10 years on, Batman: Arkham Asylum stands tall as one of the greatest games ever made 4 years ago

10 years on, Batman: Arkham Asylum stands tall as one of the greatest games ever made

There was one moment in particular when every player knew this was going to be amazing.

Batman has been trapped in Gotham's mental institution, after assisting the Joker's transport to the facility, who then quickly took it over and set all of The Dark Knight's baddest baddies loose within the impenetrable walls.


While trying to both figure out an escape and stop the Joker and his partners-in-crime from completing their nefarious plans, Batman finds himself in the institution's morgue.

In the middle of the room, there is a body under a sheet, and suddenly, the body lurches towards Batman, and underneath are Bruce Wayne's parents, blaming him for their deaths.

Without knowing, Batman had recieved a dose of The Scarecrow's fear toxin, and it was warping the real world into a walking nightmare, and it was at this very point that most players realised that Batman: Arkham Asylum was going to be something very, very special...


Clip via molotov982001

Released on 25 August 2009 on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC, developers Rocksteady (who had previously only made one game, 2006's incredibly mediocre Urban Chaos for the PS2) immediately got fans on side by having Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arlene Sorkin reprise their roles as Bruce Wayne, Joker and Harley Quinn from the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series.

Additionally, the story for the game was written by five-time Emmy-winner Paul Dini, who has a long history of writing for the Batman mythology, so already it was clear that this game was taking the character seriously.

Previously, the only successful video game adaptation of a comic book character was 2004's Spider-Man 2, and the subgenre was littered with the corpses of massive failures - Superman 64 is considered to be one of the very worst games of all time, perhaps the biggest high-profile failure since Atari's E.T.


The game began development in May 2007, and a 60+ team finished the product after 21 months of constant refinement and improvements, one of which was the then-revolutionary fighting system. Originally, there was talk of having it be a rhythm-action game (i.e., push the button when prompted), but through different iterations they developed Batman's unique style, which allowed the player to seamlessly switch between attack and defense, as well as re-aim attacks towards different assailants.

Clip via discoking828

Sleeping Dogs, some of the Assassin's Creed sequels, and the PS4 Spider-Man have all been heavily influenced by this style, but none successfully managed to match it with Arkham Asylum's other necessary gameplay choice: the stealth.


As the developers decided to stick with Batman's moral code of not killing anyone, and most of the henchmen are aimed with automatic weapons, you can't just wade into every room fists flying, because you'll see the Game Over screen on repeat.

Instead, you'll need to use Batman's sneaky skills to perch above your enemies and attempt to quietly take them out one by one, using a combination of smoke bombs, night-vision, grappling hooks, and well placed gargoyles. It was this mix of strength and stealth that truly made players feel like they were The Dark Knight, and anyone who says they haven't thought about being The Dark Knight isn't being honest with themselves.

What the game got right is what some of the recent movies got wrong: there is something preternaturally scary about Batman. Not that the game is a horror, but the entire game drips with dread and unease, from those Scarecrow scenes, to hunting Killer Croc in the dank basement, to the overarching plot of being locked in an asylum with a madman who wants to kill you.

Critics picked up on this too, and when it was released, it went on to win several Game Of The Year Awards in 2009, and has since been highly ranked on Greatest Games Of All Time lists.

Sure, the sequels were bigger, and they brought in the Batwing, and the Batcar, and more villains, and bigger name voice actors, and huge parts of Gotham to fly somewhat freely about in, but they never quite measured up to what Arkham Asylum delivered.


The madness, and the genius, within the Asylum was so tightly contained that setting Batman - and all his villains - free couldn't match the tightly coiled fear that those Scarecrow sequences brought, and very few games since have left such an indelible impression both on the gamer, and on other games around them.

But perhaps the best compliment comes from Grant Morrison, highly acclaimed comic book writer for DC, who told Wired that when he was writing new story Batman Incorporated, he wanted to "capture the feeling of the Batman: Arkham Asylum game. When I played that game, it was the first time in my life where I actually felt what it is like to be Batman. We are now the heroes, and we can look through their eyes."

The game, based on the comics, becoming so influential it then influences the comics themselves.

That is the power of Arkham Asylum.