The late 80s and 90s were the golden age of beat’em ups. In the arcades, we had hits such as Final Fight, Aliens and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. At home, we had great ports of Golden Axe and the TMNT games, as well as Streets of Rage and Battletoads. While the genre may have gone through a rough patch on consoles, there has been a resurgence as of late. Beat’em up fans have been treated to Streets of Rage 4, River City Girls, Battletoads, the Capcom Beat’em Up Bundle and the recent announcement that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is returning. I’ve always enjoyed playing them with friends, staying up to the early hours of the morning mowing our way through wave after wave of enemies. As a result of the recent Scott Pilgrim announcement and my love of the genre I’ve listed seven beat’em ups I’d love to see return. A few are licensed products, so we’ll probably never see them again, but one can always dream.
Ninja Baseball Bat Man
Ninja Baseball Bat Man was developed by Irem and released in the arcades in 1993. From what I know, the cabinets came in two versions: a 2-player one and a 4-player one. It’s a wacky beat’em up inspired by baseball, where you take control of one of four… eh… Ninja Baseball Batmen. You battle your way through a very inventive cast of characters, including baseballs, jack o’lanterns and a plane (on a plane). The graphics are incredibly colourful and the game is a joy to play, especially with 3 friends. It is a unique experience. Sadly, it never received a console port and even though it can be gotten through emulation, I’ve never gotten it to work properly in multiplayer. It suffers from a lot of slow down. I don’t know if this is something that also affected the arcade machine as I never had the chance to play it on its original hardware.
As a kid, I was fascinated by Bucky O’Hare. I had toys, books and even pyjamas. There was just something about the oddball cast of characters that drew my eye. The arcade game was developed by Konami and released in 1992. It was a 4-player cabinet, where you could take control of either Bucky, Dead-Eye, Jenny or Blinky as you smashed your way through toads. It was fun, frantic and captured the art style of the cartoons well. Although we did get Bucky O’Hare on the NES, we never got a port of the arcade game, which is a pity considering how well Turtles in Time turned out on the SNES. Sadly, being a licensed product that’s pretty much defunct, I can’t see us ever getting a console port. At least it works on Raspberry Pi, where it’s an absolute blast to play.
“Welcome to Die!” Konami’s 1992 masterpiece (wow, Konami were really on the ball in the early 90s) has you play as one of six X-Men as you take on Magneto. The original cabinet came in a 4-player and 6-player mode. As you battled your way to Asteroid M, you had to fight regular X-Men villains, such as Pyro, Juggernaut and Mystique. Each X-Man had his own special that would help you out but could drain your health. The game was great fun, especially in the chaotic 6-player mode. This game did get an Xbox Live and PSN release in 2010 but was removed in 2013. I’m lucky to still have it on my Xbox 360 hard drive but it would be nice to see it released on the current gen platforms.
Up until now, I’ve been pretty much writing about bringing back games but this one is a little different. Golden Axe and its sequels can be gotten almost anywhere thanks to Sega’s compilations so anyone can experience them. In terms of this one “returning”, I’m talking about a sequel similar to how Streets of Rage 4 came about. Growing up I constantly played three beat’ems up: Final Fight, Streets of Rage and Golden Axe. I loved smashing my way across the fantasy setting, kicking elves for magic potions and avoiding mounts because I couldn’t use them. I even enjoyed the two sequels (even if Golden Axe III is on the tough side). I know they made an attempt to revive the series with Golden Axe: Beast Rider but I would love a return to the 2D style of the first three. Maybe with Streets of Rage 4’s success, we may actually see this one.
This is one I mentioned in my PlayStation Memories post. Fighting Force was developed by Core Design and released on PlayStation and Nintendo 64 in 1997. The game was an attempt to bring the beat’em up genre in to the 3D world. It was a decent try, with fun game-play, made better with a friend. It had different routes you could pick from and four characters to play as. The camera was awful at times (2-player boss fights) but overall, it was a fun game. It’s a pity that when the sequel was released in 1999, Core Design had moved away from a beat’em up to an action-shooter. Sure, it had some beat’em up elements but it didn’t feel the same. It was something that I felt could have built on the original, improving on the combat, camera and graphics while adding in 4-player. Sadly, we’ll never know as the series is defunct (as is Core Design) and if there was by some miracle a Fighting Force 3, it would probably follow the second in the series rather than the first.
Originally released in Arcades in 1990, this Sega shooter beat’em up (according to Wikipedia) was ported to the Mega Drive in 1991. I first got to play it as part of Mega Games 3. I love its B-SciFi theme, grotesque alien designs and exploding robot (yes, that’s his special). I also enjoyed how it would break up the side-scrolling parts with some shooting levels. It was incredibly goofy but fun. The game, like Golden Axe, can be found in several of Sega’s compilation games but it would be nice to get a new 2D version. I’d love to see them bring back the B-SciFi setting (including the dance at the end) but expand the roster of playable characters. It would be interesting to see what sort of bizarre designs they could come up with.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This one is a bit of a cheat as I’m not talking about a single TMNT, but rather the Konami games from the 80s and 90s. They gave us some of the best beat’em ups on their systems in TMNT II: The Arcade Game, TMNT III: The Manhattan Project, TMNT IV: Turtle in Time and TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist. I used to rent Hyperstone Heist regularly, blasting through it with a friend. We did get a remake of Turtles in Time in 2009 (which I enjoyed) but it was removed in 2011. I know there have been other TMNT beat’em ups over the years, but it would be nice to get the original NES, SNES and Mega Drive ones in a compilation that allowed you to switch between arcade and home ports (or even Re-Shelled for Turtles in Time). I would also love to see a new one in the style of the 16-bit games rather than using 3D graphics. One can dream…
I hope you enjoyed my list. Of course, there are loads more beat’em ups such as The Punisher, Captain America and the Avengers and The Simpsons but I just wanted to highlight some of my favourites. What beat’em ups would you love to see make a come back?