Elemental Challenge – Day Four: Beat ’em Ups



It’s July 4th! Happy Birthday to the Great Experiment! And just have a nice day, rest of the world.

Now open up a can of 90’s slang ’cause it’s time for a beating. Beat ’em ups of the side-scrolling and top-down perspective variety were a staple in the 80’s and 90’s. Though their popularity has dropped significantly and we’re seeing only sporadic releases in this genre compared to their knuckle-sandwich golden age, perhaps due to their inescapable formulaic structure, the beat ’em up genre is as much a part of gaming’s DNA as RPGs, platformers, and shooters. The sophisticated sensibilities of beating enemies to a pulp with your bare hands or whatever other weapon you can find has successfully made the jump into modern games where that sort of thing is done all the time. Beat ’em ups: they’re great for relieving stress!


FF3-NES-Summoner2.png The Green Screen Mage

Batman: Arkham Asylum. Sometimes you just have to drop in the middle of a bunch of thugs and smash buttons until they’re all on the ground. It’s therapeutic really.



blackmage The Black Humor Mage

I remember when I first got a smartphone and found out you could get emulators for them. One of the games I got was Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage. I was younger when I played this a lot, and because I was young I still loved Spider-Man very much. I loved the character designs, and the gameplay for beat ‘em ups were pretty much easy to do at this point, so this game didn’t suffer from poor mechanics. A really good game.



mystic_knight1 The Midnight Mystic Mage (Sublime Reviews)

TMNT: Turtles in Time. This is not the game that I played the most in this category, but it is without doubt the one that I remember having the most fun with. I rented it from Blockbuster and had hours of fun, it was a real joy for a kid who loved the turtles to be transported into this world and take control of some of my favorite characters. (Honorable Mentions – Beavis & Butthead, The Simpsons Arcade Game, Fighting Force)



spoonybardmageright.jpg The Spoony Bard Mage (Nerd Speaker)

Turtles in Time, bro. This game was, like, so bodacious and had a ton of replay value. Cowabunga!



finalfourteenthmage.png The Final Fourteenth Mage (Cilla vs. Games)

Super Smash Bros BrawlBrawl is my most played Smash game of all time. There were so many things I loved about this entry in the series but my favourite has to be the inclusion of the story mode ‘Subspace Emissary’. My favourite aspect of a game is the story and I was absolutely stoked to see this included. It’s a shame that this element didn’t continue on in the next entry.



HandheldMage1 The Hopeful Handheld Mage (Retro Redress)

Streets of Rage 2 (Mega Drive), the king of beat em ups. Streets of Rage 2 is the pinnacle of that genre – great characters, lots of moves, superb graphics and sounds….I’ve never heard anyone criticise Streets of Rage 2, indeed if you tell people you like Sega games, Streers of Rage 2 is usually the game they bring up first!



 The Rage Mage

This is probably my favorite pick-up-and-throw-homeless-people game. Proof that Atari has no idea what they’re doing, Guardians of the ‘Hood is everything you think of when you think of “the hood”: guys in midriff shirts, sweaty pecs, getting kicked in the nethers, and Atari.

GUARDIAN--Guardians of the Hood_Jun28 17_27_28.png


rmage2.jpg The Well-Red Mage

River City Ransom is not just a favorite beat ‘em up, it’s also one of my favorite games on the NES. This wacky, cartoonish street brawler combines role-playing elements with the button mashing to make for a more robust gaming experience, and on top of that it’s actually an open-world game. All that on the original Nintendo? Yes. Other favorites include The SimpsonsAlien vs. PredatorCaptain Commando, and, as the others have already named: Turtles in Time.


Take some time to let the bruises heal. Come back tomorrow for something entirely different!

Did you enjoy this post? Consider becoming a Warrior of Light and join us in restoring integrity and quality to entertainment journalism. We specialize in long-form, analytical reviews and we aim to expand into a podcast and webzine with paid contributors! See our Patreon page for more info!


