Game Overkill – Streets of Rage

Streets of Rage (or Bea Nakkuru: Ikari no Tekken/Bare Knuckle: Furious Iron Fist in Japan), is a side-scrolling beat ’em up by Sega for the Genesis/Mega Drive released in 1991. It’s been ported and rereleased for a bunch of other platforms for some reason. There is barely a game to speak of here, so this review will be rather short.

Game Overkill - Streets of Rage

I guess I should start by saying that I don’t like beat ’em ups.  That being said, just because I don’t enjoy them, it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate them. I might not love Double Dragon or River City Rampage, but I can certainly understand why some people do. Those games have flaws, sure, but they have enough going for them for me to understand why someone who loves beat ’em ups would love those games.  This is not the case with Streets of Rage.

All of my usual beat ’em up complaints apply to this game. The variety of enemies is attrocious. The game has 6 enemies outside of bosses. SIX! This isn’t an NES game. Imagine Super Mario World or Sonic the Hedgehog with fewer enemies than in the original Super Mario Bros. You’d call bulshit on that game. So why not with a 4th gen beat ’em up featuring as many enemies as you find in the original Double Dragon?

Streets of Rage - Jump Kick

All GIFs were created by @Oceanity (

Streets of Rage - Blaze

At least the game is on the Genesis, so now you’ve got three buttons to do stuff with, right? Well, the game does feature three playable characters, but two only have 6 moves, while the third has 5. You can do all of them right from the start, so when you’ve gotten to the 8th level, you’ve been doing the same shit to the same enemies for over an hour. The only way the game remains a challenge is by increasing the number of enemies you have to fight at once. This is the laziest way to make a game more difficult and, for me, does nothing to help me enjoy and remain interested in the game. I hate coming back to this, but even Double Dragon did a better job here, and that game was primitive compared to what was possible in Streets of Rage. Oh, and that third button? It only does one thing, this:

Streets of Rage - Special

At least it gives you a few second to rest your thumb from all that furious and rewarding pressing of the B button.

I suppose I can use this to segue into one of the only two even remotely positive things I can say about the game. Graphically speaking, it is pretty. Super pretty, even. The different locales for the levels and the characters are well done. There’s variety, lots of colour, lots of neon; it makes the game interesting visually.

The game’s soundtrack isn’t anything amazing, but it is solid, with a few standout tracks. Since it’s what I listened to at the time the game was released, I immediately noticed the electronic and house music influences present, but as a kid, I didn’t think there was anything groundbreaking about it. I’ve read some other reviews praising it for this though. Other than that, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to music from the 8 and 16-bit eras, with playlists on YouTube and the like, so I’ve become familiar with music from games I’ve never played before. There were no songs in this game I recognized while playing it, and no songs have stuck with me since playing it. Overall, it was unmemorable. The sequels are a different story, but that’s for another day…maybe.

Streets of Rage - Final Boss - Mr. X

Having a lead pipe in this game was basically cheating, which a long way towards making my playthrough of the game almost tolerable.

Besides graphics and music, the other positive thing about the game are the bosses, which actually had a different set of moves and required different strategies to defeat. You need to do a little thinking instead of just mindlessly pounding on the B button. Whether it was Bongo with his fire belch (though, to be honest, fuck that guy), Antonio with his boomerang, Onihime and Yasha with their flying kicks and throws, or any of the others, they’re not just larger, faster, or stronger versions of normal enemies with an added move, which is great. It’s honestly the only part of the game I could say I enjoyed.

Streets of Rage - Game Over

So, there’s Streets of Rage, an average-at-best beat ’em up that is revered by many gamers for reasons I have failed to understand. It’s pretty, but it’s also pretty boring. Move left, hit B a bunch, move left some more, press B some more, move left, hope the level is done, press B, move left, more B presses, turn off the console. There’s no blocking, dodging, strategizing…you barely have to move. You can just move left until the enemies start appearing, then stand there and wait for them to come to you, making sure you press B at the right time. I haven’t played the sequels, so maybe the sequels are ridiculously good, good to the point that the original is held in high esteem for having started a groundbreaking and exciting series. Somehow, I doubt it. Regardless, I can’t imagine they’re good enough to justify pushing Streets of Rage up into the 61st spot. This game has no business being so highly ranked., but that’s just me. What do YOU think?

