At first glance you may think that I’ve strayed from my video game theme with this one. After all, the Joker is, first and foremost, a comic book character. But he also played the antagonist du jour for the ‘Arkham’ video games for the last-gen consoles, as well as other games in recent years.
Batman is a character who translates well into the video game world because of his wonderful mixture of stealth, technology, and good old fashioned beat-’em-up mentality, so it’s unsurprising that there have been a number of games featuring the caped crusader over the years. But the first ‘Arkham’ game – ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’ – proved to be a fast fan favorite. Developed by Rocksteady Studios and released in August of 2009, the game featured the titular superhero being tricked by the Joker into becoming trapped in Arkham Asylum with all of his most powerful criminal enemies. The game features a number of clever mechanics related to the comics and movies (such as Scarecrow’s “fear toxin” being used to make Batman hallucinate) and has amazing stealth and fight controls that make you really feel like you’re controlling the Batman.
But one of the things that really made the game for me was, of course, the Joker. Joker is, no questions asked, one of my most favorite villains of all time, and the makers of ‘Arkham Asylum’ did an amazing job of keeping true to the character’s dark insanity. Mark Hamill did the voice acting for the game – as he has done with several cartoon versions of the Joker – and the result was masterful. This game’s version of the Joker is the perfect combination of ingenious, goal-driven, and completely insane, and that makes him a truly amazing antagonist. You’re never quite sure what you’re going to have to deal with because, while he always has an end-game in mind, his way of going about things is totally off-the-wall and unpredictable.
Hamill also reprises the role in ‘Batman: Arkham City’. In this game Joker – who is being slowly poisoned by an unstable Titan formula (the stuff that makes Bane a superhuman monster) – captures Batman and performs a blood transfusion on him. In this way he forces the hero to find a cure by infecting him with the same deadly disease. Oh, and just for good measure, he lets Batman know that he infected a bunch of hospitals as well. How’s that for rotten?
Another talented voice actor – Richard Epcar – was responsible for another game version of the Joker: the one featured in ‘Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe’. I grew up with the ‘Mortal Kombat’ games and I love comic book superheroes, so I may be a bit biased here, but I thought this game was tons of fun. In the Story Mode of the game the Joker didn’t play a pivotal part, but he was a very amusing character to fight as in any of the modes. His fighting moves are very reminiscent of the character we all know and love, such as his counter-attack in which he grabs his opponent by the hand, shocks them with a joy buzzer, and then does a crazy little happy dance. He also throws steal-lined playing cards and bombs with smiley faces on them, and can use an extendable boxing glove to reach enemies over half the field away. But the best was his “Fatality” move, in which he pulls a gun on his opponent, only for confetti and a “Bang!” sign to pop out. He laughs hysterically, as is his wont to do, before pulling out a real gun to finish the job with his signature smile on his face.
Overall, I just think that the Joker is an extremely engrossing (and frightening) character who is often well-written, well-voiced, and more often than not the most interesting character on screen, and the video game versions of him have been no exception.
What are your thoughts on the Joker character? Have you ever played any games in which he appears? Which voice actor do you prefer? Please share!
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