A history of Batman in video games

By Robert Workman, Mar 05, 2014 9:00am PST

Batman: Arkham Knight is Rocksteady's third and final foray into the Arkham universe. While the Arkhamverse has been going strong for four years, the Caped Crusader has a long history in games. Today, we look back at some of the noteworthy moments of the Dark Knight in video games.

Batman Begins

In 1989, Sunsoft released the original Batman for NES as a tie-in to the Tim Burton film of the same name. However, rather than featuring events from the movie, the game pitted the Dark Knight against more creative enemies, including a lunatic with a spread cannon and a jetpack and soldiers. The game introduced many of Batman's unique gadgets and an effective wall-jump to reach higher ground.

A year later, Sunsoft also released a different version for Genesis that more closely followed the film, and introduced techniques such as jumping on an enemy from above and utilizing a grappling hook to reach higher ledges.

Looking for a Fight

Konami was next to use the Batman movie license, releasing Batman Returns on SNES in 1992. Featuring a music score that would make composer Danny Elfman proud and thematic elements taken from the Tim Burton-directed sequel, Returns was a brawler, giving Batman an arsenal of moves from a double head-butt to a swooping dive attack. For good measure, his gadgets returned, including a test tube that obliterated all enemies on-screen.

Batman and Robin For All

In 1994, gamers saw the release of two completely different Adventures of Batman and Robin games: one for SNES and one for Sega Genesis.

The SNES edition, produced by Konami, follows the animated TV series with levels based on many of its episodes, including ones with Joker, Man-Bat and Riddler. Like its predecessor, it was a side-scrolling brawler. Sega took a Gunstar Heroes approach with their game, with players flinging Batarangs at enemies, while occasionally taking control of vehicles like the Batwing.

Do I Look Like a Cop?!

In 2005, Electronic Arts made an adaptation of the Nolanverse with Batman Begins. Featuring 3D environments taken straight from the film, including the docks and back alleys of Gotham, Begins introduced interrogation and stealth gameplay. The game also featured a Burnout-style Batmobile sequence, where you need to race across the city in order to save the life of Rachel, poisoned by the Scarecrow.

Build a Better Batman

Lego Batman may have stolen the show in The Lego Movie, but that wasn't his first adventure. Back in 2008, he starred in Travellers Tales' adventure. Featuring two player co-op and modes that supported both heroic and villainous characters from the Gotham universe, the game featured plenty of Lego building (and destroying). A sequel, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, followed in 2012, with the ability to play as additional characters, including Superman, Flash and more.

Trotting Off To Arkham

Rocksteady Games' original Batman: Arkham Asylum redefined what a Batman game could be in 2009. In this Metroidvania-inspired adventure, the Batman would have to break into Gotham's historic insane clinic while trying to stop the Joker from unleashing a heinous plot. Fans of the classic Animated Series were treated to a script by Paul Dini and the return of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as Joker. Arkham Asylum translated Batman's tools to Metroidvania gameplay, letting players progress to new areas of the map after unlocking new abilities. Rocksteady's multi-directional brawling system dubbed "FreeFlow" was innovative, and has been copied numerous times since.

In 2011, the adventure got even bigger with Batman: Arkham City, which took Asylum's gameplay and made it open-world. Paul Dini packed tons of fanservice into the script, with numerous appearances--big and obscure--from the rogue's gallery. The shocking ending sets up Arkham Knight, which promises to wrap up Rocksteady's trilogy later this year.

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