The Batman: Arkham series reinvented the superhero game genre. To this day, developer Rocksteady’s landmark titles are highly acclaimed as masterpieces of gameplay and storytelling. Likewise, many Batman fans consider the narratives depicted in these games to be among the finest ever given to the Dark Knight. So with all this praise being thrown around, where does each entry in the series stand when viewed with a more critical eye? To answer this question, we’ll be examining every Batman: Arkham game and ranking them from worst to best.
#8: Arkham Underworld
Released: 2016 | Platforms: iOS, Android | Developer: Turbine, Inc. (now WB Games Boston)
Arkham Underworld is a mobile game seeking to ride off the heels of Clash of Clans’ success. The premise is that you’re playing as one of the Arkhamverse’s main villains seeking to conquer Gotham. In terms of gameplay, this meant taking actions which required exponentially increasing amounts of real time to complete. By standard mobile game tradition, players could of course spend their IRL hard earned cash to speed up such actions. Unfortunately, (or quite fortunately, depending on how you look at it) it is impossible to play this game nowadays. Just a little over a year after its release, Arkham Underworld was shut down and taken off of online storefronts.
#7: Arkham City Lockdown
Released: 2011, 2013 | Platforms: iOS, Android | Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Another mobile game, this time made by Mortal Kombat developer NetherRealm. Unlike Arkham Underworld, Lockdown seeks to be more of an actual video game. Sticking to what they’re best at, NetherRealm opted to make Lockdown a fighting game. The gameplay is similar to the mobile ports of games like Injustice. Basically, your character’s moves are pulled off by tapping and swiping the screen. It’s a definite step up from Underworld, but it still leaves a lot to be desired. What little story the game has is set between Asylum and City, however this narrative is difficult to experience in the modern day. Much like Arkham Underworld, Arkham City Lockdown was taken off app stores years ago.
#6: Arkham Origins Blackgate
Released: 2013, 2014 | Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U | Developer: Armature Studios
Arkham Origins Blackgate marked the first entry in the series to be released for mobile consoles. It’s a sequel to Arkham Origins, set 3 months after that game’s story. This game continues the Origins novelty of seeing how Batman met certain notorious members of his rogues’ gallery.
Blackgate‘s story, while not terrible, fails to meet the same quality standard as many of its peers in the series. As said before, the story takes place shortly after Arkham Origins. Joker, Penguin, and Black Mask all escape from Blackgate Prison in a massive riot. Following this, Batman has to beat them all and put a stop to their crime sprees. Overall, it’s mostly just a mediocre cookie cutter Batman story. If it were another series of superhero games, this could be easily overlooked. However, the Arkham series is known for having some of the most gripping, well-written Batman narratives ever put to screen. Compared to the likes of Arkham City, Arkham Origins Blackgate just can’t hold up.
The transition to mobile consoles also had a rough effect on the gameplay. The controls aren’t the worst thing ever, but they are frequently clunky and hard to work with. Once again, this is hard to overlook in a series known for having such fun gameplay that it spawned an entire subgenre of combat systems.
The general consensus on Arkham Origins Blackgate is that it’s just alright. Not exactly a bad experience, but also not one that will particularly impress you. This game is best as a novelty for die hard Arkham fans to see more of young Batman, including how he met Catwoman. Other than that, you wouldn’t be doing yourself any great disservice in skipping over this one.
#5: Arkham VR
Released: 2016, 2017 | Platforms: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Playstation VR | Developer: Rocksteady
Batman: Arkham VR was part of the big VR craze in the mid 2010s. After decades of repeated failed attempts, VR gaming finally seemed like a viable medium. As a result, many developers elected to produce games in this new and quickly evolving space. Arkham VR was initially a Playstation VR exclusive before being ported over to Windows five months after launch.
This game is set shortly before Arkham Knight. Its story revolves around Batman trying to solve a very perplexing mystery. The quality of this narrative is mostly on par with Blackgate. However, the mystery presented to Batman is enthralling and the character writing for Bruce Wayne is excellent. Arkham VR‘s story is elevated by the performances of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, who were absent in Blackgate. Honestly, although Blackgate‘s Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker do fine jobs, the original voice actors’ work is enough to propel VR past it’s place on this list.
Gameplay in Arkham VR is standard fare for the virtual reality genre. Players mostly just walk around solving puzzles in impressively detailed environments. Although the game’s puzzles are generally well-designed, they’re not the main draw here. Rather, most of this game’s charm comes from actually being in Batman’s head. Getting to properly walk around locales such as the Batcave and Wayne Manor (this also being one of their few appearances in the series) adds a lot more value to Arkham VR. It’s definitely not for everyone, and it spoils the events of City and Knight, but this game is still worth at least a try if you’re an Arkham fan.
#4: Arkham Origins
Released: 2013 | Platforms: Wii U, Xbox 360, Windows, Playstation 3 | Developer: WB Games Montréal Inc.
A prequel set 8 years before Asylum, Arkham Origins is by far the weakest entry in the mainline series. The game isn’t terrible or anything (in fact, there’s a lot to love in this game), however it fails to reach the heights of the core trilogy. Much like Arkham VR and Origins Blackgate, Arkham Origins is a pretty good experience which is massively overshadowed by the other games surrounding it.
Origins‘ story is mostly centered around the novelty of seeing how the Arkhamverse’s Batman came to be. Fans of both the character and the series will enjoy witnessing Bruce Wayne’s first meetings with much of his rogues’ gallery. Likewise, certain beloved franchise characters, including Deathstroke, make their Arkhamverse debut here.
