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Superman Games Are Usually Terrible, but There is a Solution

Superman Games Are Usually Terrible, but There is a Solution

Do you know what one of the biggest draws of gaming is? It's that they are power fantasies; they give people a chance to be something other than they are, something with purpose and power. Now, when considering characters like that, you begin to wonder about one character, arguably the personification of said fantasy: Superman. It makes perfect sense, right? This character has so many powers, even the writers can’t make up their minds; so, what has gone wrong? 

See, this is where it gets a little bit strange because there has arguably never been a good Superman game, at least none on the level of the Batman: Arkham Trilogy. This is down to several reasons that we will get into, as well as a chance for the series to step out of the mediocre shadow of its predecessor.

So, the first thing to look at is why it is so hard to make a compelling Superman game: his powers. Superman has come in many forms, but a few things in his power set remain constant. He is super-strong and invulnerable; I know you want me to say he can fly, but that’s relatively new as originally he was jumping rather than flying. Now, these powers initially seem great in a game, because who doesn’t like punching people through buildings or picking up cars and hitting enemies with them? The issue is more about invulnerability because it removes all sense of threat.

Developers have tried to make this compelling; for instance, the game based on the 2006 movie of the same name, Superman Returns, had the health bar represent the amount of damage done to the city instead of to the player. It was novel, but even then, it felt like you were being penalised for actually using your power. This was a theme that some comic writers explored, but it doesn’t work great as a game due to how little control it affords the player. Added to this is the issue that Superman is so powerful that having him fight hordes of street thugs feels a bit like a waste of time. The man from Krypton arguably needs to focus on global threats that challenge who he is as a character, and therein lies the other issue.

One thing many of his fans will tell you is that the truly great Superman stories are more focused on him keeping to his morals and humanity despite his great power. That makes for a great narrative, but it's much harder to do in an action game. Now, you could, in theory, add some moral choices in, but then you start going down the Injustice: Gods Among Usroute, and the last thing we need is another “Dictator Superman” story. This also forces a change in an established character. Saying all that, there is a solution, but it will involve looking back to the character's past. 

The solution I’m talking about is hidden in the new show: My Adventures with Superman. This show offers us a glimpse of Superman when he is starting out and learning about his powers. He’s still stronger than other people, but he unlocks his abilities throughout the show rather than having them from the start. This means that he doesn’t overwhelm his opponents and that the enemies (most of whom are improved with Kryptonian technology) have a chance to take him down.

superman 3

The series also paints the world as being untrusting of Superman at the start, especially the military. For instance, the game could focus on having the army judge the player on how they complete fights and how much damage they do. This would add another level to potentially being knocked out and make you think about how you use your powers. It’s not a perfect idea, but it adds another layer to what you are doing.

Superman is arguably one of the most popular superheroes ever created, and the fact that he doesn’t have a game yet is crazy. However, My Adventures with Superman offers some good examples that a developer could use; we just need to make sure we can leap buildings in a single bound.

Joshua Render

Joshua Render

Staff Writer

Became a writer and all he got was this lousy bio

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andrew - 11:31pm, 16th June 2024

Good article.  Actualy game develoers should learn how to utilize Superman's powers.  Examples: flight, super strength, and super speed - great for catching falling planes or citizens, and stopping out of control vehicles.  HIs invulnerability can be used to prevent a gunman from killing ccitizens.    Superman could learn skills such as super clap to put out fires.  ( Just watch a trailer of an inde game, Undefeated

There are supervillians who can challenge Superman, like Brainaic, Darkseid, Zod, Parasite, Metalo, and Mr. Mxyzpltk. ( Mr. Mxy is a greaat villian to take over Riddler's role )  Other villians, like Toyman can endanger citizens instead of Superman directly.   Regular thugs can gain access to x-Kryptonite to gain powers to challenge Superan.  They don't have to overuse green krhtponite. 

I like your point about judging Superman's actions.  In fact, there should be a meter for that, based on number of mission successions, failures, number of citizen casualties, and destruction.