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.
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)
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.
Originally intended as a sequel to the original Street Fighter, it became its own thing and was an instant hit in arcades.
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.
2) Streets of Rage 2 (Sega Genesis, 1992)
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.
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.
Who was your favorite? I was all about Blaze and her awesome all-orange getup.
3) Battletoads (NES, 1991)
One of the first major Nintendo games made by Rare, this was a game that was as fun as it was frustrating.
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.
And who can forget the jetski level? Ugh.
4) Double Dragon (Arcade, 1987)
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?).
The game was memorable for both its gameplay and its hilarious cast of baddies, especially the legendary Abobo.
it also had one heck of a twist; when you rescue Marian, she makes you fight each other to decide who earns her love!
5) River City Ransom (NES, 1989)
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.
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!
Click to the next page for even more awesome beat 'em ups!
6) Golden Axe (Sega Genesis, 1989)
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.
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!
And of course, who doesn't remember beating up the tiny gnomes for food and magic potions?
7) Dungeons and Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara (Arcade, 1996)
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.
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.
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.
8) The Simpsons (Arcade, 1991)
That's right, you could actually go to an arcade to play a beat 'em up based on everyone's favorite cartoon family!
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.
It even featured music and voices from the show!
9) X-Men (Arcade, 1992)
A year after the Simpsons game, Konami returned with another beat 'em up based on a massively popular American franchise; X-Men.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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!
Did you and your friends play some beat 'em ups? What were your favorites?