Comic books are more mainstream now than ever, thanks to the huge success their film adaptations enjoy. Movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers, Man of Steel, and the heavily-hyped forthcoming Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice have brought plenty of fresh readers to the medium, but, as anyone who has explored the thousands of titles available online and in print will know, there is much, much more to comic books than superheroes.
As well as working fantastically in comic books and films, though, superheroes also work brilliantly in video games. Why? Think about it: the elements that are typically the more challenging to translate to the big screen give developers so much to work with. Flight, super-strength, super-speed, and more can all be exploited to make gamers feel like they really are a superhuman, even for just a few hours.
There have been dozens upon dozens of superhero-based video games in the past thirty years, but these aren’t the only comic-book adaptations to hit consoles: science fiction and horror titles have also been translated for gamers, with varying levels of success.
So, with more attention than ever on comic books today, we thought now would be the perfect time to celebrate 10 of the best video games adapted from a diverse range of titles.
- 1 Spider-Man (2000)
- 2 The Punisher (2005)
- 3 The Walking Dead (2012)
- 4 RoboCop Versus The Terminator (1994)
- 5 Batman: Arkham City (2011)
- 6 Injustice: Gods Among Us (2013)
- 7 Rogue Trooper (2006)
- 8 X-Men: Legends (2004)
- 9 The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (2005)
- 10 Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (2011)
Back in 2000, Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie was still two years away, Andrew Garfield was probably still in school, and the prospect of being able to pick & choose from multiple Spidey-centric films was just a fantasy.
This is what made Neversoft’s Spider-Man, on the PS1, such a welcome treat.
Featuring a huge cast of characters (Captain America, Black Cat, Daredevil, Carnage, Doctor Octopus, Mysterio, Venom, and many more), lots of humour, a huge range of unlockable costumes, Easter Eggs, and a lengthy campaign, Spider-Man was a then-rare example of a superhero game done right.
The Punisher (2005)
Released a year or so after Thomas Jane’s The Punisher movie, Volition Inc.’s video game was actually based on Garth Ennis’s comic books. Written by Ennis himself, alongside Jimmy Palmiotti, The Punisher brought Jane back on vocal duties, and is incredibly faithful to the comics.
Naturally, this being a Punisher-focused game, grisly deaths are the order of the day: players can shoot, stab, blow-up, burn, chop, throw, choke, and face-smash bad guys to their doom. Context-sensitive punishments add even more variety into the mix, including feeding villains to a shark & piranhas, as well as impaling them on a rhino horn.
The Punisher is a blast to play from start to finish, and, like Neversoft’s Spider-Man game, includes cameos from many Marvel characters, such as Iron Man, Black Widow, Nick Fury.
The Walking Dead (2012)
The Walking Dead is one of the biggest television series ever, based on Robert Kirkman’s long-running horror comic book. Video games were inevitable, but rather than adapting the Fox series, Telltale Games did a fantastic job translating the comics into an interactive experience instead.
Rather than being based around puzzle-solving (like most graphic adventure games), The Walking Dead is actually more about developing character and making quick-time event-based choices which impact later episodes. The first game (referred to as Season 1) featured five episodes, and won many, many Game of the Year awards from multiple publications.
RoboCop Versus The Terminator (1994)
Way, way back in 1992, Dark Horse Comics published RoboCop Versus The Terminator, a violent, action-packed mash-up of the iconic cyborgs written by none other than Frank Miller.
The four-issue series was a great read, and was perfect for a video-game adaptation. Virgin Games later released multiple versions of RoboCop Versus The Terminator, but the Genesis copy is generally viewed as the best.
Players step into the armoured non-shoes of RoboCop, and blast through one level after another, from the gritty streets of Detroit to, finally, the machine-ruled future to destroy SkyNet itself. The simplistic shooting and platforming action still holds up today, helped by the gorgeous visuals, diverse selection of enemies, varied settings, and, of course, the chance to play as one of cinema’s toughest cops against an army of red-eyed steel monsters.
If you’ve never played it, give it a try!
