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A history of Batman in video games

Batman: Arkham Knight is Rocksteady's third and final foray into the Arkham universe. While the Arkhamverse has been going strong for four years,...


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.

Robert Workman was previously a games journalist creating content at Shacknews.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 5, 2014 9:00 AM

    Robert Workman posted a new article, A history of Batman in video games.

    Batman: Arkham Knight is Rocksteady's third and final foray into the Arkham universe. While the Arkhamverse has been going strong for four years,...

    • reply
      March 5, 2014 9:12 AM

      You're forgetting the Gameboy ones. The ones where he runs around shooting people with guns. Yea pretty shitty game but the music was off the chain.

      • reply
        March 5, 2014 9:18 AM

        As well as Batman: Vengeance, Batman: Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu, Batman: Gotham City Racer, Batman: Return of the Joker...etc.

        But yeah, the article lists the notable Batman games. These are just the shitter ones to have been released. But with that laundry list of terrible Batman games (NES one aside) is all the more impressive of why AA was such a good game. It really was the first real Batman game, ever, and just about the only good one, especially after 20+ years of unmitigated shit.

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          March 5, 2014 9:22 AM

          Also, The Dark Knight was supposed to have a tie-in game, but apparently it was halted after Ledger OD'd. Which sucks, 'cause I'm sure the Batmobile levels would have been fun.

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      March 5, 2014 9:21 AM

      There were several games that were left off the list -- and Batman Forever for good reason, because UGH. The point here was to point out the most noteworthy ones that felt like Batman. I feel these games did that.

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      March 5, 2014 10:56 AM

      good to see a series background article, thanks

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      March 5, 2014 11:07 AM

      Where's batman for the Amiga 500? That was a bundled game and helped Commodore shift thousands of Amigas.

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        March 5, 2014 11:26 AM

        Batman on NES was a better-playing game...although didn't really have anything from the movie. Besides the Joker, that is.

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      March 6, 2014 4:41 PM

      I was about to make a snarky comment about calling Arkham Asylum's fighting system innovative (it wasn't---but it did make Assassin's Creed's fighting system enjoyable for the first time), but then I noticed all the people who seem to be deliberately ignoring the part where this is a list of "notable" Batman games, not "every Batman game under the sun".

      So...sympathy congrats?

    • reply
      March 7, 2014 10:22 AM

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