Earth's crappiest heroes
It may currently feel like were in a bit of a renaissance for games based on comic books, especially when Batmans Arkham adventures are some of the best (and best-selling) games of the last few years. These days the best super hero games come in genres as diverse as fighting, role-playing, even pinball. However, super hero games aren't always a cause for excitement. In fact, some of them qualify as the best games ever made.
And bad games can happen to the most famous of heroes. For as mighty as Superman may be, for as strong as the Hulk can get, none of those icons could overcome their terrible video games. So, to give you some perspective on just how good we've got it today, this feature collects the 15 worst comic book games ever released. Hopefully this will help gamers and game makers alike remember how bad a super hero game can be if you aren't careful
15. Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects
Some might mistakenly remember this one being okay, but thats only because Marvel fighting fans would settle for anything when it seemed like there would never be a Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. Created by EA, Rise of the Imperfects squanders a roster that includes Marvel heavyweights like Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Iron Man by having them battle the accurately named Imperfects. This set of losers, including the likes of Johnny Ohm and Hazmat, were boring enough and they werent helped by the incredibly simplified combat and aggressively bland 3D stages.
Another thing that likely bothered Marvel fans is that the game begins with the death of popular characters like Captain America and The Hulk--hope you didn't expect to play as them. This planned multimedia event fizzled out pretty quickly, sending the Imperfects into obscurity as Marvel ended its partnership with EA soon after this games release.
14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
Technically this NES game is based on the Ninja Turtles cartoon and not the original comic, but its so memorably horrible that it cant be ignored. A mishmash of stages held together by a confusing overworld that seems intended to befuddle the player, TMNTs main sin is being incredibly unbalanced.
Each turtle has a different weapon, so while Donatellos staff could seemingly reach the other side of the screen, Raphaels sais twirled uselessly in the air, barely hitting what was directly in front of him. The insanely cruel difficulty is best exemplified by the Dam level, which probably pushed many children of the 1980s into therapy. You have mere minutes to search an underwater maze for a series of bombs with turtles that can barely swim and walls that will murder you in a couple hits. You were more likely to snap the controller in half out of frustration than complete that section.
13. Watchmen: The End Is Nigh
Watchmen is one of the most celebrated, revered comic books ever released, and after years of attempts, it also became a shockingly watchable movie. Yet, even though the film turned out fine, it's hard not to hate it for begetting Watchmen: The End Is Nigh. The 2009 release is the type of cynical tie-in game that creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons dreaded for decades.
The downloadable title ignores all the nuance, depth, and symbolism of the original work----maybe because including it would get in the way of the punching? Who the hell knows.. Like a latter day Final Fight, unforgettable heroes Nite Owl and Rorschach spend most of the game repetitively beating thugs to death in dank alleyways and sewers, an adventure that's easily beneath them. The brutality is occasionally punctuated by cutscenes, only The End Is Nigh defines a cutscene as the camera slowly panning across still images. Play this game too long and you'll be sharing Rorschach's bleak worldview in no time.
12. Fantastic Four (PlayStation)
Marvel appears to be relatively careful with who it hands its franchises to these days, but back in the 1990s the comic publisher would give them to virtually anyone, as proven by the many awful Acclaim titles like the Fantastic Four. This is so bad it overshadows fairly crummy FF games based on the recent films, as Acclaims Fantastic Four for PlayStation outshines those games in its hideousness.
An ugly sidescroller beat em up of the Final Fight variety, the four player combat is almost as trashy as the graphics, and it isn't helped by the annoying and inexplicably jazzy soundtrack. Acclaim gets come credit for staying true the comics continuity of the time, but the only real compliment you can give this hideous thing is that its short. To quote the Thing, "Whatta revolting development!"
11. X-Men: Destiny
Any developer can make a bad game starring comic book characters, but it takes a special team to make a game so bad that it's partly responsible for a studio closing. X-Men: Destiny has an infamous connection to the sad end of developer Silicon Knights, and reports of troubled development make sense given the disappointing gameplay on offer. The resulting action title feels extraordinarily unpolished, wasting a good concept on an oppressively middling game.
