A Brief History of Beat ’em Up Video Games

Hello Brawlers! While we are all excited for Mayhem Brawler, let’s take a look at the brief history of Beat ’em Ups. Come with me and I will tell you about the biggest milestones of the Beat ’em Up genre.

Let’s agree on a matter before we move any further; This article is not a list post where we will list the popular side-scrolling beat ’em up examples. Instead, it’ll be the kind of article where I will share information about milestones in the history of the genre. So you probably won’t find some of the games that you loved in the first half of the ’90s. So don’t be saying things such as “There was ‘super-duper fight punch kick’, why don’t you write that?” or “Town of anger and nose breaking is better!” because if you do, I’ll throw a barrel to you!

First Examples (1984 – 1986)

There are two games that first defined the genre and also created two different schools that followed by the side-scrolling beat ’em ups born after them. The Kung Fu Master school remained more loyal to its ancestors and never had a depth axis. But the Renegade school added the Z-axis to the playing field while keeping the playground on the X and Y-axis.

Kung Fu Master (1984)

Developed by Irem Corp and released in 1984, Kung Fu Master (or Spartan X in the Japanese version) is actually like a fighting-themed platformer game. However, as I just described; It went down in history as the first beat ’em up that emphasizes the combat theme based on mechanics over the interaction of enemies with the player, almost eliminating platform elements.

What we do in the game is, as kung fu master Thomas we try to save our kidnapped girlfriend Silvia from a building with five floors full of enemies. The game has five different enemy types in total and a different boss emerges at the end of each floor. Kung Fu Master can be completed in an average of 7 to 8 minutes. The game’s main targets were arcades.

Kung Fu Master (1984)

KFM originally designed for being the video game of Bruce Lee’s 1972 movie Game of Death. However, the company decided for the game to bear the title of the 1984 movie, Jackie Chan’s Spartan X. Which is a more recent movie. I wrote “to bear its name” on purpose. Because apart from the name, there is no similarity between the movie and the game.

Another anecdote about the KFM is how legendary the designer of the game. Takashi Nishiyama has made many fighting games such as Street Fighter, Fatal Fury: King of Fighters, Art of Fighting, The King of Fighters ’94, and Samurai Shodown in the following years.

Renegade (1986)

Although Kung Fu Master seen as the first beat ’em up game ever, it wasn’t the most important one. The 1986 production Renegade, originally signed by Technos Japan, was the game that defined the genre.

In Renegade we play as a street fighter named Mr.K and save our girlfriend from gangs. The game consists of four parts, each part consists of areas that expand to the right and left as much as one more screen. There are 2 different types of enemies and one boss in each section. After watching the fight for a while, the bosses join the fight when the number of minions decreases.

Renegade (1986)

The most important feature of Renegade is that it deepens the playing field towards the Z-axis. Besides, many things done in the fighting style guided the future beat ’em up games. From making the character run by poking the joystick twice in the same direction, to capture the enemy and immobilize it, to hit the enemy (in his groin) or throw it, to collapse on the fallen enemy with a fist to his mouth, to let the enemy fall into the pits and die, and the neck crank (one of the enemies taking Mr.H in an arm lock over the neck and making another enemy punch on his stomach) was first used in Renegade.

The Renegade series has two disgraceful sequels named Target: Renegade (1988) and Renegade III: The Final Chapter (1989). 2 games released on consoles but their arcade versions never made.

Let me note this; Renegade’s inspiration was 1979 The Warriors movie.

Golden Age (1987 – 1991)

The golden age of side-scrolling beat ’em ups begins with Double Dragon from 1987. Almost every new game released during this period contributed to the development of the genre. Each of them added something above the previous one.

Double Dragon (1987)

Technos Japan’s creation after Renegade, 1987’s Double Dragon. It’s marked the beginning of the golden age of the beat ’em up genre. We have the same story once again. A gang kidnaps a woman(named Marian) and our hero(es) Billy and Jimmy fight fiercely to save her.

Technos Japan took many elements that are successful in Renegade and improved with weapons such as baseball bats that can be taken from the opponents, being able to throw away objects such as barrels, and most importantly; they added features such as being able to play the game by two people. After all, the game had great success even though it contained a ton of bugs. The biggest inspiration of multiplayer beat ’em up games in arcades that marked a period is none other than Double Dragon.

