You don't have to look far these days to find a pack of crime-fighting superheroes out to make the world a safer, yet somehow more explosion-filled place. The Avengers have become Hollywood's biggest darlings, and the Marvel movie train isn't slowing down anytime soon. Superhero toys are moving millions of dollars a year, and even the comics themselves, which were ailing in the early 2000s, are back on the upswing. And yet, in video games, the one medium where you can actually be Captain America or Superman, it seems like there's a dearth of good superhero titles.
That's an injustice we can't let stand. For those in desperate need of a superhero video game fix, we've gathered the best of the best here. Their mission: to make sure you have a super good time. Whether they use magic powers, technical gizmos, or just flat-out smash things to oblivion, the gang's all here. Time to get to work.
15. Justice League Heroes: The Flash
It's not surprising that there haven't been many games featuring The Flash; when your name isn't Sonic the Hedgehog, unlimited speed as a game's central focus can be a hard sell. Plus, for a long time, consoles just didn't have the processing power to let the world's fastest man run free. But that didn't stop WayForward from making Justice League Heroes: The Flash in 2006 for the Game Boy Advance, and making great use of the world's fleetest feet in the process.
At face value, The Flash looks like a typical brawler, but having the power to dash between enemies using super speed completely flips the script. Activating Flash's super speed slows the world down while allowing him to maintain velocity, so you can see what it looks like from his point of view when he goes full-blur and puts his enemies in the ground. Need I say any more?
Play it on: Game Boy Advance
It's rare to find genuine laughs from attempted comedy in games, which makes High Moon Studios' Deadpool quite the treasure indeed. This third-person hack-and-slash drops you into the boots of the Merc with a Mouth, and lets you loose on hordes of disposable, meat-filled enemies in a bloody action adventure that never misses the chance to crack a joke.
It's a good thing, too, because while the combat starts to get stale by the time the credits roll, that stellar script and wonderful comedy more than make up for it. Deadpool's meta, fourth-wall-breaking antics are enjoyable from beginning to end. Plus, there's a scene where you're able to slap an unconscious Wolverine for a solid three minutes, and who doesn't want to do that?
Play it on: PC, PS3, and Xbox 360
13. Scribblenauts Unmasked
Scribblenauts started with the ambitious concept of conjuring any word you could imagine, and it has only grown from there. In 2013, the series massive dictionary got even larger with Scribblenauts Unmasked, which included every person and most of the items from DC Comics history in its lexicon (including Bloodwynd and Kryptonian, but sadly not League of Shadows). Scribbling protagonist Max can summon Batman to solve his problems, or a dozen different Batmen to deal with a new logic puzzle.
Unmasked has a massive DC-themed vocabulary, and in addition to letting you summon the entire Green Lantern Corps to help you solve a riddle, the encyclopedic collection of names doubles as a Wiki that gives you background on every single DC term included. So, hey, it's educational! Its such a thorough celebration of DC's past and present ,that it's hard not to feel all the joy dancing across your screen at all times, like waves of transformative radiation.
Play it on: PC, Wii U, and Nintendo DS
12. DC Universe Online
An MMO based off on the DC universe doesn't sound like a great idea on paper. If everyone’s a superhero, then are what’s so super about everyone? But, six years on from release, DC Universe Online is alive and kicking on PC and next-gen consoles, having successfully made the transition from the PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2013. Players get to create their own superhero based on the traits of DC's wide catalogue of canonical characters, before venturing fourth into the open world to join the fight against perpetual doomsday.
Above all, DC Universe Online excels as an example of perspicacious post-launch curation, as developers Daybreak Game Company has devoted itself to perpetually enhancing and expanding the game with new content, updates, fixes, and rewards for the past half decade. It’s starting to show its age in 2017 but, as a free-to-play action MMO that reveals a deep understanding of and admiration for its source material, you could do a lot worse than DC Universe Online.
Play it on: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
11. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Not only is the X-Men Origins: Wolverine game infinitely better than the movie it’s loosely based off of, but it might well be one of the best movie tie-in games of all time. An R-rated experience which doesn’t shy away from Logan’s capacity to brutalize his enemies, X-Men Origins: Wolverine represents the first mature take on the character outside of the comics.
The game was more than just blood and guts, however, as the action-heavy combat is engaging in its simplicity, not to mention relentless during the impressively designed boss fights. The well-told story also features full voice acting from almost the entire cast of the film, with Hugh Jackman himself lending his suitably gruff tones to the proceedings. Unfortunately, the movie’s infamously awful interpretation of Deadpool turns up in the game, too, so it isn’t all plain sailing.
