape. There are some cool features in the game, but so-so controls and poor stage design prove Spider-Man's downfall.

Spider-Man Notes: Is this a Spider-Man or Bart Simpson game?

Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six (LJN, 1992)

System: NES
Grade: D
Originally posted 2006/4/17
screenshot Is it true that this weak platformer is the only Spider-Man game for the NES?! That's pretty sad. Return of the Sinister Six is bogged down by awkward controls, dull stage designs, and predictable gameplay. And what's the deal with Spider-Man's huge noggin?! He looks like a six-year old in a Halloween costume!

Each of the game's brief six stages offers a new villain, including Electro, Sandman, Mysterio, Vulture, Hobgoblin, and Dr. Octopus. I enjoyed the outdoor environments with their bright blue skies and towering skyscrapers, but the indoor areas are dull and cramped. I especially hate the warehouse with its hard-to-see mines and rats that are constantly nipping at your heels.

I was hoping that the house of illusion (stage three) might spice things up, but that was just as forgettable. As you forge through this by-the-numbers adventure, you'll engage in altercations with bad guys dressed in bright green suits. When punched or kicked, they explode into meaty chunks, which is probably the highlight of the game. It's hardly necessary however, because you can breeze through most stages by simply running past these goons!

The worst part of Sinister Six is definitely the controls. The whole web-slinging mechanism is so confusing and frustrating that you'll want to avoid using it whenever possible. The collision detection is terribly sloppy, making it hard to kick or punch an enemy without "overlapping" him. Spider-Man Return of the Sinister Six isn't a total loss though. The music is okay, and the gameplay is fairly easy and straightforward. But compared to most other Spider-Man titles I've played, this one is far from impressive.

Spider-Man Notes: Don't want to say it looks like a bad Atari game, but this could give ET a run for the money.

Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin (Sega, 1993)

System: Sega CD
Grade: B+
Originally posted 2000/9/21
screenshot This is clearly a remake of the original Genesis Spider-Man game, with many of the graphics and level designs taken directly from that game. But Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin is actually a significant improvement, especially when it comes to the control.

As with the original Spider-Man game, our hero must move from level to level, punching endless thugs and facing six different villains. But this time there are A LOT more levels, and you can choose the order in which to play them.

The fighting hasn't changed much - you'll still punch the same villains over and over again, but the improved control makes it easy and fun to climb on walls and ceilings. The graphics are slightly improved, and feature more interesting levels and backgrounds than the first game.

Cartoon quality cut-scenes are used to convey the story, and although they can take a while to sit through, they're pretty darn funny (unintentionally?). Other cool features include a password save feature and a gallery of artwork. Thumbs up!

Spider-Man Notes: Basically an expansion of the 5-star Genesis game with slightly better graphics, bad animated cutscenes, and annoying loading times.

Spider-Man (LJN, 1994)

System: Super Nintendo
Grade: F
Originally posted 2014/8/12
screenshot In this game's kick-ass intro Spider-Man swings around a city with a full moon looming in the background and a gargoyle in the foreground. Then you're treated to the Spider-Man theme song sung by some kind of freaky electronic voice. This game is great until you play it! The perplexing controls and non-intuitive design is infuriating. And what is the deal with Spider-Man's body? He's so bulky and top-heavy, it might as well be the Incredible Hulk in that costume, and that huge head looks like something from an NES title.

The first stage takes place in a research facility, and its layout is totally redundant. Cliches come early and often in the form of timed flames, electric fields, and conveyor belts to nowhere. Enemy soldiers you encounter look exactly like Master Chief from Halo (Xbox, 2001). The control scheme doesn't make any sense. Spider-Man can crawl on ceilings, but apparently only in certain designated places. Likewise your webline never sticks where you need it to. And why in the world do I need to jump first before I can shoot my web line or grab a wall?

I felt bewildered playing this game, constantly wondering where the heck I was supposed to go. A pause screen lets you access grenades, but after highlighting them you must press select (not start!) to resume the game or your selection won't take. That's confusing, and adding insult to injury, the grenades are worthless. In theory you're supposed to be able to call in members of the Fantastic Four, but those options were never available when I checked.

Spider-Man has a lot of arbitrary rules, like not being able to kick in a mesh grate until you fight a robot in a different part of the stage. Stage locations include a bridge, construction site, penthouse, and Coney Island. Except for a few nice skylines and sunsets, the scenery is lacking in detail and extremely repetitive. On a positive note, you do get to face-off against a wide range of classic foes like Doc Oct, Lizard, Rhino, Vulture, and Green Goblin. Still, this is so inferior to the Genesis Spider-Man (Genesis, 1991), you have to wonder what the developers were thinking.

Spider-Man Notes: Super sluggish... this overweight Spidey needs to lay off the tacos.

