Video games and superheroes go together like peanut butter and jelly. Playing as an iconic comic book character seems like a no brainer, a slam dunk, a home run. The ability to adopt the powers of your favorite super-powered being and save the world is a concept that video games have been pilfering for years, so marrying up some well known heroes with interactive adventures seems like a recipe for endless fun.
While games like the Arkham series have been both critically acclaimed and incredibly profitable, there have been countless horrendous dumpster fires that have dragged the names of some of our favorite comic book characters through the mud. We take a look at a few of the biggest offenders in our list of 12 Terrible Video Games Based on Comic Books.
12. X-Men (Sega Genesis)
Many people have fond memories of this game, but make no mistake, this is a mediocre platformer that has aged terribly. Despite impressive graphics (for the time) that did both the characters and environments from the source material justice, this game removed everything that makes the X-Men super.
This game actually punished the player for using any of the characters’ superpowers, which ranged from employing Cyclops’ optic blasts to brandishing Wolverine’s adamantium claws, quite possibly the defining trait of the plucky Canuck. Ultimately, this game was less like embodying your favorite X-Man and more like going to Comic-Con to check out your friendly neighborhood cosplayers.
11. The Incredible Hulk: The Pantheon Saga (PS1, Sega Saturn)
In order to make a successful game about the Hulk, the character only needs to be boiled down to two simple words: HULK SMASH. This, in theory, should make the development of a Hulk game relatively simple, and yet there have been so many failures.
The Pantheon Saga, however, is the worst offender. Terrible visuals and sound design aside, the game does not make you feel like the Hulk at all. Instead, you are a slightly larger pile of green pixels who lumbers around a research facility, only breaking things like weird transparent partitions. The combat is laughably bad and the story is lackluster.
Sure, interactive (read: destructive) environments are commonplace in games today, but not so much back in the mid-’90s. While some leniency must be afforded due to the technological limitations of the time, the disservice to the character is unforgivable. The developers could have simply taken the beloved 1986 arcade game Rampage, swapped out Lizzie for Bruce Banner, and they would have ended up with a far better game than this garbage.
10. Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage (Sega, SNES)
The 16-bit era was the birthplace for some truly memorable beat ‘em ups that, even by today’s standards, are a treat to play. Maximum Carnage was not one of those games. At first glance, it seems like a no brainer: play as both Spider-Man and Venom and pound your way through waves of unrelenting enemies, utilizing your web shooters or gooey symbiote to even the playing field. It was made even more appealing by the fact that the game was advertised to feature a whole slew of iconic Marvel characters — all of whom proved to be non-playable, of course.
While Maximum Carnage is technically competent as a videogame, it is one that becomes a chore to slog through. Lazy palette swaps of the same two or three enemies against an endless loop of boring buildings and alleyways will make your brain go numb. Add to the fact that all of the cool things Spider-Man can do, like swing from buildings and shoot webs, are essentially useless, forcing you to button mash your way through swarms of copy-and-pasted enemies. and you have a game that commits an unforgivable sin: being boring.
9. Catwoman (XBOX, Gamecube, PS2)
A tie-in based on a movie that has 9% on Rottentomatoes never really had a chance.
Whereas the blatant sexualization of 2004’s Catwoman at least had a legitimately hyper-attractive woman (the lovely Halle Berry) donning the latex, her distorted, pixelated counterpart is downright creepy. The combat is terrible, and the fixed camera often has you making leaps of faith that will force you to run through your nine lives in no time.
Adding to the frustration is the laughably bad dialogue, featuring inane one liners chock full of innuendo. Playing this game for any length of time is guaranteed to make you feel sleazy. Do yourself a favor and avoid it at all costs, just as you do whenever you spot the film in the bargain bin or late at night on cable.
8. Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six (NES)
It’s common knowledge that old games are hard. The technical limitations of the era meant that games were much shorter than the marathon content monsters of today. In order to make these games feel longer, developers simply cranked up the difficulty to eleven.
This was often perceived as a challenge for the player, something to practice over and over again in order to hone the skills necessary for completion. Beating the game was intended to be the ultimate satisfaction. But some games are so savagely difficult, so punishing, that it saps any and all enjoyment out of playing them. Return of the Sinister Six for the NES is one of those games. Horrendous hit detection and obtuse level design made us Hulk smash more than one controller.
7. X-Men: Destiny (PS3, XBOX360, Wii)
The premise of this game certainly had promise. Taking control of a mutant created specifically for the game, Destiny threw players into the middle of an all-out human/mutant race war, giving you the choice to be a warrior for peace or a catalyst for mutant domination.
Unfortunately, you don’t really care about race relations as the three playable characters were, at best, cardboard cut-out stereotypes, and at worst, annoying and mildly offensive. Gameplay quickly devolves into a rote button masher with graphics so dated that they looked like they belonged on a console of the previous generation.
The developers who worked on the game claimed that the publisher, Silicon Knights, effectively cut funding and resources, leaving them high and dry, unable to complete the game as intended. If this game had to be on our resumes, we’d be downplaying our involvement with it as well.
