Top 10 Things Superhero Games Always F*#% Up



Top 10 Things Superhero Games Always F*#% Up

VOICE OVER: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Ty Richardson
You might remember a time when Superhero games were actually quite bad. For this list we'll be looking at the various ways superhero games would always mess up. Whether the developers weren't able to capture the essence of the superhero or if the superhero's powers just didn't quite fit the mechanics, these decisions made for terrible games!

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So much potential, so many fails. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today, we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Things Superhero Games Always F*#% Up.

For this list, we’ll be discussing some of the most common and infuriating mistakes that games tend to repeat.

#10: Overusing the Same Weapon or Mechanic

Yes, we get it, the mechanic you came up with is cool. But make us savor it! One of the pitfalls many superhero games fall victim to is relying on repeated gimmicks. One example of this was “Batman: Arkham Knight” where the Dark Knight could transform the Batmobile into a freakin’ tank. Some players didn’t mind this, but others felt as if the car was stapled to them for most of the experience. From this vantage point, puzzles, combat, and exploration felt less like “I’m Batman” and more like a bad “SpyHunter” reboot. It was a feature that quickly grew stale, even causing some players to bail early. Of course, Arkham Knight is just one of many guilty titles.

#9: Being a Standard Beat ‘Em Up

Don’t get us wrong, we love a good beat ‘em up game! A few choice “X-Men” arcade cabinets have forced us to cough up more quarters than we’re proud to admit. However, with so many other superhero titles resorting to the tried & true formula, the genre quickly grows stale. It’s gotten to the point where a beat ‘em up feels like the go-to default path of least resistance come video game adaptation time. We need superhero games that do more than just “beat those baddies!” As the films and comics have proven, superheroes needn’t be homogenous; and the more they subscribe to a formula, the less special they become. Besides, not every hero is about beating the snot out of criminals!

#8: Bland Game Worlds

There have been many superhero games that suffer from dull environments and level design. Sometimes, it makes you question whether the devs looked at any of the source material outside of the characters. Viewing a movie or reading a comic will show that every hero has their own unique world from the architecture of buildings to numerous landmarks they visit. There’s more to a character’s world than just recreating New York City, or worse, copy-&-pasting buildings in random spots! Devs shouldn’t be afraid of getting creative with a hero’s world. Just look at the “Batman: Arkham” games as a roadmap for doing it right.

#7: Ugly Character Designs

Despite repeated disappointment, every now and then a superhero title comes along that we can’t help but get excited about. But how many times, upon release, were you specifically devastated by the horrifying way your beloved hero had been rendered? We’ve all been there before, whether it was bugged-out eyes, awful facial animations, or worse, the uncanny valley. Then, there are the games trying to replicate their movie counterparts, which almost always fail to generate the desired results. Graphics aren’t everything, but ugly character models can genuinely ruin the experience. How can you enjoy the game when Superman’s head looks like the work of Dr. Frankenstein?

#6: Integrating Other Heroes

Have you ever heard of the phrase “too many cooks spoil the broth”? It has many applications, but it signifies “too many people involved”. In this particular case, we’re talking about too many other heroes squeezing into one game. This can make it trickier to write a coherent story, especially if you want to include all of the fan favorites. This may also cause some headaches when adjusting the game’s balance, resulting in broken gameplay. Granted, everyone wants to see their favorite heroes make it into a video game, but unfortunately, that comes at a cost. And would you rather that small dose of clumsily-executed fan service or genuinely good superhero games? We’ll take the latter.

#5: Balancing a Hero’s Strengths with Video Game Mechanics

This may be hard to believe, but there are some superheroes who just can’t be replicated with traditional game design. Take Superman, for example. On top of flying, heat vision, and icy breath, Superman is nigh invincible. How on Earth do you make a game where Superman retains this ability while also making it possible for the player to lose? A few games have taken unique approaches to combat this issue, but most have failed to make the grade - offering excuses for diminished abilities rather than exploring genuinely alternative gameplay approaches. As much as we enjoy the familiarity of conventional design, we need to start thinking of unconventional ways to make superheroes work in video games, especially if we continue factoring in god-like powers.

#4: Wrong Genres

Not every superhero has found themselves weaseled into another standard beat ‘em up game. In fact, there have been games that have taken their characters into noticeably different genres, but that isn’t to say these were the right choices. Could you imagine the X-Men being in a top-down shooter? Well, it happened. How about a text adventure game of the Hulk? That was a thing, too. We can appreciate the effort in trying something different, but there are some ideas that have been implemented that were clearly too outlandish to make sense. The source material has to reflect in the game, and some of these just didn’t get the picture.

#3: Licensing Problems

One of the most harrowing tasks of developing a superhero game is following the rules of the license. Almost every little decision must be approved by executives who may or may not be familiar with their source material. The process can be increasingly agonizing when said executives sit on decisions for weeks or make absurd demands. How do you know these executives are making the right decisions? You don’t! And if they reject an idea, it can cost developers a lot of time. This is how we got “Superman 64”, people.

#2: Being a Movie Tie-In Game

Let’s get something straight - not every movie needs its own video game! Thankfully, this isn’t as frequent of an issue as it used to be, but it’s still worth mentioning. Movie tie-ins are notorious for being cobbled together in a painfully short amount of time, often resulting in games that are riddled with bugs. This is why many superhero games like “Iron Man” and “Thor: God of Thunder” found themselves on “worst of” lists. They were only made to capitalize on their blockbuster movies. The lesson here is simple: don’t make a superhero game for money; do it because you like the hero, and the money will follow.

#1: Failing to Capture What Makes the Hero Awesome

Everything in this list contributes to this problem. Most of the games we’ve mentioned or have shown suffered because no one bother asking, “What makes this character awesome?” The sooner you answer that, the sooner you can focus on the next goal: the player experience. Good superhero games make the player feel as if they’re truly inhabiting the hero - whether its swinging around New York as Spider-Man or using gadgets to silently takedown enemies as Batman. A superhero game needs to be something unique, not just a reskin of an existing model. You can’t just reuse assets and expect the recognizable branding to do the rest.. Like other creative works, superheroes require a lot of thought, imagination, and most importantly, time.