We have finally arrived – the final part of the definitive bat-game rankings, and my top 12 favourite Batman video games. This one’s a doozy! I reckon at least a few of these would go on most people’s top 10 lists, but I’m also pretty sure pretty much noone in the universe would agree with my ranking order. But hey, that’s pretty much the entire point, right? In any case, let’s get this show on the road!
12. LEGO BATMAN 2: DC SUPER HEROES (2012)
The previous LEGO BATMAN games on this list had failed to impress me to any great degree, but it was with surprise and delight that I discovered that LEGO BATMAN 2: DC SUPER HEROES broke this trend. After finishing the first game, and the even more miserably boring DS version, I really dreaded having to play the other LEGO games. The first game had been a fairly repetitive slog, and the threat of an “open world” aspect to the sequel had me more than a little concerned.
Impressively however, LEGO BATMAN 2 did a lot to endear me to it right away. I had been a bit apprehensive about the LEGO games’ transition from pantomime skits to full-on voiced cutscenes, but LEGO BATMAN 2 really proved me wrong; the game kicks off with a funny and well-realised scene of the Joker and Lex Luthor teaming up, setting the tone for what keeps being a cute, charming, and funny game from start to finish.
Beyond providing a surprisingly engaging narrative to drive things along, my fears surrounding the open world needlessly bloating the game ended up not amounting to much either – it’s actually handled remarkably well, with plenty of little puzzles, challenges, things to explore… if you care to. Thankfully, none of it really gets in the way of simply doing the stages one after the other, if you (like me) prefer that over getting into the weeds with collectibles.
But the biggest improvements, unexpectedly, were in the levels themselves. The LEGO formula may not have changed much on paper, but the execution is just leagues better than the first game. The change from multi-part missions set in samey locations, to 15 individual levels with unique settings does a lot to make the game look and feel more varied. In addition, levels often have some kind of gimmick, feature certain characters, or do other smaller or bigger things to set them apart from each other. The net result is a game that is vastly more fun – and funny – than its predecessor.
For someone looking to grind out all the collectibles and find all secrets, opinions on which LEGO BATMAN game is superior may look a lot different. But as far as my playthroughs go, LEGO BATMAN 2 was by far the most enjoyable, and the only one where I had a smile on my face from start to finish.
11. THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN AND ROBIN (SNES, 1994)
We’ve previously seen SEGA’s various versions of THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN AND ROBIN, as well as a handful of other games based on Batman: The Animated Series, but in my mind Konami’s SNES game stands above all others.
There’s a lot to like about this game. The most obvious aspect, immediately apparent when starting the game, is the visuals. Not only is a it a highly polished-looking game in general, it absolutely nails the visual style of the TV show. Character designs, animation, environments – even stuff like the colour palettes and the UI matches the show’s style to a tee, and it’s really a marvel to behold. It’s not all style over substance either, as THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN AND ROBIN is a very solid action platformer as well.
Probably the coolest thing about the game though, is how each of the game’s levels has a unique and memorable hook that really make them stand out from each other. Each scenario provides cool setpieces, and often requires use of specific gadgets to tackle the situation at hand.
Some of the boss fights arguably leave a bit to be desired (the final showdown in particular, is somewhat underwhelming), but that really is a very minor complaint with a game that is otherwise extremely polished, and delivers very well on what it sets out to do.
10. BATMAN RETURNS (SNES, 1992)
THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN AND ROBIN is not the only excellent Konami Batman game on the SNES – two years earlier they released BATMAN RETURNS. Not just the best Batman game on the system, I also consider it the best out of the many, many video game adaptations of the 1992 film.
Pretty much all game adaptations of BATMAN RETURNS do a remarkable job of evoking the look and feel of the movie by their wide use of recognisable locations and character designs, and in that sense, it’s hard to claim that the SNES version is any way unique in this regard. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth bringing up what a great job Konami did – of all the BATMAN RETURNS games, this probably gets closest to the film’s atmosphere – but even without taking that into account, it’s a gorgeous game in its own right.