Spider-Man/Venom: Maximum Carnage (LJN, 1994)

System: Super Nintendo
Grade: B
Originally posted 2021/9/10
screenshot Maximum Carnage is a side-scrolling brawler starring Spider-Man and Venom, although oddly not at the same time. Nope, this is single-player only. Still, the designers nailed the visual style. Unlike older Spider-Man titles that made him look freakish, here our hero is well-proportioned and smoothly animated. Stage locations such as a street, rooftop, club, church, and lab lack detail, but the comic-style intermissions look amazing.

Spider-Man beats up a variety of goons including comic book geeks and guys in trenchcoats with random names like "Sal" and "Alamo". The same enemies appear in various color schemes, but crisp controls make it a pleasure to take them out. I love how Spider-Man can hoist objects over his head (including a dumpster) and toss them to devastating effect. Tossing one bad guy into others is an effective way to distribute the damage.

Maximum Carnage boasts a huge supporting cast including villains like Doppelganger, Shriek, Demogoblin, and my personal favorite, Morbius the vampire. Later in the game you can call in heroes for help including Captain America. Some of the non-villain "boss" encounters are a little bizarre, including chicks that whip their hair and middle-aged men armed with umbrellas.

At certain points in the game you'll select between Spider-Man or Venom. While they control pretty much the same, this selection affects the order of the stages. The non-linear structure of this game is unconventional to say the least. There are times when you appear overwhelmed in battle, only to have some obscure hero like "Cloak" swoop in and move you to a new location. These unexpected turn of events are exciting but make you wonder how much impact you're really having on events.

The Genesis version of Maximum Carnage may be slightly faster and smoother, but I prefer this SNES edition. The high-revving soundtrack is noticeably better, particularly when that sinister boss music kicks in. The sound effects pack a punch, especially when slugging multiple thugs at a time. When female enemies let out a scream it sounds alarmingly real. The game's "Climb" stage can be a nightmare, but at least this version prods you along with arrows.

Packing 22 action-packed stages and about a dozen secondary characters, Maximum Carnage delivers more depth than you might expect. If nothing else, I'll give this game credit for taking chances. If you can persevere through its repetitive early rounds you're in for a wild ride.

Spider-Man Notes: The ability to be Spider-Man or Venom + a nice helping of classic Marvel heroes and villains + comic book panel cut scenes = fun.

Spider-Man/Venom: Maximum Carnage (Acclaim, 1994)

System: Genesis
Grade: B-
Originally posted 2021/9/25
screenshot Not highly-regarded in its time, Maximum Carnage has been getting a lot more love in recent years. This old-fashioned beat-em-up lets you play as Spider-Man and Venom in over 22 (!) action-packed stages. The game boasts non-linear gameplay and some gorgeous comic book-style intermissions.

Carnage also manages to incorporate a huge supporting cast including villains like Doppelganger, Shriek, Carrion, and Morbius. Heroes like Captain America can be called in to apply strategic hits.

Unlike older Spider-Man games, Maximum Carnage gets the look just right, with vibrant graphics and well-proportioned characters that make it look like a comic book come to life. The animation is uncommonly smooth, and I love how you can hoist enemies over your head and hurl them into oncoming thugs. The super-responsive controls are almost enough to make you overlook the game's repetitive nature.

It's easy to get the wrong idea about this game because its first two stages are unimpressive to say the least. The game begins as a mindless beat-em-up on a generic city street with the same clones returning over and over. You're required to backtrack through the same area several times for no apparent reason.

In the second stage "Climb" you're expected to scale two buildings while avoiding deadly laser beams fired from offscreen. As if the beams coming from out of nowhere aren't cheap enough, swinging between the buildings is hard to grasp. If you're not proficient with the controls, you'll fritter away every last life in a hurry.

That's a shame, because after that the game really opens up. You eventually have the option to play Venom who can beat thugs down with his oversized fist. You'll face a wide assortment of villains and there are surprises at every turn. Sometimes you'll think you're defeated only to be rescued by another hero and whisked off to a new location.

It may seem strange for a game that stars two characters, but Carnage is one-player only. The audio is weaker than the SNES version, with twangy music and muffled sound effects. I dislike how the game displays "1 life" when in fact you're on your last life. The lack of a password is a bit more forgivable when you understand just how non-linear the game is.

Maximum Carnage seems shallow at a glance but grows on you over time. You gain an appreciation the further you advance, experiencing all the various twists and turns of the story. Apparently this was good enough to merit a sequel called Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety (Acclaim, 1995).

Spider-Man Notes: Same as the SNES version.

