Why be content with simply reading comic books when you can play them? Unfortunately, technology hasn't advanced that far just yet. It's not like you can just toss the week's pull list into some fancy box and hop into the world of the Justice League or something crazy like that. But there have been some brilliant gems in the world of video games either inspired by the colorful world of comics or directly by some of our favorite heroes and villains themselves.
Those dynamic panels and polygons go together like Harley Quinn and the Joker, and they just keep getting better. So whether these picks only took a page out of their favorite trades for inspiration or were built from the ground up with their favorite tales in mind, they've all been influenced by comic books in some way, and you'd be hard-pressed to find more exemplary specimens. Here are five comic book gaming greats.
It may not have been the greatest shooter in the world, having spawned a barely-watchable live-action film adaptation, but XIII oozed thought bubbles and onomatopoeia from its pores. Gorgeous cel-shading and BLAM!s aplenty were only a few of its highlights. Barring that, both David Duchovny and Adam West lent their voices to main characters XIII and Carrington, lending a hilarious lilt to the adaptation that spanned five volumes of the original Belgian series.
Its artistic direction was top-notch, and a few well-placed crossbow arrows to the jugulars of the many dim guards dotting the perimeter of each area never failed to elicit a giggle from even the most jaded of FPS players. It's all thanks to the masterful use of comic book tropes from start to finish. It's one of the first games that got me to truly appreciate the use of cel-shading, and once I completed the campaign I set out to read the actual comics, like you should do after reading this list. Shoo!
Before shovelware ran as rampant as it does today and comic tie-ins were usually decent affairs, during the days of the Sega Genesis, we had the rare treat Comix Zone. It relied entirely on comics to propel the story of artist Sketch Turner, whose evil creation Mortus inexplicably pulls Sketch into the comic he was hard at work creating and joins the real world in his place. Relatively throwaway plot aside, Comix Zone expertly integrated the physical confines of an actual comic into a side-scrolling fighter.
You could potentially rip through pages, toss enemies into the edges of panels, and watch as Mortus sketched in new enemies to slow your progress. It gave the illusion that you were actually playing inside the graphic novel, which was certainly a sight to behold back then and is equally impressive today as we don't truly have anything comparable as of yet. Better get to work on a sequel then, hm?
Before it was a movie, the exploits of Scott and Ramona and her evil exes was a six-volume graphic novel series. Heavily inspired by other comics, anime, and of course classic video games, the XBLA/PSN adaptation could only, of course, be a side-scrolling beat-'em-up rife with power-ups and impeccably rendered classic sprites. Frenetic action and eye-popping colors combined with old-school gaming conventions drew inspiration from the well-loved comics by Bryan Lee O'Malley.
Nothing beats going head-to-head with Bizarro Gideon. Er, endboss Gideon. He just reminded me a bit of a certain ex-SOLDIER for a moment there at the end. This challenging button-masher was a delicious throwback and rightly deserves a spot in the comic book game hall of fame.
We've got so much love for Batman: Arkham Asylum because it was one of the first truly polished comic-book inspired titles. It did so many things right that it was hard to overlook any missteps it happened to take. Combining a third-person perspective with engaging stealth segments and authentic behavior from some of our favorite Batman villains, it also happened to reunite the superb Batman: The Animated Series cast for some exquisite voice acting.
Devoid of the comic conventions employed by XIII or Comix Zone, it still managed to perfectly capture the feel and spirit of Batsy and his world while managing to avoid the pitfalls of third-person action/adventure titles. With only days left until the release of Batman: Arkham City, Arkham Asylum retains its crown as one of the best comic adventures out there. Will its sequel usurp its title?
One of LucasArts' most successful series happened to start life as a comic series, and transitioned naturally to one of the most memorable point-and-click adventures this side of Day of the Tentacle. The fast-talking, dimwitted lagomorph Max and crime-solving canine Sam form an unlikely partnership as they're assigned to some of the zaniest cases around. Each in-game case is similar to their previous on-paper tales published in the '80s, and the far-fetched solutions to many of the puzzles are genuinely hilarious, even today.
This game has certainly stood the test of time and has spawned a whole gaggle of other media releases, including a cartoon and several new installments from Telltale Games. Only with this pair of wise-cracking private investigators will you visit the world's largest ball of twine and a Bigfoot gathering all in the same play session. Sam and Max Hit the Road continues to endure as one of adventure gaming's best, and it all started life on paper, just like some of the other games on the list.
Those are but a few of the worthy picks out there. What are some of the classiest comic book games you've come across? And don't any of you dare say Atari 2600's Superman. You know that's just a bold-faced lie.
Brittany Vincent is a freelance writer who routinely eviscerates virtual opponents and tempts fate by approaching wayward Zoloms. A connoisseur of all things bloody and bizarre, she's available to chat via Twitter @MolotovCupcake, and is always ready to take on new projects. You can peruse her archived work at PfhortheWin.com