All Batman Arkham Games in Order


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    All Batman Arkham Games in Order

    There have been numerous superhero games released over the years, often at varying levels of mediocre. Some were incredibly bad. Aside from a few fan favorites like 2004’s Spider-Man 2 and 2006’s Ultimate Alliance, most games based on superhero franchises couldn’t shake the cash-grab nature of their predecessors. With movie tie in after movie tie in releasing throughout the early to mid-2000s, it seemed like Marvel and DC characters would never be able to rise out of obscurity, but then came Arkham Asylum. Aslyum laid the foundation for what is arguably the best superhero game series to date. In this Batman Arkham Games in Order feature, we’re going to take a close look at each installment in the series in chronological order.

    What’s so special about the Batman games that even today they’re thought of as the gold standard for 3rd person action superhero titles? Well, aside from a few missteps found in ill-advised spin-off titles, the core series established storytelling, combat, and puzzle-solving mechanics that revitalized the genre. They confirmed that superhero games could not only be good, they could be great. 

    Let’s take a look at this landmark series in chronological order to see how Rocksteady Studios redefined what it means to “Be the Bat.”

    Batman: Arkham Asylum [2009]

    Batman: Arkham Asylum
    • Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
    • Release Date: August 25, 2009
    • Developer: Rocksteady Studios

    Originally announced in August 2008, what would become Arkham Asylum started out as just a prototype pitch by the then unknown Rocksteady Studios to Eidos Interactive. Their approach was simple in theory but difficult in practice: to create a Batman title that held to the facets of his character while still allowing players to have full control over the caped crusaders’ movements and actions.

    Thankfully, Arkham would turn out to be the perfect storm of creative decisions, with the legendary Batman writer Paul Dini coming on board to pen the narrative. Teaming up with Rocksteady, they decided early on to focus the story around the small cramped spaces of Arkham Asylum, leaning into the strengths of Batman as a detective. Animated series veterans Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill would join the project, returning to voice their iconic portrayals of Batman and the Joker. This return brought an added sense of familiarity to the title.

    batman_arkham_asylum_combat_screenshot

    Combine these unique story elements with the now renowned “FreeFlow Combat,” which went through three iterations before landing on the fluid and straightforward button pressing mechanics we know today, and you have a surprise cocktail of mystery and action that blindsided the video game industry.

    It would release to critical acclaim, with many calling it the greatest superhero game of all time, thanks to its faithfulness to the Batman source material and focus on stealth, exploration, and tight and elegant combat. With excited DC fans clambering for more, how could Rocksteady ever top what many considered to be the perfect Batman game?

    Batman: Arkham City [2011]

    batman_arkham_city_title-1
    • Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii-U (2012), PlayStation 4 (2016), Xbox One (2016)
    • Release Date: October 18, 2011
    • Developer: Rocksteady Studios

    When it comes to sequels, the obvious choice is to go bigger, which usually means open world, and with Arkham City, the team at Rockstar did just that. Taking place a year after Arkham Asylum, the prison had been expanded to take over dilapidated sections of Gotham City. Trapped in the newly created prison by Hugo Strange and with the ever-looming threat of “Protocol 10” counting down, it’s up to you as Batman to once again takedown his Rogue’s Gallery and uncover the secrets behind Arkham City.

    While the map size of Arkham City may be five times larger than its predecessor, Rocksteady didn’t lose sight of what made the first game such a success; tight combat, fluid traversal, and dynamic storytelling. They kept the core combat elements relatively similar. They did make some tweaks in the form of adding more gadget combos and elevated seamless traversal with the addition of Batman’s cape as a gliding mechanic.

    batman_arkham_city_screenshot

    The story remains a consistent homage and evolution of the Batman mythos, with Rocksteady conceiving of primary plot beats for the sequel early on during the development of Asylum. They even hid a secret room in Asylum hinting at the development of Arkham City. With the inclusion of Paul Dini once again, and the expansion of primary and side characters pulling from deep into the depths of Batman lore, the plot of Arkham City built upon what had come before while teasing of what could come next.

