The few, the proud, the mighty video games based on comics NOT starring superheros…
We all love using virtual superpowers to swing around Manhattan or give criminals concussions, but the spandex crowd is merely a single facet of the comic book medium, even if it appears to take up most of it. So many great stories have been told without the need of secret identities and supervillains, and a few have even been adapted in a few video games.
It may not be a long list – and it’s clear one developer in particular is VERY interested in adapting non-super comics. Still, these seven games represent the very best of what game makers can produce when they look outside the borders of Gotham and Metropolis.
With more than 20 Eisner and Harvey Awards under its belt, Jeff Smith’s Bone might be the most critically acclaimed comic to ever receive its own game. Irregularly publishing 55 issues between 1991 and 2004, stars Phoney, Smiley and Fone Bone remain some for the most recognizable characters in independent comics.
And when a group of adventurous devs left LucasArts to form Telltale Games, guess what they chose to adapt into their very first series of episodic point-and-click games? Yup, long before The Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us developer discovered its penchant for the cel-shady dramatic, Smith’s Tolkien vs Sunday strip comedic epic became Telltale’s trial run for what it now does better than anyone.
Starting with Out from Boneville in 2005, and unlike most comic games, and hell, ALL current Telltale games, Bone stuck rigidly to the comics and each episode bore the name name of the comics’ volume. The first episode was met with middling reviews, with critics calling it a slowly-paced retread of the classic comic source material. Even though The Great Cow Race, the second episode and last (for now) released in April of 2006, seemed like a marked improvement, the games quietly faded away like so many other tragedies to befall the beloved Bone series, including a fizzled deal Nickelodeon and dropped plans for a feature film.
Anybody a fan of Belgium comics? Wait, don’t answer yet. Belgium Comics that aren’t TinTin? Well then, you’d be forgiven for never having read XIII, the 1984 graphic novel series about an amnesiac man caught in a deadly conspiracy. You’d also be forgiven for not having picked up the 2003 game developed by pre-Assassin’s Creed Ubisoft, because there was clearly very little interest on PS2, Xbox and GameCube either.
Although XIII ended up receiving lukewarm reviews and selling poorly, at least it immediately captured gamers’ attention with its cel-shaded comic style, proudly wearing its splash page and panel format roots on its virtual sleeve. If nothing else, that aesthetic starkly distinguished it from the glut of games featuring fuzzy triangles during the PS2 era, and for that it deserves a bit of credit. Of course, the gameplay underneath was a bit on the bland side, which not even the the all-star voice cast could hide.
Playing the part of Jason Fly, a man with no memory wrapped up in a mystery that goes as high as an assassinated president was played by none other than Kalfornia Mulder, David Duchovny, rounded out in roles taken up by, uh, singer Eve, and Adam West. They’re technically stars, c’mon! Despite its apparent failure, a small contingent of fans still beg for a sequel, and in a twisted Monkey’s Paw kind of way, got their wish in the form of XIII: Lost Identity for iOS. This is what you get for asking!
Of every game on our list, Turok goes back waaaaaaay further. No, we’re not talking about his Dino slaying moniker – Turok as a comic dates back all the way to 1954 before graduating into his own series under Gold Key comics that ran all the way up into the ’80s. In 1993, Valiant, quite possibly the poster boy for the rise and fall of ’90s alternative publishers, successfully resurrected the series. It was also during that time where Turok met Acclaim, the company that would change his life, starting with the fog-drenched N64 shooter.
After selling Turok’s games, one of the most wildly successful SLASH self-destructive video game companies in history purchased Valiant. Under the new name Acclaim Comics, all of Valiant’s titles were cancelled and rebooted seemingly for the sole purpose of making games. Shadowman, X-O Manowar, and perhaps most famously, Turok, were invited to the party. Launched exclusively on the Nintendo 64, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, the first ever FPS on the console launched in early 1997 and became an immediate commercial and critical hit.
The game’s 3D exploration mechanics helped distinguish it from then-current FPSs born on PC, and its said that Turok series continued success on the N64 almost single-handedly kept Acclaim in business for a few years while everything else failed. Of course, it all eventually all fell apart, culminating with, amongst many other things, a marketing stunt that offered $10K to anyone would name their newborn child Turok. That all led to a muddled legacy, and the dinosaur hunter’s six game series seemingly concluded with in 2008. However, Turok lives on in comic pages, having relaunched a new series under Dynamite Comics in February 2014.
4. Alien vs Predator
Kids today probably know Aliens vs Predator as – there’s no way to sugarcoat this – some of the worst movies imaginable, but the crossover franchise was originated, refined, and ultimately popularized in the pages of Dark Horse Comics. One of the largest American publisher in independent comics, Dark Horse first had the idea to pit dick-shaped extraterrestrials against Jamaican game hunters in its individual Aliens and Predator comics, and the first officially licensed issue of Aliens vs Predator hit shelves to coincide with Predator 2, the first film to ever acknowledge Fox’s shared alien universe.
It may have taken Hollywood more than a decade to catch on, but gaming showed immediate interest. Let’s put it this way: There are more Aliens vs Predator games than there are Aliens, Predator, and Aliens vs Predator movies combined, including a memorable Capcom arcade game, one of the few reasons to ever buy an Atari Jaguar, and most notably, in the PC first-person shooter developed by Rebellion.
Players could control both the Alien, the Predator, and a very unlucky Colonial Marine, and it’s authentic atmosphere made the equally well-reviewed sequel a hardware powerhouse during the waning days of PC bragging rights. The final hallmark of a true classic? The original AvP PC game received an HD remaster with Aliens vs Predator Classic 2000 in 2010, which you can still buy on Steam.