Everyone likes a top-10 list. They’re a bit of fun, and always good for discussion. And so each week we pull together a “top 10” list. These are here for fun and laughs – we’re not pretending that we’re the authority of good games taste in the world and this is purely the author’s preferences. Agree with him/ her or not, it’s all good. We’d love to hear your own personal preferences in the comments below the list. But please do be civil. We’re all friends here.
So a few weeks back, I sat in on the Friday 10’s and brought you the ten best games based on comics and the heroes that call them home. That was well enough, as we’ve had some real gems (especially as of late) when it comes to superhero inspired video games, but all is not so rosy in the dark and sordid past of superhero games.
There was a time when superheroes and comic book games were the stuff of legend for how amazingly, spectacularly, incredibly bad they were. I remember buying many a game with my favorite heroes plastered on the front only to be met with the bitter disappointment of how awfully terrible they all were.
It wasn’t really (a few blips aside) until the dawn of the more recent consoles like the PSOne that licensed games (comics included) started to actually get into ‘not so bad’ territory. For a long, long time though, games and comics just didn’t mix. And so it is with that in mind that we turn our mystic eye towards the absolutely massive catalog of bad games from throughout history with the insurmountable task of picking only ten to represent the worst of the worst- the ten worst superhero games of all time!
10) The Incredible Hulk (Xbox 360/PS3) – Technically based on the movie of the same name, The Incredible Hulk was one of Sega’s games based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I say ‘technically’ because whereas the flick starring Ed Norton was actually pretty good fun, the game was more incredibly bad than Incredible Hulk. While Hulk did have some redeeming features; bad controls, awful graphics and the general disappointment that came from the fact that this was meant to be of the same feel as Radical’s excellent Hulk: Ultimate Destruction landed it on this list squarely at number ten.
9) Iron Man/X-O MANOWAR in Heavy Metal (Sega Saturn/PSOne ) – Long before Valiant Comics’ relaunch and Tony Stark’s big screen adventures, the two characters met in a video game crossover. The side-scroller was a rarity of the highest degree as the characters come from different comic book universes (as well as publishers) and to see them matched up in a game was just plain cool. Despite both characters being pretty awesome and fan favorites in their own right though, the game turned out not nearly as good as it could have been with graphics that were a tad off and gameplay to match. A kind of neat collectors item, but not good for much more.
8) Iron Man 2 (Xbox 360/PS3/Wii) – Another Sega ‘gem’, Iron Man 2 matched shellhead up with War Machine for a game that was arguably even worse than its lackluster predecessor. As far as I’m concerned, it was indeed worse as a storyline that ‘continued’ the movie and based on the Armor Wars comics saga was completely wasted with Iron Man 2 (the game). How many times can you shoot the same enemies while flying through (pretty much) the same stages? Let’s (not) find out!
7) Superman: The Man of Steel (Xbox) – Not to be confused with the upcoming film called Man of Steel (which actually looks pretty awesome), this clunker came from the depths of Atari and actually could have been solid. It sported classic Supes baddies and locations, some neat artwork and graphics that weren’t all that bad. So what was Superman: The Man of Steel’s kryptonite then? To put it simply- the controls. Kal-El’s control scheme went from hard all the way up to nearly impossible to manage. Go play (The Animated Series based) Shadow of Apocalypse on PS2 instead and avoid some super-headaches.
6) Catwoman (PS2/Xbox/GameCube) – What can I possibly say about this game that hasn’t been said about the oddball movie of the same name (which isn’t really even about Catwoman!)? Bad graphics, bad animation, bad everything. If the movie used up (faux) Catwoman’s first eight lives, the game finished her off.
5) Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (PS2/Xbox/GameCube) – In an age where Capcom was turning out some of the best Superhero fighting games ever, why would EA put this out? Marvel Nemesis’ roster was filled with some genuinely cool Marvel heroes (who are mostly wasted) and a pile of lousy, no-name characters. That alone made Marvel Nemesis as imperfect as its name implies- add in lackluster everything else and a generic feel and you’ve got a fighter that’s garbage in almost every category. And those names- Niles Van Roekel? Really?!
4) Silver Surfer (NES) – Admittedly, I was not a big fan of the Sentinel of the Spaceways to begin with, but after playing this game from Software Creations I never wanted to see him or his chrome-plated surfboard again. A side-scrolling shooter, gameplay consisted of guiding the Surfer through generic looking stages and shooting ho-hum badguys on a quest to beat… somebody. The gameplay was okay, but you might as well have been guiding a spaceship from Gradius for all the comic book flavor Silver Surfer had.
3) Batman: Dark Tomorrow (Xbox/GameCube) – I hate this game. Kemco’s Batman: Dark Tomorrow was a third-person action title that looked pretty good in still screens (though now that I look at it again…). Hold on to that last part ‘still screens’, because in actuality the game was a complete mess. Much like fellow Justice Leaguer Superman at #7 on this list, Dark Tomorrow was crippled by bad gameplay- only times a billion. Simply traversing the Gotham cityscape was a near impossibility and tumbling to your death off a rooftop was almost a feature. It’s a shame too, because Dark Tomorrow had a great comic book storyline and some really neat niche characters that aren’t too likely to ever see inclusion in a game again.
2) Superman 64 (Nintendo 64) – What?! Superman 64 is number two?! What’s number one then?!? That about sum up your thoughts right now? Anyway, Superman 64 is perhaps the most derided and ridiculed superhero game of all time. Why was it so terrible? Mainly because it limited what one of the most powerful heroes in all of comics could do in a big way (cough*cough*rings*cough) with some of the worst plot conventions and gameplay mechanics of all time. Terrible graphics and production values round out this dud by Titus, which is maybe one of the worst games of all time- period.
1) The Uncanny X-Men (NES) – There is no superhero game ever that was as big a let down as this one was for me. As a huge X-Men fan, I took one look at that awesome box art and just knew I was in for a treat. I even remember my Dad taking me for ice cream after he bought this steaming pile for me… I wolfed it down since I just couldn’t wait to get home and play. And when I finally did get back to my NES? CRUSHING DISAPPOINTMENT. This ‘game’ (made by LJN) was so epically bad in every category I almost want you to go play it just so you could see the horror for yourself. Some of the worst looking character sprites to ever represent a licensed character battle their way across an ugly, muddy-colored landscape using some of the sorriest excuses for mutant powers ever. The Uncanny X-Men could be used as a torture device it’s so bad.
…Ahem. Excuse me. Sorry. It’s just… that game…
Anyway, there are my top ten. The worst of the worst according to me. But I’m sure all of you have some stinkers in mind too and there have to be more than a few massive losers floating around in your own gaming libraries making your collections feel just a little more crappy.
So think of this as therapy, my friends. Share- it’s okay, no one’s judging. Or actually, forget that last part, yes we are.