The superhero genre is at its all-time high right now. With Marvel having released its 17th film in its Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) which also includes seven live-action TV shows, and DC unleashing its fourth film in its DC Extended Universe (DCEU) franchise, it would seem that superheroes have taken over every aspect of entertainment. That is, except one.
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The video game industry which ranks in billions every year is still relatively free of superhero influence. While there are many video game adaptations of superhero films, there has yet to be a massively popular World of Warcraft-style Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) that features superheroes. Now, that does not mean that superheroes do not exist in smaller MMO games. So let’s look at the best superhero MMOs out there and why you should play them. The following is not listed in order of best to worst, but in how much enjoyment I found in playing the games.
This MMO was first being developed as Marvel Universe Online. When those plans fell through, Cryptic Studios released the game as Champions Online in 2009. The game is beautifully rendered and, despite its age, has very nice graphics and mechanics and still boasts a large player base. The game literally makes the player feel as if they are in a comic book world. The game is also very funny, incorporating humor into its story lines. On more than one occasion, I found myself laughing out loud. Two of the coolest elements of the game are its nemesis system and its intense costume customization. The nemesis system allows a player at level 25 to create a “Nemesis” for the hero they have created. It allows the player to create the nemesis’s minions, powers and look. The nemesis will then pop up and the game will incorporate the nemesis into story missions. The costume customization allows the player to create an outfit from hundreds of options at creation. When the player maxes out at level 40, it opens a more in-depth creator which has literally thousands of combos to choose from. Champions Online is a free-to-play game, but allows the player to trade in-game money for cash shop items. Thankfully, this game is not pay-to-win. A large game expansion was just added last year, so step on over and give it a try.
Marvel Heroes was developed and released in 2013. It is a free-to-play game set in the Marvel universe. The game creator, Gazillion Entertainment, is headed by David Brevik, who was one of the main forces behind the Diablo series for Blizzard. Marvel Heroes plays very much like the Diablo series, employing a dungeon style combat-and-loot system. The game’s story is light and players focus more on lot gathering and dungeon conquest. The main draw is that players can play as any one of more than 55 heroes and villains, each with unique powers and skills. The game is free to play, and players have access to the full game at start. Micro-transactions only provide things like extra heroes, costumes, and skill boosts. While the game is not realistic (even in a comic book, Manhattan wouldn’t have an invasion of five different villainous mobs all at once), the game’s Diablo-style combat allows for mass mob fights — multiple players posing as various heroes. If a player has enjoyed Diablo or Torchlight, I would highly recommend this game.
DC Universe Online
DC Universe Online was released in 2011, and is a free-to-play game with micro-transactions. The game features DC’s famous roster of superheroes and allows the player to create a hero of their own design. While Marvel Heroes allows its players to directly play as Marvel superheroes, DC Universe Online does not. Each newly created hero is based on one of DC’s heroes such as Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman. The player’s powers and skills are then “inspired” by those heroes. The game has a lot of story and the player runs into a lot of DC characters. While the combat is rewarding, the power skill bar is very limiting. Micro-transactions also limit what a free-to-play player can do. The game’s open world is very fun to fly around in, and it can be very rewarding to pound criminals after swooping down from the sky. Overall, the game feels like a less fun version of Champions Online, as that game provides more features for free and has more customization options. If one is a DC fan, try the game. I can’t say that as a DC fan I did not enjoy myself. But overall, Champions Online does a better job at creating an open world superhero experience.
Overall the above three games are all good at what they endeavor to do. None of them are “bad” games. As a big fan of the superhero genre, I found myself immersed in a superhero world when playing Champions Online. Therefore, I enjoyed it the most. As a Diablo fan, Marvel Heroes gave me a lot of fun times, and I still play that game in between Diablo seasons. The weakest link in this article is sadly DC Universe Online. DC with its massive roster and almost endless story lines to drawn from should have been the game at the top of this list. But sadly, due to micro-transactions and clunky controls, the game fell short of my expectations. With the superhero genre showing no signs of ending, it is still possible that a new superhero MMO will come out and blow us all away to become the next World of Warcraft (we are looking at you Valiance Online).