Sometimes the best way to make a difference is to wrap your knuckles, step out onto a mob-filled street, and punch the enemy squarely in the snot box. With beat ’em ups, the gameplay goal is simple: Destroy the enemy waves before they destroy you. Although that description applies to many video game genres—including action, strategy, and shmup—beat ’em ups have their own flavor.
Thanks to pioneering titles like The Warriors-inspired Renegade and the post-apocalyptic Double Dragon, beat ’em ups typically feature street-level heroes who must rescue a girlfriend, save a president, exact cold revenge, or engage in some other B-movie trope. The games usually feature simple side-scrolling movement, which is why beat ’em ups are known as “belt scrollers” in Japan and some Western gaming circles. “Brawlers’ is another term for the genre.
Though beat ’em ups aren’t as buzzworthy as, say, battle royale games, they have a dedicated, hardcore following that loves the urban chaos. Fortunately, the PC is a platform that has a growing library of high-quality belt scrollers. These are the best we’ve reviewed.