20 videogame characters who should appear in a beat ’em up

Some game characters just beg to be inducted into the world of the beat 'em up. We pick some of our favourites...

There are few games as exciting to geeks as the cross-title mash-up. When one or more publishers take characters from totally different licenses and pit them together in mortal combat, something special happens. Classic rivalries are settled, new match ups are created and the fan-service is high on the agenda. Battles don’t come much more satisfying.

It’s been done before, of course, most famously by both Nintendo and Sony with the Smash Bros. series and PlayStation All-Stars, and seeing the likes of Link clash with Pit, or Kratos take on a Big Daddy is a sight that can put a big smile on any gamer’s face. There’s just something about seeing well-established characters from different universes clash.

It worked wonders for other worlds and rosters too, such as Aliens and Predators, Marvel and Capcom, DC and Mortal Kombat, the list goes on. Even Ezio from Assassin’s Creed got some action in Soul Calibur, as did Darth Vader, Yoda, and the Apprentice from the Unleashed games, with Spawn, Link and Tekken’s Heihachi Mishima also lending their skills to Namco‘s weapon-based fighter.

This existing cross-title combat is great, but what about game characters that don’t have the luxury of this chance? Characters that don’t have a huge publisher or hardware developer behind them?

Ad – content continues below

There are plenty of characters out there that are perfectly suited for the genre, with skills and abilities that would turn them into instant special move-toting scrappers, but as of yet, they remain tied to their own genre, or have been lost in the sands of gaming time.

So, we thought we’d take a look as some of the gaming world’s best contenders for the one-on-one arena that deserve a chance to shine as beat ’em up legends.

Geralt of Rivia – The Witcher series 

As a mutant monster hunter, Geralt is an expert in all Witcher combat styles, which includes the use of many weapons, including his staple steel and silver swords, abilities that obviously provide Geralt with the bread and butter of any combatant’s skill set.

However, his ability to consume many stat-buffing potions poisonous to others, and his penchant to throw magic around really ups his pedigree. Specials would be easy to implement for the White Wolf. Fireballs, telekinetic pushes, potions that grant him increased defence or offence and any number of physical combos make him a prime target for the genre, and a fighter who could handle his own against any foe.

Garrett – Thief series 

Although Garrett usually avoids confrontations, given his less than legal profession, his skills would make him perfectly at home in one-on-one combat.

Whilst hiding in shadows wouldn’t be as useful, his proficiency with the sword, dagger and blackjack would serve him well in close combat, and he’d be a force to be reckoned with at a distance, thanks to his range of arrows, including explosive, knock-out gas and moss, which could stop opponents in their tracks.

Ad – content continues below

Oh, and then there’s his arsenal of bombs, mines and other gadgets, most of which would make for a surprisingly wide-ranging move list.

Adam Jensen – Deus Ex: Human Revolution 

Only edging JC Denton out of the frame due to JC’s lack of overly physical combat abilities, Adam Jensen is a definite must-have in our list. Not only does he possess all sorts of guns, explosives and agility-boosting skills, but he has bloody great retractable blades concealed in his arms.

Adam Jensen is just as comfortable dispatching foes from a distance as he is up close, and thanks to his hardened, cyborg body and strength enhanced limbs, he’s easily a match for any crossover contender. And he’s got a beard. Beards are cool.

Raziel & Kain – Soul Reaver and Blood Omen series 

Two for the price of one here, as both characters are inextricably linked. The ex-vampire come soul-eater, Raziel, and almighty bloodsucker, Kain would be total no-brainers for inclusion into any fighting title.

Raziel has all manner of spiritual abilities, such as projectiles, telekinesis, teleportation, time control lethal claws and the Soul Reaver sword bonded to his soul, whilst Kain is perhaps one of the most powerful vampires ever created, with similar powers to Raziel, and the physical form of the Soul Reaver.

They’ve already proven their mettle in their own, combat-heavy action adventures, and an appearance in a one-on-one scrapper would be more than fitting.

Ad – content continues below

Alex Mercer – Prototype series 

The anti-hero protagonist of the first Prototype, and antagonist of the sequel, Alex Mercer is chosen here as he’s arguably the most popular with fans, edging out newcomer, James Heller.

As a combatant, there are very few characters that can even come close to Mercer’s abilities (aside from Heller, of course). A living, sentient virus, Mercer is able to morph his body into pretty much anything he wants, and can steal the form of anyone he touches.

He can throw tanks around with gay abandon, sprint up the side of buildings, jump and glide large distances and has explosive critical mass attacks that can devastate whole areas. By the time Prototype 2 arrived, his powers had increased even more.

