The 10 Best Retro Batman & Superman Games!

Posted by Steven Collier on Mar. 25th, 2016

Welp, today's the day. We're finally getting the movie that audiences have been demanding for decades. A film that promises to settle that generations-old schoolyard debate: Batman vs. Superman. Regardless of how Zach Snyder decides to end the greatest superhero smack-down in history, there's one thing that I can contribute to the discussion: which character had the best games. Here are the five best Batman and Superman titles ever made. Let's see how they stack up! 

Batman vs. Superman: Who Had the Best Games?

Alright, I want this to be a clean fight: so let's establish some ground rules. This is an old-school comics debate. As such, it needs to be settled with old-school games. Nothing released later than the early 90s is eligible for this contest of champions. Secondly, we'll only be looking at games that were readily available in our contestants' home country. So,no obscure MSX computer entries will be featured here. And finally, both combatants will square off at their prime, that means pitting the very best of their games against one another. So, let's take a look at our combatants:

Batman #5: The Adventures of Batman and Robin 

Buy the Adventures of Batman and Robin - For the Sega CD

I wish I could say this was a great Batman game. I really do. And to its credit, what it does it does quite well. Unfortunately, what it does is car chase sequences. Car chases and nothing else. So, if you ever wanted to play as a Batman that could never be bothered to leave the comfort of his Batmobile, then you are in serious luck! However, if you enjoy taking a more hands-on approach to your vigillante justice, this game is going to feel more than a little lacking.
So why does this game even place on my list? Because for what it lacks in gameplay, its extra content actually makes up for in spades. I know that sounds ludicrous. And usually cutscenes should never be a selling point for a game, but when those cutscenes make up an entire episode of Batman the Animated Series created specifically for this game, complete with ALL the original voice actors, well that's something special! Fans refer to this game's cutscenes as "The Lost Episode" for good reason, it contains some of the most awesome sequences of animation that Warner Bros ever produced. As far as bonus features go, they don't really come any better. The cartoon alone is worth the price of admission, the nifty Batmobile chases are just gravy.

Superman #5: Superman (NES)

Buy Superman - For the NES

When a game opens with the STATUE OF LIBERTY telling Superman his destiny, you know you're in for something different. And this game is VERY different. It plays like a mash-up of Mega Man and River City Ransom. Like Mega Man, Supes has refillable energy bars for all of his super-power attacks. And like River City Ransom, you need to clear out every block of Metropolis from the presence of a gang run amok. A gang of Kryptonian exiles, that is. This explains why their punches can hurt the "Man of Steel." Superman for the NES is a very odd duck. It may not make you feel like you can leap tall buildings in a single bound, but its eccentricities give it enough charm to make it worth  trying out.

Batman #4: Batman Returns 

Buy Batman Returns - For the SNES

Batman returns is yet another entry in the genre of 90s beat 'em ups. However, it manages to stand apart from the crowd in two important areas: its graphics are top-notch and its got more than just 16-bit fisticuffs working in its favor. That's right! Batman returns spices things up a little with a few awesome Batmobile levels, where you take the battle to the open road. Admittedly, you can beat this game in about an hour. But, it's one heck of a rush while it lasts. Between it's incredible graphics, and break-neck pace, Batman Returns is a perennial crowd pleaser.

Superman #4: Superman 

Buy Superman - For the Genesis

Superman was an early attempt to seriously make you feel like a Superhero. Every level began with a screenshot of the latest issue of the Daily Planet, alerting Superman to the super-villain matters requiring his attention. You were then set loose on the city, free to fly around and seek out ne'er do wells.In short, it just placed you in a day in the life of Superman. It's a simplistic formula, but it works. To this day, super-hero games are still imitating it. 

