Lately, I've been really thinking a lot about my childhood vs today's, and I can totally blame my newborn daughter for that! I've been perusing this website, reading articles that I thought would be interesting, And I came across one that was written sometime last year about a classic arcade and the games they had. As I scrolled through it, the author mentioned P.O.W. And I was like WHATTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT?! I'd totally forgotten about that! And within 5 seconds I had a list of side-scrolling beat em up games I remember being all about when I was younger, and.. tada! Another article!
As I started writing this, I realized I was going off on a tangent lol. So allow me to continue down that road.... and if you want to skip to the beat em ups, then scroll down to the \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ section! :D
There were three arcades in my city, two within proper malls, and one in a little strip mall. Most of my arcade playtime was at the mall closest (and in the better part of town) to me. It's sad what that particular mall has become - probably half of the spots are vacant, and those that aren't are taken up by smoke shops and... urban wear stores. The department store anchors have closed up shop, so I'm not sure what the mall is going to become..
Anyway, I would always try to get to the arcade whenever my parents took me to the mall. They'd give me $5-$10, and off I'd go! That was back in the day where most games were $0.50 to play, and people would line up to play Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, marking their spot officially with a quarter up on the trim where the screen met the control board.
Really, you didn't have a spot until you put your quarter up! For a while I didn't want to play those games, mainly because I was an 8 year old and all the other guys were teenagers or older. I was afraid for my life! What if I beat them? Surely they'd take me to an extra dark spot in the back of the arcade and beat me up! :(
I found a much more zen environment to enjoy my arcade games in the cozy confines of the town roller skating rink...
Putt-Putt golf center...
and (lucky me) the game room at the condo my Grandma owned when I was growing up...
Ok, really, I enjoyed all of the above a TON! But I was always thinking about video games in all those situations. And with $5-$10, I could make it last 30 minutes+ WOOHOO! I did eventually get all my practice for Street Fighter 2 in at my grandma's condo, where no one else would play, and finally ended up stepping up to the teenagers with my badass, 8/9 year old self.... and kicked their asses! By throwing non stop fireballs with Ryu or psycho crushers with M Bison. It was cheap as hell. And I'm pretty sure I got the stank eye from many, many people with my cheap but successful playstyle. I would've wanted to kick my ass lol.
So beat em ups were always a draw for me! They usually didn't have many people around, and they were almost always a quarter. They also translated very well to consoles! This article is going to include both console and arcade games, most of which made their way to consoles of course. There were TONS of these kinds of games around, but this is covering the ones I remember the most, in no particular order (aside from the order they come to me in!)... off we go!
P.O.W. (Prisoners of war)
Since this is what set me off down the road of this article, it's only fitting it gets first mention! I loved this game so much. I think at the time, it had some of the best graphics around, with lots of colors in a jungle and camp setting. I thought the environment was really cool, and the way the characters dressed appealed to me too. I dropped tons of quarters into this game, and boy was I stoked when it made it's way to the Nintendo! Woohoo! As soon as I heard it was being ported, I HAD to have it. And when I got it, admittedly, I was a little let down.... the graphics took a MAJOR hit in the port. I'm not sure if the arcade was 16 bit or more, but the 8 bit version was uggggggly.
Alas, that was the world we were living in lol. At least the game was still fun, and I didn't have to pay when I wanted to play! Yay!
Bad Dudes was another game that had me hooked from when I first saw it! It had awesome cabinet art, lots of colors, more amazing graphics, and was another beat em up! Woohoo! And those guys were so badass looking, with their open fingered gloves, tank tops, and their Kung Fu looking pants! Plus they were DUDES. They HAD to be cool. I really enjoyed the game, and, once again, when it was ported to NES, as excited as I was, I plugged it in and turned it on expecting to see all the game glory I remember in the arcade and.....!...... :(... bamboozled again!
I dreamed of the day when I'd be able to have arcade quality graphics in my home.... (((Side Note))): When my wife surprised me with a FREE NES console that had been hidden away in someone's closet (I'm guessing because the quality was INSANE and there were some BRAND NEW looking controllers in bags!), this was one of the first cartridges I went out and bought at the local store that sells retro games. Ahh, memories!