He may even be too powerful for a fighting game, so strong are his abilities, but if we can have Batman or Green Arrow presented in an even battle against Superman, then why not?


A fairly obscure comic book hero, Shadowman (the Mike LeRoi incarnation) has starred in a couple of action adventure titles, and his voodoo-centric powers, along with his Shadowgun and ability to traverse the divide between the living world and Deadside (the place where everyone goes, without exception, when they die) give him ample credibility for the beat ’em up genre.

Thanks to the power of the Mask of Shadows, which he has sewn into his chest, he can absorb the knowledge and abilities of others, has great strength and can regenerate from injury. As he’s also a hitman, his marksman skills make him very handy with his Shadowgun, and any other ranged weapon. Oh, and did I mention he can come back from the dead? That’s always a handy skill to have.

Ad – content continues below

In the games, Shadowman’s skills are mainly ranged, but his superhuman strength and resilience would still make him a threat to other combatants, and at range, he’d quickly send his foes to Deadside.

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider series 

Every good scrapper needs strong characters, and few gaming icons come as highly qualified as Ms Croft in this regard. The star of Tomb Raider, Lara may not be the typical beat ’em up inclusion, but her athletic abilities, skill with ranged weapons (especially her dual pistols), and instinctive ability to figure out and use mystical weapons could give her an edge.

She’s cut her teeth discovering ancient civilisations around the world, fought supernatural creatures, has wielded Mjölnir, Excalibur and the Spear of Destiny (special moves aplenty there), and has come out smiling. Her recent reinvention by Crystal Dynamics brings with it rope and fire arrows too, making her even more of a threat.

Yuna – Final Fantasy X 

Hailing from Final Fantasy X, Yuna also starred in X-2, but it’s her original, aeon-summoning incarnation we’re including here.

Just like the Pokemon Trainer from Smash Bros, Yuna wouldn’t really be scrapper material, but standing on the sidelines whilst sending her summoned creatures into battle would work perfectly.

Again, like the Pokemon Trainer, Yuna could switch between a selection of proxy fighters, such as Ifrit, Shiva and Yojimbo, each of which could have their own skills and abilities, making for very challenging, but difficult to master character.

Ad – content continues below

Gordon Freeman – Half Life series 

Constantly topping greatest game character lists, despite never uttering a word, Gordon Freeman is the thinking man’s hero. Bespectacled and armed with expertise in quantum mechanics and a crowbar, amongst other things, he didn’t take long to mix science with the art of destruction when he arrived late on that fateful day back at Black Mesa.

Gordon’s huge arsenal of weapons, both human and alien, give him plenty of room for specials, with the gravity gun alone granting him all sorts of possible manoeuvres, and he could always lob headcrabs at his opponents in a pinch.

His H.E.V. Suit protects him from battle damage, enhances his speed and agility, and heals his wounds, and his thick-rimmed glasses may make foes think twice about punching him in the face. Well, maybe not.

Corvo and Daud – Dishonored 

One of the more recent characters on this list, Corvo is prime combat material, and although similar in style to Thief’s Garrett, his supernatural skills would make for some superb specials, granting him a unique fighting style.

Able to teleport short distances in the blink of an eye, slow down time and summon swarms of flesh eating rats, Corvo would be a speedy, and dangerous combatant, with his short blade and pistol mixing it up at both close and long range.

Corvo’s nemesis, Daud, could also make the cut, as his skills differ quite a bit. Still fast and agile, Daud’s more lethal skills would make him the more brutal of the two, and he could also call for aid, Marvel Vs Capcom-style, from his cadre of Whaler assassins. That is, when he’s not using Blink to teleport into someone’s face, knife-first.

Ad – content continues below

Riddick – The Chronicles Of Riddick 

Okay, so he was movie star first, but arguably, the game adaptation of The Chronicles Of Riddck was superior to the film (Pitch Black was very good, mind you) and Vin Diesel’s perpetual space convict is perfectly qualified for the genre.

His knife-fighting skill alone would give him a razor’s edge over most opponents, but if you throw in his Furyan legacy, which could manifest as an explosive blast or boost of strength, he’d become a real threat. Don’t forget, this man can kill someone with a tea cup…

His trademark eye shine wouldn’t be much use in a combat game normally, but for Injustice-style super move usage, he could easily flick off the lights before giving his opponent a severe beating in the dark, with lights coming back on to show a chunk of health gone from the opponent’s health bar. MK rules would, of course, end in much bloodier fashion.

