The Best Comic Book Games Never Made
The industry has seen an influx of games based on comic properties the past few years – usually coinciding with a big-screen movie debut. Game Informer plays home to more than one comic book aficionado, and as such, we decided to play make-believe with a few unlikely comic properties that could – with the right team and a bit of magic – be translated into stellar games. Superheroes in capes are overdone. Check out our list of improbable comic-to-game candidates below.
Creator: Garth Ennis
Artist: Steve Dillon
Publication Date: 1995-2000
The Pitch: The way we see it, there are dozens of reasons Preacher would translate into an action-packed game. A nominee and recipient of several Eisner Awards for best writer, Garth Ennis fleshed out a story like nothing we’ve read before. The cast of colorful characters (the understatement of the century) includes Jesse Custer – a reverend who makes it his personal mission to extract revenge on God, Tulip O’Hare – Custer’s longtime love interest and gun fanatic, and Cassidy – the pair’s shady drug addict friend who happens to be a vampire. But, that only addresses the three main protagonists. The supporting cast includes the Saint of Killers, Arseface, Herr Starr, the Duke, and even God himself, all of whom would provide diverse gameplay and fascinating dialogue.
Key Features: The most difficult task would be maintaining Ennis’ superb storytelling and carefully crafted narrative with unapologetically violent action. Gunplay would be the bulk of combat, pitting Custer and his companions against The Grail. Custer could also use the Word of God to manipulate people to his advantage. We’d be remiss not to include a Saint of Killers segment – blasting away foes with his Walker Colt revolvers would be a thrill. The fairly linear narrative would be punctuated with flashbacks to flesh out character history and their subsequent motivations – a large part of what made Ennis’ characters so remarkable. The game would unfold through heaven, hell, and the earthly plain, all tied together by stylized Western movie influences. Sound good, Pilgrim?
Developer: Rockstar North has proven their willingness to take on controversial topics and their ability to tie together sprawling worlds with a surprisingly personal narrative. Considering the violent, sexually gratuitous, and at times disturbing nature of Preacher, we’d be hard pressed to find anyone else capable of pulling it off.
Creators: Jonathan and Joshua Luna
Artists: Jonathan and Joshua Luna
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: 2005 – 2007
The Pitch: A bizarre take on the classic zombie story, Girls unfolds in a small town plagued with a big problem – naked, flesh-hungry women have invaded, driven only by the need to procreate. These mysterious “girls” see earthly females as a threat that needs to be eliminated. Conversely, men are nothing but sexual fodder. The town is isolated from the outside world by an invisible barrier, leaving the townspeople to fend for themselves as the population starts to dwindle. These alien girls are capable of tearing a person limb from limb and are driven only by primal instincts, so the residents of Pennystown must band together if they're going to have any hope of surviving this unexpected threat.
Key Features: If a developer was willing to take the risk of populating a game with naked, bloodthirsty antagonists, then we'd see the birth of a truly unique survival horror game. Playing as a long-absent resident of Pennystown, building relationships, scavenging for supplies and unlocking the mystery of the infestation will make up the bulk of the game. You’ll have to be diplomatic to secure strength in numbers and insure that paranoia doesn’t overcome your allies. If a member from your band of survivors is dragged off, you can choose to rescue them at your own risk. Or leave them for dead. Is it worth putting your neck on the line? Perhaps, if that person has access to valuable resources that will help insure your own survival. Scavenging for medical supplies and weaponry will be a necessity, as a Left 4 Dead inspired AI director will keep close encounters randomized. As you make your way through the town you will uncover a web of intrigue indicative of any small town, layered on top the ever-present threat of dismemberment by naked women. Small towns often harbor dark secrets, and this is no exception.
Developer: Selling a game that would teeter between M and AO to anyone is going to be a tough pitch, but given the opportunity we think that Tecmo would fit the bill nicely. Tecmo has established a firm grasp on the horror genre with the Fatal Frame franchise, proving that atmosphere, suspense and intrigue can be paramount to actual combat.
Creator: Gerard Way
Artist: Gabriel Ba
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Publication Date: 2007 – present
The Pitch: Penned by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way, Umbrella Academy won an Eisner Award in 2008 for Best Limited Series and already has a film adaptation in the works. Not bad for his debut book. The quirky cast of characters includes children spontaneously born to women who were not pregnant in a strange, worldwide phenomenon. Eccentric millionaire Reginald Hargreeves adopts seven of the most promising children, cryptically stating that it’s a move to save the world. Raised as a family unit of super-siblings, each of the children that make up the Umbrella Academy are gifted with unique powers. The comic takes place when the group is reunited after the death of their adopted father, but this leaves decades of untapped adventuring for the game to explore.
