The last decade or so has been good to us when it comes to licensed comic book games; at least on console. There’s still a glut of frustratingly bad mobile games based on comic book characters and films, but the console output has given us a lot to love. In the world of DC Comics we have some amazing Batman games like the Arkham titles and the Injustice fighting series.
It has taken a lot of failures to get to this point though, so let’s go back and look at the 10 worst. We’ll be excluding old PC titles and any mobile games though given the nature of limited technology and how questionable some mobile games can be in terms of quality anyway.
1 Number 10: Batman & Robin – PlayStation
This 1997 PlayStation game has a lot of ambition going for it, and that’s about it. While the movie itself at least has some camp value going for it, the same can’t be said for the Batman & Robin video game based off it. The open world city and active environment with time based missions and clues was very much ahead of its time; too far ahead to effectively communicate the game mechanics. It’s an often frustrating and confusing experience that would be done much better in “Batman: Arkham City.”
2 Number 9: Superman – NES
Maybe it’s because Superman is such a very American property that Japanese publisher Kemco very much missed the mark on this 1987 NES title. Just titled, “Superman,” the game completely misses the point of what Superman should be, limited his super powers tremendously while also forcing you to revert to Clark Kent if you take too much damage. Some of the enemies are invisible, necessitating you to use x-ray vision to find them, and at that point you have to ask yourself if you’re actually having fun with this game. The answer by the way, is no.
3 Number 8: Batman: Gotham City Racer – PlayStation
“Batman: The Animated Series” has had a number of strong games based off of it. “Batman: Gotham City Racers” is not one of them. Racing games live and die by how they feel and control and this one doesn’t hold up well either way. The use of animation and voice actors from the animated series does help give the title a sense of authenticity but it doesn’t make up for the weak gameplay and rough controls. If you
like blocky polygons though, it has a lot of those!
4 Number 7: Swamp Thing – NES
“Swamp Thing” is an absurdly difficult title that epitomizes the worst of NES design choices. Short range attacks, too many enemies on screen, excessively difficult jumps, and occasionally terrible level design; it’s all here and it all sucks. There’s no password or
continue system either, so have fun playing it all from the beginning once you lose all your lives; which you will do, repeatedly.
5 Number 6: Catwoman – PS2/GameCube/Xbox
3D action platforming games can be incredibly fun; just look at 2003’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.” Do not however, look at “Catwoman” for that. It feels like it’s trying to be a poor man’s version of “Prince of Persia” with its acrobatic platforming, except it handles like crap and the camera is early N64 levels of bad. It’s also one of the few beat ‘em ups where you can’t defeat enemies by attacking them directly; you have to knock them into environmental objects. Kill all of this cat’s nine lives and move on.
6 Number 5: Batman Forever – SNES/Genesis
The popularity of “Mortal Kombat” could not be overstated in 1995. As successful as those games were though, the early entries were not actually that great. The digitized models, their animations, and how they handled wasn’t really smooth. However, they made it work for a one-on-one fighter. Then they used that same engine to create a
side-scrolling beat ‘em up with “Batman Forever.” It is just awful, it’s terrible to control, using the gadgets is clunky as hell and it’s far more frustrating than fun.
7 Number 4: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker – N64
Beat ‘em up games have a certain science to them. While they may seem simple, in order to be fun they need to have proper hit detection, offer a variety of moves and a variety of enemies to use them on, and introduce enough variety to prevent the gameplay from getting stale. “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker” does none of these things. The N64 version in particular plays like a blocky, chunky, mess. At least the movie its based on is still amazing, but “Batman Beyond” deserved a much better game along the lines of the NES “Batman” or SNES “The Adventures of Batman & Robin.”
8 Number 3: Batman: Dark Tomorrow – GameCube/Xbox
What if “Batman: Arkham Knight” was really bad? Like, what if it was so bad you couldn’t even figure out how to play it? Then you’d have “Batman: Dark Tomorrow.” The controls are obtuse, the difficulty bizarrely fluctuates from area to area, and the ambitious story can be ruined near the last act if you fail to complete a hidden objective that you’re not really warned about. This would also be one of the last console games that publisher/developer Kemco would release before switching over to churning out simple JRPG mobile games.
9 Number 2: Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis – GameCube/Xbox
When the video game review series “X-Play” originally ran, their end of year worst game awards were called the “Golden Mullets.” Why? Because of Aquaman’s hair in this game. “Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis” is so awful; it became the standard by which all other bad games are judged. Swim, fight, swim, fight; it is mindless monotony with controls that barely seem to function and fighting that descends into button mashing. There seems to be a distinct lack of ideas that needed to be turned into a game to capitalize on a comic book license while also feeling like a rushed mess.
10 Number 1: Superman – N64
“Superman” for the N64 is legendarily bad and lives up to that hype in every way. I remember playing it when it came out, thinking that the reviewers were overexaggerating how awful it was. They weren’t. I was willing to put up with flying through rings but after I literally fell through the floor of a level, I was done and returned the game to the rental store right after. There is nothing redeeming about this game at all. The best that can be said is based off of research that YouTube let’s player, Proton Jon did when he received information from one of the developers about how difficult the production was due to interference from Warner Bros.. Still, when the end result is this level of bad, the best of intentions doesn’t really matter. “Superman” will forever remain one of the worst games of all time.