As a beat ’em up, there are aspects where I think the game falls a little bit short compared to the best; there is no two player mode, there’s only one playable character, boss variety is a bit limited – but I can’t really hold any of that against the game, given the source material. There is still plenty of variety in scenery and gameplay with certain stages focusing more on platforming, and a Mode 7-powered Batmobile stage, so it never really gets stale the way many mediocre beat ’em ups do. There are certainly plenty of those on the SNES, and BATMAN RETURNS easily stands above them.
9. BATMAN BEGINS (Xbox, 2005)
Up until the early-to-mid 2000’s all 3D Batman games have generally failed to impress, but compared to Ubisoft’s and Kemco’s previous attempts, EA’s adaptation of BATMAN BEGINS truly marks a quantum leap forward.
I had fond memories of this game from when it came out, but hearing in the interim that it apparently wasn’t received very well, I was very curious – if a bit apprehensive – to revisit it. However, I was relieved to find that not only does BATMAN BEGINS hold up very well, I think I like the game even more now than I did back then. I think playing it for the Caped Crusade provided ideal circumstances for enjoying the game; although it’s certainly a good game in its own right, it truly stands in shocking contrast to the most recent attempts at 3D Batman games that came before it.
Everything from movement, camera, combat mechanics, gadgets and inventory management to things like autosaving, checkpoints, tutorials, etc – the game feels infinitely more modern than any other Batman game of its generation. The visuals also make it clear that this is a late-era Xbox game – it looks impressively realistic for its time, but at the same time it’s not afraid to push its impressive lighting to create moody, atmospheric scenes that are far more interesting to look at than a lot of blandly “photoreal” AAA games of today.
Aside from feeling far more modern than the games directly preceding it, BATMAN BEGINS simultaneously feels refreshingly quaint when compared to most games that came after it. It’s not a sprawling, bloated, messy open world, but a tightly crafted linear action game with a lot of neat setpieces. While not as open-ended as the ARKHAM games, it does a similarly great job of incorporating both stealth and combat (as well as some really satisfying platforming), and ends up being very faithful not only to the movie’s plot – but also its depiction of Batman using fear, cunning, and trickery to overcome overwhelming odds.
8. BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY (2011)
BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY surely needs no introduction – probably the most well-known and well-liked of all Batman games, it’s a good game but evidently one that I don’t like quite as much as perhaps most people do. ARKHAM CITY was an ambitious sequel to the already polished and well-made ARKHAM ASYLUM, and although some of its additions were very welcome, I don’t think all of its changes to the formula were improvements.
The core action/stealth hybrid still works really well, and the tweaks to the central mechanics make it a smoother experience than the first game. Quickfire gadgets, sliding and of course the SUPER MARIO WORLD-esque gliding all compliment the original mechanics really well, and controlling Batman is a joy. Expanding the world and introducing side quests is also a nice way to see more of Rocksteady’s Batman universe, with fun cameos and appearances from a lot more characters than in the first game.
This expansion is a double-edged sword however, and a large reason I don’t quite like ARKHAM CITY as much as ARKHAM ASYLUM. The first game was essentially a 3D METROID in a small but fairly rich world, a mostly linear and well-paced experience with some room for exploration and secret-hunting. The sequel trades this for a more typical Ubisoftian AAA open world structure, where the map is larger, and littered with icons representing all kinds of chores for the player to attack at their leisure. I’m of the belief that nonlinearity and open-ended structures are not an objective good, and that “more” isn’t inherently “better” – and I think ARKHAM CITY demonstrates that perfectly.
The game’s structure and narrative are constantly at odds with each other – each story segment urges the player to rush to their next objective, but as soon as you step into the open world, you are immediately bombarded with tasks, chores, and missions to distract you. Not just by way of icons on the map – every couple of seconds, Batman will intercept some kind of radio transmission or another, informing him of crimes and other goings-on he should attend to. It adds up to a hectic atmosphere where the game keeps pulling you in several directions at once, never really leaving you to peacefully explore things at your own pace. The linear indoor segments are just as good, if not better, as in the previous game, but any time spent in the hub world feels like a bit of a chore.
