By Cillian Wilson
Given that Superman is one of the greatest comic book characters, as well as being a hero that has inspired some of the finest comic book movies, it is bizarre that fans are yet to be treated with a truly great video game based on the Man of Steel. While many have tried, and many of those attempts have redeeming features, Superman is yet to enjoy the gaming outing that the character deserves.
It is difficult to pinpoint why exactly Superman hasn’t provided the basis for a successful video game. The hero is blessed with a set of skills that would be the envy of most other superheroes, let alone the mere mortals that play video games. You would think that a video game based on Superman would give players an incredible chance to step into the iconic red boots of the hero and feel a little bit more super than usual.
However, this hasn’t been the case. Sam Stone of CBR has made the bold claim that Superman has never starred in a good video game, an argument which is certainly not without its merits. Stone finds flaws with each release, from the inevitably limited tech of early Atari releases to the odd conclusion of the Superman Returns movie tie-in. The 2006 game had its strengths, like the inclusion of the movie’s glittering cast and the creative use of a health bar for Metropolis rather than the Man of Steel. But the game’s finale saw players take on a tornado as the final boss. Given the plethora of classic Superman antagonists that could have been used, that decision is both indefensible and weird.
While the ending to the Superman Returns game may have blown, another hero has enjoyed far more success in translating from the cinema to the console. Batman is arguably Superman’s greatest rival, whether in lively debates about the best comic book character or in movies that pit the two head to head. The Batman series has yielded a string of blockbuster movies that have inspired video games, with these releases generally attracting more positive reviews than Superman’s equivalent. For example, 1992’s Batman Returns gaming tie-in used a side-scrolling format to much greater success than the Superman game released in the same year.
Batman has also provided the focus for the Arkham gaming series, a critically acclaimed franchise that explores the world of the Dark Knight. In the Batman vs Superman battle in the gaming industry, it is the Caped Crusader who comes out on top. Superman’s inability to occupy the lead role in an exciting video game is all the more surprising given the Man of Steel’s natural tendency to dominate ensemble movies.
However, there have been games that have used Superman in a supporting role more successfully. Injustice 2 takes a darker approach to the DC Universe, but the 2017 fighting game was largely greeted by positive reviews. Superman has also excelled in the lighter environment of the LEGO gaming universe, as a playable character in Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. Of course, both of those games also feature Batman in prominent roles.
Reports that Rocksteady were devising a Superman game sadly proved to be false, but hopefully there is a developer out there who can do this legendary character justice. Here’s hoping that the Man of Steel will soon star in a video game that effectively explores the character’s intriguing background and his remarkable range of abilities.