Growing up in the 90’s, I was absolutely enthralled with video games. It might seem like a long time ago, but in that lovely decade, home consoles were not the only source of gaming entertainment. While in 2017 they’re mostly extinct and dying, few decades ago they were some of the most popular locations to hang with friends. I’m of course referring to arcades. Arcades played a huge part in home console releases, as providing accurate ports of arcade classics often drew gamers to home consoles. Arcades had many popular genres, but there were two genres that I consider more popular than the rest. Both the fighting and beat ’em up machines were often surrounded by eager kids, waiting to drop their quarters in and kick some butt. Although fighting games provided a unique competitive aspect, beat ’em ups offered challenge and cooperation. This made them perfect for home consoles, where you didn’t have to worry about losing quarter after quarter due to constant game overs.
Enter the Super Nintendo. While the NES had featured a handful of beat ’em ups, it was the Super Nintendo that truly embraced the genre. Besides classic arcade ports, we got fresh new titles exclusive to the system. There’s quite a few beat ’em ups for the Super Nintendo, and not all of them are created equal. Strap in and take notes, because these are (in my opinion) the top five best beat ’em up games for the Super Nintendo.
5: Final Fight
For our first entry, we take a trip to the arcades thanks to this excellent port. Final Fight isn’t just a singular game, but rather the first in a series. There’s quite a few Final Fight titles for the SNES, but the first one remains the best. Developed by the legendary Capcom, Final Fight followed the story of Mayor Mike Haggar as he attempts to rescue his kidnapped daughter. There were some changes made to the game in its transfer from arcade to home console. Most notably, one of the playable characters named “Guy” was removed. He was later reintroduced in a separate version of the game, but fans were disappointed to see another character removed in his place. The Sega CD has a more accurate port of the arcade classic, but if you had an SNES, there was a good chance you have some nostalgia for this classic.
4: Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage
Before comic book characters dominated big budget Hollywood, they were heavily featured in beat ’em ups. In fact, Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage is only one of a few Spider-Man centric beat ’em ups. Besides releasing on the SNES, Maximum Carnage also arrived on Sega Genesis. The versions are slightly comparable, but seemed to fare better on the Nintendo platform. Maximum Carnage marked the first time that a game truly followed a comic book plot, rather than just featuring comic book characters. The game also did a great job featuring a plethora of characters, both good and bad. We got to see a bit of Iron Fist, Captain America, and some lesser known heroes. The entire game gears up towards an epic confrontation with the main villain Carnage and his group of evil doers. Whether you were a fan of comic books or just beating some dudes up, Maximum Carnage provided a great experience.
3: Batman Returns
Marvel Comics weren’t the only company getting game adaptations in the 90’s, as Batman saw his fair share of features as well. The Dark Knight found himself in this brilliant take on the 1992 Tim Burton film of the same name. Interesting enough, Batman Returns is a pretty different game on the various systems of which it saw release. The Sega Genesis version in particular is quite different, and the Super Nintendo version still remains the most fun (to me, at least). This version of the game sees Batman squaring off against Catwoman and the Penguin in a classic side scrolling action adventure. Batman Returns provided hard hitting action that made players truly feel the power of Batman. Although it’s a bit short, the game was an excellent way to experience the movie in a new light.
2: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
Power Rangers was a huge franchise in the 90’s, and one that still continues to this day. The original season (the Mighty Morphin’ story line) was arguably the best and most memorable, and it really kick started the Power Rangers craze in North America. The Super Nintendo saw two Power Rangers releases; one based on the show (that’s the one on this list), and one based on the film.
I enjoy both of them, although many will say that the movie tie-in was less than satisfactory. However, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers holds a special place in my heart. I can clearly remember sitting cross-legged on my friend’s basement floor, clutching the SNES controller and joyfully beating the snot out of many of the show’s notable villains. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is similar to Maximum Carnage in that way, constantly featuring memorable villains and plot points from the original source material. I won’t lie, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers isn’t exactly the most exciting game even when compared to games ranked lower on this list. However, due to my immense love for the source material, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers nearly tops my list.
1: TMNT IV: Turtles in Time
If you played a Super Nintendo when you were a kid, you probably played this game. When I started thinking about my picks for this list, there was no doubt which game would come out on top. Beyond personal opinion, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time is widely regarded as one of the best beat ’em ups of all time… period.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise saw quite a few beat ’em ups, both in the arcades and on home consoles. I also have pretty fond memories of playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Manhattan Project, which released on the NES. Much like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Turtles in Time represents much more than an excellent action game. It also reminds me of the many hours spent playing it with my friends. Regardless of the occasion, Turtles in Time was often a go-to game to play with friends. Beyond the excellent visuals and excellent recreations of key TMNT villains, the gameplay was both challenging and rewarding.
Many developers have tried to reboot this classic on a variety of systems, but often to little success. Even after these reboots and remakes came out, I found myself returning to the SNES classic time and time again. Turtles in Time entertained me for numerous hours across my entire life. From childhood to college, I have so many fond memories of kicking shell with friends. Any game that create lasting memories and help friends bond deserves a high spot on my list. It doesn’t hurt that Turtles in Time is one of the best games ever made, either.
What’s your favorite beat ’em up game? Leave a comment!