The hugely popular Batman: Arkham franchise is one of my favorite video game franchises (alongside Uncharted and The Last of Us). I’ve been a fan of Rocksteady and Warner Bros. Games Montreal’s titles since I was 13, as they provided the ultimate experiences imaginable for me to become Batman. Now, while all of the Arkham series games are good at the very least, some are better than others. (Note: I will only be ranking the console releases. Therefore, I will not talk about the handheld entry Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, which came out on the Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita.)
4. Batman: Arkham Origins (2013)
This is the only game in the series developed by Warner Bros. Games Montreal and not the series’ mainstay studio, Rocksteady. Despite this, Montreal did a fantastic job in replicating the winning free-flow combat and entertaining story/character work that Rocksteady brought to life in previous entries. (Roger Craig Smith’s and Troy Baker’s performances as Batman and the Joker respectively deserve a shout-out here.) However, while that replication is commendable, it doesn’t innovate upon the foundation that Rocksteady laid.
The combat doesn’t feature any new variations when compared to the upgrades given to you during Arkham City and Arkham Asylum; well, save for a pair of electric gloves that make you insanely overpowered. The story—following a younger, angrier Batman fighting against eight assassins hired by villain Black Mask—starts off very strong, promising an engaging plot that will put you to the ultimate test. Unfortunately, the pacing of the first half of the story is too slow. Plus, the Black Mask twist—while fun—ultimately derails the initial premise and soon gives way to a contrived plot-line that resolves itself too conveniently.
3. Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)
Ah, the one that started it all. Rocksteady set the world on fire when Arkham Asylum released in 2009, offering a compelling take on a Batman video game that others haven’t achieved before. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, who voice-acted as Batman and the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series, return here and provide incredible performances. The storyline features Batman trapped on Arkham Island with no means to stop the Joker from unleashing chemical chaos upon Gotham City, holding up surprisingly well after all of these years. The game’s atmosphere is breathtaking as it crafts an eerie aura while you traverse the island, sending chills up your spine.
Sadly, after an effective build-up, the story concludes with a pretty lame boss fight that includes a monstrous Joker and an abrupt ending. The gameplay—which has aged well—is strange to play without the various tweaks applied in later entries, particularly Batman’s gadgets. You start the game with only a Batarang, unlocking more gadgets as the story progresses or when the system upgrades. This situation is rather strange, as you’d think you would be able to use more from the get-go.
2. Batman: Arkham Knight (2015)
Arkham Knight acts as the conclusion to Rocksteady’s story, and it delivered in my opinion. Sure, the identity of the Arkham Knight was very predictable, the story wasn’t exactly the best, and there were far too many tank battles, but man, there were so many things that this game did right.
For starters, this entry looks gorgeous. Everything from the lighting to the character models are rendered in astounding detail, and the it’s even more impressive that the game still looks phenomenal despite it being nearly 6 years old. The series’ signature gameplay is at its absolute best, illustrating Rocksteady’s mastery of their craft. (The inclusion of the Batmobile—while controversial to some—was well earned, and come on, who wouldn’t want to drive it?) Lastly, there’s a true sense of finality here: with villains Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight having thrown Gotham into chaos. The game creates a sense that this night might actually be Batman’s last—and he’ll do whatever it takes to save the city.
1. Batman: Arkham City (2011)
In Wonder Woman 1984, Maxwell Lord uttered the iconic line, “Life is good, but it can be better.” I’d like to think Rocksteady applied a similar mantra when they were developing Arkham City. They took Arkham Asylum’s amazing combat, effective atmosphere, and stellar storytelling and improved upon it in every single way. Seriously, they did an amazing job.
Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill bring their absolute A-game here, proving that they are the definitive versions of Batman and the Joker. The open world of Arkham City—a massive prison built within the center of Gotham—drips with Easter eggs and secrets. To top it all off, the compelling story manages to wrap everything into an excellent package. The storyline not only brings forth a huge gallery of Batman’s most iconic enemies to face, but also twists and turns that keep the story fresh and exciting. This is the greatest game of the series and one of the best superhero games ever made.
Featured Image: Emily Hanes
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