History of Black Panther in Video Games
Millions all over the world are still mourning the loss of a king after yesterday’s news about Chadwick Boseman. I know it hit me pretty hard personally, as he wasn’t just a brilliant actor, but he was an inspiring human being. Boseman’s career gained new heights when he was cast as Marvel’s Black Panther for Captain America: Civil War. Returning to the Black Panther role for his own feature film, he brought forth a revolution for people of color in the film industry. To honor him, we decided to take this moment during our Month of Marvel to chronicle the history of Black Panther in video games.
Surprisingly, the history isn’t very long. The character of T’Challa has been around since the 60’s, but didn’t actually appear in video games until 2006’s Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, courtesy of Activision. Voiced by the fantastic Phil LaMarr, T’Challa made his gaming debut as a playable character for the alliance. Like all the other characters, he had special simulator missions, but his role wasn’t very prominent. It wouldn’t be until three years later that the Black Panther would have a bigger part.
In 2009’s Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, T’Challa was part of the actual story, now voiced by Tim Russ. The heroes of the game would at one point travel to Wakanda to fight nanite controlled enemies. Helping out Black Panther and the Dora Milaje, his specialized team of warrior women, the heroes free Wakanda of the nanite threat. Only PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners would get to play as the character for this sequel with the help of DLC. When the game later released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the character was included again.
The Black Panther has a bit of a dry spell after Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2. In 2011, he gets a cameo appearance in the Capcom fighting title, Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. Upon beating the game with Storm, she shares a stunning view with her husband, who as many know, is the king of Wakanda himself, T’Challa. T’Challa even gets a speaking role, which unusually gets removed when Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 came out.
In that same year, Black Panther was a playable character in Marvel Super Hero Squad Online. Aimed toward a younger audience, this online multiplayer game allowed kids to play as the character in a more family friendly setting. With a monthly subscription and microtransactions, this Gazillion foray really didn’t last long. It also didn’t do much for the reputation of the character.
In 2012, Facebook games were still thriving and Marvel and Playdom took advantage of the craze to release Marvel Avengers Alliance. Using a 2D flash animated art style, the game was pretty popular for a free browser game. It eventually made it’s way to mobile platforms, running for four years. A sequel came out in 2016, getting a 3D makeover, though unfortunately, it was also shut down within the same year. Both titles featured Black Panther as a character for players to recruit onto their team. 2014 would also receive Avengers Alliance Tactics, again featuring Black Panther as a part of the team.
Gazillion returned to make yet another Marvel title in 2013, this time aimed at older audiences. With Marvel Heroes and the eventual Marvel Heroes Omega, the developers made a pretty fun Diablo clone with various Marvel characters to play as. Black Panther being one of those characters, fans could get a good amount of dialogue as the Wakandan king, now voiced by James C. Mathis III. While not solely a Black Panther story, this game still allowed players to have a story with the character. Unfortunately, Gazillion shut its doors in 2017, shutting down the servers for the game indefinitely.
During the same year, Lego and Warner Bros. Interactive teamed up for their first Marvel venture. Developed by Traveller’s Tales, Lego Marvel Super Heroes came to fruition. Giving Marvel fans a virtual playground of Manhattan, it was a pretty fun game with lots of Marvel heroes to unlock. Black Panther was one of those heroes, this time voiced by John Eric Bentley. While he was playable, he was really just an optional character, so unfortunately there wasn’t much story for him. Like Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, this take was a bit more comical and kid friendly (obviously).
The next year, Marvel and Kabam (later bought out by Netmarble) teamed up to release the mobile game Marvel Contest of Champions. This mobile fighter turns players into a summoner, allowing them to summon a multitude of Marvel heroes in a randomized gacha system. Black Panther was one of those heroes, available right from the start. While the story of the game is simple, various events happen with a bit more flair. When the Black Panther film was coming out, there was a Rise of the Black Panther event in the game. It mostly took liberties, loosely inspired by the film, but it was nice to give T’Challa a bit of the focus.
In 2015, DeNA got the chance to make their own Marvel title with Marvel Mighty Heroes. Feeling like a light version of Marvel Heroes, this mobile title included Black Panther, but it didn’t get a lot of marketing. Taking the Super Hero Squad design approach, it tried to capitalize on it a bit too late. Add to the fact that fans didn’t find it fun and you have a bit of a failure here.
