Comic book video games are a dime a dozen, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they all deserve to be played. Much like the comics that the games are based on, more often than not, they lie somewhere between mediocre and terrible. That's not to say there aren't plenty that surpass expectations, it's just that since video games have existed, there have only been a select few that come along and make their mark in a big way. So, from button mashing fighters to strategic, open world action-adventures, here are our picks for the best video games to emulate comic books. Let us know if we missed any of your favorites.
Ultimate Alliance 2 (2009)
Consoles: Xbox360, PS3, PSP, PS2, Wii, Nintendo DS
Yes, it would have been very easy to give this one to "X-Men Legends," seeing as how that's where it all began in terms of the style of these RPGs. But "Ultimate Alliance 2" is the most epic of them all — not just in terms of scale and playable Marvel characters, but the story itself is derived from a major event from the comic books. "Civil War," the storyline the video game is centered on, revolves around the heroes of the Marvel Universe being split down the middle, based on their stance on the Superhuman Registration Act, a legislation that would force them to reveal their true identities. This one also gets props for allowing players to choose what side they play on, and the two separate storylines that follow, allowing for a new experience upon replaying.
Injustice: Gods Among Us (2013)
Consoles: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, iOS
Along the same lines as "Ultimate Alliance 2," "Injustice: Gods Among Us" revolves around players pitting heroes and villains against each other, only this time in the DC Comics Universe. But it is the differences between the two games that puts this on the list. First and foremost, this is a fighter game mimicking the style of "Mortal Kombat." More importantly, however, where "Ultimate Alliance 2" was a game based on a comic book storyline, "Injustice" was created to coincide with a comic book series by the same name revolving around an alternate universe where Superman has taken the law into his own hands after killing his beloved Lois Lane due to a devious plan set in motion by the Joker. What more could a fan of comic books and video games ask for?
The Walking Dead (2012)
Consoles: Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita, PC, Mac OS X, iOS
Just like the comic book it is based on, this game from Telltale Games just keeps on giving. What we mean is, unlike every other game on this list, "The Walking Dead" is released episodically, with five playable episodes per season. It is a point-and-click role playing game revolving around brand new characters in the world of "The Walking Dead" comic book series. What makes it a top pick among comic book games is not just its stunning visual and over-the-top graphic violence that fans have come to expect from the series, but it plays like a "choose your own adventure" book, with every decision you make affecting not only future events, but how characters around you perceive you as a person. The trailer alone is enough to wet your whistle.
Sam & Max Hit the Road (1993)
Consoles: PC, Mac OS, DOS, Amiga
Telltale Games now makes Sam & Max games as well, but it was the original game, "Sam & Max Hit the Road" from LucasArts, that put the duo's zany brand of humor on the map. Particularly, it's the banter between these two fictional Freelance Police that sets it apart from other games on this list. It's also loosely based on the 3-part Sam & Max comic book "On the Road" from 1989, so it's a shoutout to fans of the kooky twosome, as well.
Batman: Arkham City (2011)
Consoles: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC, Mac OS X
Batman games have traditionally been hit and miss, with an emphasis on "miss." But ever since "Batman: Arkham Asylum" hit the shelves in 2009, they continue to improve. Along with expanding to an open world in "Batman: Arkham City," we were also treated to another great story, an amazing amount of unlockable costumes and playable characters such as Robin, Catwoman and Nightwing, and a final voice acting performance from Mark Hamill as the Joker that truly takes the cake. However, with "Batman: Arkham Origins" coming out October 25, 2013, this entry on our best games list may very well become obsolete, as the franchise has improved significantly with each new game in the series.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time" (1991)
Consoles: Arcade, SNES, Xbox 360, PS3
In the case of most video games, they get better as they go along, both in terms of story and graphics. We're not saying that this game is the exception, because it's an ugly old arcade game and there have been several better looking games revolving around the heroes in a halfshell since. But unlike most other franchises, there is something about the Ninja Turtles that is just so nostalgic of our childhoods that it's hard to think of any other iteration of them in video game form that we love more (besides, perhaps, the original "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" arcade game). Fortunately, it was also updated for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 as a downloadable game branded "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled."
Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (2000)
Consoles: Arcade, Dreamcast, Xbox Live Arcade, Xbox, PSN, PS2, iOS
This game is simply dork heaven. While it's cool when games like "Ultimate Alliance 2" or "Injustice: Gods Among Us" have superheroes squaring off against each other, it's taken to another level when there is brand crossover involved. Couple that with an impressive 56-character roster including Marvel's Captain America, Doctor Doom, and Wolverine (either Adamantium or bone-clawed) and Capcom's Ryu, Chun-Li, and Mega Man going toe-to-toe in all-out battle, and you've got yourself an ante that has yet to be truly upped, regardless of the fact that there have been three more games added to the series since. It has, however, been repackaged for newer systems, much like "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time."
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game (2010)
Consoles: Xbox Live Arcade, PSN
Released to coincide with the film by the same name (co-written and directed by Edgar Wright) based on the highly regarded graphic novel series, "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game" is indeed the hat trick. This downloadable side-scrolling brawler takes the comic book, which is actually a love letter to video games, which was then made into a movie and then back into a video game, full circle. And if that's confusing for you, then you obviously need to read the comics inspired by video games that became a movie that became a game. Then you'll understand why this game was so perfect.
Ultimate Spider-Man (2005)
Consoles: Xbox, PS2, GameCube, PC, Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance
While "Spider-Man 2," based on the motion picture, was the first true open world action-adventure game for Spider-Man and essentially "Grand Theft Auto" for the superhero (with the exception of not being able to just murder civilians at will), it was improved upon in every way by "Ultimate Spider-Man." Not only are you able to swing around Manhattan and Queens as everyone's favorite wall-crawler, but half of the time you play as his archnemesis, Venom. This, coupled with its "Comic Inking Animation technology" to make it look like you are literally controlling the pages of a live action comic book, make it the best Spider-Man game to date. And also a great transition to our final game pick.
Comix Zone (1995)
Consoles: Sega Mega Drive, Sega Genesis, PC, Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, Virtual Console, Game Boy Advance
While the game itself is not actually based on any actual comic book, we're hard-pressed not to call it a comic book game, so we won't. Plus, it was so much fun and had such a unique style for its time to boot, it had to be the title to cap off this list. The story of a comic book artist named Sketch Turner who is transported into his own comic by a villain of his own creation, it's a wonder this was never made into a feature film. But to get why this was such a great comic book game, you have to see it in action. That's why we've included a video of the first level for your viewing pleasure. Seeee ya! (You'll get that after you watch the video.)