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The Most Underrated Superhero Games

Ever since Iron Man laid the groundwork for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), superheroes have dominated the box office, netting some of the highest sales in history. From that point on, comic book heroes hit the mainstream, with audiences diving deep into comic book lore and waiting anxiously for each new installment in the MCU (and sometimes a DC flick) to land in theaters. But superheroes have been reaching beyond the pages long before 2008 with movies, cartoons, and video games.

Going all the way back to 1979 with Superman for the Atari 2600, superheroes have been featured in video games almost as long as home consoles have been on the market. With their action-packed adventures, unique powers, and memorable characters, they are the perfect subject matter for gaming. Unfortunately, licensed games have mostly been stigmatized as cash grabs, lacking both quality and care in their execution. While plenty of superhero games may fall into this category, there are more than enough examples of great titles you shouldn't miss. Here are some of the most underrated superhero games.

Batman: The Video Game

Over 30 years later, there are so many great superhero video games that you may not think to dust off your NES for a stellar Batman title. You'd be missing out, however, if you overlooked Batman: The Video Game. This is one oldie but goodie you should definitely hunt down if it's not already in your stash of NES games. And if you don't have an NES, it's almost reason enough to pick one up.

The first thing you'll notice is that Batman: The Video Game was developed by Sunsoft, a company that knew how to make quality NES games. The second thing you'll notice, which YouTuber Cygnus Destroyer brings up in his review, is Batman's unusual color scheme. It's not what you'd expect from the Dark Knight, but then again, this game bears little resemblance to the source material. That hardly matters though. You play as Batman, you face the Joker, and you have a great time all the way through.

It's fun, action-packed, and quite challenging. But the difficulty isn't too hard, and the game's duration is just right. As long as you're not bothered by Batman's color scheme, it's a beautifully rendered 8-bit game with one of the best soundtracks you'll find on the system.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance

Do you like the Diablo series? Are you a fan of Marvel Comics superheroes? Then there's no reason not to give Marvel: Ultimate Alliance a try. It's an intensely fun action RPG that allows you to assemble your very own team of Marvel heroes in a fight against Dr. Doom. And with single-player and multiplayer options allowing up to four players either in-person or online, you're guaranteed a good time no matter how you play.

Tom's Guide's Marshall Honorof compares it to Diablo, mostly because of its isometric view and its focus on loot. Bringing your favorite characters together according to their stats is almost as satisfying and fun as playing the actual game. But once you get in it, you'll have a hard time putting it down. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing your pick of Marvel characters work together and unleash their unique powers upon countless enemies. And with tons of unlockables, you'll keep coming back for more.

After Disney bought Marvel in 2009, the series seemed to come to a premature end, but fortunately, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and Ultimate Alliance 2 were digitally re-released in 2016. Since then, fans saw the return of the series with Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 3 — The Black Order.

Injustice: Gods Among Us

With a name like Injustice: Gods Among Us, you might think this game is about epic battles against gods. After learning it's a NetherRealm Studios title, you might think it's a game where you take on the role of the elder gods from the Mortal Kombat series. Both of these are wrong.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is a fighting game where you get to play as DC heroes and villains, and since it was developed by NetherRealm Studios, you get all the glorious over-the-top presentation, action, and combat styles you'd see in Mortal Kombat. Speaking of over-the-top, the game features a story mode that Kotaku's Mike Fahey calls a "silly, slap-dashed plot." It's in the vein of later Mortal Kombat games that are fairly cheesy — the good kind of cheesy. Fahey also praises Injustice for doing a great job showcasing the epic might of these heroes through powerful combat and interactive stage elements.

NetherRealm Studios first experimented with DC comics properties through Mortal Kombat vs. DC. That game's mediocre reception may have discouraged some from giving Injustice: Gods Among Us a fair chance, but don't let it stop you from trying out this gem.

Ultimate Spider-Man

A series called Ultimate Spider-Man deserves the ultimate game. And fortunately, that's exactly what it got. There are a lot of Spider-Man games to choose from, so one would have to be special to stand out from the crowd. IGN's Hilary Goldstein believes Ultimate Spider-Man achieves this through its involvement of the series' creators, bringing a legitimate comic book story and art style to the game. In fact, the game's plot is directly linked to the Ultimate Spider-Man comics.

This game has a star-studded Marvel cast, offering a far wider selection of heroes and characters than you'd see in a lot of other superhero video games. Goldstein praises the superb voice acting for bringing it all to life. He goes on to note how the fighting mechanics are simplified, yet Spidey's moves really make you feel as if you were the teenage hero himself. And to add a nice dash of variety to the mix, you also get to play as Venom in certain sections of the game. 

Ultimate Spider-Man features an open-world New York City that's big, but not too big, and contains unlockables to uncover. Within this world, you have your main story and some side quests to complete. It's a decent amount of variety in an overall superb superhero game.

