Excelsior, faithful readers of Geek Force Network! I am taking a bit of a break from the usual analysis of comic book adaptations of video games to glimpse some of the better video game adaptations of comic books.
Like most of the writers here on GFN, I have played quite a few video games over the course of my life. Many of these glorious digital distractions have been related to the sequential art I so enjoy. So for the next three posts, I would like to take a selfish diversion and cover my favorite video games based on comic book properties.
For the first of these articles, let’s take a short jump back in time to the last millennium. A place where video games were just starting to exist on compact discs and major comic book publishers had not made the leap to a digital medium. An era of licensed video games that didn’t suck super-hard was in full swing, and we the players reaped the benefits. Obvious classics like the X-Men arcade game and Marvel vs. Capcom were the top dogs of the virtual battlefield. But this grizzled gamer would like to highlight some great comic book games that made his day back in the 20th century.
Batman Returns- Super Nintendo Entertainment System
The years have not been kind to the beat ’em-up genre. A once great style of games has fallen thanks to a shift to the third-dimension; relegated to emulators and the occasional XBLA/PSN release. Even worse, all of the licensed beat ’em-ups of the 1990s have fallen off the map because of legal matters (hence why the Simpsons and X-Men are no longer on XBLA). But once upon a time, the home consoles caught up to their superior arcade cousins and amazing games were made as a result.
Like so many comic book movies of the 1990s, Batman Returns had several different video game adaptations. The version I remember most was on the Super Nintendo. A traditional left-to-right beat ’em-up, Batman Returns stood out due to its gorgeous artwork and an excellent soundtrack. Highly detailed sprites of each member of the Red Triangle Gang battled with the Dark Knight, while photogenic cut scenes fleshed out the story in-between missions. Top it all off with vehicle levels where the player takes control of the Batmobile, and you have an excellent comic book game.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time- SNES and Arcade
Years of television, movies, toys, and kids’ cereals have been the identity for Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo. and Donatello. The fearsome foursome have made their mark on so many forms of media that the average person forgets that these turtles started as comic book vigilantes. So when it comes to the numerous video games featuring these warrior reptiles, all of the titles are technically comic book adaptations.
If it isn’t obvious by now, I grew up as a fanatic of TMNT. So when the Super Nintendo came to our house, it was only a matter of time until the Turtles came home too. My brother and I became experts at Turtles in Time; playing through every level on maximum difficulty, never losing a life. But it wasn’t until our local Putt-Putt Golf received their Turtles in Time machine that we were truly challenged. I had no idea that arcade games could provide a wholly different experience from their home console cousins until I encountered this game. Many quarters were spent and a lesson was learned on that day.
Spider-Man – Sony PlayStation
I fully admit that picking a game from the year 2000 is cheating for this list, but I simply can’t leave this one out. While this title didn’t evoke the same open-world web-swinging of later games, Spider-Man and his comic book ilk had their time to shine on the original PlayStation.
Using the same engine as Tony Hawk Pro Skater, this game features our friendly neighborhood web-slinger battling the bulk of his rogues gallery across New York. There are tons of hidden costumes and trivia bits to unlock over the course of play, and Stan Lee himself narrates the entire experience. Even though numerous Spider-Man games had come and gone before the year 2000, this one felt like the first to really tap into the vein of comic book fun.
And there you have it, my favorite comic book games from the last millennium. While this list certainly isn’t comprehensive (looking at you Cap’n and the Avengers), it at least covers the titles for which I am most nostalgic. I would love to recommend some legitimate means to play these games, but thanks to aggressive licensing agreements, most of them will never see a re-release. So my best advice is to scour pawn shops and yard sales for the actual games, and when all else fails, seek out more creative means *cough-cough-emulators-cough*.
In the meantime, please leave your favorite pre-2000 comic book games in the comments! I look forward to seeing all the joyful nostalgia that extends beyond the printed page to the digital age.
For more bits and pieces on video game comics, be sure to check out Geek Force Network every Monday. More info can be found here.