Batman: Arkham City is nearly upon us. The game finally releases tomorrow in North America, then a few days later in other territories like Australia and Europe. To celebrate the game’s impending launch, we’ve revisited our “Best Superhero Games” list and updated it according to what’s released since its original publication.
These are the games that actually make us feel like we’re running around in our tights and cape, righting wrongs and shooting laser beams out of our eyeballs. These are the games that make us feel as super as the characters in them.
10. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Developer: Raven Software
System: PS3, PC, Xbox 360
Release: May 2009
Yes, the movie was god awful. That’s what makes it such a shocker that the tie-in video game is actually pretty damn good. While X-Men Origins: Wolverine has it’s fair share of problems, it makes up for them by accurately capturing Wolverine’s brutality in combat. And as an added bonus, you get to listen to Hugh Jackson play the ill-tempered Canuck without having to suffer through some shitty movie that rapes dead the idea of Deadpool. If you need to experience Wolverine’s origin through the eyes of Hollywood extravagance, this game is your best bet. Trust us.
9. Marvel Ultimate Alliance
Developer: Raven Software
System: PS2, Xbox, PS3, Xbox 360
Marvel Ultimate Alliance (MUA) was the third Marvel-themed action-RPG that Raven Software developed for Activision. However, it was the first that moved away from Xavier’s school for mutants and stepped on the grand stage of the entire Marvel Universe. And because of Raven’s previous efforts, Marvel Ultimate Alliance was the most polished and deep version of their top-down-view action-RPGs when it released. MUA is also responsible for making a complete mockery of Blade by placing him in a toy machine that he couldn’t escape from on his own. That moment was hilarious and will forever be etched in our mind for reminding us how worthless the character really is. Well played, Raven.
8. The Punisher
Developer: Volition, Inc.
System: PS2, PC, Xbox
Release: January 2005
We’re going to wager that there aren’t many people that remember this gem of a superhero game (if you want to call the Punisher a superhero in the first place). But believe us, The Punisher — loosely tied into the 2004 feature film — is a fantastic use of the character’s license in video game form. The gameplay was very reminiscent of the Max Payne series, while also incorporating some stealth elements and brutal interrogation techniques. Seriously, look at the above image. That's a wood chipper. You could get the information you wanted and then still decide to throw him in that. It was awesome, and very Frank Castle, if we do say so ourselves.
To further sell the game, The Punisher featured some awesome cameos from characters within the typical Punisher world, as well as ones from the rest of the Marvel Universe — Iron Man, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Matt Murdock (Daredevil), Kingpin, Bullseye and The Russian, to name a few.
7. X-Men Arcade
System: Arcade, XBLA, PSN
Ah, the classics. What X-Men Arcade lacks in depth, it makes up for in pure fun and replayability. Seriously, this mutant-themed beat ‘em up is still a blast to pick up and play, whether flying solo or with three other friends. The game featured some of the coolest playable merry mutants (minus Dazzler) and the best X-Men villains in the business. X-Men Arcade’s popularity also netted the game a re-release, some 18 years later, on the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. That proves X-Men Arcade is one of the more memorable and impactful superhero games ever made.
6. Freedom Force
Developer: Irrational Games
System: PC, Mac
Release: January 2002
Before they made BioShock, Kevin Levine and Irrational Games did a little title called Freedom Force, which was the studio’s love letter to the comic book Silver Age and Jack Kirby wrapped up in a real-time tactical strategy game. The characters might be archetypes of classic Marvel heroes like Captain America, Spider-Man and Iron Man, but the plot of the game is completely original. Freedom Force was then adapted into a six-issue comic book series retelling the game’s plot, while Irrational Games got to work on the follow-up, Freedom Force vs. the 3rd Reich. And what could be better for a sequel than superheroes punching Nazis in the face? Answer: nothing. But we’re putting the original Freedom Force on our list for best superhero games because it was the originator.
5. Marvel vs. Capcom 2
System: Arcade, Dreamcast, Xbox, PS2
Is it cheating to include Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on this list? You might think so, but we respectfully disagree. The game makes use of 28 Marvel Universe characters in what many consider to be the best 2-D fighter ever made. Therefore, we deem MvC2 worthy of being labeled one of the best superhero titles ever. Lastly, what other game on this list can you team up Hulk, Doctor Doom and Spider-Man and not have the world explode? The answer to that question is none.
4. Ultimate Spider-Man
System: Gamecube, PS2, PC, Xbox
Release: September 2005
Ultimate Spider-Man still ranks as the best Spider-Man game to date. Not only did the story build off the canon of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic, giving it a sense of importance, but the actual gameplay was the most refined web-slinging experience yet produced by Treyarch. Ultimate Spider-Man even featured Venom as a playable character, adding a completely new and fresh gameplay dynamic to the Spidey gaming franchise — trading in the acrobatic jumps and non-lethal web punches for devastating brute strength and a killer appetite to absorb. Spider-Man fans are still waiting for a Spidey game that brings as much energy and refinement to the license as Ultimate Spider-Man did.
3. The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
Developer: Radical Entertainment
System: Gamecube, PS2, Xbox
Release: August 2005
This game deserves a spot on this list for being the first game based on the Incredible Hulk that actually takes advantage of the character’s destructive powers. Previous Hulk titles were very linear, but Ultimate Destruction opened up the world and gave players complete control over the Hulk’s near limitless strength with a very Grand Theft Auto hub environment to do sidequests, missions and challenges in. And who can forget the feeling of being able to sprint and bound nearly the entire length of a city as you outrace the military? The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction still ranks as the ultimate Hulk experience.
2. InFamous 2
Developer: Sucker Punch
System: PlayStation 3
Release: June 2011
When we originally published this article back at the beginning of 2011, the first InFamous easily snagged the #2 spot. However, InFamous 2 has released since then, which pretty much improves on the franchise’s formula in every way possible. Therefore, our hands were tied, InFamous 2 had to dethrone the original game for the number two position on our list of best superhero games.
InFamous 2’s adventure takes Cole MacGrath to a New Orleans-inspired city, called New Marai, where he must amplify his powers to have enough strength to defeat “The Beast.” Over the course of the game, Cole learns some pretty sick new abilities, including how to use ice and fire to his advantage.
Other additions made by Sucker Punch for InFamous 2 include the ability to create your own user-generated missions, which extends the replay value of the title astronomically. But maybe best of all, the voice acting for Cole himself had been much improved for InFamous 2, turning him from a complete dick in the first game to a likable, relatable hero in the second title (as long as you’re playing the hero type, that is).
1. Batman: Arkham Asylum
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Release: August 2009
Did you expect something else to be in the number one spot? If so, shame on you. Batman: Arkham Asylum is easily the best Batman video game ever made, and a perfect use of a well-established license by Rocksteady Studios. Arkham Asylum had everything a Batman fan could ask for: phenomenal graphics, excellent voice work, an amazing combat system, proper use of Batman’s detective reasoning, and a boatload of cool gadgets.
But Batman: Arkham Asylum isn’t just a game made for the Bat-fanatics. Arkham Asylum is a great game period. It was runner-up only to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for our game of the year back in 2009. Batman’s history in the video game market is not one that shines, to say the least, but Rocksteady has proven they have a fantastic handle on the property and we should expect more great things from them in regards to Batman in the future. So here’s a toast to Batman: Arkham Asylum — the best superhero video game ever made.
Now bring on Arkham City!
- Batman: The Brave & The Bold
- Lego Batman
- Maximum Carnage
- X-Men: Legends
- DCU Online
This article was originally published in January 2011.