Comic book fans have been fighting the same fight from the 1940s — who’s the best comic publisher? There are multiple comic publishing houses, but, really, there are only two choices in this debate. It always boils down to Marvel or DC Comics. They have both created superheroes which have influenced our culture in several ways. People have enjoyed their stories in all types of media — comic books, cartoons, and movies. Of course, when computers kicked in, and video games became a thing, superheroes were a perfect storyline platform for fans of video games.
Now, if you’ve ever been in the presence of a debate between two diehard DC and Marvel fans, you’ll know that, whatever the argument, they will never see eye-to-eye. Usually, these debates end up being about which rich fatherless hero is better, Iron Man or Batman, but it always comes down to individual preferences. Although, in recent years — even the most committed DC fans will have to admit it — Marvel has blown them out of the water when it comes to the big screen ventures.
We’ll try to end at least one side of the debate today. We won’t go into characters and who’d win in a Superman versus Captain America fight. We’ll just discuss the games themselves. We’ll take several different game types into account, starting with the first games created. Please don’t hate us indefinitely after this!
Spider-Man (Atari 2600) — Marvel entered the world of gaming in 1982 with an Atari game featuring Peter Parker. The game, as expected for one that came out in the early 1980s, is fairly simple. The whole aim of the game is to climb buildings and deactivate bombs on the surface. There’s a web-swinging mechanic which doesn’t really work the way it’s supposed to, but the simple gameplay is easy for everyone to get a hold of.
Superman (Atari 2600) — In an era where there were coding breakthroughs happening on almost a monthly basis, you could really sense the difference in games with release dates being a year or two apart. Superman came out in 1978, and it’s a primitive game with nothing much to get excited about. It’s one of the earliest console releases, and you can see it. Less than a dozen pixels went into character design, the gameplay is extremely simplified, and it’s hard to really understand what’s the aim of the game. The task you’re dealt with is repairing a bridge. Quite un-superhero-y.
Our Verdict — Out of these two, there can only be one winner. The first point goes to Marvel. Spider-Man, although not ideal in itself, at least has some basic game elements, such as clear goals, enemies, and a soundtrack. Superman couldn’t compete with Spider-Man on any level really.
Most Accurate Comic-wise
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (PS2/GameCube/Xbox) — After the first failed attempt at making a Hulk game, which flirted too much with the idea of being Bruce Banner all the time, they finally embraced why people loved Hulk in the first place. Ultimate Destruction brought to us the excitement of going around and smashing everything in your sight while you were the almost omnipotent green monster. At no point do you have to go and meddle around as Bruce. You remain Hulk all the time. It’s an open world map, so you can go around and destroy everything until you vent completely. When you destroy the buildings, you can use the concrete to cover yourself or throw it on your enemies. Basically, the game has given us endless, mindless fun.
Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis (GameCube/Xbox) — For some reason, Battle for Atlantis didn’t reach a larger audience. Not a great deal of players tried out this game. However, the storyline is a complete copy of the comic book. Aquaman had a hook hand and a beard, while his enemies were the same ones from the comic. The depiction of Atlantis is top-notch — they replicated every detail from the comics. Mind you, the reason why nobody played it is that the game itself was pure trash. But, if “remaining true to the comics” is your criterion, it’s an absolute hit.
Our Verdict — This is a weird one. Out of the two, Ultimate Destruction is miles ahead of Aquaman when it comes to gameplay. However, the criterion here was how close the game was to comic books, and on that note, we have to give it to Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis.
