It has been a while since there was an interesting horror-related release from one of the most famous comic brands in history. Actually, when you look through its vast catalog of titles, you’ll find that there aren’t many video games with horror elements in them at all. 2007’s Ghost Rider, a “God of War wannabe” adventure, is the most recent title that comes to mind — and it wasn’t up to much, with its repetitive structure and brainless combat. Then, we could remember a couple of Blade’s entries that allowed us to play as the most badass vampire hunter from the big M. Perhaps some would include a classic such as Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage for its main characters and narrative bits, or even some segments from the Ultimate Alliance franchise, but that’s about it. There isn’t something of remarkable quality that screams “horror” when thinking about the Avengers’ house of games.
Speaking of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Marvel’s Avengers was a flop and it has a murky future. Apparently, the next-gen consoles updates are still coming — even if they have been delayed twice — and a bunch of DLC characters will arrive “eventually”. On the other side, Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales received an overall positive reception and a sequel will probably be in the works, but years away. Elsewhere, there’s radio silence for a new Marvel vs Capcom entry, so at this time, it seems the company’s horizon regarding video games is somewhat uncertain.
Then, why don’t we imagine a fresh, future project full of frightening elements and starring some of our favorite superheroes and villains? You might say “because that’s never happening, mate” and… that would unfortunately probably be right. Even after more than 20 films in the MCU, there isn’t something of the horror genre — only finding a recent example if we consider a movie from “outside” like The New Mutants. Perhaps the incoming Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will provide us with that horror spark? In video games, a horror-infused Marvel game seems even less likely. That doesn’t mean we can’t wonder what one could be. In fact, we are doing that right now.
For starters, let’s select a protagonist. While there are hundreds of possible picks, I’d keep the one thing that’s actually pretty good from Marvel’s Avengers: Kamala Khan. This young Muslim Pakistani-American woman is by far the most interesting and endearing character. Her commentary and views both of the world and the Avengers themselves were the most genuine moments. For our “horror experiment” I’d keep her as the main protagonist, with a little twist: she’ll take a bit longer to be able to actually use her powers. Her innocence and charming personality will remain “intact”, but stretching her limbs and getting big is out of the question. Surviving the threats and dangers she’ll have to face will be a thing of hiding and escaping at the right moment. At least, for the first levels.
But hold on a moment. Who or what are these “threats” and “dangers”? I believe that a millionaire villain controlling every aspect of our life using technology is a bit too common in our real lives. Here’s where the decades of work and breathtaking library of stories and characters made by the company can provide us with some interesting picks. From “classic” horror creatures with their own “marvelous” adaptations – like Dracula and the Werewolf By Night – to more original creations, such as the vampire Morbius, the “Fear Lord” Nightmare, and the failed experiment Man-Thing. Some of these characters, like Nightmare, could work like the movie icons they are based on (in this case, old friendly Freddy Krueger). Nightmare attacks people’s dreams, absorbing power from the fears of others. He’s so fearsome that his effects don’t end when the subject wakes up.
This is only an insignificant portion of the possibilities. There’s such a wild catalog of characters, including X-Men’s Mr. Sinister, the Skinless Man, the Jigsaw’s comic counterpart named Arcade, or even the freaking Son of Satan (called Daimon Hellstrom). From the allied side, more familiar faces like Dr. Strange or the aforementioned Blade and Ghost Rider could bring a hand from time to time to Kamala. If Ms. Marvel wasn’t the first choice, then there are plenty of other inexperienced or not so overpowered characters to select from, such as young mutants like Jubilee, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, or Wolfsbane.
From a plot perspective, much can be created or adapted when we discover that the Marvel universe has its own Necronomicon called “The Darkhold”, created with dark matter and full of unimaginable and forbidden spells that can cost the soul of the user. The Darkhold was held by different personalities, even agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, provoking a series of unfortunate events in the process. There are even more classic Marvel horror tales, like the 70’s series called “The Tomb of Dracula”, among many others.
For those who would prefer to see their all-time favorite heroes in a more “living dead” fashion, the 2005’s series called Marvel Zombies, written by The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, might be a perfect choice. In this story, most of the characters have been infected by an unknown virus called “The Hunger”, brought by a zombified version of Sentry. Our heroes became zombies, but not like the regular kind of living dead: their personality, intellect and powers are intact. However, The Hunger made them eat and infect all human life.
Creating a setting and selecting the characters might be the easiest part. It gets tricky when we think about how it should play. Personally, I am all in for a good brawler or beat ‘em up experience fighting Brood, Symbiotes, Kree, Skrull, and Anansi, with a bit of exploration and well-implemented jumpscares. As long as the combat doesn’t get as repetitive and grindy as Marvel’s Avengers, and also includes a selection of well-known villains as bosses, it could work.
Spinning things in a different direction, a more exciting and engaging experience would be, without a doubt, to go a bit more Survival Horror, with puzzle-solving, little to no real combat at all, and a menace that exceeds our possibility of surviving. Feeling despair while being gifted with supernatural abilities might be harsh. Or not really. It only takes an overwhelming villain with powers out of our reach and even understanding, a temporal or permanent suppression of our abilities and that’s it. In fact, Marvel could even capitalize on its recent WandaVision series success and use something similar to that. Without directly spoiling anything of the show, Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. Scarlet Witch, is an incredible character that can twist the threads of reality to fit her wishes, which could lead to a wild spinoff from established Marvel stories and characters. Hell, some of our protagonists or allies could lose their life and remain permanently dead rather than ‘comic book dead’.
These are just my personal ideas for what could make a compelling Marvel horror video game. There is just so much material and so many possibilities within this universe that you might have thought of completely different characters and stories to create a Marvel horror game. And again, getting a title with any of this seems unlikely at the moment, but we could do with a nice horror dream.