A cultural icon, grandfather of the superhero myth, and symbol for justice, Superman can do just about anything except for catching a break in the video game medium. While other popular comic book characters successfully made the jump over the years, with Marvel's Spider-Man and the Batman: Arkham Knight hitting big sales numbers, the man of steel just can't seem to fly as high.
Past efforts have all had middling degrees of success like the movie tie-in game for Superman Returns, which did an okay enough job considering its nature. But perhaps the most infamous take on the character was with Superman 64, which can often be found on lists of the worst video games ever made. Many fans were holding out hope that Batman Arkham developer Rocksteady would be tackling this DC character next, but those hopes were dashed with the announcement of Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League. Superman's there, just not the way fans hoped.
Long before even Spider-Man and Batman achieved the peak of success with the titles mentioned above, the characters had other decent enough entries throughout the years that captured the essence of the superhero experience, such as the great features seen in Ultimate Spider-Man. That being said, perhaps better days await the man of tomorrow in video games, but whichever developer manages to smash the kryptonite holding this hero back, will have to figure out how to workaround some key issues with properly translating this character.
For those unaware, Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the mid 1930s, and were encouraged by comic book editors to make the character as over the top as possible to guarantee a sense of awe from potential readers. Doing just that, Siegel and Shuster gave Superman a wide variety of powers in order to make him as insanely strong as possible. From flight and bulletproof skin to super strength and laser vision, Superman's skillset makes him pretty capable to handle just about any obstacle or adversary that may threaten his hometown of Metropolis.
While this is all well and good for Superman to be able to protect innocents and loved ones, this doesn't exactly make things all that interesting or engaging for the player in a video game. Power fantasies have been done in video games before, such as the ludicrous sense of freedom and destruction seen in Saints Row, but Superman is above and beyond even that. He can fly at light speed to cover an entire open world map and can't take damage from in-game enemies due to his invulnerability. It could be fun for an hour or two to be completely unstoppable, but in a longer story based game, this initial sense of wonder would wear off quickly and turn into monotony.
Taking the perfect nature of Superman into account, this causes issues into what can be done for a satisfying gameplay loop or sense of progression. Naturally, many would expect a Superman game to be similar in genre and style to other superhero contemporaries, with a large open environment, variety of objectives to complete, and enemies to combat. The problem is that Superman would already be at peak potential at the start of the game, therefore eliminating that sense of effort and satisfaction that a player inherently gets by playing the game in the first place
This could potentially be remedied by employing the gameplay tactics that Metroid games usually do early on, in which the player loses all abilities and spends the game slowly reacquiring them. This could work if the game served as an origin story for the character, with his powers slowly awakening throughout the story, but it also works against the fact that the powers would be the main appeal of a Superman game to begin with. Players bought Marvel's Spider-Man for the base experience of being able to swing around; if Superman is unable to fly or lift a car until halfway through the game, for example, it would defeat the whole purpose.
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