Play it on: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii
10. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
Through much of the 2000s, Activision found a real niche for itself publishing dungeon crawlers based around comic book super stars. After increasingly well-made adventures like X-Men: Legends and the first Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, the series reached its loot collecting, team of four apex with Ultimate Alliance 2.
While in many ways Ultimate Alliance 2 re-purposed the formula from its predecessor almost note for note, the incremental adjustments establish it as the pinnacle of the franchise. It features a huge roster of stars from all over the Marvel Universe, has the best visuals in the series, and is built around the hero vs. hero Civil War story-line, making its plot a bigger draw than you might expect. It has its flaws, but if all you're looking for is to sprint down dungeon corridors and punch Magneto in the face, you've found your game.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PS2, PSP, and Nintendo Wii
9. The Wonderful 101
Platinum Games has superheroism in its blood. Bayonetta and the Transformers Devastation may be lacking in capes and Kryptonite, but they prove how skilled Platinum is at working with the sorts of giant explosions, eye-catching aesthetics, and giddy heart that make superheroes so beloved. So it's not surprising that when Platinum tried its hand at a literal superhero game - The Wonderful 101 - it hit the nail on the head with a building-sized hammer.
In Wonderful 101, you control a 100-strong team of superheroes as they battle against a powerful alien force trying to take over the world. In proper Platinum form, you fight battles that both look and feel larger than life, but with a twist: the mass of superheroes under your control combine to create gigantic weapons that you use in battle, letting you feel just as big and powerful as the things you're fighting. While the game does stumble in places (the Wii U GamePad is occasionally crowbarred in with painful results), its silly affection for everything superhero-y makes it difficult not to love.
Play it on: Wii U
8. Lego Marvel Super Heroes
From Star Wars to Lord of the Rings, the Lego games have proven that just about everything is better in brick form. That trend continues in Lego Marvel Super Heroes, which comes at the Marvel universe with easy to grasp adventure gameplay and the sort of lighthearted humor that Lego games have long become famous for. Seriously, where else is Dr. Doom actually going to call his world-annihilation device a "Doom Ray of Doom"?
Playing Spiderman as he teams up with Black Widow to defeat Venom and make silly block puns is really all you need to have a good time here, and Lego Marvel doesn't overcomplicate the mash-ups. Yet, in its own goofy way, it remains loyal to the Marvel universe, making each character feel essential to the cast and giving them abilities that uniquely fit them, like the Hulk being able to throw cars and make competent use of a computer. It doesn't have much to offer players hoping for a challenge or a serious story, but it's pure and simple fun, and that's all it needs to be.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PS Vita, and Nintendo 3DS
7. Saints Row 4
If you were to ride a time machine back to 2006 (or maybe just spin the world in the other direction, Superman-style), you'd probably get a lot of raised eyebrows over the idea that Saints Row would eventually include a superhero game. But my, how things change: Saints Row 4 stars humans with incredible powers like super speed and energy projection, out to save Earth from world-hopping evil, headquartered in a secret Saints-cave, and decked out in matching outfits. I'm gonna say that qualifies.
Saints Row 4 transformed the post-modern sandbox into a profane riff on The Matrix, and it's an absolute blast to explore and destroy as you see fit. You're faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive, exploring the virtual city of Steelport just like Superman would - were he a sociopathic, deposed President that loves Biz Markie. That alone makes the game worthwhile, turning the simple act of moving from one place to another into a high-speed adventure. But toss in progressively more intense powers you unlock as you go and ridiculous slapstick comedy, and it's a game that's hard not to love, no matter how many dick jokes it tells.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, and Xbox 360
6. inFamous Second Son
InFamous: Second Son isn't based on a comic book or a movie, and it doesn't feature a beloved protagonist with roots in 1940's Americana. Instead, Delsin Rowe is a hero for the modern age: a charming delinquent who discovers he can absorb other superheroes' powers a la Rogue from X-Men, and struggles with the choice between using them for good or whatever he damn well pleases. While the first two games have their charms, Second Son is a fuller package, with tons of side content and visual flourishes that make the heroes and the city they're trying to save feel alive. Plus, it gives you access to the sort of raw power you always want to get your hands on, but so rarely do.
Playing as Delsin gives you the feeling of truly controlling a superhero. His powers grow to near-absurd levels by the end of the game, and with all the different abilities he can acquire over the course of his journey, it's not long before your cup runneth over with superpowered possibilities. Using neon to speed through the streets and straight up buildings, levitating enemies or anchoring them with concrete, shooting into orbit and coming back down for an Earth-shaking entrance - it's the stuff of superhero dreams, and it's all at your glowing fingertips.