And when I said “a ton of bugs”, I mean it. Because the characters’ headbutt and jumping kicks are almost completely useless. The enemy artificial intelligence is very inadequate. But I’ve saved the best for last: Elbow hit! Pressing the punch and jump keys at the same time makes the character hit with the elbow in the reverse direction and this has no defense on the enemy side. The players soon discovered that they could end the game with just an elbow hit without any struggle at all.

Double Dragon (1987)

Maybe because they were aware of all these problems, or maybe they simply wanted to take advantage of the success of the game right away, Technos Japan published Double Dragon II: The Revenge the very next year, in 1988. The game has taken its place in arcades, with the graphics of the first game changed, new enemies added, already good soundtracks made better, and the fighting system literally perfected.

Unfortunately, Double Dragon’s arcade career ended in 1990’s Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone, a very bad sequel. However, many games that kept the Double Dragon name have continued to be produced over the years, especially for Nintendo consoles. Thanks to the wave of retro gaming that has emerged in the last few years, Double Dragon: Neon, which was released on consoles in 2012 and Steam version in 2014, have come out as a parody of the series.

The Ninja Warriors (1987)

Taito’s 1987 production The Ninja Warriors appeared in arcades as a very stylish game that continues the Kung Fu Master’s tradition of playing fields not having the Z-axis (depth).

The game has a very interesting story compared to the other beat ’em ups; In 1993, the President of the United States of America Bangler declared martial law in the country. To combat the forces of Bangler, a group of “anarchist” scientists creates two androids named Kunoichi and Ninja and sends them to fight the Bangler. (Yes it’s bullshit but still isn’t it more original than the kidnapped girl story?)

The Ninja Warriors (1987)

In the game that playable as 2, our ninja androids have a limited number of shuriken, and they have daggers (kunai) that can shank soldiers as they please. The ability to block bullets from firearms with Kunai was an innovation for the beat ’em up genre. However, one cannot help but think that “anarchic scientists were smart enough to make androids, but wasn’t smart enough to find something more useful than a dagger”. But, what made this game into this list was none of its beautiful 6 episodes or its beautiful visuals and soundtracks. It was nothing else than its crazily designed screen!

The game’s play area was 3 times 4:3 ratio screens of the period. Considering the mechanics of the game, this visuality gave great results. However, the possibilities were very difficult to solve on the technological side. Namely; It wasn’t possible to produce a monolithic monitor at this rate with the CRT technology of those years. Putting 3 monitors directly next to each other would not work well either. As it was not possible to produce a frameless monitor at that time. T creativity fueled by the impossibilities made something awesome come to life! A monitor was placed at the right and left ends, and a mirror was placed in the middle to reflect a third monitor placed horizontally in front of it! If you can’t imagine how it happened, you can watch this video. 

Altered Beast (1988)

The Altered Beast, which bears the signature of Makato Uchida, one of Sega’s talented designers, whose name you will hear a few more times in this article, has brought a crazy innovation to the beat ’em up genre: That the characters becoming stronger by “evolving” throughout the game. It is also a stunning game that chose to fight mythological creatures instead of beating up street punks.

In the story, the goddess Athena is abducted into the Underworld by a demon named Neff. Athena’s father Zeus is forbidden to enter Underworld. So he raises a once-dead Roman soldier from his grave and orders him to save his daughter. Our story is classic, but not a small one, this time the kidnapped one is a goddess!

Altered Beast (1988)

The game that also can be played as 2 is a beat ’em up from the Kung Fu Master school which means it has no Z-axis (depth). The characters have to defeat the enemies they encounter with their punches or kicks. Characters change in stages when they collect the booster orbs that appear when they kill the two-headed white wolves. When they collect 3 spheres a short cinematic will show the character transform into a werewolf. It’s successfully reflected how the change in the game affects the strength of the character. When the transformation is complete, it is easy to not be enthusiastic.

In each episode of the five-part game, the players turn into a wolf (werewolf), dragon (weredragon), bear (werebear), tiger (weretiger), and a much stronger golden wolf (golden werewolf), respectively.

