Now the fight is really on. Anton and I have been joined by Paul and we will reveal our top 10 1-on-1 beat ’em up games. Not scrolling brawlers like Double Dragon, Final Fight, or Golden Axe … that list might be next 🙂
Again, this isn’t a “best” list, but one of favourites.
OK, LET’S ROCK..
Dave’s TOP TEN 1-on-1 BEAT ‘EM UPS
(1) Way of the Exploding Fist (Sinclair Spectrum, 48k, tape).
This was the first ever fighting game I played. For that reason alone it had to feature somewhere. Because I loved it so, and it was the reason (several times) for me returning late home to a parental scolding, it gets the top spot. It is slow, with pretty much black and white outline sprites, but it has plenty of moves and absolute skill is required to win. Practice is rewarded. A real gem, and at the time of release unlike anything else I knew of.
(2) International Karate Plus (C64, tape).
This was an update to International Karate, which was a good “clone” of the above game. This though, was 1-on-1-on-1, but it really plays like a normal 1-on-1 game. In single player mode you fought against 2 guys, and in 2-player mode there was always a computer controlled chap. You had 30 seconds to score 1 or 2 points for hits, which always knocked down your opponent briefly. 6 points won you the round directly – or if time ran out, proving you weren’t last, you stayed in. And it was FAST. Really fast. And it had one of Rob Hubbard’s most loved tunes. Actually, click that link and listen while you read the rest of my filth. Aged 15, I played this game before each of my GCSE exams as a form of stress relief. Or maybe I didn’t like revision that much.
(3) Street Fighter II (SFC, cart).
There was a moment when I first saw this in the arcade. I lost a few coins, I had a good time. I wanted more, but was a bit worried there wasn’t really enough game content to warrant a costly import. I was spectacularly wrong – and delighted. My mate had it on his SFC (Jap SNES) and it was on that fine machine that all the subtleties of this truly great fighter slowly dawned on me. Playing on hardest (level 8) it would take hours and I’d use 100+ continues completing it. That count slowly came down. In truth this game is a lot better than the two above, but without the two above I may not have wanted to play this one quite as much. This game was also responsible for my finest ever spending of 20p. At the arcade of Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montfort University) I put 20p into the machine, I fought of 3 or 4 human players and went on to beat the game. That remains the only arcade I have ever 1CC’d.
(4) Street Fighter IV (PS3, blu-ray).
I was quite excited when I first saw the screen shots. Obviously I loved SF2 and I have enjoyed SF3 and many of the in-between games. This edition though could so easily have been butchered and fouled up. It wasn’t. Not one bit. The 2D gameplay remained, only it was slightly faster. Everything I wanted to kept was, and all the new bits were fine. Beating up a Frenchman online was beautiful. Proof that new games can be as awesome as retro ones. Something that doesn’t always appear possible. Thank you, Capcom, for this wonderful update.
(5) Dead or Alive 2 (Dreamcast, Gd-Rom).
Kasumi is almost solely responsible for me giving 3D a chance. 2 reasons. Yup, you guessed it – her nice big eyes. I have always resisted 3D fighters, but this one had two other things going for it as well: firstly it looked gorgeous, and secondly it was a hell of a lot of fun. I loved the way the moves follow each other as you pummel away on opponents, I adore the multi-level stages as players crash through wall, off bridges etc. Sometimes I had no idea what I was doing, but there is a deceptive amount of depth to the fighting in this game. Counters, throws, and attacks all have advantages over each other. If you’ve never tried it, I can’t recommend it enough — just stay away from the Volleyball games, please!!!
(6) King of Fighters ’99 (NeoGeo AES).
The thing about King of Fighters series being so vast is that, in a list like this, the possibility for a single title to stand out is reduced. I have gone for this version because it was the first BIG, memory wise, NeoGeo AES game I was able to purchase (I think it was £80 on eBay). The whole KoF series is not about glitz, glamour, or gimmick. What you do get is one of the very tightest fighting models anywhere. Practice is rewarded, and a good understand of when and how to use the moves and special moves is essential. A wonderful series that quietly demands your full attention.
(7) Soul Calibur (Dreamcast, Gd-Rom).
My 2nd 3D entry. And it just gets in. I want to leave it out simply because so many people over-hype it. But I can’t, when I had the DC version I went through all the mission levels (so much more fun than the most modern tutorials) and developed a better understanding of the game. This resulted in much more enjoyment, though I confess I have forgotten all the subtleties I once learned 😦
(8) Waku Waku 7 (Sega Saturn, Cd-Rom).
For madness alone, this is a must. you cannot help but show anyone new to Japanese gaming a fine example of their creative mentalness. It plays in a similar vein to other SNK fighters but the characters are plain bonkers. On top of superb two-player madcap fun, the one player game is a solid one. So great that this game is available on the Saturn because the NeoGeo AES version is way too expensive!
(9) Street Fighter Alpha 3 (GBA micro, cart).
Never would I have expected to get such a beast of a game so perfectly ported to such a small device. Paired up with a GBA Micro you have a spectacular rendition of one of the best fighting games in history that fits into the very smallest of pockets. Thy really did a fine job here – this is by some distance the best pocket fighter, that way it can’t be compared to the PSP version 😉
(10) Mortal Kombat (Intel 486 PC, seriously!)
I never wanted to like Mortal Kombat. I didn’t like its digitised graphical style and it wasn’t Japanese. By my mate had it on his PC, and other mates kept playing it, so I was “forced” to join in. After a while I had to admit the fighting mechanic was decent and the game was fun. I even started to like Sonya Blade. And yes, the newer MK games might be better, but this was the most important to me; without it, I wouldn’t own any of the others.
Surprising omission: Virtua Fighter.
It is surprising for me because I am a SEGA fan-boy, but I was hugely resistant to 3D fighters early on. I found them awkward and relied too heavily on vast numbers of moves that need to me memorised, as opposed to a lesser number of techniques to be understood. Basically, I didn’t like losing 😉
Other Kicking Fighters:
There are many other fighter I own and want to play enough so that they stood a better chance of making this list: Ninku (Sat), Arcana Heart 3 (360), Astra Superstars (Sat), Sonic Council (Sat), Mortal Kombat DC Universe (360), Rival Schools 2 (PS), Gal Fighters (NGPC), Guilty Gear Petit (NGPC), Golden Axe the Duel (Sat), Tatsunoko vs Capcom (Wii), Cyberbots (Sat), Battle Fantasia (360), Blaz Blue (PS3), Guilty Gear (PS1), World Heroes Perfect (Sat), Last Blade (DC), Samuari Shodown (NeoGeo), Capcom vs SNK (DC), Capcom Fighting Jam (PS2), Street Fighter III (DC), Street Fighter Zero (Sat), Any of KoF (NeoGeo), Yu Yu Hakusho (MD), Bleach: Heat the Soul II (PSP), Darkstalkers (PSP), Matrimellee (NeoGeo), Groove On Fight (Sat).