Everyone deserves a chance to feel like a hero. Unfortunately, we can’t all be bit by radioactive arachnids. We don’t all have billions of dollars to build underground fortresses and kevlar battle suits. Luckily, superhero games exist so that you can be a hero from the comfort of your living room. This is a rundown of the best games ever released.
Batman Arkham Asylum
Batman Arkham Asylum is a landmark title. A brilliantly written, genuinely unsettling slice of Batman action. It is undoubtedly one of the best superhero games ever made. The characters and settings are realized with an obvious enthusiasm for the source material, and the combat system has been hugely influential. So many games owe a debt to Arkham Asylum; leaving it off this list would have been criminal.
The sequel, Arkham City, is also worth a play if you’re a fan of the caped crusader. Things fell apart a little bit with the trilogy’s conclusion, Arkham Knight, but Arkham Asylum has stood the test of time. This is undoubtedly one of the Caped Crusader’s greatest outings.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Licensed or tie-in games are often rushed, poorly designed, and lazy, and many superhero games have been ruined. Anyone who has played either the Green Lantern game or the Thor game knows what I mean. Imagine our surprise when X-Men Origins: Wolverine turned out to be a fun, flashy, and incredibly violent action game. It certainly turned out better than the associated movie.
It’s a little narrow in scope, but it tells a fun story, and the combat is sufficiently weighty and brutal. Not a particularly cerebral experience, but it does everything a Wolverine game should.
The Wonderful 101
Metascore: 78 / Opencritic Rating: 73 (Remastered Version)
Platinum games at their brilliant, bonkers, best. The Wonderful 101 is a wonderfully imaginative breath of fresh air. You play as a vast horde of superheroes who can morph together into giant swords, guns, hammers, and more. It takes a while to get the hang of it, but it’s worth putting in the effort.
The story is absurd but all the more charming for it. There are evil space empires, time travelers, and giant robots, and it’s up to you to save the world. It’s a big ball of nonsense, but that’s why we love it. It’s a relentlessly joyous romp that won’t fail to put a smile on your face.
This may seem like an odd choice, but DC did publish an Infamous comic book, so I think it counts. Infamous 2 is a superhero game through and through, and leaving it off this list would be a terrible shame. It’s a great game and deserves more recognition than it gets.
Infamous 2 is in a Crackdown, Prototype sort of vein, and for my money, is the best of the three. Cole MacGrath’s lightning powers make combat and traversal a blast, and the story can sometimes be surprisingly touching. It’s also nice to see a superhero game that isn’t a Marvel or DC property. Fresh new IPs are always welcome.
The Pepsi to Infamous’s Coke, each being an exemplar sandbox superhero power-fantasy. They’re both great in their own right, but if you’re a fan of gore (and aren’t afraid of a little body horror), then Prototype might be up your alley.
Where Cole MacGrath could be as heroic or villainous as the player saw fit, Alex Mercer (the protagonist of Prototype) is an anti-hero at best and a genocidal maniac at worst. A shapeshifter who “consumes” people and can turn parts of his body into various murder weapons was always going to have a complicated relationship with the concept of heroism.
Moral quandaries aside, Prototype is a hell of a lot of fun, offering unrivaled catharsis and spectacle. It’s a little on the edgelord-y side, but that’s a minor flaw.
Metascore: 87 / Opencritic Rating: 88
There are a lot of games that are a lot like this particular iteration of Spider-Man. It’s a bit like Assasins Creed, it’s a bit like Arkham City, and just a little like Sunset Overdrive, Insomniac’s previous game. What I’m trying to say is that Spider-Man needed a USP, and it certainly found one. The combat and exploration are solid enough, but the more “spidery” elements stand out.
Everyone loves web-swinging, and the web-swinging here is fast, fluid, and organic. The sense of momentum is just right, and zipping around New York never ceases to thrill. It’s also worth noting that the game does a lot new story-wise and pulls it off for the most part.
This is the game that has done for Spider-Man what Arkham Asylum did for Batman. We now have a Spider-Man video game formula that works. Let’s hope we see more of it in the future.
Metascore: 86 / Opencritic Rating: 87
Here’s one for the fighting game fans. It may feel like a reskin of a Mortal Kombat game (which isn’t surprising given NetherRealm developed it), but Injustice 2 is much more. The core gameplay is rock solid, and the story it tells is a lot of fun. It’s a lot darker than one might expect, but that’s no bad thing.
The fundamental clash between Batman and Superman is explored well and provides a platform for some truly spectacular encounters. You’ll love this if you’re a fan of “what-if?” scenarios. The roster is also a good showing, with only one or two characters that feel like they’re there primarily to fill space. This is Mortal Kombat meets DC; if you like either one, give Injustice 2 a go.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
Fan service it may be, but who cares? Ultimate Alliance ranks highly among superhero games as a polished, content-rich, and endlessly entertaining action RPG. Marvel fans will enjoy seeing one or two lesser-known characters, such as Spider-Woman and Ronin (AKA Echo), get a chance to shine.