65 thoughts on “Elemental Challenge – Day Four: Beat ’em Ups

  1. Joy! Lord C rolls for Super Smash Bros Melee & Brawl! (TeamYoshi & TeamBowser all day!!!)
    But mad love for Streets of Rage & Golden Axe! Fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh does this set off my nostalgia sensors. It’s making me think of Final Fight (and not just because I’m obsessed with the abbreviation FF). The plot was simple if wildly sexist. The mayor’s daughter is kidnapped, and her father decides it’s time to stop playing nice, rips off his shirt to show some amazing pecs and goes to the rescue with her leaner, but equally buff boyfriend Cody. The mastermind to all of it was this guy in a motorized wheelchair Belger (?) who you had to throw out a window to defeat. The HP refills were various types of meat, because this was a MANLY game. Oh memories lol.

    I was never good it, but I enjoyed watching my brother play it. There are so many games that fall into that category for me. Ones I either didn’t play or wasn’t that great at, but that I loved to watch. I just love video games okay! Whether I’m playing or someone else is. I just want to be part of the party 🙂

    Turtles in Time deserves a mention, too, of course. I loved how you could throw the foot soldiers right into the “camera.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beat ’em ups were especially testosteroney back in the day, unusually so probably because of the influence of 80’s machoism. I played Streets of Rage recently and I kept laughing every time the chick threw kicks in her pencil skirt, I was like “how?” My wife wears those everyone once in a while and I can attest that she can’t do roundhouses in such a skirt. Maybe they need to figure out a way to do beat ’em ups that appeal to women, although… it sounds like FF appealed to younger you just fine?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was before I became a militant feminist lmao. They were fun though. It’s possible to recognize potential problems with certain media and still enjoy said media. I mean hell, I LOVE rescue romances.

        If Wonder Woman were the MC in a beat em up, that would pretty much fix that. Also the internet has diagrams for how to gird one’s loans when wearing a long flowing dress, which are pretty, but not very useful when you have to kill a man. Also, fitting a sword down the back of your dress totally works.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. “It’s possible to recognize potential problems with certain media and still enjoy said media.” I think I know you enough by now to say that I think you may be a feminist but you don’t strike me (verb choice deliberate) as a militant one, not the kind that boycotts things and shouts people down. 😀 You’ve never insulted me for being born male! Heck, I was just on FB and a friend was saying that all men don’t try and get involved in their gfs lives but their gfs do for them so the conclusion was that all men suck. I don’t think you believe that, but that’s some militant feminism right there. We’re friends but I’m not your “male ally” in the sense that I’m encouraging militancy, of course I’m your ally as your fellow human being, fellow writer, w, and internet neighbor. Anyway, I think we know each other well enough now to talk about subjects like this without offending each other, but if I have then I’m sincerely sorry. This is a place where we should be able to talk about anything, since I don’t intend to offend you and I doubt you intend to offend me. 🙂

          That said, I’d love a Wonder Woman beat ’em up! She’s been a playable character in plenty of games but I’m trying to think if she’s been in a beat ’em up, specifically. There have been playable Amazons in beat ’em ups, so things like Golden Axe comes close but of course they’re way less iconic than WW! Haha I thought she’d probably slice up her buttocks doing that with a sword!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. One of the problems with this world is that people can pretty much call themselves anything without any credentials. It’s how Jenny McCarthy became a vaccine expert *rolls eyes*

            Unfortunately, there are those who think that feminism means that the tables should turn and women should be the oppressors, but that would just swing the pendulum in the opposite direction and either way you’d have one group in power and the other one oppressed. It’s obviously a complicated issue, but the main idea is that oppressive systems hurt everyone even those who benefit from them, because we’re all born into it and there are certain expectations that are held up for certain people to fulfill, and they’re, well frankly BS.

            Take your friend’s example. One, that’s a generalization, and two, even if it is true, my psych nerdom said tells me that most human behavior, especially social interaction is taught. We’re conditioned to think “men do this and women do that!” and it’s pretty ridiculous. Like those commercials that show how inept men are at taking care of kids. If I were a father, I’d be insulted to be thought that low of, and God forbid you be a stay at home dad. Is the child being taken car of? That’s all that matters.

