When it comes to video games based on DC Comics franchises, the selection is pretty dire. There are forgettable duds galore, including the atrocious Aquaman: Battle For Atlantis, Batman: Dark Tomorrow, and Catwoman. Some did provide some decent gameplay, such as Teen Titans and Watchmen: The End Is Nigh, but they didn’t really offer much in terms of longevity. However, that’s not to say there weren’t some winners. Batman did manage to eke out a few great games, and a surprisingly good crossover did turn a few heads, despite some sanitation.
With that, we present our five favorite DC Comics games. Don’t be surprised if both DC Universe and the upcoming Batman: Arkham City join these ranks by this point next year.
5. LEGO Batman (Warner Bros./Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii)
Traveller’s Tales may only be working on LEGO-based games for the time being, but at least it manages to stay true to the theme for each one. With LEGO Batman, the team pulls out all the stops, including almost every villain imaginable from the classic comic books. There’s plenty of fun here, whether you’re beating bad guys into collapsible piles or walking along tightropes to reach a rare collectible. The co-op play is the best way to go, as you can work alongside a friend to clean up Gotham City. You can also take the bad guy route and trash the place, taking control of the Joker or another Arkham inmate. As far as LEGO games go, this is one of the best. Holy good times, Batman!
4. Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Midway/Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
Okay, now before you go crazy on us and say, “No way, this was a mockery of Mortal Kombat!” understand that it could have been a heck of a lot worse than it was. Despite the Teen-rated shenanigans and the somewhat silly “heroic brutalities,” Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is an entertaining fighting game, whether you’re brawling with an opponent on the ground or smacking someone around in mid-air. The character selection is superb, including everyone from Sub-Zero to Green Lantern and the Joker, and the moves are implemented well for each. We’re also pleased to see the return of the Test Your Might segments, which went missing in previous MK games. Perfect? Hardly. But, comic book fans can easily turn to this crossover game for quick fun. Everyone else, relax. Your bloodier-than-usual Mortal Kombat experience returns this April.
3. Batman (Sunsoft/NES)
Back when the NES first came around, most movie-licensed releases were absolutely horrid. We can’t even tell you how many times Total Recall made us roll our eyes out of sheer boredom. However, Sunsoft really delivered with its adaptation of Batman, based on the Tim Burton film of the same name. You guide the Caped Crusader through five stages of madness, battling enemies and figuring out treacherous layouts as you close in on the homicidal Joker. True, the game doesn’t follow the film exactly, but its tone is very close to it, and the controls are superb. The fact that you have access to a variety of weapons, including a missile gun and a tri-batarang, is great, as you’ll need them to take on the game’s challenging bosses. The music is terrific too, as far as 8-bit standards go. Batman on the NES is the kind of game that will make you want to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight. And for the record, the Sega Genesis version isn’t bad either.
2. The Adventures of Batman & Robin (Konami/SNES)
When it came to recreating the Caped Crusader’s exploits on the SNES, Konami could do no wrong. The company’s Batman Returns game was a great side-scrolling brawler for its time, but it outdid itself with the following release, The Adventures of Batman and Robin. Based on the woefully short-lived animated series of the same name, you guide the Dark Knight across a series of stages, battling foes like The Joker, Man-Bat, Clayface and others, through scenarios faithfully recreated from the series. The gameplay is fun, even by today’s standards, and the music and graphics really set the pace when it came to quality work on the SNES. Track down a copy if you can, it’s definitely worth it. Sega also produced a version for the Genesis, though its incredible presentation was diminished by its extreme difficulty. Really, just try getting through it alive.
1. Batman: Arkham Asylum (Warner Bros./PS3/Xbox 360)
Batman seems to be showing up a lot on this list, and it’s a shame we couldn’t think of one good Superman game to back him up. Regardless, we’ve saved the best Caped Crusader adventure for number one. Rocksteady Games did an amazing job with every aspect of Arkham Asylum, from the storytelling (featuring a script by Batman scribe Paul Dini) to the gameplay (you may never throw batarangs the same way again without using a first-person perspective) to the voice acting (Mark Hamill once again comes through as the Joker, with Kevin Conroy every bit his equal as the Dark Knight). There are plenty of hidden goodies to track down here, namely the chattering Joker teeth and the hidden Riddler challenges. We’re also huge fans of the fighting engine, which is both smooth and utterly engaging, as you build up combos into the hundreds. It makes us all the more exciting for the follow-up, Batman: Arkham City, which will be coming our way this fall. We expect nothing but greatness from Rocksteady, and that’s probably what we’re going to get, if Arkham Asylum is any indication. More explosive spray gel, please.