The first time I watched the 1995 movie Mortal Kombat I felt like I was drunk. Movies can sometimes be joyously terrible, such that they cease to be terrible and instead become transcendent. Reader, I was transported.
Since I first randomly encountered it while Netflix-surfing a few years ago, I have come to love Mortal Kombat — a movie made about a video game I have never played — so much that I no longer know whether I love it merely ironically or have crossed over into loving it sincerely.
My personal memories of the movie actually go back to the mid-00s. I was at my friend’s house and he told me about the movie (I was aware of the game although I’d never played it) and how funny the “MORTAL KOMBAT!!!” shout was at the beginning. And then I heard it and we spent about 10 minutes giggling. Still gets me to this day.
Avengers: Endgame was one of the biggest movies of 2019, making $2.8bn (£2.1bn) at the box office. Unlike the title suggested, it was far from the actual end, with TV shows featuring the characters of the universe becoming popular and further films planned.
The DC Universe also boasts some blockbuster films, and with characters such as Batman and Superman, it has sustained mainstream popularity for many years. Whichever superhero universe you turn to for your enjoyment, you will find plenty of material to feed your hobby.
Films draw in the big money, TV shows deliver a longer, more involved experience, whilst gaming puts you in control of your favourite superheroes, living their lives through their powers. Gaming is big business – the world’s gamers will spend around $159.3bn (£119.6bn) in 2020, on new releases and digital-only games too, which makes it an obvious industry for Marvel and DC to explore.
Not all games that use the imagery and themes put you in control of the powers, but they do all give a fan some sort of experience they find enjoyable and, in many cases, social.
Marvel fans are certainly well catered for, with a wide range of online experiences available to fans of Iron Man, Hulk and the rest of the roster. We have selected three genres of online Marvel games which you can enjoy online right now and the best titles for each genre.
Mobile gaming is on the rise, with technology allowing increasingly complex games to be played on the go. One of the best gamers have enjoyed in recent years is Marvel: Contest of Champions, a fighting game in the Street Fighter 2 mould. It boasts a huge array of playable characters, almost 200 across the different tiers and challenges. It is free to play and whilst it is the front-runner in Marvel mobile games, it is by no means alone in putting you in control of your favourite characters.
Slots & alternative genres
Some mobile experiences do not draw directly from the abilities and experiences of a superhero, rather they use their images to merge with another genre to gives fans an alternative option when gaming.
For instance, Marvel Puzzle Quest uses the characters in the context of a neat puzzle game, whilst Marvel Strike Force is a turn-based role-playing game. Deviating further from the core mechanics of a superhero game, online providers have also used the characters in online slots to open another avenue for Marvel fans.
Leading European gaming platform Tuxslots has several titles that are linked to the Marvel Universe, including Iron Man 3 and Incredible Hulk, which use popular characters in a completely different game genre. With variety for the customer often at the core of a successful provider, having a range of Marvel games is attractive to both parties.
Online console experiences
The last quarter of 2020 saw the next generation of consoles released, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox S Series.
Both take gaming to the next level and it is only fitting that the ultimate Marvel experience is available through the powerful new technology. In the past, the likes of Spider-Man and Hulk had tested consoles capabilities, but the September release Marvel’s Avengers pushes the boundaries with four-play online cooperative play.
Online gaming can mean several things – gaming on the move, gaming for physical rewards and, of course, gaming with friends. Boasting a roster that includes Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow and Captain America, it is perhaps the ultimate online Marvel experience you can enjoy right now.
Ever heard of a blerd? It’s a portmanteau of Black + nerd and, although “nerd” is mainly used as a pejorative, the term has been reclaimed to describe a person who has an interest in specialised activities such as comics, gaming, computers, and anime (more specifically, an anime nerd is often known by the Japanese word otaku).
I like to think of myself as a blerd and I’m not alone. In fact, there’s a council of Black nerds and they call themselves The Nerd Council.
Building and bringing the nerd community together
The Nerd Council was founded in 2017 as a way of bringing nerds together and with good reason. Black nerds have a major influence on a number of multi-billion dollar industries and so TNC wants to be “the number one space where likeminded individuals can find each other, and feel comfortable being themselves”.
They do this in three ways:
The Nerd Council has a podcast that covers nerd news, listener questions, polls, and a main topic every episode. The trio also have a YouTube channel and a popular Twitter account where they discuss nerd media, gaming, comics, and anime.
