by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 9th October, 2018
Video games are a way for us to escape the bland reality of our everyday lives and jump into boots of some hero who, despite their squat chances, are ready to save the world (unless you play your games on easy, then your chances are rather high). And what's better than to play as superheroes, godlike humans who allowed millions of fans to relive their world-saving fantasies decades before video games became a thing?
The problem is in the fact that we live in a capitalistic world where everything is looked through profit margins, meaning that superheroes are often traded like commodities, with movie and video game rights going to the highest bidder. This usually leads to creating of money grabbing games where getting easy buck from fans in more important than providing them with an unforgettable experience. This, sadly, means that most superhero-themed games are of questionable quality, rushed in order to release in time with the latest movie or made by newly founded studios that do not have the necessary experience needed for creating fun, enjoyable, and engaging games.
Luckily, everyone can create their own superhero and equip them with cool superpowers. And in the case of video game developers, give their superhero their own game. And there are a couple of games that do just that. On the other hand, the sheer number of superhero games revolving around characters owned by big-name companies like Marvel and DC Comics guarantees that some of them have to be good. And lots of them are quality titles with a handful of games that can freely be called amazing. And this list is filled with those amazing superhero games that present the best of what this varied subgenre can offer.
Let's start with a superhero that cannot be found in comics, TV shows, or movies. Delsin Rowe is a rebellious young man who lives in an alternate reality where Conduits, humans capable of getting all kinds of superpowers, live among us, common people. And he is capable of absorbing every Conduit power, but he doesn't discover that until a prison transport carrying three Conduits (who are kept behind bars and officially labeled as bioterrorists) crash near his town. He comes in contact with one of them and gets cool smoke-related powers, and then his story begins.
After the head of anti-Conduit government agency destroys his tribe (Delsin is Akomish Native American) he follows her with vengeance on his mind. His journey leads him to Seattle and then the real fun begins. Infamous Second Son is the third game from the PlayStation exclusive series and it is one of the best superhero games ever. The plot is predictable but it does have a couple of interesting twists, enough to keeps players interested until the end of the game. Characters don't have the depth of some of the best superheroes from Marvel and DC but two Conduit's origin stories can match the quality of some big superhero names.
Delsin's powers are the star of the show. He can fly, teleport, launch powerful projectiles from his hands, and climb buildings by running up their walls. The gameplay is built around using all these cool superpowers in a multitude of ways, creating powerful combos and switching different power sources. Along with amazing visuals (the game still looks extremely beautiful even though it got released in 2014) and solid side quests, the city of Seattle is filled with, Infamous Second Son is an extremely fun game to play and one of the best superhero games ever to be created.
When talking about best superhero games the first titles that come to everyone's mind are Batman Arkham games. Each game of the trilogy can be characterized as the best of the whole series so we must include all three of them because it all comes down to individual preferences. Some love Arkham Asylum and its intimate setting, with secluded Asylum where the game takes places and isolated levels that present a clear contrast to other two games. Some will place Arkham City on the pedestal because the game offered richly filled open world map and an epic story that ended not with a band but with a plot twist worthy of best issues of Batman comics.
And there are always those who prefer the latest title, Arkham Knight, because of its superb visuals, a huge open world map that can be traversed in amazingly designed Batmobile, and its bigger than life plot. But there are a couple of things that work flawlessly in all games. Combat is masterfully designed, its free-flow mechanic and unparalleled fluidity filled with easy to perform combos and brutal takedowns is probably the best part of each game. Then we have hundreds of excellent riddles and environmental puzzles to solve, served by the infamous Edvard Nygma better known as The Riddler. And finally, each game is filled with characters from comics, movies and TV shows with almost every villain appearing over the course of the three games.
This combination of strongpoints makes Arkham games some of the best video games of all time, not just amazing superhero-themed video games. Each game brims with challenging missions, tons of lore hidden all over the game world, and hundreds of engaging set pieces. Arkham games are, aside from comics, the best virtual depictions of Batman and his adventures, topping even Nolan's movie trilogy.
Saint's Row games were always bigger than life titles with crazy fun gameplay that were filled with impossible-in-the-real-world gameplay and cheesier-than-cheese stories. And the fourth game of the series took things to a completely new level. In Saint's Row IV our main protagonist and the leader of Saint's called simply The Boss is the ruling President of the United States of America and everything goes super until aliens invade the Earth. And, of course, The Boss is there to save the world.
