With the release of the Shazam! movie coming this Friday, I thought I’d take a look at the brief — sadly, extremely brief — history of my favorite comic book character, the original Captain Marvel, in video games.
Captain Marvel — not Marvel’s Captain Marvel, but the 70-year-old character now more commonly known as “Shazam” (which is a whole legal history between Fawcett Publications, DC Comics, and Marvel Comics that I won’t get into here, but you can easily look it up and find plenty of info about it) — has only been in a few titles in the entire history of video games. For a superhero whose comic books outsold Superman’s in the 1940s and who can literally kick the Man of Steel’s ass (and has done so on multiple occasions), this seems to me a shame.
The first time the Big Red Cheese appeared in a video game was 2009’s Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. Yes, a character who has been a part of American popular culture since 1940 did not appear in a video game until 2009. Even The Phantom had a video game back in the 16-bit days. Anyway, Midway’s blatant answer to Marvel vs Capcom featured large environments for the MK fighters and DC heroes and villains to throw each other around in (and often through). Visually, this is a very classic rendition of 1940’s Cap. He’s a strong fighter in the game and an all-around good choice!
Captain Marvel also appears in Injustice: Gods Among Us for home consoles and in the arcade. This Cap appears in an updated design, based more on the New 52 version of the character, and is referred to in these games as Shazam.
Unfortunately, in the story mode, Shazam gets offed by Supes. Boo!
The sequel, Injustice 2, features Cap’s nemesis, Black Adam, with a costume change that makes him resemble Shazam.
And finally, the Injustice mobile game recently added Shazam in a form based on the new movie.
As far as I’m aware, those are the only official appearances of Captain Marvel/Shazam in any video games.
Special mention must be made, however, of the 1988 Superman arcade game by Taito. Superman featured a 2-player simultaneous mode, with player 2 being a strange palette-swapped Superman, which many players actually mistook — or misremembered — for Captain Marvel!
As you can see, it’s still Superman, complete with S-logo. But if you squint a bit, or see him in action in-game, with the red suit with yellow accents and white cape, it’s not only easy to see why players might think it’s Cap, but it may have even been intentional on the part of the developers.
Even the 16-bit Justice League fighting game that came out on the SNES and Genesis omitted Captain Marvel from its lineup. Crying shame, if you ask me!
Oh yeah — a couple years ago, I posted an April Fool’s gag about an unreleased Atari 2600 Shazam game that I supposedly had. Of course, I made the whole thing up (the cartridge pictured was a custom label I had made years earlier for my own amusement — it’s actually a Defender cart), but it certainly would have made sense for it to have existed. As I mentioned in my joke article, Warner owned both Atari and DC Comics at that time, and released the Superman game for the 2600 in 1978. Both Wonder Woman and Shazam had live-action TV shows at that time. Those facts in the otherwise BS article are true. So it would have made sense for Atari to have made games based on those properties. I really wish they would have.
As far as I’m aware, there is no video game tie-in in conjunction with the movie coming down the pipe, which I’m actually kind of surprised about. Captain Marvel, or Shazam, really deserves a great game of his own, I think. The comics are so rich with great characters and stories that would make all kinds of really fun, colorful scenarios and opportunities for satisfying gameplay. But thankfully, the character seems to be rapidly gaining in popularity again, in both the comics and now thanks to the film, so who knows what the future holds? Perhaps somewhere up on the Rock of Eternity, lightning will strike and a great Shazam game will finally come to save us from all the terrible Superman games that we’ve endured since 1978.
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