Featured Columns

July 15, 2010

The Comics Console: Superman Games

When most people think of Superman games, they cringe in disgust and shame, and after awesomely bad games like Superman 64, I really can’t blame them. Hell, after games like Superman: Shadow of Apokolips, Superman for the Sega Genesis, Superman: Man of Steel, or Superman Returns, I really can’t blame them! It’s no secret that Superman games are absolutely terrible. Why are they terrible? Well, for many reasons: Bad developing by bad developers, boring and repetitive game play, or all around uninspired efforts, you name it. Now of course, even in Superman’s case, there are exceptions.

It makes sense that Superman would star in one of the first super hero games in Superman for the Atari 2600, and just like most games in those days, there isn’t much to speak of by today’s standards. For the first time we got to fly around and…well, really just fly around as Superman, but for 1979, maybe that was enough.

Even in the modern day, Superman has had trouble landing a solid game. What should have been the greatest Superman experience of all time, turned into one of the worst and most embarrassing, not just for Superman, but for video game history. But I’ve said all I need to say about Superman 64 already. Can you believe as bad as Superman 64 was they made a sequel? Superman: Shadow of Apokolips was leaps and bounds better than Superman 64, but that’s really not saying much.

So how about a completely new start? New gaming console, new direction, new developers, no movie or animated series to water the game down, sounds like a winner right? Well in 2002, Superman: The Man of Steel for the Xbox was the best Superman game to ever come out. With a fully realized Metropolis, a great flying mechanic to explore the city with, and all of Superman’s powers realized, this game was fun. Really fun, actually…for about ten minutes.

Just another case of all idea and no execution. The game scored high with great controls and decent graphics, even with poor cutscenes and laughable voice acting, but struck out with repetitive and boring missions. Robots are terrorizing Metropolis and each robot requires a different super power to destroy it. Awesome for a first mission, but soon you find out that the first mission becomes the entire game. Boring.

And a rant about Superman Returns is worthy of its own separate column. It was a sad rip off of The Man of Steel, and the developers should be embarrassed for rehashing a four year old game, and actually making it worse.

Oh? What’s that you say? Oh, yes, you’re right. I am leaving out a very important game in Superman’s history. But not just a game, an interactive extension of arguably the most important moment of Superman’s life…The Death and Return of Superman!

Chances are, if you’re reading this you’ve heard of a little story line from the mid-90s about the death of Superman, and it was so successful, they made a video game about it for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. The Death and Return of Superman probably wasn’t a big deal to general gamers. They probably didn’t even give the game a second look after the previous 16 bit Supes game. But holy cow, was this game a turn of the times for the Last Son of Krypton. The Death and Return of Superman was your standard side scrolling beat ’em up, not able to touch other games in the genre like Streets of Rage or Final Fight, but that’s part of what makes Death and Return of Superman so good. Its simple nature.

We got a good, fun, solid video game, but with the big red S on it. The game was still very much Superman, though. We could fly, and there were obvious references to the comic book, but at its core, it was a fun game, and without that, any game will fail.

Of course, games are much more complicated today, and while fun, Death and Return of Superman definitely shows its age, but I have hope — nay — I have a dream! That one day my children and I can play a Superman game worthy of the $60 price tag. We’ve already seen that Warner Bros. knows how to take a super hero comic book video game seriously with Batman Arkham Asylum. Maybe after one or two more Batman games, we’ll finally get that perfect Superman game that we (or maybe just me) know that the human race is capable of creating.

Picture this: An open world Superman game with stunning visuals and interesting gameplay and missions, a story penned by Jeph Loeb or Geoff Johns, and no ties to any movie or TV show.

One day…one day….

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Andrew Hurst



  1. Billy

    I think Superhero video games are becoming better and better to the point that they should be considered game of the year all the time. Batman AA, Marvel UA, and others have really been great games.

  2. It would take a lot for me to give any Superman game a chance based on the track record. The only time he was decent was in the JLA fighter that was on SNES

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