Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

10 years ago, Injustice: Gods Among Us told the definitive ‘evil Superman’ story

The question of “What if someone with the powers of Superman was evil?” has become something of a cliché in the last decade. From the horror movie Brightburn to Homelander in The Boys, and even DC’s cinematic universe and the upcoming (and recently delayed) game Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, many stories have asked that question. It’s a video game, though, that perhaps most definitively grapples with the topic. A decade after its release on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U, Injustice: Gods Among Us still stands as the definitive evil Superman story.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is a mechanically solid fighting game that’s still enjoyable to play today, but a decade later, its story is what I remember most. It features a believable Superman heel turn, giving us a greater understanding of what makes the caped do-gooder a compelling character while also telling a tragic DC Elseworlds story about how trauma can impact a person.

What makes an evil Superman story work

NetherRealm Studios’ Injustice: Gods Among Us takes place in a world where The Joker tricks Superman into killing a pregnant Lois Lane with toxic fear gas, which in turn causes a nuclear bomb to destroy Metropolis. This causes Superman to snap, kill The Joker, and become a world-ruling dictator who only becomesmore and more crazed over time. One particularly poignant scene that sticks with me is when Batman tries to empathize with Superman about having lost loved ones too, only for Superman’s response to be: “But you weren’t the gun.”

Evil Superman stares at the camera in Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Superman inspires awe with his powers, but many stories where he or a being like him is corrupted are most concerned with the threat of it being a weapon pointed in the wrong direction. Sadly, it feels like a lot of media with an evil take on Superman stops the thought process there, choosing to make him mind-controlled or an inherently evil force from birth. Injustice: Gods Among Us acknowledges and plays into this, but goes even deeper with the idea.

Yes, Injustice’s Superman is scary because of the physical threat he imposes, but there’s also a chilling tragedy in a story about the trauma that can even corrupt one of fiction’s most wholesome heroes. It’s terrifying seeing Superman turn bad of his own volition, something the game fully commits to (like when he mercilessly kills Shazam). To The Boys‘ credit, Homelander was similarly molded from abuse and trauma. Still, there’s something even more powerful seeing this happen to Superman himself and, after that, seeing that corrupted version pitted against a version of Superman that’s still good.

Antony Starr as Homelander stands in a room, looking concerned.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The game’s plot is primarily about the Injustice world’s Batman bringing heroes over from the prime DC universe to help a resistance take down Superman once and for all. Ultimately, the alternate universe’s good-guy Superman is called over to stop Injustice Superman (at least until the events of the sequel). While I was slightly disappointed by this revelation when I first played the game, over time I’ve come to appreciate how Injustice positions this downfall as an Elseworlds cautionary tale rather than something that happens in the main universe.

I like Superman most when he’s a symbol of hope, not fear, but stories like Injustice remind us just how pure Superman is. By directly reflecting two versions of Kal-El together, fans can appreciate the ideal version of Superman even more as they can see what the character refuses to do when he’s at his lowest.

The good version of Superman wins, and that’s for the best. Ending on an evil Superman being in control might sound more plausible, but it isn’t nearly as narratively respectful or satisfying. This fallen version of Superman losing shows the strength of the ideals Superman stands for, as well as respect for the character himself while still delivering the horrific, intense action that people want on a surface level from a story where Superman isn’t holding back anymore.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Stories with evil Superman characters purely focused on spectacle and power don’t work as well for me as the gravitas of Injustice. The fighting game checks all the right boxes, offering a definitive take on this subject, and it’s likely one of the reasons so many pieces of mainstream media have grappled with the idea in the decade since.

Go back and give Injustice: Gods Among Us a shot on PC, PS3, PS Vita, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, or Wii U on its t10th anniversary if you want a reminder of what makes evil Superman stories so compelling and what this kind of narrative looks like at its best.

Editors' Recommendations

Tomas Franzese
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
NYT Strands today: hints, spangram and answers for Friday, May 24
NYT Strands logo.

Strands is a brand new daily puzzle from the New York Times. A trickier take on the classic word search, you'll need a keen eye to solve this puzzle.

Like Wordle, Connections, and the Mini Crossword, Strands can be a bit difficult to solve some days. There's no shame in needing a little help from time to time. If you're stuck and need to know the answers to today's Strands puzzle, check out the solved puzzle below.
How to play Strands
You start every Strands puzzle with the goal of finding the "theme words" hidden in the grid of letters. Manipulate letters by dragging or tapping to craft words; double-tap the final letter to confirm. If you find the correct word, the letters will be highlighted blue and will no longer be selectable.

Read more
NYT Connections: hints and answers for Friday, May 24
New York Times Connection game logo.

Connections is the latest puzzle game from the New York Times. The game tasks you with categorizing a pool of 16 words into four secret (for now) groups by figuring out how the words relate to each other. The puzzle resets every night at midnight and each new puzzle has a varying degree of difficulty. Just like Wordle, you can keep track of your winning streak and compare your scores with friends.

Some days are trickier than others. If you're having a little trouble solving today's Connections puzzle, check out our tips and hints below. And if you still can't get it, we'll tell you today's answers at the very end.
How to play Connections
In Connections, you'll be shown a grid containing 16 words — your objective is to organize these words into four sets of four by identifying the connections that link them. These sets could encompass concepts like titles of video game franchises, book series sequels, shades of red, names of chain restaurants, etc.

Read more
NYT Mini Crossword today: puzzle answers for Friday, May 24
NYT The Mini Crossword logo.

Love crossword puzzles but don't have all day to sit and solve a full-sized puzzle in your daily newspaper? That's what The Mini is for!

A bite-sized version of the New York Times' well-known crossword puzzle, The Mini is a quick and easy way to test your crossword skills daily in a lot less time (the average puzzle takes most players just over a minute to solve). While The Mini is smaller and simpler than a normal crossword, it isn't always easy. Tripping up on one clue can be the difference between a personal best completion time and an embarrassing solve attempt.

Read more