Rocksteady Studios’ trilogy of Batman: Arkham games holds a special place in the hearts of the many millions who enjoyed it, and soon, it’s going to also become available on the one platform that it has been glaringly missing on for so long. Batman: Arkham Trilogy is set to release for the Nintendo Switch imminently, and though it will, of course, serve as a great excuse for existing fans to dive back into the excellent trilogy’s offerings, it’ll also be a chance for those who’ve never played these games before to finally see what the fuss is all about. If you’re in the latter category, here, we’ve prepared a few basic pointers that you should know about before taking the plunge.
BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM
The one that started it all. Batman: Arkham Asylum launched at a time when no one expected much from a Batman game, a superhero game, or a licensed game, but it proved all doubters thoroughly wrong. Arkham Asylum is the only game in the series that isn’t open world, instead adopting more of a Metroidvania-esque structure, and it’s still an absolute masterpiece. Set in the titular correctional facility, it begins with Batman transporting the Joker to the asylum (who are voiced excellently by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill respectively), but quickly finding himself trapped amidst a mass breakout orchestrated by the Clown Prince of Gotham himself, after which it falls to Batman to slowly and methodically retake control of the facility and deal with a series of infamous villains.
BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY
Batman: Arkham City heads in a very different direction from its predecessor, but it, too, achieves similarly spectacular results. It adopts a fully open world structure, and takes place in the titular Arkham City, a section of Gotham City that’s been walled off and turned into a massive open-air prison for all the former inmates of Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Penitentiary. From the Joker to the League of Assassins to psychiatric doctor and Arkham City orchestrator Hugo Strange, Gotham’s Dark Knight faces off against some truly formidable foes in this game, while an uneasy alliance with Catwoman also has a significant role to play.
BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT
Batman: Arkham Knight continues the trilogy’s trend of expanding its scope with each new entry. Instead of just a section of Gotham City, Arkham Knight covers the expanse of its entirety. Set nine months after the events of Arkham City, it kicks off with a devastating attack on Gotham by Scarecrow on Halloween night. With deadly bombs and strains of his fear toxin spread throughout the city, all of its six million inhabitants are evacuated, and Batman is left behind the clean up the mess, with criminals and supervillains running riot across what’s left of Gotham. In addition to Scarecrow, the Joker once again has a major role to play (though not as a traditional, conventional, straightforward villain), while Batman also locks horns with a new villain in the form of the titular Arkham Knight. If you have familiarity with Batman lore though, you’re probably going to be painfully aware of his supposedly mysterious identity right off the bat.
One of the Arkham series’ biggest defining characteristics is its combat, which is evident in the fact that its rhythm-esque brawler style mechanics have been aped endlessly in countless games since Arkham Asylum first came out. Punching enemies is your primary verb in Arkham’s combat, but just as important is paying attention to visual cues that appear over enemies as they’re about to attack you, which is your cue to counter. The constant back and forth between attacking and countering creates an almost rhythmic flavour for every combat encounter, while of course, things also grow increasingly complex throughout the series when additional elements are sprinkled in, like enemies wielding firearms, shields, knives, and much more.
Stealth is one of the core pillars that the Arkham series is built on, and forms a crucial part of the gameplay experience in all instalments. It is, in fact, probably the part that captures the vibes and essence of being the Caped Crusader better than anything else. Since Batman doesn’t hold up too well to gunfire, he often has to employ stealth by hiding in the shadows and making use of his gadgets and tools, from batarangs to inverted takedowns to smoke bombs and much more. As you use your full arsenal of gadgetry and manipulate the environments to your advantage to methodically thin out large groups of enemies, the fear level of the ones still left standing continues to grow as well. It’s a perfect Batman simulator.
Speaking of gadgets, as you’d expect from Batman games, the Arkham trilogy makes Batman’s famous toolset a crucial component of the gameplay. Throughout the trilogy, in addition to batarangs and remote controlled batarangs, you also have the grapnel gun (more on that in a bit), the line launcher (which lets you grapnel across large distances), explosive gel (which lets you blast through weak walls and floors), shock gloves, smoke bombs, the batclaw, and much, much more, each boasting unique uses across combat, stealth, traversal, and exploration. Meanwhile, Batman also constantly has access to Detective Vision, which highlights enemies, hiding spots and points of interest in environments, and more.
The importance of traversal in the core gameplay loop increases progressively throughout the course of the Arkham trilogy. With Arkham City being an open world unlike its predecessor, it places way more focus on navigation and traversal mechanics, which is where the grapnel comes in, allowing Batman to latch on to distance ledges and buildings and pull himself toward them. Combined with his gliding abilities (thanks to his cape) and the dive bomb mechanic, traversal in the Arkham games ends up placing a great deal of emphasis on momentum and aerial movement. Meanwhile, Arkham Knight also introduces the Batmobile, which is effectively a ridiculously fast tank that you can drive throughout the entirety of Gotham City.
NO ARKHAM ORIGINS
Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy is obviously the meat and potatoes of the franchise, but there’s more beyond its horizons as well. For instance, between Arkham City and Arkham Knight, we also got Arkham Origins, an open world prequel to the trilogy developed by WB Games Montreal. It was obviously developed as a standalone spinoff to keep players happy until the series’ next flagship instalment came out, but as those who’ve played it will tell you, it, too, was an excellent game that shouldn’t be missed. Sadly, as its name implies, Arkham Trilogy on the Switch is not going to include Arkham Origins, which remains stuck on PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U, a decade on from its launch. At least you can play it on PC though.
So what exactly is going to be included in Batman: Arkham Trilogy when it launches for the Nintendo Switch? Well, the three game we’ve spoken about here are obviously going to be part of the package, while all DLC released for the entire trilogy will also be included. That means players will get access to multiple post-launch skins, map packs, and challenge packs for all three games, as well as story DLC episodes for Arkham City and Arkham Knight. Additionally, a physical version of Arkham Trilogy will also be available, though it will still require downloads for City and Knight, with Arkham Asylum being the only game accessible directly via the cartridge itself.
Arkham Asylum, City, and Knight are large, hefty games (and grow increasingly larger and heftier as the series progresses through the instalments), which, of course, means the entire Arkham Trilogy package will have significant storage requirements on the Switch. As per the collection’s eShop page, the three games and all of their DLC put together will require at least a 53 GB download, which, by Switch standards, is absolutely massive.