Top 10 Co-op Console Side-Scrolling Beat ’em ups (retro)

We have been playing so many games in this genre it wouldn’t make any sense not to make this list. We are absolute addicts for 2 player co-op side-scrolling beat ’em ups and we have played almost all of them since we have always actively sought them out.

I realize this list may be a bit of a rehash from out other system co-op list but it includes a few original games we have never mentioned before 🙂

Before we start I want to mention a few rules:

  1. This list only includes retro console games. I’ll make an indie list later…
  2. That means no arcade games of course
  3. The games have to be co-op like the title suggests because that is just what we and this site is all about
  4. Games from the same series will not be included unless we just love the games to death and/or if the gameplay of the games is fundamentally different and/or are in a different generation of consoles.

Now without further ado….These are our Top 10 favorite co-op console side-scrolling beat’ em ups!

10. Double Dragon II: The Revenge CD (PC Engine(Turbografx16 CD) 1993)


The Turbografx16/PC Engine representative and the Double Dragon series’ representative on this list is the Double Dragon II CD port made by Naxat Soft in 1993. Being a CD game, this port takes advantage of all that CD space and features an enhanced very good sounding OST and graphics that do well to imitate the originals’ arcade graphics. What makes this game a bit wierd is that it is a port of a port.

Double Dragon II: The Revenge for the NES was a port of the original arcade game, and this Turbografx/PC Engine game is a port of that NES game but with enhanced music, graphics and cool animated cutscenes. It does not affect the game in a negative way at all, I just thought it was special.

I really recommend this one, the definite version of the game (for consoles at least)

If you like this one: Double Dragon for the Sega Master System. That game included the co-op feature that was missing in the NES port. Also recommended.

9. Warriors of Fate(1996 PS1/Saturn Import)

warriWarriors of Fate is a very solid 2-player cop-op beat ’em up with a unique setting and an incredibly unique and robust move set for good variety. The challenge is just right and the number of characters and difficulty settings will bring you back for move. Beating up this many jerks at one time on screen on a console port feels great. Graphics and character animations are fantastic and even get pretty brutal at times but unfortunately the music does not keep up with the great gameplay and graphics.

If you like this one: Chronicles of Mystara

8. King of Dragons (SNES 1994)


King of Dragons is a 2 player co-op fantasy beat em’ up game that was originally supposed to be a licensed Dungeons & Dragons game but for some reason the license didn’t go through. Despite that, this game is a solid fantasy beat’em up with many different moves and characters. Enemies are fun and diverse, same can be said about the bosses who look amazing. The game is very challenging which makes it even more fun. You have to strategize, find a good combination of characters to play and really stay on your toes. This game is an arcade port, so one thing that really brings this game down is that it quite frequently lags and slows down. You will notice it and be a bit bothered by it but it will still not ruin the experience at all. A very solid pick-up for anyone looking for a challenging beat em’ up with a fantastic setting.

If you like this one: Check out Chronicles of Mystara

7. Final Fight CD (Sega CD 1993)


I always kind of brushed of the Final Fight series off as a 2nd rate beat ’em up. That was because of the single player SNES port and Final Fight 2 which was average at best. Final Fight 3 then turned out to be a very good game when I finally gave it a chance but Final Fight CD for the Sega CD is better. It is by far the best console port of the immensely popular arcade original. It has co-op, all characters and no bullshit.

There is a reason why these games are often called “Final Fight clones”. Final Fight was released in arcade in 1989 and cemented the popularity of the genre (even though Double Dragon was released first). This game is essentially the basic side-scrolling beat ’em up but it is done very well making in earn the 7th spot on this list.

If you like this one: Check out Final Fight 3

6. Golden Axe (Sega Mega/Genesis 1989)


Golden Axe for the Mega Drive/Genesis was a godsend when it finally was ported from the arcades to the comfort of your own home. Also an early pioneer in the beat’ em up genre, Golden Axe has indeed aged graphically but its gameplay is still plenty solid. It provided a fun challenge and a great experience with great music and cool Conan-esque setting. You may think Golden Axe is dated, you may think it does not deserve the 6th place spot but it is the honest truth that we loved playing the game to that level.