What’s the best way to bring a community together? Through curated events. TNC hosts a variety of events including film screenings, live shows, and quiz nights to reinforce the idea that there is a safe space for nerds to be nerds.
Talks and panels
It’s important to be heard as a Black person in a predominately white industry. But when it comes to industries like anime and manga, gaming, and comic books, we need representation on a grand scale. That’s why The Nerd Council gives its own insights into those spaces.
The Nintendo Gameboy celebrated its 30th birthday this year (something I wrote about for Distant Arcade). There were plenty of official Game Boy accessories made for the device, like the Gameboy Camera. But there were some oddities in its history and I’ve compiled a list of 7 you may not have heard of.
1. Game Boy Pocket Sonar
There were many fishing games released for the original Game Boy but in the real world, there was an accessory to help locate living aquatic life. The Game Boy Pocket Sonar, made by Bandai, used sonar to locate fish up to 20m underwater. It even had a fishing mini-game. Unfortunately, the add-on was only released in Japan but it does hold the accolade of being the world’s first sonar-enabled gaming accessory.
With a screen size of only 4.7cm x 4.3cm, the original Game Boy kept things small. But there was always the possibility of eye strain if, like me, you had a 6-hour gaming session without breaks (I was 9 and banned from playing it for the rest of the weekend). The Joyplus Handy Boy was an official accessory with a magnifier, added light, amplified speakers, and the facility to add a thumb joystick, with or without the speakers and magnifier. What’s more, you could fold it all away when you were done.
All work and no play made Jack a dull (and psychotic) boy but for video game distributor Fabtek, they wanted to merge the two worlds together. Enter the Workboy. The problem with the Workboy was it never actually came out. It was advertised in Nintendo Power but didn’t see the light of day. Had it graced the world with its presence, it would have featured a keyboard, a clock, day planner, currency and temperature converter, and a calendar. The price? Around $80.
This one is just plain weird. The PediSedate system was an add-on designed to calm children before potentially traumatic experiences like the dentist or a hospital operation. A dose of nitrous oxide (better known as “laughing gas” or “nitro”) was administered for this purpose. That was the aim anyway.
5. Game Boy Radio
The clue’s in the name. It was made in China but there’s very little information on the device. It used the Game Boy as a power supply and didn’t interfere with the Game Boy itself.
6. GB KISS & GB KISS LINK MODEM
In 1998, Hudson Soft released the GB KISS LINK, an infrared modem that allowed you to connect a Gameboy to a Windows PC to transfer game data. The GB KISS LINK came with two 3.5″ floppy disks: one with drivers and the other with 29 mini-games. Before emulators, this was the best way to get save states to your computer for future use.
7. Singer Izek
Have you ever felt the urge to play video games while sewing on a machine? Me neither, but someone at Singer might have when they created the Singer Izek “Computerized Sewing Machine.” But you didn’t actually get to play games. Instead, you plugged your Game Boy Color into the machine and used it to pick a stitching pattern using a special cartridge. Needless to say this didn’t catch on.
Nintendo announced their newest console today, the Nintendo Switch. It will be released in March 2017 and acts as a “hybrid device”: both a tablet-like portable console and a home console placed in a docking station (complete with satisfying “click” sound).
The Switch also holds two wireless controllers you can detach, used individually or together as a normal gamepad. Only a handful of games have been announced, including the usual suspects – Legend of Zelda, a Mario Kart game, and a Super Mario game amongst others. But there are a few I’d love to see on the Switch. Here are 8 of them.
Ever since my cousin introduced me to Golden Sun, it’s been my favourite RPG not called Pokémon (more on that later). The original game, released on GBA, tells the story of Isaac, Garet, Ivan and Mia, four teenagers tasked with saving their world, known as Weyard. It’s an archetypal fantasy RPG with plenty of magic, turn-based gameplay, classes, dungeons and caves. Psynergy is the game’s version of “mana” while Djinn are special creatures that give the characters special moves and the ability to change classes and abilities. The music, graphics and gameplay were already brilliant on both the two GBA versions and the DS versions. A Switch version has the potential to be fantastic, especially scenes like this:
A Pokémon racing game
Asking for an open world Pokémon game would be too easy. There’s definitely going to be one for the Nintendo Switch but what about a racing game? The spinoffs have involved pinball and puzzle games but a racing game would be a great competitor to the Mario Kart version we’ll eventually get. The only concern is how many Pokémon would be made usable, given the introduction of Sun & Moon by March 2017. There’s likely to be around 800 known Pokémon so who knows which ones would be picked. Mewtwo in a car? Perhaps not.