Spider-Man: Web of Fire (Sega, 1995)

System: Sega 32X
Grade: B-
Originally posted 2020/12/24
screenshot Web of Fire is the crown jewel of any 32X game collection. Not because it's particularly good, but because the game is Spider-Man, and it's quite rare. Its gameplay is so underwhelming I suspect it could just as easily have been released on the Genesis. The developers tried to use shading to make the characters more detailed, but it's very subtle because the characters are so small and dark.

Spider-Man is nicely animated as he swings through the air, climbs walls, and beats up green dudes in purple pants. I like how he can punch in any direction while sticking to a surface, making short work of any approaching drones. The game is moderately fun but the controls could be better. I found myself "sticking" not only to ceilings and walls, but also dangerous things like giant fans and electrified transformers.

The first stage takes place on New York City rooftops, but while Spidey can swing freely he'll inexplicably die if he swoops too low. The scenery is so repetitive you'll think you're moving in circles. At the end of each stage you'll face an obscure villain like Dragonman, Thermite, or The Eel. Making a special cameo appearance is DareDevil, whom Spider-Man can call upon to apply a quick strike. Most stages tend to take place in industrial environments and the layered backdrops look attractive. I especially like that green laser netting stretching across the night sky.

The soundtrack has that distinctive metallic sound but the sound effects could use more punch. The difficulty is reasonable except for the fact that dying sends you all the way back to the beginning of the stage. Web of Fire is an underachiever. Where is my score? Where is the password feature? I expected more, but as one of the few big names in the sparse 32X library, Spider-Man: Web of Fire still manages to be a stand-out title.

Spider-Man Notes: Can't quite put my webbing on it, but I think this game sucks. Why is there a laser show happening in the sky?

Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety (Acclaim, 1995)

System: Super Nintendo
Grade: C+
Originally posted 2021/9/10
screenshot While critics were beating up on Maximum Carnage, kids were buying it in droves, necessitating a sequel. Separation Anxiety addresses the biggest fault of Maximum Carnage, which was the lack of a two-player co-op. Now both Spidey and Venom can both go nuts beating the crap out of punks on the mean streets at the same time.

Though better in some regards, Separation Anxiety's gameplay is weaker in others. Sure, the scenery has a striking pre-rendered look with granular stone walls and shiny metallic surfaces. You can even see reflections in the windows. Unfortunately the scenery is also completely static, highly repetitive, and mazelike. The text intermissions are a far cry from the animated comic book panels of Maximum Carnage.

Even the side-scrolling, beat-em-up gameplay feels a bit off. It's too easy to accidentally pick up bad guys, leaving you open to cheap hits. Enemies are more slippery, making it harder to "line up" with them to administer a beating. Worse of all is how ineffective throwing objects has become. That was one of the best parts of Maximum Carnage.

The difficulty is wildly uneven. It's hard just to survive the first stage but soon after the difficulty takes a dive, dispensing hearts, lives, and power-ups like candy. I went from living on the edge to having six lives in reserve. I felt as if I could play indefinitely.

Power-ups include special icons that allow you to call upon other heroes for help, which is pretty awesome. I love how Captain America's shield ricochets between enemies, and after Hawkeye shoots several arrows straight into the air, they all land directly on foes. You can't use your allies against bosses, but frankly the bosses are surprisingly easy.

The graphics in this version are much sharper than the Genesis version but it's the audio that commands your attention. The opening music (which sounds vaguely like The Final Countdown) segues into a killer beat with energetic vocals. Sound effects in the game resonate loudly, so when you punch it sounds as if you're smacking around a punching bag.

Separation Anxiety is a lively but forgettable romp. Fans will appreciate the co-op action and password features, but may find their interest waning as the game progresses. I think it lacks the replay value of Maximum Carnage as well.

Spider-Man Notes: Venom and Spidey fighting side by side is awesome!

Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety (Acclaim, 1995)

System: Genesis
Grade: C
Originally posted 2021/9/25
screenshot As the sequel to Spider-Man/Venom: Maximum Carnage (Acclaim, 1995), Separation Anxiety ups the ante by letting two people play as Spider-Man and Venom at the same time. But while it reprises the same style of crisp, colorful, beat-em-up action, Separation lacks the magic of the first game.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy being able to play this with a friend. The controls are perfectly responsive, making it easy to unleash a combo or take a few thugs out with a shoulder charge. Just be sure to use a six-button controller or else you'll need to press combinations of buttons.

I feel like the fighting action has regressed since Maximum Carnage. Throwing items and tossing people around is a lot less effective. You have the annoying habit of automatically picking up enemies to punch them, but this makes you vulnerable to hits from those around you. Even the characters don't look as good. The heroes look a bit odd and your foes are faceless.

The scenery has a granular 3D-rendered appearance that's striking at first, but it's totally static and lacking in interesting detail. Certain stages are annoyingly maze-like, including an office building with a bunch of elevators that all look the same. The audio pales to the SNES game with abrasive music and muffled sound effects.