    The game would prove to be loved just as much as it’s predecessor, receiving universal critical acclaim. There was much debate on whether the smaller or larger map size between both games made for a better experience. Most debaters concluded that Rocksteady improved almost every aspect of what made the original so great. It would eventually receive an additional release on the Wii-U in 2012 and a remaster on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in 2016.

    Batman: Arkham City Lockdown [2011]

    batman_arkham_city_lockdown
    • Platforms: iOs, Android
    • Release Date: December 7, 2011/June 26, 2013
    • Developer: NeatherRealm Studios

    For a franchise that elevated what licensed video games could be, it was somewhat inevitable that a lesser spin-off would leach off the success of the main series. Taking place as a light interlude between Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, Lockdown follows Batman through combat encounters as he works to take down all of the recently escaped Arkham inmates.

    The game incorporated touch mechanics for Batman to punch, kick, dodge, and throw gadgets at waves of enemies. As an added incentive, players could earn and purchase different costumes and upgrades to personalize their Batman experience, with several new options being added through two content updates. These same updates would add more areas and villains to the game, including Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.

    batman_arkham_city_lockdown_combat_screenshot

    In the end, the mobile spin-off was seen as a decent but unnecessarily short edition to the Arkham series, adding little to no story elements worth exploring. It’s a fun distraction for those needing to get an Arkham fix on the go and fairly well polished for a free mobile title based on a license.

    Batman: Arkham Origins [2013]

    batman_arkham_origins_deathstroke_fight
    • Platforms: PlayStation3, Xbox 360, Wii-U
    • Release Date: October 25, 2013
    • Developer: WB Montréal

    Considered to be the black sheep of the Arkham series, Arkham Origins was created by WB Montréal as a way to fill the gap between Arkham City and Rocksteady’s next Batman title. Set five years before Arkham Asylum, you play as a Batman that’s just stepping into the cowl. Batman is pushed to his limits by eight assassins hired by the gang leader black mask.

    In most regards, Origins is an incremental title. It didn’t take the leaps that Arkham City did over Asylum, but it was praised once again for its intricate storytelling even without the support of Paul Dini. One notable improvement were the boss encounters, which leaned further into specific mechanics and phases that prompted players to utilize the entire combat system.

    Origins would also be the first title in the Arkham series to include multiplayer, where teams would take control of either the Bat-Family, Bane’s Crew, or Joker’s Crew to fight eachother in contained challenge maps. Even with this added mode, a stale environment and a handful of early bugs led this prequel to receive mixed reviews that have left Origins out in the cold in the Arkham Collection rerelease.

    Batman: Arkham Origins (Mobile) [2013]

    batman_arkham_origins_cover
    • Platforms: iOs, Android
    • Release Date: October 16, 2013/July 25, 2014
    • Developer: NeatherRealm Studios

    Like the release of Lockdown with Arkham City, the Arkham Origins mobile game was released alongside the mainline Arkham: Origins title. Another arcade-style beat em’ up that ditched any free-roaming elements for district missions that had you, as Batman, take on Black Mask and Copperhead. With little changes over Lockdown, this title was once again just a short distraction in the Arkham-verse.

    Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate [2013]

    Batman-Arkham-Origins-Blackgate-Banner
    • Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, Wii-U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
    • Release Date: October 25, 2013
    • Developer: Armature Studio

    Another spin-off title released alongside Origins, Arkham Origins Blackgate is a 2.5D side-scrolling action/stealth game for handheld consoles. Serving as a side story to the Arkham series, the game takes place in Blackgate Prison which has recently been overrun by the Joker, Black Mask, and Penguin. The player chooses which order they want to take on each villain. A fun twist is that this changes the ending cut scene (depending on which rogue is captured last). 

