The 8-bit classic Double Dragon is the technological successor to Technos’ and Yoshihisa Kishimoto’s previous hit franchise, Kunio-kun. Then in reverse, Jimmy and Billy Lee (the Lee name is an intended homage to martial arts legend Bruce Lee) would serve as the inspiration for the main characters of River City Ransom, the North American version of the third Kunio-kun game. The plot of Double Dragon would popularize the formula for the beat ‘em up genre. Marian, the girlfriend of Billy, gets kidnapped and Billy and his brother Jimmy must go off and save her from the Black Warriors, a local gang of brutish thugs.
The controls are pretty basic, you have jump, punch, and kick, and in co-op mode, you can even do basic double teams where you grab one guy and your partner can throw in some cheap shots. However, the reverse is true when fighting the enemy. This game also allows you to use weapons such as bats, whips, knives, dynamite and even barrels!!! After its release, the beat ‘em up genre progressively expanded that shared many of Double Dragon’s base qualities but also developing some of their own distinct features to make itself stand out. So what are some games that measure up to Double Dragon? Read our list to find out!
Similar Game to Double Dragon
1. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
- System: PS3, Xbox 360
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
- Release Dates: Aug 10, 2010
While some of you readers are likely familiar with the movie, this release takes influence from the original comic series in context to its art style, but still, follows the same plot. If you have seen the movie or read the comic, then you know it is a homage to the retro pop culture and this game is an embracement and extension of that spirit. In this game, you exclusively play as the titular Scott Pilgrim and fight in his hometown in a suburban Canada.
The graphics and soundtrack have this 16-bit feel to compliment both the movie and comic. The gameplay is pretty much the same as any other beat ‘em up by just punching, kicking, and other foreign objects. As you collect money, you can enter cafes and/or Japanese restaurants to replenish your health. And just like in Double Dragon (and the movie and comic), you fight through the city to get the girl. While the game is appropriately more cartoony in comparison to Double Dragon, the various enemies and boss battles are enough to give players the same thrills.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World Trailer:
2. Mother Russia Bleeds
- System: PC, PS4
- Publisher: Devolver Digital
- Developer: Le Cartel Studio
- Release Dates: Sept 5, 2016
While Russia has been a controversy due to the election of Donald Trump and election ad scandal on Facebook, it was a much scarier threat under Communist rule during the Cold War. Now you can relive 1980’s Soviet Russia through Mother Russia Bleeds, which serves as a homage to Double Dragon and other old school beat ‘em ups. While its foundation takes influence from the classics, it has many distinctions of its own that all players can enjoy. Just like how Rocky’s Russian opponent used steroids in Rocky IV, this game is literally Double Dragon on steroids!
To make things whackier, you have to use a drug called necro to stay alive! It has a crazy grappling system where you can paralyze your enemies with backbreaking, or you can uppercut the heads of your opponents. Like Scott Pilgrim, its graphics play great homage to the great 16-bit era and its soundtrack is reminiscent of the synthesizers that were heavily used in the 1980s music and movie soundtracks. This is simply a game that you have to play to believe.
Mother Russia Bleeds Trailer:
- System: NES, Game Gear, Mega Drive, Amiga
- Publisher: Tradewest
- Developer: Rare
- Release Dates: June 1991
What do you get when you mix Double Dagon, Ninja Turtles, and outer space adventures? Then you get the classic hit, Battletoads! Our three titular characters are the grossly named Rash, Zitz, and Pimple. While Pimple and a space princess are out on a ride, the Dark Queen uses this as an opportunity to kidnap them, and it’s up to Rash and Zitz to save the day. While the game has been praised for its unique gameplay and design, it still maintains notoriety for its demanding difficulty (to the point that future releases on other consoles had to be toned down!). So if you want something challenging, this might be the game you’re looking for.
What makes this game distinct is that when you do stringing combos against enemies, final blows can sometimes be instances where the character’s hands can grow to cartoonish sizes to squish them. In addition to being your standard platform beat ‘em up, you go down holes attached to ropes and can transform the character into a wrecking ball to instantly take out enemies. And there are levels where you race in a floating motorcycle so you get a lot of variety in this game. If in the event you pause the game, prepare to jam to a really have beat. The franchise would find success to the point that Battletoads and Double Dragon would eventually be a team up game for the Super Nintendo.
Any Game Like Double Dragon?