The ability to call in allies for quick hits adds strategy but isn't a factor until later in the game. The fact that the comic book-style cut-scenes have been replaced with dull text tells me that less effort was put into this project. Maximum Carnage took risks, but Separation Anxiety feels like a paint-by-numbers brawler.

Spider-Man Notes: Not quite as good as the SNES version.

Spider-Man (Activision, 2000)

System: Game Boy Color
Grade: B-
Originally posted 2021/7/19
screenshot Wow, this sure is a big step up from that super-lame Amazing Spider-Man (Game Boy, 1990). This color Spider-Man offers simple controls, vivid graphics, and brisk pacing that embody the spirit of the comic. You begin in a downtown area with a spectacular skyline. The buildings not only look great from a distance but up close as well! Case in point: the churches have gargoyles. That's a letter grade right there.

Spider-Man strikes cool poses as he leaps between ledges, swings on his web, and climbs walls. He'll cross paths with crowbar-wielding goons, knife-throwing psychopaths, and Rastafarian kick-boxing dudes. He can punch these guys or use his web-shooter to incapacitate them. On the downside, his perpetual stickiness makes it aggravating to navigate tight spaces like the sewers.

I was expecting this game to be linear in design but Spider-Man is one big open world with separate areas to explore as you please. You can duck down into the subway, head off to the docks, or face Venon on the rooftops. One consequence of this design is that there are times where you have no idea where to go next.

My biggest irritation however is a tendency to overlap with enemies, draining your life while not being able to strike back. It can be downright infuriating during boss battles. The game also has its share of "nuisance" enemies like rats and birds. The bats in the sewers that seem impervious to attack, and why do seagulls hate Spider-Man so much?

The uptempo musical score sounds like it's careening out of control at times, but I like how it changes between locations. A score and password are both displayed on the pause screen as a terrific rendition of the classic Spider-Man theme song plays. Spider-Man feels like a fully-realized adventure, giving you unprecedented freedom to put those web-slinging skills to good use.

Spider-Man Notes: Impressive game play, especially for a handheld.

Spider-Man (Activision, 2000)

System: Dreamcast
Grade: B+
Originally posted 2001/10/31
screenshot It's been years since there's been a good Spider-Man video game, but Activision has done a commendable job of bringing the web slinger into the world of 3D. First impressions mean a lot, so when I heard that classic Spider-Man theme song play during the title screen, I was pretty psyched up. The cut-scenes are a bit grainy, but the in-game graphics are beautiful and smooth.

Thanks to a well-designed control scheme, swinging between buildings is easy and fun. Although you get about 20 different attacks in all, they're all just slight variations on the basic kick/punch/web moves. The thugs look great, and the villains include Scorpion, Rhino, and Venom. Finely detailed, they even look impressive up close.

The buildings are huge and imposing, but since rendering the streets below would have been too demanding on the hardware, the storyline conveniently begins with Venom flooding the streets with a mysterious yellow haze.

Since Spider-Man can crawl on any wall or ceiling, Activision used transparent surfaces and changing camera angles to keep the action in perspective. They did a fair job overall, although I did occasionally become disoriented, causing Spider-Man to crawl in the wrong direction. But let's face it, few 3D games have a perfect camera system, and this game is especially demanding.

The basic gameplay is involving and fun, as you swing from building to building beating the crap out of the bad guys. In some ways, the gameplay reminded me of the classic Genesis Spider-Man game. The voice acting is expertly done, including narration by Stan Lee, and bonus features include different Spider-Man costumes, level select, and an artwork gallery. This is the game Spider-Man fans have been waiting for.

Spider-Man Notes: The 1960's Spider-Man theme song gets you pumped, but the 3D style hasn’t aged well.

Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro (Activision, 2001)

System: Playstation
Grade: F
Originally posted 2021/8/7
screenshot Oh dear. Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro was released during an awkward phase in gaming. The original Spider-Man (Dreamcast, 2000) dazzled players with its high-resolution graphics and rich environments. After the Dreamcast went belly-up (sadly), I was forced to play this ill-advised sequel on the Playstation One. It's a major step down and we're not just talking about graphics.

The animation is actually quite smooth as you glide between buildings, beating up angular thugs with fuzzy faces. Since the PS1 can't render distances well most stages take place under the cover of night, with gulfs of blackness between buildings. Most stages are very linear or confined to a limited area, like a small city block.

The controls are the absolute worst. One of your first tasks is to yank open a fire hydrant to extinguish a fire. Seems simple enough right? Would you believe I had to consult a [expletive] FAQ to figure out how to do this?! It turns out you hold L2 to target the hydrant, and then simultaneously press triangle and "down" on the directional pad. If you think that sounds unnecessarily complicated you'd better get used to it. The bulk of the moves listed in the manual require you hitting bizarre button combinations.