Best Dungeon Crawler
Justice League Heroes (PS2/Xbox) — Snowblind, developer of Baldur’s Gate, worked with DC Comics on this one. They wanted Snowblind to create a Justice League adventure, where the Justice League of America members had to defend Earth from Darkseid’s conquering ambitions. The game was one of the better ones for the period it was released in (the late 1990s–early 2000s), They gave a good presentation of the comic books, but the gameplay itself lacked variety.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (PS3/Xbox 360) — When it came out, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 had the largest selection of characters in a single Marvel game. It was an RPG co-op, where up to four players could play together. The game storyline revolves around politicians being publicly against the heroic vigilantes. As a result, superheroes started choosing sides, for or against the government, and we had Avengers fighting against each other — like in the movie Captain America: Civil War. The game had team battles which could entertain you for hours.
Our Verdict — Justice League Heroes gave it a good go, but, ultimately, MUA2 beat them by some margin. You could see that a lot more working hours went into it compared to JLH, so the Marvel game is the winner here.
Best Non-Crossover Fighters
Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth (Wii U/Xbox 360) — Battle for Earth used Kinect to make this fighting game whose storyline revolves around Secret Wars. You know, as opposed to The Avengers movie, which grossed worldwide over $1.5 billion and went out the same year as the game. You have a fine selection of characters in the game, all of which have their own signature moves. However, Kinect failed to create precision when it came to giving commands, so, most of the time, you would fail to perform the moves. It feels rushed and not well thought-out.
Injustice: Gods Among Us (Wii U/PS3/Xbox 360) —The game gave us a darker approach to DCU heroes. Superman became tough and unsympathetic towards humans. You can either join him, or he will send you into space with a single punch. The game has some similarities with Mortal Kombat, with the exception of special moves being more cartoonish than brutal.
Our Verdict — This was also an easy one to decide on. Gods Among Us gives us a unique approach with a great combat system, while the other one barely works.
Best Crossover Fighters
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (PS3/Xbox 360) — Fans of the first two editions of the game had to wait for years for the third installment, but, when the game finally came out, it was worth the wait. Marvel heroes went up against Capcom fighters once again. The 2D combat was built to be fast, unbalanced, and unpredictable, with players having to hone their skills in order to beat their opponent. The game premise was interesting, as you could see Iron Man fight it out with the likes of Ryu. They also expanded the Marvel roster with some less common characters like Taskmaster and Rocket Raccoon.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (PS3/Xbox 360) — The Mortal Kombat franchise decided to switch back to a 2D platform when they released MKvDC. However, they should have stayed with their own set of characters and not mix with the Justice League. DC Comics had a lot of influence on the graphics, applying censorship to the game’s most popular moments — brutalities. For some reason, they didn’t like the idea of Scorpio ripping apart Superman, so they had to make a T-rated game, which goes against what Mortal Kombat fans like the most. You also had to adapt to the fact that Superman was now an equal opponent of Liu Kang’s, which is not easy to accept if you think about it.
Our Verdict — MKvDC is a compromise between the two companies which turned out to displease both sets of fans, while UMvC3 made the perfect crossover. The winner is obvious.
DC Universe Online (PC/PS3) — Jim Lee, a famed artist, worked on creating DCUO, which made it possible for fans to feel like a part of the DCU. You could go from place to place, taking control of your favorite superheroes and visiting locations you know from movies and books. For instance, you could play as Batman roaming around Gotham or go to space with the Justice League. They constantly produced updates to the game and added characters which weren’t there yet. The combat system in the game was of a great standard and only became better once it moved to an F2P platform.
Marvel Super Hero Squad (PC) — MSHS was a failed project which intended to bring Marvel heroes to the younger audience. They had a cartoonish design with an attempt to be cute enough to attract kids’ attention. It was an MMO you could play in-browser. The game had a large character selection. They came up with regular updates for a while, but once Disney got involved with Marvel, the game completely died out.
Our Verdict — This one was easy to decide. Marvel Super Hero Squad simply doesn’t have enough about it to come close to the DC Universe Online. They have set their ambitions too low and have even failed to deliver some of them.
