Comic book characters have a long and fruitful history with video games. Since characters like Superman and Batman made their debuts on consoles like the Atari 2600 and Nintendo Entertainment System, the medium has never let up. And it’s been highly successful. In the arcade days, we got stellar titles like X-Men and Marvel Super Heroes while consoles were treated to a handful of Spider-Man side-scrollers, Batman brawlers and more. When the PlayStation and Dreamcast hit the scene, we got Marvel vs. Capcom, and a few generations later games like Marvel Ultimate Alliance and X-Men Legends made our crossover team-up dreams come true.
Heck, even games like LEGO Batman do a great job depicting legacy DC characters. Flash forward even further, and comic video games are still up to snuff, whether they’re the dark and brooding Batman: Arkham games, or the cinematic Spider-Man titles, especially Insomniac Games’ latest, which hits the PlayStation 4 in 2018. Unfortunately, some comic book characters didn’t make the jump to gaming all that gracefully, and we’re not just talking about gameplay mechanics or glitches here (though, don’t be surprised to see some usual suspects). Let’s take a look at 15 great superheroes that look awful in their video game adaptations.
15. THE FANTASTIC FOUR IN FANTASTIC FOUR (1997)
While many comic book characters that make the transition to video games end up looking off in some way, few end up looking horrifying. Marvel’s first family of Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm become a muddy mess in 1997’s Fantastic Four for the original PlayStation. In an attempt to harken back to a time of simpler side-scrolling beat-em-ups, this game tries to throw 3D models into the mix, making everything just look very, very uncomfortable.
Seriously, history shows that sticking to sprite work is the way to go with a side-scroller. The environments are choppy, the costumes and colors are muted and the cameos from other Marvel heroes feel uninspired. Hey, at least you can play as Dragon Man, we guess.
14. HULK IN THE INCREDIBLE HULK: THE PANTHEON SAGA
There are plenty of great Hulk games out there that makes the Hulk, well, look and feel like the Hulk. But the worlds on Ultimate Destruction and The Incredible Hulk wouldn’t be possible without Bruce Banner’s outing on the original PlayStation in The Incredible Hulk: The Pantheon Saga.
This loose comic book adaptation introduced us to a Hulk that looks like a wad of chewed-up bubble gum, as he traversed through unoriginal corridors, jumped through literal hoops and shoot-em-up levels and fought lots of robots. It didn’t help that the pseudo-3D environment seemed privy to motion sickness. Weirdly enough, the colors of this nondescript Hulk with not discernible facial features ended up being pretty close in appearance to the cinematic Hulk’s appearance. It’s just the right shade of green.
13. THOR IN THOR: GOD OF THUNDER
There was only one version of SEGA’s Thor: God of Thunder video game that worked, and it was the DS version — an inspired side-scrolling game with incredible action and care to its comic book roots. The console version of the game, however, was a bleak mess, attempting to recreate Chris Hemsworth’s Thor in a 3D space, to, well, less than middling results.
Cutscenes in God of Thunder feel like rehearsals, and Thor’s character model sports a tiny head and a seemingly oversized body. Whether he’s facing Loki or a crew of Frost Giants, he looks awkward and, most notable, ill-fitted into his costume and helmet. Oh man, the helmet might be the worst part. Weirdly enough, this would have been one of the last Marvel Cinematic Universe adaptations in gaming. Hey, at least that Captain America game was alright.
12. CAPTAIN AMERICA IN MARVEL VS. CAPCOM INFINITE
While the comic book version of Captain America has garnered all sorts of controversy, we expected his appearance in the latest Marvel vs. Capcom title to be a fairly safe bet. Well, we thought wrong. Cap’s character in the game is more like a cross between an action figure and a very, very sad man. While the gameplay is still the fast, focused action we’d come to expect from the Marvel vs. Capcom series, the muted colors and unrealistic anatomy throw it all off.