It’s a fairly standard beat-em-up arrangement, but the strong cast and weighty combat carry it. You can assemble a team of any four heroes you wish and fight through a plot that manages to cram in so many heroes, villains, and locations your head will spin. Play it with a friend and thank me later.
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
Ultimate Destruction is an interesting game for two reasons. One, it’s a riotously entertaining Incredible Hulk simulator, and two, it was developed by Radical Games, who would go on to make the previously mentioned Prototype. If you’ve ever played Ultimate Destruction, that may not be a surprise.
Like in Prototype, you play as a superpowered juggernaut and let loose on a sprawling metropolis. You can jump huge distances, climb buildings, and smash anything you can get your hands on into tiny little pieces. It’s hardly a cerebral experience, but it does a fantastic job of allowing the player to inhabit the big green id that is The Incredible Hulk.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
Metascore: 81 / Opencritic Rating: 82
While it doesn’t have the same magic as the previous game, The Stick of Truth, The Fractured But Whole is still a remarkably deep, inventive, and crude superhero adventure. It might be a videogame, but it feels like an extra long episode of the show, which is hardly surprising given that Trey Parker and Matt Stone wrote it.
So all the South Park stuff is there, and for what it’s worth, this is a pretty good superhero parody. There are lots of laughs to be had at the expense of both Marvel and DC. That’s all well and good, but Fractured But Whole stands out because of the weirdly solid core gameplay.
It’s a fairly typical turn-based RPG, but it gets everything right. There’s a good amount of strategy, interesting boss fights, and many classes and abilities to explore. Don’t dismiss this one as all style and no substance.
Next, we have another Spider-Man game and another surprisingly good movie tie-in. It may have been supplanted by some of the web-slinger’s more recent outings, but this is a hugely important game. It was the first superhero game to utilize a fully open world and has been enormously influential on their broader design to this very day.
Spider-Man 2 stands out among Spider-Man games as an example of web-swinging done right. Webs don’t just shoot off into the sky like in previous titles. They need some anchor, and momentum is a real factor. Some of the side stuff does feel like busy work, but when a game plays this well, that doesn’t matter.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Metascore: 78 / Opencritic Rating: 82
What surprised me most about Guardians of the Galaxy was the obvious thought and care with which the story was told. It was equal parts touching, goofy, and compelling, which is all the more impressive given that this is a fresh take on the characters. Chris Pratt is nowhere to be seen.
The game’s other aspects are less impressive but aren’t unfun. The combat is a little shallow but can be spectacular, and there are one or two interesting diversions along the way. The story will keep you moving forward, and the game is worth playing. There’s also a lot of interesting visual stuff that helps keep things interesting.
Lego Batman: The Videogame
There might be a slightly nostalgic tint on this one, but Lego Batman is still a great superhero game. If you aren’t a fan of Lego games generally, this isn’t the one that’s going to convert you (you will be collecting a lot of studs), but that’s not what it’s trying to do.
It may not break any new ground, but it doesn’t need to. Lego Batman is a cartoony romp (that has aged surprisingly well) that tells a simplistic but fun and original story. You also get the chance to play as several iconic Batman villains. Furthermore, it’s a great game to play with kids.
Saint’s Row 4
The way the Saint’s Row series went from GTA knock-off to superhero simulator doesn’t get enough attention. It’s a remarkable transition and made all the more amazing because Saint’s Row 4 is one of the best superhero games ever made. Wacky, goofy, and a hell of a lot of fun.
The plot concerns the president of the United States fighting off an alien invasion, and then you get superpowers. You can run like the Flash, leap tall buildings in a single stride, and hit harder than a runaway ice-cream van. It’s not particularly well balanced, but you will not care. It’s big and stupid, but it’s funny and lovable. The trademark Saints Row style is here in spades.,
X-Men Legends II: Rise Of Apocalypse
Apocalypse is one of the most terrifying and iconic villains in the X-Men canon, and X-Men Legends II is a worthy adaptation. It’s got solid RPG elements, a great cast of characters, and some incredible special moves. It’s reminiscent of Diablo, and that’s no bad thing.
If you enjoy dungeon crawlers but are getting sick of goblins, elves, and trolls, this game will be a revelation. It’s a rock solid hack and slash that tells a fun X-Men story to boot. Apocalypse is trying to conquer the world, and it’s up to you to stop him. This game doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves; if you can, give it a try.
And that completes our list! Did we miss your favorite superhero game? Let us know about it in the comments!