Currently it feels like we’re in a bit of a renaisance for games based on comic books. Batman’s Arkham adventures are some of the best (and best-selling) games of the last few years, while downloadable titles like Walking Dead and Scott Pilgrim are wonderful tributes to what’s great about those series. Still, let’s not forget that games that crossover characters from comics haven’t always been that great. In fact, some of them qualify as the worst games of all time.
As a reminder during Comic Con week of how low the genre can sink, we’ve collected the 10 worst comic book games into one place. This way we’ll never forget…
10. Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects
Some might mistakenly remember this one being “okay,” but that’s 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, Marvel Nemesis 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 weren’t helped by the incredibly simplified combat and aggressively bland 3D stages. Following the rise of the Imperfects, they very quickly went back down to obscurity as Marvel ended its partnership with EA after this game’s release.
9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
Technically this NES game was based on the Ninja Turtles cartoon and not the original comic, but it’s so horrible we can’t ignore it. A mishmash of stages held together by a confusing overworld that seemed intended to befuddle the player, TMNT’s main sin was being incredibly unbalanced. Each turtle has a different weapon, so while Donatello’s staff could seemingly reach the other side of the screen, Raphael’s 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 drove many children of the 1980s into therapy. You have mere minutes to search an underwater maze for a bunch of bombs with turtles that can barely swim and walls that will murder you in a couple hits, unless you just snap and break the game first.
8. Fantastic Four (PSOne)
Marvel seems 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 we’re ignoring the pretty crap FF games based on the terrible films, as Acclaim’s Fantastic Four for PSOne outshines those games in its hideousness. An ugly side scroller beat ‘em up of the Final Fight variety, the four player combat was almost as trashy as the graphics, not helped by the annoying and inexplicably jazzy soundtrack. We’ll give Acclaim credit for staying true the comics’ continuity of the time, but the only real compliment we can give this hideous thing is that it’s short. What a revolting development!
If you’re like the rest of the world and successfully forgot Halle Berry starred in the ludicrously awful Catwoman film, we’re sorry for reminding you with this entry. Games based on films that have to be rushed to market usually turn out poorly enough, but when it’s based on an equally rushed pile of campy trash, it’s a recipe for disaster. Ripping off Tomb Raider’s gameplay and Spider-Man’s Spider Sense with the cleverly named “Cat Sense,” the unhelpful camera and stilted controls bring you through a thoroughly forgettable world of crime-fighting. Even writing about this game bores us so much we can’t be bothered to think of a cat-related pun to close this entry.
6. 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 it’s strange that when he got his own NES shooter he became so incredibly easy to kill that you have to watch out for errant wall sconces lest they take half your health. A particularly ugly game, the shooter gameplay is not only hindered by Surfer’s weakness and the hellishly difficulty, but Surfer’s sprite is so huge in some stages it’s impossible not to be hit. Only play this if you hate yourself, though we will say they soundtrack is actually pretty great.
5. Thor: God of Thunder
The Marvel Comics films of the last four years were a series of good-to-great movies that capped off with one of the best superhero flicks of all time, The Avengers. The same can’t be said for games based on those movies, with terrible titles based on the first and second Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk. But as bad as those were, it’s the Thor movie tie-in on 360/PS3 from last year that was the absolute worst. Clearly rushed to market for the film’s release, the game shifted from merely boring to incredibly broken at the drop of a hammer. Instead of making us angry, the horrendous glitches in this wannabe God of War made us pity Thor. The God of Thunder deserved far better.
4. Batman: Dark Tomorrow
Now that the formula has been perfected, many would rather forget all the horribleness that preceded it. Dark Tomorrow is by far the worst of that era for so many obvious reasons. The graphics were atrocious even when it was released, the controls needlessly confusing, and you bet up giant rats. It's hard to decide the worst moment of the game. We're split between being screwed out of the "good" ending because we couldn't find a secret room and the painfully unintuitive first-person search for clues in a sewer that was almost impossible even with the help of a guide.
3. Spawn: The Eternal
Capcom is usually a pretty reliable developer, but when they decided to create a game based on Image Comics' Spawn series for the PSOne they created a hellspawn of their own. Hideous beyond belief with textures that wouldn't look good on an Apple II. Spawn is a shambling pile of polygons that threaten to fall apart at any moment and the gameplay is sub par in just about every way. This made future mediocre Spawn titles look playable by comparison.
2. Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis
We'll be the first to say that Aquaman gets more grief than he deserves, as we think the character can be cool when handled correctly. Sadly, Battle for Atlantis is just the type of bottom-of-the-barrel game that people think he would star in. You play as the grittier, hook-wearing Aquaman of the 90s, guiding him to defend his poorly rendered kingdom from the same handful of enemies over and over again. An ugly game with bad controls that seems to be made with a budget of $5, this game is so infamous it might prevent Aquaman from ever starring in another game. We're not sure who in the DC Comics infrastructure was approving the creation of games from 1997 to 2006, but they sure seemed to hate gamers.
1. Superman (N64)
You knew this one would be number one, but believe us when we say Superman earned it. It takes place in a virtual Metropolis so nothing actually matters, but that makes for a good story excuse for why the world looks like dog feces. The normally indestructible Superman can barely move and the majority of the unplayable mess is spent trying in vain to move Superman through rings as fast as you can (which for Superman 64 means glacially slow). And even if you somehow beat the impossible game, you get one last kick in the junk when you're told by Lex that your virtual exploits didn't even matter and that he's still free. Perhaps the worst game ever made, which is quite an accomplishment when you think about it.
No list of horrible games is ever truly complete. There were tons of runner-ups here, including X-Men for the NES and a couple Hellboy games. If you have any harrowing tales of heroically terrible comic fames, be sure to share in the comments!
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