5) Lego Batman/Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Over the past couple of years, the two entries in the LEGO Batman series have been an incredible counterpart to the more hardcore and gritty fare offered by Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. By the time developer Traveler’s Tales got around to giving the Batman makeover to their LEGO video game formula, they had learned so much from their previous games that the original LEGO Batman was allowed to achieve greater heights than what had come before, with a huge number of playable characters and Bat-vehicles at the player’s disposal.
It should come as no surprise that LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes took things even further. Not only is the game gorgeous, but Traveler’s Tales turned Gotham City into a fully explorable sandbox, so the player can fight crime at their leisure, or seek out the more linear levels with the story points.
Another plus to these LEGO games is that they’re a blast to play with a friend. The co-op gameplay allows a second person to drop in or out of the game at will. And, the developers do a great job at respecting the source material while having fun with it at the same time.
LEGO BATMAN/LEGO BATMAN 2: DC SUPER HEROES
4) Batman: Vengeance (PC, PS2, Gamecube, Xbox)
Way back in 2001, I was greatly anticipating getting Batman: Vengeance for the Gamecube that I had just received for my 14th birthday. The Gamecube was my first “launch day” game console, and there hadn’t been any fantastic Batman games in quite a few years. As soon as Vengeance was announced earlier that year, I followed every scrap of news I could find, hoping to goodness that this could game could be “my” Batman game.
And it was.
Vengeance was the first breath of fresh air after the games for Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, and Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker. Ubisoft Montreal took the style and characters from The New Batman Adventures and brought them into the third dimension. With a fantastic original story, fluid character animation, and gorgeous cut-scenes brought to life by the likes of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, Batman: Vengeance had a lot going for it.
Still, it’s not a perfect game, with the game’s combat system being a little simplistic and a cumbersome first-person mode to use your Bat-gadgets. However, those nitpicks are something that the 14-year-old me got over real quickly because the rest of the game is so good. Plus, a good chunk of the plot features Mr. Freeze, and it’s (to date) Michael Ansara’s last performance of the character. That alone is worth the price of admission.
3) Batman: Dark Tomorrow (Gamecube, Xbox)
For those of you familiar with this game’s infamous reputation, you might be wondering exactly how it made the #3 spot. Consider this: which Batman video game first incorporated stealth in addition to combat? Which one had a sword fight with Ra’s al Ghul? Or had a comic book prologue? And which game’s storyline was written by one of the Batman comic book writers?
That’s right. Arkham Asy…wait, no. That was actually Kemco’s Batman: Dark Tomorrow. For all of its flaws (mostly stemming from the poor camera controls), this game was extremely ambitious and paved the way for more…ahem…”polished” Batman games down the line.
If you can’t get into the game itself, check out the game’s CG cut-scenes online – they’re amazing! Also, the game’s main theme was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and is most certainly on my list of great Batman themes.
And if you do pick the game up, do yourself a favor and get the Nintendo Gamecube version. The graphics are better, Batman’s cape animations are much more fluid and lifelike, and there are bonus items throughout the game that unlock concept art and music tracks. The Xbox version was a rushed port, so it isn’t as polished and doesn’t have any of the bonus stuff.
I think it’s pretty apparent that I have an odd fondness for this crummy game that could’ve really been something special under the right circumstances. I will say that only the most die-hard Batman fans should give Dark Tomorrow a shot. So…everyone reading this article, right?
BATMAN: DARK TOMORROW
2) Batman Begins (Gamecube, Xbox, PS2)
In my opinion, the tie-in game for Batman Begins is one of the most underrated video games based on a licensed character out there. Developer Eurocom did such a commendable job translating Christopher Nolan’s revitalized vision for Batman into the digital realm.
So many things the developer did in the game just make sense in the way that they were able to take ideas and events from the film and translate it into gameplay. For example, most video games have a training or tutorial level designed to familiarize the player with the controls and gameplay. So, naturally, for the training level in the Batman Begins game, you get to control Bruce Wayne in Ra’s al Ghul’s Himalayan fortress, learning how to strike from the shadows at the heart of criminality. Seriously, how cool is THAT?
By the time you take control of Batman and start taking out thugs left and right, you learn that the direct approach isn’t always the best one. A good portion of the game is learning how to use the environment to your advantage. “Mind your surroundings,” as it were. Once you fill up your “indimidation” meter, your enemies are at their most vulnerable. So, yes, Batman Begins is quite literally an “intimidation game.”
And to top it all off, Batman Begins has the best driving sequences in any Batman game to date. Two of the game’s levels have you barreling through Gotham in the Tumbler, and it’s extremely satisfying and does a great job of putting you in the driver’s seat. It’s such a shame that the game doesn’t really get the praise it deserves
BATMAN BEGINS: THE GAME
1) Batman: Arkham Asylum/Batman: Arkham City (PC, PS3, Xbox 360, WiiU)
Come on, how could I NOT put these two games at the very top of the list!
These games are so damn good that not only did Batman fans take notice, but so did the entire game industry. Arkham Asylum and Arkham City are now the benchmark for how to handle a video game for a licensed property, and for good reason. The games’ developers, Rocksteady, had the time, budget, and passion required to turn what could have been a quick, run-of-the-mill cash-in into two of the most critically acclaimed video games in the past decade.
Seriously, these games have just about everything you could hope for in a Batman game (except for maybe driving The Batmobile). Everything these games have to offer gives the player something just as rewarding as experiencing Batman in any other medium…only in these games, YOU get to be Batman. The controls, gameplay, graphics, score, story, re-playability…everything in these games has a level of polish and detail that’s hard to match.
In my opinion, the best thing to come out of these games is that we now have an “Arkhamverse” – a set of characters and continuity that the games can claim as their own. Not only does that set these games apart from everything else on the market, but it gives us yet another interpretation of The Dark Knight for us all to enjoy