Undoubtedly one of the greatest and most influential comic book video games in history, setting the standard for superhero games and our expectations for what the future holds for them. The video games put you in the boots of the Dark Knight and pits you up against some of his various villains. Not only do you become the Batman, but throughout the series you get to also play as some of Batman’s many allies and villains. The world Rocksteady created through their games and the story arch they have crafted is one of the best Batman stories, matching up against some of his great comic books. Now let us take a look at the Arkham series and rank them from worst to best. We will only be looking at the major releases on consoles, any mobile games like Batman: Arkham City Lockdown and Arkham Underworld will not be included.
Batman: Arkham Origins – Blackgate (2013)
A different approach to the Arkham franchise, with a side scrolling game rather than the usual third person point of view. Created by Armature Studios and Warner Brothers Interactive, released for Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita. This handheld game takes place three months after the events of Arkham Origins and sets Batman in the middle of Blackgate Prison to take control of a riot taking place. After Batman catches Catwoman in the middle of a heist, he apprehends her and places her in Blackgate. However, James Gordon contacts Batman and alerts him of an internal explosion from the prison and taken over by the inmates. The prison gets split into three sections by Joker, Penguin and Black Mask. The game features returning villains such as Deadshot and Solomon Grundy, while also showing off new comer Bronze Tiger into the mix. The game also has brief appearances by Amanda Waller who made a cameo in Arkham Origins, as well as a never before seen look at Rick Flagg. Surprisingly the gameplay remains the same, aside from it being a side scrolling beat em up. But the game also manages to make good use of his grapnel hook, explosive gel and batarang. Not the greatest game in the franchise, but a nice piece in the larger universe.
Batman: Arkham VR (2016)
One of the leading games in the new virtual reality gaming, developed by Rocksteady and Warner Brothers Interactive. The game was published for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation, intended to be used on the PlayStation VR. This story takes place between Arkham City and Arkham Knight, playing from the perspective of The Dark Knight himself. When Alfred alerts Bruce Wayne of a situation that requires his attention, the game lets players suit up as the Batman. It is discovered that both Nightwing and Robin have disappeared, sending Batman on his mission to find their whereabouts. Players find Nightwing to have been murdered, when suddenly we receive a call from Robin and informs us that he has been kidnapped and he confined somewhere. Batman manages to locate Robin and finds him in a cage, but finds Killer Croc there as well where he kills Robin. Now you must play as Batman to uncover the truth behind Nightwing and Robin’s kidnappings, a dark story for this series but one that fits well into the rest of the games. While players might not come back for the story, the entire selling point for this game comes with the ability to control Batman from a first person point of view. Putting on the mask, looking in the mirror and seeing ourselves as Batman.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)
The first game in the franchise, the one that kicked off the whole series. Released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, developed by Rocksteady for their first major release. The game takes place in its own universe, picking up after Batman apprehends the Joker and brings him into Arkham once again. However, Batman remains skeptical of the Clown, claiming that he gave up without a fight. Turns out that Batman sprung a trap Joker has been plotting, escaping from the hands of the guards and taking control of the Asylum. Now Batman must regain control of the Asylum and put back all of the escaped inmates from inside Arkham. As Joker monitors all of your movements throughout the game, you are faced with some of Batman’s deadliest rouges gallery. Having to defeat Victor Zsasz, Harley Quinn, Bane, Scarecrow, Killer Croc and Poison Ivy. At the same time, Joker is creating a new kind of venom from Bane’s serum to create Titan. A serum that turns its user into a brainless hulking monster, adding onto the already horrific aspects of the Asylum. The aesthetic Rocksteady creates in this game adds onto what makes this game so legendary. With creepy corridors and unsettling landscapes, Arkham is crafted into truly one of the most terrifying places in the DC Universe.
Batman: Arkham Origins (2013)
While some might argue that Asylum should be ahead of Origins, I can’t help but place Origins above it simply due to the improved gameplay. Rather than Rocksteady, this game was developed by WB Montreal and once again released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Created after Arkham City, the game takes place before Arkham Asylum. Exploring Batman around the beginning of his crime fighting career, perceiving him more as a relentless and arrogant vigilante. He is tasked with facing off against his most dangerous mission yet, when Black Mask hires eight assassins to capture Batman for $50 million for one night only. Electrocutioner, Killer Croc, Firefly, Copperhead, Lady Shiva, Deadshot, Deathstroke and Bane are now in Gotham City and each have made the Batman their primary target. While this game does feel a bit different from the previous games, we can give it props for its inventiveness and world building it created leading up to the final Arkham installment. Incorporating characters we have been craving to see like Firefly and Deathstroke, along with the beginning to many of Batman’s relationships with other characters like Barbra and James Gordon are both fascinating aspects to explore through the game. Furthermore, despite Conroy and Hamill not returning to play as Batman and Joker, we still appreciate the vocal performances of Roger Craig Smith as Batman and Troy Baker as Joker.
Batman: Arkham Knight (2015)
The final installment to the Arkham series, Rocksteady’s last take on Batman and his existing characters. After the events of Arkham City, Batman continues to experience hallucinations of his deceased archenemy. While Joker managed to succeed in spreading samples of his blood to hospitals, there are now suspects with the Joker virus in their system as they slowly transform into the Clown Prince of Crime himself. Batman must create a way to save all of them, before they fully turn into the Joker. At the same time, after being captured and mutilated by Killer Croc in Arkham Asylum, Scarecrow returns to Gotham and puts the city in panic with the threat of terroristic fear toxin set to be released upon the city. Assisting Scarecrow is his new ally, the Arkham Knight. With an extensive knowledge of Batman, his technology and techniques, Batman is faced with his greatest threat. Armed with a new armored suit, all new gadgets and at peak physicality, you might think he is well armed and equipped to take on such a threat. However, he is missing one last thing… the Batmobile. For the first time in the series, players will be able to take control of Batman’s incredible car to enter battle and… even the odds.
Batman: Arkham City (2011)
Ranking this installment as the best in the series, due to its improved gameplay from its previous game and the amazing story, this is the peak of comic book gaming. Manipulated by Hugo Strange, Mayor Sharp has created a new form of prison for Gotham. Taking a large portion of Gotham and surrounding it with tall walls, Arkham City is created as a new prison. Batman intends on shutting down Arkham City and locking up all its villains into a different prison. Once inside, Batman is captured by the Joker, who reveals his illness slowly killing him. Side effects of the Titan formula he injected himself with in Arkham Asylum, which is now being pumped into Batman’s system. Now Batman has to request the assistance of Mr. Freeze to come up with an antidote that can save both their lives. On a path to bring down Arkham City and find a serum to save his and Jokers life, Batman is slowed down by his various villains along the way. Two-Face, Catwoman, Penguin, Ra’s Al Ghul and many more stand between Batman and his mission. If you were already a fan of Arkham Asylum, Arkham City manages to improve upon everything already established from its predecessor. Arkham City isn’t just an amazing comic book game, but one of the greatest video games period.