Additionally, the narrative itself felt like a step down from ASYLUM. While a lot of the interactions between characters are well written and the voice performances are all good, the plot itself is a bit of a mess. It largely revolves around Batman jumping through all kinds of hoops to save the Joker’s life, and the game’s ending (spoiler alert) is this big “emotional” moment when the Joker finally kicks the bucket, which to me falls completely flat. No attention is really paid to the villainous plot Batman stopped in the process, it’s all about how sad Batman is that the Joker died – to add insult to injury, these events follow almost immediately after the scene where Batman’s romantic interest dies, which he seemingly shrugs off completely. I wasn’t a huge fan of the story in general, but it still manages to take a distinct downward turn toward the end.
7. BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM (2009)
Indeed, due to the many shortcomings of the structural changes introduced in its sequel, I ultimately prefer ARKHAM ASYLUM between the two. It wasn’t entirely clear cut though, and I was conflicted about how to rank the two games. Although I had played and enjoyed both games when they were new, revisiting them for The Caped Crusade led to some revelations I wasn’t quite expecting – in my memory ASYLUM was the far superior game, presumably because its highlights stood out the most in my memory, while CITY’s annoying issues and anticlimactic ending had left a lingering bad impression.
While none of my memories or impressions turned out to be inaccurate per se, they were a little incomplete. ARKHAM CITY feels terrific to play even if the open world and story don’t improve things – and for everything it does right, ARKHAM ASYLUM definitely runs out of steam towards the last third or so and has a kind of terrible end in its own right.
This of course isn’t to say ARKHAM ASYLUM isn’t a great game, just that the two have their own unique ups and downs that put them closer together than in my memory. So what are the positives that end up putting ASYLUM on top? Aside from my preference of the METROID-style structure, I think the writing and story is better in general. It’s got a little more of a mystery-solving focus, and though it has a smaller cast, many of the characters get to be a little more fleshed out and well-written (or at the very least, less annoying).
I also think ARKHAM ASYLUM has a flavour and atmosphere that was kind of lost in the sequels. It had a more distinct stylization to its character designs, environments and colour grading that was kind of progressively lost in favour of a more generic AAA photorealism. Granted, I’m far from in love with all of the aesthetic choices in this game – everyone and everything looks weirdly grimy, barrel-chested Gordon looks ridiculous, and so on – but it still has one foot firmly planted in the world of comic books, and I’m sad Rocksteady’s games leaned further and further away from this direction with each new instalment.
In the end it’s a close call, but for every minor or major annoyance I may have, any ARKHAM series game makes it a ton of fun to be Batman. ARKHAM ASYLUM ekes it out for me, and shows that Rocksteady really nailed that core aspect right from the start.
6. BATMAN: THE TELLTALE SERIES (2016)
The second Telltale Bat-adventure made #16 on this list, and as I mentioned in that game’s entry, the two seasons are of course very similar in many ways – but with a few significant differences. BATMAN: THE TELLTALE SERIES, like most of Telltale’s adventure games, focuses on characters and storytelling, and it’s biggest appeal lies not just in presenting its own original Batman universe but also the depth with which it explores its characters.
And to me that’s where Telltale’s first season outshines the second – mechanically I don’t really think one is stronger than the other even if they’re a little different – but I definitely felt more involved in the characters here. I wouldn’t necessarily say the plot is the strongest element of the game; it’s serviceable, mostly fine even, but takes a major stumble with a big plot twist that seems to exist mainly for Telltale to boast that this is their Bat-universe and what you know may not apply.
