The Dark Knight. The Caped Crusader. The Gosh Darn Batman. As one of the most popular superheroes of all time, it's no surprise that Batman has had many, many video games based off him and his various adaptations over the years. Indeed, the Dark Knight is uniquely suited for the medium. His vast array of gadgets and fighting abilities give developers a lot of options in designing different gameplay mechanics. The character's iconic design, villains, and setting are easily brought to a wide variety of different genres. Plus, who hasn't wanted to indulge in the fantasy of being Batman?
But the character's popularity has proved to be something of a double-edged sword in the video game department. People will always be willing to lay down money for anything with a Batman logo on it, so the actual quality of some of the Dark Knight's many games has varied wildly. Some are stone-cold masterpieces. Some are straight-up stinkers. So for the discerning Batman fan, how do you know which of the games from over thirty years of the character's history are worth your time? That is the question we've set out to answer.
After looking over as many Batman video games as we could, we've sorted them out on a scale of Batman & Robin to The Dark Knight. Strangely enough, we've found more movie and TV tie-ins than straight adaptations and that may have formed a curve. But still we've done our best and judged these games both as games and as Batman experiences.
These Are Every Batman Video Game From Worst To Best, Officially Ranked.
25 Batman & Robin: The Video Game (PS1, 1998)
Batman & Robin is considered to be the worst Batman movie of all time. Maybe it's appropriate that its video game tie-in is just as abysmal. An artifact of the early Playstation era, this 3D adventure at least tried to make something decent out of its mess of a source material.
But above-average graphics for the time did little to save the gameplay. Repetitive puzzles, boring driving stages, and lackluster controls doomed this game to bargain bins. The movie's reception didn't help. It was one of the first games to let gamers play as Batgirl, but that's a mediocre claim to fame.
24 Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Multiple Systems, 2000)
Fans of the DC Animated Universe will tell you that Return of the Joker was one of the best things to come out of that series. This side-scrolling beat-em-up does little to show that quality off. The genre is an odd choice first of all. Beat-em-ups were the tie-in game genre of choice back in the early 90s.
Doing one in 2000 felt dated. Blocky graphics and endless electronic music loops only added to gamers' frustrations. The unique selling point of four Batsuits to customize your play style was a good idea, but the execution was lackluster. This Joker can stay gone.
23 Batman Forever: The Arcade Game (Arcade, 1996)
Side-scrolling beat-em-ups were staples of the arcade era's latter years. The appeal is obvious. Up to four players being able to fight through waves of enemies? It's a good time all around, but the genre was waning by 1996. This one based on the movie is a good example why.
Letting players control either Batman or Robin, the game was praised at the time for a wide variety of attacks and special moves, but many critics saw it as too little, too late. A console conversion brought the game over mostly intact, and suffered the same reception. Most found it unnecessary.
22 Batman Forever (Multiple Systems, 1996)
As the Batman films started to decline in quality, it seems as though the video games followed suit. That certainly appears to be the case with this game adaptation of the first Joel Schumacher Batman film. Publisher Acclaim hoped that motion-captured graphics from the actual movie would help add to the experience.
Hey, visuals like that worked for Mortal Kombat! Speaking of MK, Batman Forever was built off the same engine but lacked any of its energy. The graphics made the controls and motions sluggish, on top of uninspired game play and level design. This game just had no energy.
21 Batman: Gotham City Racer (PS1, 2001)
Given the number of Batmobiles, a Batman racing game isn't the craziest idea in the world. Sadly, this attempt by developer Ubisoft stalled at the starting line. Despite featuring art and audio from The New Batman Adventures, this game was a bland mess. Driving missions got repetitive really fast, and there are far too many.
Worse, it wastes the spectacular animation it's borrowing with a cobbled together story about a mass Arkham breakout. There isn't even any racing in this racing game! If you want to really feel like you're driving comics' coolest car, seek out the 2013 Batman arcade game.
20 Batman: Dark Tomorrow (Multiple Systems, 2003)
Dark Tomorrow had a lot of hype leading up to its release. Initially touted as a GameCube exclusive, it was supposed to be an original story drawn from the actual comics. Not an adaptation of a movie or animated series. It would have been the Arkham City of its day.
But as development dragged on, the ambitious open-world plans fell by the wayside. What ended up released was a buggy fiasco. Poor controls and an unresponsive camera were critics' main bugbears. The game's story though, co-written by a DC Comics vet and a Final Fantasy scribe, earned much higher marks.
19 Batman: Rise Of Sin Tzu (Multiple Systems, 2003)
It's fair to say Batman: The Animated Series holds a special place in many Batfans' hearts. Many consider it the definitive version of the Dark Knight. So a video game continuing that series, with the original cast, perked up many ears. Add in a new villain created by comics legend Jim Lee and the prospect gets all the sweeter.
Unfortunately, Rise of Sin Tzu fell short of expectations. It's not a total failure, just a fairly average button masher. The variety of player characters helps it from getting too dull. Despite the hype, the new baddie felt too generic as well.
