games / Columns

The Top 8 Brawler Video Games

November 10, 2021 | Posted by Marc Morrison
The Simpsons Arcade

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about brawler/beat-‘em up type of games. By this category, I generally mean games where you face about 10 or so enemies per encounter, and not the hundreds of face in something like a Dynasty Warriors. Also, generally, no weapons, unless it is the only way you can attack. Like there isn’t weapon switching. Also, I know about franchises like Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, Battletoads, among others, but they don’t make my personal list. Let’s go:

#8: Golden Axe

I like Golden Axe but I only really like Golden Axe when you’re playing with other people. If you’re doing it solo, it’s fine enough but just not that much fun. When you’re playing with friends though, you can argue about who gets to pick up the magic bottles or who gets to ride the various animals you can stumble upon. Also, even though there are more enemies with more players, the game does get a lot easier because you can gang-up on enemies and cheese them down. This is one of the big beat’em up games I can really remember playing in arcades when I was a kid.

#7: The Warriors

The Warriors seems like one of the forgotten Rockstar games and that’s not great. I love the game to this day and would gladly take it over most of the stuff Rockstar has been putting out. While it is a crime game, you can rob stores or steal car radios and the like, you are primarily brawling with all the other gangs in New York City, to either get back to your own turf or to expand your influence (in the flashbacks). You can also command your own gang as the Warchief to attack certain enemies, beat up everyone around you or to commit general mayhem. It’s not the deepest game but it’s such a sincere love letter to a cult film that I’ll always appreciate it.

#6: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game

I appreciate things about this game but it falls into the Golden Axe thing for me. Playing it single-player, like I originally did, blows, because you can get ganged up on quickly and wrecked. But if you’re playing with someone else, or a few someone else’s, the game becomes a lot more enjoyable. Well, assuming the netcode with the HD re-release was actually good. Still, I appreciate this game more now, because I understand the leveling mechanics more and dig the soundtrack now. I still dislike the fact that enemies can block though, it does ruin at least some of the combat flow of the game.

#5: The Simpsons (Arcade Game)

Of the Konami “Big 3” brawlers, TMNT, X-Men and Simpsons, I think I dig the Simpsons the best. The others are great also, don’t get me wrong, but I like actual gameplay of Simpsons more. It has team-up attacks with various family members, you can find weapons and use them and it had a few little mini-games to break up the fighting action and to give you a small break. Plus, the game is now just a really interesting historic curiosity. The game was released near the end of season 2, so around March of 1991. Due to that, if you look at how the game looks/sounds compared to the current version of the Simpsons, it looks worlds apart. Or how Burns/Smithers are outright way more villainous in the game than they ever (mostly) are in the show. While this game is better with more people, it is still pretty playable just on your own, provided you have infinite credits.

#4: Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (SNES)

Most Power Rangers games are brawlers, because that’s what the show primarily is. You take out some gangs of putties, the bad monster shows up, take it out, it grows, you summon a Megazord and then take it out again. I’m specifically calling out the SNES version here because while it’s a relatively simple brawler, that doesn’t make it bad. It’s fairly colorful, all the rangers play slightly differently, though Billy is the best due to a multi-hit finishing attack, and it keeps it follows fairly closely to the show formula.

#3: Viewtiful Joe

Aside from no Okami sequel ever being made, another consequence of Clover being shut down 15 years ago is we’re never getting another Viewtiful Joe game. Viewtiful Joe is basically a sendup of Kamen Rider, or really, even Super Sentai (Power Rangers) by how Joe transforms and yells out a catchphrase. Joe gets sucked into a movie, given the Viewtiful powers, and told to go rescue his girlfriend Silvia. Aside from the usual punching and kicking, you can also slow-down time, speed it up and record yourself doing moves, which creates a clone of yourself when time resumes. It was and still is, a pretty neat game mixing a brawler with time control elements.

#2: One Piece Unlimited World Red

It’s still bizarre to me that I like this game. I have almost no knowledge or appreciate of One Piece as a whole, I know it’s vaguely about pirates and that Luffy ate some rubber gum (or something) that lets him stretch out, and that’s about it. What I really like about this game is that every character feels distinct and has different moves. Luffy uses his stretchy limbs, Usopp uses a slingshot, Chopper transforms into different large things to attack and so on. There is a much larger and more intricate game going on in World Red than just the brawler stuff, town building, resource gathering, etc, but the core of the action is just mashing your way through stages.

#1: Yakuza 0

This is still my favorite Yakuza game and that is mainly due to the battle system. While Kiryu has three (later 4), somewhat generic, styles, Majima is the one who is a blast to use. He has one fairly normal fighting style, but his breakdancing one destroys groups of weak enemies. His other bat/baton style is also great against single-enemy boss characters, as you can multi-hit them with ease. While Yakuza, at large, has way more story and other gameplay systems than every game on this list, just the art of fighting low-level enemies is always fun, particularly in Yakuza 0.

For comments, list your favorite brawler games and why.

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Top 8 Marvel Video Games

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The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison