There’s Still No Super Video Game for the Man of Steel

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.

Source: Pixabay

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.

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June 20, 2019 8:38 pm

I had that Nintendo version from 1988 maybe? Awful. Superman has to take a subway half the time! Haha

My favorite ever was Death and return of Superman… the story lent itself to that kind of beat em up style game. I played a lot of that and Maximum Carnage!

I rented Superman returns and while it looked alright…. eh not much going on there. I did enjoy getting more dialogue Fromm brandon Routh since he had like 10 lines in the actual movie

June 20, 2019 10:50 pm
Reply to  sundevil82

I enjoyed the Superman Returns game. Being able to explore Metropolis and fly around. There were a few things that I thought could have been better. The controls were a bit odd I felt. Super speed while in flight was a bit difficult in my opinion. So was navigating the super power options. I would have liked to have been able to explore the fortress of solitude, Smallville, the Kent farm and see the Kryptonian space ship, and maybe some other planets and locations. Maybe even explore the phantom zone as well. Even the ability to fly up into space… Read more »

June 21, 2019 3:38 am

Do you want to know the real reason that there hasn’t been a great Superman video game? Because video game developers are not creative enough and have limited perspective on what a super hero game should look like. They often try to nerf Superman’s powers or put too much time limits or too much focus on combat instead of focusing on what Superman DOES the best – protecting people from various of perils. There could be three types of perils – villains (They could break a dam, causing water to rush toward Metoropolis), human error (falling planes, building buildings, or… Read more »

June 21, 2019 12:47 pm
Reply to  approuty

In regards to Superman Returns the videogame, I can only speak for myself but I thought that it was a good game. Granted it did have its problems, but I enjoyed flying around Metropolis and exploring the environment. I do agree with you about LEGO Batman 2 and 3. The LEGO Super villains videogame that came out last year also had some fun Superman game play. I only wish that they could have kept the Superman John Williams theme when playing Superman. Maybe they should ask Superman fans and videogame players what could and should be done for a good… Read more »

June 21, 2019 8:18 am

I don’t know about this… I think the Taito arcade game is pretty good for it’s time, and I enjoyed “Superman: Man Of Steel” for X-Box, “Superman Returns” for X-Box360, and “Superman: Shadow of Apokolips” for Gamecube (not the PS2 version). DC Universe Online is also very good, even if you don’t get to play as Superman himself (with a few exceptions). I think part of the problem is that his games have been so few and far between, people tend to forget about them (or at least give them proper context). And while it’s true that we haven’t had… Read more »

June 21, 2019 12:50 pm
Reply to  Kal-Elvis

I agree with you Kal-Elvis. Superman shadow of apocalypse for game cube was a fun game. My favorite level was the Superman vs Metallo level at the end of the game.

June 22, 2019 1:38 pm

I think people are being way too kind towards the Superman Returns video game. That game is bad from start to finish. The novelty of flying and zipping around the city wears off very quick, the combat is bland/repetitive, and the story was awful. It was a very hollow experience. Still holding out hope maybe Rocksteady is just putting on one hell of a poker face denying they’re making a Superman game so they can pull the rug out from underneath us when they do actually announce it. They went pretty heavy with the Superman references in Arkham Knight. It… Read more »

June 22, 2019 1:46 pm
Reply to  cpm72586

What some players like in a videogame, others might not like. I can respect that others didn’t like this game. As I said before, I can only speak for myself, but I liked Superman Returns the videogame. True it does have its problems, but for the most part, I enjoyed playing this game.

June 23, 2019 4:12 pm

*Walks into a local vintage game store, sees Superman 64 in the 99cent bin and decides what the heck…*
Clerk: Are you sure sir?
Me: it’s only $1.11 after tax, no biggie. How bad can it really be?
*Goes home, hooks up the trusty N64 and fires up the game…*
Me: *sobbing uncontrollably*

June 26, 2019 10:24 am
Reply to  afriend

Yeah, the game play for that game is very wonky. I couldn’t even get past the final level. It was just too complicated for me.