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Old School Games: Beat Em Up Retrospective PART 2


I really, really do love a good beat em up.

Some of the best old school gameplay is in a beat em up. With Castle Crashers having just been released, I've been seeing some people not understand that history. So now, on a very special blog post of Old School Games!


A beat em up is where you select a character, than go fight wave after wave of bad guys. A end level boss shows up once you reach the end of a stage. Every stage is generally left to right and multiplayer is a big part of the appeal. Beating up a bunch of guys by yourself is fun, but its even better with a friend. Most feature a special move you can do by pushing jump and attack at the same time. Does more damage but hurts your character. Most also let you pick from a strong but slow one, the balanced one, and a quick but weak attacking character. A lot of awesome stuff.

I tried to pick out a few of my favorites. For a complete list of the regular Nintendo beat em ups, try gameFAQs. These are just some that I felt I could write about.

Playing on the nes things are very limited. Most games that offer a choice between characters has no real difference except your favorite color. The challenge was in balancing your extra lives and continues against how many enemies and bosses you had to battle. So beating one of these gave a real sense of accomplishment. Even now I feel like I've done something if I can beat one begging to end. Another point to mention is that my father would also play a lot of these with me when I was a kid, memories I'll forever cherish. That meant a lot to me. Did anyone reading this have their parents play Nintendo with them?

Double Dragon

The reason I didn't talk about this in the arcade article, is because I'm so much more familiar with the Nintendo versions. Its classic beat em up stuff, right from the opening cut scene where your girlfriend is punched in the stomach and taken away by bad guys. Its up to you and your identical twin brother to go find these punks and show them whose boss.

One cool thing that Double Dragon does is that the more guys you beat up, the more moves you unlock with your hearts at the bottom. After a few level ups, you'll be spin kicking peoples teeth in.

I'd always get stuck around the third level where you fight two giant bald guys who walk
out of the mountain. That and these little water jumps that are murder on your extra lives. I hate those two guys to this day. They can go to a inch deep puddle, stick their faces into it, then drown themselves. If they want to castrate each other and bleed to death, that would also be nice.

Spoiler on a twenty year old game alert: Once you beat the final boss, if you're playing two players: You fight to the death for your girlfriend's love! How awesome is that? You play through the game using team work, only to face your own brother over a girl! Now that is an ending!

Almost makes up for the film version of Double Dragon.

I die a little inside just knowing that film exists.

River City Ransom

In my list of greatest games ever, River City Ransom has to be included. Its so perfect in almost every way. You've got light RPG elements so your characters get stronger. A silly "they stole my girlfriend, lets go beat em up!" storyline. Tons of weapons to pick up and hit people with. In fact, you can even pick up an enemy and throw them at another one.

The way you level up is genius too. Every bad guy you beat drops a coin (BARF!) and later screens are of shopping districts where you buy food and items to increase statistics.

The one downside is that its a little confusing to figure out where to go to fight the next gang leader. Other than that, this game is amazing. A previous Taito nes game called "Renegade" feels a lot like a prequel to River City Ransom.There is a gameboy enhanced remake, and a japanese only super famicom sequel.

This is a must play game. Its so good I had to play it for two hours straight today. I love this game!

Even the cover art makes me smile.

Bad Dudes

This falls closer in line with action platformer, but the gameplay is like that of a beat em up. You beat the snot out of the bad guys moving left to right. End of a level you fight a boss. That's close to the subjective definition of a beat em up right?

Maybe I just want to write about Bad Dudes so I can show off this screen of the story.

The plot is the greatest ever in a video game. I love this. Its so silly. I never really could get anywhere with the actual game, even now it doesn't hold my attention long enough to play for very long. Still I love the storyline so much I wanted just had to mention it! Rather than do a full post about it, why not wedge it into my Nintendo beat em ups retrospective.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Series

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The first turtles game is a brutal action platformer with overworld maps and impossible little jumps. I played it to death being a fan of the turtles, but its completely unforgiving and isn't really a beat em up. More of an action platformer, but enough fighting goes on to mention it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game

Now as for second nintendo turtles game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, this is a port of the arcade game with extra levels! That's the answer to how you make an awesome game better: ADD MORE TO IT! The levels in this are so classic. Burning building, ice levels, a skateboarding stage, not to mention the spectacle that is The Technodrome. For those that don't know, the Technodrome is the bad guys moving fortress. No series of levels is as classic. Its just such an awesome enemy stronghold. Also the game had coupons for free pizza! Cowabunga dudes!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: The Manhattan Project

Turtles 3 is another great beat em up. Its straightforward with no confusing parts at all. Graphics and gameplay hold up pretty well compared to the second one. I got this before I got my own copy of one or two, and its probably gotten the most play as a kid. Out of all my NES games this one kept me coming back. The levels here are even more varied than before. Especially considering this isn't a port of an arcade game. You start off on a beach, have a surfing level, a floating city, the ever classic sewer level, a fight with a rat in a subway station, and oh so many more awesome moments. This is one of my favorite games. Its so great, I have to stop writing about it and actually go play it.