4. Streets of Rage (Bare Knuckle)
- System: Genesis, Master System, Game Gear
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Sega
- Release Dates: Aug 2, 1991 (JP), Sept 18, 1991 (US)
Just like how River City Ransom paved way for Double Dragon, which in turn paved way for Final Fight, and then Final Fight paved way for Streets of Rage. As praised by our top 10 Sega games list, this game is highly remembered for its music, and how it was also one of the games that defined the Genesis console, and how it ultimately defined the Sega brand. Just like in Double Dragon, you must save the city from a local gang that has the main police force cowering in their stations, and all you got are your elite martial arts skills to stop them. Don’t worry about having to save the girl this time because one of the selectable characters is a female.
The game gives its players a very dark and gritty world run by Mr. X, but what makes this game stand out is that when you make it to Mr. X, he actually offers you to join him! If you play two-players and one-person joins and the other refuses, you must fight each other! Depending on what happens, you can either save the city or become the next crime lord. As shared in the intro, Double Dragon for the NES did something a little similar to where while you only played as Billy, the final boss would be Jimmy (while both were the heroes in the arcade version).
Though the game spawned off two hit sequels for the Genesis console and having re-releases on the Wii network, it never got any continuation despite its popularity. Attempts have been made (such as one for the Dreamcast), but none came to fruition. Maybe someday, longtime fans can get a true sequel. If it can happen to Shenmue, it can happen to Streets of Rage!
5. Final Fight (Final Crash)
- System: Arcade, Super Nintendo, Sega CD
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Dates: December 1989
While this game was initially intended to be a sequel to Street Fighter, upon the success of Double Dragon, Capcom decided to make it into a beat ‘em up to capitalize on that game’s popularity, while it would later be part of the Street Fighter mythos. The plot of the game is more or less the same as Double Dragon, which combines some of their archetypes such as saving the girl and the city by fighting your way through the local gang, The Mad Gear gang. Players can choose one of three characters, Cody, Mike, and Guy who each have their own strengths and weaknesses. The controls are very straight to the point, which gives players immediate comfort.
All you just have to do is move your character around the screen and you have the option of either attacking or jumping. Just bash the attack button and you can have your character perform a combo. Also, you can do jumping attacks. In addition, you can press the jump and attack button at the same time to perform a special attack that gets to all enemies but at the cost of some of the character’s health meter. Unfortunately, the SNES releases were toned down and had to have separate releases with one version having only Cody and Haggar selectable, while Guy was selected in a separate version for him. The Sega CD releases, on the other hand, added the novelty of voice acting, which was a unique thing of its time of release.
6. River City Ransom (Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari)
- System: Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy Advance, PC Engine
- Publisher: Technos Japan (Japan), Taito (US)
- Developer: Technos Japan
- Release Dates: Apr25, 1989 (Japan), Jan 1990 (US)
Naturally, we have to give the number one spot to River City Ransom, or Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari. In Japan, this is the third game of the Kunio-kun (named after Taki Kunio, then president of Technos Japan) series. While it was westernized as River City Ransom, the original Japanese release takes influence from the delinquent mangas of its time period such as Bebop High School and Kyo Kara Ore Wa when delinquents would perm their hair into pompadours and wear longer versions to the coats of their school uniforms (which are portrayed in the original Japanese version of the game, while changed to shirts and jeans for River City Ransom). While the Western version feels like the cheesy martial arts movie knockoffs of the eighties, Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari is a pure yankee (a Japanese word for delinquent) game.
In this game, the player assumes the roles of Kunio/Alex and Riki/Ryan, who were rivals in the previous game. While old-school beat ‘em ups are known for being straight and non-linear, this game has some freedom of exploration in conjunction with action/adventure games. Since the game was made by the creator of Double Dragon, its fighting system is largely the same where you just punch, kick, and jump. You can pick up foreign objects as weapons such as sticks and chains like a real gangster. The game is very straight to the point, simple to pick up, but can be demanding depending on the level of difficulty you choose to play it on. If you manage to get a copy of the PC Engine version, the graphics are smoothed out and includes some voice acting.
We would like to give some honorable mentions to some other classic titles such as Renegade, POW, Kenka Bancho, Nekketsu Oyako, and Bad Dudes. While Double Dragon may not be the original beat ‘em up, it certainly popularized it. For its time, it was a pop culture phenomenon. In the 1989 movie The Wizard, the game helps a traumatized catatonic boy come out of his shell and discover his talents for gaming by gaining 50,000 points in just a few minutes (while not possible in real life). Not only was it a successful gaming series, it had its own animated series on the USA Network (with a heck of a catchy theme song) and its own movie (and yes, the movie does suck)!
The animated series took a very different approach from the original game, and added in many mystical elements, as did the poorly received movie. Either way, Double Dragon as a game contributed so much for its time that without out, all of these games listed would have probably never have been made! So what are some top games that you think measure up to the legacy of Double Dragon? Leave your thoughts in the comments.