The Batman: Arkham Series is a series of video games based on the Batman superhero franchise. The games are notable for being a shining example of No Problem With Licensed Games, since all three games have been released to great fanfare and critical acclaim.
The central events of each game deal with the inmates of the infamous Arkham Asylum, the prison that holds (or fails to hold) all of Batman's insane foes. Asylum is based on the premise of The Joker seizing control of Arkham Island and freeing all the other inmates, including the Bat-rogues. City takes place about a year after Asylum, where Batman gets caught up in a plan to enclose the Asylum inmates in a walled-off area of Gotham City which includes some of the more pivotal areas in Batman's history, including Crime Alley and Ace Chemicals. Origins goes the prequel route and takes place two years after Bruce Wayne first became The Dark Knight.
The games are played in a third-person Action Adventure perspective. Exploration is very open, since Batman has the ability to glide and use his Grappling-Hook Pistol to hook onto most buildings and railings. Batman also has the ability to use a special visor to activate "detective mode", a special vision that highlights objects and people of interest.
Combat, which is managed by the "freeflow combat system" is based around three main actions: Attack, Stun, and Counter. Gadgets like Batarangs and the Batclaw are also incorporated into the combat system. At times, you can leap into combat, taking down Mooks as they try to attack you. Other times, you can use stealth; either to get the jump on enemies and take them down easier, or to simply avoid combat altogether. There is also an experience system that allows enhancements to Batman's combat capabilities if he levels up.
As for the stories, the plots for the first two games in the series are written by acclaimed DCAU writer Paul Dini. It is filled with appreciation for the Batman franchise in all its forms, remaining loyal to the comics, yet incorporating elements from the Nolanverse, the Burtonverse, the DCAU Batman from his own animated series. Notably Kevin Conroy reprises his role as Batman while Mark Hamill reprises his especially acclaimed role as The Joker in the first two games.
Games in this series:
Arkham Origins is a prequel to the games, and neither Rocksteady Games nor Paul Dini oversaw the prequel.
The series has also had some tie-in media:
A comic prequel (also named Arkham City), which was released in mid-2011 and is set between the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum and City. The story follows the Caped Crusader as he works to uncover the truth about Mayor Quincy Sharp's plans for the walled-off Arkham City, and the various villains inside the city walls who are fighting for control.
Batman Arkham Unhinged, a tie-in comic series which follows various characters in the leadup to Arkham City, including Hugo Strange, Arkham inmates, various villains and different plots that occurred before Bruce Wayne was arrested and put into the city, as well as several stories during it.
Arkham City Lockdown, a mobile game developed for iOS systems, which pits Batman against a number of enemies and villains (with the addition of Slade "Deathstroke" Wilson) seen in the core game via a series of one-on-one battles throughout the city.
Arkham City: Endgame, a six-issue digital comic series that takes place directly after the ending of the main game, and involves Batman coming to terms with the Joker's death.
Adaptation Distillation: Truly one of the greatest incarnations of the Dark Knight and his rogues ever. It's actually a potluck of the best aspects of practically all his previous media incarnations: the grittiness of the Christopher Nolanmovies, the gothic architecture and film noir-ish mood of the Tim Burton films, the canon of the comics, the voices and writing talent of the animated series... It's difficult to imagine an incarnation of the Dark Knight that could so easily please all of Batman's fans from any medium.
Batman is primarily based on his comic version, but he has the voice of the animated version and his suit actually looks like body armor with a glider cape.
The Clayface in this game bears Basil Karlo's name (blink-and-you-miss-it when Bats takes Harley's "party list") and now-in-continuity powers: otherwise he's an amalgamated Batman: The Animated Series Clayface (Matt Hagen) and Preston Payne.
This is canon. Karlo acquired the powers of Hagen and Payne in the early 90s. What's new, however, is his desire to impersonate people. In the comics, Karlo turned to crime out of egomania. The acting ability was a trait of Hagen's in the animated series.
After Combat Recovery: Achieved in a somewhat roundabout way. Gaining experience points restores your health, and beating people up gives you XP. Ergo, damage taken in combat may be healed from the XP you got from fighting. Depending on how much damage you took and how much XP you got, you may or may not be restored to full health. Bosses reliably give you enough XP to heal fully, however.
The reason this works for this trope is that the XP doesn't tally (and thereby the healing doesn't begin) until you finish the entire encounter, whether it's a gang of ten mooks trying to beat you down or a room full of gun-toting mooks you have to stealth-kill.
