As seen in the original film, one of the defining aspects of the character of Iron Man is how Tony Stark makes changes and upgrades his suit. Never content with what he has created, he is always striving to improve on his design. So let's have a look through all the suits that Tony Stark has created in the MCU. From the original Iron Man through to Civil War.
Mark I (Iron Man)
The suit that started it all. When Tony Stark is captured by terrorists, he uses the equipment and materials at his disposal to create his first prototype. Although his technological triumph doesn’t last very long, as it explodes on impact after a brief flight out of enemy territory. It's impressive that it manages to actually work, especially since: “Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave! With a box of scraps!” A good first effort, which laid the groundwork for what was to come. Notable Scenes: Breaking out of the cave (IM1)
Mark II (Iron Man | Iron Man 2)
When Tony Stark arrives back at his home at his Malibu mansion, he begins immediately on his idea for version 2.0 of the Iron Man suit. After lots of trail and error (and wall bashing!), he comes up with a fully functioning suit, in plain silver.
He takes the suit for a successful “test drive”, which apart from an icing problem, goes without a hitch. It’s assumed that the weapons aren't functional, but it does fly well, making it a good “prototype” and big improvement in functionality from the Mark I suit. We later see the suit again when Rodney fights with Stark in the mansion. Notable Scenes: Constructing the Mark II (IM1), Test-flight (IM1), Rodney vs Tony (IM2)
Mark III (Iron Man)
This is the suit that we were all waiting for - the Mark III, arguably the first Iron Man suit! (Since you could count the others as prototypes) In it's full trademark look and with full functionality, it gets it's first test with a visit to Gulmira, by stopping the terrorists.
The Mark III is used for the rest of the film, with it’s weapons, strength, flight, speed and agility put to the test. It's fair to say that it came out with flying colours, and is still many peoples “favourite” suit from the films, because it made the biggest impact on Tony's life.
Notable Scenes: Gulmira (IM1), clashing with planes (IM1), Final Battle (IM1)
Mark IV (Iron Man 2)
We don't see much of this armour, but we can probably assume that he used the Mark IV to improve world relations since Tony would have upgraded the Mark III after his battle with the Iron Monger. Iron Man 2 doesn’t have good representation of the suit, as all we see is Tony arriving at he stark expo, a house party, and a fight with Rodney who wears the Mark II. But he did manage to gain world peace, so it must of been marked improvement, right? Notable Scenes: Tony meets Nick Fury (IM2)
Mark V (Iron Man 2)
If you thought the Mark IV was underused, wait to you see the Mark V. Used in only one scene, it was used when Whiplash unleashed mayhem at Monaco. One of the main problems at that point in time was the lack of portability, with Tony needing his machinery to get in and out of the suit. Which is a little inconvenient if your not at home.
The Mark V solves the problem, meaning Tony can suit up anywhere, as you never know when trouble will strike. Portability is key to the Mark V, which comes at the expense of the lack of flight and limited weaponry. Great at the time, it is now outclassed by the Mark XLII featured in Iron Man 3. Notable Scenes: Whiplash vs Iron Man (1 Scene)
Mark VI (Iron Man 2 | The Avengers)
The Mark VI has had one of the longest screen times, and it shows in what Tony gets up to. After discovering a new element, and subsequent power source, Tony upgrades his armour once more. With a new red laser weapon and major improvements in durability, Tony makes good use of the Mark VI in battle.
First, he assists Rodney in the War Machine suit and battles against Whiplash's drones and then the man himself. He then uses the suit to capture Loki, fixes the helicarrier and then the biggest test of his Iron Man suit to date. Tony is able to fend off against Thor and his Mjolnir's lightening attacks. The best suit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Maybe. Notable Scenes: Tony and Rodney vs the Army (Iron Man 2), Iron Man vs Thor (The Avengers)
Mark VII (The Avengers | Iron Man 3)
When the Mark VI is nearly crushed by the helicarrier, Tony orders JARVIS to start constructing the Mark VII. After Loki threatens Tony and pushes him out of the tower, the Mark VII is deployed and attaches to Tony in mid-air.