The plot, which is centered around a very fateful riot at Blackgate prison on Christmas Eve, can be genuinely interesting at times. Again, it’s not amazing, but it definitely has its moments. Specifically, the game masterfully depicts younger, more inexperienced versions of characters such as Batman and The Joker. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill’s legendary performances are sorely missed in Origins, however their replacements do a great job. To portray the youthful rivals, acclaimed voice actors Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker were brought in for Batman and Joker, respectively. It’s pretty jarring at first to hear new actors portraying their Arkham incarnations, but both of them really pull it off.
All told, Arkham Origins is a good game. At times, it’s a great game. That said, we’d mostly recommend this one to either fresh, prospective Arkham fans or diehard Arkham fans. For the casual enjoyer of this series, it won’t offer as much as the main trilogy and could be skipped.
#3: Arkham Asylum
Released: 2009, 2010, 2016, 2023 (upcoming) | Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, PlayStation 4, Mac, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (upcoming) | Developer: Rocksteady
Batman: Arkham Asylum is one of the most influential games of the last 20 years. Not only did it kick off this beloved series, but it also inspired decades of game design. Everything here, from the tightly crafted world to the innovated free-form combat to the engaging storyline, is truly great. In the era when Rocksteady was developing these 3 games, they just kept knocking it out of the park. Honestly, any entry from this core trilogy could reasonably take any place in a top 3 list. For our money, we think the games just get better as they go on, but when the sheer quality on display is so high, any opinion like that is going to be highly subjective.*
We don’t want to overstate how good this game is, but that’s honestly a pretty hard task. From a story perspective, everything on display here is right on point. At the time, Batman’s deeper lore wasn’t really known about in the public consciousness. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight had just come out the year before, which left general audiences interested in what other stories could be told about the Caped Crusader. Rocksteady saw their opportunity and took it, delivering an experience which was eye-opening for casual Batfans and enthralling for diehard Dark Knight veterans.
Multiple voice actors from The Animated Series return (doing a killer job), and the aesthetic direction seems to be a combination of TAS and the comics. Arkham Asylum truly brings the world, story, and characters of Batman to life in a way that nothing ever really had before. Many of the filmic portrayals of Bruce Wayne were great, though they somewhat lacked the true soul of the character which the Arkham series pushed to the forefront. It’s not surprising why this game led to the widely lampooned maxim “it makes you FEEL like Batman.”
#2: Arkham City
Released: 2011, 2012, 2016, 2023 (upcoming) | Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, Wii U, PlayStation 4, Mac, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (upcoming) | Developer: Rocksteady
Coming off the heels of Arkham Asylum‘s runaway success, Rocksteady had quite a challenge ahead of them. How do you make one of the most beloved video games of all time even better? Is this an attainable physique for a sequel? Will they be able to pull it off? Are they stupid? The answer to all these questions came in the form of Arkham City. Surprisingly, they actually managed to deliver a product considered by-and-large to be even greater than its predecessor.
Arkham City‘s story moves away from some of Asylum‘s overtly comic-inspired plot in favor of a much more original telling. The setting of the game, titular Arkham City, has replaced both the Asylum and an entire chunk of Gotham City. Walled off, guarded, and isolated from the rest of the sprawling metropolis, it now serves as a mega prison for Gotham’s most wanted.
This is a very compelling setting for a Batman game. Not only does it give an in-universe excuse both for the new open world and Batman’s presence within it, but it’s also just intriguing on a basic storytelling level. Taking into account the mysterious motives of Arkham City’s benefactor Hugo Strange pumps this intrigue up to 11. Additionally, Rocksteady intentionally made the world map relatively small while also being noticeably larger than Asylum‘s map. This allowed both a tangible feeling of escalation in the player, as well as one of the most finely crafted worlds in gaming history.
#1: Arkham Knight
Released: 2015, 2016, 2023 (upcoming) | Platforms: Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (upcoming) | Developer: Rocksteady
It’s not a stretch to say that Batman: Arkham Knight is one of the most impressive games ever made. Technically, it’s absolutely stunning. The fact that this game cam out 8 years ago is mind-boggling. Rocksteady had been partnered with Nvidia since the beginning to make the most out of the PhysX engine. Arkham Knight pushes this to its very limits, allowing for options such as having 3D object litter blowing around the city which can realistically collide with characters and environments. But this game isn’t great just because of what it’s got under the hood.
The newly added Batmobile sections were controversial at the time of release. Truth be told, we must admit that the old Bat Car can overstay its welcome at times. However, its addition almost never (excluding certain sections towards the game’s end) feels like it actively makes the game worse. As well, the controls for both driving and combat are fun and phrenetic enough that it generally feels very nice to use.
Inspired by classics such as The Long Halloween, Arkham Knight‘s story is nothing to baulk at. Rocksteady’s narrative team, as well as the whole cast’s performances, deliver one of the most tightly paced, emotionally affective stories ever given to The World’s Greatest Detective. Combine everything said here with further improvements to Rocksteady’s free-form combat system and you’ve got a masterpiece on your hands. Arkham Knight is a wonderful cap off to one of gaming’s greatest trilogies, as well as one of Batman’s narratives.
Join the High Ground
That’s gonna wrap up our ranking of every Batman: Arkham game. With the upcoming releases of both the Batman Arkham Collection on Nintendo Switch, as well as Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, it’s a great time to get into the Arkhamverse. We’d recommend new players start with either Origins or Asylum, either way you won’t be disappointed with this darling franchise.
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