The games that made us feel like we were in a comic book…
This is a golden age for comic book fans. The major publishers are putting out tons of great comics each month and almost every other month there’s another fantastic looking superhero movie being released. In the first five months of 2016 alone we’re getting Deadpool, Batman vs. Superman, and Captain America: Civil War. And there’s plenty more to come in the next few years.
But comics and movies aren’t the only way to get a superhero fix. There have also been quite a few great Marvel and DC video games released in recent years to capitalize on the popularity of superheroes. All together, it’s almost enough to make us forget the bad old days of cheap comic book video game cash-ins that resulted in truly abysmal games like Superman 64. But those days are long gone, and these are the very best comic book video games released over the past decade.
5. DC Universe Online
Admittedly, DC Universe Online has seen better days. There’s not many players online, and even though it’s a free-to-play title, there’s still a lot of content that requires putting down real money to access. That being said, DC Universe Online was a lot fun in its prime, and it does some things very well. It’s one of the few games out there that let you completely customize the look and powers of a hero or villain instead of making you play as an established DC character. And the graphics and combat are much better than what you’ll find in other top-tier MMOs like World of Warcraft or The Elder Scrolls Online. Who knows how much longer Sony will keep the servers running given the game’s current lack of popularity, but for now it’s still worth downloading and playing around with for a few minutes just to experience the freedom of being able to play as your own original superhero in a virtual Metropolis or Gotham City.
4. Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
Web of Shadows was one of the most unfairly maligned games of the last generation. It’s a completely open-world Spider-Man game based on the comics with tons of cameos from other Marvel characters like Moon Knight and Wolverine. You even fight a symbiote-infected version of Wolverine at one point. There’s also fast-paced, upgradable combat system that allows you to switch between Spidey’s red and black costumes on the fly, and there are even branching choices throughout the story that result in two completely different endings. It’s pretty much the perfect Spider-Man game, and a fine action game overall, yet most professional critics absolutely hated it. The immediate follow-up, Shattered Dimensions, may be a more focused game, but Web of Shadows is overall the best Spider-Man game of the last ten years.
Admittedly, there’s nothing terribly exciting about Deadpool’s gameplay. It’s a fairly standard third-person shooter with some solid melee combat thrown in for good measure. But what it lacks in innovation, it makes up for with heart, dammit. Deadpool is a legitimately funny game that perfectly captures the essence of the character. Right from the start, Deadpool breaks the fourth wall, demanding that developer High Moon Studios make a great game about him and hire Nolan North as his voice actor. Just like the comics, Deadpool then continues to talk to himself throughout the game with plenty of catchy one-liners. Even if the gameplay isn’t the best, it’s worth playing just for the achievement/trophy for repeatedly slapping an unconscious Wolverine, and for the amazing Cable theme song.
2. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
Raven Software made the perfect Marvel game with Ultimate Alliance. There are over 30 playable characters (including a few DLC characters) from all corners of the Marvel Universe. Each one takes hours to fully upgrade, but you won’t mind replaying missions to make them more powerful because the combat is so addictive. And the more you play, the more costumes from the comics you unlock. The story is the typical “all the heroes vs. Dr. Doom” thing that’s been done to death in the comics, but it’s still a treat to see that in a video game. And it’s probably going to be a long time before we’ll see all of the Marvel characters in one movie while the rights are split between Marvel Studios and Fox. Ultimate Alliance has some similarities with Marvel Heroes 2015 which is a more recent game that feature more playable characters, but it also requires spending several hundred dollars to unlock them all, so Ultimate Alliance is still the cheapest way to play as a bunch of Marvel heroes in one game. Oh, and if you’re just now checking out Ultimate Alliance, don’t bother with its inferior sequel.
1. Batman: Arkham Knight
There have been a lot more Marvel than DC video games in recent years, but what DC lacks in quantity it makes up for in quantity. Arkham Knight is the fourth in the Arkham series of games, and all four are among the greatest action games ever. You really can’t go wrong playing any of them, but only one game from the series could go on this list. Arkham Knight might overemphasize using the Batmobile, but it still stands out as the best in the series (and the best comic book video game ever) for its super smooth combat, cinematic storytelling, and for letting you grapple and swoop around the best looking version of Gotham City yet. Rocksteady really wasn’t exaggerating when they said this is game where you get to “Be the Batman.” Hopefully the developer can work its magic on some other DC characters in the coming years.