If you like this one: Check out Golden Axe 2

Full review link

5. Turtles in Time (SNES 1992)

Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles IV - Turtles in Time (E)

Turtles! Yes, of course Turtles in Time is here. This classic is also a 2 player co-op side scrolling beat’em up, a genre we very much like. You cannot go wrong with Turtles in Time if you are looking for pure fun with a pal. The tight controls, colorful backgrounds, uplifting music and a simple beat’em up gameplay, everything about about this game just screams great fun! It might have scored higher, but let’s face it this game is kind of a button masher.

If you like this one: Check out Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist

Full review link

4.  River City Ransom[USA]/Street Gangs[EU] (NES 1989)


River City Ransom in number 4 is a high school punk beat em’ up RPG. The premise of this game and everything you do in it is so fantastic. Beat up some no good punks who cry out “mamaaa!!” or “I’m history dude!” and grab a bite of sushi afterwards to boost your stats or buy martial arts books to gain new moves. Going through this one with a pal is so much fun so you are likely to want to dp multiple playthroughs of this one.

3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES 1990)


After Super Mario Bros this is probably the game I have played the most in my life. This is an extremely well made beat em’ up co-op action that anyone will enjoy. Not too hard but not too easy either. Imagine if they would have used the four score and made it 4-player? Yeah.. a man can dream… but the NES would not have handled it. But even as a 2-player game it excels for having good levels, fun enemies, tight controls, sweet tunes and just extremely fun 2-player co-op gameplay.

I put this game higher on the list than Turtles in Time because like I said I feel like Turtles in Time is a bit of a button masher so this one honestly feels like it has deeper gameplay. I also like the music and levels a lot better :p

If you like this one: Check out Turtles 3: The Manhattan Project

Full review link

2.Streets of Rage 2 (Sega Mega/Genesis 1992)


Streets of Rage 2 takes the 2nd spot because of its great gameplay, great original setting and original music. This series became the new standard for the beat’ em ups on the Mega Drive and the second title stands out of the three as the best one. For a Sega Mega game, Streets of Rage II looks outstanding. The Swayze/Kurt Russell-ish theme of the game is a nice classic touch coupled with a tight variety of gameplay mechanics which in the end equals the best co-op game on the system.

A Great game, so if you like it check out the other titles in the series. They might have made the list too but I don’t want a series to hog up a spot on the list unless the gameplay is fundamentally different like with the Turtles games

If you like this one: Streets of Rage 1 and 3

Full Review link

1. Knights of the Round (SNES 1994)


Knights of the Round….. When I got this game I was hoping for an ok Final Fight/Streets of Rage kind of fantasy co-op beat ’em up, but we cousins were very pleasantly surprised. I saw that it was a Capcom so it had to be at least pretty good, but it still puzzles me why this game is so little known because the quality of this game is through the roof. Out of all the side scrolling beat em ups we have played this one has to be one of the best, if not the best. This is originally an arcade game like most of the games on the list but i have to say it has been ported very well unlike King of Dragons.

Knights of the Round is just such a solid co-op adventure. It takes time to defeat and brings you back in with even harder difficulty levels (easy, normal, hard). Just normal is fiendishly difficult to clear but the gameplay and game feel, along with the music and environment makes you feel great while playing, even if you are getting your ass kicked. The game is very difficult yes, but at the same time it is not because of some broken reason, it just takes skill and persistence. That persistence pays off because clearing this game was such a glorious moment for us, it was so fun, and so rewarding.

If you have a dedicated pal, friend (or cousin) you are in for a sweet ride. This is one of our favorites.

If you like this one: King of Dragons

Full review link

That’s it!

Thanks for reading and please help us and other to see if this list makes any sense and put us in our place by taking part in the readers poll below 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Top 10 Co-op Console Side-Scrolling Beat ’em ups (retro)”

    1. Sure but the site is 8bit an 16bit era only for now.
      Guardian heroes is amazing though and would make an updated list!
      We are looking to expand to Saturn, ps1, N64 in the next few months


    1. Thank you for the comment!
      Ninja Warriors isn’t really applicable to this list but still a great game.
      We are going to have to check out Peace Keepers, slipped by us somehow…


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