Superman has been around for officially 75 years. He has been an unstoppable force whether it’s comics, film, or television. But he has been unable to make a dent in one particular form of media: video games. Time after time a Superman game has released and been panned by critics and hated by fanboys everywhere. I however, believe there is a way to make a good Superman game, and it’s possible in more than one way with more than one genre.
The last Superman game, Superman Returns was released around the time of the film and was criticized for being bland and boring by critics. Although, compared to Superman 64, Returns looked like Batman: Arkham City. But Superman 64 is another story.
In my opinion the best way to make a Superman game is to use not the comic book Superman but the animated series Superman. The Superman in the animated series could be killed without Kryptonite and was really vulnerable. This makes the biggest problem “how can you hurt the man of steel” bounce off the man of steel like many bullets have before. This reflects John Byrne’s re-imagining of Superman’s powers as it was difficult for Superman to perform heroic acts.
When creating Superman: TAS, the writers limited Superman’s powers so he would have some difficulty doing something like carrying a plane. This would work magnificently for gameplay and preventing the player from becoming too powerful. With games like God of War or Batman: Arkham Asylum the main character received new powers or gadgets respectively as they continued the game. This brings me to my next part of making a good Superman game.
Smallville was about a young Superman developing his powers and that would fit in perfectly in a video game. For example, some event would transpire that would make Superman lose all of his powers and as he recovers, his powers recover as well. By limiting Superman’s stamina/ability to use certain powers, you would keep the game balanced and not have a being who could push a planet out of the sky like it was nothing. Having a humongous wrecking ball just wouldn’t be fun. Sure, you may enjoy it but after a while it will get boring.
At one point Superman was so powerful that he blew out a star like it was a candle. At that point is was almost impossible to write interesting stories for the character. DC then started to make Superman’s stories less physical and more internal. What better way to do this than with an episodic game like Telltale’s The Walking Dead. The Walking Dead showed that you can elicit an emotional response with something that isn’t hacking/slashing, shooting, or platforming. The story of The Walking Dead stood out on its own and the gameplay became almost second fiddle.
A great example of this is Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s “Superman: Braniac” story that involved the death of someone very close to Superman. The story evoked emotion over the death in the family. This would play out in the same way the storyline of The Walking Dead played out, with players feeling for the Man of Steel.
Or, after the events of Injustice: Gods Among Us, a game involving the Justice League but mainly Superman could be done. Unlike “Identity Crisis” where he was simply “the big man.” On the other hand, an” Irredeemable” type of story could be done where Superman goes rogue and goes the complete opposite way you would expect.
Regardless, I know that a good Superman video game can be made. All it takes is the right developer and the right idea. People used to say you can’t make a good Batman game but Rocksteady came along and POW! Rocksteady changed the whole landscape of comic-book video games.