Most of us don’t yet know who’s going to win when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens this Friday, but we do know Bruce Wayne unquestionably kicks Clark Kent’s ass in the realm of video games. Maybe Batman’s abilities just lend themselves better to video games, or perhaps developers just like the Dark Knight more – whatever the reason, Batman has a surprisingly solid lineup of games to his name.
For those looking to do a little gaming in anticipation of Batman v Superman, here are the 10 best Batman video games made to date…
10) Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii & Wii U, 2012)
I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of Lego’s unending stream of licensed kiddie brawlers, but Lego Batman 2 is definitely one of the best of the bunch. This is the game where the Lego formula expanded in a big way, moving into open world gameplay and packing in as many characters and references as possible. If you love Gotham City and its inhabitants, there’s no way you won’t crack a smile playing Lego Batman 2.
9) Batman: Return of the Joker (NES, 1991)
Batman: Return of the Joker isn’t tied to a movie, so it kind of flew under the radar, but it’s definitely worth a look. Like the movie-based NES Batman game, Return of the Joker is developed by Sunsoft, the kings of good 8-bit licensed games, and shamelessly borrows from numerous NES classics. It has the visual style of Castlevania, the vertical level design of Metroid and the shoot ’em up gameplay of Contra. Also, the game’s packed with “edgy” ’90s-style comic book art for nostalgic millennials.
8) Batman Returns (SNES, 1993)
During the ’80s and ’90s, licensed games were often totally different depending on what platform you played them on, because why not? Games were cheap to produce back then, so creating an original game often made just as much financial sense as doing a port. There were about half-a-dozen versions of Batman Returns, and most of them kind of sucked, but the SNES game was pretty damn boss. A classic Konami-style brawler (they also did the old-school Ninja Turtles games), Batman Returns has great graphics, varied enemies, lots of moves, a level where you drive the Batmobile and digitized images of Michelle Pfeiffer. What more could you want?
7) Batman: Arkham Knight (Xbox One & PS4, 2015)
Batman: Arkham Knight brought the groundbreaking Arkham series to a mostly satisfying conclusion. Arkham Knight looks great, makes kicking ass as Batman more fun and empowering than ever, and is full of thrilling set pieces, although the clunky Batmobile bits and slightly disappointing story do drag things down a bit. Batman: Arkham Knight is a bit disappointing compared to some other Arkham titles, hence the reason it’s not closer to the top of this list, but it’s still great by general licensed action game standards.
6) Batman (Genesis, 1990)
Much like Batman Returns, there were multiple games based on 1989’s Batman, and the Genesis version is one of the best. Made by Sunsoft, Batman for Genesis has a nice visual style that feels true to the Tim Burton movie, and is just a solid action game. It’s more of a brawler than the NES version of Batman, but it also features decent platforming and some of the more entertaining Batmobile sequences you’ll find in a classic Bat-game. Also, unlike the NES game, this one actually follows the storyline from the movie.
5) The Adventures of Batman & Robin (SNES, 1994)
Batman: The Animated Series spawned a couple of video games in The Adventures of Batman & Robin for SNES and Genesis and, thankfully, both games were a fitting tribute to one of the best Saturday morning cartoons of all time. The SNES version of Batman & Robin was produced by Konami and featured a slick art style designed to ape the noir-ish Art Deco look of the cartoon, and great chiptune versions of the classic Danny Elfman-inspired score. Aside from looking and sounding fantastic, the game is just a good, Konami-style brawler/platformer. In terms of faithfulness to the cartoon, the SNES version of Batman & Robin definitely gets top grades, but sometimes some deviation from the source material can be a good thing.
4) The Adventures of Batman & Robin (Genesis, 1994)
Case in point, the Genesis version of The Adventures of Batman & Robin, published by Sega itself, is less true to Batman: The Animated Series, but it’s for the best overall. The Genesis Batman & Robin still mostly nails the animated series’ look, but it completely dumps the Danny Elfman riffs in favor of a heavy, grungy synth soundtrack. That’s not a criticism, because these tunes are nasty sick. In terms of gameplay, this Batman & Robin is faster paced than the SNES take (closer to other Genesis action games like Gunstar Heroes) and features some satisfyingly difficult bosses. It’s a close race, but the Genesis Batman & Robin edges out the SNES version by a pointy Bat-ear.
3) Batman (NES, 1990)
Yup, it’s another Sunsoft Batman game! The best of the bunch, in fact. Batman for the NES doesn’t follow the storyline the Burton movie, but that’s totally okay, because it’s got a murderer’s row of goofy late ’80s Batman villains in it, including KGBeast, Shakedown, Nightslayer and Killer Moth. The game is basically a direct rip-off the classic 8-bit Ninja Gaiden titles, except better because it stars the goddamn Batman. License aside, this game is easily one of the top 10 action games on the NES, and deserves to be played even if you’re a crazy person who doesn’t love the Bat guy.
2) Batman: Arkham Asylum (PC, Xbox 360 & PS3, 2009)
Batman: Arkham Asylum wasn’t just the best licensed game ever made at its time of release, it was simply a groundbreaking game in general. Arkham Asylum‘s combat, stealth and detective mechanics have been ripped off by seemingly every triple-A action-adventure game of the past half-decade, and for good reason – they were brilliant. Arkham Asylum truly put you in Batman’s high-tech cowl, and it probably had the most concise, best-told story of any of the Arkham games to boot. Ol’ Bruce Wayne has been lucky enough to star in a lot of good video games, but this was his first masterpiece.
1) Batman: Arkham City (PC, Xbox 360, PS3 & Wii U, 2011)
There may have been two more Arkham titles after Batman: Arkham City, but this was the true culmination of the series. Arkham City increased the stakes and scale expertly, forcing Batman to run a gauntlet of all his greatest foes across an intricately-designed Gotham City. Jumping 20 feet off a gargoyle onto a bad guy in Arkham Asylum was kick ass, but soaring hundreds of feet off a water tower onto a baddie in Arkham City was breathtaking. I mean, what else needs to be achieved in the realm of interactive entertainment once you have a game where you, as Batman, can grapple from Wayne Tower to GCPD headquarters to take down Mr. Freeze? Arkham City remains a high water mark for Batman and triple-A games in general.
There you are, the best of the Bat. Any favorite Batman games you think I missed? Just want to reminisce about all the times you’ve kicked The Joker in the face? Slide on down the Batpole to the comments section.