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Essays 02 April 2019, 12:06

author: Hank

The Best Upcoming Superhero Games 2019

Superhero games are a curious, uneven lot. Along games that simply cash in on popular characters, offering little novelty in terms of mechanics and gameplay, we also have games that are simply outstanding. Here we look at what's coming in 2019.

After the success of Marvel’s Spider-Man for PlayStation 4 released last year, a huge part of the gaming community (myself included) cannot wait to play another (good!) superhero video game, or at least get some more insight into the development in progress of the games we know are coming for certain. Of course, entirely new announcements are also very much welcome. So, what’s in store? Or, more accurately, what will be in stores by the end of 2019 for all those who want to fight villains using some superpowers? Let’s dive into the world of teasers, trailers, announcements, speculations, and, of course, rumors. Oh, and one more thing – no DC vs Marvel rough-and-tumbles, ok?

What makes a good superhero game?

If you thought I was going to deliver a formula for a perfect superhero game, you were - unfortunately – wrong, BUT, it is still worth considering such good questions as what exactly makes the critically acclaimed superhero games that we all love so much? Is there anything that should be changed? Is recycling obligatory just to ensure profit? And will the profit be stable? And why are there so many questions?

When thinking about the superhero games that I have enjoyed over the past several years, I, unwittingly, arrived at a conclusion that what makes a good superhero video game might be the proper choice of the protagonist. And then I remembered the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie, compared its average scores with Aquaman, and Wonder Woman only to stand corrected. Nope. Choosing the right protagonist does not make a good superhero game. At least it’s not the most important factor.

Perhaps it comes down to creating an original story that diehard fans will consider fresh, and which will encourage newbies to explore the franchise? Yep. What about the gameplay mechanics? Should you go hardcore or casual? What about the NPCs? After a lot of thorough consideration, I finally can say that perhaps all of these aspects have a common denominator – and even though it is not the formula for a great superhero video game, it is what made the games published so far that awesome.

Even with his spider senses, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man could not foresee the success his game turned out to be. - 2019-04-02
Even with his spider senses, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man could not foresee the success his game turned out to be.

Perfectly balanced, as all things should be

What seems to be the key here is to find the right balance between what the ultra-fans know and what the newcomers don’t; between super opaque easter eggs and nods that can be understood by a larger chunk of the audience; between challenging, and a bit more straightforward mechanics – and so on and so forth. But mind you – if anyone thinks it’s a great idea to copy the mechanics of combat, stealth, and gadget systems from Batman: Arkham series, or Marvel’s Spider-Man, and only stick another superhero on the screen, a word of advice – it’s not.

2019 – Shazam! in theatres, while on your TVs…

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order would be perfectly in line with the aforementioned theory, if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s going to be a Nintendo Switch exclusive (and at the same time the second game after Octopath Traveler to be developed by an external studio exclusively for the Nintendo console). Combining Marvel characters (including the Avengers, X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, and many more) with hack’n’slash mechanics and stirring it all in a cRPG bowl resulted in two critically acclaimed installments in the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series. Let us hope that the newest game to be published before the end of Q3, 2019 will follow its predecessors’ footsteps while also bringing some novelty.

Show ‘em claws! - 2019-04-02
Show ‘em claws!

Over two years ago, shortly after signing a contract with Marvel to develop games based on the increasingly popular superhero universe, Square Enix presented a teaser of what up until now has been called “The Avengers Project.” The teaser, available online, shows iconic pieces of Avengers’ equipment lying around after what seems to be a battle where the titular characters were defeated. Marvel promises an action-packed and original story that will be on par with all the big installments in the various productions for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The release date has not been announced yet, but knowing that the game is being developed by industry veterans allows me not to worry about the quality of the game. Who are those veterans I speak of, you ask? Well if the cooperation between Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal, Shaun Escayg (the former creative director at Naughty Dog), and Steven Barry (EA, Visceral Games) is not a video game dream-team, I don’t know what is.

The last among the confirmed titles featured herein is so far more of a tidbit than a solid announcement of a full-fledged superhero game, so I won’t dwell upon it too much. This game is The Lego Movie 2 Video Game, which will feature Batman, voiced, once again, by Will Arnett. This is reason enough for me to be at least moderately hyped.

I will not lie to you, folks… bringing up a confirmed game featuring the caped crusader from the DC Universe (even his plastic version) was actually just an excuse for me, to move promptly move to…

Rumored Superhero Games (not necessarily coming in 2019, but still…)

A NEW ROCKSTEADY GAME! First off, it won’t be a Superman game, as many have speculated ever since the release of Batman: Arkham Knight. Sefton Hill, the founder, and creative director at Rocksteady Games dispelled any doubts about this in his tweet from 30 November 2018. Secondly, it most probably is going to be a next-gen title, as we still haven’t received as much as a teaser, not to mention a title, a working title, a setting, or the protagonist, so it seems that the development is, well, not very advanced. But rest assured, it’s coming. After the success of the Batman: Arkham series, many speculated that the next game will feature the Justice League, and deliver a cooperative experience, where players could assume the roles of different members of the team to fight new villains, not only in Arkham. Personally, I like to entertain the idea that the new Rocksteady Game (this is not based on any rumors, or anything, just a mere surmise on my part) will introduce Terry McGinnis to the Arkham series in Batman: Beyond… Anyone with me on this one?

