Square-Enix's Guardians of the Galaxy game puts players into Star Lord’s jet-boots to boss around everyone’s space-faring A-holes. As we covered in our review, it's a winning Marvel formula. But this new game exists outside of the MCU and the comic book versions we know and love, and these Guardians aren’t afraid to carve out their own section of the galaxy.
So how exactly does the game's climactic ending draw from the Marvel Comics source material, and what does that tell us about the direction of a potential sequel? Let's take a deep dive into the ending, but beware of full spoilers ahead for Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy!
Remember when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 teased the debut of Adam Warlock? Well, it turns out Square-Enix beat Marvel Studios to the punch by making this supposed cosmic messiah the final villain of their game.
As the game reveals, Adam Warlock has a serious dark side known as Magus. Though Warlock attempted to seal Magus inside the Soul Stone (yes, the same Soul Stone Thanos was after in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame), the fanatical Church of Universal Truth manages to bring Magus back. They harness the power of Faith Energy, brainwashing thousands of innocent people into giving Magus the energy he needs to assume physical form. Even Nikki Gold, Star-Lord’s supposed daughter, is part of this plot to usher in a cosmic apocalypse.
Fortunately, the Guardians manage to do the impossible and prevent Magus from returning to full power. Nikki comes to terms with her mother’s death, breaks free from Magus’ control and unleashes her latent abilities. Warlock then absorbs Magus’ spirit back into his own body, making himself whole once more.
Guardians does have one more curveball to throw our way before the end, though. Warlock discovers too late he’s not strong enough to fight off Magus’ evil influence. In a scene similar to the climax of the first Guardians movie, Star-Lord wields the Soul Stone himself and manages to trap Magus’ spirit inside once again. So, basically, the galaxy is back to square one again.
Why can Star-Lord wield an Infinity Stone without dying? In the movies, we learn he’s the son of Ego, a Celestial who takes the form of a living planet. But the game follows the comic books instead, revealing Star-Lord’s father is J’Son, ruler of the Spartax Empire. But either way, the point is that he’s more than just an ordinary human.
Guardians ends with Warlock taking back the Soul Stone and promising to seek out the Guardians if he needs their help, while Nikki becomes the official sixth member of the team. She may not actually be Star-Lord’s biological daughter, but she’s a member of the family all the same.
Adam Warlock, Magus and Thanos
So who exactly is Adam Warlock, and why is he the main villain of the game? In the comics, he may be one of the few heroes able to stand up to Thanos, but fans know this golden messiah is truly his own worst enemy.
This character first appeared in an early issue of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four, where a group of earth scientists create a genetically perfect being known as “Him.” However, it’s really writer/artist Jim Starlin who deserves credit for fleshing out the character and his twisted relationship with his darker half. Basically, Magus is a corrupted version of Warlock from the future, one who is driven insane by the power of the Soul Stone. Magus forms the Church of Universal Truth to weaponize the faith of an entire galaxy.
Warlock ultimately defeats his evil self by travelling into the future and stealing his own soul, ensuring Magus can never be born. That’s comic book logic for you.
It’s Warlock who discovers the Soul Stone is just one of six Infinity Stones that control the fundamental forces of creation in the Marvel Universe. Warlock plays a big part in defeating Thanos during 1991’s Infinity Gauntlet crossover. In the aftermath, he forms the Infinity Watch, a team of six heroes who each guard one Stone and ensure the full gauntlet can never be reconstructed.
And because no one in the Marvel Universe ever stays dead forever, Adam Warlock has continued to fight an uphill battle in preventing Magus’ return. As long as Warlock exists, Magus will always be a threat.
So where does Thanos fit into the game’s plot? Surprisingly, the Mad Titan is already dead by this point. We learn Drax finally made good on his mission to kill Thanos, cutting short a galaxy-wide killing spree by Thanos and his Chitauri army. This is also something that happened in the comics, with Drax slaying Thanos during the climax of 2006’s Annihilation. But again, no one ever stays dead forever, and Thanos is eventually resurrected to help deal with an even bigger threat. Speaking of which, Annihilation may just give us some clues as to where the story is headed in a second Guardians game…
A Guardians of the Galaxy Sequel?
While Square-Enix has yet to officially announce Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy 2, we have to imagine a sequel is already in the early stages of development. The real question is where the story goes from here.
Even though the core team lineup in the game follows the example of the first Guardians movie and the Guardians of the Galaxy animated series, the actual plot is heavily inspired by comics like Annihilation, Annihilation: Conquest and the 2008 Guardians of the Galaxy series.
The main throughline connecting all those cosmic storylines is the idea that devastating events like the Annihilation Wave have weakened the fabric of space and time. Adam Warlock forms a new version of the Guardians specifically to prevent more intergalactic catastrophes from occurring and tearing open the barriers between dimensions.
Needless to say, the team fails in that mission. 2010’s The Thanos Imperative features an all-out war between the Guardians and a group of HP Lovecraft-style monsters from a realm known as the Cancerverse. Even Warlock succumbs to his dark side and becomes Magus again.
We could see Guardians of the Galaxy 2 loosely adapting that storyline. Now that Peter Quill and his team have proven themselves as galaxy savers, they may be tasked with patrolling the cosmos and preventing new disasters that could tear holes in space and time. As in The Thanos Imperative, the climax may show us what happens when the team fails and new threats are let into the Marvel Universe. Like the comic, the game may even bring in a resurrected Thanos as backup against this new threat.
With the first game introducing the Soul Stone, it’s also possible the full Infinity Gauntlet will be a major plot device next time. Maybe the game will revolve around the Guardians hunting for the stones before another Marvel villain can harness their power.
We’d also expect a sequel to put plenty of focus on Nikki Gold, both as a new AI-controlled character and in terms of her relationship with Star-Lord. In the comics, Nikki is a member of the 31st Century version of the Guardians, so we might also see re-imagined versions of other futuristic Guardians like Vance Astro or Charlie-27.
The sequel might also dig deeper into Star-Lord’s family history. Maybe his father J’Son will be a villain, someone who uses the chaotic aftermath of the battle with Magus to consolidate his power and gain new territory for the Spartax Empire. Let’s just say that Star-Lord’s dad isn’t the noble hero he’s always made him out to be.
On that note, what did YOU think of Guardians of the Galaxy? Where do you want to see the story go next? What’s your dream Guardians squad, and what features or mechanics would you want in version 2.0? Let’s hear your best theories down in the comments.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.