Last weekend during E3, Square Enix announced their upcoming project with Marvel Games — Guardians of the Galaxy. This is the second Marvel title from Square Enix, after last year’s release of Marvel’s Avengers. We even got an extended preview of gameplay from the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy game.
Although both games (Marvel’s Avengers and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy) are published by Square Enix, Avengers was developed by Crystal Dynamics (Tomb Raider series) while Guardians is being developed by the team at Eidos Montreal (Deus Ex). While these two games feature a team of heroes, Avengers is heavily focused on online multiplayer gameplay while Guardians will be a solo adventure where you play as Peter Quill (aka Starlord, man…)
I really like that we’re seeing different styles of games from different studios under the Marvel Games umbrella. In the past few years we’ve had two Spider-Man games, Iron Man VR , Marvel’s Ultimate Alliance 3, multiple Marvel Lego games, Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale series, and now Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. We’ve also seen many Marvel crossovers in Fortnite and many Marvel mobile games.
Star Wars & EA
Since both Marvel and Star Wars fall under the Disney company I thought it would be good to take a look at what the Star Wars gaming universe has been up to in recent years. Star Wars started off with a big exclusivity deal with EA. The deal gave us both Star Wars: Battlefront games (I & II). There was even that insane fiasco with Star Wars: Battlefront II and loot boxes. It’s amazing to see that game still made it out alive after all of that.
I bought SW: BF II when it first came out, because I spent a lot of time in the first Star Wars: Battlefront. When I heard that this new game would have a campaign mode (which the first game did not) I had to get it. Ever since I became obsessed with the Star Wars, I’ve always been into Star Wars books and side stories (games and TV). The whole loot box thing was very sad, because the game made you feel as if you were in a Star Wars movie (the music, sound design and visuals were all great), but everyone looked past the gameplay and focused on the loot boxes instead — which was a crappy move by EA. I still spent so many hours playing Starfighter Assault multiplayer in both games.
During the EA x Star Wars Era there were also a few cancelled Star Wars games that never saw the light of day. One E3 we even got an extended look at Star Wars: 1313, which looked totally new and amazing. It was eventually sadly cancelled though and is still talked about.
Now that the EA Star Wars exclusivity deal is done we’ve already seen some great new games: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (Respawn Entertainment) and Star Wars: Squadrons (Motive) — which were both published by EA. However, there is more on the horizon (not from EA) including Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga (TT Games) which is also coming to next-gen consoles (PS5, Xbox Series X|S). There’s also the Nintendo Switch exclusive Star Wars Hunters from Zynga and the upcoming Ubisoft/Massive Star Wars title which we don’t know much about yet.
Marvel & Star Wars
There are a few things I’m excited to see from both Star Wars games and Marvel Games now that they can both freely make deals with studios and publishers. First, since both Spider-Man games have been PlayStation exclusive I’m ready to see if Xbox will have a particular Marvel hero be exclusive to their ecosystem. Nintendo Switch had Marvel’s Ultimate Alliance 3 as a console exclusive, but I also want to see them get something special.
Another thing I would love to see is how weird they can get with their games. I want to see some Marvel-inspired (and Star Wars-inspired) indie and retro-style games. Let’s see some sort of metroid-vanias, dungeon crawlers, shoot em ups, beat em ups and any other genres. Not every game has to be some big AAA title or adventure — small games are great too.
Loaning Out Zelda & Link: Nintendo
When Nintendo gave Brace Yourself Games (makers of Crypt of the Necrodancer) the opportunity to create a Legend of Zelda rhythm game (Cadence of Hyrule) it was awesome. It was basically a sort of reimagining of the original game set in Hyrule. What really made it work though is that music has always been a big part of the Zelda series. So, a rhythm game featuring remixes and new versions of beloved Zelda songs was the perfect idea.
Maybe that’s where the magic lies in making smaller games featuring big IP like Marvel or Star Wars. You have to find a common link (not a Zelda pun) and answer the question, “Why does this game make sense?” Otherwise, you’re just re-skinning whatever idea with a big name IP to trick people into buying your game.
Licensed Games of the Past
A reason why many licensed games of the past weren’t great was because these studios were working backwards. They would acquire the rights for an upcoming movie, then force a team to create a game based on that movie. It did trick kids into buying games like, Transformers: The Movie: The Game they thought, “Aw man, I love that movie! I want to play it as a game.” I fell for this many times as a child.
Not all of them were bad though, I recall X–Men Origins: Wolverine: The Game (Xbox 360) being much, much better than the movie.
Licensed Games Today
For the most part, licensed games have worked best as original stories. Original stories that take place in familiar worlds and may have cameos from known characters. Insomniac’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Miles Morales both worked so great because they built a familiar, but new world. If they had just taken the MCU’s Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and made a game based on the movies it most likely wouldn’t have worked.
The same can be said for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Who was Cal Kestis before this game? They took an important event in the Star Wars universe (Order 66 — getting rid of the Jedi) and ran with it. We have this one Jedi in hiding, he’s trying to find out what happened. The same thing is being used to create great new seasons and series of Star Wars animated shows (The Clone Wars: The Final Season and The Bad Batch).
I’m very excited to see what both Marvel and Star Wars will do with video games in the years to come. I know they have the big AAA titles covered, and I’m now ready to see which smaller titles we see.