Key Features: You either get Umbrella Academy or you don't. If the peculiar plot went over your head, the compelling characters were there to entertain you. That’s why we think Umbrella Academy would make a perfect side-scrolling brawler – capitalizing on the best parts of Way’s creation without tethering it down with too many details. Featuring co-op heavy gameplay, Umbrella Academy would focus on the early life of the team instead of their sordid and complex future. As such, players could choose from Spaceboy, Kraken, Rumor, Séance, The Boy, and Horror (who would still be alive at this point). Missions would be dished out by Dr. Pogo and Sir Reginald Hargreeves, giving Way an opportunity to dream up more evil plots and epic disasters for Academy to thwart. Don’t tell us you wouldn’t be excited to take down a rampaging Eiffel Tower just like in the comic.
Developer: The Behemoth. Why? They understand fun, unadulterated action. Not to mention their iconic art style would lend itself to the project nicely.
Creator: Katsuhiro Otomo
Artist: Katsuhiro Otomo
Publisher: Epic Comics/Dark Horse Comics
Publication Date: 1982 – 1990
The Pitch: A long running Manga by Katsuhiro Otomo, Akira is well-known even with English fans as it was one of the first Japanese comics to be translated to English in its entirety. The book takes place in Neo-Tokyo after World War III nearly trashed the planet. Main protagonist Kaneda finds himself getting caught up in a band of guerrilla fighters bent on exposing the truth behind government-funded psychic research experiments. Things get worst when a young boy by the name of Tetsuo discovers he has psychic abilities, and his godlike powers begin to corrupt him. Only the mysterious boy called Akira may be able to keep Tetsuo's consuming desires in check.
Key Features: An open-world action title, the game itself would unfold in the early stages of the Manga – mostly in Neo Tokyo. Exploring the dynamic between the various factions, Kaneda would have access to all the trademark tech – guns, hoverbikes and even the original satellite gun. (You thought Gears of War's Hammer of Dawn was cool? They probably stole that from Akira.) With so many futuristic weapons, high speed bike races, and psychic battles, how could Akira be anything but an awesome game. Plus we're imaging an epic boss fight where players take control of Kei, as she psychically funnels other people's powers, in order to punch Tetsuo in the kisser...with a building.
Developer: Sucker Punch knows how to inject open world games with a superhuman flair – Infamous’ success proved as much. Sucker Punch would perfectly grasps the mission structure, evolving tech and grand scale of an Akira game, and as such garner our vote.
Creator: Jeff Smith
Artist: Jeff Smith
Publisher: Self-published/Image Comics
Publication Date: 1991 – 2004
The Pitch: Jeff Smith’s opus is one of the industry’s most beloved indie comics for a reason. Imagine if Disney had produced an animated Lord of the Rings film. If that doesn’t appeal to you, understand that Bone vacillates flawlessly between lighthearted comedic beats and chilling high fantasy overtones. The comic starts with the three Bone cousins – the rapacious Phoncible P. "Phoney" Bone, the cigar-smoking Smiley Bone, and lovestruck Fone Bone – and follows their journey through a magical lost land. While the three are ultimately on a quest to return home, they inevitably get wrapped up in an ancient struggle between the native people and the ominous The Lord of the Locusts.
Key Features: Yeah, yeah, we know that Telltale already did a series of Bone adventure titles, but we imagine Bone would work best as a more traditional RPG. The comic already follows a perfect RPG arc: Bone gets lost in a mysterious land, meets an assortment of crazy side-character, reunites with his cousins, befriends an aloof dragon, and is forced to contend with giant rat-like creatures. The series even has its own built-in minigames, such as Gran’ma Ben’s Great Cow Race, a Phoney Bone bar management sim that could function something like Rootbeer tapper, and a Cooking Mama-syle quiche making game staring everyone’s favorite stupid, stupid rat creatures.
Developer: Warren Spector’s new studio Junction Point fits the bill here. Not only is Spector and master gamemaker and a lover of lighthearted Disney-like cartoons, but he’s already proved he can deliver wonderful game’s with RPG elements with System Shock and Deus Ex.
Got your own brilliant idea for a comic game? Weigh in with your nominees below!