With the release of Batman: Arkham City, it has become increasingly clear that video games featuring our favorite characters from comics are still very much in demand. It just needs to be good enough to deserve our attention, like any piece of entertainment. Rocksteady can’t carry that torch alone, however, and luckily they don’t have to; there are a plethora of games out there featuring comics if you know where to look.
So, without further ado, we at Geekosystem present our list of video games based on comics that are worth your time.
1. Comix Zone
Originally for the Sega Genesis but later ported to most current generation consoles, Comix Zone is the one anomaly on this list, so we’ll get that out of the way first: It’s not about a specific comic, per se, but instead about comics as they exist and the tropes they embrace. It’s also a fairly competent action platformer.
It follows the exploits of Sketch Turner, comic artist turned comic inhabitant by the evil Mortus, in his attempt to escape his own creation and return back to the world. The backgrounds are drawn to mimic a comic’s natural style and the game progresses by turning pages. Essentially, you play a comic book out with fight scenes on each panel, but the game is more than simply that, as it regularly breaks the fourth wall, with Sketch fully aware that he is inside a book of paper. Sketch can literally rip paper off of the background of the panel and use it as a super weapon, and his pet rat can help detect secrets hidden behind the paper. Thgame has always been worth playing, even if the protagonist’s name may scare a few folks off.
2. The Punisher [written by James Plafke]
The Punisher has starred in more video games than one would think — with everything from an arcade beat-em-up with Nick Fury, to a Game Boy shooter, to a PlayStation 3 PSN multiplayer deathmatch. However, the 2005 The Punisher by Volition is quite possibly one of the best video games featuring any character from traditional comics. A mix between Max Payne and what can be easily likened to a torture simulator, The Punisher is one of the only times Frank Castle has left the world of comics to star in another medium and made fans proud.
Aside from the aforementioned Max Payne style shooting mechanics, each area contains various context sensitive hotspots at which Frank could “interrogate” a foe, and if you know Punisher, you know that those quotes are hiding some pretty brutal tactics. Slowly lower a guy’s head into a tank of piranhas? Sure. Hold a fella up to a rhino cage at a zoo and let the rhino charge? You bet. Slowly lower a drill toward a criminal’s eye, “interrogating” him before you make the drill require a good washing? Pretty standard. The game is surprisingly rich with different hotspots, rarely repeating the same creative method of torture. However, the game isn’t actually gratuitous, showing everything up until the actual gory death, at which point the camera swings somewhere else, like to the cold, unfeeling expression on Frank’s face as he kicks a guy’s teeth into the curb. The game is based on the bleh 2004 film, and the extremely awesome Welcome Back, Frank, the series that Garth Ennis wrote and kicked off Frank’s reemergence and relevance.
3. X-Men Arcade
Specifically, the arcade game from Konami in 1992 that later saw an HD port to both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. When it comes down to traditional arcade brawlers, X-Men ranks high in the list. It’s for good reason.
Imagine, if you will, a game akin to Golden Axe, but with mutant abilities in place of magic, infamously mistranslated dialogue and Dazzler as a player character. Yes, Dazzler. This is perhaps the only game that will let you play as the failed cross-promotional Marvel superheroine that was originally intended to be a disco singer. If that doesn’t knock your socks off, nothing will.
4. Batman: Arkham Asylum
Lest we forget just how amazing it was that Rocksteady delivered the product that it did, let me take this moment to remind all those out there who might have forgotten: Prior to Batman: Arkham Asylum, there wasn’t but maybe one decent game with the Dark Knight as its star and that was years ago. Rocksteady took that, with a fair dose of the recent films and some inspiration from Frank Miller, and made what has been called a masterpiece. That’s both compared to other games featuring Batman and in general. The freeflow combat system is genuinely a work of art.
5. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Hear me out. I think everyone can agree that the movie of the same name is a not very good. In fact, it’s probably the worst X-Men movie to date. The natural assumption, which is fair to make, is that the video game based off the movie would be equally bad. Well, it is. Except the specific one called the Uncaged Edition made by Raven Software.
And though you might not know it, their pedigree with X-Men games is fairly stellar. Both X-Men Legends and its sequel, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, were from the fine folks at Raven Software. In addition, they were behind Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. These titles just barely didn’t make the list due to essentially being clones of each other with different characters and also because, I mean, that’s a whole lot of Marvel.
The Wolverine game manages to combine plot elements from the movie and the comics with unique healing factor mechanics, battle damage and gore. Plus, I mean, you get to play as Wolverine. While potentially a bit repetitive, it’s worth playing.
6. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game
Considering the source of this offbeat title, one might think that fawning all over a throwback such as this would literally stink of pretension. After all, hipsters are a popular topic these days and there’s nothing quite as hipster as Scott Pilgrim, though he is also many other things, as is the comic. But that didn’t stop the game from being a glorious beat ‘em up in the grand tradition of such classics as Streets of Rage and others. With multiple characters, endings and moves to unlock — as well as the ability to play with up to three friends — Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game will likely remain a top contender among other comics games for a long time.
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