There is also an interesting after-credits scene at the end of the game. With the “behind the scenes” visuals used, the whole game was actually shown as if it was a movie shooting.

Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja (1988)

Now hold tight, because it’s time for Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja with a very original story: President of the United States Ronnie (Ronald Raegan) is kidnapped by the evil ninja leader DragonNinja. The “legendary” Secret Service, which is in charge of protecting the President, has shown great responsibility and assigned two street fighters named Blade and Striker, who are known as Bad Dudes in the streets, to rescue the President… Okay, do not be angry, the story is stupid and of course, the reason why the game entered this list is not its story.

Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja published by Data East in 1988. It is a beat ’em up from the Kung Fu Master school which means without Z-axis (depth). It has been a game that uses platform game elements much more active than others. Players can move according to their strategy on a usually double-layered playing field. In addition, since one of the parts of the game is on a truck and the other is on a freight train, it adds a different atmosphere to the game.

Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja (1988)

Our enemies(various ninjas) are mostly deceased in one hit. In the time-competitive game, when the game gets too monotone bosses jump right in the time. The Bad Dudes ‘attacks of punches and kicks and their ability to use weapons such as knives and knives on the road are no different from classic beat’ em ups.

The first time ever in beat ’em ups an interesting feature included which generally used in shoot ’em ups back then. By holding and releasing the fist button for a while, Blade and Striker can use their chi powers to deliver a flaming punch reminiscent of Marvel’s Iron Fist. This fist is both more damaging and has an area effect. Apart from all these, Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja, if I remember correctly, is the first to beat ’em up to use an object to heal “life”. Which is very common in platform games. You could replenish life by taking those coke cans.

Let me give one more anecdote; The first boss is Karnov, the protagonist of an older platform game from Data East. In fact, when Karnov arrives, the music playing in the background changes to remind the music of the first episode of the game Karnov is from.

River City Ransom (1989)

Released in 1989 as a sequel to the Kunio-Kun series after Renegade and Super Dodge Ball, River City Ransom is an interesting side-scrolling beat ’em up experiment featuring RPG and open-world mechanics. What an original subject; High school students Alex and Ryan fight both to save Ryan’s girlfriend and to clear the city from the mob leader named Slick.

The combat system starts out like a slightly simpler Double Dragon. As you progress in the game you can improve it. Via purchasing books you can improve your fighting type and buying food can strengthen your physical properties. Of course with the money, you gather from the bad guys.

River City Ransom (1989)

The player can go anywhere in the city, fight the gangs, and shop whenever they want. For a side-scrolling beat ’em up, that was crazy indeed. Though not as much as today’s complex open worlds.

RCS doesn’t have an arcade version, only on home consoles, most probably because of the long playthrough.

Golden Axe (1989)

Golden Axe is the project that Makato Uchida literally surpassed himself(developer of Sega’s charismatic game Altered Beast). Taking the beat ’em up genre from the uncanny streets in the Altered Beast to mythological times, Uchida this time brings us, players, to the lands of sword and sorcery.

Golden Axe tells the story of three warriors who want to avenge their relatives who were murdered by the relentless dictator Death Adder, who ruled in a fantasy land called Yuria. Ax-Battler resembling Conan the barbarian, Tyris Flare reminding Red Sonja, and dwarf Gilius Thunderhead with a battle-ax in hand.

Golden Axe (1989)

Golden Axe has brought 3 major revolutionary innovations to the beat ’em up genre. In all the beat ’em ups made until that date, the fighter directed by the second player was obtained by changing the color palette of the first character, while the Golden Axe allowed playing with two of 3 unique warriors, with different appearances and combat styles. The 3 aforementioned characters have magical powers that can damage all enemies on the screen when in helpless moments, and these powers differ from character to character both visually and effectively. Finally, perhaps the most exciting innovation is the mounts! There are 3 different mounts in the game that the characters can ride and they are really fun to use.

Golden Axe ported to many devices just like the others. Many sequels made too. The most interesting of these is Golden Axe: Beast Rider. The game made exclusively for PlayStation 3 in 2008 with mount-based-mechanics and Tyris Flare as the leading role.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)

At a time when beat ’em ups were so popular, it didn’t take too long before the big titles hop on the stage to get their share of the cake. There is a game among them that deserves to be on this list that I can’t pass without mentioning it! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which Konami released in October 1989.

