- Superman is one of the most popular DC characters, and it is surprising how we still haven’t seen his dedicated AAA game.
- One of the biggest reasons is that many believe he is “too powerful” for a proper video game adaptation, making it difficult for his character to be portrayed well.
- This powerful superhero has many versions and different storylines, plenty of which can be used for a video game. In fact, Spider-Man has done some things well, which can serve as an example.
Superman—one of the prominent superheroes in the DC comics and the protector of the fictional city of Metropolis—is an integral part of the Justice League. While he remains one of the most influential presences in the comics, we haven’t seen much of him in the video games. Injustice portrayed his evil side incredibly well, but aside from fighting games, no AAA title is dedicated to the symbol of hope.
Another superhero of a similar caliber in terms of popularity would be Batman, and he has been portrayed really well in the Batman: Arkham series. So why is one character receiving so much more attention than the other? Many believe that Superman, unlike other characters, is way “too powerful,” and it would be almost impossible to capture his abilities within a single game.
Well, I am here to tell you that the argument has become outdated and that Superman deserves his own AAA game. Back when Superman 64 was released, the face of video games was much different. Now, after the portrayal of many superheroes, some of which are done splendidly well, we should start seeing how there are more than enough reasons and resources to complete this long-awaited task.
Superman 64 Was Not Helpful
First and foremost, Superman: The New Superman Adventures, aka “Superman 64,” did not leave a good impression. It is one of the first titles many would think of when the word “Superman game” comes to mind, and for all the negative reasons. Looking back at it now, the game did not portray our hero well, which is to be expected from a two-and-a-half decade-old game.
Still, what really made the game so bad were its clunky and poor controls and its almost non-existent story. It was a poorly made game, even for the late 90s, and failed in comparison to some other Nintendo 64 titles. Since then, there have been some titles like Superman: The Man of Steel, Superman: Countdown to Apokolips, Superman Returns, etc., which many would consider mediocre at best.
The point is that Superman did not have a good start in the video game industry. Although he has had some acceptable portrayals as a side character or one of the main characters, like in the case of Injustice, there has been no good instance of him as a titular character. And since the early titles, developers and gamers have used the same reason, blaming his power as the sole perpetrator for why he is not made for games.
Spider-Man Is The Prime Example
Let’s take Marvel’s Spider-Man as one of the examples, as I believe it has done some things that other superhero games can take inspiration from. Many would say that since Superman can travel lightning-fast and is basically an alien, he should be able to traverse the entire earth and even space. But there are ways to add enough content, like quests, points of interest, and story, into a limited map, just like Marvel’s Spider-Man does.
Marvel’s Spider-Man and Miles Morales are set in parts of New York City and only allow the characters to explore outer Manhattan Island outside missions. Only now, with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, the game has brought more New York locations like Queens, Brooklyn, and Coney Island into the mix. Even though our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man can swing to other cities, it doesn’t mean he should.
A Superman game can be set in the Metropolis and have more than enough content, with a weaker version of the flight to allow more excitement when traveling. Spider-Man and Batman in the games are a much weaker version of their comic book counterparts, and that’s completely fine. Superman also has many versions, some of which can be perfect candidates for this.
However, before we begin discussing the different Superman versions that would be suitable, let’s explore what kind of content can be put inside this AAA game. In all comics, there are the big baddies that give our superheroes a tough challenge, so how can they be portrayed here? Those enemies can be the main storyline’s bosses, while their weaker counterparts, or “fodder,” will be spread throughout the city.
In Spider-Man, we had the Inner Demons, a group of bad people working for Mister Negative, one of the main antagonists. Now, these fodder enemies share similar abilities to the main enemy but are much weaker. Their strength lies in their number, and if you aren’t careful enough, they can do a number on you. Similarly, Superman’s enemies, like General Zod, will have Kryptonians, and Lex Luthor can have enhanced goons.
