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Top 10 Video Games based on Comic Book Properties

With the recent release of Injustice: Gods Among Us as well as the announcement of Batman: Arkham Origins in early April, and a constant stream of information, rumors and speculation about it that has griped the gaming news since, it has been clear that the month of April belonged to Comic Book Properties.

With the imminent release of highly anticipated movies like Man of Steal and Iron Man 3 on the horizon, the importance of the comic book license is here to stay in the coming months as well.

Keeping that in mind, let’s celebrate the history of the union between comic books and video games by looking at 10 of the best comic book games that have laughed in the face of the bad stigma that permeates license based games and that have provided us gamers with countless hours of entertainment and lots of fond memories.

However, it is important to note that this list is based on the mostly western comic book medium and does not account for Mangas and games based around their licenses. So as popular and as entertaining as they might be, there would be no mention of games based on properties like Dragon Ball, Gundamn or Naruto.

Moreover, even though I found it to be a great game, this list will not include the recent Injustice: Gods Among Us. This is because as a fighting game, its worth can only truly be discovered through months of play, as was discovered in the case of the much hyped, release and then fall from grace of Street Fighter X Tekken.

So without further ado, here is the list of Top 10 Comic Book Games.

10# Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

  • Release Date: 2010
  • Developer: Ubisoft
  • Genre: Beat ’em up
  • Platform: PSN & XBLA

Lets start the list with a much recent but very under-rated and overlooked game. Based on the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was released close to the premier of the movie sharing its name, however the game itself was more faithful to the original source material than the movie could ever hope to be.

Emulating the art style of the graphic novels in pixel based art, the game gave the players reigns of Scott Pilgrim, Ramona Flowers, Kim Pine or Stephen Stills, as well as other unlockable and DLC characters, as they wade through droves of enemies across locations familiar to the fans of Scott Pilgrim books.

What made the game so great was that it stayed true to the feel of the source material while simultaneously bringing forth a long forgotten genre of Beat ’em ups. Embracing the retro gaming routes, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World portrays itself in the pixelated goodness of the pre-16-bit games while also featuring some effects that could not be performed in 8-bit era.

Featuring solid Beat ’em up gameplay with a difficulty curve that used to be staple in games of yore, the game also mixed in RPG elements with leveling up via XP as well as upgrading weapons, skills and items via in game currency dropped by the slew of vanquished enemies.

9# The Darkness

  • Release Date: 2007
  • Developer: Starbreeze Studios
  • Genre: FPS
  • Platform: PS3 & Xbox360

Based on Top Cow’s comic book series of the same name, The Darkness dared to venture into a video game genre seldom traveled by comic book properties and dared to tell an engrossing tale in the first person shooting method.

The game follows the story of mafia hitman; Jackie Estacado who, through a series of unfortunate events, becomes bearer of the Darkness, an ancient elemental force of nearly limitless power that allows control over the demons who dwell in its demonic dimension. The narrative of Darkness is far from the cookie cutter stories that have the norm in games for so long and features competently told engrossing tale with themes of sacrifice, tragedy and consequence.

Released before Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and the contemporary craze of FPS genre, The Darkness not only took a risk by tackling storytelling through FPS genre but also introduced several elements that separated it from the usual run and gun gameplay that is prevalent in FPSes to this day.

Aside from the variety of guns available for use, the players are also offered power of Darkness and with it control over dark tentacles which can destroy obstacles, takedown, impale and consume hearts of enemies. Moreover, with the passage of time, players are granted other awesome dark abilities like powering up tendrils, controlling demon imps and creating small black holes.

Not only was the game faithful to its source material but it also garnered critical acclaim and financial success enough to grant development and release of a sequel game in 2012.

8# X-men Origins: Wolverine – The Uncaged Edition

  • Release Date: 2009
  • Developer: Raven Software
  • Genre: Action Adventure
  • Platform: PC, PS3 & Xbox360

The only game I can think of, that has the honor of being better than the actual license and name it is based on. No I am not talking about Wolverine comics, but the Hugh Jackman movie of the same name. Yes, X-men Origins: Wolverine was movie tie-in game that was released in conjunction with the movie on May 1st, 2009.

