The Best Beat 'Em Up Games

Last updated: 12/6/2023
5 minutes read

Sometimes video games have you overcome disputes through diplomacy. RTS games might employ tactics to overcome an enemy, or an FPS could turn to a hitscan weapon to solve an issue from afar. Beat em ups take a more direct approach, where might makes right and the only thing you can trust is your fists.

Beat em up games once dominated the arcade gaming space, but they saw an eventual downturn as games moved away from smaller 2D titles. Now enjoying a resurgence, there are a lot of great old and new beat em up games for interested players to jump into. Let's look at some of the best out there, and a few to look forward to. So, put up your dukes and look at -

The Best Beat Em Up Games of the Modern Age

Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle

To start with a bang we have the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle. This compilation includes some of the best beat em up arcade games that no powergaming enthusiast can miss. With hits like Final Fight and Captain Commando, these classics still hold up thanks to great emulation, even 30 years after their original releases.

The Warriors

Originally released on the PS2 back in 2005, The Warriors showcases clear effort from Rockstar Games back when they used to produce titles at a reasonable rate. 

Based on the 1979 film of the same name, the Warriors follows the eponymous gang as they build their ranks and then escape back home after a battle gone bad. We're really glad the Warriors came out to play with this one.

The Simpsons

The Simpsons series has enjoyed a huge range of games over the years, with one of the big standouts in beat em up games being this simply titled 1991 release. In The Simpsons, four players each take the role of a family member as they rescue Maggie from the diabolical clutches of Mr. Burns. With so much history passed since this release, we really hope for an eventual sequel.

River City Girls 2

Released in 2022, this follow-up to the classic River City Ransom has the women again take the street to rescue their boyfriends from a dangerous gang. Easily one of the best PS4 beat em up games, this title will have you engaging a power creep, taking down groups of overconfident goofs, and all while making them scream out BARF!

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Battletoads

The best game that the fewest people managed to finish but one that many know purely as a meme, the original Battletoads released in 1991 for the NES is still one of the most famous beat em up games of all time. Play as the humanoid toads Rash and Zitz as you face the evil Dark Queen, rescue your brother, and emphatically proclaim the unfairness of the speeder bike level.

Streets of Rage 4

With the original title released back in 1991, 2020's Streets of Rage 4 was a fantastic entry in the list of the best beat em up games the Switch has to offer. As one of the series that kicked off the home beat em up games market, SoR 4 had a lot to live up to, and it delivered on all fronts. With around 1,000 frames of animation for each character, this title looks great, plays well, and just kicks butt. There's even a battle mode if you're feeling like griefing your buddy for a change.

Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition

No mention of the best beat em up games that Switch, PC, PlayStation, and Xbox players could be complete without mentioning this hybrid beat em up/Metroidvania title. Step into the shoes of a super-powered luchador and use those shoes to launch your enemies to their doom with one of the most imaginative takes on the beat em up formula we’ve seen yet.

G.I. Joe: Wrath of Cobra

Moving into games releasing in 2024 we have G.I. Joe: Wrath of Cobra. This title takes us back to the 80s as we control classic Joes like Snake Eyes and Duke as they take on the ever-present Cobra menace. Armed with a range of special moves and graphics that look to expertly fuse retro and modern looks, this is definitely one of the beat em up games to watch.

Toxic Crusaders Season 2

Building on the success of the first game based on an animated series, season two of Toxic Crusaders is still slated for a 2024 release. Featuring mutants, 4-player co-op, and professional voice acting, we've never looked forward this much to throwing cars at people. We also have to shout out to characters like Major Disaster and Junkyard the dog as they are just hilarious.

Beat Em Up Games FAQs

What is considered a beat em up game?

A beat em up game is a real-time game that has you fight off hordes of enemies with your fists as you move through a level. There's no going AFK here, as you have to dodge attacks, launch your own, get to the end of the level, and usually take down a final boss.

What is the difference between hack and slash and beat em up?

The big difference between hack and slash games and beat em up games comes from how you attack your enemies. Beat em up games tend to have characters use their fists, while hack and slash titles revolve more around melee weapons like swords, spears, and daggers.

Is Mortal Kombat a beat em up?

The mainline Mortal Kombat games are not traditionally considered beat em ups. From the simple original Mortal Kombat titles to the recent Mortal Kombat One with the most realistic graphics, these are placed firmly in the fighting game genre.

Is Bully a beat em up?

Bully is a beat em up, as one of the most popular games of its genre for the PS2 generation. It's not an exclusive beat em up title, however, as it also includes other aspects like mini-games, RPG-like stat building, and an emphasis on storytelling.