Video games already make us feel superhuman, giving us ways to jump across tall buildings, replenish health with the press of a button, and even slow down time. But superhero video games take this idea to a new level, letting us play as some of our favorite heroes from film and comics. Since the medium began, there have been hundreds of superhero video games spanning various genres, from fighting to action, platformers, and even massively multiplayer online games (MMOs). To this day, players revel in being able to play as their favorite characters from comic books. Judging by the quality of certain upcoming games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Marvel’s Avengers, superhero fans have a lot to look forward to.
Which ones are the best you can play right now? In this list, we’ll go through the absolute best superhero games of all time.
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The notion of creating your own hero as you join your friends online in an MMO seems like something that couldn’t exist — at least not with such a high level of polish. In DC Universe Online, though, that dream becomes a reality. As the name suggests, it features beloved characters from the DC Universe, like Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman, and mixes them with action gameplay — all while you play online. You create your hero and decide exactly which powers they possess. As you play, you partake in missions on huge servers with real-world players present. It offers a healthy blend of customization while always reminding you of your favorite heroes and villains from DC. Thanks to constant support from its developer, it’s a game that is still highly playable in 2020.
Holy moly, Batman! A movie-based game that’s actually good?! While it’s fun to talk about current superhero games for modern systems, we wouldn’t have those beloved titles if it weren’t for the experiences of the past. One of the best superhero games of the NES-era (if not the best) is the movie tie-in called Batman: The Video Game. It corresponds to the 1989 Tim Burton film but adds extra villains and story elements to round it out. What you get with it is a solid action platformer, with excellent music and fun gameplay mechanics that still hold up today. Sure, games have expanded in scope and budget since then, but it’s hard to deny the importance of games like these and their effects on games of the future.
You might not immediately think of South Park when discussing superhero games, but what Ubisoft was able to do with The Fractured but Whole is absolutely worth recognizing — whether you’re a superhero fan or not. It delivers the same delightful turn-based combat from its predecessor, The Stick of Truth, while offering a hilarious satirical story based on superhero films. Sometimes, comic books and films can take their stories way too seriously, so it’s refreshing to see it made fun of in South Park. It feels like yet another highly-polished season of the show, in a playable format. This game manages to have a funny story and solid, satisfying gameplay, giving us one of the most unique video games in recent memory. And with a bold title like that, you can’t really go wrong with The Fractured but Whole.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance (Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS2, PS3, PS4, PC, PlayStation Portable, Game Boy Advance, Wii, PC)
Sometimes, you just want to beat up bad guys with your friends. In Marvel Ultimate Alliance, you get to do just that as you play through a variety of scenarios with your favorite heroes and villains from the Marvel Universe. Its gameplay isn’t the most complex or challenging, but putting together a four-player squad of your favorite Marvel characters is still an immensely fun time. Throw in some campy voice acting and storylines, and you get an extremely accessible, action beat ’em up, full of things to do and skills to unlock. You also might like its two predecessors, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order — the latter of which is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch.
This game might not hold up as it once used to, but 2000’s Spider-Man game was an absolute banger when it came out. It effectively blended the beloved stories and characters from the comics with action-packed gameplay that offered so much variety it was hard to put down. You can see the influence this game had on contemporary titles, and its importance cannot be overstated. It was as if its developers were fully in-tune with the source material, giving us a slew of costumes, villains, and collectibles to have fun with. At the time, we had never seen anything like this in terms of scale and production value. Sadly, there isn’t a great way to play it today, so you’ll have to pick up a PS One or dust off the old N64 to experience this one again (or for the first time).
There is something so satisfying about playing a fighting game as some of comics’ most beloved characters. NetherRealm Studios managed to marry the fan-favorite, technical gameplay of Mortal Kombat to the themes and heroes of DC with the original Injustice: Gods Among Us, and later refined those features with Injustice 2. It includes a dark and gritty story, an interesting loot system, and, of course, your favorite heroes and villains. What’s great about the Injustice games is that they feel like Mortal Kombat but are much more accessible for players of all ages. Who wouldn’t want to pit Superman against Batman to see who really is the best hero? Better yet, it’s highly likely we’ll see another installment on next-generation systems.
