Superheroes, like movies, don’t often get a lot of love in video games. While recently superhero games have been exclusively good, that used to be quite the rarity. In fact, even though I have a few to talk about here… a lot of them are based on the same character. That’s how bad the situation here is, very few characters or franchises actually got good games of their own.
These games are in no particular order, so don’t assume one is worse because it’s lower on the list. These are all worth taking a look at.
NOTE: I’ll be omitting any games that were on previous lists of mine, in an effort to keep things fresh.
Number 4: Spider-Man
This game had it all. It was a 3D beat ‘em up starring Spider-Man with a story drawing from the comics and tons of secrets and unlockables. The story revolves around a supposedly reformed Dr. Octavius who’s new humanitarian invention was stolen by someone impersonating Spider-Man. On the run from basically the entire city, Spidey has to figure out what’s really going on.
As mentioned, the game is a beat ‘em up. It has a surprising amount of depth. Combos, tricks and various abilities you can use. This was also the first title to introduce Spider-Man to a type of gameplay that’s frankly a natural fit for him: Stealth. Yeah you’ve actually got some stealth opportunities at your disposal, and plenty of tricks up your sleeve to take advantage of them as all of your abilities can be used while clinging to walls and ceilings. Later games would attempt stealth elements as a result, with varying success. There are a ton of levels with wildly different environments and objectives. Lots of unique boss fights, many different enemies and even a great voice cast. To this day, Rino Romano is my favorite Spider-Man voice. His timing and tone are on point for the character.
Whenever I go back to play this game, it’s still fun. The writing, the humor, and the level design are still on point. It’s a great example of the crazy stuff Neversoft used to get up to back when they… still existed. Grab a copy if you can find one, any fan should own this.
Number 3: X-Men Legends 2
Who doesn’t love it when the redeemable bad guys end up working with the good guys to take down some big threat? Those to me, always end up being some of the best stories. While the original game (which I also recommend) had a more loose narrative that saw the X-Men going around doing X-Men things for the most part, this game has the much more focused plot of stopping Apocalypse. The heroes are constantly on the move to thwart his plans in various locations.
The gameplay of the X-Men Legends games is this really interesting blend of beat ‘em up and RPG mechanics. And with a focus on four person teams, this is a great game for co-op. It’s a shame they came out before online play really became accessible for consoles. Legends 2 technically had online multiplayer, but it’s doubtful many people actually had a chance to use it. There’s a long campaign here, a good one. The game is surprisingly open world? A somewhat linear one, but yeah. There’s a loot system, dialogue with characters both at base and during missions. There are lots of challenge modes. It’s a very unique mix that somehow works really well. There are tons of unlockable costumes and even a few characters like Iron Man and Deadpool. There’s just so much to unpack here that I can’t do it justice in a short summary.
It’s a great game, a classic even. Yet for some reason, I never hear anyone talk about it. Buy this one if you can get your hands on it.
Number 2: Ultimate Spider-Man
Another Spider-Man game, based on the then recent Ultimate series of comics. I had a few of those back in the day. It starred my favorite villain/anti-hero, Venom. So needless to say, I was immediately interested in this one. The game’s story is actually directly based on the Venom arc from the comics, so the writing is about on par. Though I do think they toned down some of the dark themes and violence. Regardless, this was an exciting story to play through as a fan.
The gameplay is actually just a bit of an upgrade from Spider-Man 2, as the same team worked on it. However, I do feel a few of the changes are for the worse. For example, swinging feels slower. Almost like they were trying to lower the skill floor a bit, and the skill ceiling suffered for it. But there is still really solid gameplay here. Now that the team wasn’t constrained by the movie, they got to play around with boss fights and characters a lot more too. The voice of Spidey is… a little grating, but I see what they were going for. It’s not terrible, he tries. I’m just not a fan of the choice. As is the Spider-Man game tradition, there are a ton of secrets and unlockables to uncover. Not to mention the numerous side challenges. Oh, and did I mention you get to play as Venom whenever you want after completing the story? Yeah there’s a few missions during the campaign where you play as him. Once it’s complete, you can do it whenever you want. There’s actually a sort of rampage challenge mode attached to him you can activate just by causing some trouble. You can also deactivate it with a glitch, but I forget the specifics. Something about going into the “unlockables” menu. So you actually get two fully realized playable characters in this one.
It’s loads of fun, and worth checking out for any fan of the characters.
Number 1: Batman Arkham Asylum
How could I not mention this one? I know that superhero games picked up after this, but that’s because of this game. This game set the bar for quality. The story is… Really simple actually. The Joker has some terror threat planned, and you as Batman are stuck in Arhkam Asylum and have to sneak and fight your way out of the situation. They even managed to come up with a reason no other superheroes show up to help.
This was an ambitious game at the time. A stealth game with some light brawler mechanics where you play as Batman stranded and facing a bunch of his iconic villains. You have to outsmart your enemies for the most part rather than face them head on. You get to use Batman’s famous gadgets, and play detective. There’s so much lore, and so many side activities hidden around the map. Speaking of side activities, there are some extremely addicting challenge modes here. The final boss is a bit of a let down, but the journey there is so creative and well crafted they probably just ran out of steam by that point.
If you haven’t played this game for some reason yet, you should. There’s the original releases, and there was also a remaster fairly recently (it’s worth noting I hear they may have screwed with some of the visuals in the remaster). This is a must buy for any comic fan. Yes any comic, this game (along with the Nolan movies) made me a fan of Batman. Even if you’re not a fan, you should give this a look.