Silver Surfer is one of the weirdest creations in Marvel Comics. It is not as oddly designed as MODOK (who is essentially an evil version of Humpty Dumpty), or as far-fetched as Howard the Duck (the pantless detective’s wonder), but he rides a surfboard through space and powers the planets at a giant man. He’s a head-scratching hero, but he’s likable and backed up by a story fueled by love, power, and cosmic intrigue.
And that brings us to the question of why I’m thinking of Silver Surfer at this particular moment.
When I started Fortnite last weekend to check out the new Ant-Man SkinI scrolled through the store to see what was available for purchase. I didn’t expect to see a barrage of Marvel characters and gear, as licensed content doesn’t come back often after the initial offering. I struggled to get Venom, Daredevil, and Black Widow, but was able to hold back from impulse buys. This was not the case with Silver Surfer. Support my hypocritical stance on licensed cameos in games I bought it immediately and then in a moment of weakness I also picked up Captain America just so I could give Silver Surfer his amazing shield. The combination of Surfer and Shield was too much for my comedic brain to resist.
After my spending spree, I kicked off a Solo match to see my shiny new skin in action. After hopping off the battle bus and summoning the surfboard for a smooth glide down to the ground, I was struck by the desire to play a game like this. It materialized in my mind: Explore alien worlds, scan them for minerals and life, then determine if this planet needs to be fed to Galactus, a being you cannot trust, but who must appease if you hope to be free from it. This is the game, and its foundation aligns perfectly with Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky.
I can’t think of a better combination of license and developer. The next closest would be Remedy to make a Star Wars game after making Control one of the best Jedi-type experiences I’ve ever played. Hello Games already has the perfect track record to support the Silver Surfer, and it would just need to figure out how to inject story-rich cutscenes into the mix.
These story beats would likely be scripted bookend play moments. Much like No Man’s Sky, the player could still explore a universe filled with 18 quintillion planets, but specific planets or instances should occur at specific times to move the narrative forward and create a cohesive arc that moves from chapter to chapter.
True to the comic book story of the Surfer, the game I see should start off landlocked with player controller Norin Radd on his homeworld Zenn-La. It could be a quiet moment with Radd at home with Shalla-Bal, his lifelong sweetheart (their story is wild and well worth investigating if you don’t know). When this utopian planet is threatened by an alien presence, Radd is sent into space to examine it. This moment could be Hello Games’ way of passing the baton from match to match, with the spaceship being the first pilot to fly in No Man’s Sky.
The threat Radd faces is Galactus, and he’s here to consume the resource-rich Zenn-La. Radd begs the World Eater to spare his world. Galactus agrees, but only if Radd becomes his herald, a helper who will locate other planets that can be consumed. With no other way to save Zenn-La and Shalla-Bal, Radd transforms into the Silver Surfer and the real game begins.
This is where the player can go anywhere, and No Man’s Sky’s near-endless discovery loop takes center stage. With Galactus always nearby, you will be asked to study the planets to see if they will quell his hunger. Giving him a planet means that all life will perish there. The resources it could bring you would also be wasted. At times in the game, Galactus will be hungry for different minerals and more of them over time. These resources would also be used to power the Silver Surfer, but he extracts them from the planetary surfaces (again pushing you to keep certain worlds around). With enough minerals gained, Surfer eventually becomes strong enough to fight Galactus, defeat him, and be free again. This is the end goal.
As much Surfer wants to be free from his master, he must satisfy him with planetary meals. His satisfaction is represented on a counter that slowly runs out over time. If it’s reduced to nothing, the game is over. The player will have to make difficult decisions with which the planets are spared or lost. Some worlds may need to be consumed without even scanning them, just to feed Galactus on long journeys. When a planet falls, I would like the player to get a report on what has been lost: how many species, beings, resources, technologies, all of that.
At times in history, two important planets could be suspended in front of Surfer, and he must decide which one is lost. Whoever remains could open a new side story, while the one that is lost closes another.
Given that Surfer is one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe, combat would be plentiful, with space battles erupting in the orbits of advanced planets, as well as ground wars on more prehistoric worlds in their fauna. .
I see Silver Surfer as a power-gaining game, and the player has the power to know how and when it’s gotten. They are free to explore the cosmos and will encounter things their friends never do. It’s also a love story, which sees Surfer periodically returning to Zenn-La to check on Shalla-Bal. And it’s a game of loss and destruction brought on by Galactus’ hunger and Surfer’s weaknesses.
I’m sure the Silver Surfer will eventually make a splash in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (likely when the Fantastic Four are introduced), but it remains to be seen when and how that happens. What I do know is that his perfect game is here to do it (at least I think it is). There’s a good chance Hello Games will continue to add to No Man’s Sky for years to come, but if this development team wants to try something a little different, they should sound Marvel or Marvel should call them. I can guarantee that at least one copy will be sold.