The game plays inside a simulation of the city of Steelport known from previous Saint's Row games and since this is a simulation The Boss gets a plethora of superhuman powers. He can run faster than race cars, can travel through the city by performing mile high jumps, is capable of shooting elemental projectiles, and of course, can use telekinesis. This creates varied gameplay that gives players complete freedom on how they want to play the game.
And the game's missions are so diverse you simply cannot get bored. There are usual missions where the player has to destroy everything in sight, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. In Saint's Row IV you can participate in lots of cool races, fight bad guys in 2D, side-scrolling missions, battle giant monsters, take on zombie armies, and participate in lots of other activities. Combine varied missions and superpowers with the game's insane plot filled with quality parody aimed at Sci-Fi video games and movies and Crackdown-like and extremely addictive way of collecting orbs to upgrade your powers and you have one hellishly fun video game that doesn't take itself too seriously but despite its shortcomings, comes with boatloads of fun.
Until Marvel's Spider-Man came out, Spider-Man 2 was probably the best Spider-Man game of all times, and one of the rare few movie-based video games that didn't suck. That's because the game is loosely based on the 2004's movie offering much better story and not trying to be just another rushed video game without any ambition aside from providing a simple interactive experience to go with the corresponding movie. The game's most praised achievement is the way how traversal across Manhattan works. Instead of offering tried and true jumping and flying found in previous Spider-Man games, this one offered a proper web-slinging mechanics for the first time ever. And that free-form web-slinging worked flawlessly, allowing players to travel across Manhattan like a real Spider-Man in an enjoyable and exciting manner.
The game also sported excellent visuals (for the time) and a wide selection of Spider-Man villains along with solid combat mechanics and a wide selection of side missions that infused the game with variety any open world game desperately needs. The end product is an amazing superhero game filled with exciting boss battles, engaging story and lots of cool ways to play as Spider-Man. The only downside was the PC version, which was completely different from console counterparts in the most negative way.
You have a huge selection of Marvel heroes, a story plot set during the Marvel Civil War, solid graphics, and a team-based RPG game with tons of fighting and multitude of ways to use superpowers of your favorite heroes. This is Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, a game where you can create your ultimate superhero team made out of your favorite superheroes and then go on a world-saving journey.
Players have to pick a side (Pro-Registration or the Anti-Registration) in the Civil War during the course of the game, which makes some heroes unavailable (you cannot create a squad with both Iron Man and Captain America, for instance) but the story doesn't focus on the war itself. Instead, it creates a plot that involves both sides trying to save the world from villains who used the Civil War to escape and try to destroy the world.
The game is filled with amazing boss battles and tons of combat encounters. Players can switch members of their four-member team at any moment, meaning you can switch all heroes during the course of just one mission. There are more than 30 playable characters from Marvel universe including fan favorites such as Wolverine, Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Hulk, Luke Cage, Deadpool, and many others. While the first Ultimate Alliance offers better story, this one has more heroes to pick from, better graphics, more engaging and varied combat, and better implementation of various superpowers.
Another movie-based video game that doesn't suck, X-Men Origins: Wolverine the game is light-years ahead of the movie, an achievement worthy of praise. Released along with the movie (which really sucks, to be honest), the game ended up being by far the better part of the pair and it remains in the memory of fans as probably the best game starring Wolverine. It follows Logan through his early journeys and loosely follows the story told in the movie, but also includes original plot not featured in the cinematic version, one of the reasons why the game ended up as a better product. The other reason is the game's fantastic gameplay that features amazing combat borrowing from major titles of the era such as God of War and Devil May Cry and beautiful graphics made in Unreal 3 engine.
You play as Wolverine and during the course of the game you kill thousands of poor soldiers and a couple of villains. The core gameplay combines just a couple of basic attacks which can be combined into devastating combos and there are also ways to upgrade your powers and unlock new ones. Missions are challenging, filled with extremely violent set pieces and ask for real focus because things can get hairy quite often. The combat is fast-paced, bloody, and incredibly satisfying.
The game doesn't stray from depicting all gory and shocking details, like Wolverine piercing his claws through skulls and bodies of soldiers and ripping them in two with gallons of blood covering him again and again, or showing his body becoming filled with lesions, cuts, broken bones, holes even and soaked in blood before he starts regenerating and becoming hole-free again. The decision to go full-on on gore and violence was one of the major strong points of the game, giving fans one of the bloodiest depictions of Wolverine ever (the game was rated Mature, while the movie featured PG-13 rating), at least until we got amazing Logan in 2017.
Deadpool the game doesn't feature extremely detailed graphics, or combat worthy of Batman Arkham games. It doesn't offer a huge world to explore, or varied side missions. It does offer one of the most original stories featured in any superhero video games, varied cast of characters including lots of X-men and notable villains, solid graphics that perfectly catch the spirit of the Deadpool comics, and dozens of scenes where you will laugh at loud.
