Beat 'em up

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Kung Fu Master, arcade machine
Crawl (2017)
Zeno Clash , a modern, first-person beat 'em up

The beat 'em up (English for "beat them together"; especially in the English-speaking world often referred to as brawler ) is a computer game genre and sub -genre of the action game that addresses the use of direct physical violence, often in the form of different fighting styles . Depending on the topic, the characters fight with edged weapons and sometimes supernatural abilities. Ranged weapons can be part of it, but they are not a central element.

Beat 'em ups usually have level structures , previously mostly scrolling horizontally or diagonally , in which one or more players have to fight together against several different, weaker opponents. To get to the next level, it is not uncommon for a tough boss to be defeated. There are some overlaps with other game genres such as jump 'n' run (in which the use of skill clearly outweighs the combative aspect of beat 'em ups), action adventure and hack and slay . Well-known representatives of beat 'em up are, for example, the Double Dragon series, Final Fight and Fighting Force .

Almost exclusively in German-speaking countries, the term beat 'em up is incorrectly used for fighting games such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat . However, this is an independent genre, even if there are also overlaps here.


The genesis of the beat 'em up began almost at the same time as that of the fighting game. In 1984, Data East's Karate Champ appeared , which increased the popularity of games with a martial arts theme. In the same year, the game Kung-Fu Master from the Irem studio followed , which is regarded as the first beat 'em up and laid the foundation for the genre. The “golden age” of the genre was finally heralded by Double Dragon in 1987, which attracted attention among other things through its cooperative two-player mode. Due to the great success of Double Dragon , titles such as Final Fight , Streets of Rage , Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Golden Ax followed in the late 80s and early 90s , the latter also having elements of hack and slash .

This “golden age” has been over since the beginning of the 1990s, as the popularity of the competition-oriented fighting games, especially with Street Fighter II, increased more and more than that of beat 'em up. Towards the end of the decade, the 2D graphics also became more and more detached from 3D polygon graphics, which also the beat-'em-up genre with titles like Fighting Force , Dynasty Warriors or first-person title Zeno Clash always continued to change and the line between today's common action adventure became more and more blurred.

The classic beat 'em up is now almost extinct, even if there are occasional smaller publications, especially via digital distribution , such as Double Dragon: Neon . Otherwise, the genre has largely merged into modern 3D hack-and-slash with games such as Devil May Cry , Ninja Gaiden , God of War or Bayonetta .

Game mechanics

The beat 'em up is a sub-genre of the action game in which the player is confronted within different levels with several computer-controlled opponents who have to be defeated primarily in close combat. In addition to primarily unarmed martial arts, the use of close combat weapons and, sometimes fantastic, special skills can also come into play; the use of long-range weapons as a temporary power-up is less common (see comparison with shoot 'em up ). At the end of a level, a particularly strong opponent is often waiting for the player.

Technically, what is happening with earlier representatives of the genre is shown from a 2D side view, with either the perspective dynamically scrolling horizontally and vertically in various titles, depending on the direction of movement of the player , or the camera statically looking at the surroundings and only changing to the next area after the player z. B. defeated all opponents in the current area. Later beat 'em ups, which rely on full 3D graphics , sometimes also use a third-person camera permanently behind the character .

While there is usually no competitive component in beat 'em ups (in stark contrast to the fighting game), many titles have a cooperative game mode in which two players can usually compete against hordes of opponents. The level of difficulty varies greatly in the genre, depending on the original target platform. Beat 'em up is particularly well represented in the arcade sector, where games are usually heavier than average in order to encourage players to continue inserting coins into the machine.

In terms of plot, the titles are mostly kept simple and revolve around gang wars on the streets of various large cities, for example. However, especially in the 1990s, beat 'em up was also a popular genre for game conversion of popular films, TV series and more, such as Batman , Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles , Last Action Hero , X-Men , Michael Jackson's Moonwalker and more.

Well known beat 'em ups

Differentiation from the fighting game

Mainly in German-speaking countries (but not exclusively), games of the fighting game genre are incorrectly referred to as beat 'em ups, both by gamers and by game magazines. Fighting Games is, however, an independent genre, even if there are various overlaps in game mechanics and history. The origin of this widespread error can hardly be determined. The most important difference is that in a fighting game two equal opponents usually face each other in an arena or the like and thus the competition is in the foreground, whereas in a beat 'em up within level structures the player or players with several, usually weaker opponents are involved in close combat. The overlap of beat 'em up with other genres such as action adventure and jump' n 'run is fluid, whereas the definition of fighting games is much narrower and clearer.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Fighting game  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. The Tao of Beat-'em-ups at (English)
  2. A List and Guide to Game Genres at / v / 's Recommended Games Wiki (English)
  3. Street Fighter II - The Ultimate Player's Guide! at (English)
  4. Beat 'em Up - History - The history of fighting games at