However the game is loosely-based on the happenings in the movie and again, did the improbable by making the term “loosely-based” mean something positive for itself. Featuring everything from future, present and past; from scifi and fiction to drama and action, the game takes the movies’ threads from Origin and Weapon-X storyline and enhances the narrative with a hint of Days of Future Past and other past comic references.

Whats more, X-men Origins: Wolverine Uncaged edition featured everything that one associates with Wolverine; fast and ferocious action; lots of blood, gore, carnage and dismemberment; tons of enemies to slaughter in rage and something that no game had managed to do before; portrayal of Wolverine’s healing factor that visibly shows the healing process in game.

The game also goes out of its way to feature dozens of comic book easter eggs as well as Wolverine costumes that range from classic blue and yellow to brown and tan costume from the 80s and the black and grey uniform from his time in the X-force.

In a sense, X-men Origins: Wolverine is more inspired my the comic books than the movie adaption of the character and its story.

7# The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

  • Release Date: 2005
  • Developer: Radical Entertainment
  • Genre: Action Adventure
  • Platform: GameCube, PS2 & Xbox

Just like how X-men Origins Wolverine made the player feel like being in the shoes of Wolverine himself, Ultimate Destruction managed to do the same for Hulk.

The focus of Ultimate Destruction was squarely on allowing players to do whatever they expected Hulk to do himself. No game had ever managed to allow players to completely harness the power of Hulk and make them feel like they were Hulk himself and looking at the power levels of the character and the abilities he posses one can understand why others had failed and the improbability of any game accomplishing the feat.

The game managed this daunting task by offering a sandbox action gameplay in an open world environment where players are free to visit most locations and interact with environments at their leisure.

As Hulk, players are able to running across walls, scale buildings, leap huge distances, crush vehicles and make them Hulk’s metal gloves as well as destroy everything and everyone in the path with myriad of moves which can be upgraded for devastating results.

Ultimate Destruction allowed players to do almost any and every move in Hulk’s repertoire. From stomping quakes to elbow drops from skyscrapers, from atomic drops to thunderclaps, players were able to utilize these moves to levels blocks, destroy buildings and cause limitless havoc as only Hulk can. No game before or since has been able to offer such a complete experience embodying Hulk as Ultimate Destruction did.

6# X-men: Children of the Atom

  • Release Date: 1994
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Genre: Fighting
  • Platform: Arcade

Aside from featuring robust gameplay and fluid animations, Children of the Atom makes the list because it was a pioneer in Comic Book based fighting games.

What Street Fighter II means to fighting games in general, Children of the Atom means to Comic book fighting games as it was through this game that games like Marvel Super Heroes, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Street Fighter and ultimately Marvel vs. Capcom series became possible.

The game also introduced several systems that have become staples in several games in the genre, mechanics like throw techs, EX moves, counterthrows, super jumps, rolls, auto blocks and aimed projectiles. Furthermore, the game hosted lightening fast gameplay with air blocking, multi-tiered stages and screen filling ‘Hyper X” moves.

X-men: Children of the Atom was also a beauty in terms of audio and visual presentation. While focused on the ‘Fatal Attractions” storyline from the comics, the game featured voice and likeness of characters and stages from the 90’s hit X-men: The Animated Series.

When it came to the characters, the game featured an astounding difference in scale as behemoths like Juggernaut and Sentinel stood toe to toe with short characters like Storm and Wolverine and 2D animation was so fluid that the game truly looked like the popular Saturday morning cartoon show come to life.

All in all, X-men: Children of the Atom is not only a beautiful looking fun game in its own right, but it also stands as the torch bearer for the popularity and success of comic book based fighting games.

5# Ultimate Spider-man

  • Release Date: 2005
  • Developer: Treyarch
  • Genre: Action Adventure
  • Platform: PC, PS2 & Xbox

Many people consider Spider-man 2 as THE game which makes the players feel as if they are the webcrawler themselves. While that might be true in a sense that Siper-man 2 premiered the web-swinging open world gameplay that makes one feel like Spider-man in New York, but what makes Ultimate Spider-man a better game is that it manages to do the same, as well as incorporate Hulk: Ultimate Destruction’s mechanics and add so much more to the formula.

