We love games where you beat the crap out of tons of enemies. We love 'em so much, we made a list of the 10 Best Retro Beat 'Em Ups. The side-scrolling beat ‘em up genre has been a staple of gaming since it was first introduced with the Kung-Fu Master arcade game in the mid ‘80s. The rise in new classics, like Guacamelee! and Castle Crashers, is proof that side-scrolling beat 'em ups are here to stay. So pick up the nearest melee weapon, keep an eye out for health-refilling pot roasts on the ground, and save up your special attacks, because in our list of the 10 Best Retro Beat 'Em Ups, we take it to the streets.
Our first entry shows an evolution of the format from its previous arcade installment. Our favorite pizza-eating turtles now must look out for pitfalls and have an array of new special attacks at their disposal in order to take out the Foot Clan. Splinter's students not only take on villains from both the cartoon and the movies, but they must do so throughout various points in time. One of the biggest reasons why players originally loved this game was because of how true it was to the aesthetics of the franchise's cartoon series. When a brain-like alien in a super suit steals the Statue of Liberty, you better hope Raph didn't lose a sai.
Last time, Billy Lee beat the entire Shadow Warrior gang after they punched his girlfriend in the gut and abducted her. When he found out that Marion was shot and killed by the Shadow Warriors, Billy went to war yet again, but this time with the help of his twin brother, Jimmy. The Lee brothers have much more control in terms of how they can dispatch of the bad guys; they can kick behind them, grab them and hit them repeatedly, and even do a hurricane kick. With redrawn and cleaned up graphics, Double Dragon 2 remains the quintessential beat 'em up of the '80s, and that's why it belongs on our list of the 10 Best Retro Beat 'Em Ups.
Love or hate LJN's prior attempts at making franchise-based games, they got it right with Maximum Carnage. Based on the amazing comic crossover of 1993, gamers must play as either Spidey or Eddie Brock in order to take down the psychopathic symbiote, Carnage. Along the way, the web slingers can enlist the aid of Marvel staples such as Black Cat and Captain America, to even more obscure heroes, such as Iron Fist, Morbius, and Cloak & Dagger. The experience was so extraordinary that once players put their controllers down, they felt separation anxiety.
While very similar to the Final Fight series (which is even more apparent when you compare Fight's Cody to Streets' Axel), Streets of Rage 2 shows a growth in the format. Streets of Rage 2 allows players to pick their fighter amongst the rambunctious team of Axel, Blaze, Max, and Skate. One of the most memorable experiences in this game was being able to play as Skate, an acrobatical young boy on roller blades, as you tried to outmaneuver baddies with his speed in order to compensate for his smaller frame. Speaking of smaller frames..
Final Fight gone chibi! If you take the concept of the original Final Fight and give it the Mini-Me treatment, you have this unforgettable piece of beat 'em up history. Mike Haggar, Guy, and Cody retake chibi-Metro City in an unforgettable, comedic farce on the genre. There is nothing like seeing mini-Haggar handing pint-sized piledrivers out to the mini-Mad Gear Gang.
Anyone that remembers playing this game with their friends will remember arguing who would be forced to play as Vision. Players could choose from Captain America, Hawkeye, Vision, and Iron Man as they tried to thwart Red Skull's plans for world domination. This entry in our list of the 10 Best Retro Beat 'Em Ups also had side-scrolling shooter sequences as the heroes took to the sky. Players also received help from various Marvel alumni, such as Wasp, Namor, and Quicksilver, as they took on the nefarious Whirlwind, a giant Sentinel, the Mandarin, Juggernaut, and even the robotic Ultron. Avengers, assemble!
The original Battletoads game was one of the most difficult titles ever made in the history of gaming, and its SNES incarnation is just as tough. With Zits captured by the Dark Queen, it's up to Rash and Pimple to get him back. Like its previous incursion, players are able to beat on the bad guys and turn their limbs into gigantic weapons in order to deliver the coup de grace to the Dark Queen's henchmen: Rash's final headbutt would have enlarged goat horns and Pimple's final kick would be done with a size 40 boot. We're still hoping for a modern day revamp of the Battletoads franchise.
Any child that would walk into an arcade during the early-to-late '90s would stare in awe at the X-Men arcade machine and its simultaneous, four player glory. Arcade goers were able to choose from Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and Dazzler (the "Vision" of the group). This game was based on the 1989 pilot episode of the original X-Men series, so we see that some areas of the animation were similar to the famous 1992 cartoon. Players would fight through the sentinel-ravaged streets of New York, the primordial Savage Land, and, eventually, Magneto's homebase, Asteroid M. Players were able to jump, attack, and use super powers in order to combat the likes of Juggernaut, Pyro, Blob, Mystique, and even Emma Frost. Welcome to die!
Significantly different from the SNES port, this version of Aliens vs. Predator is better in nearly every single way. Players are able to choose among two types of predators and two cybernetically-enhanced marines (a female ninja or an updated version of Arnold's "Dutch" character), in order to fight off both the hordes of xenomorphs and the goons of the Weyland-Yutani corporation. Power loaders, pulse rifles, smart guns, shoulder cannons, and other weapons from both the Aliens and Predator franchises were able to be used until players finally took out the alien queen. Without a doubt, this is one of the greatest looking (and greatest playing), arcade beat 'em ups of all time.
Take Frank Castle and a pre-Samuel L. Jackson makeover, cigar-smoking Nick Fury, put them in a Die Hard-esque environment, give them a lot of guns, leave the Kingpin's stronghold doors open, and this is what you get. This is our number one beat 'em up because it is quarter-eating and button-mashing fun. Not only are the Punisher and Fury able to pull off an array of Double Dragon-like moves, they are able to use handguns, M-16s, rocket launchers, and various other weapons they find along their trek. In terms of pure enjoyment, ingenuity, control, and graphics, The Punisher is the Best Retro Beat 'Em Up of all time.