10 new school beat ‘em ups to play if you like Streets of Rage 4
Streets of Rage 4 is possibly the best beat ‘em up in recent memory. The game is true to the original trilogy, while refining the combo-based action to provide an experience that’s fast-paced and smooth. While beat ‘em ups don’t sit atop a throne like they once did, the genre has experienced a renaissance the past few years. Maybe you’ve found your love of the brawler rekindled, or perhaps you’re a newer fan who wants to pummel more fools after playing Streets of Rage 4. Whatever the case may be, here are 10 new school beat ‘em ups worth playing.
Double Dragon Neon
In Double Dragon Neon, you’ve got urban landscapes, offbeat thugs, plenty of denim, and bad mullets. It’s a trip back to the ‘80s in both style and gameplay, but Wayforward did a great job of making the action nice and smooth. Aside from combos and weapon attacks, you can also perform high-five moves if you’re in two-player co-op mode. Aside from being delightfully cheesy, these high-five moves allow Jimmy and Billy to split health, which is great if you or your partner have taken a beating.
Much like Streets of Rage 4, Double Dragon Neon takes a beloved franchise and modernizes it for a new generation. The game retains all of the brawling goodness that made the original Double Dragon and Double Dragon II so much fun to play — and yes, Double Dragon III is being purposely omitted, because that game is kind of awful.
Streets of Fury EX
Streets of Fury EX was created as an homage to Streets of Rage, and it plays quite similarly to the classic franchise. The gameplay is all about combos, supers, and big bosses. The game also uses digitized characters made up of the developers and their friends. It’s a lot of fun and makes for some hilarious moments as these models captured from actual people do flying uppercuts that take them high up off the screen. All that comedy aside, the game works and is a blast to play.
Years later, developer Guard Crush Games would assist in the development of Streets of Rage 4, using an altered version of the engine from Streets of Fury EX.
Super Crush KO
Super Crush KO from Vertex Pop does a great job of blending different gameplay mechanics. While it’s mostly a beat ‘em up, there’s also some solid shooting action and platforming mechanics. The game’s colorful comic book graphics are great, too. And while it doesn’t have a two-player co-op mode, the smooth and speedy brawling is absolutely top-notch stuff.
Admittedly, it’s kind of a shame that there’s no two-player co-op, but even without it, Super Crush KO is one of the best beat ‘em ups released this year.
Dungeons Punks is heavy on the beat ‘em up gameplay but adds a little RPG goodness, too. You face gangs of ogres, werewolves, and zombies across fantasy landscapes in what is mostly a highly challenging experience. In between levels, you can purchase new weapons for your characters and upgrade their special abilities.
The writing in the game is witty and genuinely funny, and the protagonist band of misfits can never catch a break. If you’re looking for an arcade brawler with an RPG touch, Dungeon Punks is an awesome choice.
While Dungeon Punks leans more toward its beat ‘em up mechanics, Dragon’s Crown is heavier on the RPG gameplay. Yes, it’s still filled with hectic enemy encounters and crazy action, but there’s a lot more story overall. The orchestral music, anime-styled character designs, and hand-drawn art also help to make the game feel like an epic fantasy adventure.
Mega Cat Studios created Coffee Crisis as a love letter to the 16-bit beat ‘em up genre. The studio loved brawlers on the Sega Genesis so much that you can actually pick up a Genesis cart of Coffee Crisis. That neat little novelty aside, the game is quite good, featuring tough beat ‘em up gameplay, two-player local co-op, and an absurd plot about aliens trying to steal coffee and heavy metal.
Like a lot of other games on this list, 99Vidas goes straight for nostalgia that spans the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. The pixel graphics and large sprites are reminiscent of older generations of beat ‘em ups, as is the actual gameplay. This title takes a lot of its cues from River City Ransom, allowing you to visit shops to increase your character’s stats and buy upgrades, but there’s also a little Streets of Rage in there. The end result is an entertaining and difficult action game that’s fun alone but best with friends.
River City Girls
The rumble is on in River City Girls! When the protagonists of the legendary Kunio Kun series are captured, it’s up to their girlfriends to duke it out with the street scum of River City. River City Girls stays true to the series’ roots by giving you everything you’ve loved about these games: slick action gameplay, shops with upgrades to buy, and pixelated urban landscapes.
In addition to all of the crazy beat ‘em up insanity, River City Girls is also a visual treat, featuring bright, pop-y graphics and anime-styled story sequences.
Streets of Red: Devil’s Dare Deluxe
Judging by its title, it’s clear that Streets of Red: Devil’s Dare Deluxe is inspired by Streets of Rage. The game takes that inspiration and flips it on its head, adding a roguelike element that ups the challenge. The gameplay is fun and right in line with what you’d expect from a solid beat ‘em up.
Aside from permadeath, where Streets of Red really takes a turn is in its tone. The game references old school video games, yes, but it’s also highly influenced by horror movies. The darker tone is reflected in the graphics, as well as the characters, which pay homage to Predator, Jason X, and A Nightmare on Elm Street just to name a few.
The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors
The Ninja Warriors was originally released in arcades in 1987, and it saw a remake on the SNES in 1994. The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors is less of a remake of those games and more of a new version of them. A lot of the same stuff is there — big mech enemies, dystopian themes, ninjas — but it’s a much tighter, more refined package. The end result is one of the best beat ‘em ups around.
Honorable Mention: Treachery in Beatdown City
While it’s a much bigger departure from the standard beat ‘em up formula than any of the games on this list, Treachery in Beatdown City still deserves a mention. The game features light beat ‘em up mechanics in favor of a more timing-based RPG gameplay design. You’ll grapple enemies and pick different attacks from a menu. These include strikes, combos, and wrestling moves. It’s one of the more clever games to come out recently that employs that retro style with a bit of a modern twist.
Also… Streets of Rage
Any of the games mentioned here are worth checking out, but if all you really want after playing Streets of Rage 4 is more Streets of Rage, you can find the original trilogy on Steam. Each game is priced at 99 cents, so you won’t break the bank, and they all support local co-op, which is really the way to play these games.