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PCU’s Blast From the Past Picks: Beat’em Ups

Recently, some of the PCU Crew sat down to discuss some of our favorite side scrolling beat ‘em up console games from our respective youths.  Starting back in the days of the original NES, and running up to & past the Sega Genesis, we relived memories of kicking the daylights out of gang members, monsters, ninjas, etc.  There were SO many games that we could have chosen from, but we finally narrowed it down to three after a lot of deliberation.

Double Dragon

“Let’s go Double Dragons!”

Double Dragon has to be one of my childhood favorite side-scrolling beat ‘em up games.  Initially released in the arcade in June 1987, developed by Technos in Japan, and distributed in North America & Europe by Taito, Double Dragon is undeniably one of the most iconic side-scrollers of our generation’s youth.

As the first beat ‘em up to feature two-player co-op, Double Dragon became the first international hit for Technos.  This game set the stage for a lot of subsequent games on early platforms, and offered a good story formula (girlfriend kidnapped, hero must fight to save her) for many games to come.  There was also a twist to the story, if both players managed to make it to the end.  These aspects also allowed DD to improve upon its predecessors and quickly be ported to home systems.

Double Dragon was brought to the Nintendo Famicom and the NES in 1988, and quickly ported to several other systems (Sega Master System, Game Boy, Atari, and eventually the Xbox 360, PS3, and PS4).  It spawned several sequels, but due to some inconsistencies, eventually fell out of favor with a lot of the franchise’s fan base.  The original, however, remains steadfast in a lot of the hearts & minds of gamers from the time, and has consistently been ranked as one of the best games of all time.

I have such fond (and frustrating) memories of sitting in my living room as a kid, with my little brother, trying our damnedest to beat this game on our NES.  I can still remember our excitement at getting to each of the bosses in the game, and trying to cooperate enough to take all of them down without dying.  When we finally did beat the game, we were so excited, that I think we actually cheered at each other for days to come.

Where can I play it now?

A version of the game, called “Double Dragon: Neon” (effectively a reboot of the series) has been ported to the PS3 and PS4, and can be downloaded from the Playstation Network, as well as from Steam.  The original NES version of the game can also still be purchased on, and there are even mobile versions of Double Dragon that are available on the Google Play store (for Android devices) and on iTunes (for iOS).

By Doug Toyryla

Altered Beast

“Rise from your grave!”

Altered Beast in many ways changed the landscape for beat’em ups in the 1990s. It took some of the concepts of transforming the antagonist similar to Gradius, added in some Greek mythology, and the game became an instant classic.

Altered Beast was a game that was developed by Sega in 1988 and became one of their pack in games (when such a thing was done regularly) with the Sega Genesis after enjoying a great arcade run. The premise of the game was that you played the role of an undead warrior sent to defeat Neff and save Athena. Why a goddess couldn’t save herself is beyond my guess but along the way, you fought all types of demons and undead including zombies, harpies, snakes and turtles. YES…TURTLES. Certain creatures came along and, upon their defeat, you would get an orb which powered you up until you became a nearly invincible were-beast.

My memory of this game was that it was a really hard one to find in the arcades and, if you did, there was always a line or it cost 50 cents to play (sometimes both). The graphics for it at the time were cutting edge as it wasn’t as pixelated and cartoony like Double Dragon. When it came to home consoles, due to the Genesis’ horsepower it was a near clone of the arcade experience. Surprisingly there was also a version (albeit a dumbed down single player experience) for the Sega Master System.  I remember that this game being really tough but getting the transformations was worth it for the end stage bosses.

Where can I play it now?

As long as you still have an Xbox 360 or PS3 you can grab Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection and get that along with a slew of other titles to play as well.

By Aitch Cee

Ninja Gaiden

“I will get my revenge…”

I was 14 the first time I saw that intro. We were living in West Germany (yes, I’m old) at the time and had come stateside, visiting family in Puerto Rico. I went with my mom to my aunt’s house and hung out with my cousins Cynthia and Poli. My cousin had just gotten a new game for his Nintendo and wanted to show it off. Having lived overseas for the past 3 years, we were cut off from all the cool stuff, so I was more than ready to dig in. Once the cut scene was over, I knew that we were in for something special.

For those of you that don’t know what Ninja Gaiden is, it’s a game that follows Ryu Hayabusa, a ninja seeking revenge for the death of his father. Of course, this quickly turns into a quest to save the world from a supernatural enemy and brings with it a plot twist straight from M. Night Shyamalan. Like many of the popular games on NES, it’s a side-scrolling platformer ported from the arcade and developed by Tecmo. The game itself is divided into 6 acts and 20 levels. As is standard, at the end of every act is a boss fight. Ryu has two meters to keep track of, “Life” and “Spirit” (“Life” represents his health while “Spirit” is a resource used for secondary weapons). Ryu can die if he takes enough hits, if he falls off the screen, or if the timer runs out. Ryu’s basic default attack is done with his katana, the Dragon Sword. He has multiple secondary attacks—throwing stars, fireballs, and a jump-slash.

I really love the action and gameplay of Ninja Gaiden. I’ve beaten it many times, but it’s still one of my go-to games on my NES emulator. The cinema scenes also make the game fun because you’ll want to keep playing to see what happens next. Of course, a good story can’t save a bad game, but, fortunately, Ninja Gaiden has great gameplay to back it up. It’s a challenging game, but not impossible. It gets 9 out of 10 from me.

Where can you play it now?

It has been re-released several times. Most recently, it was on Wii (and Wii U) Virtual Console in 2007 and also on the 3DS Virtual Console released back in 2012

By Manny E.

About Doug T. (491 Articles)
A lifelong gamer, disabilities advocate, avowed geek, and serious foodie. Doug was born in South America, currently resides in Northern VA, and spends the majority of his time indulging in his current passions of gaming & food, while making sure not to take life or himself too seriously.

1 Comment on PCU’s Blast From the Past Picks: Beat’em Ups

  1. This article brought back SO many memories of my Sega days. The problem with being the “nostalgic” type, is most of the time I find myself alone in my reminiscing. Thanks so much for proving me not alone. You rock!

    Liked by 1 person

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