What's a 16-bit console compilation going on a beat 'em up list? Well, when this particular compilation includes both the Mega Drive Golden Axe and Streets of Rage trilogies, it would be rude to exclude it. The SEGA Mega Drive Classics collection gives you access to regional variants of the games (which means you can play the brilliant Bare Knuckle III and not the butchered Streets of Rage 3 we got in the West) and some basic visual settings to play with, but having access to all of these in one place - not to mention all the other classics included - is the real draw here. We're big fans of the Streets of Rage series, and very much looking forward to the upcoming fourth entry; SEGA Mega Drive Classics offers the perfect way to whet your appetite.
Just one of many Neo Geo brawlers available as part of the Hamster's extensive Arcade Archives ACA Neo Geo range, Sengoku 3 released in 2001 and with lovely visuals and particularly great music, it's a blast to run through whether you're on your lonesome or playing with a friend. With all the usual extras you've come to expect from Hamster's releases, this is a great option if you're after beautiful brawler action circa the turn of the millennium.
A fantastic modern entry in the Ninja Warriors series, The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors might restrict movement to a single plane, but it gives this side-scroller a special flavour that's particularly delicious. This game plays like how you remember the classics, except with silky animation, incredible visuals and a host of effects that wouldn't have been possible on vintage hardware. The Ninja Saviors is a nostalgia trip of the very best kind and well worth a download whether you played the original Warriors games back in the day or want to find out how it felt to play them back in the day.
If you're unfamiliar with the headlining duo of Italian actors who partnered in a bunch of movies in the '70s and '80s, that's not problem. Bud Spencer & Terence Hill - Slaps and Beans is a fun co-op jaunt through levels inspired by their cinematic adventures, with a sprinkling of mini games and some excellent 16-bit-style pixel art and audio thrown into the bargain. It doesn't change the world, but its an affectionate little comedy beat 'em up that is worth investigating if it passed you by. Fans of the aforementioned duo should treat it as essential.
Another Neo Geo entry from Hamster, Mutation Nation was originally released in 1992. Fighting as Ricky and/or Johnny, you'll be facing a plethora of mutants and robots as you clean the streets in this one, and while there's little to make it stand out from the crowd from a gameplay perspective, brawler enemy designs don't get much more varied than this. It's colourful, it's got both mutants and robots... what's not to like?
WayForward's spin-off from the Kunio-kun series is absolutely fantastic; a modern game that's a perfect accompaniment to the Double Dragon & Kunio-kun collection we looked at earlier. River City Girls layers the accessible gameplay of the original games with a subtly complex RPG-style experience system which rewards you with stats boosts and new moves as you move around a non-linear game world that pays homage to the past beautifully. Like many of the games above, the onus is on you to experiment with different moves, different characters and different friends to get the most out of it, but WayForward did remarkable work capturing the spirit of this classic brawling franchise and River City Girls is a delight that you should definitely have ready and waiting on your Switch.
Streets of Rage 4 is the very best the series has ever been. Its hand-drawn graphics breathe new life into Wood Oak City and its inhabitants, the soundtrack is outstanding and the combat feels better than ever. Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games and Dotemu have managed to completely modernise the look and feel of Streets of Rage, expanding on the experience without losing sight of what made the original games so popular to begin with – and the handful of additions made to the action here serve only to enhance the classic core gameplay, resulting in one of the best side-scrolling beat 'em ups we've played in a long time.
Not a bad collection of fisticuff-lovin' misfits, hmm? Think we've missed one? Put 'em up in the comments below and perhaps we'll add it to this fluid, ever-changing list.