The Adventures of Bayou Billy
The Adventures of Bayou Billy was a game that was actually designed for Nintendo, and I fondly remember it! I didn't have it myself, but my neighbor and friend did. It had surprisingly good graphics for the generation!
Why couldn't Bad Dudes and POW have came over looking more like that?! I kept on wanting to borrow it from my friend but he never let me.. that jerk. I still spite him to this day for that! lol. But whenever I'd watch him play it, one of the coolest things about it was that it mixed both the side scrolling beat em up game with a shooter game using the light gun! How cool! (((Side Note 2))): I found out that, with that amazing free NES compliments of my wife, the light gun doesn't work with today's TVs. Hmph. I started to trade in my plasma for a CRT! Really!.................... JUST KIDDING! HAHA! I BET YOU THOUGHT I WAS BEING FORILLZ DIDN'T YOU?! lol
This may be considered the granddaddy of beat em ups! I'm not sure on that, but I know that side scrolling beat em ups it seemed were forever branded "double dragon-like". I actually started this one on the NES, so I didn't have high expectations for the graphics like with my other games! But still, on it's own, it wasn't too bad! It had a secondary mode that you could play in lieu of the story mode that was more like a fighter (a la Street Fighter), and the graphics actually looked pretty damn close in that mode! Shame they didn't make it to the story mode...
STUPID ABOBO! I HATE YOU! I loved the series though. I didn't pick up the original Double Dragon, but I did pick up the second and third ones! I don't think I ever beat DD 2, and strangely, I remember "expecting" to have DD 3 in my Easter basket once it came out lol. I think I spent the most time in this series on 3. It just seemed more fun and less difficult than the previous ones I think.
This was one of my favorite arcade games! The original arcade had 3 characters, Cody, Haggar, and Guy. I always liked Guy because he actually looked like a karate guy, complete with a gi! However, when they ported it to SNES, sadly, he was lost.... pour some liqua out for the homie. We did still have Cody and Haggar though, and I found myself more interested in Haggar. He was so intimidating.
This was brought over to the Super Nintendo, and now we were MUCH more on par with arcade graphics!
Pretty damn close! (((Side Note 3))): That Thrasher guy, OMG. I hated him so much. He was a hulk of a man, and he was such a jackass that mid fight he'd just be like "nah bro" and backflip onto the railing near the entrance to the subway, whistle, be joined by a bunch of other thugs, then jump back in in the middle of the foray! And that laugh.. that damn LAUGH!
Taunting me! WHY ARE YOU SO CRUEL MAN! YOU BIG BULLY! There were actually a lot of bad guys I really hated in this game...
Fat ass bastard who'd charge head first at me from off screen and knock me down! Punk!
Asshole who'd jump on screen then start throwing knives and DYNAMITE at me then back flip away! UGH!
What a CHEATER!
This was another game that had tons of sequels, and I think I had them all.
Streets of Rage
Now, I must admit, this is a game I didn't really get to experience in it's prime. I was a SNES kid, and so were most of my friends! I had one friend who had a Genesis, and when we were hanging out at his house we were usually playing Sonic or a football game. I'm not even sure if he had SOR! I really remember first discovering it when I was in either high school or college, through the glory of emulators and ROMs. I started with SNES9X because most all of my favorite games were SNES games.... probbbbably had a lot to do with that being the system I owned lol. It wasn't long before I started downloading emulators for all the systems available at the time. With the Genesis emulator, the immediate ROM downloads were all the Sonic and Streets of Rage games, along with Altered Beast and a handful of others I thought I'd remembered hearing about.
So on to the game! One of the main draws for me was that there was a female character you could pick from! Even to this day, I prefer to play as females. I figure if I'm going to be looking at a character for any period of time, might as well be a sexy woman! There wasn't anything else really unique about the game, though it did incorporate stage design that would actually be quasi-3D, meaning you weren't just on a straight path the whole time you played - you would move up and down in the levels. I don't recall that being in any of the prior games on this list.
