History of the Joker in Video Games

The Joker is Batman's greatest adversary, and just as iconic of a character in his own right by now. He's also no stranger to video games. The Joker has appeared in most of the best Batman games of all time, and has been featured in other major gaming franchises as well.

With the latest Joker movie out now and making a huge splash, it felt like an appropriate time to reflect on all the different takes on the Joker that have been featured in over three decades worth of games. So let's stop joking around and dive straight into this lengthy list of Joker's history in video games.

RELATED: Batman Anniversary Video Game Roundup

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Batman: The Caped Crusader

The first ever appearance of the Joker in a game was in Batman: The Caped Crusader, developed in 1988 for Commodore 64. It was later released on the Amiga and Apple II. It was a Comix Zone style arcade adventure that featured the choice between a Penguin campaign and a Joker campaign. The Joker's face shows up a lot, but Batman doesn't see much of the Joker himself until the final fight of this game

The Batman: Arkham Games

As far as narrative driven Batman experiences go, Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City are among the best ever crafted. So much of this is thanks to Mark Hamill's chilling performance as the Joker. As he provides color commentary, teasing Batman throughout both these games, Joker endears himself to the player, making the conclusion of his arc all the more shocking. After The Animated Series, it's no surprise Hamill is widely considered the greatest Joker of all time, but after playing the Arkham games, that becomes even harder to deny.

Injustice and Mortal Kombat

mortal kombat 11 joker design

Joker is almost always at the forefront of the strange and celebrated collaboration between DC Comics and Mortal Kombat developer NetherRealm. Even before the studio was formed, Joker appeared in Midway's final MK game Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, in which he voiced by Richard Epcar. This game set the stage for NetherRealm to create the DC fighting game series Injustice, where Joker got another chance to shine as a fighting game character. Joker was added as DLC to Mortal Kombat 11, a design that was met with a good deal of skepticism from fans and internet at large.

Batman: The Video Game

A series of side-scrolling brawlers came out between 1989 and 1992 that were all based on the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film. The most famous was Batman: The Video Game, released for the NES and Game Boy in 1990 in North America. Later that same year a Genesis version simply titled Batman that was more faithful to the movie was released. The version of the Joker in all three was very loosely based on Jack Nicholson's take on the character in Burton's movie.

Games based on Batman: The Animated Series

Mark Hamill's Joker was a standout on the already incredible Batman: The Animated Series in the 90s. Joker showed up in the 1993 Game Boy action game of the same title. A sequel entitled The Adventures of Batman and Robin was released for SNES in 1994, and for SEGA consoles in 1995. The only one Hamill ever did voice work for was the 2001 PS2 game Batman: Vengenance that was based on The New Batman Adventures, the continuation and final season of The Animated Series.

Batman: Return of the Joker

There's actually two games called Return of the Joker, but only one was on the Batman Beyond animated feature Return of the Joker. The first was called Batman: Return of the Joker and was released on NES in 1991 and Game Boy and Genesis in 1992. In this side-scroller, Joker has escaped from Arkham and is going to destroy Gotham unless Batman beats all five levels.

The game based on Batman Beyond was released nine years later in 2000 for Playstation, N64, and Game Boy Color and called Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. This was yet another beat-em-up featuring Joker as the big bad.

Telltale's Batman Games

In 2016, Telltale released Batman: The Telltale Series to eventual critical acclaim by the time every episode was out. The Joker appeared here, voiced by Anthony Ingruber and known as "John Doe" during this first season. In its second season, called The Enemy Within, the story got much more invested in John Doe's arc. This season tells a Joker origin story of sorts. For Joker fans, it's recommended to take a look at The Enemy Within to see Telltale's original take on the classic character.

In LEGO Games

The Joker rears his head in pretty much every DC based LEGO video game. He made his first appearance in a LEGO game in Lego Batman and his first voiced role was performed by Christopher Corey Smith for the sequel. Smith voiced Joker in the follow-up games Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham and LEGO Dimensions.

His biggest role was as one of the protagonists of the 2018 LEGO game LEGO DC Super VillainsThis was the only LEGO game not to feature Smith as Joker. Instead, Mark Hamill reprised the role once again.

In Online Games

In more recent years, Joker skins and voice packs have cropped up in online multiplayer games and MMORPGs. In the long running MMO DC Universe Online, Mark Hamill returned to voice Joker again after his "retirement" of the character in 2011, when he said that Arkham City would be his last time taking on the role.

As far as MOBAs go, Joker has made a couple appearances. In the MOBA Infinite Crisis Epcar reprised his role as the Joker for a voice and costume pack. That game was released in March 2015 and shutdown less than six months later. The Joker was a playable hero character in the 2017 MOBA Arena of Valor.

MORE: Batman Court of Owls Game Teased by DC Comics Writer

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