History in Handheld: The Dark Knight rises from Game Boy to iPad

Is that a Batarang in your pocket, or...

History in Handheld: The Dark Knight rises from Game Boy to iPad
iOS + DS + 3DS ...
| Batman Arkham City Lockdown

Later this week, the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, will finally hit cinema screens. As such, we're in full Bat-mode. We've got a Bat-fever, and the only cure is more Batman.

The Caped Crusader has his fair share of video games, including an impossible maze game on the ZX Spectrum, a Batmobile racer on the PlayStation, and an educational game featuring Mr Freeze.

But, we only care about handheld. So, we've played every portable Batman game in existence over the past few weeks to chart the history of games starring the hero Gotham deserves. Here, then, is Batman's history in handheld.

Batman (Game Boy)
By SunSoft - released in 1990


This unambitious tie-in breaks the very first rule of Batman: the Dark Knight doesn't carry a gun. Brucie Wayne becomes a cold-blooded killer as he runs through factories and sewers, killing every bad guy around.

Batman: Return of the Joker (Game Boy)
By SunSoft - released in 1991


As hard as Batman's codpiece, and about as much fun as being Christian Bale's director of photography. I could barely escape the first level - set in the sewers - on account of the game's finicky jump controls and crushingly difficult spikes.

Batman Returns (Game Gear, Atari Lynx)
By Aspect Co., Atari - released in 1992


It definitely had sharper and more colourful graphics than any Game Boy game. Sure, it's a dull-as-dirt beat-'em-up with uninspired levels, but if you had six batteries it might make your Game Boy-owning pals jealous. For about five minutes.

Batman: The Animated Series (Game Boy)
By Konami - released in 1993


A genuinely good little platformer, which wasn't just a cheap cash-in on the Batman licence (in contrast to, well, almost everything else on this list). It's tough, but Batman's wall-jump and grappling hook turn him into a nimble acrobat who's fun to control.

The Adventures of Batman and Robin (Game Gear)
By Novotrade - released in 1994


Another trite side-scrolling beat-'em-up starring everyone's favourite bat-based superhero (sorry, Ace the Bat-Hound). The Joker, being a bit of a jerk, rounds up Batman's least favourite people (Mr Freeze, Scarecrow, etc.) and sets them on Bats. Cue hours of ceaseless button mashing.

Batman Forever (Game Boy, Game Gear)
By Probe Entertainment - released in 1995


Almost every Batman game ends up being a brawler, but Forever takes it one step further. It's based on the Mortal Kombat engine, making it really feel like a fighting game. Sadly, the handheld versions lost all the puzzles, have terrible controls, and are as ugly as TwoFace's left side.

Batman & Robin (Game.com)
By Tiger Electronics - released in 1997


It's impossible to know if this pack-in Batman game was any cop, as it's impossible to see what's going on. Combine the Game.com's slideshow-speed framerate and nauseating motion blur and you've got yourself one hell of a headache, mister.

Batman of the Future: Return of the Joker (Game Boy Color)
By Kemco - released in 2000


In the future, it seems, superheroes squeeze into tight-fitting Lycra bodysuits that frankly leave nothing to the imagination. Uncomfortable clothing, however, doesn't stop Batman from beating up a bunch of baddies in this boring brawler.

Batman: Chaos in Gotham (Game Boy Color)
By Ubisoft - released in 2001


Chaos in Gotham is bright, colourful, and bold, meaning it has tons in common with The New Batman Adventures animated series. Same goes for the expressive, cartoonish animations. Sadly, it's just not that much fun. It's a tiresome brawler, if you haven't guessed that already.

Batman Vengeance (Game Boy Advance)
By Ubisoft - released in 2001


The Dark Knight finally enters the Advance era with this GBA brawler. It's desperately uninspired, and the game's most fearsome enemies aren't the Joker's bazooka-toting thugs, but nuisance jets of steam and the wonky camera.

Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu (Game Boy Advance)
By Ubisoft - released in 2003


You'll never believe it. It's only another brain-meltingly boring brawler with some Batman graphics slapped on top. This really was the era of lazy cash-ins, when any old bobbins would sell as long as it had a familiar famous on the box. Yawn - next!

Batman Begins (Game Boy Advance)
By Vicarious Visions - released in 2005


Another brawler, but at least this dark tie-in to Nolan's first Batman flick has its own distinctive sense of style. In this game, Batman has an arsenal of weapons (including stun and smoke grenades) that let him silently take out enemies without getting into a messy scrap.

Lego Batman: The Videogame and Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (DS and PSP; DS, 3DS, and Vita)
By Traveller's Tales - released in 2008 and 2012


Batman joined Jack Sparrow and Harry Potter when he got turned into plastic for this kiddy adventure game. It's a cute game with loads of references to the Batman universe, and the second game is even better. Recommended to Bat-fans, of any age.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold - The Videogame (DS)
By WayFoward - released in 2010


Finally, an unequivocally fun Batman game. But, that's no surprise: it's from Shantae-developer WayForward. It's a fast and bouncy brawler that matches the campy, knockabout thrills of the animated series.

Batman: Arkham City Lockdown (iPhone and iPad)
By Warner Bros - released in 2010


If you thought that Batman would give up his brawling ways when he made the leap onto the App Store, think again. This is a series of one-on-one fights with Bad baddies, replicating the brutal physicality of the console Arkham games. It's a bit like Infinity Blade, as finger swipes unleash attacks, combos, and dodges.

Mark Brown
Mark Brown
Mark Brown is editor at large of Pocket Gamer