Our game is a very entertaining production that reflects the style of the cartoon series from 1987. Fighting mechanics meet the standards of the period. The four characters are very different from each other both visually and in style. Donatello’s range is slightly longer and cumbersome, while Michaelangelo and Raphael have fast attacks at short range. On the other hand, in terms of range and speed, Leonardo has balance.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)

The biggest reason for the game to make it on this list is nothing more than four players can play at the same time. Think; four friends you could manage one turtle in front of an arcade machine.

Final Fight (1989)

Capcom’s Final Fight known as the best beat ’em up ever with the highest commercial success and innovations in the genre. And launched just a few months after Golden Axe.

The project actually intended to be a sequel of Street Fighter from 1987 with the name Street Fighter ’89. However, it is necessary to keep up with the rapidly changing sector at that time. Therefore, the success of the Double Dragon series is taken into consideration and the game type is changed and the game is decided to be a beat ’em up instead of “fighting”. By the way, let me take your attention; I would like to point out that the long stories I have told you here began in 1984.  And Final Fight was a 1989 game that tries to repeat the success of Double Dragon from 1987. In other words, It’s a sector that competes with dizzying speed by making fast moves in short periods of time.

Let’s continue: The name of the game is no longer related to Street Fighter and has been changed to Final Fight. At least this is the excuse that the game development team made up for the sales department that asked them for a sequel to Street Fighter. However, the main reason is that almost all of the crew are fans of the 1984 movie Streets of Fire. Final Fight extremely inspired by Streets of Fire in terms of plot and urban atmosphere. The lead character of the movie, Tom Cody been the inspiration for the main character of the game:

In addition, the developers, most of whom are fans of rock and metal, chose the names of their enemies to reflect this culture (Axl, Slash, Abigail, Roxy, Poison, etc. don’t make me write them one by one now).

The story is again based on saving a woman. Mad Gear Gang kidnapped Jessica, daughter of retired wrestler Mike Haggar. He brought Metro City’s peak crime rate to its lowest while he was mayor. Haggar did refuse the ransom from the municipal budget that the gang requested. Taking with him, Jessica’s boyfriend Cody and Cody’s close friend Guy decides to save both Jessica and the city. With beating the gang until they cry like babies of course!

Final Fight (1989)

Just like Golden Axe, Final Fight did not present different colors of the same characters as the hero, but 3 characters with completely unique looks and fighting styles. Moreover, the screen space of these characters is almost three times that of their competitors in the genre. This gave the players a very detailed view.

Mike Haggar was the slow but strong type, Guy was agile but light hitter, and Cody was average. (Fun Fact: In Turkey, people call Final Fight Haggar, because the character is so popular here.) Haggar could knock out opponents in 3 moves, Cody 4, Guy 5 moves. However, the time to count these hits was the same in total. So Guy was hitting 5 until Haggar hit 3 times. The fighting mechanics of the characters were removed from the 2 different attack keys + jump form in the Double Dragon school and put them in the form of a single attack and jump.

Another innovation that the game introduced us to! Unblockable/Unstoppable attack! It’s unleashed when the player presses two buttons at once. This attack takes some “life”, but especially when the character is surrounded, it acts as a kind of panic button to avoid certain deaths. Finally, just like the Double Dragon school, all the characters have the feature of throwing the enemy they caught after hitting with their knees. Even the thrown enemy has a mass unlike the Double Dragon and can damage other enemies. Unlike the others, Haggar is able to perform a “pile driver” on the enemies he grabs. (A wrestling move turning the opponent upside down, squeezing his head between his legs, and sitting on the ground with all his weight).

Get ready for more historic facts about the Final fight. The first game ever censored while porting to SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System)! The semi-naked transgender enemies Poison and Roxy turned into men. The names of the bosses Damnd and Sodom changed into Trasher and Katana. The character who says “oh my god!” after the car smash episode changed into “oh my car!”.  Alcohol bottles removed from the game. And some very dark skin-colored characters have even been whitened (whoa that’s bad!).

