Batman’s had his share of box office successes (something that’s likely to continue with Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises), but it wasn’t until very recently that his gaming adventures matched that prosperity. Batman has appeared in video game form as early as 1986, but most of the titles weren’t enjoyable by any means. There are a few Batman games that are worth mentioning, however. This X-List features Batman’s best video game appearances, so if you’re ready to dive into Bruce Wayne’s world, check out these five titles.
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (2012)
Don’t let the cute graphics and presentation fool you; this is Batman, and the DC universe, through and through. The game features an engaging story, 60 playable characters with differing abilities, classic DC super-villains, and a Legoized Gotham City containing the likes of Arkham Asylum, Ace Chemicals, and Wayne Tower. Unlike most games tailored for younger gamers, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is a quirky and fun original Batman tale that can prove a good bonding experience between adults and children. The game is lengthy (about 8 hours), and players can jump in and out as they please without worrying about disrupting gameplay. This is also the first Lego game featuring voice acting, which is a welcome change from the exaggerated facial expressions used in past titles. In terms of gameplay, Lego Batman 2 keeps the familiar Lego formula: puzzles, simple combat, and deep exploration. If you have little ones running amok, Lego Batman 2 is sure to keep them in place for a bit.
The Adventures of Batman and Robin (1995, SEGA CD)
Clockwork Tortoise made the best side-scrolling beat-em-up that’s ever featured The Caped Crusader. The Adventures of Batman and Robin, based on Batman: The Animated Series, appeared on several mid-’90s consoles. The definitive version, however, is the SEGA CD port that is essentially the TV series’ lost episode. It features animated cut-scenes between stages (by TMS, the team that animated Batman: The Animated Series), and a star-studded voice acting team featuring Mark Hamill (The Joker) and Kevin Conroy (Batman). There are special stages involving the Batwing that are nods to side-scrolling shooters like Gradius and Air Buster. Although the game had tight controls, it was heavily criticized due to Batman and Robin’s identical move sets. Overall, the game was most excellent, but brutally difficult.
Batman Vengeance (2001)
Batman Vengeance, on paper, sounds like a winner. It features character designs influenced by The New Batman Adventures (the popular yet short-running successor to Batman: The Animated Series), and many of the same voice actors. The gameplay, however, is a bit of a downer as players can simply mash their way through extremely linear stages with little to no consequence. Still, it’s fun! The story’s the most engaging aspect of this title: The Joker is presumed dead, and Batman’s on the run from Commissioner Gordon and his men after being framed by Harley Quinn. Along the way players battle it out against Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and (surprise!) The Joker himself. Batman Vengeance is easily one of The Dark Knight’s best video game appearances, but it doesn’t hold a Batsignal to the next game on this list.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)
This is the game that finally got Batman right. Penned by the legendary Paul Dini, Rocksteady’s Arkham Asylum puts Batman in a nightmare situation. A captured Joker’s escorted to Arkham Asylum by the Dark Knight, but turns the table by freeing Batman’s most notorious enemies including Killer Croc, Riddler, Scarecrow, Bane, and Victor Zsasz (who has never been featured outside of comics due to the violent nature of his crimes). Graphically, Arkham Asylum is a visual masterpiece that contains lighting effects and the highly textured environments that combine to make an appropriately dark and gritty Batman game. Combat requires precise timing and quick reflexes, especially at higher difficulties. A large number of Batman’s gadgets are at a player’s disposal, too, including the extremely useful Detective Vision. Detective Vision allows players to see through walls and study Batman’s environment to better use it to his advantage. Naturally, the voice acting, featuring the animated series’ cast, is top-notch. The developers also took the time to flesh out the Batman ethos by providing hundreds of collectibles and bios that further explored each characters’ history and motivation. In the end, Batman was left tattered and bruised, but victorious in what was easily the best Batman game to date. Honestly, no one knew if Rocksteady could top it. To many’s surprise the studio did with….
Batman: Arkham City (2011)
This isn’t only the best Batman game ever made, it’s one of the best games, period. Arkham City, as the name suggests, is a city formed on the edges of Gotham to quarantine criminals from the rest of civilization. Arkham City the game takes place a year after Batman: Arkham Asylum, and this time Hugo Strange is behind the current chaos (or is he?). Gotham City is the focal point for the games narrative, and as a setting it lends itself to a stout-hearted performance. Criminals are running rampant, political prisoners are constantly in distress, and thugs form factions that swear allegiance to Batman’s many foes; Joker, Two-Face, and the Penguin each have a troop of goons ready to take you down. Batman diehards will notice the small touches like the Flying Grayson posters, Crime Alley (where Bruce saw his parents die), and even Amusement Mile. The combat system and gadgets are both improved, too, and there are dozens of challenge maps. You could also play sections of the story as Catwoman, complete with her own move set and gadgets. For those that don’t mind purchasing DLC you can also play as Robin (Tim Drake) and NightWing (Dick Grayson). If you have yet to experience Arkham City this is a must buy. With the Game of the Year Edition (out now) you’ll have access to every piece of DLC, making Arkham City a more lucrative purchase.
Honorable Mention: Batman & Robin (August 7, 1998)
Acclaim took a shot at Gotham City with a game based on the film that many consider The Caped Crusader’s worst depiction. The game, unsurprisingly, didn’t fare much better than the movie. Why does Batman & Robin appear on this list you might ask? Well, it’s a game ahead of its time in some aspects. Many credit Arkham City as the first sandbox Batman game–it isn’t. Although Batman & Robin features horrible mechanics, blocky and disproportioned character models, and awful animations, the game’s open world is its redeeming quality. There are consequences for missing an antagonist’s next move. For example, if a bank heist is scheduled for 7pm, Batman has to be there to thwart it. If players miss too many key events, it’s game over. Developer Probe Entertainment had the right idea and gave us an interesting game, but the execution was horribly lacking.
There you have it folks, the best Batman games. Are there any games that you think should have made the cut? Let us know in the comments below.