Alternate Continuity: The first game was designed to be almost entirely identical to the history presented in the comics. The second game, as well as the third prequel game, establishes a few notable key differences.
From Asylum: The marketing (as evidenced in the tie-in Arkham Care website and some of the in-game PA announcements) desperately tries to make it seem like a pleasant, modern psychiatric institution. To utterly hilarious degrees; it's really something to stand in a dank, creepy and falling-apart Arkham corridor listening to a pleasant voice on a commercial witter on about how Arkham is 'the state's premier psychiatric therapeutic facility', how the famous supervillains who get locked up there 'are only half the story' and other such nonsense.
City : Proudly features an even worse solution: Arkham City, a walled off slum section of Gotham where former Arkham patients and Blackgate convicts alike are thrown in and left to their own devices. Then hired mercs kill everyone in the place. How therapeutic.
Book Ends: Arkham City, which sees the end of the Batman/Joker feud ends with the Joker singing about him and Batman over part of the end credits. Similarly, Arkham Origins, which sees the start of the feud, ends the same way.
Crapsack World: A decent argument could be made that the games are actually darker than the main verse. To recap...
In Asylum; At least half of the asylum's staff is murdered by the Joker's gang, and Joker intends to do the same to the rest of Gotham.
In City: Likely THOUSANDS are killed by Protocol 10: Gotham apparently has a population in the millions, and given the huge crime rate, how many people Strange and Sharp were apparently throwing in, it's likely that Arkham had a population in the tens of thousands, and when Strange states that at least 22% of the inmates were killed, it's clear that thousands were murdered, including many who likely did nothing to deserve it, and this isn't counting the political prisoners and doctors killed by the Joker.
In Origins: Gordon is the only honest cop we see; beyond him, the police are basically all thugs with uniforms, who hurt people for no reason beyond wanting to amuse themselves. And this is all before the assassins showed up along with the Joker, who apparently killed most of the staff at the Gotham Royal Hotel, at least 1/4 of Black Mask's men, and likely a great deal of the staff at Blackgate when he broke out and started the riot.
Extremely Short Timespan: All of the games take place over the course of a single night. This isn't too bad if you just play through the main plot, but it starts getting a bit silly as you tackle the sidequests and try to find all the collectibles.
Heroes Fight Barehanded: In Combat Mode, it is very possible for Batman to take on dozens of heavily armed enemies without using any gadgets. Batarangs included.
Hijacked by Ganon: City had shades of this, with Hugo Strange and Ra's al Ghul's plotline being wrapped up in a single cutscene and the Joker having by far the most screentime. Origins is full bore; despite hyping Black Mask up as the Big Bad, it was Joker the entire time.
Loads and Loads of Characters: The first game had relatively few characters involved in the main plot, but had cameos, references and bios of tons of Batman villains. Played completely straight in the sequel, which manages to give actual screen time to a lot these characters, both through the main story and side-quests.
Mook Horror Show: When using stealth ("Predator Mode"), you can not only use gadgets to spook enemies in a variety of ways, but you can use detective mode to see their steadily increasing heartbeat as you pick them off one by one.
Notice This: Only in Detective Mode, though, since it highlights objects of interest.
From the DCAU: As noted above, the first two games see Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their respective Batman: The Animated Series roles of Batman and the Joker. Asylum also sees Arleen Sorkin reprise the role of Harley Quinn. While none of the three return for Arkham Origins, it does see two more reprisals from the the DCAU: Robert Constanzo as Harvey Bullock and in The Stinger, CCH Pounder as Amanda Waller.Blackgate also sees Adam Baldwin reprise his role from Justice League as Rick Flag in addition to Pounder as Waller.
From the Animated Adaptation of Batman: Year One: Grey DeLisle reprises the role of Vicki Vale from Year One in City and Origins (the former being released the same day as Year One). Origins also sees the return of Jon Polito as Gillian Loeb.
Scenery Porn: Oh yes. City takes it further because, well, it's out in the open city, and Origins as well, being even more of the city (along with some Scenery Gorn in the Firefly sequence).
Schizo Tech: CRT televisions, cigarette vending machines, and magnetic audio tape all exist alongside LCD monitors, electronic restraint collars, and advanced broadcast encryption technology. In Origins, there are even advertisements for trans-Atlantic zeppelin flights, while Batman spends most of the game flying around in a supersonic jet.