Every comic book and film fan has a favourite superhero. In recent years, with the superhero genre largely dominating the cinema, it seems that the likes of Batman and Iron Man have become the most popular favourites. This is largely due to the brilliance of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight franchise and the raw charisma of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man. But rest assured, there are plenty out there who remain most loyal to Superman (despite Zack Snyder’s generally disappointing Man Of Steel), Spider-Man (despite a hasty reboot that’s made Spidey’s modern film life somewhat confusing), and a few others. While opinions on characters and films differ from fan to fan, one thing seems quite clear, if not universally agreed upon: Batman has done the best in modern gaming.
If this seems like somewhat of a blanket statement or loose claim, consider some of the recent forays into gaming for some of the other most popular heroes as compared to Batman.
I’ll start with Superman, who remains arguably the biggest name in the superhero genre. Not only has there never truly been a noteworthy game featuring Superman as the central character, but even in today’s world of constant gaming releases (often maximizing on connection to current events, film releases, etc.), there was no major console game made following Synder’s 2013 film.
The closest things to major releases are two vaguely entertaining but ultimately unoriginal “endless runner” format games on the Man Of Steel website in which users control a Superman character flying through a cityscape. There’s also an app game which like many other film-based mobile games is surprisingly impressive (in terms of graphics and gameplay) but just not big enough to have a lasting impact. Ultimately, Superman’s history in video games is so bleak that the folks at Outside Xbox even posted a video seeking to explain why exactly the Man of Steel can’t seem to translate to video games! My own opinion: he’s just too boring because his virtually limitless powers just make for clumsy action. Furthermore, due to his excessive range of power, Superman requires moral dilemmas and intellectual obstacles to be interesting. In video games, heroes need physical opposition.
Then there’s Iron Man, who (again) is more popular than ever thanks in large part to Robert Downey, Jr. In fact, Iron Man has become the unlikely face of the enormous Avengers franchise, which is basically the biggest thing in modern film. And yet, once again, it’s hard to find major gaming spin-offs or adaptations. There are console games based on Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010), but both were forgettable.
For those interested, one of the more intriguing gaming ideas out there regarding Iron Man actually comes in the form of slot machines that take advantage of Marvel themes and characters. The online casino available through Betfair hosts a few Iron Man-themed games that you can demo here and they’re good fun for those who enjoy this genre of gaming. Ultimately, though, they’re still not the sort of action-packed, conventional adventure games that superhero fans crave. For that, the best option regarding Iron Man actually isn’t an Iron Man game at all, but rather a ridiculously impressive mod for the PC version of Grand Theft Auto IV that basically turns your GTA character into a fully functional Iron Man. Seriously check it out .
Finally there’s Spider-Man, who is ahead of his fellow heroes when it comes to gaming prowess. Our beloved web-slinger has actually been featured as the central character in a number of pretty satisfying releases, including a series based on the three films of the first of the two modern film franchises (the one with Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker). Spider-Man: Web Of Shadows (2008) is probably the best modern game of any superhero excluding Batman. It offers an open-world format, a satisfying cast of comic characters, and more than enough wonderfully realistic web-slinging action. Additionally, Spidey has had a few triumphs in other genres of gaming, including casino offerings similar to the Iron Man ones mentioned above. More recently, he was adapted to a much praised app game that combines playable action with the visuals of a real comic book.
But in the end, that’s about it. Other mainstream characters: Hulk, the X-Men, Thor, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, etc. have games here and there, but nothing of note. And even the few triumphs listed here for the likes of Iron Man and Spider-Man can’t compete with the best of the best Batman games—namely, the Arkham series that dominates the conversation on comic book hero gaming. Featuring a full, complex, and thrillingly dark Gotham, the Arkham franchise capitalized on the mood set by Christopher Nolan to provide gamers with exactly what they want from a modern hero franchise: cinema quality action and adventure. The upcoming franchise conclusion Arkham Knight already has fans waiting as impatiently as if it were a major film release.
Why exactly Batman has been so much more successful in modern gaming than his fellow superheroes is anyone’s guess. In my opinion, it’s a simple matter of playable action. At the end of the day, super though he may be, Batman is punching, kicking, jumping, gliding, and driving. These are all skills that translate easily and familiarly to video games and allow developers to focus on enriching atmosphere and plot lines, rather than figuring out a character and how to move him or her around a narrative. Anyway, here’s hoping the other heroes can catch up! The amazing hero films we’ve seen in the last decade or so deserve better gaming releases.