The Birth And Death of Superhero Games & Why Batman is Sole survivor

Gaming has had a long and most fruitful relationship with superheroes. It began (almost poetically as we shall soon see) with Superman for Atari 2600 now so many years ago. The game itself was far from brilliant. Aside from the terrible graphics and the sound effects that felt like a pneumatic drill attacking your brain, the Quest / RPG gameplay came out with all the finesse of David sculpted with a sledgehammer. Nevertheless, Superman had given birth to a wonderful marriage: That of games and superheroes.

Spiderman would be the next to follow in a game that harkened back to Crazy Climber. Unlike Superman, Spider-man was a game that allowed for skilful gameplay as Spidey climbed from platform to platform, avoiding bombs and other dangerous items. It was a much more refined title than Superman and it greatly furthered the relationship between games and superheroes by showing how a superhero’s superpowers could naturally be adapted to create the fundamental gameplay mechanics of a game. Here, spidey crawled up walls and fired his web, but all in the industry could see that it would take little work to create games based around other superheroes superpowers, be it the Hulk’s strength, the fighting skills of The Turtles or Batman’s arsenal of tools.

greatly helped to immerse the player in the game. So it was that superheroes had provided both the ideal gameplay, via superpowers, and the ideal worlds, via the universes of comic book, for a video game to take place in.

Within years of these few experimental superhero games, superheroes were web slinging, hulk smashing and cowabunga-ing all over the video game industry.  The Amazing Spiderman started a trend of platform superhero games, Silver Surfer and The Punisher created superhero shooting games, and as for the beat-em-ups I’m sure most of us recall some of our finest days in the arcades with TMNT and X-Men The Arcade Game. So it was that all genres were seeing entries from various superhero franchises, and before long an entire catalogue of superhero games was created.

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Paul Harrison

Paul M Harrison is an entertainment journalist, novelist, and blogger, and a specialist in the theory of storytelling. Paul Harrison can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter or Facebook.

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