2015 may have started out with a dud, but it got much better when Netmarble launched Marvel: Future Fight. Similar to Marvel Contest of Champions, this title uses gacha features, but changes the gameplay to an action style. Black Panther is one of the heroes you can obtain, and he even has some involvement in the story. The game even had a moment to promote the 2018 film, highlighting characters like T’Challa, Shuri, Killmonger and Klaw in MCU style designs. Marvel: Future Fight is still going strong, with Black Panther currently having three variations in the game.
T’Challa again got a bit more story involvement when Disney Infinity 2.0 came out with the Marvel Battlegrounds playset in 2016. When Loki comes to Wakanda to steal vibranium, of course the protector of Wakanda is going to get involved. Working with the other heroes, they try to put a stop to Loki, who is working for Ultron. This entry is especially notable because this was also an opportunity to create Black Panther toys. Fans of the character could go out and purchase a Black Panther figure to play as him in the game. The design takes inspiration from his appearance in Captain America: Civil War, but still gives him a cartoonish look. By this time, the character was starting to gain traction.
During that same year, Warner Bros. Interactive again worked with Traveller’s Tales to make a Lego game based on the MCU. Lego Marvel’s Avengers had a focus on those Avengers films, but it also had DLC featuring a Black Panther origin story. It also had a Civil War character pack, both packs featuring different variants of T’Challa. It was interesting to see a more comic accurate version of the character with the MCU equivalent.
The Lego madness doesn’t stop there though. 2017’s Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 featured an all new storyline, and features it’s own variation of T’Challa. That being said, it still used the opportunity to promote several MCU movies. One of these was 2018’s Black Panther, which came as a DLC pack featuring several characters from the film. It also included a special level pack, though it didn’t really involve the plot of the film.
By 2017, T’Challa and Black Panther are household names worldwide, all thanks to Boseman’s performance. With the 2018 film coming out, the character was in high demand, so when Capcom was making the newest entry to their Marvel vs. Capcom franchise, they made sure T’Challa was involved. Interestingly enough, the character appears in the story of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, but was made available as a downloadable character. James C. Mathis III reprises his role as the character and even gives a serviceable part of the story. Wakanda and Monster Hunter’s Val Habar merged together, turning it into Valkanda. Sadly, the game didn’t maintain a strong following, but the character still got positive reception.
In 2018, Black Panther fever was still going strong. The film was breaking box office records and was uniting people in ways like never before. Marvel Strike Force was a little mobile RPG that came out for mobile devices around this time. Of course it would be a sin to not include T’Challa as a playable character, so he makes the cut. The game is simple, but still sees a lot of success today.
It keeps going when T’Challa gets added to 2013’s Marvel Puzzle Quest around the release of the film. With the simple matching gameplay of this puzzler, players could add a little Black Panther style to their game. As Marvel mobile games continue to take over, we even get Marvel Battle Lines. This card game features several heroes including, you guessed it, Black Panther, though in a much more limited role.
Moving away from mobile phones in 2018, Sanzaru Games made Marvel Powers United VR, a VR title where you could virtually become several different Marvel heroes. Releasing for the Oculus Rift, this was the first time gamers could practically become Black Panther. The game doesn’t offer much in story, but gives people the fantasy to become their favorite heroes, Black Panther among them. The game was getting pretty substantial content updates, but now the game is complete. Either way, T’Challa made a solid addition to the roster with his claws and blade.
Finally, we get to Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. In 2019, we get perhaps the most Marvel-centric game to date, with a ton of fan service when it comes to the Marvel universe. Of course, Black Panther gets a bit piece of the action, making Wakanda a popular set piece in the game. James C. Mathis III again reprises his role and gets quite a few moments in the game. He even continues to play a prominent role in the Shadow of Doom DLC epilogue.
The next game to come out that features the character is Marvel Super War, which is already releasing in some regions. Using MOBA style gameplay, this will surely be the next big mobile Marvel hit. We also just might see the character make an appearance as a post-launch character for Marvel’s Avengers. While the character has seen a rise in popularity and is prominently featured in games, it’s honestly about time for a standalone Black Panther game. The character’s legacy is bigger than ever thanks to Chadwick Boseman, and having his own game would be a great way to honor it.