With the recent slew of comic book based movies bringing superheroes back to the forefront of society, I thought now would be a good time to highlight some of my favorite video game adaptations. Comic books can be the ultimate power fantasy and what better way to interact with those stories than with video games? After all, they are two great tastes that (sometimes) taste great together.
5. The Walking Dead
I debated whether to include this title on this list. It’s an episodic game, and only two episodes are out at the time of writing this. But those two episodes are amazing. I’ve been a fan of The Walking Dead since the first issue way back in 2003. When this title was announced, I was extremely skeptical. The Television show had left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, and Telltale’s last game was kind of mediocre. Of course I ended up buying the season anyway, I knew there were some great writers working on this game. Every episode so far has upped the tension in an entertaining way. The characters are great and Telltale has really updated the point-and-click adventure style in a way that works well on modern consoles. I hope the rest of the episodes keep up this level of quality. You know what, who am I kidding, I’ll play them all anyway. I must save Clem…
4. The Punisher
Anytime someone talks about this game, the first words out of their mouths are guaranteed to be about the violence. This is the most violent comic book game I have ever played, and it’s brought to you by Volition, fine makers of Saints Row. The meat of this game is your average third person shooter (circa 2005, so no cover mechanics), but there is one unique feature about this game: the interrogations. Volition makes heavy use of an interrogation mechanic where you must do a mini-game to get information from squishy meat-people. After you get the info, you can choose to let the enemy go, but where’s the fun in that? If given the opportunity to let a gangster get gored by a rhino, who wouldn’t want to see that happen? They detach you from the violence a little by giving you a scoring system. Instead of just sadistically murdering people, you sadistically murder people for high scores. And I always try to get a high score. Out of all the games on this list, this is the one that has aged the worst, but I still recommend it.
3. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
This game is any comic book fans wet dream. Before making Ultimate Alliance, developer Raven Software cut their teeth making the two X-men Legends games. While those games were great for their time, neither holds a candle to MUA. This game is packed to the brim with obscure references for us comic snobs, as well as including mainstream characters the general public knows. And there’s loot! This game could be boiled down to Diablo with Marvel heroes, which works better than it should. I just wish Raven Software would make a sequel (there was an Ultimate Alliance 2, but Raven didn’t develop it).
2. Batman Arkham Asylum
This is probably the most important game on this list. Arkham Asylum was the game that showed comic book adaptations weren’t just trash that companies put out to capitalize on big budget movies, but it didn’t start out that way. I can still remember the disdain the game got before it came out. No one believed a Batman video game could ever be one of the best releases of 2009. But those naysayers were proven wrong. While Arkham City may have iterated on a lot of the problems in Asylum, City just didn’t have the same punch. Everyone knew what to expect coming off of Asylum, but that doesn’t mean Arkham City was a bad game. It was more of the same, and that is fine by me.
1. Freedom Force/Freedom Force Vs. The Third Reich
Here it is folks, and I bet most of you didn’t see this one coming (Most of you have probably never heard of these games). I decided to combine Freedom Force and it’s sequel into one spot, otherwise they would take up the #1 and #2 spots. They are that good. While they are not based on any specific character or existing comic book franchise, they take just as much inspiration from comics. The best way to describe these games would be a tactical RPG. You can pause and issue commands for up to four characters. The original campaigns that came with the games were decent, but the real star of this series is the modding community. Faithful freedom fans have created just about every known character from comics, TV shows, movies and whatever other crazy characters you can think of. Ever want to see Captain Kirk fight a Predator? Done. There are also full user-created campaigns which are just as good as the retail ones. While the folks at Irrational may be hard at work on Bioshock Infinite, I would not mind if they completely dropped Bioshock and start a new FF sequel right now (you hear that Ken Levine? I’m calling you out).
Narrowing this list down to just five games was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Comic book games have been around since the Atari 2600, and they are showing no sign of going away anytime soon. I couldn’t just leave some of the other games that missed the cut, so here’s a few: Batman for the NES, The Adventures of Batman and Robin for the SNES, Spider-man for the PS1, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, and Wolverine: Origins. Whew…that’s quite a list. My conscious is clean, now I can get back to playing some more Freedom Force. I wonder if Jimmy Olson could beat Aunt May in a fistfight…