The president has been kidnapped by ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the president?
Flyer Title Year Description Screenshot
AlienStormFlyer Alien Storm 1990 Crazy ass Sega beat'em up where you face off against stinking aliens and must pulverize them. Plays sort of like Golden Axe but with guns. Every now and then you enter first-person shooting sequences where you can cause mayhem with you guns and also some short shoot'em up sequences where your characters run like hell pursuing the damn aliens. AlienStormScreenshot
Alienvspredator flyer Alien vs. Predator 1994 The movie may have sucked but this MOST CERTAINLY DID NOT. Take control of a military cyborg or Predator and lash out at the encroaching alien swarm and corrupt Weyland-Yutani corporation. Developed by Capcom, so expect some very smooth controls and SHOULDER CANNON! JUMP KICK! varied movesets. Bar none the best beat 'em up on the arcade.
ArabianMagicFlyer Arabian Magic 1992 Nice Arabian Nights-themed Beat'em Up. You can choose from four characters, who must kick the butt of an evil wizard who turned the king into a monkey. This game's magic power is to summon a giant genie who literally blows away all enemies. ArabianMagicScreenshot
ArmoredWarriorsFlyer Armored Warriors 1994 Giant mechas! You choose your pilot and go destroy other mechas, who eventually drop parts which you can attach to your own mecha. When playing cooperative you can fuse the mechas to create some crazy behemoths to destroy everything. ArmoredWarriorsScreenshot
AsterixFlyer Asterix 1992 One of those cool Konami licensed beat'em ups, you choose between Asterix and Obelix and do exactly what they do in the comics: kick some Roman asses! Each stage is based around one of their classic adventures. AsterixScreenshot
Battle Circuit flyer Battle Circuit 1997 Almost similar to Captain Commando, now with 110% more awesome. Has a neat little shop mode in between missions where you can buy improved movesets, extensions to your lifebar and continues. Of the eccentric cast (a child on a pink ostrich? A talking plant monster? The fuck?) only a fraction of them are useful; like Cyber Blue, who utterly stomps shit like Ken from Street Fighter (Shoryu Reppa? Clever, Capcom). One of the best beat 'em ups exclusive to the arcade. BattleCircuitScreenshot
Battletoads flyer Battletoads 1994 Three players can control Rash, Zitz and Pimple, each with their own Smash Hit attacks. Be warned, this is a VERY long game, and it's just as tough as the rest of the Battletoads series. Unlike the rest of the games, attacks involving something sharp or extremely heavy will produce blood, and it's the only game were you can play as any of the three toads. Battletoads arcade
Cad flyer Cadillacs and Dinosaurs 1993 3 player simultaneous beat 'em up. Fight dinosaurs, drive cars, and shoot guns, all in the dystopian future. Extreme amounts of awesome. Pretty damn good music, too. Like other "later-era" Capcom beat 'em ups, you can use some inputs (like down, then up+attack or dash+attack) for special moves. The gun factor is pretty cool, giving it aspects of the Arcade "The Punisher" game, but the control scheme doesn't shift like that game and you get way more gun variety (rifles, uzis, bazookas, etc.) and when you're out of ammo, you can even swing (or throw) the gun around as a weapon! Cad
Captain America and the Avengers flyer Captain America and the Avengers 1991 THE AVENNNNGERRRRS! While somewhat simplistic, it's regarded as a classic for its fast-paced thrashing, comic-book aesthetics, and wicked cool soundtrack. The few intermittent side-scrolling shmup-like levels in the sky are also pretty damn cool. Be careful when fighting bosses though, since they tend to move pretty fast, with little start-up to their animations and attacks. OKAY, GO! Captain America and the Avengers screenshot
Captain Commando flyer Captain Commando 1991 Choose one of four superhero characters to smash and bash through enemies. Notable for its gruesome death sequences. Loosely related to Final Fight (it's metro city in the future) and plays similarly to it (but faster) and you can use special timing-based moves to wreck shit up like Cap's mid-air fire blasts, Baby's Haggar-inspired wrestling moves, etc. CaptainCommandoScreenshot
Crossed Swords flyer Crossed Swords 1991 A watered down Punch-Out!! in RPG format, IN THE GODDAMN MIDDLE AGES. Move the joystick up and down to use your shield to block incoming attacks and power up for a counterattack. Collect gold and experience, save wenches and discover new loot. Requires quick precision to not get your shit slapped as the game is balls hard when played alone.
While not a traditional beat 'em up you do beat the shit out of a bunch of enemies. Think of it as a "first-person beat 'em up". Yeah, I made that up. Deal with it.
