The best of the Avengers in video games

The Avengers is set to hit theaters this Friday, and comic book fans everywhere simply can’t wait to see the comprehensive superhero flick in action, featuring all of their favorites — Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye — fighting against adversaries hellbent on taking over the Earth.  The movie’s been getting rave reviews thus far, and we will have a review set to post on the site first thing Friday morning, so you can get our verdict.

In the meantime, what can you do to celebrate the legacy of the Avengers?  Why not turn to some video games?  True, not all video games live up to the Marvel Comics legacy, like Sega’s lackluster efforts (the Iron Man games, Thor: God of Thunder).  But there are a few you can track down that are well worth playing and will get you in the right super hero frame of mind as you prepare for late night Thursday to roll around for movie action.  Here now are six prime recommendations to get you Avenger happy…

Marvel Pinball (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network)

Released back in 2010, the Marvel Pinball compilation is easily one of the best superhero-licensed products you’ll find on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.  This collection features a slew of superb tables that play just like the real things, and several of them are based on heroes in the Avengers crew, including the Invincible Iron Man, the powerful Thor, and the mighty Captain America.  Each table is packed with great voice samples, solid design, and enough bonus targets to jettison your score into the millions.  And to think, Zen Studios, the game’s developer, is just getting started, as it’s releasing a quartet of new tables for Marvel Pinball on May 18, featuring an Avengers movie-licensed table and an awesome World War Hulk offering.  Bring on the tilt!

Captain America and the Avengers (Arcade, Sega Genesis)

A long time ago, when arcade beat-em-ups were still incredibly popular in arcades, Data East cashed in with a huge coup after scoring the license to Captain America and the Avengers from Marvel.  This multi-level game pits you against Red Skull and his band of thugs, including Sentinels and other dastardly enemies who are out to overtake the Earth.  The game lets you choose from Captain America, Iron Man, and Hawkeye (along with the forgotten Avenger Vision, who isn’t half bad) as you fight and fly your way through danger, occasionally receiving support from secondary characters.  (“Thank you, Wonder Man!”)  The arcade game is excellent, and if you need a home version, the Genesis edition, made by Data East, can’t be beat.  (Just skip the SNES version — yuck.)

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (Xbox, PS2, GameCube)

Long before Radical Entertainment hit the mainstream with its Prototype franchise, it was trashing cities with The Incredible Hulk with the awesome Ultimate Destruction.  In this game, you’re free to trash whatever you please as you complete objectives around the area.  Care to lob a parked car at a helicopter?  Go for it.  Want to outfit yourself with car boxing gloves and bash robotic opponents?  The choice is yours.  Care to run up the side of a building and jump down to the city street below?  Hey, you’re the Hulk, you can do that.  Ultimate Destruction easily trumped Universal’s previous Hulk failure, and it remains a highly playable favorite to this very day.  This game deserves a re-release.

Captain America: Super Soldier (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)

Though Sega didn’t exactly do us any favors with some sorely lacking games based on the Iron Man films, as well as Thor (ugh), it did validate itself with a fairly good Captain America game.  In Super Soldier, you fight an armada of enemies throughout an enclosed castle as you try to find out who’s behind attacks on your homeland.  The multi-directional combat is rather cool, and the graphics look good for a licensed game.  What’s more, Sega actually made proper use out of Chris Evans, the actor who portrays Captain in the films, as he delivers a mostly solid performance.  If you must play a modern Avenger-based game, make it this one.

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PS Vita)

Capcom already delivered a wallop of a sequel with the original Marvel vs. Capcom 3 last year, but the improvements it made in its Ultimate edition actually made a difference, compared to most second-rate game add-ons.  Twelve new characters were added, including fan favorite Hawkeye, who makes quite an impact in the upcoming Avengers film.  In addition, fellow Avengers Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and Captain America join the fray, beating up multiple folks from Capcom and Marvel universes in an effort to save the world from Galactus.  It’s a great fighting game, no matter which platform you prefer.  Go for it!

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)

Finally, we have Activision’s follow-up to the quite effective Ultimate Alliance, one that literally divides the Marvel universe in two as superheroes side either for or against the government when it comes to being labeled publicly.  Iron Man sides with one team, while Captain America, his fellow Avenger, sides with the other.  No matter who you choose, you’re saddled with a great top-down adventure game, one where you choose from multiple characters and pound enemies, sometimes even with cool combination attacks, where super heroes team up to damage everything on-screen.  It’s still a fun game to play these days, and well worth checking out if you can find it on the cheap.