In an entertainment landscape saturated with superhero movies, games, theme park rides, and collectible bobbleheads, it's easy to assume that you know about all of the comic book stars who've made their way into video games. After all, it's a solid bet that you know where Spider-Man came from when you're playing Marvel's Spider-Man.
But for some games, the lineage hasn't always been quite so clear. Game developers often look to comics and graphic novels for inspiration, and sometimes they look just a little bit beneath the surface to find their next big hit (or miss, in some cases). Here are just a few games that are unexpectedly inspired by comics.
Ubisoft's 2003 shooter XIII set itself apart from the pack with gorgeous cel-shaded graphics that made the game look like a comic book in motion. Heck, it still looks great today.
In only makes sense, then, that the game actually was based on a comic book. It's adapted from a Belgian graphic novel of the same name, which follows an amnesiac man simply named XIII who is wanted by the FBI. The game's twisty, conspiracy-heavy plot and stylish look garnered enough of a cult following when it was originally released that the game got a remaster last year. Unfortunately, it kind of sucked.
Licensed games have a terrible reputation today, but in the late '80s, Capcom released a string of Disney-licensed platformers that rank among the best games of their time. DuckTales is one of the best examples.
Its development staff featured several important members of the Mega Man team, which explains why its gameplay and music are so sharp. It's easily one of the best duck-based games out there… which is a strangely competitive category. But while it's based on the DuckTales cartoon, the cartoon itself drew inspiration from artist Carl Banks's run of Uncle Scrooge comic books, which Disney began publishing in the 1950s.
8 Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game
Okay, yes, if you've heard of the movie Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, you're probably at least aware of the graphic novel series. However, you might not know that the tie-in game is actually based on the comics, not the movie.
This means that the game characterizes Scott as more of a cool slacker than as, well, Michael Cera. This works well, though, because the gameplay is a side-scrolling, arcadey beat-em-up – and this version of Scott seems more like he can actually throw a punch. The game was out of circulation for years due to a licensing issue, but fortunately, it was recently reissued on modern consoles.
7 Ragnarok Online
Ragnarok Online was a part of the wave of MMORPGs that gained traction in the early 2000s. It launched roughly around the same time as classics like Final Fantasy 11, RuneScape, and MapleStory among others. Its mixture of polygonal environments and 2D sprite-based characters feels charmingly retro and a little bit cartoony.
Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that the game was based on the South Korean manhwa series Ragnarok, by the artist Lee Myung-jin. Ragnarok Online has completely overshadowed its source material, though, and the game is still active nearly 20 years after its launch.
6 The Red Star
The Red Star is another memorable title from the early 2000s, though it wasn't quite as successful as Ragnarok Online. But despite its commercial failure, it's actually a pretty solid game that combines side-scrolling brawling with bullet hell sequences and RPG-style leveling systems.
It also benefits from a unique setting, taking place in a near-future Soviet Union that's learned how to use magic to conquer their enemies. That setting was sourced from Christian Gossett's comic series of the same name, which gained a following for its richly detailed artwork. It's a shame that the game couldn't replicate that success, but it's worth playing if you can track down a copy.
Like The Red Star, the Turok series was originally developed by Acclaim Studios. Unlike The Red Star, though, Turok was a huge success when it debuted on the Nintendo 64 with 1997's Turok: Dinosaur Hunter.
The game cast players as the titular time-traveling warrior, who is sent to defend the earth from malicious forces encroaching from the mysterious Lost Land. It was praised for its cutting-edge graphics and turned into a huge system-seller for the N64. However, its source material had been around for years before the game was released; the Turok comics debuted back in 1954, meaning Turok used to share store shelves with Scrooge McDuck. We'd pay good money for that crossover.
4 Sam & Max Hit The Road
Sam & Max Hit The Road is one of the most beloved adventure games from LucasArts' enviable run at the genre in the early '90s. This is the same period that produced classics like Maniac Mansion, The Secret Of Monkey Island, and anything that Tim Schafer had his hands on. So why does Sam & Max stand out? Simply put, it's funny as heck. The game has the strange and colorful atmosphere of an old-school Looney Tunes short, but with an extra layer of adult humor added on.
That edge comes directly from Steve Purcell's Sam & Max comics, which debuted in the late '80s. Despite the game's success, though, LucasArts moved away from adventure games as the years past, so Purcell ended up taking the characters elsewhere.
3 The Wolf Among Us
That elsewhere was Telltale Games, the developers behind the sequel series Sam & Max Save The World. That game's success paved the way for Telltale's later offerings, many of which were based on comics. One example is The Wolf Among Us.
The game – released in five episodes from 2013 to 2014 – is based on Bill Willingham's Fable comics, which ran for over a decade and garnered critical acclaim. The game was just as beloved, earning a reputation as one of the best episodic games ever made, and a season two is currently in development at the recently revived Telltale.
2 The Darkness
Back in the Xbox 360 era, first-person shooters were everywhere, and developers reveled in finding new and interesting ways to twist the genre. One of the most inventive games of the time was Starbreeze Studios' The Darkness, which was released in 2007. The game differentiated itself from the pack with some pretty strange ideas. You play as a mobster who, upon turning 21, is possessed by a manifestation of ancient cosmic evil. This possession gives you incredible powers, but it also forces you to eat the hearts of your enemies in order to recharge your health. Which is pretty chill!
The game is based on the comic book character The Darkness, who shares a universe with the similarly gruesome Spawn. They'd probably have a lot to talk about.
1 Alien Vs. Predator
Finally, Alien Vs. Predator presents one of the most complicated comic-to-video game adaptation stories ever. The Alien Vs. Predator comics are based on the Alien and Predator movies, which were separate franchises until the comics debuted in 1989. A movie based on the comics was quickly put in development, and several games based on the series were planned to release with the movie. These included two side-scrollers for the SNES and for arcades (developed completely independently from each other) and the highly acclaimed first-person shooter for the Atari Jaguar.
The movie never came out, though, so instead, we're left with a whole series of games based on the comics… which are based on the movies. Everything old is new again.
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