Super Mario RPG
A Mario spinoff never released in Europe, Super Mario RPG was the first RPG in the Mario series and the only game to be made by Square (now Square Enix). It’s also uncommon in that it doesn’t involve Bowser as the main boss. This time, you have to beat Smithy who steals the seven star pieces of Star Road where “all the world’s inhabitants’ wishes become Wish Stars, and Mario must return the pieces so these wishes may again be granted”. Paper Mario is likely to get a Switch version but perhaps they should look towards a remake of this.
Chrono Trigger is an all-time great, not only in the RPG category, but for games overall. It was highly praised for its simplicity, varied gameplay, and humour and spawned a few sequels and an enhanced remake for the Sony PlayStation. What better way to further enhance a prestigious game than to freshen it up on Nintendo’s new innovative console. The simplicity of both game and device would marry up perfectly. It would also sell incredibly well given Chrono Trigger’s stature.
Street Fighter will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2017 and 20th anniversary of Street Fighter III. Chronologically, III is the most “recent” game so an anniversary follow up would be quite interesting although possibly confusing. That being said, nobody really plays Street Fighter for the storyline. They want to fight. The multi-playability of the Nintendo Switch allows for vigorous (and/or strategic) button smashing and could add a new flavour to tournament play. I hope this one happens.
Mario Kart is a shoo-in for a Nintendo Switch racing game but the world needs another F-Zero game. The SNES version remains a classic; the music, the cars, the incredible track designs, not to mention the graphics and the speed. A sequel was made for the N64 – F-Zero X – and while most features were retained, graphical detail was criticised. Four more were made, three for the GBA and nothing since 2004. The F-Zero franchise has since gone on hiatus, which is disappointing. Bringing the franchise back for the Nintendo Switch would surely entice prospective buyers, sceptical or otherwise. Any excuse to ride as Captain Falcon, to be honest.
A modern-day Strike game
I loved playing Desert Strike on my Gameboy. I don’t know how I found it or why it initially appealed to me but it was fun to play. The last Strike game was released in 2000, and there have been many conflicts since so plenty of inspiration for a new version. It might also be interesting to see an isometric game on a console like this. I just hope it doesn’t involve Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A Waluigi game
His first appearance was in Mario Tennis for the N64 in 2000. Waluigi has yet to star in his own game and it’s time for that to change. His brother Wario has had the lion’s share of publicity, headlining around 20 games since his first appearance in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins in 1992.
However, not everyone likes Waluigi. Kotaku, GamesRadar, IGN, and Complex (who included him in a list of “the ten video game characters who look like sex offenders”), have all expressed their disdain and that’s probably why we haven’t seen a Waluigi game as yet. But done correctly, he could change people’s minds. Maybe.
This is how I got into Sudoku. My first puzzle took 2 days to complete and it felt amazing to finish. After a while, I got bored of the varying levels of difficulty. I could never do the 3D puzzles but by then, I’d moved onto Kenken. I didn’t enjoy Kenken as much so that didn’t last either. Recently, I’ve discovered a “new” puzzle but it’s not new at all. Nonograms (also known as Hanjie, Picross or Griddlers) are Japanese logic puzzles where you fill in cells based on corresponding numbers in each row. Once completed, they reveal a hidden picture.
Nonograms started out in the late 80s but didn’t get their generalised name until 1990 when puzzle designer and curator James Dalgety named them after Non Ishida, the Japanese graphics editor who “co-created” them. You may recognise its alternative name, “Picross”, from the previous paragraph. That’s probably because it was the basis of Nintendo game Mario Picross. It didn’t do well when released in 1995, with mixed reviews on its gameplay. Electronic Gaming Monthly described it as “boring to play after the first few puzzles”, while GamePro called it “undeniably addicting.”
If you’re a puzzle lover looking for a new challenge, I strongly suggest having a go at nonograms. Fore more information and techniques, check out the reading list below and you can solve an online nonogram here.