We love a good brawler, so are loving the announcement that one of our favourite retro brawler series is making a come back with Streets of Rage 4 slated for release this year.
So, to get you (and ourselves) into the mood, we’ve looked back over the classics of the genre and pulled together our six favourite games to get you in the mood for a random punch-up in the streets with some thugs.
Golden Axe II (1991)
You might be wondering why we’ve chosen the second title instead of the first, and it’s simply because so many lessons were learned between the two titles. The gameplay and animation was smoother, the special attacks more visually impressive, and the settings far better rendered than the original in 1989.
Also, the move to make the trio more individual in their gameplay, with the characters having different reach, and the return of the Duel Mode, make this superior to its predecessor. The second battle for Yuria, this time against the wonderfully-named Dark Guld, is just as enjoyable to play now as it was back in 1991.
Altered Beast (1988)
Okay, I’ll grant that this isn’t really that good a game, as the gameplay is slow and shockingly clunky to play. But, what it lacks in good gameplay it more than makes up for in charm. From the opening “Rise from your Grave” to the ludicrous Were-Bear transformation, the game is an enjoyable romp through ancient Greece.
Furthermore, Altered Beast was tremendously difficult, as home gaming hadn’t even began to shake off the penny-pinching arcade strategy. So, really you were going to be playing this for a long time just to overcome the difficulty. Oh, and it’s great fun in two-player too, with double Were-Dragons being so chaotic it causes hilarious frame rate drops.
Double Dragon (1987)
What’s not to love about Billy and Jimmy’s adventures? Yes, they’re actually pretty awful by modern standards with clunky and over-simplified combat, and slightly off-time sound effects, but the series is just so widely loved, possibly owing to the legacy that followed this game since its release in 1987.
In fact, you could argue that without this original fight against the Black Warriors gang, none of the rest of the titles on this list would exist. Plus, there has been an animated series and a live-action movie adaptation made of this game, so you can’t deny its popularity, even if you can deny it any sort of praise as a well made game.
Final Fight (1989)
The characters of Final Fight might have moved on in recent times, with Cody now a mayor and Haggar now repeatedly hitting Iron Man, for instance; but we have a soft spot for the original journey through Metro City. Along with the enigmatic ninja, Guy, our trio fought against the Mad Gear Gang to rescue Haggar’s daughter.
It really can’t be ignored how good this game was to play at the time, and still is now to an extent, with decent movement and combat options. Also, having three completely distinct characters made the two-player co-op immense fun as you both rushed to pick Guy.
Alien Storm (1990)
This is kind of cheating, as this is mostly a shooter. But, owing to the fact that you technically CAN melee at points, and the set-up of characters and general gameplay is practically the same as the Golden Axe series, we’ve given it a free pass. Plus, this game also has the same difficulty as Altered Beast, making the latter levels a real challenge.
Not to forget too, the gameplay regularly gets shaken up by the switch to being an incredibly messy (in the best possible way) first person shooter. The game is dumb, with some ridiculous enemy designs and an actual playable robot (yes, really), but we love it.
Streets of Rage (1991)
Of course this had to be here. The original and (maybe) best of the series, and the game that introduced us to the unforgiving streets, the evil Mr. X, and the impossibly 90s trio of undercover police that made up the playable roster, complete with a bandana and impossibly tight jean-wearing bruiser in Axel.
The likely reason why the original is still held in high regards is because the gameplay is so solid. With only a few buttons, there’s a surprising level of depth to the combat, and its simplicity makes it very easy to pick up. Those special Police attacks are still awesome too.
What are yours though? Do you prefer the second Streets of Rage over the first? Are you excited for Streets of Rage 4? Is there another game that’s missing? Let us know!