Batman vs. Superman in video games
"Batman: Arkham City" (left) and "Superman Returns." (Screenshots)
On paper, it sounds like a lopsided fight. In one corner you’ve got Batman, an ordinary dude who happens to be in pretty good shape and has a lot of money to spend on gadgets. In the other corner you’ve got Superman, an alien demigod who can fly, deflect bullets, lift hundreds of tonnes and incinerate metal with his heat vision.
So, a guy with throwing stars and a grappling hook going up against a guy who can flatten a tanker trunk with his pinky and is essentially invulnerable? Yeah, that sounds fair.
Yet these two titans clash in this week’s long-awaited Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, director Zack Snyder’s second movie in the relatively new DC cinematic universe. And although they turn out to be sort of evenly matched – thanks in part to Superman’s reluctance to squash Batman like a bug, and Batman having some very useful tricks up his armoured sleeve – the same can’t be said for their video-game counterparts.
Superhero games have always been a mixed bag. Some of them do justice to the costumed crimefighters they’re based on (such as 2004’s Spider-Man 2 or 2013’s Deadpool), and some are pretty damn bad (Catwoman, for example, which is nearly as awful as the 2004 film it’s based on – or the inexplicable Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis.)
But as unbalanced as their cinematic slapfight may seem, pitting Batman and Superman video games against one another is an even more one-sided affair, and perhaps not in the way you’d expect. Here’s a small sampling of the best and worst games starring comicdom’s most famous heroes.
Batman: Arkham City (2011 – PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Although last year’s Batman: Arkham Knight on current-generation consoles and PCs was a better-looking game and featured a driveable Batmobile (for better or for worse), this series reached its pinnacle with the previous instalment. Awesome visuals, slick combat and a real devotion to the source material made Arkham City not just the best Batman game of all time, but possibly the best superhero game. SCORE: 5 out of 5
Superman Returns (2006 – PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360)
Based on the so-so cinematic Superman reboot starring Brandon Routh as the Man of Steel, this game approached Superman’s invulnerability in a clever way – instead of Supes himself having a health meter, it’s the city of Metropolis that takes damage if Superman fails to stop fires, meteors and rampaging villains quickly and effectively. While not exactly a great game, the bar is so low for Superman video games that it doesn’t take much to leap over it with a single bound. SCORE: 2.5 out of 5
Batman & Robin: The Game (1998 – PlayStation)
Shocking to think that a video game based on Joel Schumacher’s rubber-nippled, franchise-murdering movie masterpiece could be less than great, hey? While this game allowed players to step into the latex costume of Batman, Robin or Batgirl and patrol a 3D-rendered Gotham (which, for the time, looked pretty great), the sluggish controls, tedious missions and general lack of cool things to do ultimately made it a combination of frustrating and boring — with only occasional flashes of fun. SCORE: 2 out of 5
Superman: The New Adventures (1999 – Nintendo 64)
As many fans of video-game lore are well aware, Superman: The New Adventures (more commonly known as Superman 64) isn’t just the worst Superman game, or even the worst superhero game – it’s widely considered one of the worst major video game releases of all time. Reportedly hamstrung by draconian meddling on the part of DC Comics and Warner Bros., the game has terrible visuals, horrible controls, a limp and powerless Superman, a dumb story, bugs, glitches… the entire thing was gamer Kryptonite. SCORE: 1 out of 5
THE WILD CARDS
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (2012 – PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC and more)
Whether you’re talking about superheroes, Star Wars or Harry Potter, Lego games all have a distinct lighthearted vibe, and the trio of Lego Batman games are no exception. Are they true Batman games? Well, Lego Batman 2 features a who’s who of the DC Comics universe, and it’s full of fun and adventure. That counts, right? SCORE: 4 out of 5
Factor 5’s cancelled Superman game (unreleased – for PS3, Xbox 360)
The folks at awesome gaming history site Unseen64.net recently delved into the Superman game that had been in production by Star Wars: Rogue Squadron and Lair developers Factor 5. Despite the developers’ good intentions and lofty ambitions, the game’s publisher collapsed and brought Factor 5 – and the not-so-indestructible Superman – down with it. SCORE: Sadly, we’ll never know