Batman: Arkham City (2011)
To be fair, the entire Arkham series of games could have appeared on this list, but how interesting would that be? In the spirit of diversity, we’ve picked what remains the strongest entry in the series (in our humble opinion, at least): Arkham City.
After scoring a huge hit with the superb Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady Studios upped the ante for its sequel – and absolutely nailed it!
Arkham City takes the action into a wider playing field (a sizeable portion of Gotham City, walled off to form a new prison-slash-asylum for the criminally insane) and weaves multiple characters into the fantastic plot.
As well as being able to become Batman himself, players can step into Catwoman’s slinky heels and kick bad-guy butt as Nightwing & Robin (in the game’s huge challenge mode, at least). As the storyline was written by Paul Dini, one of the greatest talents to work on Batman, Arkham City is staggeringly faithful to the comic books, and really helps to make players feel as if they actually are Batman, rather than simply playing as him in a game.
Injustice: Gods Among Us (2013)
NetherRealm Studios are the brains behind the legendary Mortal Kombat games, and after dipping their toes into the DC-flavoured water with the decent Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, they created the brilliant Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Starring a massive roster of heroes and villains from the rich DC comic-book universe, Injustice is a fast-paced, deep fighting game with a huge range of modes. Playing as Batman, the Joker, Catwoman, Superman, Green Lantern, Batgirl, Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman, Nightwing, the Flash, and so many more is a real joy, with all characters handling differently.
The interactive, multi-level arenas give the fights a suitably epic feel: just try hurling Batman through a wall as Bane without feeling like the baddest guy in town.
Rogue Trooper (2006)
While 2000 AD has been in publication for decades now (since 1977), it is only now starting to receive the widespread recognition it deserves. Rogue Trooper is one of the British comic’s most popular characters, and Rebellion Developments adapted his adventures into a great third-person shooter in 2006.
Following their adaptation of Judge Dredd in 2003 (Dredd Vs. Death), Rebellion applied the same level of reverence for the material to Rogue Trooper: this world of blue-skinned, genetically-engineered soldiers looks and feels exactly as it should. The action is always varied, with multiple weapons, exploration, and on-rails blasting all keeping the plot racing at a fast pace.
X-Men: Legends (2004)
The X-Men have starred in many games over the years, but not all of them are worth playing. X-Men Legends, though, was the first to try something other than side-scrolling beat-em-ups or fighting games: Raven Software created an RPG-action adventure which allows players to build their own team of super-powered mutants.
Wolverine, Rogue, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Colossus, Gambit, Psylocke, Nightcrawler, and many more are available to join the team, each bringing their own abilities to the mix. While fighting plays a massive part in the game, exploration and character-progression help to make this a deeper, more faithful fan-friendly game than others before it. The storyline also offers plenty to see and do, while unlockable side-quests allow players to experience different moments from the comics’ history.
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (2005)
In the vein of the previous year’s amazing Spider-Man 2 game (which, being based on the movie, has been left off this list), Ultimate Destruction is a free-roaming game which allows players to run wild, completing missions as they see fit.
However, unlike Spider-Man 2, Ultimate Destruction switches between urban and desert settings, taking the Hulk from buildings & cars to hills & rocks. Environments can be destroyed, with Hulk able to bring down buildings, surf on buses, and transform cars into boxing gloves.
Civilians can also be hurled from rooftops and into rivers, just for fun – try batting some pedestrians into the distance with a wrecked lamp post!
Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (2011)
As far as concepts for video games go, pitting a roster of Capcom’s biggest characters against those from the Marvel universe is pretty out there … but it works!
Fighting Iron Man as Ryu, or taking on Albert Wesker as Deadpool, is as fun as you would expect: the action is super-fast, with plenty of combos to enjoy and gorgeous visuals, while battling the screen-filling Galactus in the final stage is an epic thrill.
Players can choose three characters for each fight, switching between them simply by holding the back triggers – mix and match Capcom & Marvel characters, creating bizarre teams (Thor, Chris Redfield, and Viewtiful Joe anyone?).
Well, that brings our celebration to a close – what do you think of our choices? Are we missing your favourite game based on a comic book?
Let us know!