The Crystal of Kings flyer The Crystal of Kings 2001 A really amazingly looking game, the main character is a midget who rides a big aardvark and must retrieve the titular crystal from a really evil badguy. And since this is a beat'em up, he gets the help of his pals: a swordsman, a magician and the most sexy elven girl ever! CrystalKingsScreenshot
DenjinMakaiFlyer Denjin Makai 1994 A super obscure game, which is a shame because it is a really nice one. It has six characters to play, each with various moves at their disposal. DenjinMakaiScreenshot
Towerofdoom flyer Dungeons and Dragons: Tower of Doom 1993 A classic arcade beat 'em up with tons of depth. Further expanded on the RPG fusion by incorporating an inventory, magick and multiple paths through the high fantasy realms of D&D. Up to four players and four different characters, but you can't change your character upon dying/continuing or have more than one of each. Although simpler than Mystara, it's also a bit easier as well, especially for newcomers that you want to play Mystara with (but aren't sure they can handle it). Towerofdoom
Mystara flyer Dungeons and Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara 1996 The amazing sequel to Tower of Doom. Features two new characters (a male Wizard and female Thief), alternate skins, more branching pathways (some even needing a certain character to access like dwarf or elf), more magic items (like elemental-summoning items) and magic weapons (like fire sword and morning-star), and tons of secrets which add to its replayability.
The controls were reworked from the original, being improved (more attacks, items, magics) and streamlined for the better (like sliding and rush strikes). You can also change your character mid-continue, with alt skins having a few differences for the magic-users. Hard to get tired of this one.
Arcade perfect port on the Saturn, but only supports two players. Expensive as fuck too. According to someone: "Dude, are you the one who wrote the line that the Saturn port is "arcade-perfect" on the /v/ recommends page?? Because, it's fucking not. there are many differences in terms of gameplay (such as how enemies react when you shoulder-ram them, certain glitch fixes, certain magic spells behave differently and do different damage, etc" Check this for extra insight on that.
Final Fight art Final Fight 1989 The mayor's daughter has been kidnapped by gangsters. Instead of asking for some bad dudes with attitude to save her, MAYOR MIKE HAGGAR and his boys, Guy and Cody, personally decide to take care of business. Each player also has a special skill, Haggar's being badass wrestling moves. I hope you like throwing thugs, because you're gonna be throwing LOTS of thugs (no really, there's times where lots of enemies are onscreen and one of the best ways to deal with them is to throw them at each other).
Sadly, there was never another Final Fight like this on arcades, but 2 and 3 are on SNES. 2 is very similar to 1, but 3 is a huge improvement and the series' best.
Gaia Crusaders art Gaia Crusaders 1999 A cool beat'em up by the same guys who later made Sengoku 3, it has the same refined combo system as well as powerful magic attacks to clear the screen of enemies. GaiaCrusadersScreenshot
Guardians Denjin Makai 2 art Guardians: Denjin Makai 2 1995 The sequel to Denjin Makai, it has 8 selectable characters with many more special moves and all sort of crazy shit going on all the time. GuardiansScreenshot
Golden Axe Art Golden Axe 1989 Styled after Conan the Barbarian, Golden Axe is a beat 'em up that features visceral weapon combos and a powerful, tiered magic system. Get more magic potions and you can use stronger magic attacks (though its up to you if you want to spam weaker spells on common foes or save them for a boss-stomping super spell). You can even hijack enemies' mounts to tear through their lines.
On the Sega Megadrive, 2 is very similar to this, but 3 both improves and changes a few things, mostly for the better, but it's still somewhat contested among GA fans. GA:RoDA below is something of a sequel/spinoff. GA: The Duel is a fighting game and somewhat disappointing.
Garoda flyer Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder 1992 Arguably the best GA game, period. The roster has changed with a familiar barbarian swordsman (with modified attacks), an imbalanced (i.e. fast-combo chaining) female centaur, an imp, and Gilius from GA1 riding a giant. Magic has been modified to effectively balance both power and multiple usages. It's got some new mounts too: giant scorpions, bone dragons and praying mantises. The sprites and artwork have some amazing detail and zest, especially the vertical-scrolling stages (a PoV shift, not a jumping segment) and magic (use it on generic foes you get a short cut-in mid spell of their agonized screaming as their faces melt off, petrify, etc.).
Protip: If you need to, consider having one player use Trix (the imp), since his magic doesn't deal damage, but instead produces food for the players to eat.
Growl arcade flyer Growl 1991 aka Runark. A beat'em up that's heavily weapons-based where you kick the asses of animal poachers. Tons of enemies on screen. Very campy humor (including the final boss). In most versions, Enemies blast apart into chunks when you hit them with explosives, though a few variants censored it. Has 2 and 4 player variations, and depending on which you're playing, you choose or are assigned a character. Made by Taito (yes, cutesy "Bubble Bobble" Taito).
Ported to the Sega Megadrive with some differences in special attacks and health restores (also, the usual console restrictions of the day regarding both aesthetics and on-screen enemy counts).
