With Batman: Arkham City still reigning as one of the best releases of this year among an onslaught of quality titles, the time has never been better to think of what superhero possibilities the release has led to. Superheroes are all the rage in Hollywood, but few games treading the same path have managed to reach more than moderate success. There's no question that most of the credit for Arkham City's superior story and near-perfect gameplay (check out our Batman: Arkham City review for details) belongs to the development team at Rocksteady Studios.
While a few competent developers have brought interesting ideas to Superman, X-Men and several other movie tie-in games that we'd rather forget, nobody can touch Rocksteady at the moment. And while Warner Bros. is no doubt in a hurry to get the developer all to themselves, that doesn't mean that other super-franchises wouldn't be a perfect match for the studio. Rocksteady hasn't turned their backs on the Arkham series just yet, stating their commitment to the franchise as long as there are good stories to tell.
We've put together our list of superheroes that deserve their own game built by Rocksteady, so join us in crossing our fingers that at least one of these possibilities comes to fruition.
#5) The Avengers
If there is one super team that is in desperate need of the high quality storytelling and mechanics Rocskteady can deliver, it's The Avengers. The individual members may each have rich fanbases within the comic book world, but games have proven to be the single greatest threat to nearly all of them. A truly great Iron Man game is still just a dream, Captain American: Super Soldier left alot to be desired, and Thor: God of Thunder was downright abysmal. All things considered then, it probably wasn't a bad idea to scrap the plans for The Avengers game.
But Marvel isn't the kind of company to leave profits on the table, and there's no denying the fact that an Avengers movie tie-in game needs to happen. But what kind of development studio could tell a story from the point of view of more than one famous and beloved character, but do justice to each? In all honesty, we probably would have had doubts about Rocksteady's ability to tell more than just a singlular dramatic story after Arkham Asylum. But with Arkham City, Catwoman was given an entirely separate campaign within the main game, and the addition was more than an afterthought.
With brand new combat, weapons, traversal methods and even unique characters to face, Rocksteady brought nearly as much time and resources to Catwoman as the titular hero, and that speaks volumes. Then along came a playable Robin and a martial arts-favoring Nightwing as well, showing that Rocksteady's mastery of melee combat could be customized to fit any number of legendary superheroes. With that said, we can't think of another developer who we could trust more with Thor's hammer-wielding, Cap's shield-throwing and gymnastic combat, or even Iron Man's pulse cannons and flight.
Whether it would be a case of telling a chapter through the eyes of each character at a time, or possibly even a multiplayer or co-op game allowing different heroes to join forces, we're in. Telling a single story through those means would be just as tricky as successfully managing four or five different fighting styles in one game, but it's hard to say that Rocksteady hasn't earned the benefit of the doubt.
If the looks at The Avengers film we've seen are any indication, there's plenty of chances to explore the infighting and clashing of egos that are inherent in any collection of superheroes. The characters may not come to an all-out brawl, but the opportunity for great writing and cut-scenes is certainly there.
The blessing and the curse here is that Rocksteady would need to give plenty of their time to do the franchise justice, and while that's something Marvel fans would love to hear, it also means a movie tie-in game is an impossibility. That doesn't stop us from dreaming, though. And remember, there are sure to be plenty of sequels.
In the vast catalogue of terrible superhero video games, Wolverine is one of the few who managed to star in a successful one. With X-Men Origins: Wolverine it was shown that the adamantium claws and feral ferocity of the classic Marvel action star could be used for a satisfying and competent gaming experience. We don't think that Logan should stop there, but use the victory as a launching point into the rich history and internal conflict of the mysterious figure.
Over the years, Logan's unique regenerative abilities and quest for identity have led him to Japan, Northwestern Canada, and everywhere in between. With such fertile ground for open world gameplay, the choices for time periods and locations is limitless. But we have to bet that any Wolverine game helmed by Rocksteady would be a much more direct with a focused narrative than that of Arkham City. Still, the ability to look into the mind of both Bruce Wayne and Batman seen in Arkham City proves that the writers know how to deal with a dark antihero saddled with an emotionally troubled past.
