11. Arkham City & Origins: Penguin’s Lairs (Iceberg Lounge and The Final Offer)
***WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!***
The Penguin has received quite a bit of love from the Arkham games, I say this because he has two of the best stages in the whole series. The first is the Iceberg Lounge of Arkham City, which is an old museum/high society nightclub turned supervillain lair. This place throws all types of enemies Batman’s way, including mobs of thugs, sledgehammers, a freeze gun, an undead giant, T-Rex bones and even a friggin’ shark has Batman’s number!
In Arkham Origins, Penguin’s perilous reign continues. His ship is called “The Final Offer”, and his lair is once again full of everything primed to kill Batman, including but not limited to thugs, flesh melting steam, electrified water, snipers and an armored SUPER-ASSASSIN with an arsenal of blades and explosives. But where both of these locations really shine is the attention to detail in every corridor and room, some of the best visuals in the series are in these two levels. The Final Offer and Iceberg Lounge are both excellent examples of how a chapter in a superhero game should be done, and Penguin sure does know how to run a proper gauntlet for Batman.
12. Arkham Asylum & City: Beginning Sequences
A Hamill-voiced Joker being wheeled into Arkham Asylum as you plod slowly behind playing as a realistic feeling and looking Conroy-voiced Batman was one of the greatest gaming experiences I’ve ever had. From the get-go, everything was pitch-perfect; the highly stylized setting was simultaneously harrowing and exciting. The sequel cranked it up, from controlling the initial fight as Catwoman to being Bruce Wayne interrogated by the sinister Hugo Strange, Arkham City hooks you hard from the start. It rolls you into rescuing Catwoman from a maniacal Two-Face, where you get shot at by a sniping Joker from a church belfry he’s rigged with explosives in an attempt to murder you. Fantastic. Though the next two games had compelling and exciting openings, the first two were perfection.
13. Arkham Games 1-4: Easter-Egg Lore
There are too many items to list in the Easter-egg department for the Arkham games, it’s like a giant 1000 by 1000 carton. However, there are some really good highlights. Perhaps the creepiest one is Calendar Man saying different things depending on the real-life month you visit him in his Arkham City cell. One of my favorite ones is Kate Kane’s voice message to Bruce in Arkham Knight, oh do I love me some Batwoman. Honestly, it seems like every flyer, poster, sign, business or corporate name, second-tier character and cubby hole in these games has something relevant to Batman/Gotham lore, which shows the level of love these games were made with. As a lover of Batman lore myself, I’m greatly appreciative.
14. Arkham Origins: The Royal Hotel
While tracking down a mysterious man called the “Joker”, a young Batman finds himself infiltrating the Royal Hotel, thus beginning what I think is one of the greatest sequences in the Arkham games. Bats starts at the bottom of a giant twin building hotel and fights his way up through multiple stealth rooms, death traps, thug mobs, and boss fights. It is a perilous journey through Joker’s version of keeping the Christmas spirit alive. Every hallway and battleground in the hotel is amazingly pulled off, I think it is a true achievement of excellence in gaming. There is even a reference to the Court of Owls at the top, making me even happier. Once the hellish nightmare is over inside the hotel, the real fun begins, because this is where the Joker begins to be fascinated, no, obsessed with the Bat, and we all know where that road leads. Fantastic storytelling.
15. Arkham Games 1-4: Mature Moments
Criminality, brutality, and mental illness are frequently present in Batman stories, but Arkham Asylum really set the stage, especially for gamers to experience playing as Batman in distressing circumstances. Though Arkham Knight is the only game in the series with an M rating, the other games also have their fair share of unsettling scenes and awful crimes. Going in order from the first game to the last, the unhinged, feral inmates of Arkham Asylum ambushing Batman was startling and disturbing, but the winner of the first installment is Victor Zsasz’s hostage situation with Dr. Young. Heart pounding insanity there! Wait, I may have spoken too soon, a hallucinating Bruce seeing his dead parents speaking to him while in body bags at the Asylum Morgue was plenty messed up as well. Another gem is the Cobblepot/Zsasz backstory in Arkham City, the mission where the phones eerily ring throughout the prison. Zsasz provides a chilling tale while he threatens to kill hostage cops (his little piggies) if Bats doesn’t comply with his demands. Hush also makes an appearance in City, and Batman has to investigate grisly murders in order to track the sick-minded Thomas Elliot. Surprisingly enough, Arkham Origins has probably the 2nd most disturbing image of all in the games: the dead body of Tiffany Ambrose hanging from a chandelier. It reminded me of the movies “Seven” or “Silence of the Lambs”. I would also like to note that the Joker was responsible for the atrocity, usually, in the Arkham games, the Joker’s slaughter-clown side is very implied and not witnessed firsthand, but not here. Of course, the winner is Professor Pyg from Arkham Knight, there’s too much to talk about here, but I’m pretty sure all I need to say is “more hanging bodies, bloody cleavers and human dolls”.