Superman Is An Interesting Character With Many Versions
One of the other “issues” I discussed earlier is Superman’s power level, which, if you have read the comics, you would know is a feeble argument. Superman is a well-written character with dozens of different versions. While I can’t dive into each of those, I can certainly show you that many of the portrayals of our beloved superhero are dimmed-down versions.
Since the whole point of this is the lack of Superman games, let’s look at some of the most popular animated series. First off, we have the classic Superman: The Animated Series from 1996, which, if you rewatch now, you will notice how weak Superman becomes in some of the situations. Even so, it is one of the best portrayals of the hero, and his ability to always get back up when overpowered is what makes it so good.
A modern example of this would be My Adventures with Superman, specifically, the fight scene with some villains led by The General. The hero here is humiliated by the villains and seems almost powerless against them. However, if we were to imagine Rebirth, New 52, or even Post-Crisis Superman, those villains would not be standing there for more than 10 seconds. Still, that portrayal of Superman is not considered bad at all.
The point is that there is more than enough material to write a Superman that fits in a video game narrative. Honestly, it would even work if the writers made up their own version from tidbits of different Superman, although that would be a difficult task to pull right. But in terms of gameplay, it would function well and be similar to the animated series. It may even become a popular video-game-exclusive version of Superman.
The Technology Is Definitely There, Our Imaginations Aren’t
Now let’s talk about the technology; are the currently available resources even capable of making a AAA Superman game? The answer is a resounding yes. Returning to the example of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Web Wings have now been added. While these don’t make you fly at Mach speed, they are fast enough to make the experience 10x more enjoyable.
This isn't web-swinging, this is gliding with style (and Web Wings)
— PlayStation UK (@PlayStationUK) September 22, 2023
The reason I keep going back to Spider-Man is because if we look at the two heroes’ abilities, you would think Spider-Man would be a difficult character to portray because of how his abilities are. Swinging across the buildings, gliding, diving, and having these complex abilities work so perfectly in every single combat in a big enough open world. It’s not that his abilities are overpowered but that they are different than normal.
Whereas Superman has fast flight, impenetrable skin, incredible strength, and, of course, laser eyes. These abilities are mostly insane in terms of their power, not their complexity. It is one of the biggest reasons why, throughout my time playing Marvel’s Spider-Man and Miles Morales, I kept asking myself why this works, but Superman doesn’t.
The simple answer I could think of was our lack of imagination towards Superman. We have a fully-written Cyborg Superman and even a young Jon Kent, the son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane. There are so many different timelines and versions or even alters of the superhero that have their specific abilities, which developers can look into and see which one would fit the game narrative the best.
We Were This Close To Getting A Superman AAA Game
I believe many developers would agree that it wouldn’t be too difficult if done right. In fact, he was considered for a video game at one point but was only replaced by another idea due to Warner Bros. being Warner Bros. Rocksteady Studios, the creator of Batman: Arkham series, wanted to make a Superman game, but Warner Bros. forced them to make Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.
Btw if you didn't knew, Rocksteady wanted to do singlplayer Superman game but WB forced them make this 🥲
Only concept art we have from that Superman game, it would have been peak 😭 pic.twitter.com/2QwQlIFnwE
— Argeras (@ArgerasCz) February 25, 2023
We even had a concept art from the game, which is the only proof of its existence. Still, there are hopes for a Superman game. A few months ago, James Gunn revealed that the future of DC will expand into gaming as well, with some of these games even setting up the story for potential movies. There was strong interest in possible Superman games, which is the biggest ray of hope regarding this.
Ultimately, if we look at Superman as more than this one character and as a catalog of different stories and people, we can develop a version of Superman that fits perfectly into a AAA video game. Marvel’s Spider-Man series is one of the most modern superhero games, and it has shown that the technology is certainly capable of taking up this task.
Superman is one of the most beloved superheroes that I would love to play as in a game, and I think that statement would resonate with many people reading this article. Although the superhero had an extremely rough start in the gaming industry, it is time that we look past those entries and perhaps break this feeble argument that Superman is too powerful for a AAA video game.
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