Update: Streets of Rage is now in 66th place.

Update: Streets of Rage is now in 58th place.

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About Atsinganoi

Atsinganoi started gaming in the early 80s on an Atari 2600 and still thinks they're kinda neat. You can find him on Twitter if you want, just don't call him a frog.


  1. I like beat-em-ups when there’s a little more meat to them (Manhattan Project, River City Ransom) but I’ve dipped my toe into this one and found myself thinking the same things as I did about Mighty Final Fight – not much going on, not nearly enough attacks, little strategy, and a feeling like it’s more down to luck than anything. Yeah, both are kind of a snoozer. 2D brawlers are my thing, but there aren’t many.

    • Never played it, or any of the Final Fight games, but if it’s really like this game, I’m gonna avoid it.

  2. I’ve always felt it got good reviews because at the time there was little to compete with it on Genesis.
    It’s a good game but not one I would constantly return to.

    • I suppose that could explain it. I had a look at Genesis games released in 1991 or earlier and found 16 that I’ve played and think are much better though. That doesn’t mean they were well-marketed or successful, just that I like them more.

      • Streets of Rage 2 improved on the original in pretty much every respect, and could be considered a pinnacle among beat-em-ups from the 16-bit era. Even if you’re not a fan of the genre, that game is a much more interesting and balanced experience all the way through.

  3. If I had to choose between Streets of Rage 1, 2, or 3; 1 is the one I would pick last to play. The one feature from Streets of Rage I wish was available in 2 or 3 was the police backup. It truly was a relief to use in tough situations.

    • Really? That’s not in the sequels? Honestly, seems like the kind of thing a series wouldn’t have had in the first game and added in the sequels.

  4. Atsingnoi old chap, i’m generally a fan of your reviews but i think this one is off slightly.

    First off, the sound track. Regardless of whether or not you’re moved by the individual tracks (even this one? are you sure you have a pulse? 😉 ) there is no denying that, on a technical level, What Koshiro achieved on the Megadrive was absolutely incredible. While others in the electronic sphere had access to all the latest synthesisers and samplers, Koshiro had a single de-specced 1983 synth chip to work with. Though the Megadrive sound chip can play samples, you have to sacrifice one of the six instrument sounds in order to do it. On a technical level, the Streets of Rage soundtrack is akin to pulling off a pixel-perfect version of the Streets of Rage game on the NES.

    Now, as for the game itself, I think it’s a shame that you haven’t played Final Fight before coming to this, as if we’re honest Streets of Rage is pretty much an exact copy of it (to the point of having the the same guys in the bright jackets, same weapons etc.) Why do so many people ignore this? I think the answer is because, if we’re honest, Streets of Rage is just a much, much, much better game.

    For a start, there’s the environments. I think these play a very important part in controlling the pacing of the game. Yes, the game may have shown you most of its content by the third stage, but then you have to deal with the holes in the floor on the bridge…and then there’s the huge hydraulic presses to deal with in the factory and the crazily constrained lift level. For me, this has always helped keep the simplistic gameplay from going too stale (although i admit as a consequence of this the boat level in the middle drags on a bit and screw the bloody blaze sisters and their hour long boss battle. STOP BLOODY JUMPING)

    Next to that, there’s the attention to detail. I like the fact they included a bad ending, or that you can break the bottles over your opponent’s head and then stab then with the jagged remains (10 year old me liked this a lot. I may have been a slightly disturbed 10 year old.) There were lots of nice touches here that weren’t present in the likes of final fight – and i think those little things go a long way.

    Then there’s the intangible elements. Yes i’ll admit the gameplay boils down to a case of punch-punch-kick or grab-knee-knee-throw ad infinitum, but to type these things as text doesn’t convey the true weight of the experience. After all, both Mario and Bubsy the Bobcat basically boil down to running, jumping and beating the bad guys, but I know which one I’d rather be playing!

