Brawler games, also known as beat 'em ups, are a subgenre of action games that emphasize combat against waves of enemies. Unlike traditional fighting games that focus on one-on-one battles, most brawler games often feature side-scrolling gameplay, allowing players to move horizontally through levels while taking on hordes of enemies. These games typically involve a combination of hand-to-hand combat, weapons, and special moves. The objective is simple: defeat every enemy and progress through the game's story or stages.
Probably the best early example of this genre is Double Dragon, released in 1987 as a coin-op but then ported to all possible platforms. The sequel, Double Dragon II: The Revenge, is still considered one of the best brawler games ever. Karateka for the Apple II and The Last Ninja for the Commodore 64 don't have hordes of enemies, but they are still great examples of early progressive beat-em-up created for home computers.
The gothic horror-themed platformer-brawler Castlevania was released in 1986 for the NES. It was one of the first examples of the metroidvania sub-genre, where the player must explore several levels non-linearly.
SEGA's masterpiece Golden Axe was released in 1989, and it's still one of the best examples of fantasy brawlers with hack & slash co-op mechanics.
We have many examples of great brawlers released for the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis: from Streets of Rage to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist, without forgetting the fantastic Comix Zone.
On the Amiga side, we should not forget the famous Shadow of the Beast, a game that impressed all players thanks to the high-quality graphics and music.
If you liked these games, don't forget to check the related sub-genre fighting.