18 Batman (Arcade, 1990)
The release of Tim Burton's Batman in 1989 turned the Dark Knight into a cultural phenomenon. The character was popping up everywhere, including arcades. Made by the experts at Data East, this side-scroller took the actor's likenesses and imagery of the blockbuster movie, but little else.
That's why we're ranking it so low on this list. As a side-scrolling fighter and platform, it's fine. A good example of that type of arcade game from that time. But aside from the setting and some of the gadgets, it doesn't really have that Batman feel. It just has a Batman coat of paint.
17 Batman (PC, 1986)
As the very first Batman video game, we probably shouldn't rank this one so low. But it's another game that suffers from not feeling very much like Batman. Granted, there were limitations, but there weren't even any fights. Instead the game had players going on a scavenger hunt through the Batcave for parts of a bat-hovercraft.
Despite the limitations, the game was received quite favorably back in the day. It spawned a sequel and even an unofficial remake. 1986's Batman is also notable as one of the first video games with a save system.
16 Batman: The Caped Crusader (Commodore 64, 1988)
Despite his reputation as a butt-kicker, many of Batman's early games focused more on his detective side. We'll chalk that up to technological limitations. It did lead to some interesting experiences like this Commodore 64 title, though. Gameplay was very maze-like and puzzle heavy. There were fights, but they were primitive.
Caped Crusader was also unique for its brightly colored graphics that replicated comic book panels. For the time, they're actually quite detailed. Another noteworthy thing is its non-linearity. The game has two story modes, one for the Penguin and one for the Joker, which players can advance through however they choose.
15 Batman: The Animated Series (Game Boy, 1993)
The original Game Boy was no one's idea of a graphical powerhouse. That just makes it all the more impressive that this licensed tie-in replicated the legendary cartoon's signature look so well. Both the music and the visuals were on point, even if hardware limitations couldn't bring in the iconic voices. It's even got pretty solid gameplay for a licensed title.
Made by Konami, The Animated Series centered on finding and using Batman's many gadgets to overcome goons and advance through levels. Almost like a Zelda or Castlevania game, but without the exploration element. Nothing spectacular, but acceptable for its day.
14 Batman Begins (Multiple Systems, 2005)
The Batman Begins game was a cut above other movie tie-in games by being surprisingly playable. A Splinter Cell style stealth game, it had effective sneaking and an easy to learn combat system. Beaten baddies could also be interrogated. In some ways, this was an early attempt at the Batman experience the Arkham games would provide so well.
The graphics were a cut above for the era too. The movie's cast, except Gary Oldman, returned to do voice work. The biggest problems are the game's linearity and repetition. Once you've played through one mission, you've basically played through them all.
13 Batman Returns (Multiple Systems, 1992)
We won't make any bones about it. Batman Returns, based on the movie of the same name, is basically just Final Fight with Batman. But then again, it's Final Fight with Batman. Developers Konami and Malibu took the solid foundation of one the arcade's best beat-em-ups and made it feel authentic to the world of Tim Burton's moody, gothic sequel.
The music is a beautiful translation of Danny Elfman's work, the controls are simple to pick up, and the gameplay is balanced with a gently rising difficulty curve. Not original, but solid. Just avoid the buggy and unplayable Amiga version.
12 Batman: Return Of The Joker (Multiple Systems, 1991)
A sort-of unofficial sequel to the 1989 movie adaptation, Return of the Joker was a pleasant surprise for many NES owners back in the day. Almost everyone who reviewed it remarked on how amazing the graphics and backgrounds were. This were 16-bit quality on 8-bit machines.
The gameplay wasn't as good, but only just. Building off the '89 game, combat focused from attacks to gadgets, giving players greater variety. A better difficulty curve was also introduced. The Sega Genesis even got a port a year later, re-titled Revenge of the Joker, that basically changed none of the core game.
11 Batman: Arkham Origins (Multiple Systems, 2013)
Origins is kind of the red-headed stepchild of the Arkham series. The only game in the series not developed by Rocksteady, it was criticized for making unnecessary changes to a successful formula. The addition of a multiplayer mode was probably the worst, an uninspired shooter game in the middle of an action-adventure series.
Critics also found the game's open-world too big, with not enough side-quests and challenges to fill it. Still, working off the tried and true base of the previous two games meant that Origins wasn't a bad game. It just didn't move things forward enough for the series.
10 Batman: The Brave And The Bold: The Video Game (Wii, 2010)
Many fans slept on Batman: The Brave and the Bold while it was on TV. A more light-hearted take on the Dark Knight, it had great character design and humor. Thankfully, this Wii game helped show people what they missed.
Allowing two players to take control of Batman and dozens of other DC heroes, it's a throwback to the old-school side-scrollers that fit well with the series' retro vibe. The action is fast and exciting with tons of unlockable characters to fit different play styles. Even more impressive, the fully-voiced and animated story is told entirely through gameplay, not cut scenes.
