It's time for the sequel everyone expected to pop up when they read my Top 15 Worst Marvel Games Of All Time article. That's right, I'm going to be tackling their rival next: DC Comics. Like Marvel, most of the DC lineup of video games range from mediocre to terrible with some shining gems in there too. Diamonds in the rough as you will, which is more of a Disney reference, but bear with me. And like X-Men and Spider-Man dominating the bulk of said games, the equivalent for DC is Batman and Superman. This list could have easily focused on those two alone and I still could have had more of their games to talk about, with Batman being the number one offender. However, I tried to seek out some other "stars" as well to give the rundown a more diverse spread.
Admittedly there are some notoriously bad omissions I left out like Superman: The New Adventures on the Nintendo 64. I know it's bad, but I wanted a fresh take on fifteen games that were easily accessible for me and the Nintendo 64 really isn't. There were also multiple versions of the same game on different systems I wanted to discuss, but I instead chose the most horrible iteration of the bunch to, again, give the list a broader scope. I played these games a couple hours each giving them a fair shake before I booted them to the curb. With all that said please enjoy this walk down Crime Alley.
14 Superman (Arcade)
Hmm, I’m not sure what to make of this one. On one hand Superman is extremely powerful, able to take down enemies in a single blow, except for bosses, but on the other hand, it’s too easy. Pummeling countless enemies isn’t satisfying. I want to feel the visceral tension of bashing a villain into pulp, like in most beat’em ups. Difficulty aside, the game is just kind of weird. Superman’s punches have odd sound effects, he can kick like a toddler throwing a tantrum, and it takes more hits to break down a fence than defeating an enemy. The Superman film theme plays in the background, but it’s more annoying than it is nostalgic. Taito is a quality developer, but they’re not within smudges on their record either. Superman isn’t the worst game, but it is kind of bland.
13 The Death and Return of Superman (SNES/Genesis)
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, The Death and Return of Superman makes the superhero feel like a washed up hack. Enemies absorb way too many blows, making each encounter feel like a slog. In the truest sense, it is more of a classic brawler though, but Superman really isn’t a good fit for that type of genre. It’s a kind of damned if you do, dammed if you don’t kind of thing. Make him too powerful and the game is a simple, bland breeze and if it’s too difficult because he’s a wimp, well that’s not fun either. At the very least, both of these games have concrete mechanics I can understand, but other Superman games go far too abstract, but we’ll save those dredges for later. I can’t believe Blizzard made this.
12 Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis (GameCube/Xbox)
By this point in my life, it’s safe to say I’ve played well over one to two hundred games. I’ve experienced motion blur from running, flying, swimming, and so forth and not once have I felt sick. Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis, no joke, physically made me motion sick. Flipping the camera upside down as Aquaman swam, rotating the buildings to be on the top of the screen probably did it, but I still can’t believe it happened and that’s just for starters. Story is told through comic panels, but they use the game engine’s models to render them so there’s no artistry to it, plus there’s no voice acting and the music is awful. Touching enemies activates kind of a 2D fighting game in combat scenarios, which is actually fine. Overall the game feels unfinished. It’s not based on a movie, so what was the rush? To give you further insight, the GameCube version of Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis currently sits at 27/100 on Metacritic from nine reviews.
11 Catwoman (GameCube/PS2/Xbox/PC)
This is, without a doubt, one of the worst DC films of all time. Catwoman is not even a fun bad movie to watch, it’s just excruciating and the game is no better. Well, worse actually as the movie will only takes you less than two hours to get through. Anyway, Catwoman is not without good ideas. The camera presents dynamic angles that actual make the game standout on occasion, especially when running from cops or bad guys across rooftops. The trouble is it’s pretty easy to get lost or misguided on where to go. Her narrative is at least more realized than Aquaman, as bad as it is. Combat and basic platforming is wonky. She seems to have a mind of her own even if you hit the right buttons. Her quips are harmful to your ears and that costume looks like a trashed Tetsuya Nomura concept. In the awful words of Catwoman, let's meow-ve on.
