80s | 90s | Pop Culture | Video Games

Awesome Beat 'Em Up Games That Got You And Your Friends In The Fighting Spirit

Sega / Konami

When you had a hard day at school, sometimes you just wanted to grab your best friend, head home or to the arcade, and start up a game where the entire goal was to beat the snot out of anything that moved.

Sometimes you even saved dinosaurs!Capcom

Beat 'em ups are one of our favorite oldschool game genres, and these ones in particular kept us coming back for more.

1) Final Fight (Arcade, 1989)

Capcom

One of the most influential games in the genre, you have to save young Jessica from the evil Mad Gear gang, taking control of either her pro wrestler / city mayor father Mike Haggar, her boyfriend Cody, or his best friend Guy.

Capcom

Originally intended as a sequel to the original Street Fighter, it became its own thing and was an instant hit in arcades.

Capcom

Fun fact: the North American release changed the character of Poison to a male, as there was concern about the images of large men beating up women. This has caused a debate in the fan community about the character's true gender ever since.

What do you think?Capcom

2) Streets of Rage 2 (Sega Genesis, 1992)

Sega

The Streets of Rage franchise was Sega's answer to Final Fight, and with the second game in the series, they put out a title that could totally hold its own with the big guys.

Sega

With a cast of four characters that all played very differently, and awesome music by composer Yuzo Koshiro, Streets of Rage 2 was a great way to spend an afternoon with your best friend.

Sega

Who was your favorite? I was all about Blaze and her awesome all-orange getup.

Sega

3) Battletoads (NES, 1991)

Rare

One of the first major Nintendo games made by Rare, this was a game that was as fun as it was frustrating.

Rare

It was at both its best and worse when you brought a friend along, because it made beating the enemies easier, but you could also accidentally kill each other.

It could seriously be a friendship ruinerRare

And who can forget the jetski level? Ugh.

Rare

4) Double Dragon (Arcade, 1987)

Technos Japan

The game that really sealed the trend, you controlled Billy and Jimmy Lee as you try to beat up the Black Warriors gang to save Billy's girlfriend Marian (does this sound familiar?).

Technos Japan

The game was memorable for both its gameplay and its hilarious cast of baddies, especially the legendary Abobo.

Technos Japan

it also had one heck of a twist; when you rescue Marian, she makes you fight each other to decide who earns her love!

Splendid activity indeed...Technos Japan

5) River City Ransom (NES, 1989)

Technos Japan

An underrated little gem from the original NES, you control best friends Alex and Ryan as they try to, what else, save Ryan's girlfriend from the evil Slick. I'm sensing a pattern here.

Technos Japan

Unlike other beat 'em ups of the day though, this one actually let you buy things like food, books, and music that you could use to upgrade your characters. You could make them hit harder, have more health, or even learn entirely new moves!

Technos Japan

Click to the next page for even more awesome beat 'em ups!

6) Golden Axe (Sega Genesis, 1989)

Sega

Sega's other massive beat 'em up series on the Genesis, Golden Axe was a decidedly more fantasy take on the genre, teaming up three warriors against the evil Death Adder.

Sega

The characters all played differently from each other and had unique magic spells, which came with neat animations that were mind-blowing for the time!

Sega

And of course, who doesn't remember beating up the tiny gnomes for food and magic potions?

Sega

7) Dungeons and Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara (Arcade, 1996)

Capcom

Not to be outdone, Capcom threw their hat into the fantasy beat 'em up arena with not one but TWO beat 'em ups set in the world of Dungeons and Dragons. The first one, Tower of Doom, was just kind of okay, but Shadow Over Mystara was an absolute classic.

Capcom

With a massive cast of characters that almost completely changed how you played the game, lots of equipment and items to outfit your characters with, and branching story paths that let you choose which levels you wanted to take on, this game was an absolute treat.

Capcom

Word to the wise though; after playing this for long enough, you'll never stop hearing the characters yell "By the abyss!" in your head.

Capcom

8) The Simpsons (Arcade, 1991)

Konami

That's right, you could actually go to an arcade to play a beat 'em up based on everyone's favorite cartoon family!

Konami

Mr. Burns and Smithers have kidnapped Maggie, and it's your job to get her back. You fight with a combination of Homer's fists, Marge's vacuum cleaner, Bart's skateboard, and Lisa's skipping rope.

Konami

It even featured music and voices from the show!

Konami

9) X-Men (Arcade, 1992)

Konami

A year after the Simpsons game, Konami returned with another beat 'em up based on a massively popular American franchise; X-Men.

Konami

Based specifically on a cartoon pilot that never made it to TV, you got to control a cast that included Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Cyclops, or Dazzler.

Konami

Best of all, most of the arcade machines for this game had room for not one, not two, but SIX players! Nothing beat getting all your friends to take on Magneto and his terrible Japanese to English translation.

10) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time (Super Nintendo, 1994)

Konami

While it hit the arcades first, the Super Nintendo version of this game is considered by many to be the best beat 'em up of all time.

Konami

You and a friend could each choose your favorite turtle (so obviously there was always a fight over who gets to play Donatello), and take on this sprawling adventure throughout history.

Konami

It's a game so good it still holds up great today, so much so that we're hoping it gets a re-release on the Nintendo Switch!

Giphy

Did you and your friends play some beat 'em ups? What were your favorites?

Love oldschool video games? Check out our list of our favorite Super Nintendo games!

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