The Dark Knight has a long and storied history when it comes to video games. Unfortunately, the majority of gaming output that bears the name of Batman is not great. Then, back in 2009, Batman: Arkham Asylum set the platinum standard for all Batman games. Since then, other games in the Arkham series have solidified what people now expect from a Batman game. However, there are other Batman games worth checking out. In fact, some of them are downright good.
Batman: A Telltale Game Series (2016)
Even though this hasn’t been released yet, it’s a safe bet that Telltale Games will be bringing their A-game when it comes to the Caped Crusader. The studio that created the best version of The Walking Dead and an incredibly engrossing adaptation of Fables has set their sights on Gotham’s costumed protector. Batman’s world and rogues gallery lend themselves to loads of mystery and moral decisions, two things that Telltale can successfully whip up in their sleep at this point. This is the only game on the list that I can’t personally vouch for, but my experience with Telltale guarantees another fantastic interactive story.
Injustice: Gods Among Us (2013)
To get technical, this isn’t so much a Batman game as it is a DC Comics fighter, but it still makes the list because it prominently features the Dark Knight and it’s a solid game. NetherRealm Studios took what they had learned from their Mortal Kombat reboot and applied it to DC superheroes in wonderful ways. The interactive nature of the environment and a surprisingly strong story — which spun off into its own comic series — provide a great gaming experience. Sure, Batman might not be the strongest character on the roster, but seeing him effectively utilize his numerous gadgets is a true treat.
Batman Begins (2005)
Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the Batman franchise didn’t just reinvigorate the Caped Crusader on movie screens, it also give him a new life in the world of video games. Batman Begins has a surprisingly strong pedigree on two fronts: the cast and the “fear” system. When it comes to the cast, nearly every lead actor voiced their corresponding character in the video game. Yes, that means this game features Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Tom Wilkinson, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, and Morgan Freeman. For a movie tie-in game to nab that many members of the cast back then was a feat worth praising. The game also uses a unique mechanic in which Batman must increase the “fear level” of his opponents before engaging them battle. It’s a device that helps sell the intimidating presence of Batman in ways other games hadn’t capitalized on. It’s not a masterpiece of a game, but it’s much better than the majority of movie tie-ins.
The Adventures of Batman & Robin (1994, 1995)
This is a tad confusing because there are actually two games with this title — one on SNES and the other on Sega Genesis — and both of them are thoroughly enjoyable in immensely different ways. The SNES version perfectly recreates the Bruce Timm style from the animated series, and the levels are a joy to look at. Plus, there are interesting tidbits for fans such as using the actual riddles from the Riddler episodes. The Sega Genesis version is a run ‘n’ gun action extravaganza that is as chaotic as it is exciting. There are other games that bear this title, but the two I mentioned are the ones worth tracking down.
Batman Returns (1992, 1993)
Again, this is a game where two versions are available and both of them merit some praise. Granted, they are iterations of the same game — a side-scrolling beat ’em up — but they differ just enough to offer separate experiences. The NES version is very reminiscent of the classic Double Dragon and has a difficulty level to match. It’s not easy, but it’s one of the most rewarding victories of my childhood. Similarly, the SNES version is basically a Final Fight revamp, but that’s a very good game to take inspiration from. The sprite work is awesome and the feeling of strength you get when you knock out enemies is a blast. Either of these is fun, but my personal vendetta with the NES version gives it an edge when it comes to recommending.
Batman: Return of the Joker (1991)
You can probably guess what the final entry in this list will be, but before we get to that, I wanted to talk about the sequel. Batman: Return of the Joker is something of a hidden classic on the NES, deriving more inspiration from the comic book version of the character than the 1989 movie. The color palette is vivid and the action is closer to Contra. It’s a difficult but not impossible game, and its flamboyant design makes it immediately memorable. The remake on Sega Genesis should be avoided at all costs. Accept no substitutes, Batman: Return of the Joker is the real deal. However, it does pale in comparison to…
This very well may be one of the best games in the entire NES library. Crushingly challenging, intricately designed, and with a soundtrack that is as toe-tapping as it is head-banging, Batman is a big feather in the cap for the World’s Greatest Detective. Not even Batman’s purple costume can dissuade fans from this landmark achievement in old-school gaming. In all honesty, the difficulty in this game is off the charts, but that just makes beating it all the more satisfying. And Batman’s wall-jump technique in this game feels so good when you pull it off. The Arkham series may have captivated the hearts and minds of modern gamers, but give me purple Batman any day.