And the buttons aren't even responsive half the time! There were times when I attempted to swing over to a building on my web (R2) only to plunge helplessly to my death. I would expect the jump button to help me scale buildings, but instead it detaches my grip, once again sending me plummeting into the abyss.

And don't even get me started about that [expletive]ed-up camera. It tries to point in the direction you're facing, which turns out to be a terrible system. You can't even find enemies around you, much less locate a fire in the vicinity. Your Spider-compass is only available at certain times, and rarely when you really need it.

The cut-scenes are passable. Spider-Man dishes out his share of smart-ass quips and bad guys fire back clever retorts like "You're dead, do-gooder!" Prompts to save your progress are few and far between - normally after boss battles. Spider-Man 2 is a lousy game. You'll try with all your might to defeat the bad guys but the main villain turns out to be the controls.

Spider-Man Notes: IMO, this was just a bad time for video games, Spider-Man 2 included.

Spider-Man: The Movie (Activision, 2002)

System: Game Boy Advance
Grade: A-
Originally posted 2003/8/31
screenshot Similar to the old Genesis Spider-Man games, this 2D side-scroller delivers plenty of excitement as you swing around a city, beat up thugs, and locate items. The kick-ass intro features some grainy movie footage and a rocking soundtrack.

The game offers a nice variety of objectives, from saving hostages, to escaping a crumbling building, to destroying barrels within a certain time period. The levels are brief but hidden secrets add to the replay value. The characters are well-defined using black outlines, and the background scenery looks pretty realistic.

Spidey's hits are punctuated with "Thwack!" and "Bam!" graphics, just like the old Batman TV shows. The action is fairly conventional until you reach the amazing 3D bonus stages, which let you swing through the city via a first-person point of view! That's pretty impressive for the Game Boy Advance!

Control is often a sticking-point in Spider-Man games, and this one is no exception. In the outdoor levels, it's easy to swing around from building to building, but in close quarters you tend to stick to everything, which gets annoying! Even so, Spider-Man The Movie is a quality title, delivering old-school charm with a new-school flair.

Spider-Man Notes: Spider-man in his element. THE BEST portable Spidey game by far!

Spider-Man (Activision, 2002)

System: Xbox
Grade: A-
Originally posted 2002/5/8
screenshot Spider-Man may be the toughest superhero to emulate in a video game. Think about it - this guy can go everywhere - and fast! There's really not a surface he can't stick to. Any game where you have that much mobility and can still tell what the heck's going on is a major accomplishment. So I really have to applaud this game. It combines beautiful graphics with innovative level designs, first-rate sound, tight control, and a compelling storyline. The difficulty level is fair, with frequent saves between "chapters" of the story, so you'll rarely get stuck.

The game plays like an interactive comic book - it's hard to stop because you always want to see what happens next. No two stages are the same. In one level you're beating up thugs in a warehouse, then you're saving innocent civilians, and next you're fighting a villain amongst the skyscrapers, hundreds of feet above the ground. The outdoor levels are enormous in scope, and swinging around the city is a joy. Not only can you see a great distance, but the level of detail in the buildings is retained even up close.

Unlike the Dreamcast Spider-Man game (which had that cheesy green "fog"), you can even see the traffic in the streets below (but you can't go down there). The control scheme is brilliant, with a height meter and compass to help you keep your bearings. You can easily "zip" from place to place, and there are plenty of imaginative fighting moves and combos to keep things fresh. Even fighting in mid-air is relatively easy.

The audio is outstanding in every way. The musical score is incredible, and Bruce Campbell (of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead fame) provides the most hilarious narration you've ever heard in a video game. Spider-Man would be the ultimate game if not for one problem - the camera. I've played a lot of 3D adventures, but I could never get a handle on the camera in this game. The right joystick can be used to adjust it, but it always seems to go the opposite way I would expect it to. When the angle changes automatically, you often end up heading in the wrong direction.

The shortcomings of the XBox controller are made evident by this game. You need to hit combinations of the top buttons, and it can be tough to tell those little bumps apart in the heat of the action. If not for the additional two levels that the XBox version has, I would have gone with the PS2 version. But overall, I am extremely impressed with Spider-Man. As of this writing, it's probably the best superhero game ever made.

Spider-Man Notes: Easy to play story mode especially satisfying for Toby Mcguire fans!

Spider-Man 2 (Activision, 2004)

System: Game Boy Advance
Grade: C
Originally posted 2021/8/28
screenshot Spider-Man: The Movie (Game Boy Advance, 2002) impressed the heck out of me but this sequel falls flat. The graphics are impressive enough, beginning with some actual (albeit severely pixelated) footage from the film! The in-game scenery is rich with texture and I love how Spider-Man swings on his web. Unfortunately he makes this really annoying "ugh!" sound whenever he jumps. Ugh.

