Over the years, comic book-licensed video games have been on the rise. What started as a simple trend with Batman on the NES evolved into something larger, thanks to the creativity of development studios and the involvement of talents like Paul Dini, the writer of the first two Batman Arkham games.
We’re still getting plenty of titles this year. Deadpool arrived last month, poking fun at most action games, Batman: Arkham Origins will swoop in this October and other titles will make their debut this week at the San Diego Comic-Con, ready to take the world by storm.
To help celebrate the start of this yearly event and comic book games in general, we came up with a list of some of the best ones in history. There are obvious favorites like Batman, but also a few oddball choices worth a mention.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network)
Following the release of the live action 2010 film, Ubisoft paid loving tribute to both the original Scott Pilgrim comic series and 16-bit brawlers with this four-player romp. You face off against Ramona’s evil exes while collecting coins and using everything from guitars to mailboxes as weapons. Three years later, this game is still outstanding, thanks to the addition of online play and new characters – including personal favorite Knives Chau.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
It’s not often you see comic book games carrying a Mature rating, mainly because publishers try to appeal to all ages. However, X-Men Origins: Wolverine went the M-rated route and succeeded. With Raven Software’s development prowess and a whole lot of bloodshed, Wolverine delivered on the same level as Sony’s God of War games, complete with effective aerial lunges, devastating enemies and the mother of all battles against a Sentinel, complete with a parting shot that sends Wolverine flying right through its head. That’s going to leave a mark.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES)
The original Ninja Turtles arcade game is still a favorite – just ask anyone who downloaded the Xbox Live Arcade version while it was still around – but Turtles in Time still holds a special place in our hearts. Surprisingly enough, the Super Nintendo version was better than the arcade edition, thanks to the addition of new stages and bosses, such as the sorely missed Bebop and Rocksteady. Throw in some extra pizza collecting and a cool sub-battle with Shredder where you toss Foot soldiers into the screen, and you have a classic worth tracking down.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation 3)
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 – and its Ultimate counterpart – are great ways to pass the time. However, if any chapter should be deemed noteworthy, it has to be part two. First arriving in arcades and Sega Dreamcast before moving to other platforms, Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes made its mark on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade as a high-definition download. It’s cheap, and the fighting action is as ferocious as ever. Best of all, 56 combatants are unlocked right from the get-go. If that doesn’t get you in a brawling mood, nothing will.
X-Men The Arcade Game (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network)
Speaking of a classic finally getting its due, Konami’s six-player X-Men the Arcade Game is one of the better titles you’ll download. Featuring various bosses from the X-Men universe leading up to the powerful Magneto, the game allows you to team up with multiple friends for retro-style beat-em-up action. Wolverine looks a bit hairier than he is nowadays and Magneto’s “Welcome to DIEEEEE!” can’t be taken that seriously, but it’s still a blast to run through.
Spider-Man 2 (GameCube, Xbox, PlayStation 2)
A lot of great Spidey games have come out over the years – Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time come to mind – but if we’re to choose the best in the series, we have to turn the clock back to 2004 when Activision released the stunning open-world adventure based on Sam Raimi’s cinematic follow-up. In Spider-Man 2, you’ll lead the wall-crawler through a city filled with peril, taking on thugs while trying to find a way to stop Dr. Octavius – Doc Ock – from destroying the city. There’s hours’ worth of replay value, so don’t hesitate to swing into action.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
Normally when multiple superheroes are featured in a game, you see them team up. Not so with Ultimate Alliance 2. Here you actually separate them into two factions – Tony Stark’s and Captain America’s – as they take opposing sides on a hero registration bill. Meanwhile, a devastating evil lies in wait, forcing the heroes to leap into action. With various combination attacks to choose from – Iron Man and Wolverine deflecting lasers is one of our favorites – and more than enough missions, Ultimate Alliance 2 is worth checking out.
Batman Arkham City (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U)
We’d be crazy if we didn’t give the Dark Knight a nod. Batman: Arkham Asylum was fantastic when it came out in 2009, but City topped it two years later with an even bigger playground to explore, a smoother fighting system, more hidden secrets and the ability to play as the sultry Catwoman. If Origins, the prequel for the series due out October 29th, can even live up to half of City’s potential, it’ll really be something special – even if Mark Hamill isn’t on board this time as the Joker. Relax, Troy Baker’s got this.