One of the improvements you might have missed is the suit can now fly without the use of the arm stabilises, so Tony can use these as weapons while still flying. His red laser can now be used more than once per charge, and he now has rocket-launcher installed in the suit’s backpack. This is just as well, as the Chitauri army is no slouch, considering when Tony takes down one of the mother ships – FROM THE INSIDE! Notable Scenes: The battle of New York (The Avengers)
Mark XLII (Iron Man 3)
After Tony fends off the alien army with his last suit, he comes up with loads of different designs varying in colours, shapes and capabilities. He eventually comes up with the Mark 42. With portability still a little issue, this is now fixed with it’s new feature: the suit can now assemble to Tony remotely. It's also remote control able too, something Tony puts to good use.
Because this is an early prototype and being made up of individual pieces, it's prone to breaking up. I’m not a big fan of the new colour scheme, and I can see why some people prefer the classic looking one. Notable Scenes: Testing, Malibu Mansion attack, escaping custody, Air Force One, “the prodigal son returns”
Mark XLIII (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
This suit, for all intents and purposes, is a final version of the Mark 42. Still having the feature to assemble on command, Tony can do this with only single parts if needed, such as an arm. The suit also has two new features. One is called the Sentry Mode, which makes the suit act like a bodyguard while Tony is out of the suit investigating. The other is a new Infra-Red scanner, which Tony makes good use of when infiltrating the HYDRA base.
This suit also has a great party piece – it can join another armour to make the Hulkbuster armour. As extra accessories go, that's pretty nifty isn't it? The Hulkbuster armour is much larger than any other of Tony Suits. With increased strength, and a stronger arm pulser, it worked well in fighting against the hulk. A floating platform (out of the reach of the Hulk) can deploy new parts for the Hulkbuster if needed. Notable Scenes: Attacking HYDRA base, battling Ultron, battling Hulk
Mark XLV (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Not much is known about this version of the suit. It has all the features we have seen before, along with a new paint job. Tony uses many of the suits functions in the final battle against Ultron, but nothing we haven't seen before. The biggest difference is the A.I. With JARVIS now in vision, Tony uses a new AI called F.R.I.D.A.Y. in the suits from now on. Notable Scenes: Saving Sokovia
Mark XLVI (Captain America: Civil War)
Not much time has passed since Age of Ultron, but Tony still manages to upgrade his suit even further with further useful features. While not too important, Tony's helmet now completely collapses when not needed, rather than just his face plate. He also has a new IEM projectile, which neutralizes electric systems. He also uses a powered clamp against Captain America, another new feature. This suit is definitely the strongest yet, since he manages to stand toe to toe with Cap and Bucky in hand to hand combat, something the other suits weren’t very good at. Notable Scenes: The Big Battle, VS friends
So which suit is best? Well what is my favourite and what is the best are two different things entirely. My personal favourite is the Mark V. Although now defunct because of the Mark 42 and suits afterwards, it's still really cool to see Tony transform into it and then whip Ivan Vanko's butt is one of the best scenes in the Iron Man films.
I reckon the best suit must go to the Mark VI. It manages to fend off an entire drone army, and fend against Thor, a feat in itself. But I might be wrong. The awesome Mark VII might be the best because of it's weapons capabilities. Or the Mark III which manages to stand off against the Iron Monger, even with low power. Or what about Mark XLIII which can be used with the Hulkbuster armour.
Regardless of which is the best, or definitive, or the most improved, it's fascinating to see Tony upgrade his suit from film to film. From breaking out of a cave, battling a bigger version of the suit, fending off an alien army and fighting Cap in battle, the suits have made their mark on the MCU, and for the better. How will Tony upgrade his suit for the Spider-Man: Homecoming and Infinity War? Who knows, but it will kick butt!