The 16 Worst Comic Book Videogames

Why in the world is it so damned hard to make a good comic book video game. Bright colors, absurdest proportions, large amounts of violence masking any pretense of a story, big boobs. It’s like comics and video games are meant to be together! So why are there so many utterly dreadful adaptations? These are sixteen of the worst, which is saying something.

16. Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects

When you’re making a game based on big name comic stars, like the Avengers, it’s probably worth going all out, and making use of the bright colors and bombastics that accompany comics. For Rise of the Imperfects, Marvel and EA instead called in superstar artist Jae Lee to set the tone and do character designs for the game. While Lee is an amazing artist, his work is undeniably dark and sketchy, which made what should have been a four-color beat-’em-up a murky, unwatchable mess, with boring characters. The game also suffered from glitches galore, boring, repetitive gameplay, frequent and long load times, and was just generally tedious.

15. Watchmen: The End Is Nigh

Watchmen is the most influential comic of all time. It didn’t really need a movie adaption, which in turn absolutely did not need a prequel episodic brawler. It completely misses the point of the original story — it should be about characters, not action. The game throws Nite Owl and Rorschach into a mediocre action game, that controlled like molasses, and lost all the moral complexity and depth of the original story. It’s like if someone made an FPS sequal to Casablanca. Unnecessary, gratuitous, and utterly, utterly mediocre. Just read the comic, it’s so much better than the movie. Who knows, you might even expose yourself to some literature.

14. Hellboy: Asylum Seeker

In the early 2000s, Hellboy wasn’t that well known of a property. While Mike Mignola’s work was arguably at its best, the character hadn’t really breached into the mainstream. The first game based on the demonic goodguy with a really big fist was stuck in development for four years, so when it arrived it was already excruciatingly dated. The graphics were years behind current generation titles, the gameplay felt staid, and the controls were nigh on unusable. It was glitchy, and universally panned. The next Hellboy game — the Science of Evil — was better, but still unplayably bad. It blows my mind that no one’s made a good Hellboy game yet. Witty writing, awesome action, unnameable evil, mystic puzzles. The comics are a goldmine of videogame potential.

13. Iron Man / X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal

I fully expect no one to remember this game but me. In the 90s, Valiant Comics were actually a fairly big name, and one of their big sellers was X-O Manowar, a comic about a viking pulled into the present by aliens, who then took a suit of high tech armor from them, and proceeded to lay down some ass kickings. The character paired up with Marvel’s armored hero Iron Man in a game for the Playstation and Saturn. The build-up to the game promised in-game sprites based on high quality 3D renders, the final product looked like plastic. Slow moving, impossible to control plastic. The whole game was rushed to finish, and ended up being a mammoth failure.

12. Superman (NES)

Oh god, Superman for the NES. Never trust a sentient Statue of Liberty — Ghostbusters taught me that, and it still applies here. The game alternated between playing Clark Kent and Superman. Kent could punch and jump, both both weren’t exactly nimble. In fact, you moved around the speed of a paraplegic slug. As Superman you had a bunch of non-sensical powers, like X-Ray Vision that made ghosts visible, or Super Spinning. Even for 1988, the graphics looked pretty bad, and Superman was absolutely tiny — hardly a paragon of power and might. The enemies look they were just lifted from random other Japanese games, and thrown in hodge podge. I think there may have been some sort of plot about stock markets, too. All in all, this man of steel was a man of balsa.

11. Catwoman

It’s only appropriate that such a shitty movie would have such a shitty game. While the graphics were decent, Halle Berry delivered her voice work as if she were contractually obliged to, and wanted to spend as little time and effort around the developers as possible. The crappy controls and bad camera made the Prince of Persia wannabe puzzle jumping and platforming sections just about impossible. The combat was repetitive, and the game went through absurdest hoops to make sure you knew that no one you attacked actually died, just got temporarily inconvenienced. Unsurprisingly, the critics mauled this game.

10. Fantastic Four: Rise of Silver Surfer

I would make another crack about bad comic movies always getting bad games, but pretty much all comic movies get bad games, regardless of their original quality. Scoring only in the mid-40s at Metacritic, the game based on the second recent Fantastic Four film flopped worse than the movie. The game was stupidly repetitive, forcing you to constantly grind through combat. Thirty seconds into each level, and you’d seen everything there was to offer. The Thing was grossly overpowered, and the other three all but useless. The gameplay intended to take a lot from Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, but lost the most important feature: fun. It also severly limited how much you could use your powers, which kinda misses the point. And the character model for Jessica Alba was so deep in the uncanny valley, you’d think she was mining for creepy, robotic gold.

9. Crow: City of Angels

There has been precisely one good Crow movie, and no good Crow games. They only attempted it once, but it went over about as well as a black jew at a neo-Nazi rally. Thinking that people loved the fixed camera angles of Resident Evil, the developers threw low polygon characters into pre-rendered 3D scenes. This meant that the camera would switch instantly if you crossed over an invisible threshold, making the already useless controls even less accurate. It’s tricky to fight wave after wave of aimless, identical enemies, if you have a hard time facing in the right direction, let alone adding a swinging camera. The hit detection in the game was so laughably bad, that characters constantly clipped through each other, making every fight the equivalent of having entered idspispopd in Doom. Sure the plot was good, right? Nope, you just wandered aimlessly from room to room, attempting to beat up thugs, but generally failing.

