Why The Batman Arkham Series provides The Best Superhero Experience

This year will mark ten years since the release of Batman: Arkham City and having just played through the Batman: Return To Arkham games, I felt it was time to explain why I think the Arkham games provided the best and deepest superhero experience of any Superhero game to date.

Be The Bat

Starting with Arkham Asylum, the series immediately puts you into the shoes of Batman as you are racing to Arkham Asylum after capturing The Joker, Gotham’s most notorious criminal. As take control of “Bats” as Joker calls him, you are able to look around the entrance of the Asylum, seeing the guards, almost able to feel the sense of unease as they wheel Joker into the Asylum. Batman and Joker engage in dialogue and you can tell that Batman knows Joker is has a far greater plan than whatever he had captured him doing, Batman acknowledges that Joker had never let him catch him this easily before. This conversation gets your wheels turning as the player, as they continue to conversate, you, just like Batman, anticipate Joker’s true plan to be put into motion.

Once Joker is brought into the actual prison, Batman is told to stay back as the guards could handle Joker from here. Joker escapes the custody of the guards and you, as Batman, watch helplessly through the plexiglass as he kills the guards and just as your smash through the glass, Joker barricades himself (electronically) in the Asylum, allowing him to roam free and Batman to only go where Joker allows him to. This makes you think like Batman as you make your way through Arkham Asylum coming face-to-face with several of Batman’s infamous rogues, Killer Croc, Bane, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn are all featured prominently throughout the game.

This continues throughout Arkham City, Arkham Origins, and to a much lesser degree, Arkham Knight. You are always forced to think like Batman as you engage in hand-to-hand combat against multiple enemies or Predator maps where you have to strategically attack your armed enemies who are determined to send Batman to an early grave. Unlike many superhero games where, obviously, the protagonist is super-powered in some manner, Batman/Bruce Wayne is made of flesh and bone just like us, therefore when he is shot, stabbed, or hit, it has an impact on him so we as the player cannot just rush into a room and start taking out guys with guns, we have to methodically attack them and constantly ask “How would Batman attack?”

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Most Immersive World/Worlds

No other comic book hero game that I know of does as good a job of placing you into the world of the hero. Beginning in Arkham Asylum you are able to grab taped sessions with Arkham’s most dangerous villains, giving you just a peek into the madness that makes up the minds of Joker, Harley Quinn, The Riddler, Killer Croc, and Scarecrow. This combined with the extensive library of min biographies each game give you on almost every character that is even mentioned in the game (Whether a direct boss battle or an answer to a cleverly hidden riddle) the Arkham series did a fantastic job of educating you on the world of the beloved Dark Knight.

In Arkham City, you are able to visit several iconic places in Batman lore. The Iceberg Lounge, Crime Alley, Wonder City, and the Solomon Wayne Courthouse are all featured in Arkham City and offer you a look inside the dark, dreary, bloodstained city. There is always something to explore and more often than not offers background on something or someone in the world of Gotham City.

Arkham Origins provided the player with a look into the same, but different Gotham City. This time, snow-covered the streets as the game took place around Christmas time so along with snow you had Christmas decorated buildings like Lacey Towers and Gotham Merchant’s Bank. Origins also allowed you to see Batman’s dedication/obsession with delivering justice to Gotham’s criminals as he constantly blows offs Alfred’s concerns over Bruce missing Christmas dinner. While a relatively small detail, it gives you a sense of Bruce’s mindset as he battles various assassins hired to take him out.

Arkham Knight gave the player a new toy, the Batmobile. This made getting around the enormous map easier, yet the opportunities to truly explore the city on foot were few and far between as seemingly every few feet you were confronted by drones, tanks, or bombs that had been implanted in the streets of Gotham. What should have only added to the feeling of being Batman and being completely immersed in his world soon became overbearing and hindered the experience instead of helped it. Still, Arkham Knight offered you a deep look into the psyches of Joker and Scarecrow as both provided much dialogue throughout the entirety of the game, these often-one-sided monologues also allowed you to pull back the cowl even further of Batman and get deep inside the mind of Batman.

 

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Boss Battles

This might ruffle some feathers, but no superhero game has better boss fights than the Arkham series. Not every one of them was great, not by a long shot (I’m looking at you Electrocutioner) but they were varied and made you approach the fight as Batman would. Whether confronting Bane in the Asylum and relying on Batman’s speed and intellect to battle the freakishly strong brute, or simply evading Croc in the sewers as you collect spores to create the vaccine for Joker’s Titan formula. You have an epic fight with Mr. Freeze in Arkham City which may be one of gaming’s best boss battles, period. You will also have battles with, Poison Ivy, Firefly, Copperhead, and The Joker. Each boss battle brings you into the villains, world and often plays to their strengths, putting you and Batman on the defensive and having to rely on Batman’s various skills, smarts, and gadgets to overcome them.

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So, these are my reasons as to why I think the Batman Arkham series is the cream of the crop when it comes to superhero games. It gave you the most immersive experience possible, made you think as Batman would in each circumstance all the while keeping you informed and entertained by the eccentric characters that make up the world of Batman. It gave you a history lesson on allies, enemies, locations, and various events that happened in the comics or movie world of Batman as well. Do you agree? Did I miss any crucial information? Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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