Unfortunately, we don’t have much else to look toward for a good depiction of Captain America in video games. Things started off grand for the character in games like Captain America & The Avengers and other Marvel vs. Capcom games, but fell apart once Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Captain America: The First Avenger came into the mix.
11. BATMAN BEYOND IN BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER
Much like other attempts to bring the DC Animated Universe into the video game world, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker didn’t quite stick its landing in trying to let players adventure as Terry McGinnis. Batman himself appears as a jaggy, hunched character that can only really do a quick punch or kick, each complete with the same sound effect as before.
Power-ups and weapons only make things that much more confusing and harder to play, as the limits of the original PlayStation and Nintendo 64 hold the game back. It can be a fun brawler, sure, but look at Batman’s character model for too long and you might try and make out nightmarish shapes that aren’t truly there. That being said, we’d take another Batman Beyond game any day now. Rocksteady?
10. ROCKET RACCOON IN MARVEL VS. CAPCOM INFINITE
Rocket Raccoon’s likeness in 2017’s Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite is, in the simplest terms, horrifying. While his actual appearance is based on the depiction of the character from the popular Guardians of the Galaxy films, the transition into the game was not in the least bit kind. The furry and endearing Rocket is replaced with a jagged-edged mobster-like whose uncanny appearance only serves to make gamers feel uncomfortable — rather than excited to have a character like him in the game.
You know, for a hero that had a rough come-up in the form of animal experimentation, it would have been nice to see a faithful recreation of him in the digital space. For fans looking for a more positive Rocket Raccoon fix, check out his appearances in Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
9. BATMAN IN BATMAN:RISE OF SIN TZU
What better way to make a Batman video game than with the highly-celebrated world of Batman: The Animated Series. Seriously, it seemed like a perfect match. But actually jumping into Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu reveals a Batman that is less caped crusader and free flow combat, and much more “looks like his bones are breaking as he tries to hit someone.”
The dark, wonderful world of the animated series is washed out in Rise of Sin Tzu, trading in creativity for a mindless beat-em-up that doesn’t really do anything special. Hey, at least we get those animated series sound bites, right? Fortunately, games like this paved the way for much, much better Batman brawlers in the future. We’re looking at you, LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham.
8. WOLVERINE IN MARVEL NEMESIS: RISE OF THE IMPERFECTS
Wolverine’s appearance in 2005’s Marvel fighter Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects was less like his comic book counterpart and more like N*SYNC’s Chris Kirkpatrick dressing up like Wolverine. Not only did the character’s slicked back hair not seem reminiscent of Logan, but even something as simple as his claws had this weird angle to them. Seriously, how is he supposed to retract those?
Gameplay-wise, things weren’t so bad, but it was hard to convince ourselves that were playing as Wolverine and not someone dressed up like Wolverine. Unfortunately, that could be said for a lot of the takes on these characters in Marvel Nemesis. Though, we wouldn’t say no to a Marvel fighter like Power Stone, since it has been a while since we’ve seen anything like it.
7. BLADE IN BLADE II
Blade II, in a lot of ways, reminded us of the game Max Payne. From its LEGO minifig like character models to its gunplay meets brawler gameplay, the games felt eerily similar. That being said, Blade II for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 was a pretty fun adaptation of the feature film.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t help the fact that the game itself hasn’t aged all that well, and it struggles to capture the power of Wesley Snipes’ Blade in its “one facial expression only” character model. The gameplay is also a bit uninspired, not only because it riffs on other titles, but because it’s incredibly repetitive. Maybe if the character see a Netflix resurgence we could get another crack at a Blade game. To be honest, we’d miss Wesley Snipes, though.
6. IRON MAN IN AVENGERS: BATTLE FOR EARTH
While incredibly stylized, the Wii U and Xbox 360 Kinect title Avengers: Battle for Earth felt like a light version of the more prominent Marvel vs. Capcom series. Getting past the game’s odd and uncomfortable controls, and you’ll find cartoony, functional versions of many Marvel heroes.