Telltale Guardians of the Galaxy

When you're looking for a fun, action-packed game in which you can unleash your superhero might, you may not think to try a Telltale Games release. With its choose-your-own-adventure play style, the action often takes a backseat to the narrative. But for a property with the kind of unique feel as Guardians of the Galaxy, this brand of game works.

Polygon's Owen S. Good emphasizes that Telltale's rendition of Guardians of the Galaxy maintains the important feel-good style of the comics and movies. He highlights its world immersion, which puts you in the midst of the team's camaraderie. Naturally, you'll want to guide the story in a positive direction, requiring careful decision making and a balancing of dialog choices. Good also mentions "emotionally pivotal scenes [that] connected with [him]" in "two very touching flashbacks." The overall presentation is very commendable, with pleasing graphics and a cast including Scott Porter, Emily O'Brien, Nolan North, Brandon Paul Eells, and Adam Harrington.

It may not offer you the kind of action you're used to in typical superhero beat 'em ups, but if you're looking to get invested in the drama of a comic book story, this is the game for you.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes

The Lego games are always more fun than you would expect, offering the kind of antics, destruction, and adventure you would want to find in a superhero game. As such, the Marvel superheroes are surprisingly at home in a Lego title. Lego Marvel Super Heroes is filled with tons of Marvel obscurity to appease its most hardcore fans. And just like in the movies, Stan Lee makes a few cameo appearances.

Eurogamer's Dan Whitehead notes that, while it doesn't necessarily do much to shake up the Lego game formula, it's a tried and true method that works. Throw in a massive selection of Marvel heroes with plenty of mixed-and-matched teams and there's no end to the fun you'll have. Whitehead goes on to praise the creative use of character abilities throughout, adding an extra layer of visual and thematic enjoyment.

Surprisingly enough, the world map is much more expansive than you would expect to find in a Lego game. There are more than enough side tasks for you to complete without it feeling too overwhelming. It's an overall forgiving game that offers a gentle-enough experience for young gamers while providing enough activity and stimulation to satisfy an older crowd.

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

If you're looking for a game where the Hulk can do what he does best, look no further than The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Gamesradar's PSM2 called it "easily one of the best superhero games.

This one does exactly what it promises in the title — allows you to live out your Hulk dreams of unleashing ultimate destruction. PSM2 noted that instead of focusing on a deep story mode or high-end graphics, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction satisfies the most basic desire to simulate the sheer power and might of Marvel's green hero. Even something as simple as walking around in his (metaphorical) shoes is bound to bring enjoyment to the player. This game really nails the magnitude of his strength by allowing gamers to lift and use heavy vehicles and equipment as if they were children's playthings.

Naturally, you're encouraged to deliver more destruction, rewarding these acts with points to unlock even more abilities. Just like in the comics where the Hulk grows more powerful with his rage, the game's Hulk learns more moves as he wreaks more havoc. There's little this game doesn't do right, so don't let it slip past you.

Spider-Man (PS1)

There are two factors to consider that made the excellent Spider-Man for PS1 slip through the cracks during its time of release. For one, it was launched late in the system's life cycle when the PS2 was close at hand for American and European audiences. Secondly, the game predates the movie, and while the franchise was always highly popular, the movie rocketed Spider-Man back to the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist. Had the timing been different, perhaps this game would have received the attention it deserved.

Den of Geek's Matthew Byrd calls it "the most underrated superhero game" for good reason. Developed by big fans of the series, Spider-Man captures the spirit of the comics in a way few other games have. The developers set out to push the limits of PS1 hardware and give players the chance to experience the thrill ride of being Spider-Man in a 3D city, and while they couldn't overcome all limitations, it's still lots of fun. Where hardware shortcomings might have otherwise stood out more, the enthusiastic fandom that shows in the game's execution compensates tenfold. The colorful, upbeat purity of the comics is wonderfully preserved in Spider-Man for PS1.

The Adventures of Batman and Robin

The Adventures of Batman and Robin was not released exclusively to the Genesis, but Goomba Stomp's Maxwell N calls that version the definitive port. It's always difficult to make a licensed game live up to its source material, but he praises this underrated classic for properly capturing the spirit of the cartoon, which was in itself an important animated series in the pop culture landscape. A visual masterpiece, The Adventures of Batman and Robin has smooth animation and packs colorful imagery in a dark setting.

It achieves the perfect balance of being faithful to the source material while delivering its own unique video game qualities, according to Maxwell N. With smooth and addictive gameplay, The Adventures of Batman and Robin will be hard to put down, despite its intense difficulty. The music stands out as well, getting the most out of the Genesis' iconically grungy sound chip. The intense and moody tunes bring the perfect amount of edge to this stylish video game.

All in all, this is an underrated gem for the Sega Genesis that no doubt deserves your attention. If you're a fan of the animated series or even beat 'em ups in general, you'll love this. If you're a fan of both, even better!

