Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has sold 2.5 million copies, becoming the biggest first-party launch from PlayStation. However, is Spider-Man’s latest adventure better than Batman Arkham City, which set the standard for superhero games 12 years ago?
While Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a great game and has done justice to the character, I don’t think it managed to claim the title of the best superhero game. Therefore, in my opinion, Batman Arkham City is still the pinnacle of superhero games.
Why it matters: Prior to Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man series, no franchise even came close to competing with the Batman Arkham games. However, the recent quality of Spider-Man has led to comparisons between the two.
History of Superhero Video Games
I have been a fan of the superhero genre for as long as I can remember. Having played many of the games in this genre, I was initially impressed with Hulk 2003.
Playing as the Hulk and smashing my way through the game was extremely satisfying, but I understood that this title had many rough edges. Batman Begins on the PS2 led to similar feelings, but everything changed when Rocksteady took over the IP.
Fast forward to 2011, Batman Arkham City completely redefined my perspective on superhero games. The game was extremely faithful to its source material, and each part of this entry was refined to perfection.
While 2009’s Batman Arkham Asylum already redefined the genre, its sequel was a bigger and bolder game in nearly every way. This was a massive achievement at a time when superhero games were treated as little more than movie tie-ins.
The game was unrivaled until recently, and while Spider-Man 2 gets close, Batman Arkham City’s impact on the industry is much bigger. I believe Insomniac can eventually reach this bar, but Rocksteady is still the leader in this genre for me.
Perfecting Batman’s Gameplay
Batman Arkham City has, in my opinion, the perfect gameplay loop for a Batman game. While mechanics like MJ’s stealth sections can feel out of place in Insomniac’s Spider-Man titles, each part of Rocksteady’s approach is tailor-made for Batman.
Every punch from Batman feels as powerful as you would expect, while the character’s wide array of gadgets and tools emulates the feeling of playing the world’s greatest detective.
On the other hand, Spider-Man’s basic punches can feel a bit lacking in impact despite the incredible finishing animations. To Insomniac’s credit, the developer has implemented special abilities from the symbiote suit in Spider-Man 2, which feel very satisfying.
In terms of stealth, Batman Arkham City also pulls ahead. The level design throughout the game complements Batman’s arsenal, allowing him to use his grappling hook to hop from gargoyle to gargoyle or crawl between different vents.
I enjoyed the fact that Batman has multiple takedown options, and enemies adapt as Batman continues to reduce their numbers. Gadgets can also be used to smartly lay traps for patrolling grunts, allowing the character to lure them out one by one.
Main Story and Side Quests
While many superhero games have great storytelling, I think Batman Arkham City’s ability to bring together many villains from the comic book mythos for a coherent story is unparalleled.
In 2011, Rocksteady took us on a thrilling adventure with villains like Hugo Strange, The Joker, Ra’s al Ghul, Two-Face, and more. Each of these characters added to the threatening aura of the greater evil as Batman struggled to compete with these foes.
Rocksteady also handled the character of Batman particularly well. The superhero was shown as a larger-than-life detective who could deal with any challenge, but in the end, even he could not save the Joker.
This failure would later haunt Batman and become a big part of his character arc in the next game. In this aspect, I would say Spider-Man is neck-and-neck since the narrative is excellent in all three Spider-Man games.
However, I enjoyed the side activities in Batman Arkham City much more. Collecting riddler trophies did not feel mundane, and missions like The Tea Party still stand out as highlights of the game.
For all of these reasons and more, I think Batman Arkham City is still the best superhero game.
As much as I love this game, I don’t think it will always stay on top. Spider-Man 2 is already the third-best-rated superhero game, so it is only a matter of time before a better game sets new records.
Obaid is pursuing a Law degree, while working as a content writer. He has worked as a gaming writer for over a year because of his passion for the medium and reporting the latest updates in the industry. Having played hundreds of games, Obaid finds himself coming back to Elden Ring and Red Dead Redemption 2, with these games being among his favorites. He has also been mentioned on highly regarded websites, such as Wccftech, Metro UK, PS Lifestyle, GamePressure, VGC, and Gamespot.