The ill-conceived first stage requires you deliver five pizzas (!) around town. Okay, I get it. The designers thought this would give the player a chance to acclimate to the controls. So why did this stage need to be so difficult and confusing? It might be the toughest stage in the game! Since you have no idea where the customers are, you're forced to scour every building in sight and even punch out windows in your frantic search. Thank goodness you only need to play this stage once. That auto-save function is worth its weight in gold.

Subsequent stages aren't much better as you try to escape a burning lab, beat up bank robbers, or quell a prison riot. I feel like the controls are too "sticky". Once you get on a wall or ceiling it's hard to get off. You'll make heavy use of ventilation systems to navigate between locked rooms, but Spidey tends to become awkwardly wedged in them, with half of his body extending through the wall. Sometimes you can punch and kick through doors. There's a surprising amount of slow-down, especially in the burning lab stage.

But the most ill-advised aspect of this game are its pseudo-3D stages where you freely roam a pixelated city. They should have never attempted on the Game Boy Advance. Everything is so blurry and jumpy, you might as well be drunk! It's not a pretty sight.

Otherwise Spider-Man 2 is just okay. You can use the experience points you gain to purchase upgrades like combinations or an upper-cut move. The stages are detailed but areas tend to repeat and enemy clones always move in the same predictable patterns. Despite its high production values, Spider-Man 2 has a cookie-cutter quality that makes each stage feel like a tiresome, repetitive exercise.

Spider-Man Notes: Looks quite impressive, however the gameplay can be a confusing chore.

Spider-Man 2 (Activision, 2004)

System: Xbox
Grade: B
Originally posted 2004/8/14
screenshot For technical reasons alone, the developers of Spider-Man 2 deserve a lot of credit. The game provides unprecedented freedom of movement on the island of Manhattan, from walking the streets, to swinging between the skyscrapers, to scaling the Empire State building. Previous Spider-Man games let you swing around buildings, but you could never descend to street level. The city itself is a fair approximation of the real thing (there are a lot of annoying L-shaped buildings), but all the major streets and landmarks have been included. You can spend hours just exploring the city (while ignoring people's cries for help).

The grand scale of Spider-Man 2 is so convincing that I actually felt dizzy peering off the top of the Empire State building! If there's a price to be paid for this freedom, it's in the lack of detail in the people and cars on the streets below. These angular characters look very chunky, but in fairness this doesn't have an adverse effect on the gameplay.

Although you can swing around the city at a breakneck pace, it's not as easy as it was in previous Spider-Man games. You can't sling web unless there's a tall structure nearby to latch onto, so you can't go swinging over central park or cross a body of water. You tend to swing in zigzag patterns, and it's easy to run into walls. It's more realistic than previous games (where your web didn't latch onto anything), but this new style takes a while to get the hang of. To be honest, I never felt totally comfortable with it.

The game loosely follows the movie's storyline, with voices contributed by the stars of the film. There's a lot of humor in the dialogue, almost to a point of parody ("Hello, I'm Spider-Man. I'll be your superhero for today"). Dr. Octopus does not appear until relatively late in the game, but you'll also encounter villains not in the film, such as Rhino, a space alien ("make your time!"), and a Catwoman rip-off named Black Cat. The fighting is well done and has a distinct comic book flavor.

Spider-Man can perform normal punch/kick attacks, a slew of web-based attacks, and a useful dodge move. Predictably, there's also a "spider reflex mode" that lets you slow down the action (like "bullet time" in Max Payne or "focus mode" in Enter the Matrix). On the downside, I found some of the missions to be quite frustrating and poorly conceived. The annoying obstacle course stage has a camera from hell, and the vertigo-inducing Statue of Liberty mission is an absolutely harrowing experience. I actually felt nauseous playing that stage!

Another downfall is that each "chapter" requires you to earn a few thousand "hero points" by foiling small-scale crimes like bank robberies, purse snatchings, and car jackings. These get repetitive as you keep solving the same crimes, and it starts to feel like a chore after a while. The "racing" and "chasing" missions didn't do much for me either. Spider-Man 2's main storyline did hold my interest however, and there are plenty of surprises and secrets to discover. When all is said and done, Spider-Man 2 may be remembered more as an impressive technical feat than a fun game.

Spider-Man Notes: Tobey Maguire and Bruce Campbell voicing acting boost this up a letter grade in my book!

