Comics and Cosplay
5 Video Games That Played Like Comic Books

Marshall Lemon | 12 Jun 2014 16:00
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Comic books aren't just gracing our movie screens: they're a mainstay in today's gaming market, too.

Comic book superheroes are getting more attention than ever before in video game markets, and by and large that's been a good thing. Whether you enjoy the latest Batman: Arkham game or the more family-friendly exploits of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, developers are producing more enjoyable games based on comics than ever before. (This was not always the case. I'm looking at you, Superman 64.)

What's more impressive however are games that go a step further, until they almost resemble a comic book themselves. Sometimes it's thanks to stylistic choices and other times a deep understanding of what makes the source material work. But whatever the reason, we now have many adaptations and original works that feel like they were lifted from a two-dimensional page.

freedom force screencap

Freedom Force
No other video game embraced the joy of the 1960s comics era quite like Irrational Games' Freedom Force did. Set in the fictional Patriot City, players assemble and develop a team of heroes granted incredible abilities following an encounter with the mysterious Energy X. Each character is provided a unique origin story and set of powers, usually mirroring Jack Kirby or Stan Lee creations, and pitted against the very worst threats of Silver Age villainy. Mobsters, Russian spies, dinosaurs, giant robots, alien invaders, and even threats beyond time are all packed into Freedom Force adventures (or rather, "issues") across a variety of comic book locales. Its sequel, Freedom Force vs. the 3rd Reich, added to the original's pulpy tone before taking a surprise (but not unwelcome) turn into Dark Phoenix Saga territory. It's uncertain whether another Freedom Force game could be produced, especially now that Ken Levine has departed from Irrational Games. But with everything from the Batman: Arkham to LEGO superhero games drawing unprecedented attention, I say it's time that Freedom Force made a glorious return.

xmen legends screenshot

X-Men Legends/Ultimate Alliance
Activision's Marvel RPGs are pretty similar to Freedom Force in terms of gameplay, but they stand out for having the largest interconnected superhero continuity in gaming. Starting with X-Men Legends and leading into Ultimate Alliance, each game featured a roster familiar shared characters and a universe larger than any immediate supervillain threat. In its first game alone, Legends introduced tense mutant-human relations, the history of Sentinel attacks, the Shadow King's assault on astral planes, and an orbital finale on Asteroid M. By the time Ultimate Alliance came out, Raven Software had included Asgardian realms, alien races, and even Galactus while still making callbacks to characters from X-Men Legends. While these connections aren't as extensive as the Marvel Cinematic Universe's, it remains the largest comic book canon games will produce until Rocksteady decides to put Superman in an Arkham game.

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