The next project of the team that made Final Fight was Street Fighter II. I will talk about it in my article titled “Brief history of fighting games ” which I will write in the near future. Even if a few sequels of Final Fight were made, they consumed themselves because the beat ’em up genre was not so famous at that time. The characters of Final Fight have been the guest of Capcom’s many games, especially the Street Fighter series, for years.

Alien Storm (1990)

After the Altered Beast and Golden Axe, Sega’s Makato Uchida wants to use the alien invasion theme this time and signs the Alien Storm.

The Alien Busters team, whose job is to kick the alien butt, has 3 members: Karen, a skinny lady, a charismatic man named Garth, and a robot named Scooter. The game can be played by 3 people at the same time and each character’s fighting style is different. It also has alien green mind-blowing superduper superpowers, just like in the Golden Axe.

Alien Storm (1990)

Since aliens can shape-shift in the game, one of the people who flee in panic or objects such as garbage cans, mailboxes, or vending machines suddenly turn into aliens and walk on the player are common events in the game. However, none of this makes the Alien Storm different enough to make it on this list.

In Alien Storm, characters enter an indoor space such as a supermarket, auto gallery, or somewhere alike at the end of the episode, where they rescue people who are hostage with a shooting range type game mechanic. Apart from that, there are also running sections. The characters chase after an escaped alien and run wildly, shoot the aliens that come in front of them, by this way game offers us a little shoot ‘n run experience as well.

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (1990)

Michael Jackson was at the peak of his career after the album Bad he released in 1987 and the movie Moonwalker which he starred in the following year. It was more like a 93-minute music video. Since beat ’em ups were living their best in arcades those days, there could be nothing more logical than making a beat ’em up called Moonwalker in 1990.

The theme of the game is more or less the same as the movie. Michael fights the villain Mr. Big, who is trying to make drug addicts out of kids.

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (1990)

The game uses an isometric background that we are not used to seeing in beat ’em ups of the time. Three Michael (white, red, and black) who fight the bad guys with rays from his hand are led by the player. The controls of the game are extremely simple; By directing the characters in 8 isometric directions with the joystick, defeat the enemies with a single button, dance when you feel stuck! Yes, there is a superpower that deals damage to all enemies on the screen. Just like the Golden Axe, this time it is dancing. Michael (s) finishes the episodes by saving the children, and by collecting the monkeys. After he transforms into a stylish robot just like in the movie and starts shooting in different types.

Also as a beautiful fact, game music made from Michael Jackson songs.

Crude Buster (1991)

Published by Data East as the spiritual sequel to Bad Dudes, Crude Buster is a beat ’em up from the Kung Fu Master school, that is, without a Z-axis (depth).

Crude Buster (1991)

The story says, the year 2010, New York City destroyed by a Nuclear Attack from an unknown force. Twenty years later: the city is tried to be rebuilt. But an organization with advanced weapons that calls themselves Big Valley has taken over the city. The American Government then negotiates with two punk mercenaries named Crude Buster who will speak to the organization in their own language.

With a comic style, Crude Buster is very similar to Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja in terms of the combat area and combat mechanics. One of its prominent features is that the characters with the size of a titan slayer can use almost any object on the screen as a weapon. They can even kick while lifting a car.

Captain Commando (1991)

Considering that even in the cover image of the article there is Captain Commando, you can think that the game published by Capcom in 1991 has made many innovations. Unfortunately, that’s not how it is. The thing for Captain Commando is that it is the game where the beat ’em up genre has come to a bottleneck. In terms of creativity. Because Captain Commando has skillfully used many elements indeed. Elements that have been added to the genre since 1984 and made a great game. But did not bring any innovations other than the firearms used by the characters.

The game takes place in 2026 in Metro City, where Final Fight takes place. The leaders of the commando team fighting against alien invaders are the charismatic Captain Commando! the mummy-like alien race member Mack the Knife! Ginzu the Ninja with his swords and ninjitsu training, and Baby Head, a genius baby who fights on the top of the robot he designed!

Captain Commando (1991)

The game has many features from other games. The way the playground is used, 4 player playability, and basic attacks are from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Special powers and weapon arsenal are from Final Fight. Mountable machines are from Golden Axe. For the last one, the alien variety is from Alien Storm.