Don't expect to play as Wolverine. Destiny gives you the choice to play as one of three new mutants, and you slowly craft your character's special abilities by borrowing powers from fellow X-Men. Not a bad idea if done properly, but the powers really only come into play during the repetitious, uninspired combat that's spread across a number of bland environments. Plus, though Destiny came out in 2011, the character models and limited animations remind you of an early PS2 release. X-Men fans should send thank you cards to the judge that handed down a court order requiring the game taken off store shelves and destroyed.
10. The Amazing Spider-Man (Game Boy)
Spider-Man appeared in many middling games in the pre-PlayStation era, but that's true of basically every super hero. To Peter Parker's credit, he's only starred in one truly awful game, and that's this 1990 Game Boy release. Made in a time before billion dollar films were a thing, The Amazing Spider-Man looks like it hardly had a budget at all. Case in point: there's only a single normal enemy type. You just knock out the same identical thug over and over again.
Thanks to the Game Boy's very limited tech, the web-swinger can't swing at all. Hilariously, Spidey instead speedwalks forward with a stick-up-his-butt posture. The enemy placement is insultingly cheap, and the bosses have about two frames of animation apiece--for example, all Scorpion does is barely wiggle his tail to attack, which is about about as menacing as a newborn kitten. Even the surprisingly decent music is drowned out by the low-rent sound effects, which amount to a series of autotuned farts. Pity all the children who bought this based on the colorful box art.
If youre like the rest of the world and successfully forgot Halle Berry starred in the ludicrously awful Catwoman film, apologies for this entry reminding you of its existence. Games based on films often get rushed to market and turn out poorly in most circumstances, but when its based on an equally rushed pile of campy trash, its a recipe for disaster.
Ripping off Tomb Raiders gameplay and Spider-Mans Spider Sense with the cleverly named Cat Sense, Catwoman is about as off-putting as a PS2 game gets. Catwoman's unhelpful camera and stilted controls bring you through a thoroughly forgettable world of crime-fighting, and somehow most of the combat ends with kicking a guy until he falls in a dumpster. This game is so bad we cant even be bothered to think of a cat-related pun to close this entry.
8. The Incredible Hulk: The Pantheon Saga
This game stays pretty true to its comic roots, which is about the only value Hulk fans will find here. Closely based on a comic event of the same name, The Pantheon Saga dumps the big green monster into a high tech facility that he must punch his way out of--sounds awesome, right? Unfortunately, Hulk spends the majority of the game punching boxes in equally boxy rooms, beating up robot after unremarkable robot.
This 3D Hulk adventure is in the style of Crash Bandicoot, but the awful, fixed camera only serves to highlight the bland, sterile environments, which would bore even Bruce Banner. Then there's the Hulk himself, recreated in-game as an undetailed pile of green pixels--without the purple pants, you might mistake him for a walking pile of Jell-O. And that's all capped off with cutscenes that are laughably bad--even by 1997's standards. Watching them is like watching a YouTube video of a child shaking his action figures on camera.
7. Silver Surfer
In the comics, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Silver Surfer as a kind of space messiah, an enigmatic searcher blessed with the Power Cosmic that makes him one of the strongest heroes in the Marvel Universe. So its strange that Silver Surfer's NES shooter portrays the enigmatic being as so incredibly easy to kill. If you don't keep your wits about you, Silver Surfer is bound to fall prey to an errant wall sconces and lose half his health.
Silver Surfer is a particularly difficult game for anyone but 8-bit savants, and the shooter gameplay isn't just hindered by Surfers weakness and the hellishly level layout. Surfers sprite is so unhelpfully huge its impossible in some stages to not to get hit. Only play this if you hate yourself, or if you have a Game Genie handy.
6. Thor: God of Thunder
The Marvel Studios films have been a series of good-to-great movies that includes one of the best superhero flicks of all time, The Avengers. The same cant be said for games based on those movies, with terrible titles based on the first and second Iron Man, as well as the Incredible Hulk. But as bad as those were, its the Thor movie tie-in on 360/PS3 that's the absolute worst, from its uninspired action to its pure glitchiness.
Clearly rushed to market for the films release, the game shifted from merely boring to incredibly broken at the drop of a hammer. The graphics fared no better, recreating the film's actors as poorly articulated mannequins. But instead of making us angry, this horrendous package makes us pity Thor. The God of Thunder deserved far better.