Stupid plot twists aside though, the writing is quite good, and the characters are quite compelling. One unique feature of this game, which even the sequel didn’t follow up so much on, is that you play about half of it as Bruce Wayne rather than Batman. A central aspect of the game is how Bruce – as well as Batman – relates to characters like Harvey Dent, Selina Kyle and Oswald Cobblepot, and how those relationships evolve throughout the story. The cast of major characters is pretty small, which gives the game room to show many scenes between them, creating believable relationships and genuinely engaging emotional beats.
Harvey Dent is a fun and interesting character, and his descent into madness is surprisingly nuanced – when Bruce ultimately has to confront him, it’s not an awesome showdown, it’s tragic. The MVP however is Selina Kyle/Catwoman – or more specifically, the scenes between her and Batman. The game opens with their first encounter, and before long they’ve figured out each other’s secret identities. What follows are a number of scenes of flirting, conflict, collaboration, and just generally a really fun and engaging exploration of their relationship. Their strong yet conflicting emotional connection feels more genuine and believable than I’d expect from this type of game (or any game, really), and the scenes between Bruce and Selina are absolutely the highlight of the game.
The supporting cast is mostly great too. Alfred gets more screen time than usual, and his role as mentor and emotional support for Batman is something we haven’t seen much of. This game might have my favourite version of Jim Gordon, and Lucius Fox, Vicki Vale, and a pre-supervillain Joker all make appearances too. Joker in particular is used impressively well; he has a small but memorable role with a pretty interesting take on the character. I wasn’t a huge fan of how his story arc concludes in THE ENEMY WITHIN, but looking solely at the first game, his character is set up in a fun way that hints at possible future events without getting too sidetracked from the core plot.
All in all, BATMAN: THE TELLTALE SERIES may not fully deliver on its actual plot, but it still lets you spend several hours hanging out with engaging and well-written incarnations of beloved characters, who rarely if ever get that kind of room to shine in an interactive medium. It may not be a game you’ll be dying to replay again and again, but it left a far stronger impact than I’d expected, and I thoroughly enjoyed playing through it.
5. BATMAN (PC Engine, 1989)
The Japan-exclusive PC Engine BATMAN is often derisively called a PAC-MAN clone, but in my opinion that is both needlessly dismissive as well as inaccurate. It doesn’t share the sidescrolling platforming gameplay of its NES or Mega Drive counterparts, but it’s a pretty fast-paced and action-packed game – even if it looks like a simple maze game at first blush.
In Sunsoft’s suite of 1989 BATMAN games, the PC Engine version certainly stands out, but it’s no less well-made than its Nintendo or SEGA counterparts. Production values are fantastic, and even if it’s mechanically a little simpler, it is a fun, well-designed and somewhat addictive action puzzler. Batman has to traverse 50-odd levels based on locations from the movie, completing various objectives (collecting items, restoring paintings defaced by Joker’s gang, etc), while avoiding enemies. Throughout the game various powerups give Batman increased abilities, BOMBERMAN-style, and while game gets pretty easy once Batman is fully powered up, it’s more than charming enough to be fun even when it’s not terribly challenging.
It’s a bit of a stretch to say the game follows the plot of the movie all that closely, but the inspiration behind the levels, objectives, and characters is clearly obvious, and the game’s cutesy representation of these familiar elements is quite appealing. In addition, the music is as great as you’d expect – possibly my favourite out of all the Sunsoft BATMAN soundtracks – and the occasional interstitial cinematics look awesome.
As a neat little cherry on top, the game’s final levels see the maze puzzle mechanics repurposed for a series of boss fights – which surprisingly works pretty great! The game is short enough to never really wear out its welcome, but it’s still really cool to see a bit of extra effort put into making the climax memorable, wrapping things up on a high note.
4. BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD (Nintendo DS, 2010)
BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD for the Nintendo DS was a game I’d played – and enjoyed – at the time of its release, and I was both curious and a little apprehensive about revisiting it for the Caped Crusade. Not that I expected to have trouble with it, or disliking it per se, but my one real memory of the game was that it was very brief, and that it was, well… kind of forgettable.