Spider-Man 3 (Activision, 2007)

System: Xbox 360
Grade: C-
Originally posted 2020/5/25
screenshot Sometimes I pick up a game on sale and it sits on my shelf for years. Spider-Man 3 was one of those games. Ironically it was the recent Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4, 2018) that inspired me to give this another try. Spider-Man 3 is remarkably advanced for its time. You can freely swing around the city of New York and it looks beautiful. The buildings are a little faint in the distance but in general it's quite exhilarating. And when night arrives it completely changes the complexion of the game.

Bruce Campbell provides snarky narration and character voices are provided by the actual actors including Tobey Maguire, James Franco, and that nutty guy who plays Jameson. I found it odd how the game inexplicably incorporates a gang of chicks decked out in gray skirts. I don't know if that's weird or cool or both.

The missions are diverse. Some have a fun arcade vibe, like swinging about the city with Mary Jane while collecting floating hearts. Others are more stealthy, like trying to snap photos of the elusive Lizard Man. Web-slinging feels effortless on the streets of Manhattan but navigating indoor environments is another story. Even when you know exactly where you need to go the spastic camera makes it hard to maintain your bearings. If you're accustomed to gravity pulling you down, you may be in for a rude awakening!

The combat system lets you quickly dart from thug to thug, but without that decisive "death blow" sound you end up pounding on lifeless bodies like rag-dolls. Spider-Man 3 is very much a tale of two games. When you're outdoors it's glorious but indoors is just a world of hurt.

Spider-Man Notes: Doesn’t follow the much of the movie, but it is cool that Spidey wears both the classic and Black Symbiote suits, plus it has additional classic Spider-Man villains.

Spider-Man 3 (Activision, 2007)

System: Wii
Grade: F-
Originally posted 2021/7/29
screenshot I wasn't a fan of Spider-Man 3 on the Xbox 360, but at least that game let you use actual buttons to beat up bad guys. This abomination of a game forces you to continuously shake the Wii-mote until your arm falls off! It's fun for about ten seconds, then gradually descends to a form of torture I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy.

The first stage has you making your way through a burning office building and even Bruce Campbell's witty narration can't lighten the mood. The scenery is so generic it's hard to tell where you've been or where you're supposed to go. You'll battle dozens of soldiers decked out in riot gear, and every single one requires five or more hits to put down. That's a whole lot of wear and tear on your arm.

Once outdoors you can freely swing around the city of New York. Toby McGuire provides the voice of our hero but his golly-gee-whiz dialog gets old quick. The canned missions feel like wild goose chases as you methodically try to move from location A to B before a timer runs out. The graphics and animation aren't bad but the motion controls are a liability. You shake the Wii-mote to aim your webbing, but errant shots frequently send you swinging off in the wrong direction.

Spider-Man 3 was never a great game to begin with but these motion controls grafted on top might as well be nails in a coffin. Playing this game for any extended period is exhausting at best and harmful worst! Adding insult to injury - quite literally - the "quit mission" pause menu option menu is disabled most of the time. Playing Spider-Man 3 on the Wii is like being held captive in your own little personal hell.

Spider-Man Notes: This game is like taking Driver's ED for the 10th time when you already know the only thing you'll ever drive in life is a 1975 Pinto ... tedious and unrewarding.

Spider-Man: Friend or Foe (Activision, 2007)

System: Wii
Grade: B-
Originally posted 2021/7/29
screenshot Released around the same time as the horrible Spider-Man 3 (Wii, 2007), I was bracing myself for yet another waggle-fest. Thankfully that's not the case. Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is a cooperative fighter that actually kicks some ass. It opens with a lengthy animated sequence that's entertaining to watch, putting you in the proper frame of mind to administer a beat down.

Friend or Foe is expressly designed for two players, but if you don't have a friend handy the CPU will do the honors. Your first sidekick is a generic superhero named Prowler. Later you'll unlock obscure heroes like Silver Sable and slightly-less-obscure heroes like Black Cat. Upon defeating villains like Green Goblin and Doc Ock, they become playable as well, fighting side-by-side with Spider-Man! There's something you don't see everyday.

The opening stage takes place in a generic factory where you battle wave after wave of shiny robots. The action is repetitive but the elaborate attacks are amazing. Spider-Man can grab a foe with his web and slam them into the ground repeatedly. He can spin a goon around and hurl him into a mob. He'll take out the legs of a hulking behemoth with his web before polishing him off with a finishing move. This game has energy to burn.

Its weakest aspect is the repetitive environments, with areas that look so similar that my friend Eric and I inadvertently backtracked at one point. Fighting faceless robots becomes mind-numbing after a while, especially since the game feels compelled to throw twice as many enemies your way just because you're playing with a friend. I hate it when games do that!

