Superhero movies have been making a killing at the box office for more than a decade now, but all too often the video games based on these spandex-clad characters are a little lackluster (*cough* Superman 64 *cough*). Thankfully, we can find some diamonds in the rough. Here, in no particular order, are some of the best superhero video games ever made.
1. Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
When it comes to superhero fighting games, Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 is about as good as it gets. Each player picks three fighters from a massive roster of Capcom characters and Marvel superheroes, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine, and Hulk. Then you tag-team your way through your opponents, pulling off big flashy moves unique to each character.
To the untrained eye, the results might seem too chaotic. But once you get a little experience under your belt, you’ll find a game with all the depth and balance of Capcom’s best fighting titles.
2. Spider-Man 2
The 2004 game Spider-Man 2 was one of the better open-world games of the era, thanks in no small part to its swinging mechanic. It was great fun to web-sling through the skyscrapers of Manhattan, taking in the vistas and stopping to thwart the occasional crime.
Beyond that, though, the game sported voice acting from the cast of the movie, narration by cult hero Bruce Campbell, and plenty of fun side missions. Other Spider-Man games have come out before and since, but this one just might be the best of the bunch.
In the 1990s, some of the most fun you could have with your friends was going to the arcade and crowding around the four sets of control inputs on the X-Men arcade game. Each player could jump, attack, and use a limited superpower against the hordes of Sentinels and other enemies the game sent after you. It was challenging as all get-out — which ensured you’d keep pumping in quarters — but the four-player cooperative gameplay was second to none.
4. Freedom Force
Everyone loves the Bioshock games, but before those were conceived, developer Irrational Games made Freedom Force, one of the best squad-based tactical games around. Before each mission, you assemble a team from a list of superheroes. Then you go out into the city and stop the bad guys before they can finish their bad deeds, whether that means thwarting purse-snatchers or fending off an alien attack. It’s all great stuff that’s clearly inspired by the early years of superhero comics, and it works fantastically in the game.
5. Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
The angry green giant hasn’t enjoyed the video game spotlight as often as Spider-Man or the X-Men, but he starred in one really fun game in the PlayStation 2 era. Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is an open-world game in which — as the title suggests — you can wreak havoc on the city.
Just about everything in the game is destructible, from the cars to the lamp posts, and even some of the buildings. Better yet, you can use pieces of the stuff you demolish to break other things and fight off enemies. If you enjoy the occasional unhinged rampage, this game’s for you.
6. Lego Marvel Superheroes
Lego games are always adorable and lighthearted, but Lego Marvel Superheroes also offers an encyclopedic look at the whole wide Marvel Universe. Scores of superheroes and villains are accounted for here, including the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and the Avengers, plus all the mean mutants and evildoers they love to fight. But the best thing about this game? No matter how many building blocks you break the Marvel Universe into, no clean-up is required.
7. Marvel Ultimate Alliance
The X-Men Legends games were tons of fun, but developer Raven Software went all out with Marvel Ultimate Alliance, a top-down beat-‘em-up game that has you pick from 24 playable superheroes and then pound the super-snot out of every enemy who gets in your way.
The game features more than 100 characters from the Marvel Universe and explores just about every corner of the comic book locations, from Thor’s Asgard to Dr. Doom’s Latvian castle. Throw in some satisfying skill tree-based progression and a fantastic story line, and you’re looking at a great way to spend 20 hours.
8. Batman Arkham Series
Let’s cut to the chase: If for some reason you can only play one superhero game for the rest of your life, you should choose either Batman: Arkham Asylum or Batman: Arkham City. These games are no-holds-barred AAA titles. First is story: The plots weave a crime-filled tale that fits perfectly into the Batman canon. Developer Rocksteady managed to do right by the heroes and villains alike.
But the best thing is the combat. These games have some of the hardest-hitting melee battles in all of gaming. You often find yourself being attacked by a group of thugs, but the game’s finely-tuned system of blocks and counterattacks makes fending them off not only possible, but incredibly rewarding. Batman comes off as powerful, but not too powerful; capable, but not invincible. It’s everything you could want in a superhero game and more.