Upon revisiting it, I feel that assessment was partly true. It is a brief game – 2 hours or so from start to finish. However, that aspect hit really different when playing the game in the context of a chronological examination of Batman games – most obviously comparing the game to its Wii counterpart.
The Wii BRAVE AND THE BOLD was a game I’d been excited to play since it first came out, but never had a chance to until now. While it has some really enjoyable aspects – the art is gorgeous, obviously, and it generally plays pretty well – the glacial pace and repetitive nature really bogged down the entire experience. By contrast, the DS game feels like a direct response to those complaints; it has more levels, more variety, more playable characters, and stays fun all the way through.
The setup is pretty similar to the console game on paper, if a little different (better) in execution. Each level is framed as an episode of the TV show, with a different main villain, and a different guest superhero for Batman to team up with. In place of the Wii game’s co-op mode, the DS version gives each hero unique abilities, forcing the character to swap back and forth between Batman and his partner to traverse the levels. Aside from the obvious mechanical variety this adds, the levels themselves feel far less visually repetitive than the Wii ones, even if it’s mostly because they don’t go on for as long.
The visuals definitely warrant more commentary than just mentioning how they help make the game less boring than the Wii game – true to form, this is another WayForward DS game shock full of absolutely stunning pixel art. The game doesn’t fully go for aping the visual style of the show as the Wii game did, but rather a slightly more vibrant and detailed style that is a much better fit for the DS – while still maintaining a tone that feels wholly faithful to the show. The characters and animation in particular really stand out, and a really fun feature are the hidden collectibles which each unlock a super cool animated sprite of a DC hero or villain.
I don’t really like using the word since it’s so non-descriptive, but “fun” truly is the word that keeps coming to mind when I think of this game. The brilliant presentation is so utterly endearing and the characters so charming, that the game just immediately puts a smile on my face – and the level design, varied mechanics, and swift pace of the game make sure that smile stays on there until the end.
3. BATMAN (SEGA Mega Drive, 1989)
I’m sure this is a pretty contentious ranking, but what can I say? I love me some BATMAN on the Mega Drive – and as I’m discovering, only more so with time. One of Sunsoft’s several 1989 Batman games, I don’t know that I could confidently say that this one is the best (whatever that means), but it is my favourite.
I’d be lying if I said nostalgia had nothing to do with it; this is the Bat-game I remember most fondly from my childhood, and definitely a favourite of my formative early MD days. While those warm, fuzzy feelings certainly play a part in me ranking the game this highly, it’s a game worthy of praise regardless. It may not necessarily seem tremendously ambitious in 2020, but it was a strong showing in the early Mega Drive lineup and quite impressive in its day. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t hold up – quite the opposite.
BATMAN is a fairly straightforward action platformer, but it’s got a lot of cool details. It’s the first game to really capture Batman as an action hero; he’s agile, he can fight, he makes plentiful use of both his grappling hook and batarangs – it’s fast paced, moves smoothly, and it doesn’t feel like many concessions or compromises had to be made in order to turn the source material into a high-quality action game. Audiovisually it’s second only to the Atari arcade game, and possibly the Amiga game, in terms of accurately representing the movie’s look, and it definitely feels better to play than either of those. The Batmobile and Batwing stages does trade fancy 3D views for conventional side-scrolling shoot ’em up gameplay, but it’s a wise choice – in their simplicity these stages still look cool and play well, which frankly is more than can be said for many Batmobile levels.
I find myself having a little difficulty explaining what exactly makes this game great to me. On its surface, there’s not a lot that’s terribly special about the game (aside from the truly excellent soundtrack, again from Sunsoft star composer Naoki Kodaka), but it’s well executed from start to finish. I think what may put it above the numerous other Bat-games which fit that same description are simple things like its length, pacing, variety and level of challenge (or lack thereof, as the case may be).
