X-Men Legends II
The X-Men have the most video game worthy setup of any established superhero team. A collection of people with a wide variety of powers who all know each other and can pull off amazing combos is exactly what we got with the first X-Men Legends game, so it only stands to reason that Rise of Apocalypse blows this concept out of the water.
Success here lies in its most simple concept, which is giving the Children of the Atom a reason to partner with their archenemies the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Apocalypse is pretty much one of the only guys who could get these two groups to get along and quit hitting each other, and while the story doesn’t really play this up much outside of some mission briefing cutscenes, it still feels important to have a team of X-Men and Brotherhood fighting bad guys.
There’s sadly not enough of the villains you can control, though the ones that are available are consistently fun throughout; who would’ve thought that playing Toad would be so cool? Some of the cast may be used more during playthroughs than others, but there’s a good enough spread of powers and moves to where it’s not that big of a deal. It genuinely feels like you’re playing through a comic book event that stretches across multiple series, albeit one that has dodgy voice acting and some clipping issues. Whether it’s by yourself or with your buddies, this game is probably a better vehicle for Apocalypse than the actual movie that came out not too long ago.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
Superheroes and Lego have gone hand in hand with each other for years, but that’s usually been on the DC side of things, at least until fairly recently. Sure, there have been LEGO Marvel toys, but Traveler’s Tales and the toy company have been mostly focused on George Lucas properties and a certain pointy-eared superhero for their games. 2013 was the first game for fans of the House of Ideas, and it ended up being one of the stronger games in the overall franchise.
Like with the DC series, the fun in LEGO Marvel comes in how natural it feels to integrate the wide roster of characters into the game. Even if you’re someone who doesn’t read comics, it does feel like a big deal to have guys like Iron Man and Wolverine traveling to Asgard or the Savage Land. It also helps that the game is consistently funny and playing as each character is enjoyable. It could use some more mission variety, admittedly, and it has a few bugs, but the game overall is more than worth of being called Marvel.
Spider-Man games don’t exactly have the best track record, but this one thankfully stands out among the best. Like other games in the franchise, it’s an open world title, but it manages to avoid the one pitfall that all future games didn’t, which is that the web-shooting and traversal was incredibly simple. It genuinely feels like you’re swinging through New York as the Friendly Neighborhood hero, and it’s easy to just get lost and swing around the entire city.
Another issue that the game thankfully sidesteps is in its story, which exists in the vague time frame of the Ultimate Spider-Man comics. It perhaps relies a little too hard on fans to have read that particular comic arc about Venom, but the dual storyline between Spidey and Venom works and shows how distinct the two are from each other, both in their background and in gameplay. The game’s tagline is “Be Legendary, Be Predatory, Be Both”, and the game definitely succeeds on that front, particularly with Venom. It’s appropriately creepy to have to constantly leech people to survive, and touring the city as a giant black mass of tendrils is definitely jarring when you just get done playing as Spider-Man. These two may be night and day, but the game provides the same amount of fun and awesome when you play as either.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
In some ways, it’s easy to just dismiss Ultimate Alliance as X-Men Legends 3 with a biggest cast of characters. It’s definitely true; the game is totally wearing the skin of Raven’s other dungeon crawler, but it’s definitely not a bad thing. Expanding things to the greater Marvel universe proves to be the game’s smartest move.
You won’t notice that the X-Men are barely in the game when you can have Thor and Moon Knight fight alongside Blade and Ghost Rider. The lineup is the hook of the game, and it’s a good thing that it’s filled with some great characters. Traveling the different corners of the Marvel universe with these guys was fun, and the various cameos and appearances from other mainstays show the care that Raven has for the property. If you missed out on it during its heyday, it may be coming to current consoles too, so here’s hoping we all get to relive some fun memories.
Infamous: Second Son
No one was entirely sure how the future of Sucker Punch’s Infamous franchise would play out following the events of Infamous 2. It felt like the series had ran its course, given its apparently definitive ending. Taking the good route and keeping Conduits alive ended up being a great choice, because it gives us a new character to push things forward.
Delsin Rowe isn’t perfect, admittedly; he’s a bit too obnoxious, and when playing him as a jerk, the overall reasons for going to Seattle don’t make a lot of sense. But he is first and foremost, a thrillseeker, much more so than Cole. It’s fun to just cut loose with the different powers that the game provides you, in particular the boosts to traversal. Could the game use more powers? Certainly, but smoke, neon, and video make for one fantastic arsenal already. For all of Second Son’s faults, it definitely feels fun to use your powers, whether that’s dolly chaining from satellite to satellite to get even higher in the air or using your glow hands to unleash a firestorm of bright lights on your enemies. And really, isn’t that worth the price of admission all on its own?