    When it comes to Streets of Rage, I would argue the act of fighting is simply much more satisfying than in other games of its ilk. From the brutal crunch of the sound effects through to the satisfying stun animations, the act of punching people in Streets of Rage simply feels more satisfying to me than it does in many other games of its ilk. A game with 20 enemies but poor animation and flaky collision detection will always be inferior to a game with just one enemy but pixel-perfect gameplay.

    Finally, I think there’s a very large co-op-shaped hole in this review. For me, Streets of Rage will always be one of the greatest co-op games of all time: Not only do you get extra moves (one player can grab the other and vault into a flying kick) but the ability to actually hurt each other gives the game the greater strategic depth you crave. (as long as it doesn’t turn into an actual fist fight because your idiot brother keeps eating YOUR chicken)


    Have you guys seen the MS port of SoR? It’s absolutely incredible:

    • Haha, first of all, thanks for such a lengthy comment. Sorry, but that track you mentioned was probably my least favourite. I found it grating with the constant “tee-tee-tee, tee-tee-tee.” Other than that, I’m completely ignorant when it comes to sound chips and don’t really understand what stuff like de-specced means, but I’ll take your word for it being a technical marvel.

      As for the environments, you’re right I should’ve talked about them more, like how holes on the bridge changed nothing for me, how the hydraulic presses were tedious thanks to it not being clear where they hit exactly, and how the lift level was the worst level in the game. Even when they tried to mix things up, they just ended up making already mediocre gameplay even worse.

      I will admit that breaking the bottle and stabbing with it was a nice touch.

      For the gameplay being repetitive (in my opinion) and brining up Mario vs Bubsy: fair point. Mostly, this is a case of beat ’em ups simply not being my thing. You could argue that RPGs consist of nothing more than hitting one button the entire game and you’d be right. I love RPGs though and there’s obviously more to them than that, but if someone just doesn’t like RPGs, I can understand how they could feel this way. More to your point though, is that even though in terms of gameplay Mario and Bubsy are very similar, one is clearly better than the other in ways that might not be easy to explain but are true nonetheless. This is really how I feel about Streets of Rage vs other beat ’em ups I’ve played. I really do feel like this game is the Bubsy of beat ’em ups. It is worse than Double Dragon, River City Ransom, or those awful TMNT games. It might be better than every other beat ’em up, and I suppose that would be commendable, but I haven’t played them so I don’t know. Regarldess, unlike you, I found the act of fighting completely unsatisfying.

      The co-op-shaped hole criticism is also absolutely fair. I had planned to play it with a friend, but never got around to it. In my defense, I think I might hate playing beat ’em ups with a friend more than I hate playing them alone, especially if friendly fire is on.

      • “As for the environments, you’re right I should’ve talked about them more, like how holes on the bridge changed nothing for me, how the hydraulic presses were tedious thanks to it not being clear where they hit exactly, and how the lift level was the worst level in the game. Even when they tried to mix things up, they just ended up making already mediocre gameplay even worse.”

        In 1462, the forces of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II crossed the Danube seeking to punish Prince Vlad III Dracula of Walachia. The march through Walachia was gruelling, with Mehmed’s men suffering from frequent ambushes and guerrilla attacks organised by Vlad. Their morale already sapped, the worst horror of all was the sight that awaited them outside the city of Targoviste: hundreds (perhaps thousands) of their fallen comrades had been impaled on masse and the wooden spikes staged to create an utterly terrible ‘Forest of the dead.’ Mehmed is alleged to have taken one look and decided to withdraw, realising that there can be no reasoning with such savages.

        Much like Mehmed, i realise there is an impasse that cannot be breached when someone can take no pleasure in having their opponent crushed by a giant hydraulic press 😉

        • I honestly thought this was a spam comment from a bot. I came close to deleting it, but my interest in Dracula that dates back to my pre-teen days got me to read all of it.

          Well done.

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