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Bare Knucklin’: Beat-Em-Ups You Shouldn’t Miss

From contemporary favorites to more classic offerings, we've got a brawler for every occasion.
This article is over 11 years old and may contain outdated information

Nothing beats the art of the beat-em-up, the side-scrolling game where you can pummel someone into oblivion, either alone with or friends, before facing a tougher boss enemy.  And you would do this for various stages on end before finally reaching the end boss and putting them away for good.

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Though not many beat-em-ups see release as of late, there are still a few that are making the rounds on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.  Here’s our current list of favorites that you can find for relatively cheap…

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game (Ubisoft, Xbox Live Arcade)

Even though it’s currently delisted from the XBLA service, many of you were lucky enough to grab this $5 deal when it first launched a few years back.  Ubisoft has taken the classic four-player Konami arcade hit and reconditioned it with online play and unlockable Achievements galore.  The servers are still going today, so if you did manage to snag this, hop into a session and, ahem, shell out some justice.

If you didn’t get the game, though, not to worry, as Konami’s X-Men the Arcade Game and The Simpsons Arcade are also available for relatively cheap – and pack similar arcade thrills without having to fork over any quarters.

Streets of Rage 2 (Sega, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network)

The original Streets of Rage was good, and we even like the third chapter in some ways, but we always seem to come back to part two, where cops Axel and Blaze team up with wrestler Max and street kid Skate to take down Mr. X and his band of thugs.  With supercharged moves, a wonderful soundtrack from Yuzo Koshiro, and the ability to brawl online alongside a buddy, Streets of Rage 2 is a not-miss brawling party.

You can find this game by itself on both XBLA and PSN, as well as in the Streets of Rage Collection on Xbox Live and the retail release Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, which also comes with the other two SoR games.

Guardian Heroes HD (Sega, Xbox Live Arcade)

Years ago, Treasure, the developers of Ikaruga and Gunstar Heroes, eked out a fun little role-playing beat-em-up called Guardian Heroes for the Sega Saturn, featuring some interesting characters (including a lumbering, dead knight who follows your commands), a groovy soundtrack and an arena mode where you could fight alongside friends.  Sega was gracious enough to bring that game back as a downloadable release for XBLA, complete with online support, colorful visuals and the ability to play in “classic” mode, if you prefer the Saturn motif.

While we’re recommending that style of game, Phantom Breaker Battleground, which just came out over a week ago, is worth a look, with humorous 8-bit style graphics, combo-filled gameplay and multiplayer mayhem.  It’s available for Xbox Live Arcade as well, for just 800 Microsoft points.

Final Fight: Double Impact (Capcom, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network)

Cody, Haggar and Guy have been around for years now, and even though they mostly appear in fighting games these days, nothing beats their original romp through Metro City, where they took on the Mad Gear gang in the hopes of rescuing Haggar’s daughter from peril.  Final Fight has always been an entertaining beat-em-up, and Double Impact has the game in its finest form, with well-retouched HD graphics, online interactivity, and unlockable goodies and Achievements/Trophies.

If you’re in the mood for other Capcom brawlers, you might want to grab your PSP for Capcom Classics Collection Remixed and Reloaded, which contain such games as King of Dragons, Knights of the Round, and Captain Commando.  These games are compatible with the PS Vita as well, and go for $9.99 apiece.  A swell deal, considering you get other classics like the Ghouls n’ Ghosts trilogy as well…

Double Dragon Neon (Majesco Games, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network)

Billy and Jimmy Lee return to the spotlight with this, a game that fitfully retains the beat-em-up bliss of the original game, while, at the same time, paying tribute to the begotten 80’s era.  Double Dragon Neon is silly fun, as you work together alongside a friend to pound weirdly-dressed thugs into obscurity, and teaching the dastardly Skullmageddon – really, that’s his name – a thing or two.  Oh, and when you get a chance, give the soundtrack a listen.  It’s an absolute delight, even though it may not quite have what it takes to top Miami Connection.  (Look it up, kids.)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Ubisoft, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade)

Released at the same time as Universal’s video game-style film, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a captivating throwback to the old NES days, with character design and a soundtrack that resemble something designed from that era.  Featuring various characters from the film – including those Evil Ex’s – Scott Pilgrim is somewhat challenging, but a good time nonetheless.  And, in pure River City Ransom fashion, there are shops where you can buy power-ups along the way, using coins knocked loose from enemies.

One major gripe about Scott Pilgrim is the lack of online play, but Ubisoft is fixing that with an update that will launch next week, free of charge, that will enable players to finally match up together to bring down the Evil Ex’s.  We’ll see you online.

Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Warner Bros. Games, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii)

For those of you looking for a cartoon-style beat-em-up that you can play alongside your kids, it doesn’t get any better than Lego Batman 2.  Packed with a sprawling universe that you can explore at your leisure, the game also comes with no shortage of thugs that you can beat into bricks.  And with a wide assortment of heroes and villains to unlock, there’s always someone new to try.  Grab a friend, because it supports co-op.

If Batman isn’t your speed, other Lego games are also available, including Lego Lord of the Rings and Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, both of which have hours worth of fun to offer – especially if you’re a fan of those franchises.

What are your favorite brawlers?

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Prima Games Staff
The staff at Prima Games.