The game focused on Ultimate Spider-man’s Venom saga and featured both Spider-man and Venom as playable characters. The Spider-man part of the game fells much like its Spider-man 2 counterpart as the game let the player web-swing across Manhattan and Queens, all the while tackling enemies with nimbleness and acrobatics.

On the other hand playing has the behemoth; Venom, players get to rampage around the city much like Hulk in Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and reach power from people on the street as well as use Venom’s powers to defeat and eat enemies.

Based on the comics of the same name, which are set in an alternate, Ultimate universe as compared to Marvel’s usual 616 reality, Ultimate Spider-man embraces its source material and displays it like a badge of honor. The game features a cell shaded visual style that mimics the comics’ art style perfectly and the incorporation of panels in its storytelling which really gives the game its unique feel and makes it seem like the player is playing in a comic book.

4# The Walking Dead

  • Release Date: 2012
  • Developer: Telltale Games
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Platform: PC, PS3 & Xbox360

Set right after the onset of zombie apocalypse in Georgia, The Walking Dead game takes place in the same fictional universe as Image’s Walking Dead comic book series.

What makes this game stand out from others is that not only does it dare to tackle the old game genre of point and click adventure games, but accomplishes it through episodic content and does it so well that it has won several awards and is the first episodic game to be nominated for game of year awards by game critics.

What makes Walking Dead different than other point and click adventure games is that the game does not follow the point and click convention of relying on puzzles as its gameplay core.

Instead Walking Dead used the solid storytelling foundations set by the comic book series and focuses on telling a compelling narrative with deep character development and touching emotional cores of both the characters and the players through the decisions made by the players themselves.

Unlike other games like Fallout, Mass Effect or inFamous where the choice mechanic is based on good vs evil in balc and white decisions, Walking Dead’s player choices are presented as more gray with more realistic/relatable choices which lead to ambiguous results. The game also features a handy rewind mechanic that facilitates exploration and revisiting past chapters.

The game is not only a worthy addition to the Walking Dead lore but it also responsible for the resurgence of adventure genre as well as a pioneer in quality AAA game based on episodic content game delivery method.

3# X-men

  • Release Date: 1992
  • Developer: Konami
  • Genre: Beat ’em up
  • Platform: Arcade

While some might scoff at the inclusion of this game at 3rd position and might instead wish for other beat ’em up arcade games like TMNT: Turtles in Time, Punisher, X-men2: Clone Wars and Death and Return of Superman, however what makes this game stand out from amongst all the others is the simple fact that this one came first and let more players play the game simultaneously than any comic book game had done before or since.

X-men allowed 6, yes six, players to get together and play the game cooperatively, on the same arcade cabinet. The game used a revolutionary multi-screen, with each cabinet featuring dual contiguous screens which allowed 6 players to view the screen and play the game in relative comfort.

Using the designs of the ill fated ‘The Pryde of the X-men’ animated pilot episode, X-men arcade game allowed players to select their choice of X-man from Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler or Dazzler and take the characters through different locations inspired by the comic books.

Throughout the game, players get to fight familiar villains like Sentinels, Hellfire Club, Reavers, Wendigo, Nimrod, Pyro, Blob, White Queen, Living Monolith, Juggernaut, Mystique and finally Magneto.

The game is remembered for its solid beat ’em up game play as well as the variety of play it offered as each character was able to harness his or her mutant power, which was unique for each of the six characters available. The game also lives on due to its infamously memorable dialogues and the fact that lines like  “I am Magneto, master of magnet!” and “Welcome to die!” have become part of the gaming lore and contemporary gaming memes.

2# Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes

  • Release Date: 2000
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Genre: Fighting
  • Platform: Arcade

If I was to give just one reason to justify MVC2’s presence at the 2nd spot on this list, it would be that Marvel vs, Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes was such a strong game that it single-handedly kept the fighting game community scene going during the long time that fighting game genre suffered an unprecedented drought of 8 years, until Street Fighter IV finally came and broke the floodgates for other fighting games to come into the contemporary gaming market.