The Batman Beyond suit design for Batman: Arkham Knight. It’s all there, just use it for another game… - 2019-04-02
The Batman Beyond suit design for Batman: Arkham Knight. It’s all there, just use it for another game…

Let’s stick to the DC universe for a bit longer, shall we? Batman: Arkham series was also complemented by Batman: Arkham Origins created by WB Games Montreal. For quite some time, the developers from this studio have been teasing tweets and “leaks” about the game(s) they’re working on. Back in November 2018, the Production Coordinator at WB Games Montreal, sporting a moniker Double V, tweeted a picture of a t-shirt logo that might have been hinting at The Court of Owls (which evolved into the Parliament of Owls in the comic books) – an organized crime group initially operating in… Gotham City. No official announcements yet, though.

Marvel also has something to say, or at least to spread rumors about, when it comes to upcoming games. Apart from the already mentioned “The Avengers Project” teaser, it is rumored that a game focusing on the Guardians of the Galaxy is also in the works by Eidos Montreal. And it’s not a continuation of Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Let’s just hope that Square Enix and Eidos Montreal did not bite more than they could chew (with their joint-jaw capacity) and the games they’re developing will be worth the wait.

To be continued?

An now it’s about time to introduce the highly anticipated sequels of both the DC and Marvel video games. I honestly don’t think they will hit the market in 2019. Nonetheless, I do expect them to be announced (or at least teased) this year (maybe during the E3 or PAX?). These games are Injustice 3 and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 (or any form of a universe expansion). When it comes to the latter, after seeing the reviews and financial reports, it is certain that a sequel will be (or is already being) developed. The only question is: when is it coming? In my humble opinion – don’t hold your breath, but do it happily. The choice between playing a sequel in several months and playing the sequel in more than a year is, for me at least, a simple one.

Recent news

As I was about to finish this text, I decided to watch the live stream of the State of Play – an online conference held by Sony, where the company presented the newest trailers and announced a few new games (mostly supporting the VR technology). Among those, there was one that fits perfectly into this list – Marvel’s Iron Man VR. This might prove to be an interesting take on the adventures of the beloved playboy millionaire, allowing players to don the iconic armor and engage in spectacular, midair battles. And this is exactly what was presented in the trailer – players will be able to use the motion controllers to deal with their opponents in the Iron-Man-like fashion. This surely will be fun, but I am a bit worried that this game will share the fate of other “good VR games” – interesting fads, but fads nonetheless.

Pew pew pew! Ekhm. I mean… a screenshot from the Iron Man VR announcement trailer. - 2019-04-02
Pew pew pew! Ekhm. I mean… a screenshot from the Iron Man VR announcement trailer.

And now, the wish list

Everyone has their favorite superhero (perhaps except the people, who don’t watch superhero movies). Some of them already have their dedicated video games, while others are still waiting for their turn. Which superhero should be brought back to fight villains on our home screens?

Fans of Lobo were a whisker away from getting a fighting game starring this ferocious superhero back in 1996, but the game, designed for SNES, was canceled. Maybe now would be a good time to bring him back? Seeing the success of other R-rated characters, maybe now it’s the right time for Lobo to rise. Another DC or Marvel superhero that… hey, wait a sec…

And what about the superheroes OUTSIDE OF MARVEL AND DC, HUH? At this point, the editor is probably slowly losing it – the article was neatly heading towards a conclusion, and now this?! But let’s do it anyway. First off – Hellboy. Now would be a great opportunity to trigger a full-scale renaissance of this peculiar superhero, especially since the movie with this beloved devil’s spawn fighting the forces of evil is about to hit the theatres. I mean, the comic book material is just perfect for a juicy video game – full of new mechanics and plot twists fans have never seen before. I know there already is a Hellboy video game (Hellboy: The Science of Evil), but come on.

Then, The Incredibles. Not a LEGO adaptation (even though it has admittedly grown on me over time) but a full-fledged The Incredibles action game. I don’t think this idea is already as convincing as it gets, but let me elaborate: the sheer concept of multiple characters that both children and adults love, with their diversified superpowers and unprecedented setting, is exciting just on paper, not to mention putting them all inside a well-written story that players can navigate by making their own decisions and interacting with all the fantastic side-characters.

Just look at this potential… Maybe one day… - 2019-04-02
Just look at this potential… Maybe one day…

And finally, something for the… elder ones among us here. Have you ever thought what a Zorro game would look like, taking full advantage of today’s technology? Well, I have, and it turned out it would look awesome. The last time this superhero had his proverbial 5 minutes (let’s not delve into the argument about whether he actually is a superhero) was back in 1998, with the release of The Mask of Zorro movie, starring, the one and only, Antonio Banderas. Now, after more than 20 years (before writing it, I hadn’t realized it was that much!) in the age of remasters and reboots, Zorro might find a place for himself, also in the video game realm.

Is there anything we’ve missed? Have you heard any rumors (or official announcements) that you did not find herein? What is your most anticipated superhero game in 2019? Also, I am sure you have a superhero of your own you would like to see on your TV/computer screen in a new game. Let us know in the comments below!

Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight

Octopath Traveler

Octopath Traveler

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

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