From a gameplay perspective, it doesn't take a particularly inventive imagination to see how the game could work. Just remove Batman and swap in Wolverine, and most of the traversal and hand-to-hand combat would function just as well with some agility and claws. The prospect of hearing several hours of Logan's signature sardonic humor is also worth a shot, so the story could be just as satisfying as the fighting.
With another Wolverine motion picture on the horizon, the time is right to aim high for a tie-in video game. The filmmakers are no doubt eager to both continue the series and to some extent start fresh, after the mixed bag that was its predecessor. Showing that fans can still expect big things from those in charge of the characters would be a wise move for Marvel, and a fantastic game would certainly help.
We'd settle for the same plot as the movie if Rocksteady was crafting the gameplay, since they showed that their approach to combat could be near-perfect, and share just as much of the spotlight as the game's plot.
We've already gone into great detail on exactly why Deadpool needs his own game, but the success of Rocksteady has only strengthened our resolve. The dark sense of humor and much grittier tone that Wade Wilson brings with him into nearly any faithful incarnation is simply begging for an entire game, and we're sorry to say, there aren't many developers that we would trust to do him justice. After much of his signature character was tossed aside for his appearance in the previously mentioned X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the time is right for another crack.
We certainly love the lighter side of Deadpool, which many correctly connect to the quips and wise-cracks of other Marvel great Spider-Man. But it would be foolish to not focus on what makes the 'Merc with a Mouth' unique, and that is his ability to wield both weapons and swords with deadly - yes, deadly - efficiency. While Batman may be committed to never taking a life, Deadpool does so on a frequent basis, whether or not he's being paid. This would obviously be somewhat of a departure for Rocksteady, but we can't help but think that if the story was good enough, they'd be on board.
We're hopeful that a dark and M-rated Deadpool game will be coming sooner rather than later, since the planned Deadpool feature film is going for a hard R-rating. Violence and brutality can be effective if they fit the greater story, and bringing in comic book writers for guidance shows that the developers of Arkham City are aware of that fact. If one of the various talented writers on the Deadpool series wanted to make this happen, we can't help but think than several of his stories would be absolutely perfect for a video game.
Besides slicing and dicing, Wade Wilson also has a real talent for getting mixed up with some of the most recognizable characters in the Marvel universe. Whether villains, heroes, or other-worldly creatures, Deadpool never fails to find a feature-film quality twist and punchline at the opportune moment. Truly witty and funny games are hard to execute perfectly and consistently, but with Deadpool it would be hard to miss. And don't even get us started on the possibility of a Deadpool/Cable team-up.
Balancing violence with humor is always a tough job, and Deadpool's habit of speaking directly to the audience only complicates things. But considering the fact that the studio managed to come up with a Batman story that wasn't just 'good enough' for a video game, but able to be held among the character's greatest adventures ever written, we'll give Rocksteady the benefit of the doubt.
#2) Green Arrow
There's a chance that many of you will be unfamiliar with the character of Green Arrow, or perhaps only know of his appearances on Smallville. In the DC comic books he's no teen heartthrob, but billionaire industrialist and former mayor of Star City Oliver Queen. While his brightly-colored Robin Hood costume and bow may seem far more fantastic than other entries on our list, Ollie was initially designed and positioned as a foil for Batman himself. After a long day running his corporation and the bureaucracy of Star City, Queen would escape into the night as Green Arrow, taming the criminal element in his modern day quest to defend the poor from injustice and fear.
And in case you think that the goatee or emerald get-up don't exactly scream intimidation or leadership, it's important to note that Green Arrow shares a similar antihero leaning as Bruce Wayne. While he may uphold the laws of society in his day-job, one of Green Arrow's most significant traits has been his personal sense of right and wrong, which often challenges those of his fellow superheroes. That's a story that doesn't fall too far out of Rocksteady's experience with Batman, but the similarities suited to the developers' strength don't stop there.
