Beat ‘em ups are a unique genre, having seen incredible success on both arcades and home consoles. In the 8-bit and 16-bit era, console versions were normally only for two players; multitap accessories were rare, and not that many games were compatible with them.
But in the arcade, you could give some quarters to three of your buddies and crowd around the screen for some button mashing fun. Here’s ten of the best arcade beat ‘em ups that you can play with four players.
Ninja Baseball Bat Man
This game’s wacky title has a unique visual aesthetic to back it up. It’s not about Batman, but it is about bat men. The four playable characters are cartoony baseball-themed ninjas with different movesets, much like the Ninja Turtles in their respective arcade games.
The developers clearly had a field day designing enemies, locations, and bosses. Even though the game is exclusively baseball (and ninja) themed, there’s a lot of nutty variety in the enemy types and stages. Plus, every single baseball bat smack feels satisfying, all the way to the last boss.
The game is quite rare, and barely has any arcade cabinets in the United States. Despite its poor sales numbers, Ninja Baseball Bat Man is a cult classic with stellar reviews. It has great gameplay, but its legacy really lies in the name.
The Simpsons Arcade Game
This is an all-time great arcade classic. It’s also in the running for “best game based on a cartoon.” Take control of one of four Simpsons (sorry, Maggie fans) and fight the whole town of Springfield.
Sometimes, all you need is some good humor to carry basic gameplay. In reality, The Simpsons Arcade Game isn’t much different than all the other beat ‘em ups. It has power ups, simple combos, and special abilities including team-up attacks. The real reason the game has such a strong legacy is that it’s incredibly funny to play and extremely faithful to the original cartoon.
The game culminates in a fight between the closest thing The Simpsons has to villains — Smithers and Mr. Burns. Oh, and Mr. Burns has a mech suit — the game was developed by Konami, after all.
Dungeons and Dragons: Shadow over Mystara
It didn’t take long for a Capcom game to show up on this list. Even though Dungeons & Dragons is a Western property, Capcom made two four-player arcade games using the brand. Shadows over Mystara is the second in the series. It adds two more characters, more items, more spells, and plenty of hidden secrets. Both games are great, but the sequel is just plain better.
Shadows over Mystara has plenty of RPG mechanics to pair with its solid gameplay. Treasure, level ups, magic, and rare items pair well with combo strings and special moves. The enemies and locations are generic fantasy, but just because the game is predictable doesn’t mean you’ll be bored.
Plus, the game is extremely faithful to the original D&D license. If you play this, you’ll never get tired of the Cleric screaming “Sticks to snakes!”.
Captain Commando, abbreviated as “CapCom” by you-know-who, is a souped-up take on the classic Final Fight gameplay system. Pick from one of four characters with crazy designs. You have access to combos, throws, special moves, and the ability to pick up weapons.
The Captain himself is styled as a superhero, with the other three characters being his crew. The other characters are a mummy alien commando, a classic ninja with a magic sword, and a baby and a mech. Each one of them has a unique set of extra properties and gameplay mechanics. They are different enough that the game has plenty of replayability, even though other games might have more playable fighters.
Out of all of Capcom’s intellectual properties, not many people know of Captain Commando. Even though his name is literally abbreviated to “CapCom,” he’s not a flagship franchise for the company. Out of all four Marvel vs. Capcom games, he’s only in two of them. The game has been re-released on all modern platforms, and is definitely worth a play with three buddies.
Out of every game on the list, this is the one that has spawned the most memes. X-Men on the arcade is the source of the infamous “Welcome to Die” quote, said by Magneto as two of his voice lines clip into each other.
Looking past the memes, though, this is one of the most solid beat ‘em ups out there. There are six X-Men to choose from — Cyclops, Colossus, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Dazzler. Because of the “mutant button” that supplements attack and jump, they all play uniquely; if you play this with friends, they’ll definitely have a favorite character or two. There’s a lot of unique bosses, and there are a lot of cameos for fans of the series.
Although the four-player version is commonly played, especially on console re-releases, look out for the six-player cabinets. The cabinet itself is absolutely massive, and it comes with a two-screen setup; they’re set side by side for a “widescreen” experience. This kind of setup is oddly fitting for a beat ‘em up, given that most locations are big streets, paths and hallways.
Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder
This entry is arguably the definitive Golden Axe experience for the arcade. It hasn’t been ported to home consoles, and it came right before Golden Axe III, which didn’t hit arcades.
The villain from the first game makes a re-appearance, but the four characters are different. There’s still magic and combos, and now team-up attacks. It’s fun to do wrestling moves on the enemy with a buddy; it’s even funner to have two tag-team duos partnering up on either side of the screen.
If you can only play one game in the Golden Axe series, consider this one.
Following up on the comic book style of Captain Commando, Battle Circuit takes a sci-fi approach and amps up the wackiness. If Final Fight is the godfather of sidescrolling beat ‘em ups, Battle Circuit is the crazy nephew.
With five strange characters to choose from, players progress through levels while accruing “upgrade disks.” These disks give each character new abilities, augments to abilities they already have, and stat bonuses. With a storyline that takes place in the vague 20XX (much like the Megaman series), Battle Circuit has all the trappings of a fun cybernetic romp.
Besides being a fantastic game, Battle Circuit gets special accolades for being Capcom’s last arcade beat ‘em up. Released in 1997, it was one of the last of its kind. Some games have replicated the style, but this is Capcom’s last hurrah for the genre. The game was originally only released in Japan and Europe. Now, it is available through the 2018 Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time
There’s no need explaining who’s in this game and what they’re doing. You already know them; it’s TMNT. They beat up bad guys with their ninja weapons and they eat pizza.
This game is really the whole package. The graphics are vibrant and detailed, and the combat flows very smoothly. On top of that, it has one of the best soundtracks in videogame history. The iconic quips from the Turtles themselves will get stuck in your head for years after playing this.
Turtles in Time is a sequel to the first TMNT arcade game with a focus on time travel. It’s bigger and better than its predecessor, with more levels and enemies. Most gamers might know it from its SNES port, which was stellar in its own right. But if you can only try one, give the arcade game a shot.
It’s even available as an Arcade1Up cabinet alongside the first game. This game is readily available through many avenues today.
This is a sequel to the Konami game Crime Fighters with an attempted rebranding in the West. It’s a very classic beat ‘em up, and has a simple aesthetic. You play as one of four musclemen wearing jeans and a t-shirt. You are on a mission to beat up the Dead End City Gang, as they’ve kidnapped your buddy Kate.
If it sounds generic, that’s because it is. Stylistically, not much differentiates Vendetta from Final Fight or any of its clones. What sets it apart is its ability to straddle the line between gritty and cartoony. It’s a little more serious than other Final Fight clones, and those are usually only for two players. Give this one a shot if you’re looking for some generic thug beatdowns for four players.
Vendetta, known as Runark in Japan, is kind of like Indiana Jones… but also kind of isn’t. This game is glorious and silly, much like Bad Dudes vs. DragonNinja.
In Growl, four copies of the same character with slightly different stats team up to beat eight stages of enemies. The bad guys are poachers and hunters, who blew up your bar at the start of the game. It’s kind of weird for park rangers to have a bar, but hey, whatever gets them motivated to blow up bad guys.
Speaking of blowing up, this game is hilariously gory. There’s not a lot of Mortal Kombat style blood, but shooting enemies with a rocket launcher turns them into red pieces. None of the other games on this list really let you gib enemies like that, so this game is worth playing. Growl is a barrel of laughs, and a different kind than some of the other quirky games listed.