8. Fantastic Four (PS)

A side-scrolling, arcade style, Fantastic Four beat-em-up should have been awesome. The game took advantage of the Playstation multitap, allowing four players at once, selected from five characters (She-Hulk got the nod for this game). So why the hell Acclaim drop the ball so badly on this game? Even for 1997, the graphics were low-quality, the controls stilted, and the game ludicrously un-balanced. You could beat the game as Human Torch just by spamming a single move, and it wasn’t even a super. In fact the only thing preventing you from plowing through the entire thing in no time was the insane length of the game, coupled with no save or password system. That’s right, as recently as 1997, a game was being sold that didn’t save your progress as all. What the hell?

7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)


6. Spawn: The Eternal

Another craptastic mid-90s 3D stillborn of a game. Inexplicably, Spawn: The Eternal used two different engines, one for fighting, one for exploring — and both were horrible. Wonky camera angles and tank-like controls made exploring impossible. Walls would constantly block your view, doors were impossible to open, and the skybox just wasn’t there half the time. Once you found an enemy, the game would switch to psuedo-3D fighting arena, and all your controls, including directions, would change, which was a major brainfuck. Luckily, all the enemies could be beaten just by spamming the same attacks over and over. While in combat, the characters would magically clip through walls, benches, trash-cans, pretty much everything. It was an unplayable mess.

5. Batman Dark Tomorrow

There have been a number of decent Batman games, and one really good one — Arkham Asylum. The number of bad ones? Legion, and doubtless the worst was Dark Tomorrow for the XBox and GameCube. The game was not utterly beyond redemption, and had excellent cut-scenes, which were widely regarded as the best part of the game. Maybe they should have just sold a CG short, and burned every last copy of the game. It would have been better than unleashing this festering pile on humanity. Imagine a batman built of cardboard boxes, moving with all the agility of a 1960’s kaiju actor, attempting to perform delicate stealth and platforming levels. Oh, and throw in illogically fixed camera angles that force the controls to reverse directions constantly. Now you know how the game handles. Since Batman doesn’t kill, in order to take out enemies, you hit them a few times, and they go down. But only for around five seconds, before getting up again. In that time, you have to batcuff them, which triggers the same animation every single time. This happens with each and every enemy over the course of the game. Can you say horrible repetition?

4. Uncanny X-Men (NES)

Ever get the feeling that every now and then, developers would get an awesome license, and instead of doing something cool with it, they’d just slap the new characters on top of something already in development? I have a sneaking suspicion that’s what happened here. The X-Men are all but identical oddly colored, vaguely humanoid blobs. Hitting your enemies is just about impossible, by projectile or punching, and the people making the game had obviously never read a comic book, as the enemies were an odd hodgepodge of giant insects and monsters. You played one X-Men, while the computer played another, though it usually died within seconds. We can barely do competent teammate AI in this day and age, how the hell did they think it would work on the NES? You know, there was one level in this game where you had to chose a path to try and find a boss. If you chose the wrong one, you had to fight all the way to the end of the level, fight all the way back, and then go in the other direction. For masochists only.

3. Incredible Hulk: Pantheon Saga

Not many people remember this game, but when it debuted it was instantly hailed as one of the worst games ever. You beat everything in the game by punching it. Enemies, walls, switches. That’s right, you destroy switches in order to turn them on. The bad guys all die easily, but bosses are incredibly quick, easily out-maneuvering the lumbering protagonist. The graphics boldly proclaimed “3D!”, but were incomparably bad, with jerky animations, simple textures, and muggy colors. The game also had a number of puzzles that had to be solved perfectly, and if you screwed it up, you were stuck. The sound was abysmal, characterized by one reviewer as being “an irritating blend of dance music and wanna-be goth-rock.” There was almost nothing to redeem this game, and there are still worse to come.

2. Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis

Man, Aquaman doesn’t get the respect he deserves. As a comic geek, he’s actually a pretty cool character. He’s the king of 2/3 of the earth’s surface, has immense strength, and complete mental command of everything under the seas. That’s right, he can call up Cthulhu to come kick your ass. Yet he gets saddled with this sort of bullshit constantly. Battle for Atlantis has been branded one of the worst games of all time, and has absolutely nothing going for it. Aquaman’s model like a freaking pez dispenser, and about the same flexibility. The game’s draw distance is so short, it looks like you’re playing the South Park FPS for the N64. Atlantis is all by abandoned, what’s meant to be a city is just an unutterably boring cluster of poorly constructed polygons. The action is aimless, you swim about, looking for enemies, and beat them up. That’s pretty much the entire game. Swim, fight, swim some more. Too bad the combat is limited to two strikes, a grapple, and lacklustre special moves. You also have the usual complaints of dodgy controls, retarded cameras, and incomprehensible plot. The King of the Seas deserves better.

1. Superman 64

You knew this was coming, don’t act surprised. Kryptonite fog hiding horrible draw distances. Controls that are just fundamentally broken, and don’t do what you press. Spending 3/4 of the game flying through rings. Weird clipping bugs. Touted features that just don’t work. Collision detection so suspect, it does PR work for BP on the side. There’s no point to me continuing, it’s been long and truly known, that there can be no worse comic book game in existence than Superman 64.

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