Despite their popularity in arcades, many beloved beat ’em up games from the late 1980s and early 1990s never received console ports during their prime.
Games like Battletoads Arcade, Night Slashers, and Shadow Force were successful in arcades but never made it to consoles, leaving fans nostalgic for their favorite brawlers of the era.
Some notable beat ’em up games that did receive console ports include Spider-Man: The Video Game, Ninja Baseball Bat Man, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, Alien vs Predator, Metamorphic Force, and Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon.

If people didn’t fancy beating each other up in Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat, they could fight together against hordes of goons in beat ’em ups. The genre was king throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, producing smashes like Final Fight, Double Dragon, X-Men: The Arcade Game, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games.

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Many of them replicated their success on consoles too, with Final Fight getting some SNES sequels, and Double Dragon appearing on nearly every machine going around. But whether it was due to technical specs, poor revenue, or some other reason, these awesome arcade beat ’em up games never got console ports during their prime.

10 Battletoads Arcade

Despite the name, this entry has nothing to do with the insanely hard NES game. Created by Rare in 1994, it was made with the arcades in mind, upping the violence, yuks, and player count. Up to 3 players could pick all 3 Battletoads, and brawl through 6 levels, each with their own boss, before taking on the Dark Queen. It mixed in a few 2.5D levels, using the same 3D graphics tech used on Donkey Kong Country and Killer Instinct.

Yet despite playing well in tests, the game wasn’t successful at the arcades. Its console ports were canned, and the Toads were put on ice until their 2020 reboot. Technically, it got an Xbox One port via the Rare Replay, but that attention came 21 years too late in 2015.

9 Night Slashers

Data East made their name in the genre through Bad Dudes Vs Dragon Ninja (“The President has been kidnapped by ninjas! Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the president?”) and its soda-loving follow-up Two Crude Dudes. They even made their own Marvel-based brawler Captain America and the Avengers. But their horror-themed fighter Night Slashers snuck under the radar in 1993.

Psychic Cyborg Jake, vampire hunter Christoper, and Chinese kung-fu fighter Hua Zhao had to fight their way through a range of monsters to take down King Zarutz. It was both bloody and bloody good fun, but received no notice until it randomly got a digital re-release on the Nintendo Switch. There’s also reportedly a remake in the works, so Night Slashers might see the light of day after all.

8 Shadow Force

Technos made their name in the genre via Double Dragon and the Kunio-kun games. Some keener fans may even recognize their alternate hit The Combatribes, which managed to appear on the SNES and the Wii. But Shadow Force disappeared into the ether almost as soon as it arrived in arcades. Possibly because it was more technical than its rivals.

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The game used 6 buttons a la Street Fighter 2 than the standard 2-3 button set-up, so 1-4 players had a host of different moves to pull off (provided they knew the commands). They could also pick which of the first 3 stages to start off at, before going on to the final levels to stop Dr Wong taking over the world with his horde of monsters.

7 Spider-Man: The Video Game

When Sega made The Revenge of Shinobi, they fell afoul of a few companies for copying their IPs. Toho didn’t like the Godzilla-esque boss, and DC didn’t care for Batman’s unapproved appearance. But Marvel liked their take on Spider-Man enough to make it an official Spidey appearance. They also let Sega make a brawler based on the friendly neighborhood webhead.

Up to 4 players could pick Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Namor, and Black Cat, then fight their way through 4 “acts” against Spidey’s rogues’ gallery, including Venom, Dr Octopus, and the Kingpin among others, before taking on the final boss: Dr Doom. It was quite successful back in the day too, particularly for mixing in platformer elements. But instead of porting the game, Sega made the platformer Spider-Man vs The Kingpin for their consoles instead.

6 Ninja Baseball Bat Man

Luckily for Irem, their own beat ’em up with Bat Men avoided the ire of DC Comics. Instead, its lack of a re-release since 1993 is likely due to its rights being split between Irem (who own the game content) and its creator Drew Maniscalco (who owns everything else related to the series outside gaming). As such, it’s become a hidden gem for enthusiasts.

