On summer nights, not so long ago, people across the country would find themselves surrounded by a cacophony of electronic music blaring out of the speaks located strategically on neon illuminated arcade machines. The arcade is one of the most heartbreaking stories of a business that is all bygone the way of the dodo. I grew up in a tiny town, so the only “arcade” we had was in the local laundry mat. I know my mom was relieved when she could finally afford her own washing machine but hanging out in the arcade while she did laundry was one of the best moments of my childhood. It wasn’t a large arcade, maybe three Pinball machines and a couple arcade cabinets. They would rotate new games every few months to keep kids interested. Arcades are still out there if you look hard enough, but they are few and far between.
Recently I built my own arcade cabinet and decided to go back through some of my favorite games. It’s not the same as being in an actual arcade, of course, with all the loud sounds, cheering of friends, and smell of deep-fried foods and pizza, but all the same, it is a blast to play. So, seeing how gaming is on my mind, I decided to sit down and make a top 10 list of the best beat ‘em up games.
10- The Punisher
The murdering anti-hero needs your help! This game was released in 1993 by Capcom. Marvel Comics may have had many arcade games, but The Punisher is one of my favorites and a highly underrated game with great graphics and smooth play. Seeing how The Punisher is such a violent character in the comics anyway makes sense why this is such a fun game.
9- Alien vs. Predator
Two of my favorite aliens going head-to-head! How could this not be a slam dunk? Another Capcom game released in 1994, years before the film AVP was made, puts predator and humans on the same side (sort of).
8- Cadillacs and Dinosaurs
Capcom just keeps ‘em coming! Released in 1993, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs is a unique game with lots of style! However, C.A.D would have received a lot more love had it been more accessible. I honestly didn’t even hear about the game until I was an adult and regret not stopping the Black Marketeers gang from hunting down the dinosaurs and turning them aggressive!
Konami finally makes the list with its first entry! X-Men came out in 1992 and was based on, you guessed it, the X-Men. This game was actually my introduction to the X-Men, and shortly after playing, I started reading the comics. It has a simple storyline; Magneto has taking the professor captive, and it is up to us to save him. I don’t think I have ever played this game and not used Wolverine as my character. As of January of 2021, this game is available through the Arcade 1up series.
6- The Simpsons
Another great Konami game released in 1991 was The Simpsons. I was attracted to this game first because of my love for the show. Once I played the game, however, it was apparent that this is not just a great Simpsons game, but a great game in its own right! The game’s plot is to rescue Maggie. She was kidnapped by Smithers after she uses a diamond he stole as a pacifier. Simple story with some super fun moments!
5- Double Dragon
Developed by Technōs Japan, Double Dragon may be the game on this list I spent the most time with. However, my time with the game consisted of sitting in my bedroom until 3 in the morning, eating PB&J trying to beat the NES version. That being said, Billy Lee and Jimmy deserve their place on this list for their courageous acts while saving Billy’s girlfriend, Marian.
4- Golden Axe
Sega delivered this precious gem back in 1989 to great success. Golden Axe is one of those games that I would hear kids talk about more than actually see them play. Still, when I had the opportunity to drop some coins in this arcade, I was happy I did! Taking a trip into a fantasy world as a Dwarf, Barbarian and Amazon is always an escape I want to make.
Many people may have issues with this, but my favorite Marvel beat ‘em up game is the 1991 Sega release, Spider-Man. One of the main reasons I put this game so high on the list is how beautiful it is while playing. The colors and shadows really bring Spidey’s world alive right on the screen. The gameplay is also super smooth and fun, especially when swinging around the screen or shooting webs at enemies!
2- Final Fight
Capcom loves its beat ‘em up games, and in 1989, they really showed us how much with their game Final Fight. There’s not much of a story really with this game other than clear out Metro City of as many thugs and gang members as you can. I think what makes this game stand out is perhaps the long history the game has had. As of 2019, the series sold over 3 million units. Robin Williams even named his son Cody after one of the characters in this game! Some characters eventually crossed over into the Street Fighter series later on.
1- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time
I am sure some were getting worried that this list would be turtle less, but why the shell would I do that? Konami released Turtles in Time in 1991. It has been, most likely forever will be, MY favorite beat ‘em up of all time. What can I say? I love being a turtle!! The funny thing that this game did for me caused me to love Donatello for a whole new reason. I was always a Leo kid growing up, but Donnie was my guy when I played this game.
Written exclusively for TheLastPicture.Show by Jacob Ruble
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