The Invincible Iron Man

Looking back, it may be hard to believe the film that kickstarted the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe was at the time a major surprise hit, blowing away any and all previous expectations for its success potential. A game you don't hear about too often, The Invincible Iron Man predates the significant Iron Man movie adaptation. With that in mind, it's easy to see how this video game may have flown under the radar for so many gamers. But it is indeed a noteworthy title.

Frank Provo of Gamespot speaks highly of The Invincible Iron Man for expertly translating the comic book adventures to the Game Boy Advance's small screen by perfectly utilizing his particular set of powers. Controlling the titular hero, you are given a ton of free rein to fight and explore vertically and horizontally, with a power meter that constantly keeps you on your toes. Managing your power levels will force you to think strategically while blasting your enemies, adding more depth to the gameplay. Provo also highlights its visuals, which are impressive for a GBA title. 

Typical of portable games of its time, The Invincible Iron Man's only major flaw, according to Provo, is its truncated length. But if you can look past this, you'll be glad you gave this game a shot.

City of Heroes

City of Heroes was a big deal MMO back in its day. Though it never achieved World of Warcraft-level fame, it certainly delivered a fun, visually compelling, and accessible experience that brought gamers everywhere together to fight as their own superheroic creations. IGN's Dan Adams describes it as "one of the most exciting MMOs that [he's] ever played with the coolest premise."

The game puts you in the role of a superhero of your own design, starting your journey as a rookie who just discovered their powers. Your goal is to join a legion of other players in a pledge to protect Paragon City. You'll take on bad guys, gradually leveling and working your way up to face the more sinister forces, as is expected in an MMO. City of Heroes offers an incredibly in-depth character creator mode that allows you to design your dream hero for this quest.

Sadly, the game was laid to rest with the closure of its servers in 2012, but the dedicated fanbase did everything it could to keep City of Heroes alive. Fortunately, in 2019 a secret server was discovered, bringing the die-hard fans back to their beloved Paragon City.

The Punisher

As a gun-toting, trigger-happy vigilante, The Punisher is not one of Marvel's most easily adaptable characters. The silver screen failed to do him justice, so how did he fare in the 2005 video game? Quite well, according to Den of Geek's Kyle McManus.

Comparing the gameplay to the Max Payne series, McManus praises 2005's The Punisher for bringing a faithful story to Marvel's vigilante hero. This game is an early example of pre-MCU Marvel franchise crossovers, making it an even more accurate representation of its comic book source material.

In a game where weapons run aplenty, playing as Frank Castle never felt so good. The Punisher gives you a wide selection of arms ranging from guns, rocket launchers, and flamethrowers, to less conventional pieces like a television. All is fair game in your quest to mow down your opponents. 

In their mission to prevent players from ever feeling bored, the developers added stage-specific executions and interrogation options with interactive background elements to keep your enemy interactions fresh throughout. Even more impressive is how the creators managed to pack over a hundred unique and clever executions into this game. Indeed, if you're looking for a grittier, bloodier superhero title, look no further than 2005's The Punisher.

Viewtiful Joe

Any comic book enthusiast could relate to the dream of an everyday Joe becoming a superhero. Well, that's exactly what happens to a literal Joe in Viewtiful Joe. A die-hard fan of Captain Blue — the star superhero of a fictional movie franchise — Joe is lured into the silver screen, becoming part of this cinematic universe. Once inside, he meets his idol, who gives him the means to transform into a superhero. From there, Joe masters the art of manipulating the movie reels, allowing him to speed up or slow down the world around him as a way of amplifying his melee attacks. He can even cue a close-up for extra power and unique moves.

Joe's ability to bend the speed of the cinematic world isn't just a fancy way to show off his fighting style or increase his effectiveness. It actually plays an important role in puzzle solving. Not only is Viewtiful Joe a fun, stylish, action-packed brawler, but it tests the brain as well with some challenging puzzles. 

Viewtiful Joe is often cited as one of the best games on the GameCube. Gamespot's Jeff Gerstmann calls it "a really impressive achievement." It is a remarkable, original superhero game that will easily draw hours out of your day.

Batman: Chaos in Gotham

It was easy to miss a Game Boy Color game back in 2001 when the Game Boy Advance was taking over the portable market. It would be a shame, however, to overlook Batman: Chaos in Gotham completely. This game brings a robust cast of Gotham legends into the mix, telling a classic tale of Batman wrangling all the evil escapees back to Arkham Asylum. It's a time-tested plot for the Caped Crusader that gets the job done, which is all you need in this case. And it helps to ground the game firmly as an appropriate spinoff of the cartoon.

Gamespot's Trevor Rivers highlights Batman's attacks, which are surprisingly extensive for a GBC title, and of course, the Dark Knight is equipped with some of his signature weapons. But what would Batman be without his collection of custom vehicles? Indeed, he takes on land, water, and air with his assortment of vessels, bringing a mix of gameplay to Batman: Chaos in Gotham

IGN's Craig Harris praises the graphics and animation, which lend an authentic look that emulates the cartoons quite well, especially considering the GBC's hardware. It also proves to be rather difficult, assuring you will get your money's worth as you play through.