The 10 Best Beat-'Em-Ups of All Time

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 8:00 am
Very few things in this world feel better than punching a guy right in the face. Unfortunately, as nerds, we don't often have a chance to do that in real life... or at least cause enough damage for the experience to be satisfying. So thank goodness for beat-'em-up games.

In late '80s all the way through the end of the '90s, beat-'em-ups dominated the videogame community. Both arcades and home consoles featured game after game where the entire point was to walk around and beating the living shit out of everyone who crossed your path, and when comic and cartoon licenses got involved in the beat-'em-up game genre, it was a match made in nerd heaven. Eventually, the purer fighting (a la Street Fighter) games arrived and offered people a richer ass-kicking experience, but that doesn't mean that these previous games should be forgotten. Grab a roll of quarters and some brass knuckles, because here are top 10 beat-'em-ups to ever take up your Saturday afternoon.

10) Battletoads
Frogs are some the least intimidating animals on the planet, but add some rad sunglasses and some spiked gauntlets, and even these amphibians can look pretty badass. Rash, Zitz and Pimple were tough guy toads cruising around the galaxy, flexing and posing all along the way. To defeat the Dark Queen, they had to punch their way through legions of rodent space troopers. The game was known for being insanely difficult and suffered from annoying friendly fire; to this day, it's considered one of the hardest NES games of all time. Not bad for some goofy-ass frogs.

9) Final Fight
For what it was, Final Fight was pretty dead serious. Metro City was rotting from crime, and the Mad Gear gang took it when too far when they kidnapped the mayor's daughter. Instead of paying the ransom, mayor Mike Haggar ripped off his shirt and powerbombed half the criminals in the city. Joined by tennis shoes tough guy Cody and mysterious karate dude Guy, the collective beat up homies, dudes in 1920s bathing suits, cops, wrestlers, knife-wielding homeless people and bitch-slapping trannies. The tone was much more serious than other games at the time, and the violence was much more realistic. The Final Fight legacy continued on with characters like Cody and Rolento appearing in Street Fighter games.

8) Double Dragon II
Billy and Jimmy Lee returned as the ass-kicking ninja brothers you don't wanna fuck with in Double Dragon II. When their girlfriend Marion got shot, the brothers Lee took it upon themselves to get revenge, one broken jaw at a time. The NES home version was drastically different from the arcade version but in a good way, with extra levels, story sequences and parts of the games you can only play on hard difficulty. Although the franchise went down the toilet afterwards, they still got a movie out it, starring Scott Wolf, Marc Decascos and the T-1000. Wanna guess how much it sucks?

7) Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage
Spider-Man is one of the few superheroes blessed with having generally good videogames, and Maximum Carnage is one the shining examples. Taking control of either Spidey or Venom, the game took you through almost every single event in the "Maximum Carnage" storyline, slugging bad guys left and right on your way to stop the insane Carnage. Aside from punching and kicking, Spidey used everything in his spider-arsenal including web-slinging, wall-crawling and spider-sense. One of the most unique things was the help system, where by picking up icons you could call in the likes of Morbius, Black Cat and Captain America to clear the screen for you. Meanwhile, Canadian joke metal band Green Jelly cranked out tunes for you to beat some ass to. All this, and the cartridge was bright red -- a nice touch.

6) Streets of Rage
Streets of Rage was a grittier, more insane alternative to Final Fight. If you truly loved violence, and really hated criminals, this was for you. Ex-cops Adam, Axel and Blaze took to the streets to take down the evil Mr. X, breaking as many bad guys' faces as possible in the process. Everything from ninjas to punkers to wrestlers were thrown at you. With simple combos and throws, hazards played a big part, as you could toss a criminal off a moving elevator or onto a conveyor belt. The series really hit its groove with Streets of Rage 2, which featured the playable '90s cliché, the rollerblading Skate. Then the series got weird and ended with Streets of Rage 3, but not before giving us a boxing glove wearing kangaroo as a playable character. Seriously.
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