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Days of Gaming Past: A look at 20 Superhero Games

With Great Power…

My Fellow Gamers;

I remember gasping lightly when I first saw it. That small cardboard box, lightly laminated with the gilded gold and black of the Batman insignia resting on the spinning display cage at the nearby video game store. I picked it up, turned it over, looking at the 8-bit digital art on the back. Here was a costumed icon, once confined to the inked pages of a comic book, now mine to control across the misty streets and spires of Gotham City. And as I slid the cart into my recently bought NES, the rapturous joy, and frustration, I experienced left an indelible, unforgettable memory within me.

That old store is now long since closed. That old NES is now long since resting in some landfill. And that glossy little box holding that glossy little Batman game is now long since sold. But the memories remain.

As time wore on, and I experienced the growing arm of the video game landscape, the expectations that this would become a norm slowly ebbed and flowed from genuine surprise and delight, to outright anger and disgust. Because for every Batman, there was the incredibly daft Batman Forever for the SNES. A cart game that, to my knowledge, is the only one in existence…. with load screens. -insert facepalm moment here.-

Over the years I’ve collected my fair share of superhero titles, from the very first Batman, to the most recent being Injustice: Gods Among Us. And I think it time to look back at them, decide which ones were truly Superheroic, which ones were likeable, but still had a lot to learn – much like a Worthy Sidekick – and which ones were the Super-Villains of their own story.

So grab a chair, sit a while, and let’s take a look at 20 Superhero games throughout the years:

*Please note these are all personal experiences, and personal opinions. Am I right? Am I wrong? Well, I’ll let you all decide for yourselves.*

Title: Batman The Video Game
System Played On: Nintendo Entertainment System
Developed By: Sunsoft
Released: 1989 – 1992

This was the title that set me on the path. To my young mind it was 8-bit magic codified. By today’s standards simplistic, but back then it felt fluid, responsive, magical. Bouncing from wall to wall like Ninja Gaiden’s Ryu scaling the landscape, dispatching bad guys along the way. It set a precedent that others would aspire to. And I am thankful for Sunsoft’s efforts; not only for making this a positive moment in my fledgling gamer life, but for turning what could have been a sub-par movie game tie-in into something spectacular.

Verdict: Superhero

Title: Spider-Man / Venom: Maximum Carnage
System Played On: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Developed By: Software Creations
Released: 1994

Inspired by the storyline running in the various Spider-Man comic book titles, the game puts former rivals Spider-Man and Venom into an unlikely team after Cletus Kasady, AKA Carnage, breaks out of a maximum security prison and frees various Super-Villains to run amok in the streets of New York City. The things I liked? Taking Marvel storylines and actually doing a pretty good job of digitizing them for the masses to enjoy; and the replayability, since the game gives you a unique perspective of the same story thread when you play it again as a different hero.

The things I hated? The steep and unnecessary difficulty spikes, the sometimes sluggish controls, and the sometimes extremely useless Hero Icons you can collect and use in a pinch when the going gets tough. But I’d say it was enjoyable enough. Was it perfect? No. But was it fun? Oh hell yeah.

Verdict: Worthy Sidekick

Title: Batman Forever
System Played On: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Developed By: Probe Entertainment / Acclaim
Released: 1995

As I’ve said before, this is probably the only cartridge-based game that I know of that actually has loading screens. HOW that is possible I have no clue. But that’s just a small problem in a much larger screw up. The controls were sluggish, the “graphics” laughable, and the character designs were horrendous. Robin in particular looked like a cosplay reject who needed the extra cash to buy more useless cosplay outfits. I think it’s safe to say that this was, in my opinion, the lowest of the low and the worst of the wost as far as terrible Batman games go.

Seriously. Load screens. On a cart.

Verdict: Super-Villain

Title: The Death and Return of Superman
System Played On: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Developed By: Blizzard Entertainment / Sunsoft
Released: 1994

I remember the day vividly. Standing in line for an hour, as black bagged Superman #75’s were slowly being restocked on the same magazine racks next to mainstream media mainstays. Time, Life, The New Yorker. All talking about the same thing; the event that eventually led to what is now known as the “Death of Superman” storyline. And issue 75 of the second volume of DC’s Superman title was the culminating event. People who hadn’t read comics in years, standing next to their sons and daughters and geeked out strangers, all congregating in a community of commonality. It was brilliant. But most importantly, it was beautiful.

Two years later, the world finally got to experience the death, and the return, of one of the country’s world’s most recognizable and iconic superheroes in digital form. Was it worth it? Did Sunsoft and Blizzard do the title justice? Eh. Yes and no. I mean, visually, at the time, it was a pretty slick-looking game. The controls weren’t terrible, and they even added in some fun side-scrolling shooter levels in with it. You got to experience the games through various eyes; Steel, Superboy, Cyborg Superman, The Eradicator. But to be honest, this was kind of a “cliff-notes” version of the whole Death and Return story. Some events were pretty short, and lacked the emotional impact when you compare them to the original moments in the comic books. But on the whole? Probably the best Superman video game experience since, well, ever.

Verdict: Superhero

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One Response to Days of Gaming Past: A look at 20 Superhero Games

  1. Young Sammich says:

    There was a game based on Aqua Man? Now I’ve seen it all!!! 🙂

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