Iron Man, however, seemed to get the short end of the stick, but it comes mostly from just how goofy he looks while fighting. Whether its being stuck in a firing position when shooting his beams, to being knocked literally flat on his face, it’s hard to imagine the comic book Iron Man ending up like this. While surely a caring take on the character, the lackluster fighting mechanics don’t do enough to save this incredibly awkward character model.
5. BATMAN IN BATMAN: DARK TOMORROW
While the game itself is mostly broken, mundane and lacking any direct sense of originality, Batman: Dark Tomorrow‘s Batman doesn’t look so hot either. The character model seems to fall in on itself, attempt to replicate the Dark Knight’s stealthiness, but instead coming across and jumbled, and he’ll often blend in (literally, via clipping) with the environment.
Though, we do have to thank Dark Tomorrow for almost certainly paving the way for the Batman Arkham series of games, as they improved on almost every element that attempted in this one, from the awkward use of gadgets, to gliding and jumping from rooftops. As we wave goodbye to the Batman of Dark Tomorrow, at least we can appreciate some solid appearances from Robin and Batgirl. That’s gotta count for something.
4. SPAWN IN SPAWN: THE ETERNAL
If we had to liken Spawn: The Eternal to anything, it would be that old Windows screensaver where you traveled down blocky corridors on an infinite loop. Instead of being a fun distraction, that’s the name of the game in this case, made worse by a twisted depiction of fan-favorite character Spawn.
This original PlayStation title mixes exploration with traditional fighting game mechanics, but it’s not-so held together by Spawn’s character model, which looks like an old school wrestling action figure with a Spawn texture stretched over him. Blocky muscles, odd proportions and more keep us from getting immersed in this world. But hey, with a new potential animated series on the way, maybe there’s some redemption in store for video game Spawn. One can only hope.
3. AQUAMAN IN AQUAMAN: BATTLE FOR ATLANTIS
Aquaman in Battle For Atlantis is very hard to look at. Very rarely is it hard for a player to get through a game because of a character model, but Aquaman tries his hardest here with stiff movements, glam metal hair and a mission to make his hook hand look less cool and more totally useless.
Cutscenes and traversal only serve to make this game’s Aquaman look more amorphous and blob-like. His hair freezes in place, his proportions remain off entirely, and between the game’s user interface and semi-open world, it’s almost impossible to play through. Unfortunately, there’s really nothing else out there for Aquaman in the game space. So, we guess you’ll have to settle for his appearance in the LEGO Batman video games.
2. SPIDER-MAN IN SPIDER-MAN 3
Video games haven’t always been kind to our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. While the character saw some pixel-perfect depictions in games like Spider-Man & The X-Men and Maximum Carnage, 3D games couldn’t hold a candle. Most notably of which was Spider-Man 3 for the Wii, which saw a disproportioned Spider-Man attempt to save the residents of New York over and over again in a weird tie-in game to the 2007 film.
The game and it’s “interesting” gameplay also caught the internet’s eye when video circulated of players missing button prompts in quick-time events, including a scene where Spider-Man has to save someone from a fire, misses and ends up flat on his face as the building explodes. Not a good look, Spidey. Hey, at least we have next year’s Spider-Man from Insomniac on the way. Talk about a fresh start.
1. SUPERMAN IN SUPERMAN 64
Yes Superman 64 might be seen as many to be the worst superhero game ever made, and to some, the worst video game ever made. And sure, the game is a total mess, but it doesn’t help that it’s depiction of Superman is little more than a big red block, a couple of blue rectangles and, well, that’s about it.
From fighting to flying to just sort of walking around, the game never once makes you feel like Superman. Honestly, the game feels more like a twisted version of Star Fox or Pilotwings than it ever feels like a Superman game. If you can get past the flying segments, you’re treated to things like carrying items or more flying sections. The game is relentless, but the least you could do is make Superman look like, well, Superman.
Which of these characters look the worst to you? Let us know in the comments!
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