Beat 'em up

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A beat 'em up also called a brawler, is a genre of video game where the player controls a character who uses close-combat to defeat a multitude of opponents to achieve a goal. These games began in the mid-1980s as 2D side-scrollers and make heavy use of martial arts. Pioneers include Samurai (1980), Jackie Chan no Project A (1984-04), Chinese Hero (1984-10), and Karateka (1984-12). The first widely popular beat 'em up which checks all the boxes of the genre is Kung-Fu Master (1984). Over the years, the genre has expanded to include 3D environments and has incorporated many other game mechanics.

Beat 'em ups are similar to several other video game genres like fighting games, which put more emphasis on complex individual character battles than on defeating a multitude of generic opponents, and scrolling shooters, which predominately use ranged weapons which changes play behavior. Those beat 'em ups which have a fantasy theme are often referred to as a hack-and-slash, and some gaming databases make a distinction between the two, but, since the play mechanics are effectively identical, I group them together.

I really loved beat 'em ups when I first saw them in the late-1980s, what pre-teen boy doesn't love the idea of beating up a bunch of thugs, but I now find the classic beat 'em up game mechanic to be tiresome. It was great in the 1980s for draining quarters in the arcade, but it doesn't create a very rewarding gaming experience. I dislike having to wrestle with the controls and develop split-second timing, which is mandatory for classic beat 'em ups. Instead, I prefer later beat 'em ups which have growth and story like my favorite beat-em-up, River City Ransom.


This is a list of beat 'em ups that are important to me.

Title Released Developer
Altered Beast 1988-08-?? Sega
Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja 1988-04-?? Data East
Battletoads 1991-06-?? Rare
Double Dragon 1987-07-?? Technos
Double Dragon II: The Revenge 1988-??-?? Technos
Golden Axe 1989-05-?? Sega
Final Fight 1989-12-?? Capcom
Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu 1990-12-?? Now Production
Renegade 1986-??-?? Technos
River City Ransom 1989-04-25 Technos
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1989-??-?? Konami


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