The defining moment in my superhero loving life was when I was about 8 years old. I remember being in a gas station outside of St. Louis, and I looked at a rack that contained glowing, glossy pages of heros in metal and covered in colorful garb. They jumped off of the page, those heroes. Batman pulling his cape tight to his face. Iron-Man dispatching some armored foe with his beams. Spider-man narrowly escaping the clutches of Doc Ock. My grandpa wouldn’t let me get any of those comics because they weren’t good for young men he said, But their images wouldn’t leave my mind. I ended up spending countless dollars that I scourged and worked for to buy those comics. As I got older, I still loved my comics and yearned to be able to play them in video games.
The early years for video games was rough for fans of superheroes to be sure. Heros like Spidey and Superman just didn’t translate well to pixels and sprites, and we had to grimace and pretend that we enjoyed those early games. They took more fortitude than Superman could muster and more imagination than it took to believe Aquaman was cool. Sorry, I know that was a cheap shot. But as the technology caught up to our imaginiations, games started to be good! The games could help flesh out canon. New things could be introduced like web-slinging over mid-town Manhattan. You could punch down a building with the Hulk. You could finally solve a mystery as the cowled Dark Knight.
Now, just because technology was advancing and games were getting better doesn’t every new superhero game was great. For the longest time, super-hero games were lumped in with movie licensed games as guaranteed stinkers, with very few exceptions. The current generation of super-hero games leaves us in transition with a few great games, and thankfully fewer stinkers. Let’s take a look at the greatest superhero games of all-time, and why we love them. The “Greatest list” consists of console games. Except for the Also awesome section. While
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
The Hulk was finally available to us: oh the glorios days of rampant and wonton destruction. Though this game wasn’t deep, or terribly long, you finally were able to punch down buildings, cars, the ground, and leep for miles it seemed. A full host of the Emerald Titan’s enemies made this game an under-appreciated gem. Why haven’t we been able to replicate the joy this open-world game had? There have been other Hulk games with better graphics, but none that contained the gleeful wails of “HULK SMASH!” that Ultimate Destruction caused. You can get the game for a reasonable price on Amazon.com if you happen to have an old PlayStation 2 lying around.
Spider-man finally got a decent treatment after countless misfires with the Spider-Man 2 movie tie-in. Swinging above New York was THE reason to play this game. Sure you could web-shoot guys with globs of webbing, but the feeling of total freedom, the rush of coming feet off of the ground while swinging up and then webbing to another skyscraper is damn near orgasmic.
Now, on the negative side of things, I hate the “modernizing” of the spider suit, the changes in his web-shooters, the texture of the suit and the changing of the Osborn storyline. In fact, I can’t stand the Green Goblin’s suit. Hollywood loves to toy with perfection. They did so much with CGI in the film, they couldn’t design the Goblin’s glider and appearance to be at least CLOSE to the Goblin we all know and despise? with those things aside, this game does get as close as possible to a true Spidey experience. Or, at least it was the first step in a series of them that makes Spider-man games fun to actually play.
Spider-man :Web of Shadows
Just look at the image above. You’re webbing…yourself…as Spidey…to a bad guy on a glider…hundreds of feet above the city! Imagine me gleefully yelling this with my voice getting progressively higher pitched. THAT my friends, is the essence of Spider-Man. This game got a bad wrap, and some of the wrap is deserved for being a bit glitchy, a little buggy, poorly paced and rough around the edges. “BAH!” I say to the critics. The game allowed you to team up with Wolverine, the Black Cat, and even Moon Knight. You can even enlist bad guys like the Vulture to help you if you follow the wrong path. Which brings me to another cool element of the game: you have the symbiote attached, or a piece of it, and you can switch between the normal web-head, and a darker, meaner symbiotic enhanced Spider-Man. The story arc branches off and allows you to make decisions that affect not only the overall game, but Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Become villainous and MJ doesn’t react the same loving and sweet way that she normally does. In combat, you can switch between “light and dark” Spidey, and utilize the RPG-esque branch system to upgrade different combos and abilities.
Giant robot fights, web-slinging and constant battles if you choose them, and even small time crimes and an engaging storyline that actually explores Peter Parker all make this a woefully underappareciated game. It’s available for next to nothing from GameStop and Amazon.com. I highly recommend picking this game up and giving it a go. The Controls can be a little loose at times, and it can be frustrating, especially the Electro fight, but be a hipster and discover something that a lot of folks didn’t with Web of Shadows. I played it on Xbox-360.
Batman: Arkham City
Easily the best superhero game of all time. This is the only game on the list that I will actually put a number on. The Dark Mother @#$%@#^ Knight. In full effect here is every single thing that you love about Batman. There could be more romance, or more struggles as Bruce Wayne, but we can wait for the comics for that. It’s been said before, but you really do feel like Batman. From the seamless combat system that can make quick work of hordes of goons, to access to the greatest toys a brilliant mind can devise, Arkham City really pays off in so many ways.
The game is overflowing with nods to comic fans, with pictures and unlockables, inside jokes and even some fourth wall things too. Everytime you think you have the game figured out, a character like Azrael pops up. The game leads you along, frustratingly so at times, but always rewards you with another piece of gear, or an upgrade to Batman’s armament. The game features the voice talents of Kevin Conroy as Batman, and an absolutely stellar Mark Hamill as the Joker. Bane makes his presence known, as do many other favorite baddies.
The relationship with Gordon is intact and explored somewhat, and you get a deeper understanding of the workings of the gothic inhabitants and former residents of Gotham In Arkham City. If you manage to hitch a ride on a helicopter, you can see Gotham proper and its skyscrapers looming in the distance. They softly glow like ominous monoliths, and gently whisper to Batman and your darker side. Batman makes uneasy pacts with the devilish denizens of Gotham Asylum and teeters on the edge of both insanity and evil. He always seems to pull himself and us back from falling over though. Batman Arkham City is available for Xbox 360 andd Playstation 3 from most game sellers.
- Batman: Arkham Asylum
- Champions: League of Legends
- Freedom Force
What games did I leave off that you think should be on the list? Have a bone to pick with me about leaving off a game? Leave a comment or write me and let me know.