Doing it their way
By now, you should know that comic books don't have to revolve around spandex, super powers, and noble deeds. Sometimes its more interesting to cast the spotlight on characters who would rather goof around than fight crime, or have no qualms with killing to accomplish their goals. Often, their lack of superpowers makes them that much more relatable - and relatable protagonists are the foundation of an excellent story.
Of course, it doesn't hurt to accentuate a fascinating narrative with some great gameplay. The following games' heroes (and antiheroes) may not have Batman's batarangs, Wolverine's claws, or Spider-Man's webs, but they'll entertain and enthrall you regardless, capturing the spirit of the comic books they're based on without turning them into required reading. Once you've played 'em, you'll probably want to go about changing that.
The Wolf Among Us
When you were a kid, you probably never imagined that the heroes and villains of your favorite fairy tales could also double as key players in an engrossing crime drama. Acting as a canonical prequel to Bill Willingham's comic series Fables, The Wolf Among Us is a brilliant mix of mythical elements and a gritty detective story, with fresh, contemporary takes on timeless (and copyright-free) characters like Snow White and Mr. Toad. You play as Bigby Wolf, who's reformed since his Big Bad days into the gruff, eminently likable sheriff of a hidden New York City district full of magical beings. TWAU is a stellar, perfectly paced murder mystery, full of tense conversations, tough choices, and satisfying 'Eureka!' moments. It also does a great job of blending storylines you recognize from your childhood with decidedly adult themes, but always in a tasteful way.
Judge Dredd is the most recognizable product of British comic 2000 AD, but don't count out Rogue Trooper, the blue-skinned footsoldier from the war-ravaged planet of Nu-Earth. Unlike Dredd, whose only noteworthy game is the pen-and-paper-style Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106, Rogue Trooper's actually starred in a worthwhile shooter. This third-person run-'n'-gun casts you as Rogue, a lone, genetically modified infantryman battling against an army across environments devastated by biological weaponry. Its gameplay isn't revolutionary, but interesting mechanics make up for it: the scavenging and crafting systems were ahead of their time, and you have the ability to fuse your fallen squadmates into your gear, giving your guns and armor actual personalities in the process.
Astro Boy: Omega Factor
You might know him from his long-running anime appearances or not-so-hot CGI film, but Astro Boy started out his robot-lad life in the pages of Osamu Tezukas manga over half a century ago. Its impossible not to adore this androids childlike demeanor and entirely innocent dedication to doing the right thing. Given his propensity for firing lasers out of his metal hands, much like Mega Man, it only makes sense to have Astro star in his very own sidescrolling platformer, made by the masters of 2D shooting at Treasure and Hitmaker. Flying around and zapping renegade robots is an absolute blast (pun intended), and Astro remains chipper and cherubic throughout. The complex plotline even manages to transcend the comics, wrapping nearly every character together in one unprecedented chronicle that encourages multiple playthroughs.
Frank Castle may ultimately be fighting on the side of good, but his methods would turn the stomach of any other hero out there. If threatening, beating, torturing, or murdering a hapless thug gets the job done, the Punisher will do it in a heartbeat. His dedication to vigilante vengeance is captured perfectly in this third-person shooter from Volition Inc., the developers best known for the Saints Row and Red Faction series. The tone of this PS2 game owes a lot to the comic run that revitalized the Punisher as hardboiled crime fighter: Garth Ennis and Steve Dillons The Punisher (also known as Welcome Back, Frank). It's worth playing just to witness Castles unflinching brutality - curb-stomping, dunking heads into deep fryers, and tossing thugs into shark tanks are all fair game in The Punisher.
Sam & Max Hit the Road
This anthropomorphic animal duo got the 3D treatment courtesy of Telltale Games, but the charm and absurd wit of the original PC adventure can't be topped. LucasArts perfectly captured the buddy-cop dynamic between the straightforward gumshoe Sam and his maniacal little buddy Max, with hilariously quirky dialogue reminiscent of their comic book exchanges. The answers to the wacky puzzles actually feel like solutions that Sam and Maxs warped minds would devise, and the backdrops are unforgettable (what other game offers bungee-jumping from the nostrils of Mount Rushmore?). It's all the more authentic for the fact that Steve Purcell, the creator of Sam & Max, worked for LucasArts and was heavily involved with the project.
The Walking Dead
If you haven't played at least one season of the most renowned modern-day adventure series, you've been messing up. As with the original comic series by Robert Kirkman, Telltale's take on The Walking Dead smartly focuses on human drama, choosing to make the zombie apocalypse more of an ominous backdrop rather than a relentless, frenzied threat. The tender story of Lee and Clementine fighting to survive in this hostile new world is flat-out unforgettable, and every choice you make feels like it has substantial weight, whether or not the outcomes of your decisions end up being the same. Its most climactic scenes range from uplifting to absolutely devastating, but every moment is well worth experiencing for yourself.
The Darkness 2
When young mobster Jackie Estacado was imbued with the ancient evil known as The Darkness, he gained the ability to shear his enemies in half with enormous, sentient nether-tentacles and summon mischievous Darklings to do his bidding. But theres one thing stopping him from achieving godhood: all his powers are negated by sources of light. Jackie has to pick his targets carefully during firefights, making sure to strike from the shadows to maximize his offensive capabilities as he rends mobsters into bloody chunks. This polished FPS builds on the paranormal action and strong story of the first game, accentuating the sleek visuals and gory execution moves with a subtly cel-shaded aesthetic that looks just like the comics. It also introduces spiffy new abilities - most notably the power to engage in dual-pistol, dual-tentacle combat for a total of four lethal weapons at your fingertips.
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
There's a good chance you're familiar with the seasoned dino slayer known as Turok, either through the beloved N64 games or the so-so reboots of 2002 and 2008. But what you might not know is that Turok's origins lie in comics, dating as far back as 1974. Turok: Son of Stone tells the story of the Native American warrior Turok and his brother Andar, who wind up trapped in the dinosaur-infested Lost Valley and must fight to survive. That concept got a different spin for the N64 games, which decreed that the Turok was a champion chosen each generation who could keep the time-displaced Lost Lands separate from our reality. In any case, the original Turok still makes for a fine FPS all these years later, provided you can overlook the short, fog-filled draw distances. There's just something undeniably righteous about blasting shotgun shells into a T-Rex's underbelly or taking down a velociraptor with your bow and arrows.
This French-made comic about an amnesiac assassin makes for a memorable cel-shaded shooter, bridging a slick comic-panel style with FPS stealth. Full of conspiracies and political intrigue, XIIIs plot is as enthralling as its shootouts, with our disoriented protagonist trying to deduce whether or not he actually murdered the President of the United States. Stylish flourishes are everywhere: pinpoint headshots and precision knife throws are commemorated with freeze-frame close-ups, and enemies will often shout out their death screams in giant bold lettering. The game covers a fraction of the 20-volume comic run, up to the end of the fifth volume - which leaves plenty of room for a sequel, should it ever become remotely possible.