Best Open World
Batman: Arkham City (PC/PS3/Wii U/Xbox 360) — Batman’s on his mission to avenge his family’s deaths and clear the city from criminals. Arkham City represented an upgrade to the previous release, Arkham Asylum. It kept the same gameplay principles — you had to do some detective work, explore, fight, and be stealthy. They worked in more detail on this game mechanics and brought them to another level. The first truly open-world Batman game brought us the feeling of being Batman himself, as you go around Arkham with your cape, Batmobile and batrope.
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) — Web of Shadows is perhaps one of the greatest video games which revolve around Spiderman swinging around an open-world New York City. As the campaign progresses, the Big Apple becomes gradually reshaped due to an alien invasion. Spider-Man wears his black suit, and your main enemy here is Venom. You have to defend humanity from the symbiote and his army. Developers introduced a new combat system to the game, as now you could utilize Peter’s agility to create some mid-air combos.
Our Verdict — Admittedly, this one is tough on Web of Shadows. While there’s nothing we can pin on the Spider-Man game, Batman: Arkham City is simply better. It’s probably the best superhero video game ever, and we had to pick it as the victor here.
Best Tie-ins Featuring Ryan Reynolds
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) — Wolverine as a character is someone who’s a tough guy, doesn’t let much get to him, and won’t limit his imagination when it comes to hurting his enemies. In the earlier T-rated versions of Marvel games, Wolverine couldn’t really shine and had to hold back a lot. However, in this M-rated game, Logan makes up for his previous shy use of the claws. The killings remained creative and different throughout the game. However, although it seems promising at first, the more the game progresses and sticks to the movie plot, the more the gameplay suffers. In the end, when you face Reynolds’ Deadpool, the game feels as it has gone on for a bit, but still, this game stands out from its predecessors.
Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters (PS3/Xbox 360) — Another game whose plot tries to revoke the movie. They stuck to the Green Lantern story, which was, in all honesty, a failure. Ryan Reynolds takes the starring role, where he defends Oa, his world, from a robot invasion. These killer robots resemble pretty much any other cliched version of an evil game robot. The graphics are good, especially when it comes to energy constructs which Green Lantern creates,
But the gameplay itself is a boring routine.
Our verdict — The sheer violence which Wolverine exhibits in this game is enough for the X-Men Origins game to take the win on this one. Although there are fewer moments with Reynolds in it, the game itself is much better compared to Green Lantern.
Gotham City Impostors — In your opinion, who would be the ideal character to use for the starring role of a First-Person Shooter? If your answer is “Someone who would never use a gun,” you should work for Monolith Soft. For real, the creators of F.E.A.R. thought it would be a good idea to put Batman in a team-based FPS, where Joker and Dark Knight impersonators go around the city fighting each other. The premise of the game is a bit outlandish, but the humor of the game and quirky gadgets made the playthrough fun.
The Punisher: No Mercy (PS3) — The Punisher is everyone’s favorite Marvel anti-hero. He has a badass attitude, wears a skull costume, and is pretty laid-back when it comes to committing a gruesome murder. Pretty much all you want from a game character is someone to be like the Punisher. As such, the Punisher seems like an ideal choice for an FPS (unlike Batman, that’s for sure). The title of the game is very promising, as you’d expect Frank to go Frank-mode and go around being merciless. However, the game disappointed. The FPS was bland, there was no graphic killing, and it didn’t really connect with the Punisher story.
Our Verdict — When you cast your first look at these two games, you’d be excused to think that The Punisher: No Mercy would be the better one of the two. However, the Marvel game just didn’t deliver anything fans hoped for, while Gotham City Impostors had personality and originality. The DC game wins.
If you count the wins in these categories, DC Comics takes this battle with the score 5–4. As a result, we can say that DC just slightly edges Marvel in the video game category. We’re sure that Marvel won’t have to cry itself to sleep, after all the recent cinematic successes. Plus, we feel that Marvel’s Spider-Man from 2018 would also have its say in this discussion.
Anyhow, as things stand now, DC is superior when it comes to creating video games.