The superhero genre in video games has always been a bit tricky and unpredictable in terms of the kinds of games the industry has received. There aren’t many good superhero games that I can remember playing as many of them are just plain mediocre and forgettable.
Most of the games that we’ve seen surface the market and into the store were the ones made along with the release of their movie counterparts.
Pick any of them, and you’ll realize that you aren’t playing a polished video game but just an extended, interactive marketing campaign that exists to boost the business of movies (or one could argue the other way around, just like the transformer series that primarily existing to sell toys, but that’s another topic altogether).
Some of the games released alongside their movies were still pretty decent, like the 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man or X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but most of them just aren’t that good.
Many of these games lack good game design. If your superhero is all-powerful and can’t be defeated by humans, he/she lacks challenge, and in the name of filling this gap the game developers add a huge pile of challenging crap, which makes the game so overwhelmingly difficult that even our godlike superhero dies for the hundredth time to be respawned and to take crap again.
Mediocrity haunts the superhero genre as most of these don’t come from a creative and artistic place. It might seem really unfair to paint the whole genre with the M color, but unfortunately, a single web search is enough to prove how a handful in number the good games are.
The handful of good superhero games aren’t just good superhero games, but most often have been good video games in general – one of the biggest reasons being their originality in the story and sometimes even in their featured superheroes as well.
Batman Arkham series is seen as a benchmark by many as it has been consistently solid with its gameplay, game design, and the overall production quality in general. It hasn’t innovated as much as the series progressed, but the gameplay is decent enough that it can be mastered over time.
But most importantly, it features an original Batman story that isn’t connected to any comic or any movie as it doesn’t have to and still manages to deliver a good story featuring many important characters from the DC universe.
The game also masters the Batman-Joker dynamic, which in itself adds huge credibility to the franchise as it shows that it has stayed and will continue to be faithful to the original Batman source material.
Many other game franchises like Prototype, Infamous, or even the new Insomniac’s Spiderman prove how originality can make a superhero game good, and things can be easily built on this original and unique foundation.
It’s the foundation that needs to be firm and grounded into something meaningful and enjoyable, something on which our superhero can stand firmly on and can become the saving grace of the superhero genre.