Injustice: Gods Among Us
Look, there’s just no way to get around how ridiculous the concept of Injustice is. Not so much in its general plot, namely, that DC’s superheroes and villains are punching each other because Superman’s gone evil. It’s ridiculous both in how well it’s been executed and how immediate that everything feels; you don’t need to read the comic to get the full gist of how everything has been set into place for the game,but doing so gives a deeper meaning of the relationships of these characters. And when you consider that, plus how shockingly good the story has largely turned out to be, that’s…ridiculous.
It’s been long joked about that superheroes can never be happy or stay friends because they’re all too busy punching each other (more than apt for this year in particular), but this game takes it to a new level. With Mortal Kombat developers NetherRealm at the helm, the fighting here is incredibly smooth and well-tuned. The roster of heroes, while not perfect, is pretty great and encompasses nearly all the areas of the DC universe you’d expect to great degree. And true to the series’ comic book roots, the super moves are ridiculously awesome. Seriously, watching Batman run someone over with a Batmobile is kinda stupid, but also really freaking cool.
Injustice may be viewed by some as trying too hard to be edgy, what with the melting kids faces and casually dismembering multiple characters in the blink of an eye. As stupid as all that stuff can be, it fits in with the overall universe: completely overblown, but not enough to bring the whole thing down. It may be more fighting than superhero game, but it’s a damn fine one that goes all in on its stupid concept.
Saints Row 4
The evolution of the Saints Row series from GTA knockoff to its own thing is something to commend. While the second game in the series is plenty fun, the third game is where the series has truly come into its own by having air strikes, dildo bats, cat men with giant heads, and giant naked clones. How do you elevate things from that? Superpowers.
Saints Row 4 is a game built on utter crazy. You’re the President and get kidnapped with the other Saints by an alien dictator, then end up placed in a virtual simulation of Steelport and eventually get superpowers. Just that sentence alone seems crazy, and the game embraces that with gusto. It’s just fun to use the core four powers offered to you (along with the different types each one has), and nothing can beat running on water and flying around while Walk the Moon plays. If superhero movies are all about answering the call to heroism, Saints Row 4 gives a middle finger to all that so you can perform flaming body slams and launch black holes. And isn’t that much better?
It doesn’t sound like playing as a cop would be any fun, but Crackdown proves that notion wrong. Instead of playing as a lawbreaker with enough guns and explosives to rival a small private army, you’re on the thin blue line and commissioned to take out crime lords across Pacific City. The true fun in the game comes from tackling the lieutenants any way you see fit, plus boosting your abilities to become even more of a badass.
Crackdown is a game that rewards you for collecting and just screwing around at every opportunity you get. Keep shooting, driving, and jumping, and your powers get stronger and you can take on anything the three gangs throw at you to the point where you’re basically Iron Man with better mobility. Sure, killing and driving are the skills that players will most likely want to boost first, but the Agility Orbs strewn throughout the city will take up more of your time than either of those combined. It’s crazy how addicting it is grabbing those Orbs…
Is there anything more superhero than shooting racists and mutants in New Orleans? If there is, Infamous 2 didn’t get the memo, but that still makes it one of the best games to enact your heroic (or villainous) desires. The first game was all about Cole learning to become a hero, and this one is all about expanding that power like a balloon.
Sure, lightning is a cool power and all, but you gotta go bigger. The game constantly rewards you for experimenting with new powers and sub-powers that make combat even more fun, and it simply gets addicting just grinding on the rails shooting dudes with flaming rockets. Perfectly going hand in hand with the powers are the bad guys, escalating from dudes with assault rifles to giant swamp monsters and ice titans the size of buildings. Even if you don’t play as a hero, you’ll definitely feel like one as you go up against them with everything you’ve got. Any chance this could get a PS4 remaster, Sucker Punch?
Batman: Arkham City
You know what they say, it’s the second one that’s the best. Arkham Asylum is a great game, for sure, but City is just downright fantastic. While there’s nothing exactly new under the sun here (save for being able to pull off two takedowns at once), but the stuff that didn’t work in the first game got refined, and everything else became even more awesome. The combat got greater, the flying feels smoother, and the main story mode is a blast from start to finish. And once that’s done, there’s plenty of fun open world stuff for you to kill time in. (Except the Riddler trophies, because eff those.)
Still, as great as all the gameplay stuff is, what really sticks out for Arkham City is just how well it blends the different elements of Batman’s history together. It gets a little convoluted, admittedly; there’s a detour with Penguin and Solomon Grundy that doesn’t entirely work. But the story overall is incredibly well written and performed, with the standout once again being Mark Hamill as the Joker. Its confidence in casually flipping the deck on certain Batman tentpoles, plus the confidence it carries throughout the whole game, make it the best superhero game in its league.
What’s your favorite superhero game? Let us know in the comments below.