A History of Stupid Superman Games

Matt Barton's picture

Superman's Buns of SteelSuperman's Buns of SteelIn honor of the newly released movie, 1up has a very colorful feature up called Gamer's Kryptonite: Superman's 10 Worst Games. The article starts with Superman for the Atari 2600 and covers titles from many computers, consoles, and arcade machines. It's really curious how easy it is to take a big budget and really make a cringe-worthy game based on a mega-popular franchise. I mean, how hard can it be to get a Superman game right? I distinctly remember playing Superman: Man of Steel on my Amiga and thinking how lousy it was. Then again, Superman's powers don't necessarily lend themselves very well to a videogame--he's simply too powerful. It's hard to translate his powers into compelling gameplay. About the only challenge left would be strategic ones--assuming Superman can only be in one place at the same time (an assertion challenged in the movies). Should you save a bus from going over a bridge or Lois Lane from an earthquake?

Although I've always been a fan of comic heroes like Batman, Spiderman, Daredevil and the Hulk, I just never got into Superman. Again, it seemed like a case of super-power overkill. A really good hero has to have a tragic flaw, and Superman ain't got one (and no, the b.s. about "Your goodness is your fatal flaw!" is just too silly). I think this is why a character like Wolverine is more interesting than Superman. Wolverine isn't all-powerful (though in the last movie, he almost seems to be), and he doesn't have crystalline virtues. Somehow he seems more realistic to me than the boy from Krypton.

Anyway, what's your favorite (or least favorite) Superman-based videogame?

Comments

Bill Loguidice
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It is sad that indeed the

It is sad that indeed the classic 1979 Superman game for the Atari 2600 is among the most faithful and best games made for the subject, even though on its own it's not that great. I remember enjoying the Superman arcade game by Taito I think - I'll have to try it again on my cabinet - but even that was a simple beat-em-up. I agree that basing a game around Superman and his limitless powers is much like basing a game around The Green Lantern - technology would need to jump ahead quite a bit to do the subject true justice without placing the hero in any "artificially" limiting scenarios, which all Superman games have done to date (and no one has attempted a Green Lantern game).

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Mat Tschirgi (not verified)
I actually like the Superman

I actually like the Superman game for the NES. It has missions that are assignments from the Daily Planet and there is a large world to explore. It's too bad the hit detection is so cheap; if you get a chance, play the Japanese version that has a NESified take on John Williams' Superman score. The American port of the game doesn't have the Williams music.

My favorite Superman game is The Death and Return of Superman for the SNES. It was produced by Blizzard and featured nice variety for a Beat-em-Up.

I don't like Superman as a character too much though... Batman or Punisher has been my favorite. The recent Punisher game was fun, but was censored a good deal from the original 'cut' of the game. The Batman Animated Series game for the SNES had wonderful animation, but had a few annoying levels.

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=- Mat Tschirgi =- Armchair Arcade Editor
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Spazz Master (not verified)
The truth about making a "real" Superman game

Lots of fat sweaty YouTube video game critics love to pick on Superman's video games, and that's because they claim none of them "capture the spirit of the character". What these people fail to realise is that a game that captured the spirit of Superman would be boring as hell. Here's what a real Superman game would be like: you'd fly around beating up everyone and not taking any damage, then Lex Luthor would show up with a load of Green Kryptonite and you can't win. The End. Does that sound like a fun game? No, it doesn't. I feel that people think a game being the real Superman would be fun but it is not feasible. A game needs to have difficulty and you need to be able to lose. If you really want to feel like Superman, then get a Game Genie, Action Replay, or Game Shark, put in an invincibility code, and presto, you're the invincible, real, Superman, and all the fun and challenge is gone.

On the other hand, the 1988 Superman arcade game by Taito, and The Death & Return of Superman for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, are both damn fun.

Rowdy Rob
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Superman stuff
Spazz Master wrote:

On the other hand, the 1988 Superman arcade game by Taito, and The Death & Return of Superman for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, are both damn fun.

I pumped quite a few quarters into the "Superman" arcade game back in the day, and it was indeed fun. The Atari 2600 "Superman" was supposedly a good game also, but I don't think I've ever played it. I played the Nintendo 64 version of "Superman" briefly, but found it quite boring.

I do agree that "Superman" is not a particularly good character for a videogame, or arguably as a comic book/movie subject either! The only way to beat him is to whip out some supposedly-rare Kryptonite, which makes for quite limited drama.