Streets of Rage (1991)

The story of three former cops, Adam Hunter, Axel Stone, and Blaze Fielding, who fight to take back the city corrupted by the notorious criminal Mr. X, Streets of Rage does not seem to have brought much innovation to the genre at first glance. There are some minor innovations in the game, such as the characters perform a somersault behind the enemies they caught.

The real innovation in the game lies in the decisions players must make when they finally face Mr. X Mr. X offers both players to join him. Depending on the individual response of the players, events result in the characters fighting each other or with Mr.X. So, it is possible that one of the players can take place as the new crime boss at the end of the game.

Streets of Rage (1991)

Sega released the first SoR 1991 on its own consoles exclusively.1993 and 1993 Streets of Rage sequels published on other consoles too.

The last Streets of Rage, SoR 4 released in 2019 with great success. Which gave all the Beat ’em Up fans hope for 2nd golden age of Beat ’em Ups is inevitable.

The Extinction Period (1991 – 1997)

The golden age came to an end with the release of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior in 1991. The new trend in arcades is fighting games.

The biggest feature of the period of extinction; is exhaustion of new ideas about the genre. Almost all of the games released during this period have revealed nothing. But derivatives of 1989’s legendary beat ’em ups, Golden Axe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Final Fight.

Of course, there are a few games that should definitely be noted. For example; Although the game mechanics did not bring any innovations other than driving to the genre (which is the same mechanics as the running scenes in Alien Storm or the surfboard in Captain Commando), Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (1992) is a game that he has adopted a lot.

Another feature of the period is the rush of games made on the copyrights of famous brands that started with Captain America and The Avengers (1991) and Simpsons The Arcade Game (1991). Batman Returns (1992), X-Men Arcade (1992), Asterix (1992), Punisher (1993), Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom (1993), and Alien vs Predator (1994) and later. They didn’t bring any novelty to the genre but they are games that have made a point.

Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara (1996)

With all this exhaustion going on, Capcom released Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara, a sequel to the 1993 game Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom, which brought great innovations to the genre.

Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara took the mechanics of the game, which was first brought to the genre in 1991, called Knights of the Round, to increase the level of players and strengthen their armor and weapons as they progress. In addition to a wide selection of weapons, armor, and magical items, the game also includes many desktop role-playing game mechanics. Such as the ability to level up and cast new spells.

Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara (1996)

However, what is interesting about the game; Just like role-playing games, in some parts of the story, players can choose different paths. So they are encouraged to play again by ending the game in different ways. Due to these features, Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara (unfortunately) contains the latest original ideas of the side-scrolling beat ’em up genre.

And then… Only darkness.

3D Period (1997 – 2007)

The beat ’em up genre was only able to resist the 3D game movement that started in the first half of the 90s for a few years. As you know, technology now allows 3D games, and this is what players were looking for. Although the visuals of the transitional games were far from the artistic depth of the handcrafted pixel art games, this was the case. Therefore, this situation had put an end to the side-scrolling beat ’em ups that already suffered from lack of creativity. After all, who would want to only move leftward in a three-dimensional world? (ofc a sarcasm!)

3D beat ’em ups are not the subject of this article, although they are of great historical value. For this period, it is necessary to write a separate article. Starting from 1997’s Fighting Force, which was the first 3D beat up, to Yakuza 0, which was produced in 2018.

Recent Period (2008 – 2018)

So are side-scrolling beat ’em ups dead? No! The indie studios, which started to emerge in the early 2000s, started to resurrect the game genres that big companies left to die because they no longer attract attention (therefore they don’t bring good money). Beat ’em ups were one of them.

Castle Crashers (2008)

When the calendars showed 2008, indie studio The Behemoth had released their second game, Castle Crashers. The game, which can be played by four people on Xbox Live either locally or online, has been the most exciting side-scrolling beat ’em up over the years.

Castle Crashers was about the bloodthirsty adventure of 4 knights, unlike their cute looks. They set out to save four princesses who were kidnapped from the invaded kingdom. Castle Crashers, who inherited the knights of 4 different colors from the legendary Amiga game Moonstone from 1991 and the RPG elements it contains from Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara literally raised a deceased genre from his grave.