BATMAN is a brief experience, the game moves at a constantly brisk pace and doesn’t take more than 30 minutes or so to complete. It’s very forgiving, and unless you crank up the difficulty and/or lower the amount of lives, it’s really not hard to get through. I can see how that trivializes the experiences for some players, but for me it makes the game really hit that sweet spot. I could pick it up at any time, play it through from start to finish, and know that I won’t be bored or frustrated at any point – just having a good time all the way through. Ultimately, that feeling is really why I feel it deserves this spot. Many Batman games are fun to play, but few are so fun that I feel I could replay them at the drop of a hat, and know that I’d have a blast.
2. BATMAN FOREVER (Arcade, 1996)
BATMAN FOREVER was first seen on this list all the way back at #29 (and I’m sure many would argue that even that was far too generous), and while Probe’s console effort left some things to be desired, Acclaim’s arcade game is a… well, frankly, I’m not really sure what word I’d use to describe it. Masterpiece? Fever dream? Crazed roller coaster ride? It’s amazing at any rate, and it truly has to be seen to be believed. Words may not be sufficient to do this game justice, but nevertheless I’ll do my best.
The arcade BATMAN FOREVER eschews the exploration and platforming of its console counterpart for more straightforward beat ’em up action – but I hesitate to call anything about this game “conventional”. Seemingly determined to outdo the garish exuberance of Schumacher’s film, the game runs at a constant 300 miles per hour, relentlessly throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the player. Armies of neon-coloured thugs, scaling sprites, flashing lights, batarangs, bonus items, combo meters and damage numbers, sparks and explosions – and probably a ton more I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to comprehend. The game goes completely nuts from the very start, and never lets up – and it is awesome.
There are many mystifying elements to BATMAN FOREVER. It’s hard to picture what sequence of events led to the game coming together the way it did. On one hand, it’s kind of a complete mess – not just the absurd spectacle of the game’s audiovisual presentation, but there are definitely some odd mechanical quirks and blatant balance issues. Batman kind of sucks, Robin is clearly the far stronger character… at least if you play the game in a particular way which may or may not be intended. But playing it that way is both really fun, and kind of the only way to survive for more than 20 seconds, so maybe it is? Again – mystifying.
On the other hand, it is really, really fun! It’s faster paced than most beat ’em ups, and it has some pretty novel and interesting mechanics. The super meter governs the power and availability of special moves; you fill it up by picking up Bat-symbols dropped by defeated enemies, and you expend it by performing special attacks and combos. Filling up the meter completely will cause Batman or Robin to go Super Saiyan, raising their level – which makes their special attacks more powerful, and refills a little bit of health. The game then ends up centering around managing this meter; carefully deciding when to try and increase your meter and raise your level to gain more power, when to spend the meter on powerful combos, and when to deliberately spend enough to lower your level – so you can raise it again for a health boost. This frantic dance makes BATMAN FOREVER unique among beat ’em ups, and mechanically very interesting in spite of some technical flaws. The surreal presentation only adds to the game’s unique appeal, as a truly one-of-a-kind gem.
1. BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS (2013)
Here it is – the #1 Batman video game of all time… in my book, anyway. Widely considered the weakest of the ARKHAM series (to the point where even publisher WB don’t seem keen on acknowledging its existence), I’ll try to make the case for why I think BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS is in fact the strongest of the games.
Developed by WB Montreal, ARKHAM ORIGINS builds off of Rocksteady’s ARKHAM CITY, and does not really attempt to reinvent the wheel or expand in major new directions. While the derivative nature of the game was a common source of critique at its release, I prefer to think of it as a refinement. Much of the game’s mechanics, structure and even world map was lifted directly from CITY, but personally I think the tweaks WBM made mostly changed things for the better.
The open world is less of a nuisance to explore with much less radio chatter constantly vying for your attention, and the narrative does a much better job of supporting the open-ended structure than in the previous game. The premise is also way cooler – a number of assassins have gathered in Gotham competing for a bounty on Batman’s head; setting the stage for a story with fun twists and turns, as well as a number of memorable boss fights.
