Happy Justice League Day folks! With the new DC movie in cinemas and Batman on screen for the first time in, ooh, at least 9 months, we thought you might want to play some games! In honour of this special day we thought we’d do a round-up of the best Batman games around. The rules: they all have to be natively on PC (no emulators!), and Batman has to be the main character. Unfortunately that eliminates a fair amount of games, but don’t worry, we’ve still got enough! And hey, at the very least you’ll see how we rank the Arkham series! So please take a leap off that building before dramatically firing a grapple gun at The Top 10 Batman Games on PC!
Injustice: Gods Among Us
If this were a “Best DC Comics Games” list the excellent beat-em-up from the developers of Mortal Kombat would make the Top 5 easily. An excellent story mode and wonderful 2D fighter mechanics make this a must-buy, plus the PC version is the Gold Edition so contains all the DLC. However a shaky online mode on PC plus the fact that Batman isn’t the central character seals this one to the Runners-Up, plus of course there's a more recent competitor.
The Scribblenauts series was a fantastic idea that encouraged imagination – a puzzle game where you can type anything, like “Red Farting Cthulhu”, and it appears. Sadly once developer 5th Cell hit this DC-themed third game in the series players had pretty much had their fill of it. Which is a shame, because _Unmasked_ is as filled with as much love for DC Comics as any LEGO or Rocksteady game and is the most polished game in the franchise. For our purposes though, Batman isn’t the central character, so it’s out.
Batman: The Telltale Series
The focus on Bruce Wayne from his pre-Joker Batman days, making mistakes and ticking off mobsters, the hints at a larger unfolding plan, the compelling new takes on classic villains such as Catwoman and the Penguin, and the excellent planning and detective moments were all great - but it's been superseded by the second series already!
Gotham City Imposters
Oooh, so close. This now F2P shooter has fake Batman and Joker gangs battling in the streets of Gotham and is a lot of fun. It got overlooked when it first came out, probably due to requiring money, even though it was developed by _F.E.A.R., Condemned_ and _Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor_ maker Monolith. However despite being based around Gotham and the Batman world and even having a tie-in Batman comic you don’t actually play as Batman, so it stays off the list.
DC Universe Online
A pretty excellent MMO that’s of course also now F2P, with Batman and the Joker playing prominent roles, DCUO is well worth a look and is one of the best DC Comics games on PC… but, of course, it’s not just about Batman so no dice.
So who remembers that the Christopher Nolan Bat-universe has a pretty decent videogame featuring most of the entire cast including Christian Bale and Michael Caine? Yep, while EA missed out on _The Dark Knight_, Nolan’s first Bat-movie _Batman Begins_ got a videogame. While basically _Splinter Cell_-lite it’s made more enjoyable by the connection to the movie, but sadly it isn’t available on PC so no one will ever play it again legally.
Batman Forever: The Arcade Game
A Streets of Rage/Double Dragon-style beat-em-up for PS1, Sega Saturn and PC. It had digitized Mortal Kombat-like actors, two player co-op, and was utterly bats**t insane. Worth finding for the craziness alone, it sadly wasn't actually that good of a game to make it into the Top 10.
Without further ado, let’s count down the 10 best Batman games on PC! Starting with…
10. BATMAN: THE ENEMY WITHIN
Developer/Publisher: Telltale Games Release: 2017
Why It’s Here: Yes, I realize we’ve only had two episodes from Telltale’s second Batman season but already it could be Telltale's best series ever. It builds wonderfully from Telltale's alternate take on Batman history in the first season, with some incredible new takes on The Riddler and Harley Quinn. The whole season promises to focus on the creation of a player-made Joker, and we can't wait to see how it all hangs together. Episode 3 is out next week, as we write this.
Why It’s Not Higher: For a lot of people the Telltale formula is getting a little stale, or at least the engine is. Nevertheless, it's position at only 10 is less to do with quality than it is not being complete yet. In a year's time this might be much higher.
Why It’s Here: Please welcome the first Arkham game on this list. Originally a handheld-only tie-in for Arkham Origins, Blackgate was given an improved PC and console port so everyone could appreciate it. On paper it’s superb – the Arkham gameplay translated to 2D in the form of a proper Metroidvania by a team made of veterans from the excellent Metroid Prime series, set in the “other” Gotham prison that like Arkham Asylum has been taken over by villains such as the Joker, Penguin and Black Mask. It’s certainly an interesting adventure and the gameplay actually has been translated well from 3D to 2D, plus it has all the Origins voice actors including Troy Baker’s excellent Mark Hamill Joker impression.
Why It’s Not Higher: Sadly unlike Arkham Asylum more “regular” prison Blackgate is incredibly dull to explore with every area looking the same, all black and drab and lifeless. Consequently the back-and-forth gameplay soon loses its spark and the whole thing becomes boring, which is annoying as the Joker sections and the opening level set on Gotham rooftops are both excellent. It’s the only Arkham game I haven’t finished by choice, and that should say a lot.