5. Marvel's Uncanny X-Men
Many NES games look so archaic by today's standards that it's hard to figure out whether a game is truly awful or if it has just aged badly. Well, anyone that's ever played Uncanny X-Men back in the day can attest that it has always been a sloppy, ugly, stupidly difficult action game that felt like a total rip-off. Its mediocrity is a bigger danger to the X-Men than Magneto and Juggernaut combined.
The top down viewpoint of the camera means the mighty X-Men are rendered as squat approximations of themselves, and the bright reds and greens of the environments will scorch the ever-loving hell out of your eyes. Also, because the game works as a (terrible) Contra-style shooter, good luck playing as Wolverine, Colossus, or any other character that can't shoot. This NES title has the distinction of being the first X-Men game ever made, and given how awful it is, it's surprising it wasn't the last.
4. Spawn: The Eternal
Capcom has a fairly good track record as a developer, but its game based on Image Comics' Spawn series for the PlayStation has to be a low point for the company. The game comes straight from hell, with graphics that are hideous beyond belief thanks to textures that wouldn't look good on an Apple II. And the poorly placed camera only makes The Eternal look even worse by getting too close to Spawn, thus zooming in on all the flaws.
Spawn himself is a shambling pile of polygons that threaten to fall apart at any moment, particularly when the gameplay shifts into its Tekken wannabe combat. When not in battle, Spawn slowly walks through the empty, ugly subways of New York City in search of keys. One bonus of this catastrophe is that it made the other mediocre Spawn titles look playable by comparison.
3. Batman: Dark Tomorrow
Now that the formula for a stupendous Batman game has been perfected, many would rather forget all the horribleness that preceded Arkham Asylum. Out of all the detritus that bares the Batman insignia, Dark Tomorrow is by far the worst, plagued by enough problems to fill a Batcave. The graphics were atrocious even when it was released, the controls needlessly confusing, the camera unpredictable, and you beat up giant rats more often than you face any of Bat's famous rogues gallery.
Given it's many, many flaws, it's hard to decide the worst moment of the game. There's no denying that the horribly unintuitive first-person search for clues is almost impossible even with the help of a guide. But then there's the fact that, if you suffer through till the very end, you're screwed out of the "good" ending if you don't find a secret room and deactivate some explosives. The lengthy cutscene of Batman's death in the bad ending is the final middle finger to anyone foolish enough to play Dark Tomorrow.
2. Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis
Aquaman gets more grief than he deserves, because the character can be cool when handled correctly. Sadly, Battle for Atlantis doesn't handle the character correctly.. In fact, it's just the type of bottom-of-the-barrel game that people imagine a loser like Aquaman would star in. To make this even more unpalatable, you play as the grittier, hook-wearing Aquaman of the '90s, guiding him to defend his poorly rendered undersea kingdom from the same handful of enemies over and over again.
An offensive-looking game with flawed swimming controls that seems to be built with a budget of $5, this game is so infamous it might prevent Aquaman from ever starring in another one. Based on the multiple entries on this list, the DC Comics employee that approved the creation of video games from 1997 to 2006 sure seemed to hate gamers.
1. Superman (N64)
You probably expected this would take the top spot on this list, but believe us when we say Superman earned number one here. Also called Superman 64, the story takes place in a VR recreation of Metropolis, so nothing is actually at stake, but that lame plot point is a good in-game excuse for why the world looks like polygonal dog feces. The normally indestructible and lightning fast Superman can barely move in this game, and the majority of the unplayable mess is spent trying in vain to maneuver Superman through floating rings as fast as you can (which for Superman 64 means glacially slow).
And even if you somehow beat this impossible collection of timed challenges, you get one last kick in the junk from the developers. After saving the day, super nemesis Lex Luthor reveals that Superman's virtual exploits didn't even really and that Lex is still free to threaten Metropolis. Who knows if Superman will ever star is a truly great game some day, but it'd be impossible for the Man of Steel to ever have a worse one than this.
No list of horrible games is ever truly complete. There were tons of runner-ups here, and if you have any harrowing tales of heroically terrible comic games, be sure to share them in the comments!