Video games allow us to make believe in so many different ways. There are video games that let us escape from reality to become; space marines, cartoon animals, and even futuristic bartenders serving drinks to robots.
But of all the escapist alter egos that gaming provides us with, none are quite as popular, or immediately gratifying, as the superhero.
There are loads of classic superhero comics and graphic novels, and we're now in the middle of a renaissance for superhero films.
But video games actually let you become a superhero. Watching Spider-Man swing between buildings and smack The Green Goblin around is all well and good, but it can't compare to actually getting the chance to do it yourself.
There have been a number of good games where you can be a superhero. Unfortunately, most fall victim to be tie-in shovel-ware. This list is dedicated to those few games that go above and beyond and actually manage to make the player believe-- even if just for a moment -- that they are a true hero themselves.
Also, for the sake of representing some more original games, the number of games with licensed superheroes like Spider-Man or Superman (pfft, yeah right) has been kept low. With all that said, let's put on our tights and capes, and answer the cry for justice!
Alright, let's get the really obvious one out of the way.
Yes, the Batman Arkham games are almost all excellent. In an industry full of competitors, they stand out as grand examples of both how to handle a license. They're also great examples of how to immerse a player in a fictional world, and really get inside the head of the main character.
From the original Arkham Asylum to the fairly recent Arkham Knight, everything in these games allow you to really feel like Batman. From the colorful rogue's gallery, the utility belt, and to the Batmobile itself.
Each Installment in the series is similar in gameplay and controls, but all distinct enough from each other to be sold on their own merits. All of the titles (except possibly Arkham Origins) can be easily recommended.
Both Prototype and it's sequel Prototype 2 gave their players excellent murder playgrounds to frolic around in. Which isn't that surprising, as you'd probably expect the same developer as The Simpsons: Hit & Run, to understand chaotic gameplay pretty well.
There isn't much to say about the gameplay of the Prototype series, as the two games are very similar, and the gameplay is pretty simple, but just deep enough to be involving and challenging.
Both Prototype games are highly visceral murder-centric sandboxes that guide the player through a sinister conspiracy plot unfolding in New York City. The protagonist becomes unwillingly involved and is turned into a super-powered mutant with killer superpowers.
The story isn't the best in either installment, although that isn't for a lack of trying. It's mostly because it's too difficult to rationalize all of the horrible things that the protagonists do to really call them heroes.
Both Alex Mercer and James Heller are more villains or anti-heroes than traditional heroes. But if this was necessary in order to allow the player the previously mentioned freedom in gameplay, I'd call it a fair sacrifice.
You are free to kill, maim, and cause property damage in a number of wonderfully creative, and most importantly -DESTRUCTIVE ways- Everything from disguising yourself as a soldier by eating one alive, to hijacking tanks and helicopters with your tentacle arm, to even turning human enemies into bombs and throwing them into a huge crowd to watch everything get pulled into them before exploding.
Prototype 2 improved on a lot of the minor flaws found in the first game, by improving on the slightly frustrating controls, changing the upgrade system, and making the sandbox a great deal larger with much more colorful and high-end graphics. Despite these obvious improvements, both games are different enough from each other to be worth playing, and are both easily recommendable.
It's a true shame that Activision closed Radical Entertainment's doors even after Prototype 2's excellent sales, but if nothing else, Prototype 2 was a great game and a great swan song for an overall great developer.
Take a peek below at how fun it can be to murder your maker:
Saints Row IV bids farewell to whatever remaining sense of restraint that the series had after Saints Row the Third, and gives way completely to scattershot, ridiculous, video-gamey fun.
Saints Row IV takes the player through the destruction of Earth and the extinction of most of humanity, and the leader of the Saints -- the now president of the former United States -- must stop the evil Zin empire and their foppish leader Zinyak.
The story is over-the-top and full of surprises, all of them good, and it's topped off by a surprisingly strong character focus and witty, often intelligent dialogue. It's a game that does a great job of looking childish and stupid when it's actually pretty smart.
Throughout the course of it's robust campaign, Saints Row IV gives the player piles of creative guns, effective superpowers, and kooky appearance customization options to mess around with. The sandbox city, while reused from Saints Row the Third, feels new and fresh. This is thanks to new content accessible via the new super-speedy running and jumping somewhat similar to Prototype, but done with more fluid and smoother controls.
The story is comedic and loaded with memorable moments, high-quality comedic banter, and a truckload of fantastic gameplay set-pieces. Some set-pieces are so fleshed-out that they could have come from a completely different game.
With all of these different mechanics coming and going, some may say that the game lacks discipline, and that's somewhat true -- but that's a big part of the game's main appeal and charm.