16. Arkham Games 2-4: Combat Practice
The Arkham games are truly great, but the lifeblood of the Arkham series is the quality of the combat, and all of the games allow players to brawl in a plethora of environments outside of the main story. City rooftops, filthy streets, sewers, warehouses, funhouses, the Batcave, Wayne Manor, high-security prisons, arenas and more, the Batfam never has a shortage of training rooms to perfect certain moves and challenges, and the stages were usually very well crafted and pleasing to the eye. Playing as Nightwing and Tim Drake in City, Deathstroke in Origins and the addition of Batgirl, Red Hood & Harley in Knight has always brought me back to sharpen my skills, even if I’m not playing a main storyline.
17. Arkham Knight: Scarecrow’s Fear Toxin Hellscape
Of all the things that would keep Batman from sleep, I would think that a large explosion in Gotham City would rank very high, probably right below a legit Joker sighting. So when a mega explosion hits Gotham and Scarecrow’s Cloudburst terrorist attack unleashes a city-wide blanket of panic in the form of a giant hell-cloud, well, it’s the most catastrophic moment in the series. Flying with Bats above the roiling, orange-horror truly is a sight to behold, but then the story decides to have Batman go down into the storm to get his Batmobile. Arkham Knight absolutely escalated the gameplay from previous installments, and this awe-inspiring, visual event stands out among its best moments.
18. Arkham City and Knight: Cinematic Sequences (Wonder Tower & Stagg Airships)
The Arkham games have some breathtaking graphics and overall design, however, some stages stand out as the best. And then once you get to the best there’s still visuals from the games that are unlike any other, setting the bar even higher to straight-up epic. Batman going to high tech airships in Arkham Knight was a great choice by the team at Rocksteady. Blimps and airships have been shown over Gotham city for decades now in the comics, movies, and the Arkham series. But here, we get to play as Batman going up to some of the most kickass, technologically advanced airships ever. Bats flying from one to the other, fighting in and outside them was a great highlight from the incredible fourth and final game.
The climax chapter of Arkham City is one of the best action-sequences in the Arkham series, and perhaps one of the best in gaming history. Professor Strange unleashes Protocol 10 and prison-wide chaos ensues in Arkham City. The best part is that Batman is more than capable of dealing with the new danger and the player is taken to new heights in the gameplay, literally and figuratively. Batman must first deal with helicopter pilots shooting into the city, then the real fun begins: Batman must scale Wonder Tower to take down Strange. Batman starts at the bottom and must pass a nasty stealth room, and then he grapples, fights, and climbs his way up to the very top where more guards are waiting. Seeing Arkham City far below was a moment to soak up, you get to see Strange’s stronghold in all its glory (what a brilliant scumbag).
19. Arkham Games 1-4: Mission Pacing & Detective Sequences
None of the Arkham games take a big break when it comes to presenting an entertaining narrative, Batman and Associates always have their hands full with intense and intriguing challenges. One of the Arkham series’ best accomplishments was presenting multiple villains in each game for Batman to face without damaging the flow of the story. Very rarely does Batman go from supervillain brawl directly to another supervillain brawl, quite the contrary, Batman usually must follow or find leads through detective work in order to confront supervillains. Batman can interrogate thugs, follow blood or chemical trails with his detective vision, eavesdrop, use his gadgets in various ways and more to find clues and leads in order to progress. There is usually never too much downtime or too much overstimulation, instead, players can experience Batman being fully tested at a pace that allows the player to soak in all the glories and tragedies of an Arkhamized Gotham. That being said, the games are not immune to criticism, and we have plenty of them for the series, but despite the flaws, they’re truly one of the best gaming experiences out there.
20. Arkham Games 1-4: Stealth Rooms
Stealth rooms in the Arkham series can take a little (or a lot of) time to get used to if you are new to that style of gameplay. I remember dreading them in my first playthrough of Arkham Asylum and City because Batman against five or more trash talking thugs with guns was very intense, and I lost often. Once Origins came around I welcomed them, Arkham style stealth rooms allow for a unique satisfaction that can’t be found in fist fueled brawls. Bats must hide by using the environment, get into proper position and then begin picking off enemies one or two at a time (or more if you time it right). What’s really satisfying is that Batman is just as brutal in stealth missions as he is in facing a mob of unarmed thugs. Bats can use small explosions, weak walls, choke holds and more to make the unfortunate criminals never want to leave home again, one just has to be patient. There are also stealth room challenges outside of the main story, some of the most fun I’ve had playing the Arkham games was orchestrating the perfect demise of six thugs by use of explosive gel and other means.
Click HERE for Part Three of our retrospective journey to part one of the Top 20 WORST things the Arkham Games did!
20 THINGS THE BATMAN ARKHAM GAMES GOT RIGHT – PART 2
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