9 Batman: The Video Game (NES, 1989)
Though it ended up only loosely based on the 1989 Tim Burton movie it's supposed to adapt, Batman: The Video Game carved out its own place in history. This is a gem from an age before licensed games stunk. Its mix of platforming and combat put it up there with Ninja Gaiden for gamers of the day. Like Ninja Gaiden, it is punishingly hard.
Indeed, Batman: The Video Game is notorious for its steep difficulty curve. The game is fair though, and thanks to unlimited continues, challenges can be overcome. It just takes the tenacity of the Dark Knight to do it.
8 Lego Batman 2: DC Super-Heroes (Multiple Systems, 2012)
While Lego Star Wars might have gotten the train rolling for Traveller's Tales Lego games, it was the Lego Batman games where they really hit their stride. This second installment pushed things further with their first original story. That story, a team-up between Batman and Superman, helped set the game's fun tone.
The core gameplay of Lego puzzle solving, stud collecting, and simple combat was well-polished for both veteran gamers and young kids. Along with tons of unlockables and collectibles, Lego Batman 2 packed in hours of fun into an easy to grasp package. Much like Lego itself.
7 Batman: Arkham Knight (Multiple Systems, 2015)
Expectations were high for this last game in Rocksteady's Arkham series. The first two were among Batman's best games. But reception turned out pretty mixed upon release. The biggest sticking point for most was the introduction of the Batmobile. These driving sections were immersion breaking and many critics felt they took the series too far away from its better elements, like combat and exploration.
The fact that guns were strapped to the Batmobile also came across as weird to many considering Batman's moral code. The story and open-world were praised though. Not a great finish, but still a satisfying conclusion.
6 The Adventures of Batman & Robin (Multiple Systems, 1994)
Yet another excellent licensed game from the Genesis era. There are actually different versions of this game depending on the console, but they all do the same things well. Excellent graphics that really capture the look and designs of the cartoon it's adapting. A great variety of levels that offer different challenges and gameplay.
For instance, the Riddler level is focused more on puzzle-solving than action. But there's also driving sections, intricate boss battles against famous foes, and even some Contra style run n' gun action. The difficulty does vary wildly depending on which villain's story you go through, though.
5 Batman: Vengeance (Multiple Systems, 2001)
Batman's reputation wasn't the best in the early 2000s thanks to some bad movies and games. It would take the creators of Batman: The Animated Series to help him out of his slump. Enter Batman: Vengeance. An action-adventure title for GameCube and PS2, it featured an original story and most of the famed cartoon's voice actors.
If that wasn't enough, the gameplay came through for players. Though criticized for linear levels, Vengeance did offer a variety of ways to tackle obstacles how players chose. The graphics were on par as well, bringing the "Dark Deco" look of the series to 3D.
4 Batman: The Telltale Series (Multiple Systems, 2016)
After bringing their talents to The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, Batman seemed a natural fit for the folks at Telltale Games. Fans and gamers were eager to see how their story-driven approach to gameplay would work with the Dark Knight. Quite well it turns out.
With action done mostly in quick-time events, Batman's detective skills were able to shine. That added to the sense of immersion and engagement players gained from the story. Set in the early days of Batman's career, the story had enough twists and strong characterization to stand up with anything in the comic books.
3 Lego Batman: The Video Game (Multiple Systems, 2008)
With no direct story to adapt like Lego Star Wars, Traveller's Tales did something interesting with Lego Batman. They crafted a love letter to the character's history and the Burton/Schumacher movies in particular. Throwing the toy version of the Dark Knight against his most famous foes, the developers used what they'd learned from Star Wars to create a simple yet enjoyable experience.
With gameplay variety of puzzles, beat-em-ups, and even rail shooters, everything was easy to learn and pick. A huge number of unlockables gave it great replay value too. There's a reason they're still making Lego Batman games.
2 Batman: Arkham Asylum (Multiple Systems, 2009)
Arkham Asylum became many people's favorite Batman video game because of one thing. It was the first video game that really made you feel like Batman. Other games had different elements of Batman— his gadgets, his stealth, his fighting style— but Asylum was the first to put them all together and at at the player's disposal.
So not only did it let you be Batman, it let you be whatever kind of Batman you wanted. The titular asylum itself also created a great playground for players to explore. Rich in atmosphere, it was the perfect venue for Dark Knight roleplaying.
1 Batman: Arkham City (Multiple Systems, 2011)
It was a toss-up between Arkham Asylum and Arkham City for the top spot, but we're going with Arkham City for the simple reason that everything Asylum did, City did better. A bigger open world. More classic Batman villains. More Riddler trophies to hunt down. And what issues Asylum did have were polished and fixed.
Even the already praised combat system was improved, adding more options and making learning new skills more natural for players. The addition of Catwoman as a second playable character only sweetened the pot. Hands down, Batman: Arkham City is the best Batman video game.