Comic book video games scratch a unique itch for most comic book fans. What fan hasn’t wanted to throw on Batman's cowl and defend Gotham City, or lead the X-Men as they battle Magneto and Apocalypse? The video game industry has produced hundreds of comic book video games over the years, ranging from the fantastic (the Batman: Arkham series) to the awful (the N64 Superman series…a horrifying experience for anyone who’s played it). Here’s a look at five of the best comic book video games:
X-Men Legends II
In 2004, Raven Studios released X-Men Legends, a four player co-op game that mixed RPG elements with button mashing. Its sequel, X-Men Legends II: Age of Apocalypse, was even better, with online play, a deeper cast and even more fun and unique mutant powers to choose from. Players led a team of four X-Men and/or Brotherhood mutants against the forces of Apocalypse and his Horsemen while destroying everything they came across in the hopes of picking up valuable loot for their team.
X-Men Legends II was a great game, and I spent most of my college years playing the game over and over. My team always included Nightcrawler as his teleportation powers and sword attacks made him basically unstoppable. And who didn’t have a friend who insisted as playing as Wolverine since his healing factor made him impossible to kill?
X-Men Legends was popular enough that Marvel and Raven Studios collaborated on an additional RPG series, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, which had a roster filled with characters from throughout the Marvel Universe. Honestly, I’m not sure why Marvel and Raven Studios stopped making these games, they seem like they’d be a surefire hit even today.
A video game adaptation of the 2004 film, Spider-Man 2 was the gold standard for superhero games and movie adaptations for many years. Featuring a humongous open world map of New York City, fans of the game referred to the game as “Grand Theft Spider-Man”, as players could spend hours exploring the city and not advancing the main plot. Spider-Man 2 expanded on the plot of the movie and featured versions of the Black Cat, Mysterio, the Rhino and the Shocker along with main Spider-Man 2 villain Dr. Octopus. Tobey Maguire’s voice acting was the game’s sole flaw, as it meant listening to Maguire repeat the same corny lines over and over again as you raced around Manhattan. Spider-Man 2 is a perfect video game to put on mute and pick something else to listen to as you lose yourself in the game.
Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham Asylum was a fantastic first installment of the Batman: Arkham series, with a near perfect mixture of combat, stealth and puzzles. While Batman: Arkham Asylum set the bar high, Batman: Arkham City blew its predecessor out of the water, adding in an expansive open world setting and Catwoman as a second playable character. With a storyline by Paul Dini and a voice cast that included Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, Arkham City felt like a darker and more violent version of the Batman: The Animated Series cartoon. The sidequests were top-notch as well, with over 400 Riddler Trophies adding an obsessive headscratching element to the series. While Batman: Arkham Origins was a disappointing third game in the Batman: Arkham series, almost everyone is expecting Batman: Arkham Knight to be a worthy successor to Arkham City’s excellence.
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
Even diehard fans of the Turok video game franchise weren’t aware that it was an adaptation of a very old comic series. Turok was a Dell Comics fantasy/adventure series published in the 1950s featuring two Native American youths trapped in a valley occupied by dinosaurs. Valiant Comics eventually gained the rights of the character and published a series featuring a gun-toting version of Turok in the mid-1990s. Acclaim based their Turok: Dinosaur Hunter series of games on this modern version of Turok, although it still retained aspects of the original character.
One of the first games released for the Nintendo 64, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was a smash success, selling over 1.5 million copies. A first person shooter similar to Doom, Turok was violent and gory, with blood splattering every time you fired a shotgun into some poor poacher’s throat. Fans of the game loved the amazing graphics and non-stop action, although the awkward controls sometimes caused fits of frustration, especially when firing into the air. Turok’s success saved its publisher Acclaim and helped keep the studio afloat for several more years.
The Walking Dead: The Video Game
The Walking Dead video game from Telltale games is a companion series to the popular zombie comic book franchise. Unlike most zombie games, The Walking Dead followed the popular Telltale model of focusing heavily on storytelling, characterization and decision making. The Walking Dead followed college professor Lee Everett and his young friend Clementine as they try to survive the early days of the zombie apocalypse. Split into five “episodes”, decisions made by the player would affect the storyline, with characters often living and dying with each click of the cursor. With a high body count and plenty of terrible decisions to make, The Walking Dead lived up to its comic book counterpart’s namesake. Honestly, the only criticism I had of The Walking Dead was its short playtime and the excruciating wait in between episodes.
What are your favorite comic book video games? Let us know in the comments!