During the course of the game, Deadpool will join X-men team composed out of Wolverine, Rogue, Psylocke, and Domino and the team will battle villains such as Mister Sinister, Blockbuster, Mr. Shuggums, and Death among others. And of course, there's Cable. And one particular scene involves Deadpool slapping Wolverine for minutes to wake him up, which is one of the best scenes in any superhero video game ever. Overall, the game is filled with charm and quality humor and if you're a Deadpool fan you should definitely check this one out because it really does justice to the character. And it isn't too long; it can be completed over the course of couple afternoons not letting its shortcomings becoming too annoying to abandon the game before completing it.
While its predecessor offered a solid experience the sequel improved on every single field, delivering an extremely polished product. Injustice 2 is one of the best fighting games you can play right now and probably the best virtual depiction of DC superheroes ever. The game excels in all categories from its compelling story and lengthy single-player campaign to the huge number of playable characters to the varied styles of combat each character offers along with a huge number of special moves and a surprisingly balanced gameplay that's extremely hard to offer in fighting games.
The story includes all of the usual elements needed for it to become a fun and engaging experience. You have parallel worlds, betrayals and plot twists, lots of superheroes involved, shocking moments and scenes, and of course, memorable ending. Visuals are top notch, with extremely detailed characters, fantastic animations, richly designed arenas, and over-the-top special effects. The game comes with lots of different game modes catering both to comic fans and gamers who like playing fighting games. And no matter whether you like single player or multiplayer you will be satisfied playing Injustice 2.
There are lots of quality Lego games that include superheroes but Lego Marvel Superheroes is the best of them all. The game includes a stupendously high number of Marvel characters including all fan favorite superheroes. The game includes 180 playing characters in total including Stan Lee who has lots of different superpowers borrowed from Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine, Human Torch, Mr. Fantastic, and others. The game features a story that revolves around Doctor Doom and Galactus, which are the two main villains. But the game includes lots (and we mean LOTS) of other villains taken from many different Marvel comics. The story is lengthy; it includes lots of different locations and a healthy dose of humor. During the course of the game, players will visit lots of different location including a huge Lego depiction of New York (which plays as the game's main open world hub), Stark Tower, HYDRA base, Asgard, X-Mansion, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier.
One of the best things about the game is the way how new characters get introduced to the plot. The game does so in a natural manner, not trying to throw them all at once but by slowly introducing new playable characters as the story progresses and as new missions become available. And as a needed break to the story's fast pace, there are lots of side missions that play in different buildings found around the game. Overall, Lego Marvel Superheroes is one fantastic game, an awesome Lego game and a much better offering than its sequel that came out in 2017. Great for both kids and adults, this is a perfect superhero game to play with your children.
And finally, we come to Marvel's Spider-Man, the latest superhero game that got released just days ago. The world is filled with half-baked Spider-Man games and Sony decided to focus on creating an awesome game as soon as the company got their rights for creating games based on one of the most popular superheroes of them all. That means the game is PlayStation 4 exclusive but at least we got a superhero video game made with passion and love and in co-operation with Marvel, which were involved in writing the story for the game.
The end product is a phenomenal video game and one of the best releases of 2018. Instead of depicting inexperienced Spider-Man who still learns to control his powers, guys at Insomniac decided to give players control of veteran Spider-Man who already faced all of his arch enemies multiple times, and one who perfected all of his powers. This allowed for an exciting story that includes lots of iconic villains from Spider-Man comics.
And the virtual Manhattan is the most detailed and best designed open world found in any superhero game, better than Gotham in Arkham Knight. With the inclusion of seamless web-slinging mechanic, players can traverse the huge open world playground at tremendous speeds, making any location at arms' reach. Detailed animations combined with amazing visuals simply drive you to traverse the city exclusively by shooting webs, even though fast travel is present as an option. The combat is similar to the one seen in Batman Arkham games but suited for a character that is light on feet and not as bulky as Bruce Banner. It isn't polished and as fluid as combat in Arkham games but it is enjoyable, easy to learn, and filled with cool combos and free-flow mechanics.
The campaign is lengthy with varied missions and filled with memorable moments. And instead of offering generic side missions that are put there simply to fill the game with more content, they provide a quality way to spend time in the game and are interesting enough to even top some story missions. Overall, Marvel's Spider-Man can stand next to the best superhero games and it certainly can be characterized as one of the best PS4 exclusives we've seen till date.