I did, however, enjoy "Superman: The Movie" enormously, and it is still probably my favorite superhero movie.

Bill Loguidice
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Superhero movies
Rowdy Rob wrote:

The Atari 2600 "Superman" was supposedly a good game also, but I don't think I've ever played it.

Not a lot of fun for me, but certainly ambition in scope for the time and platform. It would definitely be worth it (at least for me) to revisit it at some point with actually knowing how to play. I know some guys on AtariAge took the time to redraw (improve) some of the sprites, which was interesting.

Rowdy Rob wrote:

I did, however, enjoy "Superman: The Movie" enormously, and it is still probably my favorite superhero movie.

I did not enjoy Superman: The Movie that much, even though I saw it in the theaters as a kid and watched it many times on cable. To me, Superman II was the ultimate superhero movie (at least until the modern era), where we saw real rock'em sock'em super hero fights from the comics. It's also interesting the whole drama around the production of Superman 1, 2 and 3, and what-not...

The latest Superman movie was VERY disappointing to me. They were pale imitations of Reeve and Hackman, and a weak story, etc. Hopefully they reboot it again properly.

Of course I'm also one of the few people apparently who genuinely loved Spider-Man 3 (and the last Indiana Jones film, too), so take that for what you will...

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Matt Barton
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Green Lantern

Wow, Green Lantern. I haven't heard his name in awhile, although he was always one of my dad's favorite comic book heroes. Probably the most obvious genre for him would be a graphical adventure of some sort, though it'd have to be pretty innovative to handle his power. Definitely some potential there for creative puzzles and problem solving. Of course, if it ever got done by the big boys, they'd probably make a stupid first person shooter out of it...

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Bill Loguidice
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Justice League Heroes

By the way, "Justice League Heroes" from Snowblind Studios and published through Warner Bros. Interactive, is supposed to see release in Fall of this year (for at least Xbox and PS2, as far as I know). Snowblind is the same studio that brought us the game/engine for Baldur's Gate and X-Men Legends, among others. Justice League Heroes will be in the same format, so while no doubt it will be a superb multiplayer adventure action game, it will still obviously put limits on the powers of both Superman and the Green Lantern. At least they both have a great shot at being part of a really good game...

=================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[ My collection ]
[ http://www.MythCore.com ]

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Matt Barton
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Cool Comic Heroes that Need their Own Game

Bill mentioned that Green Lantern hasn't got his own game yet, but I've also been thinking of some other comic book characters (some of them lesser known) that would have the potential for great adventure games.

Speedball--Little known Marvel character whose power is bouncing around like one of those little rubber balls you can buy for a quarter (or probably more like fifty cents now). It's a fun comic, and I bet it'd translate well into an action game (perhaps one like Tomb Raider).

Iron Man. Iron Man has been in plenty of games, but a game based solely on Iron Man seems like a no-brainer. He's a regular guy with a super robotic suit. That could translate into a variety of good games. In the comics, Iron Man is always updating and upgrading his suit, which could translate into power-ups or level-ups in a game. Can you imagine the fun of hacking Iron Man's suit in a game??

Submariner. This guy's been around forever, but tends to get overshadowed by DC's Aquaman. That's a shame, because Sub is a more interesting character. I could see a variety of games emerging from this, but I hope they'd feature lots of underwater action. I've seen few underwater games that were much fun to play...

Doctor Strange. What a weird guy! He's got a lot of very interesting powers that could yield a very sophisticated videogame. Let's just put it this way--you thought Half-Life 2's gravity gun was cool? Check out Dr. Strange and tell me if his powers wouldn't make for compelling gameplay and strategy.

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Mat Tschirgi (not verified)
Cap America + Avengers for the Arcade/SNES

I have to say the Captain America & The Avengers game for the Arcade, SNES, and Genesis was a fine game full of derring do. The NES port had RPG elements that were interesting, but it took forever to level up.

Reading that 1UP article reaffirms my belief that 1UP is the best written out of the major video game sites. It also has some nice video features.

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=- Mat Tschirgi =- Armchair Arcade Editor
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Matt Barton
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I enjoyed a Superman game for

I enjoyed a Superman game for the Amiga, though I don't remember the details (just that it was so hard I couldn't get far into it).

I loved the first Superman movie and the second one. Who hasn't daydreamed about how awesome it would be to take some babe you're in love with flying through the skies of Metropolis.

IIRC, the third movie had degenerated into a spoof. As a kid, I really liked the Supergirl movie, too, though I'm not sure how I'd feel about it now.

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