For nearly as long as video games have existed, the idea of transferring a comic book storyline to that digital medium has been around as well. Though for a while, hero-focused games (and licensed games sort of in general) were middling titles at best, a decade ago things started to change for the better with the debut of Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Developed by Rocksteady Studios for Warner Bros. Interactive, the game put players in control of the Dark Knight himself – now trapped in the titular prison along with many of his most notorious foes, thanks to falling into a trap set by the Joker. On top of that, Batman must work without any of his allies, as the Joker claims to have bombs set throughout Gotham, and will detonate them if anyone attempts to help Batman. Fighting his way through the prison, Batman eventually uncovers the Joker’s true plan: to gain access to Titan, a more powerful version of the venom that gives Bane his strength, and use it to create an army of superpowered henchmen. Batman is eventually able to track down the Joker – who eventually uses the Titan serum on himself to become truly monstrous – and defeat him.
As a third-person action-adventure game, Batman was always fully visible on screen. The player could choose to fight through the various henchmen throughout the asylum, or use more stealthy methods to avoid them or take them out. The player also had the “Detective Vision” ability, which allows them to see enemy status and other interactive elements in a given environment.
Arkham Asylum took inspiration primarily from the Grant Morrison story Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, as well as from the Batman-related works of Neal Adams and Frank Miller. The head writer on the project was Paul Dini, who had previously worked on Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, and The New Batman/Superman Adventures, among many others. Aside from Dini, other members of the DC Animated Universe would reprise their roles in Arkham Asylum, including Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Arleen Sorkin returning to their voice roles as Batman, the Hoker, and Harley Quinn, respectively.
The game received universal critical acclaim, eventually receiving the Guiness World Record for “Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever” – right up until the sequel, Arkham City, surpassed it a couple of years later. The game eventually sold more than 2.5 million copies by the end of September 2009, and would go on to win numerous Game of the Year awards as well. Its success started the Arkham series of video games, which included the likes of Arkham City, Arkham Origins and Arkham Knight.