The fourth installment of the Marvel vs. Capcom crossover series, the game doubles the roster of its predecessor (including new additions and returning fighters) while adding new 3-on-3 gameplay and simplified controls (two punch buttons, two kick buttons, and two assist buttons). It also brings back the classic "assist attack" system (sans "partners") while adding a new "snapback" attack (a close-ranged attack that, if hit successfully, swaps the opponent's character with another). A unique aspect of the game is its use of experience points for each arcade machine that increments by playtime, determining how many characters and alternate costumes are unlocked.
One of Capcom's earliest fighting games developed outside of their arcade hardware, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 combines 2D hand-drawn sprites with 3D backgrounds (a style later used for Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium). It is the last game in the series to use hand-drawn sprites for its characters.
The game was later released for the Dreamcast throughout 2000 (March in Japan, June in North America, and July in Europe), adding a new system of "purchasing" the locked characters/costumes with accumulated playtime (and trading them using the VMU). The Japanese version of the game also includes online multiplayer and the ability to use VMUs with the arcade version (where players can use their unlocked characters and earn experience points). It was later ported to the PlayStation 2 (in September 2002, with the Japanese version including online multiplayer) and Xbox (in September 2002 for Japan and March 2003 for North America).
It was later ported (by Backbone) as a digital release for the Xbox 360 (via Xbox Live Arcade on July 29, 2009) and the PlayStation 3 (via PlayStation Network on August 13, 2009). This version includes online multiplayer (including a six-player lobby system), various graphical options (including widescreen support), support for custom soundtracks, and all content unlocked from the start. The original console version was ported to iOS devices on April 25, 2012 (adding touch controls). These ports were removed from their respective storefronts on December 2013.
The game includes 55 playable characters (split into characters owned by Marvel and Capcom) and one unplayable boss (Abyss, a demon created exclusively for the game who has three forms. While nearly all of the characters introduced in the series are included, this game includes only one alternate version of a fighter (Wolverine).
When the game is first started, only 28 characters are unlocked (24 in the console version). In the arcade version, more characters (along with alternate costumes) are eventually unlocked as players play the game. In the console version (which has a different starting roster), this content can only be either purchased from the "Secret Factor" shop or traded with other players. In the 360 and PS3 versions, all content is unlocked from the start.
All new additions to the series (with the exception of Cable and Marrow) re-use the sprites from their appearances in X-Men: Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes. Most of the characters originated from the X-Men series (including all new additions, with the exception of Doctor Doom, Iron Man, and Thanos).
- Colossus (locked)
- Doctor Doom
- Iron Man (locked)
- Sentinel (locked)
- Silver Samurai (locked)
- Spiral (locked)
- Thanos (locked)
- Gambit (locked in the console version)
- Juggernaut (locked in the console version)
- Magneto (locked in the console version)
- Omega Red (locked)
- Psylocke (locked in the arcade version)
- Rogue (locked in the arcade version)
- Sabretooth (locked)
- Storm (locked)
- Wolverine (has an alternate EX version that uses his X-Men vs. Street Fighter playstyle, normal is locked in the console version while EX is locked in the arcade version)
- Blackheart (locked)
- Captain America
- Shuma-Gorath (locked in the console version)
- War Machine (locked)
Out of the 10 new additions, the three characters from Darkstalkers are the only new additions to the series that re-use their sprites from previous games. Three other characters were created exclusively for this game. Most of the characters are from the Street Fighter franchise.
- Amingo (original)
- Anakaris (Darkstalkers)
- B. B. Hood (Darkstalkers, locked in the console version, named Bulleta in Japanese versions)
- Felicia (Darkstalkers, locked)
- Guile (Street Fighter)
- Hayato (Star Gladiator)
- Jill Valentine (Resident Evil, locked in the arcade version)
- Ruby Heart (original)
- Servbot (Mega Man Legends, locked, known as Kobun in some versions)
- SonSon (original, based on the protagonist from Son Son)
- Tron Bonne (Mega Man Legends, locked in the arcade version)
- Akuma (locked in the console version, named Gouki in Japanese versions)
- Cammy (locked)
- Charlie (locked, named Nash in Japanese versions)
- Chun-Li (locked)
- Dan (locked)
- Dhalsim (locked)
- Ken (locked)
- M. Bison (locked, named Vega in Japanese version)
- Ryu (based on his previous Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter play-style)
- Sakura (locked in the arcade version)
- Captain Commando (Captain Commando, locked in the console version)
- Jin (Cyberbots: Fullmetal Madness, locked in the console version)
- Mega Man (classic Mega Man, locked, named Rockman in Japanese versions)
- Morrigan (Darkstalkers, locked in the console version)
- Roll (classic Mega Man, locked)
- Strider Hiryu (Strider)