AUG 10, 2022
20 Most Underrated Superhero Games Ever
JUL 30, 2022
In theory, superheroes should be the perfect video game characters. They’re powerful, they’re colorful, and they exist in elaborate worlds filled with objectives and things that are trying to kill them. Despite their potential, though, there are really only a handful of truly great superhero games. That being the case, you’d think that even pretty good superhero games would be put on a pedestal. Instead, the history of that genre is filled with titles that are overlooked, unappreciated, and simply underrated.
There’s no one quality that makes a superhero game underrated. Some are bizarrely forgotten masterpieces, while others are a little rougher around the edges. If there’s one thing that all of these games share, though, it’s the love that went into them. The sheer number of forgettable or passionless superhero games on the market makes it easier to appreciate those titles that may not have quite leaped the tallest building in a single bound but still helped show that you don’t have to be bulletproof to be a hero.
These are the most underrated superhero games ever.
While technically a prequel to the 1998 film of the same name, 2000’s Blade perfectly captures the style and rebellious spirit that helped turn that movie into a revolutionary hit.
Blade is a third-person action game that combines Resident Evil-era horror with intense action setpieces. It was an early stab (pun proudly intended) at what would essentially become the standard formula for the next generation’s new wave of incredible third-person action games. It’s a surprisingly mature and forward-thinking title that may have been just a bit too ambitious for its own good.
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Released as a tie-in to Ryan Reynolds’ notorious film, many fans suspected that this game would be nothing more than another cash-in. Instead, Rise of the Manhunters proved to be significantly better than the movie it’s based on.
Highlighted by its main character’s diverse abilities, this 3D action title does an exceptional job of making you feel like the Green Lantern. It turns out that a character who can conjure nearly anything makes for a fantastic video game protagonist. Granted, the whole thing is short and basic, but there’s something to be said about a superhero game that doesn’t overstay its welcome and just wants to offer a good time.
Game Boy Advance
It’s hard to remember, but there was a time when Iron Man wasn’t considered one of Marvel’s biggest mainstream heroes. Maybe that’s why so many people overlooked this incredible 2002 Game Boy Advance game.
Essentially a Mega Man game starring Iron Man, this fast-paced 2D action game is really just an elaborate excuse to let you play with Iron Man’s various toys. The Invincible Iron Man was that kind of classic 2D action game with a few new ideas that the Game Boy Advance excelled at offering. It’s simple, familiar, and somehow remains the best Iron Man game ever made.
Sega Dreamcast, Arcades
Spawn: In the Demon’s Hand is… strange. It’s kind of like a Super Smash Bros. game combined with a single-player mode that tasks you with clearing out arenas filled with CPU enemies. There’s never really been another game quite like this.
Though often clunky and confusing, this game understands that Spawn’s appeal is based entirely on his attitude and grim nature. The non-stop action and gloomy world design tap into those core elements that drew so many to Spawn in the first place. If you can get past the (admittedly intense) learning curve of figuring out what this game is trying to do, you’ll find that it’s unique enough to worthy of your time.
PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
You’re not alone if you decided to ignore this 2009 game based on what might be the worst X-Men movie ever. However, this hidden gem happens to feature some of the absolute best Wolverine action in video game history.
Despite its poor plot, short runtime, and sometimes repetitive gameplay, this game’s “devil may care” design makes it equal parts ridiculous and ridiculously fun. The moment you realize this game is trying to go as far over the top as possible is the moment you start to love it. Where else do you get to take down a helicopter using only Wolverine’s claws?
PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube, PC
The early TMNT beat-em-up games of the ’80s and ’90s are considered some of the best action titles of their eras. While this title couldn’t match its predecessors, it’s an excellent little game in its own right.
This 3D multiplayer beat-em-up is highlighted by its incredible co-op play and a lovely cel-shaded visual style. It’s an old-school arcade brawler with a sixth-generation paint job. It may only last you for a weekend, but it’s a great way to spend that weekend.
PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC
Though released the same year as the 2004 Punisher movie, this game is actually based on the comics. Gameplay-wise, it also clearly…err…pays tribute to the Max Payne era of action games, though it adds a controversial interrogation system that ended up pushing the boundaries of the “M” rating.
The Punisher’s absurd levels of violence will be too much for some, but beneath the over-the-top gore lies a solid shooter with style to burn. Developer Volition clearly enjoyed making this game, and its enthusiasm shines.
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Believe it or not, there have only been a few games based on MCU movies. Equally shocking is the fact that most of them are terrible.
Captain America: Super Soldier is a slight exception to that rule. While not quite as good as the Batman: Arkham games it borrows its gameplay from, this title offers a thrilling and original World War II-set story that proves to be a great companion piece to the hero’s MCU adventures. Captain America deserves better, but more people really should have given this game a chance.
Stylistically inspired by the Golden Age of comics, this 2002 video game was released to widespread critical acclaim and disappointing sales. Years later, it remains arguably the best “original” superhero video game ever.
Freedom Force tasks you with guiding a variety of nostalgia-inspired superheroes through several dangerous missions. Its strategy gameplay might be a little too slow and complicated for some, but this game’s good vibes will remind you why you once dreamed of becoming a superhero. While this game lacks the proper re-release or remaster it deserves, this is one of those retro titles that is worth going (slightly) out of your way for.
PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, PC
While Web of Shadows’ gameplay is a little rough around the edges, it’s the way this game uses a symbiote invasion as the basis of a surprisingly dark Spider-Man story that helps it stand apart.