8. BATMAN VENGEANCE
Developer/Publisher: Ubisoft Montreal Release: 2001 (consoles) / 2002 (PC)
Why It’s Here: The first 3D game based on Batman: The Animated Series was developed by Ubisoft Montreal and featured an original story with the excellent voice cast from the show, including Kevin Conroy’s Batman, Mark Hamill’s Joker, Michael Ansara’s Mr. Freeze, Arleen Sorkin’s Harley Quinn and Tara Strong’s Batgirl. While undoubtedly a simple linear game with a lot of different gameplay styles it’s certainly highly playable, and the idea of playing through lost episodes of the iconic show was enough to spur me on. Oh, and I just tried it on Windows 10 64-Bit and it worked without any hassle. Nice. Sadly the sequel Rise of Sin Tzu did not appear on PC.
Why It’s Not Higher: For starters, the controls on PC utterly suck. If you use mouse and keyboard you’ll be expected to press Delete to climb ladders or End to jump or glide. A gamepad doesn’t make things much easier, as the game will cheerfully tell you that Jump is assigned to “Button 3” so igniting a frantic mash of all buttons to find it. The camera’s either uncontrollable or painful, and having a first-person mode is nice until you realize that the game wasn’t built with dual analogue sticks in mind.
Why It’s Here: If you’re a DC fan and don’t mind the LEGO formula, _LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham_ is pure fanbait. With Batman in the lead the actually quite fun story covers every angle of the DC universe and is filled with a deep love for the comics. There’re 100+ characters to unlock with their own unique abilities, many missions, hidden bonuses, co-op, and tons of replay value. It’s my personal favourite LEGO game, but it’s not necessarily the highest on this list… however, it’s the only game here with the voice of Adam West.
Why It’s Not Higher: Despite being excellent it’s the third LEGO Batman game so the formula is getting a little tired, even by LEGO videogame standards. Furthermore TT Games decided not to have the free-roaming city hub that made LEGO Batman 2 and LEGO Marvel Superheroes so compelling, instead just featuring a number of smaller hubs that are a bit of a pain to navigate. More to the point though, LEGO Batman 3 skirts the edges of this list by only just being a Batman game – in reality it’s more a celebration of the entire DC Comics multiverse. If you’re a fan of all things DC Comics however it’s a must-buy.
Why It’s Here: The final chapter of Rocksteady’s epic Arkham trilogy is a truly excellent game. There’s a proper open-world Gotham City complete with Batmobile, next-gen graphics, every villain you can think of (except Bane for some reason), and a truly inspired use of the Joker. The gameplay has been polished to perfection, the challenge is just right, Gotham City looks gorgeous and is crammed with detail, and there’s a heck of a lot to do in it. If we were going to play a Batman game now, it’ll probably be this one.
Why It’s Not Higher: It cannot be underestimated how badly Warner Bros screwed up the PC version. The final patched version is better but a lot of people still struggle with anything but Low texture settings. That aside, the story is just plain boring. Rocksteady chose not to ask for veteran writer Paul Dini’s assistance this time and instead proved just why he’s so good, scripting a highly predictable tale with dull lines (“Over my dead body”, “I believe that was the idea”), blatantly obvious twists (Joker one aside), and an ending that Batman could’ve got out of in a million different ways other than the one he went with. Oh, and the Batmobile felt like it belonged in a totally different game and the Riddler had a giant mech suit.
Why It’s Here: Yes, the non-Rocksteady Arkham gets in higher than Arkham Knight. The gameplay is much the same greatness as in _Arkham City_ except we’re in an open-world Gotham for the first time, there are some great setpieces (the Deathstroke and Firefly battles for example), the DirectX 11 textures make this the best-looking Batman game until Knight, and there’s no Batmobile to be seen. However it’s the story that puts Oranges firmly ahead of Knight, with several cool twists that build into Batman’s first meeting with the Joker before flipping the script and turning Bane into the much-welcome main villain. The game has a few flaws but the great gameplay is unimpeded and the story is a superb retelling of Batman lore. And the multiplayer (the only game in the series to offer it) by Splash Damage is actually pretty fun.
Why It’s Not Higher: A couple of big problems nearly let Knight steal this spot. In terms of level design Gotham just doesn’t quite feel as detailed or as polished as a Rocksteady title, with plenty of areas that Batman can’t grapple on to and a giant bridge arbitrarily bisecting the map. However it’s the bugs that let the game down, which are still prevalent and was the first big controversy the series faced when WB basically said “we’re not going to fix the bugs, we’re concentrating on making DLC for you to buy instead”. And they never did.