One of the best aspects of Batman that the developers captured was the importance and versatility of the caped crusader's various gadgets. Arkham City brought new tools to the standard batarangs and explosive gels, with particularly interesting gameplay accompanying the electric and ice gadgets. Green Arrow is more than just an archer, with his quiver containing more than your standard arrows. Whether we're talking glue, blunted, explosive or yes, lethal arrows, Ollie is never in a situation where his archery arsenal fails him. Add in the ability to wield his bow in melee combat, and you've got a fighter just begging for a Rocksteady interpretation.
The gadgets and combat style of Arkham City's Robin is a near perfect match for Queen, although some adjustments would be needed. There are sure to be some who will concede that a bow would be interesting for ranged gameplay in an action title, but would be largely ineffective in short range combat. We would have agreed, but that was before Batman's various gadgets were worked seamlessly into punches and kicks via hot-keys. Using the same system, having Ollie cracking skulls with his bow then leaping back to fire off a tactical arrow doesn't just sound possible, but downright inspired.
Obviously Green Arrow doesn't have the name recognition of Batman or Superman, or even Green Lantern for that matter, but that could be a blessing in disguise. It's only a matter of time before Warner Bros. starts to work toward a live-action Justice League of America film to go toe-to-toe with Marvel's Avengers franchise, and an award-winning developer would be a great place to start for an accompanying video game franchise. If Rocksteady was to create a game in which a number of JLA members worked together to possibly launch their very own franchises or simply gauge fan interest, we'd love to see Oliver Queen make the short list. Because the fact is, he deserves a full game to himself.
Well, this is an obvious one. The Last Son of Krypton has always been king of the comic book world, king of superheroes (don't try to argue) and the single most recognized modern mythological figure around the world. His first motion picture incarnations wowed audiences and pushed what was possible in film-making to the brink, and the "big blue boyscout" is receiving a significant reboot in 2013 with Zack Snyder's Man of Steel. The fact that Superman has never managed to break the barrier into starring in a moderately competent or commercially successful game in over a decade seems to defy logic, but Metropolis' guardian has proven to be the unsolvable riddle of gaming franchises.
Perhaps it's a fault of gaming. What does Superman need to succeed in game form? A combat system that allows physical attacks to overpower super-enemies, and a wide variety of ranged superpowers to disarm and entrap enemies in the surrounding environment. Then fit that into an open world the size of a modern metropolis, and pair it with a science-fiction narrative that deals with issues of loss and honor in the modern world.
Those have all been seen in one way or another over this current generation of gaming, and more than a few of them in Batman: Arkham City alone. So maybe the time is right for a Superman game after all.
We should make it clear, the exact Arkham City formula isn't one that would automatically work for Superman. But more than anything else, it was Rocksteady's dedication to recreating the most important parts of Batman's character and methods that makes us think the developers are up to the task. The team even turned to legendary comic book writer Paul Dini to come up with a worthwhile plot, and the same could be done for Supes. There's no shortage of recognizable characters and villains to work from either, so getting fans excited wouldn't be as hard as several of our choices.
With a new DC superhero game coming next year, the delay to the Superman feature film is the only reason we have to think that the star won't be Superman. We would certainly love to see him get the credit he deserves, especially if it gave another opportunity for us to explore the newly-rebooted version of DC's current series.
However, there is a chance that a Justice League game could be on the radar for DC and Warner Bros., since a motion picture definitely is. We could give a good argument for why Rocksteady may be the only developer able to give each and every one of the members the respect and time they deserve, but the truth is if they stepped up to make a game for any one of them, we'd be more than satisfied.
But with the world of heroes now wide open, why not start with the man by which every other hero is measured?
These are just the top 5 out of dozens of games we could come up with, so feel free to leave us your own choices in the comments. We don't know if and when Rocksteady will depart from Batman's sizable shadow, but there's no denying the fact that they have earned quite a bit of respect from the comic book and gaming community. That means they have a unique opportunity to make any of these pipe dreams into a reality, and we look forward to whatever they take on next.
If you haven't already played Batman: Arkham City, it's available now for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.