Between big Batman: Arkham Knight news, getting his own holiday, and turning 75 years old, 2014 has been a pretty big year for Batman and his fans.
To help the old-timer celebrate, USgamer is sorting out the parties responsible for his finest video game appearances. They present the evidence and you decide: who makes the best Batman games?
Batman Returns (Genesis, 1992)
The case for: A methodical combination of brawler and platformer, Batman Returns managed to capture the essence of Batman the grappler and Batman the grappling hook user. The dark Genesis color palette nicely reproduced the dim, art deco style of the Tim Burton movie on which it was based, and the Caped Crusader himself looks legitimately beefy rather than getting all his apparent muscle mass from a padded vinyl suit (ahem, Michael Keaton).
The case against: Batman Returns feels inelegant and chunky in many ways, and the catchy electronic tunes are weakened by the poor sound effects. Acme played to Genesis' strengths, but also fell prey to its weaknesses.
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate (Vita/3DS, 2013)
The case for: Knowing full well the current-generation portable systems couldn't hope to recreate the proper Arkham experience, Armature drew on its experience working on the Metroid Prime series to create more of an adventure than an action game.
The case against: Blackgate tries to go full Metroid on Batman, but it lacks sufficient tooth. The Arkham combat doesn't mesh well with the scan-centric design, and the "realistic" feel the studios tried to create makes for a slow-paced and frequently tedious journey.
Batman Returns (GG/SMS, 1992)
The case for: You may recognize Aspect from our look at Sonic's parents, and here they fulfilled much of the same role: Creating solid Game Gear software for Sega. This version takes many cues from the Genesis title, but it plays faster and allows for a more varied approach with a modest level select feature. A remarkably ambitious attempt for the platform.
The case against: Aspect's take on Batman can be a bit cramped and simplistic thanks to the Game Gear's limitations.
Batman Returns (Lynx, 1992)
The case for: It seems like everyone in the world had a different take on the Batman Returns license, and Atari's effort for the Lynx is more of a belt-scrolling brawler than the more platform-like efforts of other studios. Huge character sprites and crisp, colorful graphics absolutely pop on the Lynx's screen.
The case against: Compared to the Game Gear version, this feels shallow and primitive. Sloppy combat, unfair enemy placement, and a weird lack of music combine for a letdown of a game.
Batman (Arcade, 1990)
The case for: The other Atari made Batman into the quintessential late '80s arcade action game: Tough, detailed, with a great FM synthesis soundtrack, and massive, multi-scrolling level designs. Multiple play formats and audio samples from the 1989 movie lend it a lot of variety and atmosphere.
The case against: Like many arcade games of the era, Atari's Batman is also frequently unfair - not to mention shallow as all get-out.
Batman: The Movie (Spectrum/PCs, 1989)
The case for: Like Acme's rendition of Batman Returns, Data East created a combination brawler and platformer that really pushed the limitations of 8-bit microcomputers to their ragged edge. Even on older, less capable systems, Batman: The Movie played smoothly.
The case against: As with many action games for older computers, Data East did their best here, but it just doesn't hold up to the standards established a year or two later by 16-bit consoles.
Batman Returns (Amiga, 1992)
The case for: While fundamentally similar to the other Batman Returns games, the one Denton Designs put together for Amiga stands apart. It's gorgeously animated, but the graphics look tiny. Those small sprites offered a valuable advantage, though: Batman Returns on Amiga was blazingly fast, with a Batman far more agile than we've ever seen in the movies.
The case against: You can perhaps overlook the minuscule visuals, but the grinding repetition of the action is harder to swallow.
Batman Begins (2005)
The case for: Before the Arkham games, Eurocom's take on the first Christopher Nolan film did a pretty solid job of translating its key scenes (and quite a bit of material never seen in the movie) into a PS2-era action game. And it nicely captured the look of the movie.
The case against: Action games have come a long way in the past decade, thanks in large part to Rocksteady work with this very franchise. The state of the art in 2005 feels terribly primitive in 2014.
Batman Forever (Arcade, 1996)
The case for: Arguably the most hyperactive Batman game ever made, Iguana's brawler throws an insane amount of stuff at players, with crazy power-ups and special moves to break up the combat.
The case against: Aggressive visuals and a constant flood of game factors can't change the fact that underneath the madness it's basically just your typical walk-and-punch brawler... a style of game that felt behind the times even in 1996.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (GBC/N64/PS1, 2000), Batman: Dark Tomorrow (2003)
The case for: Kemco brought its licensed game development heritage to bear on Batman around the turn of the millennium, producing a handful of entertaining titles that translated the stylish future-noir look of Batman Beyond into chunky PS1 and Game Boy graphics.
The case against: Alas, chunky PS1 and Game Boy graphics haven't aged as well as one might hope, and nothing about these games' designs particularly stood out even at the time.
But what about Batman Origins!?!? Oh wait, there's still more... click here!