There have been many superhero games over the years that have achieved varying amounts of critical success, but regardless of how good each of these games may be, they still tend to perform well commercially simply by virtue of the player being able to assume the role of their favourite comic book characters.
However, the games featured in this list didn't attract the same kind of audience that other games of their ilk managed to, which is a crying shame given their quality. Here are five great superhero games that you might not have played.
Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich
Superheroes vs. Nazis? What's not to like?
Before Irrational Games went on to command the attention of the entire gaming industry with their BioShock series, they were creating the Freedom Force games. Featuring characters that are essentially parodies of existing characters from the Marvel Universe, Mentor, The Ant, Liberty Lad and co. duke it out with the Axis in 2005's Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich, after a spot of time-traveling leads to the Nazis winning World War II. The plot is suitably overblown, its dialogue knowingly cheesy and its graphics colourful and appealing, authentically aping the Golden Age of comic books which it was inspired by. Aside from its myriad of aesthetic achievements, Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich is also an accomplished RTS, making it one of the most well-rounded yet sadly forgotten superhero games of the past decade.
The Darkness II
The most recent game on this list, 2012's The Darkness II didn't even sell enough to warrant the release of its planned DLC, leaving its story irritatingly open-ended in the process. Despite it receiving strong reviews, The Darkness II failed to garner the attention of the audience it deserved, which is baffling considering just how many boxes it ticked. Compelling story? Check. Insanely fun combat? Yup. Wanton violence and destruction? It's got that in spades. The Darkness II makes you feel powerful, and is second only to perhaps the Batman Arkham games in making you feel like a superheroic force to be reckoned with.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighter
While it wasn't the most well-balanced of fighting games, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighter for the Genesis/SNES was fast-paced and fun, and featured some of the most imaginatively designed stages of its era. Depending upon your system of choice, your experience with TMNT: TF would have been very different: the SNES version featured better sound, but was arguably less accomplished on the gameplay front. However, it did have the better roster of characters, with the anthropomorphized shark Armaggon being a particular favourite. If you were a TMNT fan and didn't own this game you were doing yourself a disservice, as it was one of the most enjoyable fighters of its generation.
The fact that Spawn for the SNES didn't achieve the same kind of admiration as many other superhero titles of its generation is baffling, and probably more to do with its titular hero's relative lack of popularity when compared to his peers. For a side-scrolling beat 'em up, Spawn offered an impressive amount of variety in its gameplay, which will see you avoiding the shot of an enemy sniper in one level, before ducking and diving your way past a mannequin-throwing boss in the next. This is all built upon a surprisingly detailed combat system, which differentiates itself from the standard 'Punch Punch, Kick Kick' gameplay of beat 'em ups at the time by allowing the player to perform combo moves, which will see you approaching different enemies with different strategies. Spawn rivals the quality of oft-discussed games of its era such as The Adventures of Batman and Robin and X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse, but is sadly overlooked.
Released at the tail-end of the Genesis's life-cycle, Comix Zone placed you in the shoes of an illustrator who is trapped inside one of his own comic books. Perhaps the most authentic visual representation of the comic book art style in gaming history, Comix Zone sees you punching your way through panels, conveying your thoughts via speech bubbles and facing a whole host of well-designed enemy sprites as you fight your way towards mutant antagonist Mortus. While Comix Zone eventually attracted an audience thanks to its inclusion on Genesis compilations, as one of the very best games of the 16-bit era, it still hasn't received nearly the amount of recognition that it deserves.
Paul Tamburro is the UK Editor of Crave Online. Follow him on Twitter @PaulTamburro.