"Batman in Games: The Top 10" (Part 1 of 2) Author: Ryan Hoss
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article originally appeared on BOF in February of 2013. Since it comes from BOF's archives, it does not include BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS or the upcoming (as of April 2014) BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT; though I'm sure both would have made the list. Enjoy! - Bill "Jett" Ramey
Dishonorable Mention: BATMAN FOREVER
(SNES, Genesis, Game Boy, Game Gear)
I can say without hesitation that Acclaim’s Batman Forever tie-in (on any platform) is the worst Batman game, period. For some reason, the developers took the control scheme from a two-player fighting game like Mortal Kombat and used it in a side-scrolling platform/action game.
The results were horrendous. The combat itself was awkward and unresponsive. And then, when there were points in a level where you needed to use your grappling hook to climb up a level or drop down a level, the controls to do so were laughably ridiculous. On the SNES, to use the grappling hook, the player must press the “up” button slightly after pressing the select button. After seeing countless videos and discussions online about how terrible this game was, I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks so.
BATMAN FOREVER: THE VIDEO GAME
Honorable Mention: Batman & Robin (PS1)
Yes, we all know that Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin was a terrible movie. And yes, the game for the original Playstation is pretty terrible as well. However, the developers at Probe Entertainment incorporated a surprising amount of innovation into the game, even if the overall package was lacking.
Long before Batman: Arkham Asylum or Arkham City, the Batman & Robin game actually puts the players in a sandbox world. The player can become Batman, Robin, or Batgirl and explore Gotham in their own unique vehicles while completing missions. The game even incorporates real-world time: for example, if you don’t do your detective work and find out that Mr. Freeze is going to rob a bank at 5:00 A.M., he’s still going to rob the bank and Batman is going to look pretty stupid.
And speaking of detective work, the game actually has two control schemes – one for fighting and another to find clues. The only problem is that they work terribly together. So if you wanted to punch a guy off a balcony and glide down to finish him off, you had to awkwardly switch between the two sets of controls to do so. Overall, the game had an interesting vision but poor execution.
BATMAN AND ROBIN: THE VIDEO GAME
10) The Adventures of Batman and Robin (Genesis)
As a kid, my video game systems tended to favor the Nintendo side, so I didn’t have the chance to enjoy The Adventures of Batman and Robin when it was first released. Luckily, I bought this pretty awesome laserdisc player at a flea market and flipped out when I learned that it had a built-in Sega Genesis!
Naturally, I picked up anything Batman-related I could find for the system. In my opinion, this adaptation of the animated series rises above the others on Sega’s console. It’s not as polished as the SNES game and doesn’t capture the look and feel of the series as good, either, but it does have a couple of good things going for it.
One of these pluses is that unlike the SNES game, the Genesis version features two-player co-op, with one player as Batman and the other as Robin. And although I did say the graphics in this game didn’t capture the show as good as the SNES, that doesn’t mean the graphics were bad. One of Sega’s big selling points for the game was “revolutionary animation and special effects” using a proprietary 3D sprite driver.
And man, they weren’t kidding. Even today, I can look back at some of the effects they pulled off in this game and it gets NUTS with explosions in your face, lots of on-screen enemies, and the occasional 3D-esque environments that were seamlessly integrated into a 2D world.
THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN AND ROBIN - THE VIDEO GAME
9) Batman: The Animated Series (Game Boy)
I just had to get a Game Boy game on this list! Nintendo’s original handheld system is one of my favorites. I’m still amazed by the great things game developers were able to do with such limited hardware.
Out of all the Batman games released for the original Game Boy (there were 4), Batman: The Animated Series is definitely the best one. Here’s some trivia: it’s the only video game with “B:TAS” as the title, and it’s the first game that lets you play as Robin. And, the game’s storyline takes place a bit before Harvey Dent’s transformation into Two-Face.
Unlike the Genesis version, however, B:TAS for the Game Boy is a single-player affair. Instead of letting you choose whether you wanted to play as Batman or Robin at will, the developers at Konami took a more creative approach. If you hadn’t spoiled yourself, playing as Robin was actually a surprise! At two points in the game, Batman has to go off on another villain’s trail, leaving the player in control of Robin.
Villains like Joker, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, The Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and The Riddler all make appearances here. For a Batman game that can fit in your pocket, that’s no small feat.
BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES - THE VIDEO GAME
8) Batman Returns (SNES)
BATMAN RETURNS – as a film – is probably the most divisive Batman movie to date. Some love it and will defend it to the death, while others hate it and consider it unwatchable. However, Konami’s Batman Returns for the Super Nintendo is an absolute blast to play. The gameplay is very similar to Capcom’s Final Fight series, but with a Batman makeover. It’s a great example of a game developer taking an established game genre and not only putting their own stamp on it, but enhancing it at the same time.
The game’s controls are pretty simple and easy to pick up, giving the whole affair a very arcade-type feel. Batman can punch, kick, glide, use gadgets, etc. And beyond your standard combat moves, you can grab enemies by the scruff of their collars and smash them to the ground. You can throw them into storefronts and shatter glass everywhere. And, just like in the movie, you can take two thugs and bash their heads together. Pretty satisfying stuff!
Beyond the gameplay itself, the developers really captured the look and feel of the film, and took the trouble to get a lot of Danny Elfman’s now-famous score into a 16-bit format. If you want to play a 2D Batman game that’s about nothing but punching bad guys in the face, this is the Batman game for you.
BATMAN RETURNS: THE VIDEO GAME
7) Batman: The Video Game (NES)
I have a strong suspicion that Batman: The Video Game for the NES was “THE” Batman game that a lot of kids from the early 90s grew up with. I didn’t get to experience it until six or seven years after it was released, but when I first played it, I was hooked.
The game’s infamous difficulty is on par with a lot of other NES titles released around that time, such as Ninja Gaiden or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But that wasn’t a bad thing. The game was good. The controls were responsive, the boss levels were challenging, and the 8-bit music still gets stuck in my head. And, like in Ninja Gaiden, Batman can wall jump to scale incredible heights!
There are a few negatives, though. Some of the other games based on BATMAN ’89 (like the Sega Genesis or Arcade versions) do a better job of capturing the style of the film. The NES game is most certainly a game first and an adaptation second. The game’s cut scenes feature moments from the film, whereas the levels themselves don’t follow the plot so tightly.
Although it’s not the most faithful adaptation in the world, it’s still one of the Batman video games I revisit most often.
BATMAN: THE VIDEO GAME
6) The Adventures of Batman and Robin (SNES)
It wasn’t very hard to find a spot for this game on the list. Out of all of the 2D game adaptations of B:TAS, The Adventures of Batman and Robin for the Super Nintendo is by far the best. At one point, the game was actually titled Batman: The Animated Series, just like the Game Boy game, but it got held back so it could be released just as the animated series changed names for its second season.
Although the game was developed as a single-player, “Batman only” game, the developers then included Robin (in non-playable form) in some of the game’s levels and cut-scenes to match the show’s new title. Not having a playable Robin was one of the game’s few criticisms, but it never bothered me a bit.
What makes this game so special is how closely the developers at Konami were able to emulate the style and feel of the animated series. The game is broken up into a number of “episodes” that were based off actual episodes of the series, and each one had its own title card and cut-scenes to set up the story.
Plus, the boss levels in the game were just spectacular. In the game’s very first stage, you get to fight The Joker, while riding on an out-of-control rollercoaster, reminiscent of the “Be a Clown” episode. The game also takes cues from “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich”? And MASK OF THE PHANTASM. So yeah, this game is awesome!
THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN AND ROBIN: THE VIDEO GAME