Being a sequel to the first Marvel vs. Capcom, MVC2 obviously bought a lot of mechanics that fans loved about the capcom’s verses series but the game also took chances and featured a lot of changes to the established formula, most major of which were the snapbacks, different air-combo system and the 3 on 3 tag fighting per round as compared to 2 on 2 of the previous iteration.

Compared to the 22 playable characters of the original MVC game, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 exploded its character selection by featuring 28 fighters from Capcom and 28 fighters from Marvel, for a grand total of a whopping 56 playable characters. A feat that eclipses the series’ original fighter and even dwarfs the 48 playable characters of the most recent iteration of its sequel; Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

It is no coincidence that the game is still remembered fondly and prized as top fighting game by several critics as well as members of the fighting game community. The game easily earns its number 2 spot on the list and I might have even considered it for number 1 position if it wasnt for the game’s jazz inspired music which seems a bit inappropriate for its action packed gameplay.

1# Batman: Arkham City

  • Release Date: 2011
  • Developer: Rocksteady Studios
  • Genre: Action Adventure
  • Platform: PC, PS3 & Xbox360

The way I see it, number one spot was always going to be a tossup between Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Asylum because it was basically the culmination of decades of comic book video games; coming from barely playable cash-ins and novelty of nostalgia to a full fledged AAA game that can stand on its own in front of best that the medium has to offer, on the basis of its strong gameplay rather than the power of brand alone.

Arkham City on the other hand took the strong foundation and gameplay formula presented by Arkham Asylum and expanded it in every sense imaginable. Larger map area, more weapons, more item modifications, larger enemy variety, more collectables and bigger cast of famous allies and villains.

What makes the game so special is how it translates the closed area combat from Arkham Asylum into the open world of Arkham City. While the players are able to take down gang members with same action mechanics that dictated the previous game, they are now able to climb the high buildings, soar across the Gotham skyline, seamlessly traverse through the city and truly feel like Batman scouring through Gotham City.

Even though players are given an open world to explore, it is not in the same vein as other games which provide players with sparsely populated open worlds filled with repetitive environments.

The cordoned Gotham area of Arkham City is populated with different gangs belonging to the colorful cast of batman rogue gallery like; Joker, Mr. Freeze, Penguin, Two-Face, Hugo Strange, Ra’s al Ghul and others. Each villain supporting their own brand of thugs and gangs while occupying a certain area and making it their own. Hence no two areas looked and played the same.

The game also avoids the Metroid style, of progression system where the protagonist losses his or her weapons from the previous games and has to upgrade everything from scratch. Arkham City introduces a Batman that has all of the gadgets he had at his disposal at the end of the 1st Arkham game and move forward by giving him even more weapons and equipment to play with.

Moreover, Arkham City also allowed the gamers to play as a second character in the game. Playing as Catwoman is a completely different experience as she has a completely different fighting style and set of gadgets. The character even shows diversity in the way players get to explore the city with her. Unlike the grapple and glide traversal mechanic employed by Batman, Catwoman climbs the wall and uses her whip to boost herself to unreachable areas, giving her an almost Spider-man like gameplay quality.

Due to such astounding amount of variety, robust gameplay mechanics and superbly polished presentation present in the game, Batman: Arkham City deservedly won dozens on awards, from game critics and mainstream media websites, as one of the top games of the year 2011 and also tops off this list as the best comic book video game.

Notable Mentions:
Ten slots are definitely not enough to encompass all the great comic book based video games that have graced the virtual world, and I would be remiss if I didnt mention couple of gaming gems that eluded reference in the main list.

Such noteworthy titles include the likes of X-men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Sam and Max Hit the Road, Adventures of Batman & Robin, Alien vs. Predator, Batman Vengeance and Shadowman.

Of course, when all is said and done, everyone can have different preferences as to what appeals to them and which game holds more value that the other. So you are more than welcome to sound off below about any games that you think should be part of 10 best comic book games.