What’s the Issue With Superman Games?

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People find Superman to somehow be a boring character, which totally baffles me. The reasoning they give for Superman being a boring character is that he’s far too powerful, that he’s not corruptible, and that his weakness is a glowing green rock. They cite Zack Snyder’s version of the character as being the most realistic and as being the best version of the character because he doesn’t abide by a moral code, yet taking away that code makes Superman into something more approaching Omni-Man. Plenty of games have attempted to replicate the feeling of being the most powerful man on Earth, yet all of them have stopped short of doing the key things that are needed to make the game interesting in any meaningful way.

My fandom of Superman stems not from how powerful he is, nor from his lack of weaknesses, but from his general nobility. Unlike a character such as Batman, he’s not a dark existential being that strikes terror into even those who have no reason to fear him. He’s a beacon of hope, a light in the darkness, something to strive towards being and somebody who you should always fight to meet the ideals of. I love how Superman himself isn’t really the focus of his own world. The focus of Superman’s entire world is Lois Lane, his son Jon Kent, and his wider family. He’d do anything if it meant they could be safe and happy, and that keeps him grounded in a way that would simply be impossible without them. He could have all of the power in the world (and often he does), but without them he becomes nothing but a powerhouse.

The Secret to a Good Superman Game

In order to make a successful Superman game, you have to find a careful balance between his powers and telling a nuanced and emotional story that sticks to the ideals of the character. Unlike Batman games, in which his powers are that he fights pretty good and has a lot of money, and in which you’re bound by the traditional weaknesses that any human wearing armor would have, Superman cannot be affected by traditional weaponry, meaning that you have to incorporate his supporting cast in such a way that they become a vital part of the character.

Similar to how Spider-Man would be absolutely nothing without his wider cast of characters grounding him, Superman needs a cast of characters that create human ties to the world for him, as without that he becomes something more approaching a god than a man, and any attempt to make a Superman video game should understand this.

Perhaps the usage of Superman’s supporting cast would just be within the story, making the danger factor not that you’re in danger of being shot at or defeated by magic or kryptonite, but that somebody has taken your family and is holding them hostage. While you can create a threat to Superman himself by including his weaknesses, that’ll get extremely boring extremely quickly, especially if you make every single enemy able to defeat Superman in some way. It’d get rid of the feeling of specialness when you finally find an enemy able to take you on personally, and it’d make combat become more and more boring as you go along.

If you use Superman’s allies as the sense of danger, then you’ll suddenly make the game way more engaging and emotionally satisfying as a result, and then by doing this you’ll have the beginnings of a great Superman story. After all all the greats focus not on Superman, but on his connection with his supporting cast (Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s Son Of Superman comes to mind, and even Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman is actually much more about the supporting cast of the character), so doing that in a video game seems like it would be a no brainer.

I don’t know how far away we are from a good Superman game. There’s been many, many attempts to make one over the years, and the industry seems to have moved at large onto other superheroes, with a clear obsession with Spider-Man and Batman. Since the last Superman game we’ve had so many different superman games like an entire series of Batman video games, a ton of Spider-Man games, and a (very excellent) Guardians of the Galaxy game.

We even have a Suicide Squad game coming up, but no sign of a game starring Superman as a protagonist in the near future. All we really have is the appearance of Superman within Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League as what will be a villain, seemingly. Still, I have hope that one day we’ll get a good Superman game that focuses on the heart of the character. Eventually a developer will figure out a way to make a Superman game as emotionally engaging and satisfying as something like Marvel’s Spider-Man, while also balancing the superpowered nature of the character himself.

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