Growl arcade screenshot
Light Bringer arcade flyer Light Bringer 1994 Beat'em up with fantasy setting. Huge "open-ended" levels. Extremely underrated. Japanese mode can be set to have red blood. aka "Dungeon Magic" in Europe. Light Bringer arcade screenshot
MutationNationFlyer Mutation Nation 1992 A mad scientist turned everyone in the city into mutants. It is now your duty to blow up all those mutants with your fists. Instead of having weapons around, you get those colored orbs which grant you special powers to kick ass. MutationNationScreenshot
Night Slashers arcade flyer Night Slashers 1993 Zombies + beat'em ups. Need I say more? Play the Japanese version for red blood and gore. Night Slashers arcade screenshot
Nbbm flyer Ninja Baseball Bat Man 1993 Six golden items have been stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame, and it's up to you to reclaim them. The Ninja Baseball Bat Men all have lots of special attacks, including multiple grapples and ultimate attacks that use up health to nuke the whole screen. Made by Irem in their glory days, so you know this is good. NinjaBatmanScreenshot
NinjaWarriorsFlyer The Ninja Warriors 1987 You are a ninja cyborg, and your mission is to kill this evil dictator. Though it is initially boring, it gets more fun once you get the hang of controlling your ninja. It was made for that three-screen behemoth of Taito, and later got a improved remake for the SNES. NinjaWarriorsScreenshot
PuLiRuLa Pu-Li-Ru-La 1991 This is what you get when you program a game under the effect of drugs. It initially just looks like a simple game with cartoonish graphics, then all sorts of madness goes about, then you get to stage 3 and your head explodes. PulirulaScreenshot
Punisher flyer The Punisher 1991 Combines traditional beat 'em up fare with pseudo-light gun shoot out sequences. Great if you're a Marvel fan or not. PunisherScreenshot
Sengoku 3 arcade flyer Sengoku 3 2001 aka Sengoku Denshou 2001. Excellent combat system, excellent custom combo possibilities, great graphics and music. One of the last SNK beat'em ups to come out, and one of the best.
If you REALLY want to play Sengoku 1 and 2, you can if you want, but this is the best one in the series. The others are archaic (even for their era) and have pretty cheap as hell difficulty. Though they do have some pretty trippy ass aesthetics and gameplay (transform into a dog, what?)
Sengoku 3 arcade screenshot
Simpsons flyer The Simpsons 1991 The Simpson family sets off to save Maggie from Mr. Burns. Features some really trippy stages and enemies. Best done in multiplayer, since characters can combine to do different co-op attacks. SimpsonsScreenshot
Splatterhouse flyer Splatterhouse 1988 Aptly named horror-themed beat 'em up that features grotesque enemies and bosses, and GRATUITOUS amounts of gore. Very basic side-scrolling with emphasis on weapon use; like decapitating enemies with a machete or pummeling them into a bloody mess with a 2x4.
Has two sequels on the Genesis and a parody title on the NES.
TMNTFlyer Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1989 COWABUNGA! The single best TMNT game ever. Choose from one of the four turtles and go kick the butt of Shredder and his goons. TMNTScreenshot
Tmntiv art Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time 1991 The Turtles are back with new moves and power ups. Had an updated port on SNES and a remix on Genesis.
Remake released on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network though it plays a little differently. However, the remake has since been taken down.
Tenchi wo Kurau II arcade flyer Tenchi wo Kurau II 1992 Combines aspects of past Capcom titles for one badass game. On foot, you go mostly melee and can grapple/throw foes. On horseback, you use wide-range weapons and can rush through enemy lines. Decapitate foes with your fists and elbow-slam others in half as you slam your way through Ancient China to a climactic confrontation with LU BU himself!
Fun Facts: It's the first Capcom beat'em up to add input-based special moves (on foot AND on horseback) and is extremely popular in Asia (for good reason!).
AKA "Warriors of Fate" in the west, which also changed the names from Chinese to Mongolian, oddly.
Dynasty Wars is the original Tenchi wo Kurau, but it's pretty mediocre, don't bother. Also, the NES games (re-christened as "Destiny of an Emperor") are entirely different (but good).
Tenchi wo Kurau II arcade screenshot
UndercoverCops arcadeflyer Undercover Cops 1992 Looks like a generic beat'em up at first -- until you're doing flying roundhouse kicks and flinging girders at thugs. All in the name of justice!
Made by the people who'd form Nazca, the Metal Slug people. Play the Japanese or Alpha Renewal Version, as the World/US release removes half the moves and edits the music.
ViolentStormFlyer Violent Storm 1993 Your girlfriend has been kidnapped by crazy ass punks. Are you a bad enough boyfriend to rescue her? And while you're at it, take your two pals along for the ride. ViolentStormScreenshot
WarriorBladeFlyer Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Episode III 1991 The last game in the Rastan Saga series, and the last game for Taito's multiple screen juggernaut, this one ditches the platforming and goes Hack 'n Slash. You can choose from Rastan himself or other two newcomers to kick on some monster's asses. After the first stage you can choose the next stages, and some parts have you traversing while mounted on horses or dragons. WarriorBladeScreenshot
Xmen flyer X-Men 1992 Xbox huge arcade game with two monitors, six players, crappy dialogue, and stupid amounts of awesome. XMenScreenshot
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