Streets of Rage (1991) A
Streets of Rage 2 (1992) A
Streets of Rage 3 (1994) B-
Ranking in Sega Genesis Top 50: 6th
Years: 1991-94 (see above for specific years)
Genre: Criminal Justice
Note: Of all the games in this series, these are the editor’s personal favorites:
Brad – Streets of Rage
Stryker – Streets of Rage 2
The excellence of the Streets of Rage series doesn’t really require a lot of explanation. It has classic beat-’em up gameplay and a familiar storyline. You choose a character, walk around, punch criminals and awesomeness ensues:
Attention game designers: No matter what you’re working on, it needs to be more like this.
In fact, much like a gorgeous sunset or an artistic masterpiece, mere words cannot truly convey the power and beauty of the Streets of Rage series. Which is why we grabbed a bunch of screenshots, and brought in our old friends Bitterly Indifferent and Chris Delp to help us discuss them.
Brad: The Sinister Mr. X warms his hands by the comforting glow of Rage City.
Stryker: Axel is friends with a pro wrestler because video game, that’s why.
B. Indifferent: Or maybe Mr. X is doing air quotes around this intro sequence? That’d be a whole new level of villainy, mocking Axel and Blaze as they set out to “help” their faithful “companion,” joined by Axel’s friend Max, a “wrestler.”
Chris: All that exposition and still know explanation of why Dolph Lundgren has painted himself purple.
Brad: This picture illustrates everything you need to know about why Streets of Rage 2 is great. Guys are leaping off of motorcycles to attack us on a bridge, and we’re going to crack them in the face with a lead pipe. The next time somebody’s going on about how moved they were by the story and artistic stylings of some indie game you’ve never heard of, ask them how many parts the game had like this. The answer is always going to be “not enough”.
B. Indifferent: I really feel like we lost something as a society when our video games moved away from bare pecs and tiger stripe sweatpants.
Chris: Come on B, you can bring back the Zubaz. I believe in you.
B. Indifferent: I’d be all over it, but that judge was disappointingly specific in his restraining order.
Brad: One of my favorite things in the entire Streets of Rage series is the part where you fight former New York Jets great Mark Gastineau for a turkey.
B. Indifferent: Quite a crowd for this event – I see Buddha, his twin brother Buddha sitting a few seats over, and then one row up you’ve got a pair of guys wearing a dog’s ribcage for a hat.
Brad: Streets of Rage 2 represents the point where the circles representing “Rollerblades” and “Breakdancing” overlap on the world’s least plausible Venn diagram.
Stryker: Why did this totally-not-Disney-World theme park place one “Do! Base Ball!” poster directly on top of another one? I thought maybe the one they covered up had some kind of spelling or grammatical mistake but, you know, it’s a poster that says “Do! Base Ball!”.
B. Indifferent: I think it’s the work of some enterprising young vandal who was stepping up his game: now that he’s mastered folding dollar bills to read “tits,” he’s trying to make posters say “BALLSE”
Brad: Man, the final season of Flava of Love was way more fucked up than I remember.
B. Indifferent: Look, Flava Flav is very particular about how he likes his glazed apples prepared. And he doesn’t like to share them with people. Is that really so wrong?
Brad: Here’s the first boss of Streets of Rage, because apparently all the crime in this area is controlled by a boomerang wielding Aussie. Also, this is about the fourth time we’ve gone by the “Pine Pot”, so either Adam’s lost and going in circles, or else this stage takes place within a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
B. Indifferent: Pine Pot was an ambitious franchise that tried to use the Starbucks approach by opening a store every 100 yards. Back in the day, they were known for their signature product: a bloody trashcan full of children’s birthday party balloons.
Chris: Perhaps the streets of rage are in Colorado. Mr. X is just pissed that the government has legalized all of his product to run him and his drug dealing buddies out of business. That explains why the streets are clear of any bystanders. The whole town is stuck in a continuous loop around the Arby’s drive thru.
Stryker: The worst part of using a boomerang as a weapon has to be those awkward 30 seconds where you just stand there with hand out, waiting for it to come back.
Brad: Whoa! Vin Diesel is so enthusiastic about crime that he’s leaping out of the sewers to attack you with a pipe!
B. Indifferent: I only wish I could get that enthusiastic about crime. It’s all I can do to lean out the window and flip off a cop.
Chris: So we were bludgeoning Aussies outside the Pine Pot but now fifteen minutes later we are brawling charismatic street racers that knock off 18 wheelers with neon lit cars. Has every form of criminal in human history converged on this poor city?
Brad: Tired of the failures of traditional crime-fighting methods, the police try a new approach, enlisting 2 officers to drive around in a cool sports car while firing a t-shirt cannon at crowds of street thugs in an attempt to turn them from their law-breaking ways.
