3. Streets of Rage 2 (Sega Genesis, 1992)
Streets of Rage 2 (also known as Bare Knuckle 2 in Japan) was developed by Sega and Ancient and was released late December 1992 in the US and early 1993 elsewhere. Let me tell you a little bit about this game…
It was not only the perfect insight into what was shocking 90’s fashion that featured enemies sporting some questionable denim on denim combos, but it was also a real standout beat-’em-up for the Sega Mega Drive that captured the real essence of classic beat-’em-ups and contributed to the genre’s deserving title.
Streets of Rage 2 features four varying characters with different combos and attributes and although picking a specific one won’t necessarily hinder or push your chances of success, you’ll feel captivated to complete the game many times over with each of them as the artistic, urban 16-bit backdrops, exceptional soundtrack and the comically memorable bad guys will all contribute to what is a nostalgic but still somehow relevant gaming experience that modern development companies are still trying to replicate.
When it comes to combat, Streets of Rage 2 does fall into the 2D category – as many games of its genre and generation did, however the ability to move across the Z axis smoothly and freely in this game added a little extra frustration, as the developers set out intuitive enemies that would take advantage of this situation. Not only this but the use of interactive objects that could be destroyed or damage you and your enemies was just something else to keep you on your toes (or skates).
For me, if you plan on going back to visit any beat-’em-up, whether you’re going in fresh or for that sense of nostalgia, my recommendation for your first port of call would be Streets of Rage 2.
– Sam Shannan
2. The Punisher (Arcade, Sega Genesis, 1993)
Released in 1993, The Punisher took the tried-and-true, black-and-blue beat ‘em up foundation that made The Final Fight a smash hit. However, while lead pipes and dirty shivs rounded out the arsenal of most beat ‘em ups of the 1980s and early ‘90s, this time Capcom slapped in a full clip of brutal gunplay into the mix. The results were explosive, as players took control of Frank Castle (and Nick Fury, if a second player wanted in on the fun) to take down the brutal New York mob and the ruthless and rotund Kingpin himself.
What makes this game stand out from the pack is its focus on speed and brutality. While Capcom’s previously released Final Fight and Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom were more methodical in their distribution of melee mayhem, The Punisher was a fast-paced, mile-a-minute brawler that’s a squeeze of the trigger from pure pugilistic perfection, and its hard-hitting blend of martial arts action and bloody gunplay sticks with you like a bat to the kisser.
Following its release, The Punisher slugged its way onto the Sega Genesis, but the 16-bit console wasn’t quite up to the task of doing this top-notch coin-op beat ‘em up justice.
1. Violent Storm (Arcade, 1993)
It’s no secret that Konami released a slew of popular beat ‘em ups in the early 1990’s. While their exceptional licensed games like X-Men, The Simpsons, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game and Turtles in Time are perhaps their best known, they can’t hold a candle to the hurricane of insanity that is Violent Storm.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Violent Storm’s story begins (how else?) with a young woman named Sheena being kidnapped by the violent – though superbly dressed – Geld Gang. Now, it’s up to the heroic trio of street fighters, Boris, Wade, and Kyle, to clean up the streets of murderous purple-mohawked hoodlums, hooded maniacs, and mutant monstrosities.
Violent Storm has a fast-and-loose style similar to Konami’s other brawlers, though the combat itself is a bit weightier. Overall, the game plays really well, but what makes Violent Storm really shine is its huge, vibrant sprites and off-the-wall soundtrack that features some of Konami’s most infectious chiptunes ever produced and some vocal tracks that will leave you in stitches.
Seriously, don’t just take my word for it. Inject this into your eager ear nubs and savor its brilliant madness:
Like most of Konami’s beat ‘em ups, Violent Storm never found its way to a console release. However, it’s hands-down the most entertaining one I’ve had the privilege of plowing through over the years, and any fans of fans of the genre would do well to seek it out.