Batman has had a storied legacy in the 80 years he has graced media. Since his debut in the mainstream media, he has effectively become one of the most popular--and profitable--superhero characters in existence. However, in terms of the video game medium, it wasn't until 2009 that Batman got a truly excellent entry into the industry.
Batman: Arkham Asylum revolutionized the character in video games and, in addition, set a golden precedent for how superheroes in video games should be done. Arkham Asylum also conveniently was coming just a year after Christopher Nolan's critically acclaimed Batman film, The Dark Knight, and in the middle of his trilogy. Even in the face of the excellent PS4 Spider-Man, here are 10 reasons why the Arkham games are the best superhero games.
10 Free-flow Combat
This has to be one of the defining characteristics of what makes a Batman Arkham game. First established in 2009's Batman: Arkham Asylum, the first in the main-series Rocksteady trilogy, the combat, or "free-flow combat," was the core of the series' gameplay. Everything about it was seamless, smooth, and flowed excellently.
Every single punch, kick, you name it, counted and felt hard-hitting and more than conveyed the impacts. This set a standard for the action in other action-adventure games as well. The free-flow combat was enhanced further by the equally seamless integration of gadgets in combat. More on that later.
9 The Voice Acting
It wasn't always the fact that voice acting and big names were important to have attached to video games. But since technology and the industry as a whole has evolved to have more cinematic experiences, having talent in the voice acting department has been more focused on to help with overall immersion.
The Batman franchise has certainly garnered its star power over the character's many years, and Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy provide their excellent talent in the games. The overall cast from top to bottom does excellently in voicing each character, but Hamill and Conroy are the highlights for sure.
8 Arkham Asylum's Intimate, Claustrophobic Setting
While open worlds are a popular commodity nowadays in the video game industry, it doesn't mean a game has to have one to be excellent. In fact, it is because Batman: Arkham Asylum has such a closed-off, intimate, and claustrophobic setting that the game and its story excelled as much as it did.
It really captured the essence of being stuck in Gotham City's most dangerous institution that houses the city's, and some of that whole DC universe's, most dangerous and disturbed criminals. Every last corner of the asylum felt dangerous, immersing the player in the setting.
7 The Rogues Gallery
A superhero is only as it good as its villains. While Batman can certainly stand on his own, his wide array of villains, or rogues gallery, elevates the character as a result. The character arguably has the most memorable and notorious cast of villains in superhero history.
This is especially so when the cast is led by the Joker: the most notorious super villain in comic book history. Naturally, Rocksteady took proper advantage of this villainous cast of characters and spread a variety of them all over their games. Names like the Joker, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Bane, and more come to mind.
6 The Stories
Since Batman is a comic book character, and comic books are a medium driven by telling stories, it is only natural that the Rocksteady games and Warner Bros Games Montreal's game, Batman: Arkham Origins, take proper inspiration from the character's massive history and the cast of characters to craft proper comic book stories.
And the Arkham games all accomplish this and then some. Arkham Asylum's simple, yet effective, story of Joker's plan to break out and run the asylum along with the use of the Titan drug were good examples of a Batman comic book story, and the stories improved in Arkham City.
5 The Open Worlds Of City And Knight
While it is true that no game needs an open world setting to succeed and ultimately be an excellent game, when executed well, it makes for a fantastic way to take advantage of an environment. And, especially after hinting at in Batman: Arkham Asylum, expanding The Dark Knight's world was the natural next step.
As expected, Rocksteady delivered in spades. The Caped Crusader's playground expanded by quite a bit, and the developers made every space in the world count. Things only got better once the series expanded outside of the asylum and the "city" and then into the whole of Gotham. Not once, except for admittedly in Origins, did the world feel needlessly large and vacant of content.
One of the defining characteristics of the Batman character is his use of gadgets. While he is a superhero at peak physical condition and a master in countless forms of martial arts, he still is a superhero without superpowers. Therefore, any game that features The Dark Knight must have proper use of his signature gadgets.
Fortunately, Rocksteady included some of the most iconic features of Batman's arsenal, like the Batarang, and was creative in inventing others. The use of gadgets in the games work seamlessly both in and out of combat and are a blast to use.
3 Detective Work, Particularly In Origins & Knight
Another big part of the overall Batman character is his intelligence. He puts that intelligence to work in his detective work. There are plenty of comic book Batman stories that emphasize his detective skills, like The Long Halloween and Dark Victory to name a couple. After all, one of his nicknames is "The World's Greatest Detective."
One thing that WB Montreal got right with Batman: Arkham Origins was implementing these skills into gameplay. The game featured the ability to scrub through crime scenes and uncover clues and move the investigation forward. Thankfully, this is carried over and further explored by Rocksteady in Batman: Arkham Knight.
2 Dark, Gritty Tones Of The Series
It is important to note that not everything, especially superhero-related pieces of media, has to be dark in tone and setting. Spider-Man, for example, succeeds in its more lighthearted nature. However, dark and gritty tones are something that Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy and subsequently the Arkham games excel at.
At this point in time, gone are the times of the campy Batman of the '60s. From the prequel, Origins, to the whole Rocksteady trilogy, the Arkham games perfectly capture the proper tone of the character while still creating strong comic book stories.
1 Batman Himself
Of course, the biggest selling point of this video game series has to be the character of the Batman himself. It is what ultimately drives the interest and sales of these games in the first place. It helps that the character is already, and has been for many years, one of the most popular superheroes in popular culture.
In fact, it is fair to say that--or at least could be argued--Batman is second in popularity only to Spider-Man in the mainstream media. The Dark Knight is haunted, complex, broken, relentless, driven, and more all at once.