When thinking of iconic comic book superheroes that have made an impact in the video game world, none stand out more than Batman and Spider-Man. I guess it's only fitting that the battle be between stars of two competing publishing companies. Though DC's Caped Crusader has had a longer tenure in the periodical literature, Marvel's Spidey actually debuted first on the digital entertainment platform. Both characters have racked up dozens titles since the 1980s, each hero with their respective high and low points. So in the end, who's amassed the greater prestige? Let's travel through the timeline and find out.
First out of the gate was the 1982 game, simply titled Spider-Man. It may seem archaic now, but the simple building climber required finesse to avoid Green Goblin's goons and defuse bombs. The other two Spidey games of the 80s (a graphical adventure with text inputs, and a side-scroller with slow load times and slower gameplay) didn't do much to swing our Marvel hero forward.
Batman had a solid entry with its 1986 isometric action-adventure, which looked and played far beyond its time. The well detailed Batman: The Caped Crusader from 1988 played with depth using multiple windows when moving between rooms. The very end of the decade saw Michael Keaton don the Batsuit on the big screen, which led to an overload of console makers clawing at publishers to deliver a movie tie-in game for their system. The NES version was the best of the bunch, with a swift framerate and wall scaling that felt like Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden had somehow teleported to Gotham City.
However, as is the case time and time again, most games based on movies flop. With three more big-screen outings (each more pathetic than the last), the video game entries followed suit. Though colorful and decent in the graphics department, the beat 'em up genre that mushroomed in the 90s made for some tough competition. With the successes of Final Fight and Streets of Rage, even the iconic DC superhero couldn't pummel them into submission.
Spider-Man had quite a few video game showings in the 1990s, appearing on all the major consoles (even the Game Boy) and having the honor of starring in the last title produced for SEGA's 32X add-on, Spider-Man: Web of Fire. Yet it was the coin-operated arcade games that were the most memorable. I personally remember losing many allowances worth of quarters on the 1991 Spider-Man: The Video Game action game and 1995 Marvel Super Heroes fighter.