If you look at console based games going back to the NES forwards, you can almost see trends in what genres were the most desired. In the 8-16 bit era it was all about having a mascot: Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Sonic, Capcom had MegaMan, and this spawned many wannabes like your Bubsy the Cat or Aero the Acrobat. This trend continued somewhat into the 32-64 days when Nintendo dropped the bombshell that was Super Mario 64 into the world, while Eidos introduced the world to a female Indiana Jones type with Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.
Son’y domination of the market with the PS2 brought about the days of the open world game when Rockstar launched Grand Theft Auto III, the game that every company wanted to have their own version of, even Sony who morphed their mascot platforming duo Jak and Daxter into a Grand Theft Auto-esque experience with Jak II. Of course, let’s not forget the dawn of the first-person shooter genre on consoles, thanks in no part to Microsoft entering the console world and giving us Halo, as well as the ability to play online with their Xbox live service.
For better or for worse, worse for my taste, this past console cycle has been flooded more so by one genre: the shooter, third or first person take your pick, and more importantly, the military shooter. Look at any sales chart for any given month since the Xbox 360 launched what seems like forever ago in 2005, and you’ll more than likely see Call of Duty something or other on the list, or EA’s Battlefield and their uninspired Medal of Honor reboot.
The question, given how much people seem to want to throw money at military games, even now with the advent of the PS4/Xbox One, is where is our awesome Punisher game?
Now, quite possibly more so that ever in the character’s history, is the time for someone to make a Punisher game, whether it’s first-person or a cover based third-person shooter affair. Marvel’s awareness is higher than ever in pop culture in the movie, and now TV world, and gamers can’t seem to get enough of picking up an assault rifle to put holes into terrorists and bad guys, both domestic and foreign.
It’s also not like there isn’t a template in which to build on, look at Volition/THQ’s Punisher game back in 2005. That game was an excellent third person shooter that came out before most people even knew we wanted those games. It had excellent controls, brutal torture kills, a compelling story that even left itself open for a continuation. Someone in all honesty could have taken that game, but in some waist-high cover and called it day. Listen, if someone can take 50 Cent and put him in an amazingly over the top cover based shooter, it can be done with The Punisher.
Well, okay, The Punisher technically didn’t sit out the last console cycle, as there was a download/multi-player only first-person shooter released on the PSN called The Punither: No Mercy. However, if you try to look up or download that game today, you’ll find that it doesn’t exist and I’ll wager in reading this you may not have even heard of the game in the first place. I can’t speak on the quality of the game, I’m not a person who enjoys multi-player games let alone ones that are for that purpose exclusively, but outside of that I have no desire to play a game starring Marvel’s favorite gun-toting lunatic if there’s nothing to back up the experience. For me, it’s not enough to simply play an arena shooter as The Punisher, I want to go on a journey with the character. I want to clean up the streets of New York with large-caliber weapons or even flashback to Frank’s days in the war before he donned the skull.
The Punisher as a character is an excellent fit to the type of games that people want to play, but being realistic I can maybe see why someone would be hesitant to make a big budget game featuring the character. Though he’s never been unpopular per say, the franchise as a whole has not been as strong as in the early 90’s when you could find The Punisher in several of his own books or possibly being featured in someone else’s. The attempts at bringing the character to the mainstream in the 2000’s weren’t that successful either. The 2004 film starring Thomas Jane was a PG-13 train wreck that was a neutered version of the character, and a soft reboot attempt in 2008 with the so bad it’s amazing Punisher: War Zone was barely in theaters for a week or two when it came out in the baffling time of December of that year. Since then no plans have been made by anyone, including Marvel Studios who has since regained the rights from Lionsgate films, to bring the character to either the big or small screen.
What would it take for someone to make a new Punisher game? I can’t really say for certain, but you can’t argue that someone should really strike while the iron’s hot. The character’s game have never been that bad, in fact in playing all of them for this site I was really only unimpressed with The Punisher: The Ultimate Payback! on the Game Boy, and have raved over the quality of the Sega Genesis beat-em-up as well as the under appreciated shooter from THQ. Maybe the character could make an appearance in Netflix’s upcoming Daredevil series, as the characters kill-em-all-and-let-God-sort-em-out attitude has always clashed with the respect of the law that Matt Murdock cherishes. Outside of that, I guess it’s up to a video game publisher who would like to get their hands on a franchise that would probably make a lot of money.