Boss fights have always been a weak point in the ARKHAM games – at this point I’m not sure if ASYLUM’s Titan Joker or KNIGHT’s various Batmobile nonsense is the most infamous – but ORIGINS turns that tradition on its head with unique, fun and memorable encounters. Electrocutioner, Deathstroke, Copperhead, Bane and others provide mechanically satisfying fights as well as cool setpieces, making the boss fights something to actually look forward to. Aesthetically as well, ORIGINS definitely has my favourite character designs in the series – between the fights, visuals, and the writing, pretty much everything to do with the villains in the game is a delight.
Despite the Joker taking on more and more of a leading role with each of Rocksteady’s games, ORIGINS has hands down my favourite version of the character in any ARKHAM game. Set early in Batman’s career, the game does a great job of establishing the Joker as a menacing and unpredictable presence, and the first encounters between the two set the stage for a more exciting dynamic than the other ARKHAM games ever really managed to deliver on. Said encounters make up the climax of the story, and unusually for this series, the game doesn’t wrap up with a shitty boss fight or a stupid plot twist – it actually wraps up in a mechanically, narratively and thematically satisfying way. Good stuff!
While the setting, plot and characters are a major reason why I prefer ARKHAM ORIGINS to the Rocksteady ARKHAM games, there are other things I really like too. The detective aspects of Batman are played up a bit more, both narratively and mechanically, and that’s something I always enjoy. The reconstruction of crime scenes never gets terribly complex, but the slower pace and rare focus on thinking over punching is quite welcome, and adds some nice flavour. The upgrade and challenge systems were updated a little bit as well, and the latter in particular I think was handled great.
Instead of making it completely open-ended, the optional challenges have to be completed in a set order. That probably doesn’t sound like an improvement, but I found the more rigid structure had an interesting side effect: putting limitations on when you can complete challenges (ie clearing a predator encounter under certain conditions can’t be done until you reach such an encounter) creates a natural balance and pacing between doing optional side stuff and progressing the main story. It also takes something that is typically thoughtless busywork into something that requires a little bit of planning and thinking about how to tackle it.
A lot of people complain about ARKHAM ORIGINS being less polished than the Rocksteady games (or less charitably, “a buggy mess” etc), and that criticism is definitely not without merit. Minor glitches and weird issues happen on a somewhat regular basis; collision detection can be a bit odd, targeting in combat sometimes feels a little less reliable than it should, and ledges that arbitrarily cannot be grappled onto are a little too common. In my most recent playthrough I even ran into one or two softlock situations due to enemies clipping into walls or an event trigger just not activating. Undeniably, the overall level of polish is not quite up to par with Rocksteady’s entries.
But in all honesty, none of those issues ever really impeded my enjoyment of the game. They usually gave me a chuckle, and any frustration due to bugs was very mild at worst. If the lower level of polish is a dealbreaker for someone, and it makes them enjoy ARKHAM ORIGINS less than the other games in the series, well, I can’t fault them for that. For my money though, these issues are a drop in the ocean – infinitely less pervasive than my annoyance with the writing, griminess, Batmobile nonsense and other things in the Rocksteady games. A weird glitch might take me out of the experience for a minute, but annoying villains, poorly executed plot twists, and stupid endings have a far greater impact on my enjoyment of the experience as a whole. Few if any games are perfect – but as far as providing an engaging, comprehensive Batman experience goes, BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS gets pretty damn close.
Whew! It took a while to get there, but finally we have my collected thoughts on the history of Batman video games on record. Two and a half years well spent, am I right? I would certainly never describe myself as a huge Batman fan, but this journey has been really fun, and I hope I get to make others like it in the future.
Speaking of future, we are currently on the cusp of Warner Brothers Montreal finally officially announcing their new Batman game, and you bet I am very excited! As possibly the only person in the world who would consider ARKHAM ORIGINS the #1 Batman game of all time, I can’t wait to see what WBM have cooked up this time. I’ll definitely be streaming and writing about the game when it drops, so if you’ve enjoyed this article series, please look forward to that – I know I am. 🦇