With the invention of comics, the world has become a little more colorful. What began as black and white comic strips in newspapers developed over time into a mass phenomenon. And the superheroes gradually emerged from human and animal protagonists. The superhuman heroes who are the stars of many popular films and video games today come from a power struggle that is second to none. The founding of DC Comics in 1934 (as Detective Comics) and Marvel Comics in 1939 (then Timely Comics) created two publishing houses that would go down in pop culture history as rivals.

Many superheroes and villains saw the light of day through this power struggle. First in comics, then on trading cards and finally in films and video games, they gained more and more attention and still shape entire generations of fans today.

Graphic bombs and triple AAA titles were still a long way off for the gaming industry when superheroes hit the comic screens. It was only the tentative attempts to implement games for Superman (1979) and Spider-Man (1982) that laid the foundation for today's successful games based on the DC and Marvel heroes.







The first Superman game will probably always be the best. No successor could match the positive reviews that the title received.



The first Superman game will probably always be the best. No successor could match the positive reviews that the title received.

Source: PC Games




The first Superman game and at the same time the first licensed title for the film of the same name from DC was developed by Atari for the in-house console. With over 20 different backgrounds and an X-ray vision that could reveal the next screen, Superman was a very extensive title back then. Despite the sounds of fax machines and an outrageous mechanism in which you could regenerate your superpowers with a kiss from Lois Lane, the game was celebrated. But it would take another six years before the next DC title appeared – again with a Superman license. But all attempts to build on the success of the hero debut failed terribly. Today everyone agrees that there is no such thing as a really good Superman game, and there probably never will be. Clark Kent's divine abilities simply do not provide a good foundation on which exciting or challenging gameplay could be based.







The first Spider-Man game was developed not just by an individual but by a woman, and it convinced Marvel to keep investing in the gaming industry.



The first Spider-Man game was developed not just by an individual but by a woman, and it convinced Marvel to keep investing in the gaming industry.

Source: PC Games




In the 80s, of course, Marvel didn't keep its feet still, but took a very unique approach: quantity over quality. Under the publisher Parker Brothers, which as a game manufacturer actually had nothing to do with video games, the first Marvel licensed title was created under the direction of Laura Nikolich with surprisingly great success. Shortly thereafter, three more Marvel titles from Adventure International appeared. The Questprobe text adventure series was originally supposed to cover twelve parts, but the studio went bankrupt and the Marvel license fizzled out in the wind. Hot on the heels of a quick buck, Marvel sold further licenses to studios specializing primarily in low-budget titles. Howard the Duck from Alternative Software was just as undemanding and boring as the original film and offered little more than ten minutes of "fun". Other titles like Captain America in: The Doom Tube of Dr. Megalomans weren't complete failures, but they could only inspire die-hard Marvel fans who were probably more interested in the new stories of their heroes than the immature game mechanics.






Marvel's Questprobe Hulk was one of three Questprobe titles that were basically exciting, but incredibly difficult to master.



Marvel's Questprobe Hulk was one of three Questprobe titles that were basically exciting, but incredibly difficult to master.

Source: PC Games




For a long time Marvel could only dream of successes like that of DC's Batman franchise. We are not talking about the Arkham series, which appeared in 2009, but rather the Iso puzzle series from publisher Ocean. Almost single-handedly, developer legend Jon Ritman came up with the first part of a trilogy, which triggered a real hype about the masked bat man with critical ratings above 90 percent. Ocean developed the sequels with success itself, before the competing studio Sunsoft snapped a large part of the DC licenses under the nail.







Batman from the early 1990s was as big a hit as the 2009 Arkham franchise. A developer single-handedly developed the first part of the trilogy.



Batman from the early 1990s was as big a hit as the 2009 Arkham franchise. A developer single-handedly developed the first part of the trilogy.

Source: PC Games




After some good Sunsoft Batman games and a failed attempt at Superman in 1992, a trend developed that created a veritable flood of superhero games. Because for each license granted, not only one game emerged, but several titles under the same name were developed. The reason is the way games were ported in the 90s. Where you can play the same game on multiple devices today, completely different gaming experiences depending on the system were not the exception, but the rule. For example, several studios were hired to not only translate the gameplay to a different programming code, but to reinterpret the title from scratch, sometimes with a different plot.







Batman Returns came out in nine versions, all of which were very different. Many fans remembered the SNES version positively thanks to its high quality.



Batman Returns came out in nine versions, all of which were very different. Many fans remembered the SNES version positively thanks to its high quality.

Source: PC Games




The Adventures of Batman and Robin (1994) was a beat 'm up for most consoles, but the sidekick Robin mentioned in the title was not always included in the game. On the Sega CD, the adventure was even just racing game sequences, interrupted by animations, based on the eponymous series. It's hardly surprising that memories of previous titles vary a lot from player to player. In 1992 there were no fewer than nine versions of Batman Returns that received a whole range of different ratings. With the disappearance of many consoles and the convergence of the technical performance of the relevant devices, this trend decreased. Until the advent of smartphones, however, a similar approach was used for handheld implementations or mobile phone games. Mostly the attempt was made here to imitate the primary variants of the adventures of PC and consoles with stripped-down mechanics.

