Stumbling Towards Greatness: A Batman Retrospective
- Batman (1986)
Ocean Software: Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW (Monochrome), ZX Spectrum & MSX
Tasked with saving the Boy Wonder, Batman (who apparently fought his waistline before crime) set off in a monochrome, isometric adventure. In later releases the game was given a splash of color. While the action was lengthy (over 150 rooms), the game showcased very few of Batman's signature moves. Being based on the television show that made Adam West famous, we're of course referring to the Bat-Tusi.
- Batman: The Caped Crusader (1988)
Ocean Software: ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64
Data East: Commodore Amiga, PC
Batman's first official quest in color was split into two sections, one for each villain: Joker and The Penguin. The beat-em-up style adventure included a Banjo-Kazooie number of collectible items and a comic panel effect, which layered each area on top of the other as Batman progressed through the action.
- Batman (1989)
Sunsoft: PC Engine
Somehow, Sunsoft looked at the Batman movie and saw the opportunity for a great Pac-Man-style maze game, in which Batman collects items placed throughout mazes and knocks the Joker's henchmen out with Batarangs. It's basically an aberration, albeit one with excellent music.
- Batman: The Movie (1989-1990)
Sunsoft: NES, Genesis
Ocean Software: Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga & PC
When it was released to theaters, Tim Burton's Batman appeared on everything from lunchboxes to arcade cabinets. Batman: The Movie was released to nearly every available platform, and was only loosely based on the movie starting Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. The arcade version included voices from the film as well as scalable levels, Batmobile and Batwing sections, while the NES version was comprised of multiple side scrolling levels -- in the vein of Ninja Gaiden.
A Genesis version was later released, including all levels from the NES version plus new Batmobile and Batwing sections. Batman (NES) is also remembered for turning the Caped Crusader into a vicious murderer. During the game's ending, Batman is seen throwing the Joker to his death. Looks like Sunsoft made Bats break his 'one rule.'
- Batman: Return/Revenge of the Joker (1991-1992)
Sunsoft: NES, Genesis, GameBoy
Return of the Joker hit the NES in 1991 and one of the few Batman titles to be based off his comic book adventures. In 1992, Genesis fans were 'treated' to a remake of sorts, titled Revenge of the Joker. Sadly, both versions failed to perform and a SNES version was canceled. Later, a completely different title with the same name (Revenge of the Joker) was released for the GameBoy.
- Batman Returns (1992-1994)
Atari: Lynx | Gametek: Amiga
Konami: NES, Super NES, PC
Sega: Genesis, Master System, Sega CD, Game Gear
Based on Burton's sequel, Batman Returns was another license-whore that found its way on every gaming platform in existence. SNES gamers were treated with the best home console version (at the time): a solid Final Fight-clone with a single Batmobile stage, while Genesis players suffered through a muddy-colored 2D platformer (pictured).
Sega CD users were given a remade Genesis version with additional 3D Batmobile and Batboat levels and the Atari Lynx saw a version so difficult and unpopular, it was later packed in with the system.
- Batman: The Animated Series (1993)
Based on the popular cartoon series, Batman's GameBoy return featured a collection of foes from his famous Rogues' Gallery. Batman: The Animated Series was also the first Batman game which featured Robin as a playable character -- allowing players to take control of the Boy Wonder for small sections.
- The Adventures of Batman & Robin (1994)
Sega: Genesis, Sega CD, Game Gear
The Adventures of Batman & Robin is one of the few 'great' games in Batman's harrowing history. The Genesis version featured a 2-player co-op mode, where Batman & Robin raced to stop Mr. Freeze from turning Gotham to ice. The Genesis version is also widely considered one of the hardest game's in the platform's history -- specifically the frustrating Madhatter level.
The SNES version was a single-player game, and only featured Robin as a secondary 'cheerleader' character. A Sega CD version was later released, adding unique animated cut scenes to progress the game's story. Some fans consider the (roughly) sixteen minutes of footage a 'Lost Episode' from the series (Watch it now!).
- Batman Forever (1995)
Probe: GameGear, PC
Acclaim: Super NES, Genesis, GameBoy
Batman Forever is probably one of the biggest black-eyes The Batman has ever suffered in video game history. Based on the aging Mortal Kombat mocap engine, Batman rushes through horribly staged areas, attacking foes with pathetic moves and animations. It's bad ... but it isn't even the worst.
- Batman Forever: The Arcade Game (1996)
Acclaim: Arcade, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, PC
Jump into the nipple-popped suits of Val Kilmer or Chris O'Donnell for (yet another) beat-em-up Batman style. Slightly better than the home version, but still leaves a bat taste in your mouth.
- Batman & Robin (1998)
Acclaim: PlayStation, Saturn
After mixing Resident Evil's classic 'tank' controls within the action world of Batman, Acclaim went onto make other stupid mistakes like giving people money to name their kid Turok.
- Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
Ubisoft: N64, PlayStation, GameBoy Color
Based on the superb futuristic animated series, where Bruce Wayne (Spoiler: He's Batman) is an old, grumpy man and the brother from Boy Meets World takes over as the Dark Knight. Sadly, the game was a train wreck. Not only were the controls laughably terrible, the entire game is shorter than the animated movie it was tied to. If you see this cart chilling on a park bench ... run. Because it will cut you.
- Batman: Chaos in Gotham (2001)
Ubisoft: GameBoy Color
A surprisingly decent adventure staring Batman and Batgirl, based on the animated series. Looks like things are looking brighter for the Dark Knight...
- Batman: Gotham City Racer (2001)
Darkness. Gotham City Racer is what you would get if you asked someone how to waste a licensed property. We'd rather be hit by a car than play this game. Not kidding.
- Batman Vengeance (2001)
Ubisoft: GameCube, PS2, Xbox, GBA, PC
In the dawn of a new technological era, a new Batman adventure was served up to loyal fans and it was actually fun. Vengeance was a solid -- and good looking -- action game, featuring the animated series' voice cast. Batman's rep has been besmirched and it's up to the Dark Knight to clear his name and save Gotham City.
- Batman Dark Tomorrow (2003)
Kemco: Xbox, GameCube
Batman Dark Tomorrow is the worst Batman game (unfortunately) pressed onto a disk. Featuring some of the ugliest character models ever seen, terrible voice acting, horrendous controls and a one-on-one sword fight ending ... Dark Tomorrow is truly atrocious. If ever given the option of playing the game or being punched directly in the mouth, pick the punch. Trust us, it's less painful.
- Batman: Justice Unbalanced & Batman: Toxic Chill (2003)
The Learning Company: PC, Mac
Learning! With Batman! Exclamation point!
- Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu (2003)
Ubisoft: GameCube, PS2, Xbox, GBA
Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu was Ubisoft's attempt to bring gamers back from the ditches of Kemco's Dark Tomorrow. Developed by the team who made Vengeance, Rise of Sin Tzu was certainly better than Dark Tomorrow, but was extremely repetitive. Also, the game only features appearances from Scarecrow, Clayface and Bane. No Joker? No sale!
- Batman Begins (2005)
Electronic Arts / Warner Bros: GameCube, PS2, Xbox, GBA
When EA grabbed the Batman license they promised to bring the psychology that made Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins so intense. Batman Begins (the game) was a solid effort, but suffered from extreme linearity. The Tumbler's (Batmobile) Burnout-esque levels were fun, but the rest of the game felt too much like a long stealth mission to be entertaining.
- Lego Batman: The Video Game (2008)
Warner Bros Interactive: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PS2, DS, PSP, PC
Hot off the heels of the extremely popular LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Indiana Jones titles, developer Traveller's Tales decided to tackle the Caped Crusader in LEGO Batman. The results were mixed. While the game offered similar action and humor, the game suffered similar issues from previous games. While the formula may be tired for some, it's a great introduction to the world of the Dark Knight.
- Cameo: The Revenge of Shinobi (1989)
After facing off against a Spider-man lookalike, the ninja Musashi goes head-to-head against a purple Bat-Man who utilizes bats as weapons. Eventually the cameo was removed from the game, replaced with an actual giant bat.
- Cameo: Justice League: Task Force (1995)
Acclaim: SNES, Genesis
Developed by Blizzard (of World of Warcraft fame), Justice League: Task Force was a versus fighter in the vein of Street Fighter. A bad Street Fighter, that is. As well as featuring Batman, the game showcased Superman during his unfortunate mullet era. Seriously, who thought that hair was a good idea?
- Cameo: Justice League Heroes (2006)
Eidos / Warner Bros - PS2, Xbox, PSP, DS, GBA
While Justice League Heroes was a solid action-RPG akin to Marvel Ultimate Alliance, the game suffered from repetitive gameplay and levels. While other action-RPGs featured multiplayer for up to four players, JLH was limited to 2 player offline co-op. A nice bonus, but overall a disappointing package.
- Cameo: Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (2008)
Midway: Xbox 360, PS3
Mixing characters from the DC Universe with the realm of Mortal Kombat sounds like a crazy idea on paper, but the 2008 fighter actually worked. Toning down the violence to hit a Teen rating, MK vs. DC ended up hitting enough high points to rise above the competition. Sadly, Midway did not survive.
- Cameo: DC Universe Online (2010)
Sony Entertainment Online: PC, PS3
Expected to hit the PS3 and PC in 2010, DC Universe Online brings the DC world into the MMO space. We hope to play the game soon, but DC Universe Online has been delayed more times than we'd care to remember.
- Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)
Eidos / Warner Bros: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
It has been a long, brutal journey for Batman. Thanks to developer Rocksteady, the Caped Crusader can lift his head in triumph for starring in a fantastic title. While many Batman games have had moments of genius, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a special title. Like we said in our review, Batman: Arkham Asylum is easily one of the best games 2009 has to offer. Now, go check it out!