Batman #3: The Adventures of Batman & Robin 

Buy the Adventures of Batman and Robin - For the SNES

Despite the fact that this was supposed to be a game released for multiple platforms, the results could not have been more different. I've already mentioned how the SEGA CD version turned out. However, both of the 16-bit editions were more conventional platformers. While the Genesis version focused on insanely fast-paced combat that's been likened to Contra, the SNES game was much more methodically paced, requiring players to carefully plan the next bat-gadget they'll be using. Both are great games, but if I had to choose one, the SNES comes a hair closer to replicating the the experience of being the world's greatest detective.

Superman #3: Superman 

Buy Superman - For the AtariBuy Superman - For the Atari

This game was a phenomenon when it was released. Gamers and Industry reporters of the time swore up and down that Superman for the Atari would be immortalized as one of the all time classics. That...did not quite turn out as they'd predicted. But, that does not mean that this very early super-hero game isn't worthy of praise. The game is complicated without an instruction manual, requiring Superman to repair a bridge, while battling Lex Luthor, who's using this opportunity to blast Superman with Kryptonite. It's an enormous juggling act, but then such is the life of Superman. Oh, and it's also one of the first games to ever feature a pause function. This is easily the greatest super-hero game of its age, and it holds up to this day.

Batman #2: Batman 

Buy Batman - For the NES

It's impossible to overstate how of a big deal Tim Burton's Batman film really was. No expense was spared on any aspect of its production, or its merchandising for that matter. The film's tie-in game for the NES is awesome. Combining the Gothic visuals of the movie, with rock solid gameplay, as well as the ability to hang off of walls truly made you feel like the Dark Knight. It's a certified NES classic.

Superman #2: The Death and Return of Superman 

Buy The Death and Return of Superman - For the SNES

Covering the entire narrative of one of the most iconic Superman stories of all time, this beat 'em up was an early project of the now legendary Blizzard studios. By featuring a remarkable five playable characters and a host of suitably super-human moves, it manages to feel distinct from the dozens of other brawlers that cluttered the market at the time. . Definitely worth a look.

Batman #1: Batman: The Return of The Joker 

Buy Batman Return of the Joker - For the NES

This game was released to the Sega Genesis, but it's the NES version that really shines. It's huge, detailed graphics, astonishingly well composed color palette, and fast paced action were so good that many people thought it was a 16-bit game. It's one of the nicest looking 8-bit games ever made. It's large sprites and small screen gave the game a very cramped feel. This would usually be a negative, but the claustrophobic, close-quarters combat that it creates actually suits Batman perfectly. More than a technical marvel, Return of the Joker is the Best retro Batman game ever made.

Superman #1:Justice League Task Force 

Buy Justice League Task Force - For the SNES

Justice League Task Force was the first time that you could pit your favorite DC characters against one another in a Street Fighter style tournament. This game might as well have been called Batman vs Superman: The Game. Now, is it a Superman game per se? No. It's an ensemble cast of the DC universe's best. But, if you wanted to see Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman together on your retro system, this is pretty much your only option. More importantly, if you wanted to relive Superman's most iconic battles, this was the best game for it. And that factor alone is enough to make it the best retro Superman game ever made.

And the Winner is...BATMAN!

It's hard to make a compelling game about a guy who's literally invulnerable to pretty much everything, and who can destroy the planet with a sneeze. Where's the challenge in a game where nothing can stop you? In a lot of ways, Superman games peaked with his debut on the Atari, where the challenge wasn't in keeping Superman alive but rather in protecting the people of Metropolis. It forced you to do what Superman does best: look out for everyone who isn't indestructible. 

Batman, on the other hand, is substantially more grounded. He's a guy in a suit, so just about any usual video game perils can pose a realistic threat to him. Unlike Superman, he's also a lot more violent. Batman looks a lot more at home in punch-a-thon games than the Big Blue Boyscout does. Simply put, in both presentation and game quality, Batman is the clear victor.

But, maybe you have a different perspective. I have no real allegiance to Batman. So, if you can make a good argument for Supes in the comments, I'll happily reconsider my ruling. Please feel free to join in on the debate below in our comments section.

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