Comic books and video games—the two mediums with diehard fan bases that are never easy to please. The history of superheroes and video games goes all the way back to the earliest days of gaming, when many of the old-school titles that we know and love were being inspired by characters and lore from comic books. As the medium of gaming grew up, so did games based on superheroes, with primitive yet memorable titles like Batman on the NES becoming full-fledged cinematic experiences decades later in games such as Arkham Asylum or Injustice: Gods Among Us.
The tradition of games based on comic books continues to this day and is raging ahead faster than ever now, with Square Enix and a number of other top gaming studios now in development with Marvel. If you thought Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man was a fantastic game, in a few years, we may have a dozen others that are just as good—or even better.
Here’s our ranking of the top 10 superhero video games of all time. And no, don’t worry, we didn’t include Superman 64.
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This PlayStation exclusive doubled as a hero and villain title. Players took control of Cole, who had gained the power of electricity after an explosion destroyed his home town. The game featured an extensive good-and-evil system, allowing players to make choices that changed Cole from a blue-lightning-wielding hero to a red-lightning-wielding antihero. (Antihero Cole was also veiny.) The action platformer was a fun game with a well-drawn story that’s definitely still worth playing. —Cam Sherrill
9. Marvel Ultimate Alliance
A four-player hack-and-slash, Marvel Ultimate Alliance let you create your Marvel dream team with customizable costumes, a huge roster, and a ton of button-mashing fun. The series has long been sleeping, but it is making a triumphant return this July with the third installment, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. —C.S.
8. The Wonderful 101
Wii U, 2013
The always stellar Platinum Games hit it home with the vastly overlooked Wonderful 101; it was released during the Wii U era, which caused a lot of people to miss it. The title saw players collecting a total of 101 superheros with different powers to rotate between in a hack-and-slash strategy game. It was weird, goofy, and an absolute blast. Here’s to hoping we’ll see a re-release or sequel on Nintendo Switch. —C.S.
The Spider-Man game that started all Spider-Man games, this PS2 title looked great and showcased fantastic combat for its time. Best of all, it had near perfect web slinging and swinging. While the new Marvel’s Spider-Man is exceedingly better, this was what predicted the web-slinging wonder boy’s video game journey. —C.S.
6. Batman Returns
Though not quite as well-known as the others on this list, Batman Returns was a kickass title that premiered in the SNES/Genesis console era. A side-scrolling beat-em-up game, the Konami title had a pitch-perfect Tim Burton art style and some extremely fun, arcade-style gameplay. Until the Arkham series premiered a few decades later, this is the best we had for Batman in video games, and it still holds up today. —Dom Nero
5. Injustice 2
DC tried to do a fighting game back in the ’90s mullet era of Superman with Justice League Task Force, but failed miserably. Finally, the DC universe got its due, though, with the Injustice series, developed by the beloved studio behind Mortal Kombat, NetherRealm. With Ed Boon and the gang on the ticket, you couldn’t go wrong. Many thought it impossible to make a Mortal Kombat-style fighter without tons of blood and gore, but they really nailed the balance between the dark tone and PG-rated combat. The sequel unveiled a ton of new characters, an even deeper story mode, and some awesome character customization options. —D.N.
4. Viewtiful Joe
You may be surprised to see Joe on this list. You may say he’s not a superhero. But you are wrong. If we’re ranking games about comic book heroes, Viewtiful Joe needs to be included, because, as an old-fashioned superhuman who was very much inspired by the characters of comic lore, Joe kicked as much ass as Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man. He could slow down time, speed it up, and absolutely rip the shit out of the enemies onscreen, and we desperately need a new Viewtiful Joe game for consoles. Capcom, bring him back! —D.N.
If you head over to our Best Marvel Video Games list, you’ll see that this game took the cake. And deservedly so. It’s quite possibly the most well-known game based on a comic book ever made. Enjoyed by everyone from your little brother to your distant uncle who grew up in the arcade era, some cabinets accommodate even six players at once. An all-timer. —D.N.
2. Marvel’s Spider-Man
Marvel’s Spider-Man is a perfect superhero title, and the game that people are hoping is the Iron Man of the Marvel Gaming Universe. It had great combat, swinging, platforming, and customization with oodles of references and an absolutely stunning story that pulled at your heartstrings. It was a phenomenal PlayStation exclusive, and with a rumored sequel and the elusive Marvel’s Avengers/Square Enix title possibly being revealed soon, there’s a lot of Marvel gaming goodness on the horizon. —C.S.
1. Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham Asylum took the medium of gaming to a new level. Bringing together many of the masterminds from the beloved Batman animated series, Asylum set a new precedent for rich, combat-driven storytelling in video games. And then, Batman: Arkham City blew the whole thing open by giving us a gigantic city to explore and bash heads in. With Mark Hamill’s Joker, Kevin Conroy’s Batman, and a twist ending that still has players stunned to this day, Arkham City deserves not only the Number 1 spot on this list, but to also be preserved in a goddamn museum. It rules. —D.N.
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