Castle Crashers (2008)

Published on PlayStation 3 in 2010 and on Steam in 2012, millions of copies of the game have been sold so far. It is still one of the most popular games of the sale season. Do yourself a favor and be sure to try Castle Crashers. If possible, even play with a few friends.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game (2010)

As those who follow closely will know very well; Ubisoft is an AAA gaming company that mainly invests in large projects. However, they have also done quite experimental works too. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is one of them.

2010 was a period both 8-bit graphics and Oni Press’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World graphic novel was trending. Well, we can’t blame Ubisoft for taking the opportunity. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is a nice example of a side-scrolling beat ’em up, with pixel-art graphics and 4 player options, but not adding any innovation to the genre and looking like an indie game. However, it deserves to be on this list as it is proof that even a huge AAA gaming company like Ubisoft can get caught up in the retro gaming trend.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game (2010)

Although the subject of the game was not exact, it was reminiscent of the stories in the comics. Scott had to beat up Ramona’s 7 ex-boyfriends. The funny thing is, Ramona was one of the four characters that could be selected in the game. So one person could play beat Ramona and beat ex-boyfriends herself. (If you haven’t read the comics or watched movie, the story will sound silly. Don’t worry, it’s definitely not your mistake.)

The game is first released for PlayStation 3 and then Xbox 360. Let me finish by writing a final anecdote for the game: Scott Pilgrim’s creator, Bryan Lee O’Malley was originally offered to make an adventure game from Telltale Games. But he refuses because the Scott Pilgrim universe in his head is a much more actionable place. Therefore, O’Malley evaluates the offer from Ubisoft. He even designs the characters and special moves himself.

Dragon’s Crown (2013)

With its anime-style visuals (and female characters with huge breasts), Dragon’s Crown is a highly successful game that follows in the footsteps of Capcom’s legendary game Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara, and even puts many innovations on it.

The developer of the game, Vanillaware, also used the fantasy world, Kingdom of Hydeland(where the story takes place) in the games GrimGrimoire and Odin Sphere, which were previously published in 2007. Supporting up to 4 players, the characters are adventurers searching for a relic called the Dragon’s Crown.

Dragon’s Crown is referred to as the side-scrolling beat ’em up with the most intense RPG elements ever. It has an inn used to relax and level up between adventures and a separate skill tree for each character.

Unfortunately for those who saw the game here and got extremely excited and started searching on Steam, I have bad news; Dragon’s crown is a Playstation 3 and Vita exclusive from 2013. I cannot help but say that the Playstation 4 Pro version, which was released at the beginning of 2018 and supports 4K resolution, is also another thing in terms of being a beautiful game.

Bud Spencer & Terence Hill – Slaps And Beans (2017)

The game, which received more than 200,000 Euros with the Kickstarter campaign organized by the indie studio Trinity Team in 2016, is a beat ’em up that characterizes Bud Spencer and Terence Hill.

For those who do not know; They are a great duo who made comedy-action movies in the ’70s and ’80s. Bud Spencer & Terence Hill – Slaps And Beans is a game that reflects the spirit in the movies of the duo to us actors very well.

Bud Spencer & Terence Hill – Slaps And Beans (2017)

I do not want to go into too much detail as I am thinking of writing an additional article about the game. However, I can briefly summarize as follows; Bud Spencer & Terence Hill – Slaps And Beans is an extremely entertaining game that is prepared in pixel art and enriched its content by adding fun mini-games to the classic beat ’em up scenes. I think it is a must-have in your archive.

That’s all folks!

I have to finish this article here, which is already more than 5 thousand words. As I mentioned at the beginning; In the article, I meant to include the milestone games for Beat ’em Ups. We all saw together that the species continued to fight even when we thought it already died (by its nature I think). I guess as long as there are computer games, side-scrolling beat ’em ups will be around.

Anyway, there may be a few games that I missed in the meantime that I don’t necessarily think of while writing the article. If you want to add them, you can write them in the “Comments” section below. If you don’t have anything to write, at least share the post on the right and left! Otherwise, I will throw a barrel at you!


This article originally published on Kahramangiller by Serkan Özay. Translated to English by Oğuzhan Alper Pehlivan.