SHAZAM! It’s time for another exciting installment of beloved comic book video games! This week on Geek Force Network, we will take a look at our slightly selfish scribe’s gaming picks from the 21st century (so far).
Since the year 2000, video games have been making leaps and bounds thanks to improved technology and expanded narrative, so it’s natural that some amazing titles based on comic books have hit the market. Just last year, a certain comic book series was adapted into a video game that was featured on numerous “top ten” and “best of” lists, giving further hope to licensed titles everywhere. With so many great games to choose from, I had some trouble narrowing down my list of adaptations from the last 14 years. Nevertheless, here are my favorite post-2000 comic book games for your reading pleasure!
It’s amazing to consider just how long it takes some properties to transition from the printed page to the digital screen. Originally published by Top Cow Productions in 1996, The Darkness didn’t make its video game debut until 2007. Instead of trying to make a title based on the current story arc in the popular comic series, Starbreeze Studios decided to use the video game as a starter for those uninitiated with the comic books. What resulted from their efforts was an excellent first-person shooter with a dark and engaging story of a cursed Mafioso and his rise (?) to power.
The Darkness showed up rather early in the roster on my Xbox 360 as the fifth game I ever played on the system. I was floored by the interesting narrative and open-world gameplay of this shooter. The game was a fine blend of run-and-gun vignettes mixed with very visceral trips to the foxholes and trenches of Hell itself. To date, this game still impresses me with its story and gameplay balance, along with one of my favorite Easter Eggs: the chance to watch all of To Kill A Mockingbird with the main character’s girlfriend as an in-game bonus. Talk about class!
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
The rise of digital communication has made being a fan of a niche property an odd experience. There is the pride of being an early adopter; that patron who supports a fresh product and its creator no matter what challenges come forth. But in our rather connected world, there is no such thing as the uber-fan. Series that were once relegated to the realm of indie comics have the chance to become international phenomena with numerous multimedia tie-ins. Such was the case with Scott Pilgrim and his battle to find and secure true love.
What started as a video game-reference filled comic became a video game-reference filled video game. A sort of modern beat ’em-up, this game was the result of a rather ideal equation: (the subversive pixel artwork of Paul Robertson + the pop/digital music of Anamanaguchi)/ (the strong story and brand of Scott Pilgrim * the gameplay of River City Ransom) = a fantastic four-player game. While the lack of initial online play may have seemed a hindrance to the title, Scott Pilgrim proved to be a revival of the arcade experience feel through couch co-op, and a pretty damn fun game to boot.
And now we come to the crème de la crème; a comic book game that provides a fun experience to the general player along with a deep and complex tribute for the fanatic of the source material. It would figure that Batman, the superhero who has made an appearance on pretty much every console to date, would prove to be the ideal by which all other comic book properties should strive.
I have covered my adoration of the Dark Knight and his video game offerings in the past, and I stand by my love of this title. I grew up as a child during the age of Batman and his Animated Series, which redefined the Caped Crusader and his rogues gallery to the modern reader/viewer. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill will forever be the voices of Batman and his greatest villain, which made Arkham City feel like an extra-long episode of my favorite show. This game is a perfect blend of competent action, open world exploration, and comic book fandom that provides an engaging and immersive playthrough as both Batman and Catwoman.
Short version: Play Arkham City- you won’t be disappointed.
There you have it, faithful readers of Geek Force Network: my favorite comic book games of the 21st century. It was a difficult process to get here, and not every game made the cut (poor Shattered Dimensions). What can I say – there are just so many great video game adaptations out there!
In the meantime, please leave your favorite post-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.