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Batman has been through an awful lot of phases since then, from the original gun-toting vigilante, to the campy psychedelic fun of the Adam West TV show, to the darker grittier interpretations of the character from the likes of Frank Miller and Christopher Nolan. The wonderful thing about Batman, in this fan's opinion, is that he's been around for so long that there's no wrong way to do him. Apart from Zack Snyder's take on the character in Batman V Superman. That was very much the wrong way to do him.
Given Batman's general malleability, it should come as no surprise that his video game adventures have been just as varied as his comic book, TV, and film outings. Now that the latest game has finally been revealed, why not sit back in your Bat-chair, put on the Bat-kettle, and read up on the five Batman games that every Bat-fan should play.
Who here remembers Batman: The Animated Series? Of course you do, because it was bloody fantastic. To an entire generation, the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini TV show was the definitive take on the Dark Knight, thanks to its gorgeous art deco-inspired aesthetic and standout performances from Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and Joker respectively. The two would of course go on to embody the roles in countless video games, including Rocksteady's Arkham series.
Before the Arkham games went on to redefine the superhero genre though, the two actors returned to star in 2001's Batman Vengeance, a Ubisoft-published title released for PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Nintendo GameCube that was actually based on the beloved animated series, and essentially looked and played just like an interactive episode of the show, complete with segments where you got to pilot the Batmobile and Batwing.
Compared to the rest of the games on this list, Vengeance wasn't exactly great, but its striking visuals and intricate plot, in which Batman worked to unravel one of the Joker's most insane "pranks" to date, helped to make up for its fairly clunky combat. Plus, you could screw around with some of Batman's coolest gadgets, including Batarangs, a stun gun, and a cannon that shot out nets and immediately immobilised enemies. Awesome.
In a world where Superman goes off the deep end and decides to start murdering anyone that doesn't agree with him, it's comforting to know that Batman is one of the few heroes who straight up refuses to fall in line. After all, the whole point of Batman, his entire reason for being in any take on the character, is that he would never cross the line and take a life, precisely because he saw his parents violently killed in front of him as a young boy and never wants anyone to feel that way ever again.
NetherRealm's Injustice 2 picks up after Batman has successfully managed to imprison this alternate dictator Superman and is attempting to return the world to some semblance of normality. As far as fighting game plots go, it is far better than it has any right to be. As Superman and Batman are forced back into an uneasy alliance via the impending threat of an alien invasion, we're treated to a breathtaking tour of the DC universe that incorporates some of its greatest heroes and villains, while all the while building to a tragic - if predictable - denouement.
Oh, and Injustice 2 is just straight up a real damn good fighting game, so... there's that too.
2008's LEGO Batman (not to be confused with the 2017 movie of the same name) doesn't tell a dark and gritty story, nor is it based on any particular movie, comic book, or TV show starring the Dark Knight. What is. It doesn't even star Kevin Conroy or Mark Hamill, but I won't hold any of that against it, because what it is is a rollicking, light-hearted adventure that's packed with classic villains, references to every corner of Batman lore, and a ridiculous amount of collectibles and secrets to discover.
Anyone who's played any of the LEGO games will know what to expect from LEGO Batman of course. You make your way through levels and participate in some fairly basic combat, while switching characters to solve a series of simple but inventive puzzles that mostly revolve around building crap out of LEGO. It's incredibly simple, but if it worked in LEGO Star Wars, why change it up? If anything, leaving a galaxy far far away in favour of Gotham City proved just how flexible the LEGO formula was, and set the stage for countless sequels.
I'd also point out that in 2008, the world was very much in the middle of it's Christoper Nolan love-in thanks to The Dark Knight which had just released a few months earlier. Don't get me wrong, it's a seminal film, but I'm glad LEGO Batman came along so soon after to remind people that the caped crusader doesn't actually have to be so serious. I hope you read that in Heath Ledger's voice.
Batman: The Telltale Series was one of the final titles to come from Telltale Games, and it was also by far one of the studio's greatest efforts overall. If you haven't played, shame on you. I don't want to go in to too much detail for fear of spoiling any newcomers, but the way Telltale remixed a large portion of Bruce Wayne's world and characters was outstanding.
Where other developers might have played it safe and simply offered up an uninspired recreation of the Nolan universe, Telltale made some bold choices, creating interesting new takes and perspectives on decades-old relationships, including one of the best versions of Joker I've ever seen.
Forget everything you think you know about Batman when headed into this game, because the choices you make, not to mention those you choose to ally yourself with, have unexpected and often deeply tragic repercussions. Most Batman video games simply ask you to go solve crimes and punch bad guys in the face, and while we know this can work brilliantly, Telltale Games was the first studio that tried to present players with an experience in which we have to make the impossible choices the Dark Knight is forced to make every day, and it's a standout title for that reason.
For a long time, I saw Batman Vengeance as the closest I'd ever get to a fully immersive Batman experience. While I admit that wasn't a terribly high bar to meet, I was over the moon when I got my hands on Rocksteady's sublime Arkham Asylum and realised that we finally had a Batman game that wasn't just a solid experience for fans, but an essential game that everyone needed to play.
Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprising their roles was what first drew me to the game, but I quickly fell in love with it for its Metroidvania-style world design, smart puzzles, and tense stealth segments that required the player to think like Batman and make full use of his bag of tricks. Slowly, silenty picking off enemies one by one and watching them increasingly lose their shit as I struck hard and fast from various vantage points was an absolute joy, as was simply jumping into a fray and beating the stuffing out of a few dozen terrified enemies via an ingenious combo-based free flowing combat system that other developers are still copying to this day.
Optional Riddler Challenges scattered throughout Arkham Asylum, as well as the audio tapes detailing psychiatric interviews with the likes of Joker, Harley Quinn, and Scarecrow were the icing on the cake, adding a fascinating extra level of detail to one of the most fully-realised video game worlds I've ever explored.
Arkham Origins, City, and Knight are all excellent games to, and more than worthy of a place on this list. However, in the interests of writing an article that didn't just include the Arkham games, I decided to stick to the one that started it all. If you disagree, you can swap any of the Arkham games in for this number one spot. I'm fine with that.
Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros.
Topics: Gotham Knights
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