            I’m militant in terms of what I believe is right, but I’m WAY too much of a wimp to be confrontational unless I saw someone being hurt.

            But yeah, a lot of what turns feminist/feminism into a bad word is the misconceptions about it, and also there’s definitely some troubling history in terms of how women of color were treated which is why the word intersectional gets tossed out there, because if I’m making fun of men for being “girly” or laughing because a guy is “whipped” and a “stay at home dad,” I’m a gigantic hypocrite. It’s a you can’t just claim to be something and have it be so.

            I’m sure you’ve run into this in terms of Christianity and Christian values…especially nowadays. There are a LOT of people who claim to be Christian, yet they don’t follow the basic teachings of Christ, which I, an agnostic, think are pretty solid. Treat people as you want to be treated; take care of the destitute; be a good neighbor, etc.

            Actually I do boycott things! In terms of not spending my money there and a few other ways, but I also know it’s essentially impossible to live completely ethically in our society. So like I don’t shop at Walmart, because I don’t like that they don’t pay their employees a living wage, but I’m not going to berate people who shop there, because often it’s all they can afford. There’s major systematic inequalities that aren’t going to be changed by one person along…no matter how awesome she is 😉

            In terms of opinions, there’s a huge difference between saying “I prefer Nintendo to Sega or vice versa” than saying “I think XXX people should have less rights.” The one I might not agree with like my latest FFF question I had an FFVIII hater. I don’t agree with that (in terms of I don’t hate FFVIII), but it’s a preference thing (and I’m also getting better at not getting as upset over FFVII haters. That one’s harder, but I’m working on it). It won’t affect anyone’s life or rights.

            Enough serious talk! Onto Wonder Woman’s bottom 😀

            Her butt was impervious to blades. That’s the only conclusion I could come to, because it was clearly not sheathed XD

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Ever a respectful and intelligent response! I think that your brand of thinking is something that I agree with and can get behind. This is supposed to be about equality, right? To backtrack only a smidge on my original statements, I guess by boycott I meant spearheading a mass movement boycott, since I do the same thing in choosing where I spend my money on an individual basis. And I can certainly second the “misrepresenting” in any specific group. Anyway, I do appreciate the courtesy of the conversation, even on the most serious and personal of matters.

              And yes as for WW, there’s that scene where she’s dipped backward by the general and I was like “that blade must be bent in half!” lol

              Liked by 1 person

              1. I am very much against whipped icing on cake. THAT’S a movement I’d get behind. Most disappoint wedding ever. It’s possible to have courteous discourse on contentious subjects.

                Ah I forgot about that! Either that or she has a very flexible spine…like a cat.

                Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember being mesmerized by Dragon Ninja / Bad Dudes in arcades. My first domestic beat’em up was probably Renegade. A bit later, I really liked Final Fight, both in arcades and in different ports.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I honestly don’t think I have played a game that falls comfortably in this genre. The only game I can think of is called something like Double Dragon or Dragon Lance or something – you play as a Warrior, Elf, or Wizard and beat up monsters, and your weapons and spells differ depending on what class you chose. I guess it could fall into a blend of this genre and an RPG.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s the one! My younger brother would play it and ask me to help him, so I usually played the warrior to tank hits for him.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I nominate Streets of Rage 2. I found it difficult to choose between the three Streets of Rage games, but I found this game had the best balance. The graphics were an improvement from the previous game, with better character designs and more interesting level designs (which used a better range of colours and some good effects). The levels also seemed to follow from each other, rather than feature random locations. There was also an interesting effect, the game begins at night and, following each new level, dawn seems to slowly break. I like the final battle, with the player fighting the villain in an eighties-style office building with the sun hanging over a forest. While I prefer the grittiness of the original game, the cartoonish aspects were kept to a minimum and it avoided the science-fiction ideas of the later game. I also preferred each character having special moves (which recharged), rather than relying on the reinforcements that could be used once per level. The gameplay also seems to be have improved, with some of the problems from the first game removed. While the story was not as developed as the third game, I did not find the game finished early on easier difficulties. Although, I do wonder if some of the ideas appear a little fascist.
    What is River City Ransom like? How is it open world? What role-playing elements does it use?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t gotten around to Streets 2 yet, but I’m sure it tweaks a few things from Streets 1 for the better. Fascist?

