The 90s were an entirely different monstrosity when it came to comic books. These days, Marvel dominates Rotten Tomatoes scores, but three decades ago, DC was the one hitting milestones left and right. Not only were its movies the proverbial pick of the litter, but its comic books were also outperforming Marvel enough to nearly put its biggest competitor out of business. With bankruptcy looming on the horizon, Marvel clawed its way back by selling the film and television rights to its greatest characters to whoever was willing to sign the check. Then Marvel made the deal of a lifetime. Execs licensed their characters to video game developer Capcom for use in a series of fighting games, and the rest is history.
Thanks to the enduring success of Marvel vs Capcom, Marvel has effectively hegemonized the comic book industry as far as fighting games are concerned, with DC openly struggling to keep up. This would change two decades later with NetherRealm’s acquisition of DC’s characters, which led to Injustice: Gods Among Us and its sequel, Injustice 2, the first successful crossover fighter involving the DC Universe. NetherRealm was founded by Ed Boon, the creator of Midway’s hugely popular Mortal Kombat fighting franchise, and currently produces both Mortal Kombat and Injustice.
Capcom and Midway competed in the 80s and 90s over which arcade game was the better fighter — Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, respectively — and to this day the mystery remains unanswered. And now NetherRealm reportedly has its eye set on the golden apple of comic book games: Marvel characters. Hollywood insider Daniel Richtman takes the rumor a step further and is claiming the Marvel-NetherRealm fighting game is already in the works from the Mortal Kombat creators.
A legitimate possibility or total nonsense? With no new licenses reported and no official game announced, we’re not sure. And yet the Twitter-verse is already buzzing with excitement. Fans are quickly warming up to the idea of a Marvel fighting crossover with exclusively Mortal Kombat mechanics. With Capcom’s contract with Marvel ending with the release of its least popular entry, Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite, the veteran developer has no chance of measuring up to the momentum NetherRealm has already started.
With a new live-action movie, a fan-favorite new Mortal Kombat, and two highly successful DC fighting games released, founder Ed Boon is ripe to take over Capcom’s flagship Marvel crossover franchise and inject it with some R-rated fatalities. Not family-oriented? Perhaps. But with Infinite’s lackluster mechanics and sterilized character choices inevitably souring the fighting experience, maybe it’s time to allow somebody else to reinvent the formula. Before Disney bought Marvel, none of the latter’s heroes were particularly saintly anyhow, and many storylines were hardly family-friendly. It’s DC’s heroes that upheld a strict no-killing policy, and yet NetherRealm made it work. Ed Boon is more than qualified to handle Marvel’s complex band of superpowered misfits.
In 1994, Marvel leased 10 of its characters to Capcom to be included in a brand new fighting game. The result was X-Men: Children of the Atom, a fast-paced brawler centered around the mutants of the Marvel Universe, and the first entry in what would later become gaming’s most lucrative crossover franchise. Marvel vs Capcom proved a worthy adversary to other fighting games, including Ed Boon and John Tobias’s gore-heavy Mortal Kombat. Unlike Capcom, which has kept sprite violence mostly PG, Midway wasn’t afraid to crank up the carnage. The risk eventually paid off, with Capcom and Midway’s fighting titles practically heading the pack for most of the 90s and early 2000s. The last Marvel vs Capcom entry, Infinite, failed to win over stalwart fans of the series, while Mortal Kombat only grew. The last Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 11, was a megahit worldwide and released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Capcom on the other hand, alienated fans of Street Fighter with its excessive reliance on micro-transactions. All the while, NetherRealm is booming.
Capcom has monopolized Marvel’s fighting games for as long as gaming’s been around. It’s understandably difficult to imagine another game developer taking the reins of such an iconic franchise and doing the characters justice. But after Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite, perhaps it’s time to switch things up with a new set of eyes.