Beat ’em ups have been a staple of gaming since the mid-1980s when Kung Fu Master birthed the genre in the arcades. It was arguably 1987’s Double Dragon which kicked off the golden age of the side-scrolling brawler, though, and some of our best gaming memories involve strutting down streets and getting into digital scraps, usually with a friend who had our back. Known as ‘belt-scrollers’ to some, there’s a beautiful simplicity and accessibility to beat ’em ups that make for perfect arcade-style fun.
Switch has a growing roster of excellent beat ’em ups, ranging from re-released classics to homages or totally new takes on the genre. Whether side-scrolling, single-plane or top-down, there’s very little ambiguity in these games; success relies exclusively in pummelling the heck out of encroaching bad guys and moving on at the first flash of ‘GO>‘. Simple! The fact that Switch is king when it comes to local multiplayer on console makes the genre a great fit for Nintendo’s system, and below we’ve assembled a ragtag bunch of brawlers – the best Switch beat ’em ups – for your enjoyment.
So, face away from the camera, tie your sweatband around your head and crack those bare knuckles as we take a look (in no particular order) at the best beat ’em ups on Nintendo Switch.
Publisher: Blitworks / Developer: Seba Games Dev
We kick things off with none-too-subtle callback to the likes of Final Fight and Streets of Rage (more on them later). Fight’N Rage was a wonderful surprise; an homage to the classics of the genre that didn’t die under the weight of its retro references and reverence. Whether you rock the optional CRT and scanline filters or not, this is one of the best beat ’em ups on the system, old-school or otherwise.
Publisher: The Behemoth / Developer: The Behemoth
If you’re after something that’s not dripping in pixel art but which does boast tight controls and co-op brawling content to rival the arcade classics, Castle Crashers Remastered is just the ticket. Updating 360-era original with cleaner visuals, improved performance and extra content, The Behemoth’s irreverent humour and sharp, colourful art style is matched with frantic four-player co-op gameplay that makes it a great option for Switch gamers. Just slide off the Joy-Con and you’re good to go.
Publisher: Secret Base / Developer: Secret Base
Looking back to 8-bit brawlers for graphical inspiration, Streets of Red riffs on its references in a charming way without turning into a repetitive round of nudge-nudge-wink-wink. With a range of modes to keep you occupied, it’s in four-player mode where the game really comes into its own. If you can put up with things getting very hectic on screen, Streets of Red is definitely worth a punt.
Collecting together a broad range of Capcom’s finest arcade entries in the genre, from Final Fight to Battle Circuit, the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle is a classy nostalgia trip which honours some of the less well-known examples in the company’s back catalogue with local and online multiplayer, save states and a host of extras which includes the option to choose between the Japanese and English language versions. If you’re just dipping your toe into the genre, this serves as a very fine introduction indeed.
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Publisher: Darkwind Media / Developer: Fully Illustrated
If you’re after a challenge, Wulverblade is a great modern take on a brutal beat ’em up in the Golden Axe vein. The beautiful presentation disguises a particularly unforgiving game, though, so we’d recommend even veterans of the genre making sure they have a friend handy to liberate Britannia. If you like your beat ’em ups bloody and teetering on the edge of ‘sadistic’, grab a large weapon and get acquainted with Wulverblade.
Publisher: Devolver Digital / Developer: Gabe Cuzzillo
The only game on our list with a top-down perspective, Ape Out is a rather unique little gem and one that’ll have you frantically bludgeoning baddies to an erratic jazz beat that builds as you improvise your escape from incarceration. With a Saul Bass-inspired art style and an exceptional, utterly intrinsic soundtrack, the game borrows a layer of strategy from the likes of Hotline Miami as you choose your targets carefully and strategise to eliminate gun-toting guards patrolling in search of your escaped ape. It’s still a beat ’em up at heart, and a particularly brutal one. You feel every blow in Ape Out and the game doesn’t outstay its welcome, either. If you’re after something a bit different with a unique flavour, look no further.
Actually, please do look further – there’s lots of neat stuff below. Just remember that Ape Out is excellent and download it on your Switch.
Publisher: Arc System Works / Developer: Arc System Works
Bringing together a collection of 18 games from both the Double Dragon and Kunio-kun series (11 of which had never previously seen release in North America) the Double Dragon & Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle serves up an irresistible helping of NES and Famicom classics updated with optional performance improvements and achievements. The ‘new’ games have been given full localisations and if you’ve ever enjoyed River City Ransom or a Double Dragon game, this is a no-brainer.