For many years the Arkham games were the best Batman games on the market by a distance. Nobody could match Arkham's excellent combat or engaging storytelling.
However, Telltale then released a more narrative-focused Dark Knight game that was so popular it got a sequel. Despite not managing to compete with Rocksteady (and WB games) in terms of combat, both Telltale's titles included plots that were so captivating they rivaled Arkham's best efforts.
So to decide which Batman series is the best narrative experience, we've looked at the stories throughout each franchise (only the four main Arkham games though) and identified five things each of them do better than the other.
*Watch out for spoilers for Batman: The Telltale Series, Batman: The Enemy Within, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City, Batman: Arkham Origins, and Batman: Arkham Knight*
10 Telltale: Gives A Fresh Take On Familiar Characters
As with any popular comic universe, there have been plenty of different iterations of the caped crusader, likewise with his allies and villains. When it comes to adaptations though, most studios pick a version they like and adapt it into a film, TV show, or video game.
Telltale decided to go a different route and create a fresh new version of the Batman universe. Vicki Vale is a major villain, Thomas Wayne is a criminal, and The Joker and Harley Quinn have swapped roles, this all gives a unique and unpredictable feel to Telltale's story and characters. Whereas everyone in the Arkham games tends to act like any Batman fan would expect.
9 Arkham: Use Of Villains
The Arkham games are excellent demonstrations on how to juggle multiple major villains. Somehow, they manage to make The Joker, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Bane, Hugo Strange, Ra's al Ghul, and more, all vital parts of the series at one point or another.
Additionally, some of the Arkham games involve side missions that allow secondary villains to get their own story as they're being tracked down by Batman. In contrast, Telltale includes fewer antagonists per game, and the likes of Mr. Freeze are not as important as their Arkham counterparts.
8 Telltale: Makes Alfred Important
Bruce Wayne's loyal butler and friend Alfred Pennyworth has one of the most important arcs in Telltale's Batman games.
After not being able to stop Thomas Wayne's descent into darkness, he attempts to keep Bruce virtuous. By the end of The Enemy Within, however, Alfred realizes that he and Bruce are doing more harm than good in their crusade against Gotham's criminals. This all comes ahead in the series climactic scene as the butler gives Bruce a choice between giving up Batman or losing Alfred forever. He is never treated with the same significance in the Arkham games, as he's usually relegated to a support role.
7 Arkham: Provides A Darker Tone
Both franchises have a dark tone for their stories, which fits the Batman character perfectly. However, moments of death in the Telltale games are balanced out with light-hearted conversations with friends. Arkham titles rarely include moments of levity, especially in Arkham Asylum.
The whole set up to Asylum is that Batman is in a facility run by psychopaths that want him dead, and Scarecrow is the psycho that provides the darkest moments of either series. His fear toxin makes Batman see the reanimated corpses of his parents talking to him, also it makes him re-experience the night his parents died, and even witness a feral version of himself eating a rat, which is all a lot darker than giving John Doe relationship advice in The Enemy Within.
6 Telltale: Features A Compelling Alliance Between Gordon And Batman
The usual story of James Gordon not trusting Batman to eventually gaining respect for the vigilante is told in both Arkham Origins and Batman: The Telltale Series. However, after their rocky start, the relationship between the duo is no longer that interesting in the Arkham series.
Telltale, on the other hand, manages to keep Batman and Gordon's alliance fascinating by making The Dark Knight have to constantly pick sides between Jim or his rival Amanda Waller, who's threatening to reveal Batman's secret identity. Taking Waller's side too many times leads to Gordon losing faith in the vigilante. Additionally, Gordon's attempts to arrest Bruce Wayne (who he doesn't know is Batman) adds another wrinkle to their compelling relationship.
5 Arkham: Twists
Telltale's Batman games include some strong twists, but they don't quite match the brilliantly crafted ones seen in the Arkham titles. For instance, the revelation that Clayface is posing as The Joker in Arkham City.
There are plenty of clever clues that point to there being two Jokers, such as the fake one having no skeleton when viewed in detective mode (an indication he is made of clay) or the fact that Clayface Joker actually calls you Batman and not Bats or some other nickname like the real Clown Prince likes to do. Like with many of the Arkham games' twists, the hints are perfect as they are the sort that most people only notice when they've already discovered the truth.
4 Telltale: Provides A More Interesting Batman
When superhero franchises take focus away from the hero and put it onto the people portraying them, it tends to be quite dull. However, Telltale putting the spotlight on both Bruce Wayne and Batman made for a better character overall.
Seeing the toll that being Batman puts on Bruce Wayne's body, mind, and relationships, allows you to see a more human side to the character and remind you that he's not an unstoppable machine. In comparison, the Arkham series' version of the caped crusader can feel cold and emotionless at times, which makes for a less interesting protagonist.
3 Arkham: Gives A Definitive End For Batman
At the end of the Arkham series, Batman finally gives up the cowl and blows up Wayne Manor (perhaps killing himself and Alfred). Then the game shows that criminals still fear The Dark Knight, as his figure terrifies some potential muggers, thus the city is still protected even though he's gone.
One of Telltale's endings also involves the end of Batman, although it isn't as fleshed out. Bruce promises Alfred that he won't be The Dark Knight anymore, and he'll try to help in other ways. However, what happens if a new villain arrives and starts killing everyone in Gotham? Do we really believe Bruce Wayne's going to sit back and let it happen despite all his equipment still being around just because he promised?
2 Telltale: Batman's Relationship With Catwoman
Batman and Catwoman's relationship in the Arkham franchise never gets fully expanded on as their interactions with each other are few and far between. The pair's exchanges in the Telltale games are a much bigger part of the story.
Whether their relationship is romantic or not is up to the player, but either way, they team up to try to take down the Children of Arkham and then later the Pact. The scenes between the duo as either Bruce and Selina or Batman and Catwoman are always enjoyable. Also, their relationship brings a lot of heart to the games, with their goodbye at the end of the first game being one of the most emotional moments in the series.
1 Arkham: Batman's Relationship With The Joker
The dynamic between Batman and The Joker is brilliant in both series. How Bruce Wayne influences The Joker in the Telltale games is amazing, yet it still doesn't quite live up to the duo's relationship in the Arkham titles.
Their conflict is a vital part of the narrative throughout, they meet in Origins, Joker turns himself into a monster to try to fight his nemesis during Arkham Asylum, Batman considers going against his own beliefs to let The Joker die in Arkham City (though he tried to save him eventually), and even in death the Sinister Clown still manages to torment the mind of The World's Greatest Detective in Arkham Knight. Batman and Joker's rivalry during this franchise is one of the best in gaming history.