This spawned 2 sequels after the first one, though remained largely unchanged. (((Side Note 4))): I was looking at images for this article and stumbled across this video and had to share it lol.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 (The Arcade Game) and 4 (Turtles in Time)
C'mon! Ninja Turtles, AND a video game AND a beat em up?! This was GOLD back in the late 80s and early 90s! I was a huge TMNT fan, so as soon as I saw the arcade game I was hooked. This may be the arcade beat em up I dropped the most quarters into. It had bright colors, perfectly capturing the TMNT cartoon feel, and all my favorite characters! I always went for either Michaelango or Donatello. Or Leonardo. Raphael was my least favorite turtle in the entire TMNT universe, but I had to buy his toy because I needed the complete TMNT team to play with. DUH! (((Side Note 5))): Check out my Turtles toys article! It should be linked on the sidebar.
I had pretty much came to accept that a game that was this awesome was going to stay in the arcades and would continue to be a quarter muncher for me... but.... it was as if my massive childhood dreams came true when I found out it was going to be released for Nintendo, and Christmas 1990, IT WAS MINE! WOOHOO! I loved it! Although, we fell victim to the curse of arcade ports to NES once again...
At least this one made it across looking better than some of the others! But, no matter, this was still MY game - the Ninja Turtles Arcade beat em up game! I could overlook the ugliness to get my fix hehe.
But then, jumping into the next generation, I got my TMNT arcade fix in the form of TMNT 4: Turtles in Time on Super Nintendo! It had the exact feel of the original arcade game, same vibrant colors, but was it's own unique game that let us travel through time fighting Shredder and his cronies! And this time, the graphics made it over in all their arcade glory!
I poured so much time into this game when I was a kid, and had many many replays up until a few years back. It was always a joy to look back on. They also released a TMNT fighting game, Tournament Fighters, but that one just took the Street Fighter formula and dropped it into the TMNT universe. I didn't really care for it, which is saying a lot considering how much I loved SF2! It just didn't appeal to me. TMNT is about bashing enemies with your bo, katana, nunchuks, or sais, NOT throwing fireballs and spinning kicks at your opponent! Though I bought it (!!!!!NINJA TURTLES!!!!!!!), it was quickly shelved. And let's not bring up the original Turtles game on NES.... as much as I love them, that game just frustrated me soooooo much. It's on many "most difficult games" lists, so at least it wasn't just me!
The Karate Kid
Here was another game cashing in on a pop culture hit for kids, The Karate Kid! I watched that movie so much. And it left an impact on pop culture that can still be felt today, and not just by people who like logging onto retro sites and writing articles about things they remember from their childhood! Yanno, THOSE people....
Wax on, wax off..... wax on.... wax off....
SWEEP THE LEG! SWEEP THE LEG!
Cobra Kai = Pure, unadulterated evil.
Crane kick = Ultimate move in king fu. If you connect with this, the person on the receiving end is DONE. Flat out DONE!
I always used to goof around with my friends, and still do sometimes when its appropriate, by glaring at them, then sloooooowly lifting my arms by my side along with my right foot. They knew to tread carefully... lol. But anyway - back to the game! It had surprisingly good graphics for the Nintendo, especially an early Nintendo game I thought!
There were also bonus levels mixed into the game, as shown in the second pic above. One of those though... was one of, if not THE most aggravating bonus games of all time. This fucking catch a fly with chopsticks game.
Oh my GOD it was SO annoying! I don't know if I just didn't understand it (to be fair, I was only maybe 6 or 7 years old at the time) or what, but I couldn't ever catch a single fly. Don't let that video fool you. That video was uploaded in 2014, so he'd had 27 years of day-in, day-out practice before he mastered it. I speaketh the truth!
I hope you enjoyed this trip down beat em up memory lane with me! There were of course tons of others that have been released throughout the years, but these are the ones I remember the most.
As an honorable mention, I started to write about Kung Fu, but after looking around for pictures, I wasn't so sure I had the right game... but then I stumbled across it - the game I was thinking of was actually Yie Ar Kung Fu
It wasn't actually a side scrolling beat em up game, but a regular one on one fighter! But I remember that dude and his blue pants driving me to the point of madness many, many times. I remember putting tons of money into the game for some reason.. maybe it was sheer determination since I don't remember even being able to beat one opponent in it lol. Curses!
I'd love to see a revitalization of this style, but in this 3D gaming world we live in now, I'm not sure we ever will. Sure, there are tons of them on Android/iOS, but it just doesn't feel the same playing on a phone as it does with a controller or arcade pad. Maybe that's just me and my ol' mindset though hehe.