A couple screen shots to show off how fun this game is.

Oh Ninja Turtles 3, I love you so much.

A lot of other games that could fall into the category the same way Bad Dudes does as a sort of beat em up, but I would say they're more of "action platformers." Good examples would be Castlevania, Werewolf: The Last Warrior, and Ninja Gaiden. Then there are the games that have a few levels that are beat em ups, then levels that aren't. Examples of that would be Bayou Billy or Battletoads.

Don't forget to check out part one!

Next up: The 16-Bit Consoles Super Nintendo & Sega Genesis!
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About randombullseyeone of us since 5:44 PM on 07.05.2008

"I am hoping that I can be known as a great writer and actor some day, rather than a sex symbol." - Words of wisdom from the deity Steven Seagal

"Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose." - Alan Moore from Watchmen

My own writing reflects the opinion of every corporation, company, individual, monsters, and gods. Also, cocks!

Coming soon as an actual book you can buy The Bonerquest. Hopefully you'll buy a copy when I'm done with it.

Will you accept The Bonerquest?

Zombies Ate My Neighbors is the best game ever.

Read fun articles Josh (Charlie) wrote for Tomopop or Nukezilla! Professionalism! Also I did some news for Destructoid. Sort of a real writer!

Check out Josh Hayes, a name Charlie uses for journalism on the internet so that he can say silly personal things without the fear of them being exposed openly. That and to hide from people he knew who he don't want to find him, not no way, not no how.

Twitter, or Tumblr!

Old School Games articles are pretty much worth reading. They say write what you know.

X-Com UFO Defense

Zelda 2

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

Dragon Warrior III

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Final Fantasy 3 (Final Fantasy VI)

Way of the Samurai

Nick Arcade

We Love Katamari

Ninja Gaiden

Toejam & Earl

River City Ransom

Mega Man X

Pokemon Red/Blue

Yakuza series

Operation Darkness


X-Men 2: Clone Wars

Sweet Home

Legend of Dragoon

Clock Tower

Mystal Ninja/Ganabre Goemon series

Onimusha Warlords

Rockin' Kats


Spawn games

God Hand

Blood Will Tell

Super Godzilla


Animal Platformers

Robot Alchemic Drive (R.A.D.)

Buck Rodgers Countdown to Doomsday

Darkwing Duck

Shin Megami Tensei games (Persona, Devil Summoner, Devil Survivor)

Jurassic Park 2

Disgaea & other Nippon Ichi Games (Phantom Brave, Makai Kingdom, La Pucelle Tactics, Soul Nomad)

Twisted Tales of Spike Mcfang

Resident Evil

Legend of Kage

Lost Vikings

Devil May Cry

Comix Zone

X- Men

Threads of Fate

Mutant League Football

Mega Man 7

Castlevania 2

Sonic 2

Dragon Warrior 2

Donkey Kong Country

Spider-man & X-Men Arcades revenge




Splatterhouse 2

Elevator Action

Mega Man 6

Mega Man 5

Dig Dug

Mega Man 4

Mega Man 3

Mega Man 2

Rock Roll Racing


Mega Man

Beat Em Ups PART 6: Future

Beat Em Ups PART 5: Playstation 2/Xbox/Gamecube

Beat Em Ups PART 4: Playstation/Saturn

Beat Em Ups PART 3: Sega Genesis Super Nintendo

Beat Em Ups PART 2: Nintendo

Beat Em Ups PART 1: Arcade

Smash TV

Ghosts & Goblins


Werewolf Last Warrior


Dragon Warrior


Rolling Thunder

Splatterhouse 3

Doom Troopers

Demons Crest

Primal Rage

Zero Wing


G. I. Joe


Listen to Josh "randombullseye" Hayes on Destructoid's #1 bullshit podcast, Bulltoid! There were nearly fifty episodes in total, good luck.
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