It should go without saying that The Avengers is one of the biggest entertainment properties ever created. Even ignoring the recent blockbuster successes on the big screen, The Avengers helped usher in a new age in comic book history — one could argue that, without The Avengers, Marvel wouldn't be the publishing powerhouse it is today.
However, if there's one area of entertainment that The Avengers have yet to dominate, it's gaming. Sure, Marvel's finest have appeared in plenty of games — Marvel v. Capcom and Marvel Ultimate Alliance are notable examples — but the number of Avengers-specific games can't really compete with the likes of X-Men or Spider-Man.
That's not to say that there are no Avengers games out there ... you just have to do a bit of digging to find them. While the past decade or so hasn't been all that kind to Avengers video games, there have been a few noteworthy titles featuring Earth's Mightiest Heroes ...
Captain America in: The Doom Tube of Dr. Megalomann
Release date: 1987
Platform: Commodore 64
While it's not technically an Avengers game, Captain America in: The Doom Tube of Dr. Megalomann was one of the first Marvel games ever published — save for an obnoxiously monotonous Spider-Man Atari 2600 game, Captain America served as one of Marvel's first forays into action games.
Sadly, it hasn't exactly aged well. Captain America on the Commodore 64 is basically a series of single-screen challenge rooms: kill a few robots, move to the next room, rinse and repeat. It's a relic of a much simpler age in gaming and proves just how far the industry has come ... but it's not anything you'd want to go out of your way to play nowadays.
Captain America & The Avengers
Release date: 1991
Beat-em-ups were about a dime-a-dozen back in the '90s, and few hold up after all these years later. TMNT IV: Turtles in Time, Battletoads, Golden Axe — they're still amazing games, even decades after their release; thankfully, so is Captain America & The Avengers.
It didn't do much to revolutionize the genre, and there were a few notable faces missing from the playable roster (what do you mean I can't play as Thor?) — but even so, Captain America & The Avengers is a great '90s beat-em-up. It's basically like playing through the comics themselves — and it's worth playing through once, just for the chance to beat the tar out of a 16-bit Red Skull.
Avengers in Galactic Storm
Release date: 1995
Beat-em-ups weren't the only games to dominate the '90s — thanks to Street Fighter II, fighting games were more popular than they ever had been. After Capcom made all the money in the world, Mortal Kombat changed things up by using digitized actors as stand-ins for hand-drawn artwork, while other developers started experimenting with 3D graphics.
Avengers in Galactic Storm is the unholy offspring of 3D models and digitized characters. Everything, from the garish colors to the horribly misshapen fighters, looks like absolute garbage. What's worse is that the graphics were just the start of Galactic Storm's problems — who would ever want to play as C-Grade Avengers like Crystal? More importantly, why was Thor relegated to a support character ... again?
Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems
Release date: 1996
Platform: Super Nintendo
Following the disappointment of Galactic Storm, it was time to take The Avengers back to basics. Marvel enlisted Capcom to develop a side-scrolling beat-em-up in the same vein as the studio's X-Men games ... and fans got what is arguably the best Avengers game to date. Wars of the Gems is about as basic as you can get — move forward, punch people, repeat — but it's done so well that it's still easy to pick up and play two decades later.
What's interesting is that, 20 years later, the Avengers: Infinity War films are getting ready to tell the same story that Capcom did in War of the Gems ... though the movie probably won't end with an overjoyed Hulk, Captain America and Wolverine smiling at a bunch of floating space rocks.
Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth
Release Date: 2012
Platform: Xbox 360, Wii U
At this point, it's pretty common knowledge that THQ was working on a first-person shooter movie tie-in before the company went under. The game looked amazing, and from the few brief minutes of gameplay that made their way online, it looked like a genuinely different kind of superhero game.
Instead of getting the game that actually looked decent, gamers were instead forced to put up with Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth. Whereas the movie tie-in game actually looked original, Battle for Earth played like a more sluggish version of modern Dragon Ball Z games ... with god-awful motion controls tacked on for good measure. Long story short, no one wanted Battle for Earth, and it wasn't long before the game was completely forgotten.
Unfortunately for gamers, it looks like it'll be quite a while before Marvel decides to make another big-budget triple-A action game based on The Avengers. As it stands, Marvel seems perfectly happy raking in piles of cash from Disney Infinity and mobile games ... on top of that, Sega basically buried the brand with a number of terrible movie cash-ins back before the first Avengers film hit theaters. Simply put, Marvel doesn't want a repeat of that.
It's a shame, too — with so many different characters and powers to choose from, you'd be forgiven for thinking that a game featuring The Avengers wouldn't be all that hard to design. Who knows — maybe Marvel has something planned for Infinity War's big debut?
At the very least, gamers can take control of Earth's Mightiest Heroes when LEGO Marvel's Avengers hits on Jan. 26.