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Top 10 Side-Scrolling Beat 'Em Ups

VO: Dan Paradis
Script written by Nick Williams Simple, wacky and fun, side-scrolling beat 'em ups aren't are the grandfather of the hack and slash genre and home to some of the most memorable games of all time. From butt kickin' toads to epic street fights, these games are fun to play alone or with friends. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 side-scrolling beat 'em ups. Special thanks to our users YellowBasterd69, beastlanky and Mad Dash for suggesting this topic on our website WatchMojo.comsuggest.

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Script written by Nick Williams

Top 10 Side Scrolling Beat ‘Em Up Video Games

Side-scrolling beat-em-ups are a lost art, and in our opinion, they’re long overdue for a comeback. I mean who doesn’t love beating the crap out of an endless stream of thugs and hoodlums? Welcome to, and today we’ll be reduxing our countdown of the Top 10 Side-Scrolling Beat-Em-Ups.
For this list, we’ve selected the best and most iconic side scrolling beat ‘em ups of all time, sticking to our usual one entry per franchise.

#10: “River City Ransom” (1989)

BARF! OK, so the first best thing about “River City Ransom” are the awesome Batman-style exclamations that baddies give off when you’re pummeling them, including repeatedly yelling “BARF!” and “Wham!” On top of the hilarious graphics and style, “River City Ransom” is a still insanely fun co-op brawler, and one of the most underrated games on the NES. As one of the first side-of it’s genre, River City Ransom incorporated RPG-style character-leveling mechanics and an open-ended exploration system – placing it firmly ahead of its time.

#9: “Golden Axe” (1989)

“Golden Axe” is a fantasy-themed brawler with lots of magic and mystical creatures. You are tasked with hacking through legions of baddies in an effort to reach Dark Adder, an evil sorcerer that has unleashed chaos on the land. “Golden Axe” was an early example of an arcade port done right, with sloid graphics and the ever-important co-op mode. Plus, the game features a barbarian character known as “Ax-Battler,” who for some reason doesn’t use an axe, but rather uses a sword. So, that’s kind of funny, right?

#8: “Battletoads” (1991)

“Battletoads” follows two anthropomorphic toads, Rash and Zitz, as they embark on a quest to save their buddy Pimple and his girlfriend Angelica. In case you didn’t know, this probably one of the hardest games ever created, but there’s nothing more satisfying than working together with your friend to get past that damn hover-bike level and finally lay the smack down on the Dark Queen. An additional fun fact is that “Battletoads” was an early game from Rare, who would go on to create some of the most revered games for the SNES and N64.

#7: “X-Men Arcade’ (1992)

The X-Men, with their varied powers and skillsets, make up the perfect cast of selectable characters for a side scrolling beat ‘em up. That, combined with the unique and awesome 6-player co-op arcade cabinets, makes “X-Men” a mainstay at arcades, even to this day. Faithfully recreated characters and a tight gameplay made this the ultimate comic book game for years to come. “X-Men Arcade” also features some classic hilarious localization problems, including when Magneto says: “I am Magneto, Master of Magnet.”

#6: “Alien vs. Predator” (1994)

“Alien vs. Predator” is filled with crazy action, screen-filling brawls, and probably the nicest graphics and sound quality of any old school brawler. “AVP” has the honor of being the best Alien vs. Predator crossover ever – and that includes the PC titles and the movies which are best not to mention. The only problem with “AVP” is when your friends pick both Predator characters and you get stuck using one of the humans. No matter how many fancy toys a human might have, they will never be as bad-ass as a predator.

#5: “The Simpsons Arcade Game” (1991)

Quick, name the best “Simpsons” video game. Assuming you didn’t say Hit and Run, the only other thing you could say is “The Simpsons Arcade Game.” After Maggie is kidnapped by Mr. Burns and Smithers, the iconic family heads out to get her back, clobbering their way through hundreds of cronies and thugs. “The Simpsons” is not the first franchise you might think of when it comes to brawling, yet somehow, the vibrant animation style and sense of humor work perfectly in Konami’s arcade masterpiece.

#4: “Final Fight” (1989)

“Final Fight” took the formula established by games like “Double Dragon,” and improved on everything with better graphics and tighter controls. “Final Fight” is difficult, but SOMEBODY needs to clean up the streets of Metro City and rescue Jessica, the mayor’s daughter. “Final Fight” co-stars a giant, muscle-bound professional wrestler, Haggar, who is also the mayor of Metro City, and that’s just plain awesome. Beyond Haggar, “Final Fight” is chock-full of memorable Capcom characters, including Guy, Cody, Poison, and Hugo, who all became mainstays in Capcom’s classic “Street Fighter” series.

#3: “Double Dragon” (1987) (Arcade Version)

“Double Dragon” is the grand-daddy of side scrolling beat ‘em ups. Hundreds of games imitated “Double Dragon,” including the sequel, “Double Dragon 2,” but the original stands as a great co-op brawler in its own right. The concept is simple: choose a brother, Billy or Jimmy, and clobber your way through legions of gang members using kung-fu and even a few weapons to save your kidnapped girlfriend, Marian, from Big Boss Willy. The later NES port of “Double Dragon” was immensely popular for home gamers, even though the co-op mode was unfortunately cut.

#2: “Streets of Rage 2” (1992)

The original “Streets of Rage” was Sega cashing in on the white hot arcade beat ‘em up market. Though “Streets of Rage” isn’t a bad game, the sequel is where Sega struck gold. “Streets of Rage 2” was the perfect storm of brawling perfection, combining slick animation, spectacular music, interesting characters both good and bad, and one of the deepest combat systems seen in a beat ‘em up to that point. Will you be the one to stop the dastardly Mr. X and his legions of street thugs?

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Batman Returns” (1992)

“Spiderman and Venom: Maximum Carnage” (1994)

“Captain America and the Avengers” (1991)

“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” (2010)

“Castle Crashers” (2008)

#1: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time” (1991)

Cowabunga! What happens when you combine two of the hugest sensations of the early 90s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and side-scrolling beat ‘em ups? Why, you get “Turtles in Time,” the most iconic brawler in gaming history! “Turtles in Time” combines perfect gameplay with that classic goofy Turtles humor and style. The time travel concept also allows for some rad level design: one second you’ll be beating up dino-riding foot soldiers in the prehistoric age, and the next you’ll be in the future, fighting Krang on a high-tech hoverboard. Kowabunga!

Agree with our list? Did we forget any thug-pummeling beat ‘em up games? For more butt-kicking top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to


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