What do you get when you mash (or maybe smash) together The Incredible Hulk with open-world features from 2004’s Spider-Man 2 game? You get The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. This is one of the most overlooked games from the PS2 era, and we desperately need a current take on this formula for modern machines. In it, you play as The Hulk, with the ability to scale buildings, throw cars, and — as the name suggests — destroy pretty much everything in sight. Critics praised its visuals and fast-paced gameplay, giving players a compelling story and great voice acting. With smart boss battles and a slew of skills to unlock, we can’t recommend this game enough, even if it is 15 years old at this point.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes is a match made in heaven. The Lego games are already fun and easy to get into, but when you add the tremendous cast from the Marvel universe, along with solid cooperative gameplay, there’s something for pretty much everyone here. It takes the ideas introduced in Marvel Ultimate Alliance and expands upon them, at least in terms of scope. With over 180 characters, each with their own skills and abilities, you could potentially play Lego Marvel for dozens and dozens of hours. Again, like most of the games on this list, you could tell its developers were familiar with the source material and were able to tie in those stories and themes for a fun time.
Praise for X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not something you hear often, but that’s because most people are referring to the terrible 2009 movie when discussing that title. The game of the same name is leaps and bounds better than the movie, which — again — is an unusual occurrence since movie tie-ins are usually awful. In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, you play as the Hugh Jackman version of Weapon X as you viciously and violently take out enemies from the movie and comics. This gruesome, M-rated action game is still remembered fondly for the intense, brutal ways you can take enemies out. This may very well be the best video game version of Wolverine, at least when it comes to capturing his animal-like tendencies. It’s way better than 2003’s X2: Wolverine’s Revenge, that’s for sure.
When you think of your favorite superhero games, you probably think of 2004’s Spider-Man 2. In yet another rare occurrence of a movie tie-in actually being good, Spider-Man 2 evolved many of the beloved ideas introduced four years earlier in the PS One Spider-Man game. Though, thanks to the updated tech, you were able to explore a fully-realized version of New York City from the ground or rooftops while taking out bad guys and saving the city’s citizens. It implemented many of the story elements from the movie of the same name, along with other narratives from the comics and fan-favorite villains like Mysterio. At the time, this was the definitive Spider-Man game, only to be surpassed by Insomniac’s recent entry on PS4. Still, it holds up incredibly well, even 16 years later.
The Punisher certainly isn’t one of Marvel’s front-facing heroes (vigilantes?), but the 2005 game effectively takes the universe and turns it into a third-person action shooter. Now, this is a comic book game. It’s actually very loosely based on the Thomas Jane 2004 film but mainly focuses on elements from the comics. Aside from the excellent cast of characters, including Black Widow, Iron Man, and Bullseye, this game has some of the most over-the-top interrogation sequences, which are used to extract information from enemies. It blends realism with a fun arcade-like score system that keeps you coming back for more. Add in a comically-lengthy list of guns, and you get one of the best third-person action games of its time — and most certainly the best game based on The Punisher.
Batman had been featured in video games many times prior to 2009’s Arkham Asylum, but this version of the character took its audience by storm. It offered dark and gritty themes while letting players actually feel like Batman. Most players will remember its kinetic combat system, allowing you to mix in moves from the Dark Knight’s arsenal of attacks. Many consider Arkham City, its sequel, to be the better game, but Asylum’s tightly compact open world is one of its greatest strengths. With incredibly satisfying Metroidvania exploration, tons of unlockables, and memorable performances from Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, this is still regarded as not just one of the best superhero games ever, but one of the greatest games of all time.
Of course, what superhero list would be complete without Marvel’s Spider-Man? That’s right, this is the definitive Spider-Man game — and for many reasons. Not only does it feature a heartfelt narrative that matches the quality of high-budget films, but it feels incredibly satisfying to play. As soon as you start playing, you’re immediately thrown into the Web Head’s swing, proving Insomniac was confident with what it created. There’s nothing quite like zooming across Manhattan’s tallest skyscrapers, and this game nails every inch of feeling like Spider-Man.
Aside from that, it includes combat that closely resembles Batman: Arkham Asylum, which is, in and of itself, a selling point. With its relatable cast of characters, tons to unlock, and one of the best versions of a photo mode we’ve seen to date, it’s easy to fall in love with Marvel’s Spider-Man as so many millions of players already have. Let’s not forget, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is also on the horizon for release on PS5 later this year, so the future looks bright for Spider-Man and superhero games in general.
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