1-4 players pick between Captain Jose, Twinbats Ryno, Beanball Roger, and Stick Straw, and try to reclaim artifacts stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Aside from swinging their bats, they can throw baseballs and shurikens at their foes, or call-in cheerleaders to drop off plenty of health pick-ups, or straight-up nuke the screen clear of mooks.

5 Battle Circuit

Capcom rivaled Technos in excelling and innovating in the beat ’em up genre. From Captain Commando to Armored Warriors, Dungeons & Dragons to Knights of the Round, the company pumped out a lot of sidescrolling brawlers. Most of which never made it to consoles, like Battle Circuit, a latecomer to the formula.

Related: Top Capcom Beat ‘Em Ups, Ranked

It had 5 characters for up to 4 players to choose from, each with their own special “Battle Download” abilities they could activate by pressing both attack buttons. It was fun, but by its 1997 release date, 2D beat ’em ups were faltering next to 3D fighters and lightgun games. It wouldn’t see the light of day until the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle 21 years later.

4 Cadillacs and Dinosaurs

One Capcom game that did get a release during the genre’s prime was Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, the brawler based on the cheesy TV show of the same name. Where players pick the heroes Jack, Hannah, Mustapha, and Mess to save the dinosaurs from a group of illegal hunters by brawling across its 8 stages (occasionally traveling by Cadillac).

Made on the same tech as Final Fight, it plays quite similarly to the arcade classic. Except that 2 or more players could join together to pull off team attacks. The game was pretty popular in arcades too, but unlike Battle Circuit, it hasn’t received any re-release, likely due to it requiring the Cadillac license. The closest it got was an unreleased port for the CPS Changer, an obscure home version of the CPS1 arcade machine.

3 Alien vs Predator

As far as Capcom beat ’em ups go, Alien vs Predator is the most famous of the cult-classics. For one, it’s one of the few (if not the only one) that allows players to pick Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character Dutch Schaefer from the first Predator movie. It also has an original character in the speedy katana user Linn Kurosawa, alongside a Hunter-style Predator, and a Warrior-type Predator.

The four have to save San Dorado from a Xenomorph infestation. Each of them are armed to the gills too, using spears, naginatas, smart guns, and more, alongside temporary weapons like flamethrowers and grenade launchers. It did have a 32X port in the works, but it was scrapped soon afterward. Capcom would later use its rareity to help promote its pricey Capcom Home Arcade device in 2019, making it the only official way to play the game at home.

Konami also loved working in the genre back in the day. They’ve made beat ’em ups based on all sorts of properties for the arcade and multiple consoles, from The Simpsons to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But after 1993, their love affair was nearly over. However, they sent it off with a bang by taking Altered Beast‘s formula and improving on it by offering four shapeshifting warriors in their quest to stop the Evil King Death Shadow.

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They could transform into their animal forms by collecting power-ups via random drops or from certain mooks. If they collected the same power-up while in Beast mode, they’d pull off a mook-nuking “Screen Attack” instead. It was popular at the time too, but not popular enough for a console port. Even now, players need a machine or a MAME emulator

1 Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon

Made by Gazelle, Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon was one of the first Sailor Moon games to get an international release. Not that it got a warm reception, with one review calling it a “rip-off of Final Fight with little girls in school uniforms”. But it did very well on its 1995 release. Albeit not well enough to keep Gazelle afloat, as they’d soon merge with shmup developer CAVE.

Following the anime’s first season, Sailors Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter have to stop Queen Beryl from getting her hands on the Silver Crystal by fighting her forces across 8 stages. Tuxedo Mask could pop up occasionally to help the team out with a screen-nuking rose. Otherwise, it’s up to the players to rely on their own skill and to collect enough crystals to pull off their special moves. The more crystals they have, the harder they hit.

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