      If you’re curious about River City Ransom, I suggest you check out our in-depth review on it. I really enjoyed the game, especially for its time. It’s quite enjoyable. Let me know what you think about it in the comments there, if you like.


      1. Fascist is probably a bit of an extreme description. I only thought that because the heroes (particularly the male characters) resemble the idealised people from fascist regimes (clean shaven, light coloured clothes and proudly showing their muscular physique) and the enemies resemble typical degenerates from eighties action films (mostly punks and prostitutes). The settings also seem to resemble places that distract the population, such as bars, arcades, fairgrounds, a baseball ground that has been turned into an underground wrestling arena. This gives the impression that the heroes are idealised people improving a city by beating up the undesirables in places designed to corrupt good people. Although is evidence that disproves this idea, such as enemies dressed as boxers and martial artists, levels set in factories and boats and Blaze’s dress sense. I do wonder why the original Japanese version of Streets of Rage 3 included a boss that resembles a stereotypical homosexual, though.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Sublime Reviews and commented:

    It is the 4th of July! And over at the Well-Red Mage we are talking about our favorite Beat Em-Ups. Myself as well as the Spoony Bard Mage have chosen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. What is your favorite? Stop by and join he conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Definitely Hyrule Warriors, if that counts. I spent 120 hours beating up Legend of Zelda baddies/bosses with legendary Legend of Zelda heroes and villains. It was a fun time! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This one was tough for me, because beat em’ ups are a bit of a guilty pleasure, and that’s not even including their vague redheaded Hack and Slash cousins. Their multiplayer angle has always been a soft spot for me, yet, it’s the single-player Comix Zone that I’d have to pick for this just for the sheer amount of replay value it had for me as a kid. The difficulty was brutal for tiny-Me, and this was pre-Gamefaqs days so everything I ever puzzled out about the game was through lengthy trial and error. And that was a loooooot of errors. Still, the aesthetic of the game is something I always adored, and the fact that the protagonist was a perfectly ordinary dude with a pet rat (and nothing to take on enemies with but his own fists) made for a really likeable story. I always hoped there’d be a remake of it sometime down the line, hopefully with stage select or a more forgiving continue system. My favorite bit of it all was how it rewarded quick thinking at certain points, opposed to just punching everything in the room. Not enough games let you bypass a boss entirely by setting the thing on fire,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are some really messed up games that are super unfair. For example, I recently played Streets of Rage and I did not like how slow the playable characters were. Coupled with the immense reach of the bosses and it’s pretty easy to die.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Man. I’m gonna go a bit more modern and say Castle Crashers. It was with this game that my wife and I discovered our shared joy for beat em ups. Aside from Scott Pilgrim and Mother Russia Bleeds, we haven’t been able to find another ‘newer’ game that quite scratches the itch… and we’ve tried more than a few. Apparently it really takes some good design and polish to make an enjoyable game in this genre, even if they aren’t considered very complex.

    Liked by 3 people

                1. Yeah, I had no idea really about this publisher before Mother Russia Bleeds. I never thought too much about the publisher side of things, aside from booing on Activision or whatever, as the corporate overlord making games suck. That there are smaller, much more nimble publishers out there with wry senses of humor sorta surprised me. At first I was feeling stupefied, like how could I be so unaware!, but got over myself and had to bring these amazing idiosyncratic groups of people into my model of the world.

