Streets of Rage remains one of the classics. Its depressive tone and hard-hitting combat solidified its place in the gaming hall of fame. Whether you’re playing on original hardware, modern systems, or retro handhelds, this is one game every retro gamer needs to play.
If Streets of Rage is your gaming comfort zone but you’re yearning for something a little different, here are nine games with the same kind of feel to get stuck into.
In This Article
Release Date: June 1, 1991
Original Platforms: NES, Game Boy, Super Nintendo, Master System, Genesis/Mega Drive, Game Gear, Amiga CD32, Arcade
Play it Today: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S via Rare Replay
The scientific term for Battletoads is ‘bull***t’. The difficulty curve is enough to make Dark Souls players question their life choices. It’s not just difficult, it’s the cardinal sin – unfair. And yet, somehow Battletoads has enough going for it thanks to its bombastic cast and satisfying combat to make it worth all the pain.
The feeling of a giant fist smacking an enemy upside the face has still yet to be recreated by modern gaming. And this was before we had rumble packs or any fancy tech. Yet you felt every punch with a soul-pleasing thud.
Just, you know, Rat Race and those stupid bike levels can get in the bin.
Release Date: August 2, 1995
Original Platforms: Sega Genesis, Windows, Game Boy Advance
Play it Today: Xbox One, Steam, iOS, Google Play, Nintendo Switch, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Classics
Much like Battletoads, Comix Zone was nightmarishly difficult. The big difference here was that Comix Zone wasn’t unfair or designed to be played by NASA robots. It required skill, patience, and careful planning. Either you played well, and moved forwards, or you got sloppy and wiped.
Let’s be real, though, the biggest hook of Comix Zone was the stylish comic-book visuals and killer soundtrack. In the era of shrill 16-bit sounds, Comix Zone boasted a soundtrack you could legit sit and bop to, and being able to swing between comic panels as a giant hand swings in to draw-in new enemies was as wild as it was then as it is today.
Super Double Dragon
Release Date: October 8, 1992
Original Platforms: Super Nintendo
Play it Today: Evercade (Technos Game Collection)
Confession: I’m not the biggest Double Dragon fan. That said, it’s easy to see the appeal of these games. Simple-but-pumping combat mixed with a kung-fu style everyone wanted a piece of back in the nineties. It just works.
I’ll also admit I had a blast playing through it on my Evercade console, but then the Evercade makes everything feel good so that’s not a fair test.
Still, the Double Dragon series is one of the all-time most-beloved side-scrolling beat-’em-ups there is (that’s a lot of hyphens, I know). So we couldn’t not shout it out as one of the best games. It may not be my thing, but Double Dragon has a legion of fans who would scream at the idea of a remake.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game
Release Date: August 10, 2010
Original Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Play it Today: Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, Amazon Luna
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game is such a weird one. I don’t think anybody knew what to expect from a Scott Pilgrim game. The idea is strange, right? I can tell you something else people didn’t expect: this game being one of the best side-scrollers out there.
It’s a frankly stunning game that clearly takes inspiration from Streets of Rage but dresses it up for a more current audience. It’s even got four-player co-op, so if you want to play with friends or kids, you totally can.
Seriously, if you’ve yet to try this game out, grab it before the Scott Pilgrim license expires again. You won’t regret it.
Release Date: 1988
Original Platforms: ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad, CPC, NES
Right. Target: Renegade is awful by any other standard than a Spectrum game. Streets of Rage is better. Scott Pilgrim is better. Even Battletoads is better. But, Target: Renegade managed to take the side-scrolling beat-’em-up formula and crank it down into a co-op game.
Keep in mind, multiplayer games weren’t as common on the Sinclair Spectrum, so to be able to play something with a sibling that wasn’t a sports game was huge at the time.
Despite its simplicity, you can see how the Rambo rip-off Target: Renegade helped inspire a generation of games that would go on to do much bigger and better things. It’s a slice of history, for sure, but sometimes it’s good to look back at where games come from.
Release Date: October 17, 2005
Original Platforms: PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Xbox
Play it Today: PlayStation 4
While The Warriors video game isn’t a side-scroller, you can feel the influence of Streets of Rage throughout in its hard-hitting combat.
What’s wild as well is Streets of Rage shares a lot with the original 1979 film. From the dank back alleys to the violent gang members looking to throw down, all the way to the general feeling of gloom in the world and soundtrack, The Warriors is Streets of Rage and Streets of Rage is The Warriors.
So while The Warriors video game isn’t a side-scroller, it’s the closest to a 3D Streets of Rage would we’ve got, and absolutely worth checking out if you’re looking to scratch that itch.
Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage
Release Date: September 16, 1994
Original Platforms: Super Nintendo, Genesis/Mega Drive
Back in the nineties, there was a simple way to print money: Add Spider-Man. Then if you want more money, add in Venom and you’re onto a winner.
Sure, this may not be the greatest game in the world, but there’s joy to be had playing as Spider-Man and Venom. Plus visually, it bangs. Pixels plus comic book characters is never going to go out of style.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time
Release Date: March, 1991
Original Platforms: Arcade, Super Nintendo
Play it Today: TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection – Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Series X|S, PC
Turtles in Time is one of the all-time greats. If you sat someone down today and forced them through a video game history lesson, Turtles in Time is sure to come up.
It’s a game that slaps on all fronts. The visuals are gorgeous, the combat is simple but hard-hitting, the level layouts flow without unwanted objects getting in the way, and the differences in the four turtles felt like a worthwhile addition. Donatello is easy mode, Raph is for those who like to live dangerously.
Not only that, the boss fights were always a rush, and the time-traveling mechanic made the game feel more varied.
I’ve played this game recently and let me tell you, it holds up really well. Definitely force your kids to play it. They may even like it.
Release Date: August 31, 2010
Original Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, macOS
Play it Today: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Castle Crashers isn’t just one of the best games out there, it’s one of the best video games ever made. Fight me. On this hill I will die.
Castle Crashers takes the Streets of Rage formula and changes it in all the right ways. Instead of gloomy music and misery streets (and that random Alien level), Castle Crashers is full of bright colours and a happy-go-lucky attitude.
Characters each have their own specific look and magic style, and having so many characters, pets, and weapons to unlock means replaying the game over and over has real replay value.
Even playing Castle Crashers today on modern systems, the game doesn’t feel like it’s over a decade old. It’s a classic that simply refuses to age.