    Batman-Arkham-Origins-Blackgate-Deluxe-Edition

    Blackgate also features the appearance of Amanda Waller and Rick Flagg, hinting at the possible inclusion of the Suicide Squad in future installments. Armature Studio did a relatively good job in bringing the combat, stealth, and gliding mechanics from the main series to the side-scrolling setting of Blackgate. Nevertheless, Blackgate is still considered to be a short and repetitive outing for the Batman franchise. The gane eventually received ports to the Wii-U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC in 2014.

    Batman: Arkham Knight [2015]

    Batman Arkham Knight
    • Platforms: PlayStation4, Xbox One, PC
    • Release Date: June 23, 2015
    • Developer: Rocksteady Studios

    Arkham Knight extends the throughline of Scarecrow from the previous two titles and elevates him to the primary antagonist alongside a mentally induced Joker that haunts Batman (due to his poisoning during the events of Arkham City). Arkham Knight also introduces the mysterious enemy, the “Arkham Knight,” who assists Scarecrow in leading a militia against Batman and his allies to take over Gotham City.

    Originally intended to be the final installment in Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy, Arkham Knight expanded upon the open-world setting of Arkham City and added new traversal mechanics with the addition of the Batmobile. This time around, the Rocksteady team opted to utilize their own writers, with assistance from DC veteran Geoff Johns. They also had to restructure their level design with the addition of vehicles. These two significant changes are part of what led to such a long release gap between City and Knight. 

    batman-arkham-knight-screenshot-02-ps4-us-04jun14

    Another new addition to the series was a new gameplay feature called “Dual Play,” which allowed players to switch between Batman and other characters during combat situations, allowing players to experiment with different combos and weapons.

    At the time of release, Arkham Knight received mostly favorable reviews, with story, combat and traversal once again rising to the top. The Batmobile was seen by many to be an unnecessary edition that took away from what made the series feel like a Batman game. Over time it has caused more fans to look on the earlier entries in the series more favorably.

    Batman: Arkham Underworld [2016]

    batman_arkham_underworld
    • Platforms: iOS, Android
    • Release Date: July 14, 2016
    • Developer: Turbine, Inc.

    A short-lived mobile strategy game set before the events of Arkham Asylum, where you take on the roles of various teams of villains to recruit henchmen and build lairs to become Gotham’s next kingpin of crime. This game featured full voice acting and received reasonably positive reactions, but was quickly shut down only a year later in 2017.

    Batman: Arkham VR [2016]

    batman_arkham_vr
    • Platforms: PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive
    • Release: October 11, 2016
    • Developer: Rocksteady Studios

    Previous titles in the Arkham series made you feel like you were the bat through tight combat, detective work, and fun gadgets. Arkham: VR lets you be the bat in first person. Unlike previous titles, the game includes no combat and instead focuses on detective work and an uncertain narrative to tie into the overall Arkham storyline. The game initially released as a PlayStation exclusive before being released on other VR platforms. It received average reviews, with most critics citing it as a short virtual tour that recounts story beats from the likes of Arkham City and Knight.

    Batman: Arkham Collection [2019]

    batman_arkham_collection
    • Platforms: PlayStation4, Xbox One
    • Release: September 6, 2019
    • Developer: Rocksteady Studios/Virtuos

    Return to Arkham is the most recent bundle with Arkham Knight and remasters of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City for the most recent console generation using Unreal Engine 4. The collection included all previously released DLC along with updates to graphics, lighting and textures. The collection was met with mixed reviews, with many citing the lighting effects and poor frame rate as frustrating issues for a next-generation release of well-regarded games.

    What’s Next for the Batman Series?

    batman court of owls teaser
    Tweeted out by WB Montréal on Batman Day, teasing a potential new game focused on The Court of Owls.

    Rocksteady has gone entirely dark in recent years in regards to revisiting the Arkham series or taking on another DC property. On the other hand, WB Montréal has unleashed a few teasers and rumours in recent years. One worth noting is Montréal’s tweet on Batman Day teasing a new game focused on The Court of Owls. Though their tweet of hasn’t led to an announcement, rumors of a new Arkham game continue to spread with the potential game titled “Arkham Legacy”. There are indications this game may be announced in early 2020.

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