                  Liked by 1 person

    1. Castle Crashers is always one of those games that’s in the back of my mind that I really want to get to. I keep waiting for a sale or something. You’re touching on a big subject there with the necessity of good design in beat ’em ups, which is odd considering they’re simply walking forward and punching some baddies. A lot of them do feel monotonous and flat after a while, so there’s some secret thing that needs to be there in order to keep them interesting. I think a lot of the success of the funnest beat ’em ups comes from the fact they adapted popular franchises of the day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm interesting theory. Scott Pilgrim, The Simpsons, TMNT and Predator were all good ones. For me, it just has to have that magic feeling in it (yes, yes, very clear and concise), but to be a big old hit, I think you’re on the right track with that theory.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. To take the Simpsons as an example, you’ve got the adaptation of a popular franchise, the variety of attacks between the characters, the array of tools, items and weapons to be found, and the wide array of enemies and stages instead of just fighting the same color swapped punks on the same streets. Simpsons also has good pace to it. The characters aren’t super slow, which is probably the biggest turn off for me in this genre. And the hit boxes don’t seem unfair. So yeah, that’s a lot to take into consideration.


  10. If we’re talking side scrolling beat ’em ups then i’m torn. Streets of Rage 2, Turtles In Time, Two Crude Dudes, Golden Axe, and Captain America and the Avengers were mainstays in my gaming for a long, long time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There are a lot of greats to choose from with side scrolling beat ’em ups. That Cap America game you mentioned just reminded me of the Spider-Man beat ’em up where the levels were interrupted by platforming sequences where the screen zoomed out. Remember that?

      Liked by 1 person

            1. It’s pretty fun, especially with all four players and I think that the interspersed platforming stages help break up the monotony of what’s a rather slow-moving beat ’em up. This game could’ve seriously used a dash feature. It was especially fun when I was a young Spidey fan, though. Lots and lots of bosses.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Aye, I remember really loving the old X-Men game at a young age too, and a lot of that was probably because I was a big fan of the cartoon. It’s amazing how much being a fan of the main character can improve a game for a player.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. That cartoon! I can still summon the opening theme song from the bowels of my memory at a whim. Oddly, that was probably the last time I liked the X-Men. Come to think of it, I’m thinking of the 90’s cartoon but I think the designs in the X-Men arcade game were based on an earlier cartoon. I can visualize Cyclops having his hair out in the 90’s cartoon but not in the beat ’em up. Wolverine’s different costume color, too, and so on.

                  Liked by 1 person

                2. Yeah, Wolverine was wearing brown I think? I don’t think I saw the earlier cartoon, but I remember seeing VHS of it advertised in comics. The 90’s theme was so iconic though.

                  Liked by 1 person

  11. Beat ’em ups as we know them started with one game. Double Dragon. Final Fight, The Turtles games, The Simpsons Arcade game, Streets Of Rage, and a zillion other examples all take inspiration from it. But Technos made the first three games a different experience on all of the different platforms. A lot of people would call DD2 The Revenge’s NES version the best of these, but I give the nod to Super Double Dragon on the Super NES, and its Japanese counterpart Return Of Double Dragon on the Super Famicom.

    The SFC version has some bonus content, and tougher enemies, but either one is a great game to play.

    The game added blocks, counters, and super moves to the action. The designs of the enemies feel even more ’80s DTV action movie than the original trilogy, and the recent fourth entry despite being released in 92. And even though it isn’t as visually impressive as Capcom’s Mike Haggar, or Sega’s Axel in terms of character sprite size, it does feel deeper. So many other games in the genre can easily devolve into staying at the end of the screen, and jamming on punch to kill enemies before you even see them. While you have moments in Super Double Dragon like that, the new mechanics reduce that, allowing for some really awesome counters.

    The game feels nothing like the earlier games as a result, and while purists may roll with NES DD2, I think SDD/RDD edges it out just enough for me to take the crown. That isn’t to say I don’t love the other high ranking titles out there, but this one is easily my favorite. Mark Bussler over at Classic Game Room did a great review of it, you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6MbgUIoPIg

    Liked by 1 person

Kindly leave a civil and decent comment like a good human being

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s