A lot of comic book characters have multiple titles featuring them (Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, X-Men etc) but very few have sequel games that are connected, even fewer still have sequels that are successful. Here’s a list of 10 series that made an impact in the world of comic book games at large.
10 RADICAL’S HULK SERIES
In 2003 Radical Entertainment produced a tie-in game to the first Hulk from Universal pictures that was leaps and bounds better than the movie it was inspired by. It was a fun, if repetitive brawler that for the first time ever let the player really feel what it was like to step into the shoes of Marve’s jade giant. Not more than a little over two years later, the developer returned to the franchise with The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Radical took everything they learned and fleshed it out in every way possible: Linear levels? Gone, repetitive beat-em-up gameplay? Replaced with a variety of missions and side distractions. To this date, no one has done the Hulk in a video game quite like Radical and you have to wonder what more could be done that wasn’t featured in Ultimate Destruction. After the completion of their Hulk games, Radical went on to make the Prototype series that featured elements similar to those titles, and designer Eric Holmes would go on to work for WB Games and the “Arkham” series entries Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition on the Wii U as well as Batman: Arkham Origins.
9) THE DARKNESS SERIES
Early into the life cycle of the PlayStation 3, early adopters were starved for new games after quite a long drought between the systems launch and the downpour of games that would arrive in the fall. During the summer of 2007, Starbreeze Studios released their next effort after the very well received The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay that couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Set in the world of the popular Image/Top Cow universe, The Darkness was a game that featured the same atmosphere and story-telling chops as Riddick, combined with excellent voice acting and Darkness powers to play around with. The game wouldn’t get a sequel until 2012 from a different development company with a more linear approach, but nevertheless it shares the same great universe just told in a different way. These games compliment each other very well, and though I doubt it will ever happen, I hope that 2K return to this world again.
8) MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE
Having cut their teeth on the X-Men franchise, developer Raven software widened their scope beyond Marvel’s merry band of mutants with Marvel Ultimate Alliance. MUA could almost be considered X-Men Legends 3, as it plays almost the same as that series of games, but it also brings in heroes from all corners of the Marvel Universe and puts them into just as many varied locations, making it a Marvel trivia’s fan dream game. A sequel would arrive three years later, from long time Activision collaborator Vicarious Visions, but whereas the first game featured an original story, the sequel would borrow from a few Marvel event series, mainly Civil War, and allowed you to play from both sides of that conflict. There’s a handful of games with the word “Avengers” in the title, but none fit the bill quite as well as the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games.
7) SPIDER-MAN 2000
The Spider-Man franchise went dormant after the 16-bit era and remained so for the majority of the 32-bit era as well. It came back in a big way in the year 2000 with the release of Spider-Man from publisher Activision and developer Neversoft who showed the world just how much fun it was to play as the character in the third dimension. It also featured a story that paid respect to the character, and incorporated famous members from Spider-Man’s rogues gallery as bosses. It was followed a year later by Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro, also from Vicarious Visions, and while that game didn’t evole much beyond Spider-Man 2000’s template, the same gameplay type would be found mere months later in the Spider-Man movie game from Treyarch, who would in turn bring Spider-Man to the open world genre in Spider-Man 2. Though Spider-Man games have gotten so much grander than the PSOne days, the series owes so much to the work done by Neversoft and Vicarious Visions.
6) SUNSOFT’S BATMAN
Sunsoft gave the world not only the first 8-bit Batman game, but the first ever super hero film tie-in. Besides being both of those things, Batman: The Video Game is also a slick action game that stands toe-to-toe with other classic action games on the NES. Great graphics, tight control, and unforgettable music, this is a game that shows off why we still hold NES games in such high regards today. Its sequel would not be based on the follow-up Tim Burton film, Batman Returns, and would stand as a sequel that took inspiration from the comic pages in Batman: Return of the Joker. Not only did it differentiate itself in theme, but play type as well. Batman traded in his punches and wall jumps for a Bat-jetpack and a batarang launcher with endless ammunition. It’s debateable as to what game is better, it comes down more to taste really, but neither should be missed out if you’re a sucker for retro action games.
5) X-MEN LEGENDS
X-Men games existed since the days of the NES, but no one really used the license quite like Raven did in the X-Men Legends series. It allowed players to create their own team of mutants and customize their gear and powers however they saw fit, better yet you could bring a friend along for the journey as well. Adding to the package was Sir Patrick Stewart reprising his role as Professor X from the X-Men films in both games. The first Legends was a good jumping off point, but the formula was refined even more with its sequel, X-Men Legends 2: Rise of the Apocalypse. It brought in more characters, additional outfits and the ability to play as fan favorite villain, Magneto. The worst thing that can be said about the Legends series is that the last chapter teased a third entry that we’ll probably never get to see.
4) LEGO SERIES
No Batman game in existence let you play as more characters from the series long history than the first Lego Batman. Not only could you play a full campaign from the side of good, but a full fifteen mission story where you were on the opposite side of the batarang. The next chapter, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, introduced full voices for the first time ever in a Lego game, and also allowed players to explore an open world Gotham city in a plethora of vehicles and as well as other heroes from the pages of DC comics like Superman and the Flash. Last year TT Games, the developer behind the long running series, turned their attention towards the Marvel license and gave us quite possibly the most comprehensive Marvel game ever, bringing in street level heroes like Spider-Man, The Avengers, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. TT Games will return once more to the DC world in two months time with the third chapter in the Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham.
3) “VS.” SERIES
The popularity of Marvel took a down swing in the mid-part of the 90’s, with the publisher going into bankruptcy. That didn’t stop Capcom from acquiring the license and producing some of the greatest fighting games that are still played in tournaments today. Starting with the X-Men in Children of the Atom, the publisher then moved into the Marvel Universe proper before crossing the X-Men with the pugilists from the Street Fighter franchise, and eventually Marvel against Capcom as a whole. Whether you’re a hardcore fighting game fan who knows every frame of animation in Magneto’s super moves or a casual fan who wants to throw down with a friend as some of their favorite Marvel characters, the “VS.” series will take you for a ride.
2) THE WALKING DEAD
Adventure games, a genre that many though dead, saw a resurgence thanks in no small part to Telltale Games. The company found success working within popular franchises like Monkey Island as well as Sam and Max before taking over popular film licenses like Jurassic Park and Back to the Future. 2012 saw the most ambitious series released from the publisher to date with their series of games based on The Walking Dead, a game that allowed players to experience the horror and tough decisions necessary to survive in the brutal universe first hand. The first season was awarded countless Game of the Year awards and nominations from nearly every publication, and spawned a second season that is still underway. Without that season being over, and with Telltale working on other properties like Game of Thrones, a third season of The Walking Dead has already been announced.
1) THE “ARKHAM” SERIES
I hate being predictable, but this slot can only go to the Batman: Arkham series, a small group of games that started off from a then unknown developer in Rocksteady that made even the best comic book games, nay GAMES period look like Superman 64. Since the debut of Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009, the series has spawned a sequel, a prequel, a handheld expansion and has a fourth installment on the way in 2015’s Batman: Arkham Knight. That’s not to mention the empire of merchandising that has sprung from the series including but not limited to action figures, comics, a board game and a feature-length animated film. WB Games and Rocksteady raised the bar so high with this series that no other title has managed to come close to matching its quality.