It’s often claimed that there are no good Superman video games. I’ve only played two Superman games so far, but I’m going to dispute that claim slightly, because I think both of these games can at least be described as decent or kinda good. Neither of them are great, but they both have some positive traits and can be pretty enjoyable. I should be clear that I haven’t finished either of these games – in fact, I haven’t made much progress at all in the first one (the reason why will become clear shortly). But I thought I would give some quick opinions on what I think about them so far. I hope to play more Superman games in the future and if so, I’ll probably make another post giving my thoughts.
Superman (Sega Genesis)
There were multiple Superman games for the Sega Genesis (aka Sega Mega Drive), but this is the only one I’ve played so far. Created by Sunsoft, it is simply known as Superman in North America and as Superman: The Man of Steel in Europe. It’s an action game that can loosely be described as a 2D beat-em-up. The story is sparse to nonexistent and most of the enemies in levels seem pretty generic, though the bosses are known Superman villains. The graphics are good, the music is downright great, and the gameplay is fairly enjoyable, but there are two big problems: one, you can only make use of a very limited amount of Superman’s powers (and interestingly, what powers you can use depends on the level – most of the time, you can’t fly or use heat vision, but there are segments in which you make heavy use of both), and two, it’s insanely hard. Now, to be clear, I’m awful at video games, so I could chalk it up to that…but I’ve seen other people online with the same complaint, so I’m going to assume it’s not just me. If you’re looking for a Superman game that will make you feel powerful as the Man of Steel ought to be, know that this game fails horrendously at meeting that criterion.
Overall, I still like this game. Even if it’s not a very accurate portrayal of Superman’s abilities, it’s still close enough to evoke him, and the great aesthetics definitely enhance the experience. However, its difficulty and my own lacking gaming skills mean that it’s unlikely I will ever make that much progress in it. It’s fundamentally a fine game, just a very hard one that isn’t particularly noteworthy in any way other than the soundtrack.
Superman: Countdown to Apokolips (GBA)
Unlike Sunsoft’s Superman, which doesn’t seem to be heavily tied to any other particular piece of Superman media, Superman: Countdown to Apokolips is obviously based on Superman: The Animated Series in pretty much every way, from having the same art style, to its storyline being an adaptation of the Apokolips saga from that show, to its villains all being ones who appeared in the show and sporting the same designs. Like the previously discussed game, it is an action game which is kinda a beat-em-up, but this one has an isometric perspective. The graphics appear to be pre-rendered CGI and are pretty good-looking, and the music is decent as well, though it can get tiring after a while. Perhaps what I appreciate most about the game is that you can command all of Superman’s major abilities all the time (even his frost breath!).
This game does have a story, which I appreciate, complete with text boxes to communicate dialogue. I don’t really have any strong feelings about the story; it’s alright, nothing to write home about. However, there is one big problem: you can’t skip the cutscenes! That’s honestly a pretty horrible failing.
Concerning the gameplay, I would say overall it’s a little worse than Sunsoft’s Superman, though it’s not as overly difficult. However, the difficulty is still a little odd and doesn’t make you feel very powerful, since just like in that game, you lose health readily, and unlike in Sunsoft’s, there aren’t powerups to refill your health (that I’ve seen). Overall, due to these factors, the best strategy is to never get up close to your foes and punch them or anything else like that, but to only use your heat vision. After a while, it gets tiring and repetitive.
Overall, it’s an alright game – in some ways, worse than the Sunsoft one I’ve just discussed, though at least the difficulty isn’t quite as extreme.
Neither of these games are so impressive that people who aren’t huge fans of Superman should go out of their way to play them simply for their quality as games, but if you do love Superman and/or are curious, you may want to give them a try. They’re not amazing, but they’re not bad either, and if you really like the Man of Steel, you might find them to be at least worth a try.