Early this coming summer, Rocksteady Studios will finally release Batman: Arkham Knight. It’s the final installment in the four-game Arkham franchise that has arguably produced the best superhero games in existence. Beginning with Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009, this series has been consistently excellent while developing a dark, sinister, and action-packed take on the comic world of Gotham that’s cinematic in nature and relentlessly enjoyable for players. Arkham Knight will bring the series to a close, and if you read some early reviews and watch the gameplay trailer at the Arkham Knight website it looks as if we’re headed to a spectacular close.
But the truth is, Arkham Knight isn’t just closing out its own series. It marks the culmination of years‘ worth of Batman video games that, even if unrelated to one another, have been at the forefront of superhero genre games across all platforms.
For modern gaming consoles like the ones the Arkham series has been designed for, Batman actually had a firm foothold before Rocksteady Studios came along. Though it was not followed by the sequels one may have expected, 2005’s Batman Begins based on Christopher Nolan’s film of the same name and released for GameCube, PS2, and Xbox was a thoroughly enjoyable game that received positive reviews. On a completely opposite end of the gaming spectrum, 2008’s LEGO Batman: The Videogame (for Wii, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, and various handheld devices) started its own series of more lighthearted superhero games that ultimately became enormously popular.
The Batman character has also enjoyed immense popularity in the online casino corner of the gaming industry, where superhero characters actually have a stronger presence than one may realize. A lot of major casino sites have deals specifically with Marvel, and thus exclude Batman. However, InterCasino’s popular games include a Batman slot machine that uses classic character art and Gotham-inspired themes to make the slot wheel more interesting. Naturally, there’s a broad difference between a game like this and traditional console action experiences. However, the Batman slot machine also demonstrates the character’s popularity in gaming circles, particularly since the success of Nolan’s films.
The Caped Crusader has also come to dominate the app gaming market, at least as it pertains to superheroes. Warner Bros. itself has produced a number of Batman gaming apps, including Batman Arkham City Lockdown, LEGO Batman: DC Super Heroes, Batman: Arkham Origins, and even the mobile adaptation of Injustice: Gods Among Us, a card-collecting brawler modeled after the popular console game of the same name. Each of those apps has four stars or more in the iOS app store, and they’re not even the only Batman games available. Other companies have also produced various Batman gaming experiences one a playable take on the film The Dark Knight Rises, one an endless runner, etc.
All of these games have been released in the past five or six years, when other superheroes, even those immensely popular in the cinema, have struggled to produce much success in gaming. And now, finally, there’s Arkham Knight the climax, and hopefully the pinnacle, of an era full of Batman games that have consistently exceeded expectations across all genres.
So will the final Batman game from Rocksteady Studios deliver? Only time will tell, and each gamer will have to decide for himself once it’s finally released. But the early hype and reviews are strong, and it seems reasonable to expect a great game. It’s not just because the Arkham series has been great, but because Batman has proven incredibly formidable in gaming in general.