Superhero films are great, but superhero video games are even better – CNBCTV18

Superhero films are great, but superhero video games are even better – CNBCTV18

Superhero comics have been a staple of American pop culture since the 1940s. The Caped Crusader, the Man of Steel, the Web-Head and so many more have stoked the imagination of kids, teenagers and adults for years.

But it wasn’t until Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, or perhaps the Sam Raimi Spiderman Trilogy and the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy, that superheroes truly found themselves at the fore of the global collective culture. Four of the world’s top 10 grossing movies (adjusted for inflation) are superhero movies–Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and The Avengers.

Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy went a long way in pushing the superhero genre to the forefront of today’s pop culture (Image: Reuters)

Today, superheroes and the comics IP represent a golden goose for companies like Disney, Sony and more. Companies have been eager to use these legacy IPs for more than just the big screen. Superheroes can be found on smaller screens with TV series like Marvel’s Punisher, Daredevil and Defenders, CW’s Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and more.

But superheroes are not just being resigned to a purely passive entertainment experience. Video games had been one of the early adopters of the comic book IPs, though more often than not to lukewarm results.

Video games on superheroes were either a result of a tie-up with an upcoming movie, and thus incredibly unpolished and half-baked, or games that didn’t have that much narrative weight to them even if they were an enjoyable experience.

The rise of video games as a storytelling experience in the latter half of the 2000s finally began to see the true strength of the genre being flexed for superhero IPs. The Batman: Arkham series from developers Rocksteady Studios and the Injustice series developed by NetherRealm Studios were the start of the truly glorious time for superheroes in video games.

Rocksteady’s ‘Batman: Arkham’ series did for superhero video games what Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy did for the films. (Image: Reuters)

The first instalments in either series were also released just in time to be around the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the growing interest of the ‘mainstream’ public around superheroes.

Marvel’s Spider-Man, developed by Insomniac Games nearly a decade later, fully captivated audiences and made them feel what it could be like if they were the ‘friendly neighbourhood Spiderman’. Its spin-off/sequel, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, wowed audiences just the same and the upcoming Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is widely anticipated.

Marvel’s Spider-Man. (Image: Insomniac Games) Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales (Image: Insomniac Games)

Rocksteady’s return to the DC Comics IP, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, is also expected to be released next year after a delay in its release window. Expectations are high from the developers of the best superhero video game franchise.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, developed by Square Enix, also gathered wide appraise though not to the same levels that the previous two enjoyed. Marvel’s The Avengers, also from Square Enix, had a much more critical reception to everything from its gameplay to its service model.

Upcoming video games include Monolith’s Wonder Woman title, Marvel’s Midnight Suns from Firaxis, Gotham Knights from WB Games Montréal (who also contributed to the first Arkham game title), and Marvel’s Wolverine from Insomniac.

MArvel’s Wolverine. (Image: Insomniac Games)

But when it comes to superhero IPs, which genre does it better? Video games or movies? Well, the answer is completely subjective. Marvel’s movies have often been criticised for being popcorn flicks, titles like Logan (2017), Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014), Black Panther (2018), Wonder Woman (2017), The Dark Knight (2008) and more have shown that it is possible to make wonderful movies with IPs like superheroes.

At the same time, growing consensus supports the legitimacy of video games as a narrative art form and some of the above titles can showcase the strength of the genre as an interactive storytelling medium.

But perhaps the discussion should be towards the superhero genre of stories that can so easily be adapted to multiple channels of storytelling. From the innocuous comics to movies, video games and more.