Why It’s Here: Think of the ultimate Batman game. Maybe you’ll imagine a giant free-roaming Gotham City with actual pedestrians rather than just criminals and where you can head out of the city to Arkham Asylum, Wayne Manor, the carnival, and the Batcave. Where you can control every Bat-vehicle, the Batmobile is really cool rather than a murder tank, and you can drive all of them (even the Batwing and Batboat) out of the Batcave all the way to the centre of town. How about being able to unlock and control every Batman character including the villains, and even the Justice League? Yeah, and Danny Elfman doing the soundtrack, apart from when Superman flies in which case his John Williams theme plays instead.
This is LEGO Batman 2. Yes the story’s not quite as DC-centric as _Beyond Gotham_, but it features a full Gotham City to explore and is far more Batman-centric. That said, it’s also still probably the best Superman game ever made.
Why It’s Not Higher: It’s still a LEGO game, and TT Games would take everything they learned from LEGO Batman 2 and make the superior LEGO Marvel Superheroes. Gotham just isn’t as interesting as it could’ve been, really feeling like it needed to be 10% smaller and with 15% more things to do. So despite being a laundry list for the greatest Batman game ever it still basically ended up with the same flaws as Arkham Origins, except less buggy. And, well, it can’t beat the next two games here.
Why It’s Here: It's just come out, but Injustice 2 is both one of the finest fighting games ever made and one of the best DC Comics games ever made. The sequel to Injustice: Gods Among Us has Batman trying to put the world back together while sending the few remaining non-evil heroes out to fight, while a new threat comes forth that means Batman will have to rely on the corrupted Superman and the former Justice League/Regime once again. Come for the wonderful story mode, stay for the epic and very satisfying fights.
Why It’s Not Higher: Technically speaking it's not just a Batman game, it's a full DC Comics game. While he is arguably the main character, you don't play Batman all the time. And there's two better games that honour everything DC and Batman while still just sticking exclusively to letting the player play as the Dark Knight.
Why It’s Here: For a glorious period, 2008-2009, Batman was the biggest and the best franchise in three different mediums. The Dark Knight was the greatest superhero movie of all time and one of the best movies of 2008, Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder made Batman comics the best around, and a little game from the UK’s unknown Rocksteady Studios became the best videogame of 2009. Arkham Asylum was a work of sheer cleverness and love, confining Batman to the iconic Arkham grounds and turning it into a mix of Bioshock and Metroid. Paul Dini’s writing nailed the characters, the Animated Series voice cast stole the show, and the amazing combat system became the template for a million games to copy. Arkham Asylum changed gaming as we know it and it’s as important to the medium as Super Mario Bros or Half-Life. Most importantly, it just got Batman right in a way no game had before.
Why It’s Not Higher: We’re sure there will be disagreements. However, while a truly classic game it’s not quite the perfect Batman game. Many of Batman’s best villains, including Penguin, Catwoman, Two-Face and Mr. Freeze, do not make an appearance. It’s not really free-roaming and just getting from the front door of the Asylum to the back requires a lot of trekking. Most importantly the constant Titan fights and boss battles were the worst sort of videogame-y bulls*** around, with the overlong Killer Croc fight and the stupid Titan Joker finale in particular standing out for being annoying. A superb game, but not without flaws.
Which leaves us with our Number One Batman Game on PC…
BATMAN: DARK TOMORROW
Just kidding. It’s actually…
1. BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY
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Developer/Publisher: Rocksteady/Warner Bros Interactive Release: 2011 Why It’s The Best Batman Game Ever: Asylum set the template for a perfect Batman game and City bust it wide open. Everything that made Asylum great – Paul Dini on writing duties, the voice cast, the combat, the stealth, the perfect level design – was back and ramped up. The story has numerous excellent twists, most of which involved roping in the whole of Batman’s excellent rogues gallery. The voice cast has been expanded to bring in Maurice LaMarche as Orson Welles (Mr Freeze), Corey Burton as Christopher Lee (Hugo Strange), Nolan North as Bob Hoskins (The Penguin), and Tara Strong as Arleen Sorkin (Harley Quinn). The combat has been improved with a range of new quick-fire gadgets such as the ice grenade. The Riddler challenges would never get better, with some cool challenge rooms.
More than that though, the ingenious decision to turn a slice of Gotham City into an open prison allowed Rocksteady to have their cake and eat it – a place filled with prisoners to beat up within set walls and yet still be a free-roaming city. There isn’t a boring moment in the entire game, and from shocking start to equally shocking finish you’ll be utterly hooked. While it is arguable whether Arkham Asylum is the better game, Arkham City is the better Batman experience. Everything you could possibly want from a non-LEGO Batman game is here, sans perhaps the Batmobile – and we know how well that turned out. It is, in short, the best Batman game on PC.
Then again, that’s our opinion. Please feel free to chime in with your opinion in the comments below. Merry Justice League Day one and all! Save me a wing.