There are plenty of arguments to be made that Robert Downey, Jr.’s interpretation of Tony Stark/Iron Man has given us the most intriguing character in Marvel’s cinematic universe. Each of the other main superheroes has some appeal, to be sure: Thor is charming and comical, Captain America is relentlessly ethical, Hulk is endearing and hilarious… But none exhibits the depth of character or human range of emotion that we consistently see in Iron Man.
This, along with the fact that Iron Man’s standalone franchise got a head start on the others in 2008 (excluding the unimpressive hodgepodge of Hulk films that preceded the Avengers’ assembly), has helped the character to become arguably the most recognisable cinematic superhero. He’s even barging his way into the Captain America franchise in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, which we’ve looked ahead at here.
None of this, however, seems to have been able to help Marvel or any other developer using its license to create a memorable video game like those that have been created for some other prominent heroes (Batman and Spider-Man, in particular, come to mind). There have been attempts, but every example is either inadequate, built for a genre that excludes action, or employs Iron Man only as one of many superhero characters.
This review for the signature Iron Man game made for Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo systems (accompanying the 2008 movie and based on the same story), called the game “awful” and noted cheekily, “It’s games like this that make Tony Stark drink.” That’s a pretty harsh review, and frankly the comments and ratings for the follow-up, based on Iron Man 2, were almost as bad. This isn’t entirely unusual, however. It’s fairly common for video games based strictly on film plots to disappoint, often with too much focus on a faithful narrative and not enough emphasis on inventive gaming tactics or engaging action.
Iron Man has also been used as a headliner for games in the online bingo and casino gaming market, where character licenses are meant to attract fans of film and comics. Here you’ll find a range of promotions and ideas meant to help players embrace various gaming options, but it’s the characters and artistic quality of the games that really keeps people playing. The Iron Man game on the same platform features the hero front and center, raising his arm to shoot his signature energy beam right out of his palm, and in the description a “Missile Attack Bonus” is even teased. It’s certainly an intriguing alternative to more typical video games based on heroes, but it also falls into the category of excluding action.
On top of these options, and as alluded to before, Iron Man is featured in most every video game to feature collections of Marvel superheroes, which exist on a number of platforms. There are several Marvel options that are designed as mobile apps (and yes, they’ve been ranked). The popular series of LEGO animated video games has grown to include the likes of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. And online, the MMO Marvel Heroes 2015 employs a gigantic range of characters for a community of online RPG players. Among these examples there are some perfectly enjoyable versions of Iron Man to embody, and if nothing else they’re usually drawn and animated with beautiful accuracy, showcasing the sleek, famous suit of Tony Stark to great effect. But in none of these games is the character featured or emphasised more than any other mainstream hero.
It’s pretty clear considering all of this that there just isn’t a definitive Iron Man gaming option. Somehow or other, the most popular hero in the most lucrative film franchise in existence just doesn’t seem to inspire game developers. No remedy for this has been announced publicly as of yet. However, with Marvel rolling right along with a formidable lineup of upcoming films, the hope among fans is that one day an Iron Man game can become worthy of the character.
This is a guest post by Mark Givens, a freelance writer based out of Los Angeles. When he’s not working on his latest pitch or article, you can find Mark digging through his video game and Netflix queue.