Throughout this game, you’ll be forced to make difficult decisions that help determine your reputation. While sometimes gimmicky, those choices highlight how challenging it is to be Spider-Man. They also affect the events of the game in ways both great and small. While Web of Shadows really needed to lean into its boldest ideas a little more than it did, this project was a few refinements away from being an undisputed classic.
PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Xbox
While it’s nowhere near as brilliant as the movie it’s based on, a surprising number of people wrote this adaptation off without realizing how much fun it really was.
Batman Begins recreates many memorable sequences from the movie while expanding upon that film’s story in logical ways. It’s a solid all-around action game that shines during stealth sequences where you intimidate criminals from the shadows rather than simply throwing punches their way. It’s a shame the planned Dark Knight pseudo-sequel to this game got canceled because this underrated gem really deserved some kind of follow-up.
PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC
The LEGO games have never been shy about taking liberties with established properties, but LEGO DC Super-Villains raises the bar.
Based on the idea that DC’s biggest villains have reluctantly become Earth’s only heroes, this game combines that classic and accessible LEGO gameplay with a fascinating “Elseworlds” narrative. It’s the kind of superhero game anyone can pick up, play, and immediately fall in love with. It’s also a pretty fantastic jumping-off point for some of the deeper dives into DC lore.
PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC
Though only released in 2021, it’s not too early to call Guardians of the Galaxy underrated. While critically praised, this game’s poor sales made it clear that too few bothered to really give it a chance.
That’s a shame because Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the most heartfelt, original, and visually striking superhero games of the modern era. This game delivers the intergalactic adventures and interpersonal conflicts of the titular crew in ways even the movies can’t match. This is that kind of action-adventure game that we just don’t get enough of these days.
Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS
As Batman’s big-screen adventures become increasingly dark, it’s easy to long for a time when the character was a bit campier. If you prefer your Batman adventures to be kind of silly, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is for you.
This side-scrolling beat-em-up is filled with unironic humor. While it shares a name with another Batman show, it’s actually best thought of as a kind of love letter to the Adam West interpretation of the character. It’s a playable cartoon that reminds us that even the Dark Knight can afford to lighten up.
PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
Before 2016’s Deadpool film introduced millions to the merc with a mouth, this 2013 game showed the character at his best (and therefore worst).
Essentially a meta-comedy where Deadpool knows he’s in a video game, this adventure pulls no punches when it comes to exploring how depraved its lead character truly is. Granted, there’s not much here from a gameplay standpoint, but this title flows remarkably well from absurd moment to absurd moment. Equal parts immature and surprisingly smart, this is simply one of the funniest games ever.
Imagine a World of Warcraft-like online adventure filled with player-created superheroes locked in a never-ending battle for truth and justice. Sounds like a dream game, right? Instead, City of Heroes became one of those games that many loved and too few actually played.
Its blend of deep MMORPG gameplay and superhero wish-fulfillment earned City of Heroes a cult following. For a time, it was arguably the best way to turn yourself into a superhero and lose yourself in a comic book world filled with nearly endless possibilities. Sadly, the game’s servers were shut down in 2012. Unless you’re willing to dive into the difficult world of fan server revivals, this game will always be little more than a memory.
PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Xbox
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is at its best when Hulk is smashing whatever is in front of him. It’s essentially an open-world game that allows you to tear through every environment and maybe save the day in the process.
The game isn’t particularly sophisticated, but that’s kind of the point. For as much as the creators of this game clearly loved this character, they also recognized that when it comes time to actually play as Hulk, you really just want to skip the filler and get to the killer. There’s a simple joy to playing as the Hulk, and Ultimate Destruction lets you realize that joy again and again.
PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube
In a sea of truly terrible Superman games, Shadow of Apokolips stands apart by virtue of being surprisingly fun.
This 2002 action-adventure game offered the kind of fairly straightforward 3D experience that didn’t try to punch above its weight in terms of new ideas. It focuses on making you actually enjoy playing as Superman, which is a low bar that a lot of other Superman games shockingly never cleared. While uneven and riddled with technical issues, this is still the Superman game that comes closest to making us believe a man can fly. It’s a colorful adventure that emphasizes how nice it is to use unlimited powers for unlimited good.
Based on the revolutionary animated series of the same name, The Adventures of Batman & Robin is a classic Super Nintendo action game with a few twists.
This gem’s beautiful cartoon visuals, labyrinth-level design, and gadget-based puzzles make it so much more than the (still pretty good) beat-em-up game it could have been. It’s not an easy game, but it showed how Batman games could and should be different from every other superhero game out there. Speaking of different, the Genesis version of this game was actually a Metal Slug-like action title. It’s honestly much better than it probably sounds.
PlayStation One, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, PC
Developed by the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater team as a kind of side project, Spider-Man is simply a masterpiece. From its soundtrack and colorful graphics to its Stan Lee-voiced level intros, every element of this game was clearly the product of love.
More importantly, Spider-Man is a tribute to the Marvel comics rather than the TV shows or the movies. At a time when comics are often overshadowed by their adaptations, that aspect of this game alone makes it feel truly special and unique. It’s a true testament to the general quality of Spider-Man games that this title isn’t the runaway best Spider-Man game ever made. What it is, though, is the Spider-Man (and superhero) game that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough.
Matthew Byrd | @SilverTuna014
Matthew Byrd is a freelance writer and entertainment enthusiast living in Brooklyn.
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