Published in 1994 by LJN and Acclaim Entertainment, and developed by Software Creations, Maximum Carnage is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up game, featuring Spider-Man and Venom. The game – originally released for the SNES and the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) – gives gamers the opportunity to play as two of Marvel Comics’ most iconic characters, in a battle to save the citizens of New York.

Based on the fan-favourite Maximum Carnage storyline which was published in comics in 1993, the game takes the mammoth 14-issue story and condenses it into an easy-to-play button basher. The game includes a range of Marvel characters (Captain America, Morbius etc), and incorporates various cut scenes ripped straight from the comics.

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The gameplay

In terms of its overall design aesthetic, Maximum Carnage is a top-notch game and certainly one of my favourites from the 1990s. The graphics are a heap of fun, the backgrounds are colourful, and there is a real comic book tone and feel. But how does the gameplay shape up?

In essence Maximum Carnage is a standard beat ‘em up. The majority of the levels see Spidey and Venom fight a cavalcade of thugs, before leading to end-of-level showdowns with bosses and supervillains.

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If you have played Streets of RageThe PunisherAlien Storm or any of the many beat ‘em ups of the 16-bit era, you will know what to expect. Some gamers find this sort of gameplay great, while others find it to be too repetitive.

Personally, I love Maximum Carnage. The sprites look good, I adore the inclusion of multiple Marvel characters (even if it is in a minor role) and I really appreciate the simplicity of the game. Plus, as a huge fan of the original comic, it is great to be able to play out the events on my console.

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Two can play that game

A noteable feature of the game is the ability to play as either Spider-Man or Venom. This gives players the opportunity to pick their favourite character and take them through the mean streets of New York City.

The first few levels have to be played as Spidey, in order to stick to the events of the comic, but once Venom is introduced the option becomes available to alternate between the characters. Each character has a slightly different journey, with some levels only playable with Venom, and some only playable with Spidey.

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Character development

Across the course of the game, multiple Marvel characters appear in the story, from the two playable heroes, Spidey and Venom, to monstrous villains such as Carnage and Shriek. In addition to the core characters, players are frequently given the chance to summon bonus heroes who momentarily appear on screen to offer assistance.

Here are all of the characters who appear in Maximum Carnage:

Playable characters:

  • Spider-Man 
  • Venom 

Bonus characters:

  • Black Cat
  • Captain America 
  • Cloak 
  • Dagger 
  • Deathlok 
  • Firestar
  • Iron Fist
  • Morbius 

Villains:

  • Carrion
  • Carnage 
  • Demogoblin
  • Doppelganger
  • Shriek

In addition to these characters, Mary Jane and J. Jonah Jameson appear in the comic strip cut scenes, as do a couple of the Avengers. The Fantastic Four also get a name check midway through the game.

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Seeing red

One of the most significant features of Maximum Carnage is the cartridge. When the game was initially released it was available in two colours: standard black and limited edition blood red.

The cartridge you see in this post is the limited edition red cart for the Sega Mega Drive. This isn’t the same copy I once owned back in ‘94, sadly I parted ways with that many years ago; instead it is one I picked up a couple of years ago on eBay.

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And this is where I insert a word of warning. This game, and in particular, the red cartridge has increased in value over the years.

If you wish to purchase a copy of Maximum Carnage, a loose copy of the red cart can sell on eBay for around £50+. If you wish to own a boxed edition, in good condition and complete with instructions, expect to pay anywhere between £70 – £150.

This isn’t just an ‘eBay thing’, the game is also pretty pricey at game fairs/shows too. So, it is important to be aware this game will cost you a decent chunk of change.

My advice? If you want a red cartridge edition of Maximum Carnage, then keep a constant eye on eBay. Watch the auctions and then just wait. Eventually you will get lucky and come across a slightly cheaper copy – I did!

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I am a big fan of retro games and in particular the Sega/Nintendo 16-bit era. Maximum Carnage stands out as a gem from the ‘90s and a game I return to again and again.

Thank you for stopping by It’s A Stampede! to read this post about Maximum Carnage. For more posts, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.

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