Released under the name Bare Knuckle in its home market of Japan, Streets of Rage is one of the best games on the Sega Mega Drive by a long shot and a foundational game in the beat ‘em up genre.
Hitting the streets in 1991, Streets of Rage, like Final Fight from Capcom, gives players the chance to choose from one of three fighters that they will control when taking on the seemingly endless hordes of a metropolis teeming with crime and violence.
Each character has a different style of fighting and movement speed, from Blaze’s fast but less-hard-hitting moves to Axel’s well-rounded set and Adam, who can jump and hit hard but moves slowly.
Similar to the game Golden Axe but with a decidedly different aesthetic, Streets of Rage is also inspired by the popular arcade brawlers so prevalent in those dens of gaming at the time. Capitalizing on the Sega Mega Drive’s boast of being the arcade home console, Streets of Rage was truly the whole package for gamers back in 1991.
Spawning a trilogy of games, the first title in the series is noted for everything from its gameplay to its soundtrack, the latter of which lives on to this day in numberless remixes using everything from chiptunes to modern synths.
In terms of graphics the game pushes the Mega Drive without unnecessarily slowing it down. Unlike Final Fight’s huge, yet detailed, sprites, Streets of Rage employs a more toned-down look that, nonetheless, continues to move quickly even with the addition of more players on screen.
And, while co-op is missing in the initial release of Final Fight for the SNES, co-op is front and centre in Streets of Rage. In anticipation that this would be a game that players would want to experience with their friends, Sega made sure the engine could handle a lot of fast paced action without getting bogged down with its own aesthetic.
Speaking of which, if you enjoy the early 1980s look found in movies like The Terminator and Blade Runner, you’re going to love the neons and rain-slick pavement of Streets of Rage.
A game that takes advantage of the Mega Drive’s unique look when it comes to graphics, Streets of Rage takes players through a large variety of environments, each with a detailed and distinct look. In this sense, Streets of Rage is the perfect co-op game as it emphasizes working together and the experience of a journey – two things that you get readily in an arcade but often struggle to get at home. That’s because Streets of Rage can’t be finished quickly, necessitating players to sit together and game for quite a while.
Along those lines the game also maintains a consistent challenge without ever delving into needlessly difficult or stupidly easy. It does give you a slight chance to get your water wings in the beginning but those are but a few brief moments before you’re facing down the endless hordes of criminals found in Streets of Rage, Best of all, and without spoiling the ending, players who co-op the game all the way to the end might find themselves faced with an interesting dilemma depending on what they choose to do.