Superman for the N64 is considered by many to be one of the worst games of all time. But, fortunately for Superman, it wasn’t the Kryptonian’s last appearance in a video game.
Superman 64 is bad. It’s really bad. It’s so bad it’s kind of fun, but not really, because it’s so, so bad. He’s headlined games of similarly mediocre quality since then, but his best appearances have been thanks to the fighting game genre. And last week, Nether Realm Studios brought us the next iteration of those games: Injustice 2, which came out to stellar reviews and solid sales.
To illustrate the vast difference and incredibly long path Superman has come since the N64 release in 199, we’ll compare the experience of both games.
Spoilers: They’re super different.
Story and Characters
Injustice 2: You play through a coherent story mode that works within the Injustice Universe.
Superman 64: You have to open up a menu and click on something called “Story and Controls” to read a nonsense plot summary about a virtual reality world where you must fly through rings to save your friends.
Injustice 2: You fight heroes and villains from across the DC universe. Each character has a background, story, and reason for being apart of the Injustice Saga.
Superman 64: You sort of fight an array of characters, but they’re all technically in the same virtual world run by Lex Luthor. You’ll never really understand what they have to do with each other in any significant way other than that they are villains.
Injustice 2: You can perform various physical attack moves through a combination of flying, punching, kicking, slamming, ramming, and throwing moves. You can even smash someone’s head into the ground from way up in the sky.
Superman 64: You can flail your garbage noodle arms clumsily around and hit absolutely nothing for hours on end.
Injustice 2: Superman can shoot lasers from his eyes.
Superman 64: Superman needs tokens to shoot lasers from his eyes, or use pretty much any of his powers.
Controls and Playability
Injustice 2: The camera is good. You can see your character do things that result from inputting button commands.
Superman 64: Sometimes the camera works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the camera is completely broken and Superman looks like a bizarre prism of reds and blues haunting the bottom of your screen. Sometimes, in the middle of a boss fight, if the boss isn’t on camera for a long enough period of time, they disappear, inexplicably, and you’ll have to restart the game to complete the fight.
Injustice 2: Very few glitches when interacting with objects and environments.
Superman 64: Sometimes, when a mission calls for you to lift up a car, the car starts to fly away from you. Sometimes when you go underwater you fly smoother than in the air, and other times you start gesticulating wildly, not moving at all. Sometimes you fall through the floor, get stuck on a building, and die while the game is ostensibly paused. Or an enemy disappears, you clip through the whole level, and the menu screen crashes. Who knows!
There’s a ten-minute challenge involving flying through rings. The flying controls are so terrible, it feels glitchy as hell. It’s like driving a busted stick shift with an N64 controller. You now hate flying, and you especially hate rings.
Injustice 2: Superman can walk.
Superman 64: Superman has incredible difficulty walking. You’re better off using the terrible flight mechanic.
Graphics and Animation
Injustice 2: There are more colors in the environment than just green.
Superman 64: The environment has almost only the color green and its various shades. Indoors, outdoors — green is your color.
Injustice 2: The animations are gorgeous, lifelike, and based on each character’s particular style. It’s so cool to play as a Superman that looks and feels so much like the Man of Steel.
Superman 64: When Superman stands still, his cape flows in this really weird way that makes it look like he is convulsing. He doesn’t have a face in the traditional sense, either. His animations are clunky, floppy, or non-existent, depending on the maneuver you’re trying to pull off. Put shortly: Playing it feels terrible. Most of the characters look and move like cardboard.
Injustice 2: Has customizable gear that not only impacts your stats and unlocks new moves, but looks cool and is fun to mix and match with, too.
Superman 64: You look like some kind of humanoid smear approximating Superman, and you can’t change that. You don’t have stats.
Injustice 2: No rings.
Superman 64: May be entirely composed of rings and ring-based challenges. All you see are rings — endless, endless rings across the quiet expanse of virtual Metropolis.
Injustice 2: Superman is evil, which isn’t great, but is interesting for the narrative.
Superman 64: This game is not capable of anything, including being evil.