Some games have you kill guys left and right, some games have you throw them gleefully grinning into rotating razorblades, making a real mess for the facility managers to clean up. But those are not the games we want to talk about today.
Today we talk about games that go to down on faces and bones, today we talk about games that mess people up. Or rather games that mess you up. And by that I mean pound some heads without (necessarily) dealing death.
See, everyone can be a ruthless killing machine. There’s a boom, a scream and somebody falls over dead or explodes into a million pieces. There’s little art to that. What we talk about today are games where you get to enjoy the moment before that happens, where you can smash someones head into a toilet for five minutes before moving on. Where you pummel your hapless opponent across the screen, turning him into a living squash ball. Today we give you gaming’s most vicious beatings.
#10 Splinter Cell Conviction
Now there was a game that delivers legendary beatings! Redecorating a public bathroom with some goons face is just the beginning! It all goes south from there. Deep south. As in flying a Confederate flag and whistling Dixie. This was the game that prominently featured (white) hero Sam Fisher beating the crap out of a (black) government official involved in some conspiracy at the feet of the Lincoln statue within Washington DC’s Lincoln Memorial.
The “interrogation scenes” all packed a punch. And all of them were somewhat problematic. Sam beat the crap out of a black guy, a woman and other people, since the early 2010 saw the start of that whole “let’s have our heroes torture some people for info!” fad that still lingers these days.
What’s better than a regular brawl? Right! Bum fights! This is what Condemned delivered. All bums, all the time. Also some crazy junkies. And maybe aliens! A lot of (virtual) people got their faces realigned during the course of this game. One of the few successful first person melee games, Condemned let you literally throw everything and the kitchen sink at its transient enemies.
Also, true to form, the game ended with hero Ethan Thomas beating the crap out of some weird alien dude. Also not forgotten are the regular deluges of teeth and eyeballs that flew across the screen whenever a particularly nasty punch connected. Yeah, Condemned featured some gratuitous beatings all right. And there hasn’t been anything like it since.
#8 Mortal Kombat
The original game for some really insane kicking ass and taking names. Mortal Kombat wasn’t just a beat’em up, it was a game that was designed for maximum controversy at a time when video games were under close scrutiny to begin with. Blood fountains, ripped out spinal chords with skulls attached sure did help build a kids-ruining reputation.
Funny enough, the first Mortal Kombat wasn’t very good as a fighting game. Badly balanced and relatively slow it couldn’t hope to hold a candle to then reigning champion Super Street Fighter II Turbo. But that didn’t keep it from becoming a cult hit with seven sequels and a movie. Actually more than seven sequels, but the pun wouldn’t make sense otherwise.
#7 Punch Out!!
Kids these days. They need their polygons and blood fountains and all that newfangled stuff. Back in the day, there was Punch Out!!. It had two exclamation marks. That meant it was special, and everyone sat down and shut up when it entered the room. Also it entered video game history as the game where a relatively normally shaped dude named ‘Little Mac’ punched out mountains of meat five times his size.
Punch Out!! became it’s own series. In a way, Wii Sports - Boxing is a spiritual successor of this game, even though it is much, much less amusing and much less of a cult hit.
#6 Sid Meier’s Karateka
Which is actually Jordan Mechner’s Karateka. But y’all knew that. Just making sure you were paying attention. Before creating the legendary Prince of Persia, game designer Jordan Mechner went on to create this beauty. More rotoscoped sprites, more crazy ass moves! And a lot of ass kicking and beating the living shit out of some fools.
Karateka arguably laid the groundwork for games like Streets of Rage and Double Dragon. Even though it was a very slow, methodological game about duels and not about multi person brawls. The graphics were simple, but look at the animations and remember this is 1984.
#5 The Fight: Lights Out!
Wow that game was one perpetual beating! A beating of you, your wallet, your senses, your sense of taste! Bam! And it hurt, too. A Playstation 3 exclusive, The Fight: Lights Out! was designed for Sony’s Playstation Move waggle controller, a sort of glorified Wii Boxing, just with more blood and less... Fun.
It’s by no means a good game. It’s just on this list because of the title. I mean, come on. Credit where credit is due. Say it out loud, The Fight: Lights Out!. That is a pretty evocative title of someone getting a nasty beating. I didn’t wanted to list the Fight Club game on this list, which technically would also qualify, but you know what they say. The first rule of Fight Club... Is if you have nothing nice to say, you better keep your mouth shut.
#4 Xeno Clash
Ever wanted to punch the crap out of people suffering from species misidentification disorder or whatever that shit is called? People who are half bird, half dude? If that’s the case, play this fabulous, independently developed Chilean game. It delivers. It’s a bit messy, but works well enough. There’s a ton of strange people with animal bodyparts to knock out.
Xeno Clash features the look and feel of Javier Bodorovski’s graphic novels and others like him. It’s quite a unique game, with a very weird sense of everything. Not just because you beat strange creatures, but because the story seems like the fever dream of a painter suffering from lead poisoning. In a good way. If that is possible.
#3 Final Fight
Another classic. The epic tale of ex wrestler Mike Haggar, mayor of Metro City, who delves down in the ghettos of his very own town to kick some butt since those lowlifes abducted his daughter. Joined by his son in law and his buddy. Oh wow just look at that story. They sure ain’t making them like that no more. Final Fight sees the players walking through the levels, kicking ass as they go.
Final Fight was a game that went into the same vein as Double Dragon and Streets of Rage. It featured co-operative play and since it was originally developed for the arcade, some quite outstanding graphics. Also it spawned a bunch of sequels, and its main characters became a mainstay in Capcom games for ages to come.
#2 Guilty Gear XX
One of the prettiest beat’em up games there ever was, Guilty Gear XX is the ultimate in reducing your opponent to a living (well, virtual) pingpong ball, pummeling him across the level and then triggering some uber epic finishing move that can’t be dodged to really hammer it home that you have secretly trained all those finger twisting specials.
The Guilty Gear series, as well as its spiritual successor Blaz Blue have been outliers of modern beat’em up design, since their developers simply refused to take the shift towards 3d graphics, remaining true to the 2D hand drawn glory that makes these games shine so very brightly.
#1 The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
Good old Richard D. Riddick. He sure packs a mean punch. And opening a can of whoopass is essential in a game set in the Galaxy’s toughest prison. Riddick slits throats, shoots dudes in the face, steals a fucking mech and turns some guards to pulp, and also just goes mano a mano with some other meatheads unlucky enough to be imprisoned with him.
Halfway into the game you get to punch some people. And then again and again until they’re all dead, just to prove a point and make yourself more popular. Because that’s how Riddick works. Punching fools is still the least nasty speed Riddick has. The others are, well, as I said. Slitting throats and shooting faces off. Which are all good and fun, but nothing proves a point as knocking a meatbag out cold in a few cool punches.