Reviews Archive
  knights of the round on snes Knights of the Round
knights of the round arcade game
  2 Players  
  Stand Out Versions - SNES  
  Another beat-em-up from Capcom, Knights of the Round is a fantasy styled game with some minor RPG elements added to the formula. Here you get experience points for defeating enemies, rescuing knights, and completing the stages in record time. As with all RPGs, the experience points tally up and the improve your fighting ability when they reach certain levels. Outside of the aforementioned elements Knights of the Round is a very polished title, it has a respectable moveset (which includes rideable steeds), and is well presented.  
  kung fu master on nes Kung Fu Master
kung fu master
  1 Player  
  Stand Out Versions - NES  
  Kung Fu Master is the oldest game featured in this article, and was also one of the most important games to popularise the genre early on. Its a milestone release for sure, but by today's standards the game is incredibly simplistic, with you essentially just walking along a flat plain punching and kicking the same few enemy sprites, and each stage pretty much being the same as the last.  
  mazin saga Mazin Saga/Mazin Wars
mazin wars
  1 Player  
  Stand out versions - Mega Drive  
  Unique, but flawed game with an excellently fast pace, great moveset (I especially like the dashing air attack), and a nice amount of variation. Some of the more unique ideas are centred around the huge bosses, who often make an appearance during the main stages (either as a giant foot which needs to be fought back, or in one level as a huge hulking beast pursuing you). These bosses always confront you for a fighting-game style match at the end of each level, which whilst fun in the beginning, become overly difficult by the mid point of the game (tactical thinking, and fast reflexes really are requirement if you hope to progress). The western release actually had a lot of localisation, and is much harder than the Japanese original.  
  panzer bandit Panzer Bandit
panzer bandit on ps1
  2 Player  
  Stand out version - PS1  
  Billed as the Playstations answer to Guardian Heroes, Panzer Bandit is a fun title with an excellent, and intuitive fighting system. Like Guardian Heroes the game uses a plain system, and includes a non playable character to help you. Its strength is in its fun, and easy to use combat system, which has you able to juggle the enemies around the screen multiple times before they hit the ground. Its a handsome and well made title.  
  punisher beat-em-up Punisher
punisher on genesis
  2 Player  
  Stand out versions - Mega Drive  
  Capcom had really perfected their beat-em-up engine by the time this game arrived in the arcades. The general quality of the graphics and gameplay is very high, with a nice selection of moves for both characters, and the added gunplay (with you pulling out different weapons at pre-determined sections) gives it some level of uniqueness. Fans of the game should also check out the later SNES beat-em-up, Iron Commando, as it feels influenced by the Punisher, and its also a great beat-em-up in its own right.  
  renegade Renegade
renegade on amstrad
  1 Player  
  Stand out version - Amstrad, Spectrum  
  After Kung Fu Master this was probably the next big evolutionary step in the history of the beat-em-up genre, introducing multi-plane movement, back kicks, throws, and the ability to punch people while they're down. Unlike later games, here the stages are short areas (maybe three or four screen in length) and simply require you to defeat a gang of members and their boss, at which point you're transported to the next area. The only home conversion's I could find which stayed quite close to the original arcade source material were the Amstrad and Spectrum releases.  
  river city ransom River City Ransom/Street Gangs
street gangs
  2 Player  
  Stand out versions - NES  
  A NES classic in every sense of the word, River City Ransom pioneered the inclusion of RPG elements in the genre many years before other developers caught on to the idea. The game is lighthearted, and never takes itself too seriously, there's a good number of onscreen characters and moves, and the RPG elements and password save system add a lot more depth to the game than was commonly seen in other brawlers of the era.  
  splatterhouse 2 on genesis Splatterhouse 2
splatterhouse 2 on megadrive
  1 Player  
  Stand Out Version - Mega Drive  