The solo experience feels more streamlined with a reasonable number of baddies to clear out. The rainy rooftops of Tokyo look pretty cool but the jungle stages look like something from Crash Bandicoot (PS1, 1996). These stages also have you fighting green dudes that resemble creatures from Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee (PS1, 1997). The difficulty is low. In fact, Spider-Man can fall into lava and live to tell the tale!

Between missions your progress is auto-saved as you return to your "heli-carrier" headquarters where you unlock new characters and upgrades. Despite its cookie-cutter nature, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is probably the best Spider-Man title for the Wii. Granted there's not much competition, but a wealth of characters and kick-ass moves should make this appealing to fans.

Spider-Man Notes: I remember seeing the ads for this before its release. Sadly, the gameplay burst my web-bubble.

Amazing Spider-Man 2, The (Activision, 2014)

System: Wii U
Grade: B
Originally posted 2021/8/19
screenshot The opening stage of Amazing Spider-Man 2 had me floored. You're Peter Parker walking down a city street at night, and the scene is so brimming with activity and detail you just want to stop and take it all in. This game does a fine job of straddling the line between realism and arcade, combining sophisticated gameplay with bright, inviting graphics.

Navigating the skyscrapers of New York is a breeze as you alternate web swings between hands, swooping low into traffic and occasionally scraping your butt on a bus (yeeoow!). When Spider-Man isn't soaring through the air he's dashing up the sides of buildings or parkouring across rooftops. The controls feel effortless at times.

The Wii U control pad screen provides easy reference to a map as well as letting you peruse various menus and upgrades. Most missions involve dispatching gangs of thugs. That can be a joy to behold thanks to the endless combinations of various acrobatic and signature moves. Dodge moves incorporate quick hits, allowing you to land shots even on defense. If you can get the drop on the bad guys you can perform stealth attacks to take them down one by one.

Navigating indoor spaces is more tricky. You tend to stick to walls and the camera pulls in very tight, making it hard to tell which way is up! A handy "web rush" move lets you dart directly at a target. This is awesome when you can take your time but disorienting in the heat of battle. At times I found myself bouncing around like a pinball. But the game's more glaring flaw is its endless load screens. Sit through enough of these and you'll be looking around the room for another game to play.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has its share of surprises including a cameo appearance from Stan Lee himself playing a guy running a comic book store. Criminals toss out some very funny lines like "Police brutality? You don't know the meaning of the word. Yet." With its polished visuals, tight controls, and good humor, Amazing Spider-Man 2 is one of the strongest 3D Spider-Man titles I've played.

Spider-Man Notes: Better than the movie it was based, but that’s not saying much.

Marvel's Spider-Man (Sony, 2018)

System: Playstation 4
Grade: A
Originally posted 2019/1/30
screenshot From a technical standpoint Marvel's Spider-Man may be the best video game I've ever played. Swinging through a fully-realized virtual New York City feels effortlessly smooth and often exhilarating. Whether you're parkouring on rooftops, sprinting up the side of a building, or swooping down inches above traffic, it's never a problem getting from point A to B. This mechanic is the centerpiece of an epic adventure that expertly blends cinematic storytelling with pure playability.

Exploring the city is entertaining in and of itself, especially with changing time-of-day and weather conditions. Strolling around Times Square at night is mesmerizing, and I actually recognized one thoroughfare by Central Park as the route for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade I saw on TV! Cutscenes and phone dialog are expertly weaved into the action as not to interrupt the flow of the game.

The combat system is like an "above the rim" version of the Batman Arkham games. There's a lot of precision darting and frantic dodging, culminating with a slow-motion finishing blow. Incredible moves include pinning a guy against a wall with webbing, snatching weapons, and spinning a barrel around while knocking down all criminals in the vicinity. It's crucial to stake out guarded areas and web up a few unsuspecting thugs before they can detect your presence. I never got tired of systematically taking out gangs.

The controls are rich but the game displays frequent prompts and provides hints on the load screens. Your map reveals endless activities outside of your main mission like locating lost backpacks, snapping pictures of landmarks, and fixing transmission towers to fill in your map. For once I actually wanted to attempt the optional missions to crank up my stats and abilities. Heck, even the circuit puzzles are fun.

One bone of contention is how the designers sprinkled in stealth missions featuring Spider-Man's girlfriend Mary Jane and his young protege Miles. While these tend to slow things down they also provide good exposition and Miles' encounter with Rhino is the scariest part of the game. The story concludes with an epic multi-stage boss finale, followed by enough endings to make Peter Jackson blush.

I don't know how many hours I sunk into Spider-Man but it was hard to walk past my TV without picking up a controller. Upon completing the story I felt like giving the game a standing ovation, but maybe I should reserve that for the developers, as I never even had to apply a single patch to this game. That's worth celebrating.

Spider-Man Notes: The best spider-man game yet! The Spider-Man game that’s faithful to the comics.