10 Catwoman (Game Boy Color)
This surprised me, as I thought the above game was the one and only Catwoman experience out there, which again is based on the movie, but this GBC title released years before the film, sporting a more classic, purple design for the character. It begins on a heist and you’re tasked with knocking out guards and traversing through platforms while looking for treasure. Stages are created more vertically than horizontally making it feel almost maze like. There are only four buttons on the Game Boy Color, so why make the controls so complicated? Sometimes all I wanted to do was climb up a wall, but the slightest nudge would make her repel off instead, giving me horrific flashbacks to some of the more awful quirks of the first few Assassin’s Creed games. It seems both titles gave Catwoman a personality trait to ignore player controls.
9 Justice League Task Force (SNES/Genesis)
The Death and Return of Superman wasn’t the only DC game Blizzard developed. In fact they made a lot of console titles during the 16-bit generation. Personally I think most of them are terrible like our next entry: Justice League Task Force. To clarify Blizzard worked on the SNES version, while another team handled the Sega Genesis port. Anyway there are only nine characters to choose from and fighting is just a matter of mashing buttons without a good set of moves or combos. I should have known the game was going to be bad from the box art. Everyone looks pretty good except Superman, who has insanely long and wavy hair as if he was modeled after Nicholas Cage from that failed Tim Burton project. Look at it!
The Flash (Game Boy)
This game, only released in Europe, was clearly trying to ape Sonic the Hedgehog. I get why someone would want to do that with The Flash, as he is also speedy, but it’d make more sense to put it on a console that doesn’t have Sonic like the SNES. Bewilderment aside, The Flash shares the pros and cons of Sonic’s games. Speeding through stages and hitting the button just right to spin into enemies is thrilling, but when slowed down the platforming sections kill that momentum. The Flash’s jumps are too floaty, so it’s not like he can’t clear gaps, it’s just that the player may have trouble sticking the landing exactly where he/she intended. On the plus side of things, this is another terrible video game with an amazing soundtrack.
8 Batman (Arcade)
Not to be outdone by Sunsoft’s Superman, Batman also had an arcade game by his name alone although it was based on Tim Burton’s first movie. There’s horrendously blurred, pixelated photos from it and voice samples as if they were recorded in a blender. It’s also an easy side-scrolling brawler where Batman uses one blow to knock bad guys down. He also walks around with his cape covering half his body like some kind of archduke and he’s oddly skinny, especially with his jumping animations. Oh yeah and he controls like garbage. Aside from those dull moments of brawling, there are chases with the Batmobile where one can shoot, literally shoot, civilian cars out of the way in the name of justice. It’s more rad and weird than the Superman arcade game, but that doesn't really make it better.
7 Batman Forever (SNES)
There are multiple versions of this game most of which are different from the other, but this SNES iteration is the worse. Batman Forever has to be the worse single Batman movie. I say single because Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is actually the worst. Like Catwoman, it’s just dumb and not fun to watch, unlike its sequel, Batman and Robin, which pulled out all the campy stops. Anyway like Mortal Kombat, this game uses digitized sprites, so it looks like you’re playing with real actors. Oooh, technology. I can’t see how this was ever an astounding achievement in video games, but whatever. Now I can forgive it for being a terrible brawler, but Batman Forever is a SNES cart with load times. LOAD TIMES! It doesn’t even say loading either. The screen goes black for a couple seconds, then says Hold On, goes black again and then you’re back in the game. I’m getting upset again just thinking about it.