  This was the first Splatterhouse title released for the Mega Drive, and whilst much simpler than its sequel (here you only move on one plain and the routes are more linear), its still a very atmospheric and engrossing title in its own right. The game has you methodically, and carefully moving forwards dealing with every nasty thing which jumps out at you in turn, it can be tough going sometimes, but there's a password system and the memorable boss fights always keep you wanting to progress to see what the game has to throw at you next.  
  splatterhouse 3 on megadrive Splatterhouse 3
splatterhouse 3 on genesis
  1 Player  
  Stand out versions - Mega Drive  
  The first time I played this game I was actually taken aback by the surprising level of blood and gore, you can really see that the developers here wanted to add some real tension and horror to the game, and as far as I'm concerned they succeeded admirably. The praise doesn't stop there either, as Splatterhouse 3 also manages to impress on the gameplay front. Unlike most beat-em-ups the game doesn't actually follow a linear path, it allows you to choose your own route, and your route, as well as the time taken, has an effect on the outcome of the (relatively) involving storyline.  
  streets of rage 2 Streets Of Rage II
streets of rage 2 on mega drive
  2 Player  
  Stand out versions - Mega Drive  
  As far as I'm concerned Streets of Rage II has to be the pinnacle of the pure, no-extras style beat-em-up, and is one of the defining titles of the genre. The level of presentation was taken to the max with some of the absolute best music, and graphics to come out of the Mega Drive, the screen often fills with enemies (just try playing it on Hard Mode), and the fighting engine feels as though its been honed to perfection, with a good number of moves and multiple combo-ing options.  
  target renegade on spectrum Target Renegade
target renegade
  2 Player  
  Stand out version - Spectrum  
  I actually become more and more impressed with this game as time passes, I mean, it arrived in 1988 on the Spectrum (not exactly the most advanced system by that time), and yet was still pretty much fully formed as a beat-em-up. Here you could punch, grab, do a flying kick, a back kick, kneel and hit people when they're down, and even pick up an assortment of weapons. The game had a two player co-op mode, with three on-screen enemies at a time when even the NES and SMS were struggling with that number, and the enemies even show some simplistic AI, with them ganging up on you, picking up weapons, and sometimes even ducking your flying kicks. Word of warning, avoid ports of this game like the plague, the original Spectrum and Amstrad version's were the only ones worth playing.  
  turtles arcade game Turtles - The Arcade Game
turtles 2 on nes
  2 Player  
  Stand out version - NES  
  The first game in the highly successful Turtles series of beat-em-ups from Konami, and along with Final Fight and Golden Axe, a seminal late 80s arcade release. I think the real strength of the series has to be it's fast paced, exciting fighting engine and set-piece levels, the games are just always great for instilling a feeling of frenetic action and no-holds-barred fun. The NES sequel, the Manhattan Project, was even more impressive and polished, but didn't really offer a lot of new ideas.  
  turtles in time Turtles in Time
turtles in time surfing level
  2 Player  
  Stand out versions - SNES  
  Rivaled only by Streets of Rage II in the no-nonsence beat-em-up stakes, Konami really went to town with this, their fourth game in their illustrious Turtles series. Turtles in Time plays like a game made for fans of the series by fans of the series, all the popular characters make an appearance, the art design is imaginative, and the Turtles themselves have an enhanced moveset which makes them even more fun and exciting to play as than they were in earlier titles.  

Honourable Mentions

The Honourable mentions section will be noticeably longer for this particular feature due to the inherent lack of variation in the genre, all of the following are great Beat-em-up games that any genre fan would be proud of, they just lack that certain something to distinguish themselves from the glut of similar playing Beat-em-ups


Batman Return - NES

Captain Commando - SNES

Death and Return of Superman - SNES/Mega Drive

Gourmet Sentai: Barou Yabou - SNES

Iron Commando - SNES

King of the Dragons, The - SNES

Mutation Nation - Neo Geo

Mighty Final Fight - NES

Ninja Warriors - SNES

Pirates of Darkwater - SNES

Rushing Beat Series - SNES

Sonic Blastman Series - SNES

Maximum Carnage - SNES, Mega Drive

Two Crude Dudes - Mega Drive

Undercover Cops - SNES

Turtles III: Manhattan Project - NES

Atari ST
Atari VCS
Commodore 64
Game Boy
Master System
Mega Drive
Neo Geo
PC Engine
ZX Spectrum