In the course of numerous license title implementations, it was by far not only good game software that saw the light of day. And some licensed cucumbers were created in today's well-known studios, which are now ashamed of their amateurish beginnings. Blizzard tried twice to obtain a DC license, but failed to reap the credit with The Death and Return of Superman (1994) and Justice League Task Force (1995). After all, the almost insolvent Studio Condor and Blizzard met during these interludes. Unceremoniously bought up by Blizzard, Condor brought out the successful title Diablo in 1997 under the name Blizzard North. Rare also tried a licensed title in 1990 and developed the GameBoy version of The Amazing Spider-Man under the notorious publisher LJN, who would go down as one of the worst publishers in gaming history.






The Death and Return of Superman was the first of two attempts by Blizzard to implement a licensed title. Fortunately, after moderate success, the studio abandoned this project.



The Death and Return of Superman was the first of two attempts by Blizzard to implement a licensed title. Fortunately, after moderate success, the studio abandoned this project.

Source: PC Games




Worst games ever?







With games like Uncanny X-Man, publisher LJN built up such a bad reputation over the years that it is still notorious for licensed pickles today - over 20 years after its closure.



With games like Uncanny X-Man, publisher LJN built up such a bad reputation over the years that it is still notorious for licensed pickles today – over 20 years after its closure.

Source: LJN Ltd.




LJN: Any NES gamer or retro fan will have heard of this studio before. Although it didn't develop its games in-house, its rainbow logo soon became a hallmark of miserable games. Realistically speaking, not all LJN titles were bad, of course, but the studio earned a bad reputation that still resonates today. From the gruesome The Uncanny X-Men (1989) to the half-baked Spider-Man: Return of The Sinister Six (1992) to Venom / Spider-Man: Seperation Anxiety (1995), very few games under this brand seemed to achieve qualitative success . Despite these bad omens, Acclaim bought the studio in 1990.







Even before the controversial Fantastic Four film, there was a video game about the four heroes - an incredibly lousy thing.



Even before the controversial Fantastic Four film, there was a video game about the four heroes – an incredibly lousy thing.

Source: PC Games




At the time, Nintendo had decided that only five games per publisher per year could appear for the NES in order to preserve the quality of the games. Acclaim saw the opportunity to elegantly circumvent this maximum with another studio and took advantage of it. Acclaim apparently accepted to earn itself a bad reputation. At least for the time being, DC let the publisher do it despite one quality failure after another. From 1995 to 1998 three games were released under the Batman license. Not only were they all from Acclaim and the in-house studio Probe Entertainment, which Acclaim had bought out in 1995, but they also had subterranean quality. LJN was no longer needed – Acclaim closed the studio in 1996. After the lousy Batman and Robin (1998) and a playful Fantastic Four debacle (1997), DC and Marvel apparently agreed that superheroes and Acclaim were a bad combination, and the publisher's studios lost the rights to the different ones Licenses to work.







Capcom's X-Men: Children of Atom kicked off the Marvel vs Capcom games. With an unlockable Street Fighter character, this title broke through the walls between the universes.



Capcom's X-Men: Children of Atom kicked off the Marvel vs Capcom games. With an unlockable Street Fighter character, this title broke through the walls between the universes.

Source: PC Games




The 90s also had very positive things in store: Capcom's X-Men: Children of Atom was a hit on the arcade machines and laid the foundation for all Marvel vs with the unlockable street fighter character Akum (Japanese "Gouki"). -Street Fighter games that were to come. While Marvel was saying goodbye to the decade with this promising collaboration, Titus Interactive brought the 90s DC Pickle Parade to a grand conclusion. In 1999, Superman 64 was released, which is still considered one of the worst games in gaming history. As Superman you fly through Metropolis, which turned out to be a real problem due to the incredibly diffuse controls. It doesn't help that you have to constantly maneuver through the ring course. If you want to enjoy the beautiful view if you fail, you will also be disappointed: A dense kryptonite fog obscures the fact that the N64 could not display a proper foresight and that all graphics appeared to come from a children's kit.






Superman, which was released for the Nintendo 64, not only disappointed with the terrible controls and lousy game mechanics, the title was also horrible visually.



Superman, which was released for the Nintendo 64, not only disappointed with the terrible controls and lousy game mechanics, the title was also horrible visually.

Source: PC Games




At the same time as the new millennium, DC decided to award most of the various licenses to large, well-known manufacturers. Ubisoft and Infogrames (now renamed Atari) were the most common publishers for licensed titles under DC this decade, and EA, THQ and SCI Games (later bought by Square Enix) were also allowed to get involved. That changed suddenly in 2006: with the establishment of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment two years earlier, DC's parent company Warner Bros. Home Entertainment built up its own game publisher and made itself independent by buying promising developer studios.







With Batman: Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady created such a good game that Warner Bros. did not hesitate and bought the studio.



With Batman: Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady created such a good game that Warner Bros. did not hesitate and bought the studio.

Source: PC Games




In 2007, Warner Bros. took over the Traveller's Tales studio, which has been known for its Lego-themed licensed titles since 2005. A year later, Lego Batman: The Videogame saw the light of day and received tons of positive reviews. When the studio Midway Games one year after the release of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe filed for bankruptcy, Warner Bros. bought large parts of the company – including the Mortal Kombat license. The great success of Batman: Arkham Asylum by the still young development studio Rocksteady also brought it a takeover by the now huge games publisher, which has only had games developed in-house since then.

Similar to DC, from the 2000s onwards, Marvel pursued the strategy of granting its in-house superhero licenses exclusively to large publishers. Unlike DC, however, Marvel relied on a single manufacturer and signed a contract with Activision for exclusive rights to all Spider-Man and X-Men games. The only exception should be Marvel vs. Be Capcom – these rights remain with Capcom.

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