6. Batman: Dark Tomorrow (XBOX, Gamecube)
Luckily for the Caped Crusader, the overwhelmingly positive response to the Arkham series has made most people forget about the character’s gaming blunders of the past. While Batman has had his share of games over the years, most in the form of television or film tie-ins, Batman: Dark Tomorrow stands out for being the worst of the worst.
Dark Tomorrow is truly an embarrassment for the Dark Knight, replacing Batman’s iconic rogues gallery with vicious rodents, substituting the skyscrapers of Gotham for bland buildings and a copy-and-paste sewer system, and reducing the world’s greatest detective down to an incompetent whiner.
Seriously, if you failed to find a secret room where the villains have placed a bomb, Batman dies at the end. Worried that we just spoiled a 13 year old game for you? Considered yourself spared the agony of watching the video game equivalent of Batman and Robin.
5. Iron Man (PS3, XBOX360, Wii)
Most gamers know not to get terribly excited over movie tie-in games. The mere mention of a tie-in game usually implies a rushed job, a transparent attempt to sucker people who liked the movie into buying a game of inferior quality. Despite the fact that Robert Downey, Jr. and Terrence Howard lent their voices to the game, Iron Man was critically panned upon release.
You would think that playing as a rocket propelled tank with lasers would be a slam dunk, but all three versions of the game were plagued with frustrating controls, crummy graphics and repetitive gameplay. GameSpot “awarded” the game with the title of “Worst Game Everyone Played” in 2008, and the Wii version was given a 15% by Official Nintendo Magazine, one of their lowest scores ever.
4. Aquaman: Battle For Atlantis (Xbox, Gamecube)
This game is packed with all of the fun that Superman 64 (more on that gem in a bit) had to offer, but underwater. The vastness of the ocean is reduced to murky environments littered with invisible walls. You read that right, the ocean has invisible walls. It doesn’t help that the buildings of Atlantis are dull and all look exactly the same. Atlantis is also one of the most boring cities ever, real or fictitious, as there is zero activity in this sprawling underwater metropolis, save for Aquaman and the random invaders whose plan for conquest seems to involve sending one dude in at a time.
Actually, given the fact that Atlantis is so barren, one can kind of justify the strategy. Apparently they weren’t counting on a bearded hook-handed man to be floating around this dystopian society 20,000 leagues under the sea. Also, occasionally there are dolphins. Here’s hoping director James Wan has a better vision of what the lost city of Atlantis should look like.
3. Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men (NES)
Sure, there are bad games today, but back in the early days of videogame consoles, bad games were lurking around every corner. One of the easiest ways to dupe consumers into buying one of these crummy titles was to make it a licensed product. Slap the name of some recognizable property on some barely functioning game and watch the money pour in.
X-Men for the NES is the perfect example of such a game. If you’re somehow able to look past the fact that you can barely differentiate between the playable characters due to a top down view which renders them as vaguely humanoid blobs of primary colors, the atrocious level design will surely break your spirit. Ugly, uninspired environments that all look the same will have you wandering around aimlessly while boring enemies chip away at what little remaining desire to play you might have left.
2. Silver Surfer (NES)
The herald of Galactus, consumer of worlds, has a lot on his plate. In order to spare his home world, the Silver Surfer struck a deal that sees him seek out other worlds for Galactus to destroy. Also, he has to dodge a billion 8-bit sprites being hurled at him from all corners of the screen.
Bullet-hell games can be fun, offering a frantic experience that tests the limits of players’ hand eye coordination when they’re done right. When the bullet-hell game in question is Silver Surfer for the NES, it becomes a laborious, downright sadistic “game.” First off, the player must tap the shoot button every time he/she wants to go on the offensive. Most, if not all of these games, simply allow you to hold the button down to lay down a steady stream of fire, but not Silver Surfer. It’s as if chrome dome was the herald of carpal tunnel syndrome instead of a giant, planet eating alien.
1. Superman (Nintendo 64)
It should come as no surprise that this hunk of grey plastic masquerading as a “game” tops our list of worst video games based on comic books. Aside from glaringly obvious glitches like phasing through solid objects, the game was zero fun to play. The last time we checked, when something is called a game, it is usually meant to provide some modicum of entertainment. Superman 64 however, punishes its players with one of the most joyless virtual experiences since E.T. for the Atari.
In the game, Lex Luthor traps Superman in some sort of computer simulation which leaves his powers in a neutered state (i.e. he is no longer faster than a speeding bullet and his motor skills have been reduced to that of a toddler. Get it? So that developers weren’t forced to be innovative whatsoever with their gameplay engine?) Luthor then mines the depths of his sadistic mind and tries to drive Superman/the player insane by forcing him to complete inane, timed challenges, such as flying through rings, like an infinitely more boring version of Pilotwings.
Did we mention that this is a simulation? So nothing you do in the game really matters. This makes Superman 64 akin to the works of Nietzsche, which somehow makes it even more depressing than it already is.
Which comic book-based video game do you despise the most? Be sure to let us know in the comments.