Play it on: PS4
5. Spider-Man 2
Of the many dozens of titles inspired by New York’s most famous wall-crawler, it’s still Spider-Man 2 which conjures up the fondest memories. Treyarch nails the power fantasy of web-slinging through the urban jungle of Manhattan to a tee, while the city itself feels bustling and alive, riddled with crime for players to put a stop to.
Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Alfred Molina also reprise their roles from the movie to impart their vocal talent, ensuring that the story remains consistent to its cinematic counterpart, but Treyarch still takes some welcome deviations by jam-packing the game with a diverse cast of heroes and villains from the comics. The best moment of it all? A hilariously subversive and anti-climactic boss fight with Mysterio.
Play it on: PC, PS2, Xbox, PSP, and Nintendo GameCube
4. Injustice 2
NetherRealm's studios first attempt at a superhero based fighting game, 2013's Injustice: Gods Among Us, was a sound and solid foundation for a franchise in the making, but greater things were to follow. This year finally saw the release of its sequel, Injustice 2, which ups the ante in almost every way you could hope for, not least with the addition of sorely missing characters from the first game like Supergirl and Gorilla Grod.
Injustice 2 is a prestigious and meaty fighting game, which really does play as good as it looks. All the depth and nuances of the fighting genre are here, buried deep within the game's layered mechanics, but the visual pizzazz of it all is what elevates into something really special. Even if you're not a fighting fan, you can appreciate NetherRealm's dedication to premium presentation, especially when someone unleashes their Super Move upon an unsuspecting foe.
Play it on: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
3. The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
The Incredible Hulk is one of the most popular heroes in the world, and an Avengers headliner, but his record with games has been pretty spotty (including a game where you exclusively play as Bruce Banner, because who likes smashing things anyway). It almost felt like nobody really understood the Hulk and what makes him so great, until Ultimate Destruction came along and got him doing what he does best: breaking everything.
Here the Hulk beats the crap out of anything he can get his gargantuan hands on, embracing the ridiculousness of a Not-So-Jolly Green Giant by making boxing gloves out of cars and surfing on buses. Plus, it creates a means of movement that would make Assassin's Creed green with envy, allowing the Hulk to dig his fingers right into building walls and leap across the city with the greatest of ease. Pseudo-sequel series Prototype would eventually build on this same concept, but in terms of straight-up Hulk games, no game has captured the destructive force and unbridled entertainment of the big guy like this one.
Play it on: PS2, Xbox, and Nintendo GameCube
2. Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3
Marvel vs Capcom 2 might have more superheroes in its roster, but nothing comes close to Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 in terms of sheer fan service. Working closely with advisors at Marvel, Capcom crafted each hero (and villain) with care, making sure to include instantly-recognizable moves and ridiculously obscure references alike. When Rocket Raccoon gets a spot on the Marvel squad, you know you're dealing with bonafide experts.
Each comic book character plays just as youd imagine they would: Spider-Man nimbly dashes around the screen, Phoenix transforms into her Dark incarnation upon death, and Storm is the queen of controlling airspace. UMC3 is an impressive fighting game even if you have no love for Marvel, with balanced combat that allows for a variety of fighting styles and smooth handling that feels grand whether you're playing as Deadpool or Frank West. If you're a purist looking for a game that bleeds Marvel, or simply a fighting game-lover looking for a fun time, this really is the ultimate.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, and PS Vita
1. Batman: Arkham Knight
Rocksteady has long been a rockstar of the superhero genre, from the day Arkham Asylum swooped quietly onto the scene and changed the face of super games forever. Arkham Knight is thus the pinnacle of the pinnacle, the swan song of the Arkham series that takes all of its best parts and condenses them into one 25-hour experience. It has its issues (namely the feeling that the game is running you over with the Batmobile by the end), but just like with the Caped Crusader himself, its greatness isn't undone by them.
Batman's powers are at their most carefully honed in Arkham Knight, with combat feeling fluid and natural, and his batty gliding ability makes traversal so fun that I'm pretty sure I saw him crack a midair smile. Plus, this time around those powers include the power of friendship, which lets a partner like Batgirl or Robin join in the fray for brilliantly executed combos that are a joy to partake in. Nestle all that in a huge open world full of great content (that isn't entirely Riddler trophies, I swear), and this feels like the perfect way to send the best iteration of Batman off as he vanishes into the night.
Play it on: PC, PS4, and Xbox One