You don’t have to say MvC2!
Outside of MMOs, one of the longest “gauntlet-runs” I’ve ever done for a single game involves Marvel vs. Capcom 2.
I picked it up from a local game store for Dreamcast, and played it for what felt like an entire day: I nearly unlocked everything. It was a breezy summer afternoon in 2000, and the world was my oyster. But as simple as it would be to say “that’s my favorite Marvel vs. Capcom,” it’s not! Let’s talk about the impact of each game, briefly, and discuss our top picks.
For the purposes of this post, we’re not counting X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, or Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter. Just raw mainline “Marvel vs. Capcom” titles, starting with Clash of Superheroes from 1998. We can add way more of those into the mix at some point, like Children of the Atom.
Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes (1998)
Shockingly, the first Marvel Vs. Capcom mainline entry is still my favorite. And my first ever experience with money-matches, and the moment I started to get into local and regional fighting game tournaments. I’ll never forget it.
There’s something so special about the streamlined “versus” approach, providing easy access to the “guest assist” system (in which crazy, mostly unplayable characters come out for a special attack) while cementing the tag-team format. It also had an insanely varied roster (which would become a series staple), which it deserves a lot of credit for. I remember playing Captain Commando for the first time here and rushing to play his game because his mechanics were so buttery smooth. Mega Man was a complete shocker to witness in a versus fighter (and led me to seek out Power Fighters and Power Battle), as was a Darkstalkers crossover (Morrigan).
It was a dream of a game. Something so ambitious that the prior crossovers paled in comparison to it. And it’s clean enough to go back to constantly, even today. For a lot of people, that rang true for roughly two years: until the sequel eclipsed it.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (2000)
That’s what I expected! I think this one will win it by a mile.
It’s the daddy of everything discussed here. It’s the incredibly packed sequel that defined fighters after it and helped popularize the entire fighting game community (FGC), thrusting it into the zeitgeist; for better or worse.
A roster of 56 playable characters is pretty much all the ammo you need to sell this to someone. “Do you have a favorite Marvel or Capcom character?” Odds are they’re in it. Nearly everyone from past “Versus” entries made the cut, as did Amingo, Ruby Heart, and SonSon. There was an MvC lore now. A loose storyline that served as the connective tissue of Marvel vs. Capcom. This was a new thing, and it took over and dominated the previous versus formula.
In every way you can imagine, it impacted the genre. Like Thanos (who is playable), it’s a formidable Titan, and still in the “best fighter of all time” conversation.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds/Ultimate (2011)
And now we come to the third entry, which should give everything but Marvel vs. Capcom 2 a run for its money.
It’s here, nearly a decade and change later, that Capcom continued the goodwill that they garnered with the second game. Now, it wasn’t perfect! Not everyone made the cut and that pissed a lot of people off. But it played well, introduced new mechanics into the mix, and added a few characters (some of which were assists in the original!) from all walks of Capcom life.
The Ultimate version allowed it to extend its life onto other systems for years to come. Little did Capcom know they’d have a bumpy road ahead of them six years later.
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (2017)
To predict this would come in dead last is to state the inevitable.
Although I enjoyed Infinite as a casual “kitchen table” fighter, the community overall did not take to it. One chief point of contention was the “MCU-ification” of the Marvel side, which was heavily skewed toward Disney’s influence; chucking a few prior staples to the side.
Characters that were once vibrant and full of life felt deader, and the mechanics just didn’t stick. Very shortly after launch fans rebuked it, and erred on the side of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 or 3 competitions instead of Infinite. If you had told me a storyline where Ultron and Sigma merged to destroy the world would fail as a kid, I wouldn’t have believed you. It was so stupid it had to work.
Capcom tried to market this one, hard, but even some of those efforts fell flat, like the off-brand “Infinity Stone” debacle. At the end of the day, “Marvel” still meant Marvel vs. Capcom 2.
And I suspect it still does! Time to find out. We’ll post the results within the next week.