To quote Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw in reference to the game:
It's a mess, but it's a fun mess.
Saints Row IV is the epitome of power fantasy.
It's bite-sized sort-of-sequel Saints Row: Gat out of Hell is also a blast, and built directly on the foundation of IV, so if you end up liking four, jump straight onto Gat out of Hell and enjoy another couple of hours on the fun-train.
We live in an age where many video games are trying to be more cinematic, and attempt to evoke the feeling of a tightly-directed film. Unfortunately this occasional comes at the cost of gameplay. There have been few games in recent memory that have succeeded in making themselves feel cinematic without heavily compromising their gameplay. Among those few is Viewtiful Joe, and its one of the best.
Viewtiful Joe's unique presentation is reminiscent of both American comic books as well as Japanese sentai heroes. With the combination of its fluid combat and unique time-manipulation mechanics it resulted in a game like no other. This game loves slow-mo sequences in action movies, as well as any shot that makes the good guy look cool. It succeeds at implementing shots like this into both its narrative and gameplay.
Viewtiful Joe does have a story and characters in addition to it's great gameplay. Now, while neither are by any means deep, the characters are all distinct and memorable. The story is also surprisingly poignant in a simple yet effective way.
Joe himself is one of the best kinds of heroes in gaming, and one that is all too rare today -- being the kind of protagonist that loves being a hero more than anything.
Viewtiful Joe is a game that proudly trumpets the moral that old-fashioned heroes will never go out of style and manages to reflect this in both it's gameplay and plot. It is a classic cheesy action flick in playable form and it loves being what it is.
Hey, if you don't believe us, just ask Tom from Toonami:
The Wonderful 101 is a like a childhood dream of being a superhero brought to life. While it isn't the most tightly designed title from action game experts Platinum Games, it is one of the most fun they've made, and without a shadow of a doubt the most impressive and ambitious.
The Wonderful 101 takes Hideki Kamiya's trademarked style of character-action gameplay displayed in impressive past titles like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta. It simplifies it slightly, lightens the tone a bit -- It makes up for it's lessened depth by cramming the game with more color and organic variety than a farmer's market.
You play as The Wonderful 100, a group of colorful masked heroes all armed with super-powered suits. Their task is to defend the Earth in the wake of it's third invasion by the evil alien organization, Geathjerk. You must control them all at once in an isometric environment as you hack, slash, punch and more through the alien menace.
The gameplay of The Wonderul 101 is what truly sets it apart, as it is consistently fun and extremely creative.
It's unlike any other game out there, and that starts with it's very controls. Using either control scheme, you must draw specific shapes in order to have large numbers of Wonderful 100 members join up to form giant objects. Ranging from fists, whips, bombs, and more each object has its own unique property.
Fists can be set on fire and be used to throw fireballs, swords can conduct electricity and deflect laser attacks, and whips can rip spiked armor off of enemies, these are a few of many dynamic options within the title.
These objects are also used for intense combat against savage alien forces that only get bigger and more impressive as the game goes on. Alongside battle, there's also creative puzzles which involve the use of several different powers, which keeps the pace constant.
In addition, the game also manages to include many different 2D shooter segments, all of high quality, and even a boss fight modeled after an NES classic, which I dare not spoil -- There is creativity and variety at every single turn.
With all that said, however, the game is far from flawless. The fixed camera and perspective can make combat and platforming frustrating and confusing at times, which is unfortunate in a game so heavy in both.
The combat and spectacle of the game also doesn't get truly interesting until after a few hours. This is after you've gotten used to the unorthodox controls and have purchased a few key upgrades.
Most of all, the sections where the main focus is on the game pad screen, while creative and mostly functional, can be pretty finicky. Here, the camera is at it's absolute worst but it can be adjusted.
But despite all the negatives, do not let that stop you from trying this game out if you can, because the positives far outweigh the negatives. The game is worth it for it's uniqueness and constant jaw-dropping high-points alone.
There just isn't any other game quite like The Wonderful 101. It has its flaws like all games, and if they stop some people from giving it a shot, that's totally understandable, if unfortunate.
There is no game that makes you feel more like a proper, tight-wearing, crime-fighting, and good-natured superhero. If you own a Wii U, you owe it to yourself to buy this game or, at the very least, try the free demo on the Wii U eShop.
Without the player, there is only a Wonderful 100, and the last one, is you. If the director's cut trailer below doesn't convince you, then nothing will:
Thank you all very much for reading we hope you enjoyed it. If you have a superhero game that you felt belonged in the list, or could help to fill out a potential list in the future, feel free to tell us in the comments!
We know there were a fair few other games we could have mentioned, but we couldn't fit them all into one list. So recommend some more and we may do a follow-up in the future!