6 Batman Returns (Genesis)
We’re going out of order film wise, but who cares. As my final ridicule on the Batman films, we’ll tackle the Sega Genesis version of Batman Returns, as the NES and SNES games are actually pretty fun since Konami developed them. First of all the game’s color pallet is all one note: a mixture of black and purple. This makes Batman and his surroundings almost indistinguishable and thus creating a confusing environment to traverse. Like Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six from my Marvel list, where the Webslinger punches dudes into oblivion, Batman does that too. His explosive fists sound like a copier breaking down while farting. That silliness does nothing to motivate me into further trying to figure out how to navigate the poorly designed levels though.
5 Swamp Thing (NES)
Wow, just, wow. There are so many things to unpack with this NES game. So I don’t know jack about this character. A swamp seems like a fitting place to start, that much is obvious, but why is he fighting robotic fish, mice, and bugs? On that same note, why are tin cans falling during a thunderstorm and why are there knives flying out of nowhere? On top of the confusion, it’s incredibly hard due to random things coming at you at all times, your low health bar, and the green beast’s sluggish controls. You’re always at a disadvantage. For example, those mouse robots are on the ground and while you can crouch, hitting the punch button sends him upright again, so you can’t strike them. It’s infuriating. The music, I will say, is good, setting up a spooky atmosphere.
4 Justice League: Injustice For All (GBA)
There’s a lot of hate to dish on here, so let’s start with the graphics. This may be an obvious statement for most consoles, but you can tell how much time was put into a Game Boy Advance title just from graphics. There are some truly outstanding games on the device, but the worst ones usually try to go less cartoony and more realistic, which usually turns out to look like this jagged pixel nightmare. Surface problems aside, Justice League: Injustice For All also came close to making me feel queasy, as taking or receiving a hit shakes the screen, so getting attacking, or pummeling repeatedly made it nauseating. Going into missions as a two person, switchable duo is a cool idea for an action game and everyone you play as has most of their unique skills intact. A solid idea does not alone make for a good time though.
3 Superman (NES)
Is it possible to have a Superman game called something other than Superman? Geez Louise! Well, anyway, there are parts of this game that are really cute, namely the 8-Bit design. It’s highly influenced by Japan’s chibi aesthetic, making everyone amazingly adorable. Even when Clark Kent gets shot, his damage sprite is 'oh so cute.' Everything else is a drag. There are missions in the game, marked on your map that you need to get to all while fighting thugs on the street in-between. You can transform into Superman in a telephone booth, but if you take too much damage, you’ll revert back to Clark Kent. What is he Bruce Banner? That’s not how his powers work! Powers or not, Superman is a drag to play. Cute sprites only get you so far in my book.
2 Batman: The Video Game (TurboGrafx-16)
Okay I lied, I have one more Batman adventure to bestow on you before the grand finale. This iteration of Batman: The Video Game for the TurboGrafx-16 has the strangest gameplay mechanics I’ve yet to see for The Caped Crusader. It’s an action puzzle game set in a maze. Batman is placed on one side of the map with the goal of surviving hordes of mimes, or maybe clowns, as he tries to make his way out. There are power-ups to collect along the way in order to dissuade his enemies from taking him down. I suppose it’s actually not that bad of a video game, but compared to the excellent NES version, it’s a real head scratcher. When one thinks of Batman, it’s not as a puzzle game. I’m sure there’s a joke in here somewhere I could make between a rat, bat, and a maze, but it’s not coming to me. Oh well.
1 Superman (Atari 2600)
Yep, just like my Marvel list, I decided to end on easy pickings. Although Spider-Man for the Atari 2600 was bad, it at least was easy to understand. Superman on the other is like trying to navigate David Lynch’s mind. You can zip around endlessly through a typhoon of colors with sprites intermingled along the way. Superman can pick up civilians, but I didn’t know what to do with them or the bad guys. And, to make matters worse, the sound effects sound like nails on a chalkboard turned up to eleven. I am convinced this game could be used as a torture device. Actually I might have already been brainwashed into whatever Superman was trying to sell. I guess I’ll deal with that later, but thankfully this entry finishes up my DC list. Excuse me while I take some pills to quell these traumatic events.