With the San Diego Comic Con all settled down, I got to thinking about the growing presence of video games at the convention. This then led me to a realization: there wasn’t a single game announced based on a comic book. That’s ludicrous.
Comic books and games just go hand-in-hand. There are so many great examples of games based on comics, yet the only thing we’re getting this year is Deadpool. That game isn’t even great, so what gives?
Well, I figured I would take a look at the past and rank some of my favorite games based on comic books. I love gaming and I really like comics, so why not? Without further delay, here are my personal top 5 favorite video games based on comic books.
5: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game
Now, this one might be cheating, but Scott Pilgrim is technically a comic book. More specifically, it is a graphic novel, but the game is just righteous in its attitude and style. Mixing a setup like River City Ransom with an overworld ripped straight out of classic SNES titles, Scott Pilgrim wastes no time in bringing the action to the player.
Better still are the boss battles. Each one has a unique style that feels wholly different and requires a new tactic to surmount. Couple that with a superb soundtrack by Anamanaguchi and four player co-op, and you have the best modern example of beat-em-ups since Castle Crashers.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve beaten this game. I think it’s around 12, but I love every second of it. Taking a weapon, hurling it at a guy’s face, and then air juggling him until my thumb goes numb; nothing is more blissful than that. I’m also very fond of the random video game references thrown into the various stages.
That soundtrack, too! SO GOOD!
4: The Punisher (1993)
If there is one genre Capcom perfected in the early 90’s, it was the beat-em-up. While Street Fighter took numerous iterations to get down pat, Capcom was knocking ’em out of the park with every beat-em-up they crafted. Dungeons and Dragons, Captain Commando, King of Swords; the list is virtually endless.
Still, The Punisher has some of the best mechanics I’ve ever experienced in a beat-em-up. No weapons around to help with the carnage? Why not just pick up the bad guys and use them? Tired of punching dudes to death? Grab a pistol and open fire!
The game is also superbly paced. Most beat-em-ups tend to grind towards the end. Enemies repeat and bosses become mini-bosses and eventually regular cannon fodder. The Punisher avoids that by creating unique stages with ever changing enemies around each corner. Some bosses do return, but usually with a totally different squad of thugs behind them.
There is also a full co-op mode with Nick Fury as back-up. The characters aren’t the same either, so now you and your best friend can fight over who gets to be a badass with an eye patch. This game is just splendid, and I really wish Capcom would give us an XBLA/PSN release.
3: Marvel Vs. Capcom 2
Fighting game fans and comic book aficionados were given a rare treat when Capcom decided to combine forces with Marvel in the 90’s. Instead of focusing solely on the X-Men license, Capcom decided to span off into the different characters and give practically everyone a respective game.
When X-Men was morphed into a fighter, though, there was only one logical course that could be taken. Street Fighter was dominating the arcades, but what if you mashed the two together? Enter Marvel Vs. Capcom, and the rest is history.
This game has one of the largest rosters of any fighter ever. The ability to 3 v 3 tag with your dream team of Capcom and Marvel characters is just crazy. The amount of different assists and moves mixed with some great counters for spammers and tag maneuvers just blows my mind.
I still haven’t figured out every facet of this game and it’s nearly 15 years old! Homages to Marvel comics in the stages and all of the great Street Fighter sound effects and combinations fill my heart with joy. Even when I’m on a losing streak, I still have a blast playing this gem.
This game was also a fantastic introduction to some of the lesser known Capcom and Marvel franchises for me. I never knew who Strider Hiryu or Silver Samurai were, but now they are forever a part of my memories. Ninjas just rule.
2: Batman: Arkham City
I wasn’t very big on Arkham Asylum, but I loved the idea of getting Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil together to do a finale for the Batman: Animated Series. While this isn’t official, I still believe these games fit into the Saturday morning cartoon of my youth.
They also made Batman enjoyable. While some of the past Batman games are definitely fun, you could have easily swapped out the Dark Knight for anyone else. With the Arkham games, however, Batman’s keen sense of character is a requirement.
Things like the gadgets Batman uses to see his foes through walls and abilities from his martial arts prowess are all explored in depth. Arkham City also gives you an entire city to play around in, lending the sense of a hero stalking the streets for crime.
Arkham City includes some of the best boss battles around, as well. I really love the battle with Mr. Freeze, but no two fights are the same. You are always looking for new tactics to conquer your foes, even in the mundane battles with thugs on the streets.
The presentation lends to this a lot, but even with next to nothing in terms of visuals, the gameplay is just rock solid. Fluid combos, numerous gadgets, and varied level design; Arkham City just has it all.
1: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time
I made sure to type out the IV, as I think the arcade version of this game is just generic. The SNES port is easily the best beat-em-up ever made. Taking out the element of random from the attacks and including levels that are focused on the added moveset, TMNT IV is just amazing.
The graphics and music combine into a smorgasbord of pure joy that has made me crack a smile ever since I was 7 years old. Getting my hands on one of my favorite cartoon shows is a feeling I’ll never forget. It doesn’t hurt that all these years later, the great design still holds up.
Each level focuses on a new theme. That may be prehistoric times, futuristic vistas, or the backstreets of New York; nothing is out of the realm of possibility here. The enemies all have unique strategies for attacks that require a different movement to avoid. You cannot simply mash buttons and expect to win.
The boss battles are also staged so very well. Cinematic when necessary and filled with buckets of charm, TMNT IV never lets up on its polish. About the only downside to the SNES version is that it’s not 4 players like the arcade version.
Even with that downgrade, extra levels and expertly retooled music make up for it. I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of Turtles in Time. The crappy remake for XBLA and PSN won’t tarnish my memories, either.
So we may not be seeing a huge amount of comic book based games this year, but at least the past is filled with plenty of classics. If I didn’t limit myself, I probably would have just included Capcom games on the entire list.
Here’s to the future of games based on comics. Hopefully we see more Turtles in Time and less of Iron Man 2. I really do not want another half-assed movie game cropping up again.