Stryker: I’ve seen cop shows where the cops have to guide the suspect into the back of the squad car so he doesn’t hit his head on the door and sue them for brutality. Could you imagine trying to stuff a perp into the back of this two-door, though? “Ok, watch your head, and now put your first foot here… well ok, maybe if I move the seat up some more… no, wait, what if you kind of crouch first… ok, you know what, I’m just going to let you off with a warning. You’d better stop stabbing people from now on.”
Brad: It’s a little hard to make out here, but Adam is armed with the most fearsome weapon in Streets of Rage – the pepper shaker! No, seriously, this is a game where you run around beating the daylights out of street thugs, and the best weapon in the game makes your enemies sneeze uncontrollably. Danny Cooksey is about to learn why you don’t bring a knife to a shaker fight.
B. Indifferent: The best thing to bring to a shaker fight is a lathe. Once they start making furniture and comparing notes on abstinence it’s only a matter of time before everyone dies of boredom.
Chris: And we are sure Adam’s not about to take a drag off a lollipop? No wait, that makes more sense than saving the city armed with nothing but a ripped shirt and a pepper shaker.
Chris: This level always makes me want to reach for the horizontal hold knob. These particle effects are truly a sight to behold.
Brad: I was going to explain that this Alien-themed level takes place within an amusement park, so it’s not as though Streets of Rage has completely gone off of the rails here. Then I remembered that still makes this is a level where you break into a theme park and start beating the shit out out of everyone, so I guess that’s kind of relative.
Stryker: Is Axel going to simply punch the crime out of them? Or is he actually beating them to death, and each time one blinks a few times and disappears, they are literally blinking out of existence? Is the only thing preventing Rage City from being littered with the bodies of slain thugs the Genesis’ inability to render it without crippling slowdown?
Brad: Ok, I get it, Max is a pro wrestler. Would he really be wearing his ring attire for this, though? I feel like it would be pretty weird to walk down the street and see Randy Savage bashing people in the head, but it would be even weirder if he was doing it while wearing his neon green cowboy hat and fringe-lined vest.
B. Indifferent: It’s aspirational. You don’t dress like the crime-fighting street vigilante you are, you dress like the vigilante you want to be. It adds another level of pathos to this story about a broken city full of people who had to give up on their dreams of mastering ballet, designing haute couture, and selling erotic novelties.
Stryker: Instead of making wrestling games, companies should have just made beat ‘em ups starring pro wrestlers. Acclaim published countless terrible WWF games during the 90s, and I gotta think a game where you just walked around as The Honky Tonk Man and beat up criminals would have been way more fun.
Brad: You know when things in your city have gotten bad? When they start stacking tires on the beach.
Brad: Adam calls for backup, only to discover why police departments shouldn’t order uniforms for their female officers off of the internet.
Chris: I think I’ve seen the movie adaptation of this. Adam and Horatio Sanz are pretending to be gay so they can hook up with palette swap whip woman number three. Mildly offensive non-hilarity ensues.
Stryker: Streets of Rage shows us that every woman in the world is some kind of whip-wielding psychobitch in a faux-nazi uniform, but one good crack in the jaw is all that it takes for them to drop on their knees and beg for your mercy. You can draw your own conclusions, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the guys who made this game probably didn’t get a lot of dates in high school.
Brad: See, this is why arcades are out of business. People just don’t want to pay three gold bars to play one game of Bare Knuckle when the console version only costs around five or six gold bars.
B. Indifferent: I don’t care if the console version costs twenty gold bars, it’s a small price to pay to avoid the sweaty pervert in the green half-trenchcoat. As an added bonus, you don’t have to breathe air that reeks of cigarette smoke and failure.
Chris: I’ll need more random air hockey pucks flying off tables and at my head to complete that 90’s arcade brawl experience I remember so well.
Brad: Having failed to secure enough new sponsors for the upcoming baseball season, the team starts advertising the general concept of “audio”.
B. Indifferent: They should fire their business development manager. If all their athletes are shaped like that guy in the air, it would be a slam dunk to get sponsorship from Bob’s Big Boy, Michelin Tires, or Sea World.
Chris: The form on this belly flop is nothing short of masterful! It looks like he’s cleared five feet, legs tucked, arms out. We are looking at very high marks from the Texas judge depending on the divot he leaves.
Availability: For modern console owners, all three games are included in the excellent Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360 and Ps3. This is a collection that we’ve recommended many times before on this site, and I’ll do so again here. They can also be downloaded as a collection for $10, or Wii owners can download them individually (and you can save some money by skipping the less than great SoR 3). Those of you looking to buy Genesis versions shouldn’t have too much difficulty finding copies of the first two games – they’re not as easy to track down as some of the other games we’ve discussed here, but are still fairly common. If all else fails, copies can be found online for about $5. Streets of Rage 3 is much rarer and more expensive. Honestly, that was Stryker and I’s least favorite of the series, and it wasn’t even close, so unless you’re a collector or completionist of some kind, you can probably pass on it and just enjoy the first two.
A very special thanks goes out to Bitterly Indifferent and Chris Delp for all their contributions and advice on this article.