Pyramid head – Silent Hill series 

When he’s not abusing mannequins, Silent Hill‘s terrifying stalker would be a classic powerhouse character in any combat title. His massive knife would do untold damage to his enemies, and thanks to that great metal hat, he’d take a ton of punishment before falling (and being Silent Hill, he’d probably enjoy it).

True, he wouldn’t be the fastest of characters, but let’s face it, would he really need to be? And, if he couldn’t get things done himself, he could simply summon up a bubble-headed nurse or two to give him a hand. The scraping noise of his dragging blade alone would be enough to freeze his enemies in their tracks.

The Prince – Prince Of Persia series 

We’re talking Sands Of Time onwards here, not the original 2D platformer. The various incarnations of the Prince have each added their own twist to the re-telling of the classic title, from Disney-style, baggy trouser-sporting Sands Of Time and goth-infused Warrior Within, to the more recent cel-shaded reboot, his skills of agility and time control have remained, along with his prowess with the blade.

Ad – content continues below

There’s plenty of room here for Capcom-style alternate costumes, but thanks to his time-slowing skills and unequalled ability to traverse any and all obstacles, he could rebound and jump around the arena like no other, delivering fast and furious attacks without taking a hit. And, maybe limited to once per match, he could even reverse time, avoiding that painful combo or untimely super-finisher death.

Booker DeWitt – BioShock Infinite 

The game’s only been out a year, and hardcore fans may debate if Columbia is better than Rapture, but one thing is certain, Booker DeWitt would make a decidedly interesting fighter. He edges out BioShock‘s previous protagonists as he’s actually got a voice and personality, something the others lacked for the most part.

The entire game dynamic of Elizabeth’s aid could be replicated perfectly in a beat ’em up, and Booker could, via a series of special move commands, call on her to open a tear to attack foes with machine guns, motorised Patriots and provide health packs to lower his damage a little.

Of course, Booker also has his own considerable talents including his range of vigours and weapons, and how cool would a super move involving the Songbird be? You know it makes sense.

Duke Nukem 

How has the Dukester not been in a beat ’em up already? Well, okay, he’s been in development for over a decade, and that game was rubbish, so we can give him a break, I guess.

Still, Duke would be right at home in the fighting genre, delivering his trademark one liners as he unleashes his special form of ass-kicking on his gaming comrades. He’d bring guns, pipe bombs, the mighty boot and bubblegum to the party, and it’d be all the better for it, even if today’s society considers him an outdated, uncouth relic. Hail to the king, baby!

Ad – content continues below

Marcus Fenix – Gears Of War series 

If toughness were measured in the thickness of one’s neck, then Marcus Fenix would surely be the hardest man alive. This tree trunk-necked soldier specialises in all things shooty and explody, but he’s also not afraid to get up close and personal when required, especially of there’s a pavement and a boot involved.

A veritable one-man army, he’d easily cut up foes with Lancer chainsaw uppercuts, blow them to bits with torque bow bolts, and is that a Locust Berserker waiting in the wings to smash the unwary into the ground? Yep, fear the chunky-throated one.

Alice – American McGee’s Alice 

Lewis Carroll’s heroine from Wonderland has had a few guises in the different takes on the classic story, with none more brutal than American McGee’s. The Alice in both the original game and Madness Returns is a knife-wielding vixen who certainly knows how to deal with difficult situations.

The Vorpal Blade knife is her staple instrument of violence, but she’s also got access to a range of other outlandish weapons, including a powerful blunderbuss, jack-in-the-box bombs, a time-altering watch, razor sharp playing cards and a staff made out of the eye of the Jabberwock, She can even summon demons by rolling dice.

There’s no end to the special moves and abilities Alice could bring to a fighting game, and her stage would be one of the most interesting backdrops, especially if it followed Injustice: Gods Among Us‘ example, with interactive objects.


A powerful witch with a killer set of high heels (literally), Bayonetta may have appeared in scrapper, Anarchy Reigns, but so far she’s not strutted her considerable stuff in the one-on-one world.

Ad – content continues below

She’s beaten gods and demons, and wields the Scarborough Fair, a set of four magical guns, two of which are mounted on her heels. She has a shotgun that fires the souls of fairies, a possessed whip, and her hair is both her defence and a weapon, able to change into demonic forms, inflicting megatons of damage (must use some serious intensive repair shampoo for that).

As well as masses of magical weapons and lightning fast combat moves, Bayonetta can summon all sorts of torture and execution machines, which would certainly be useful against any foe she could encounter in a one-on-one scenario.

Death – Darksiders II 

The first Darksiders may have been a great game, and War a cool protagonist, but what War starts, Death finishes, and let’s face it, Death was a far cooler character.

The most feared of the Four Horsemen, Death, in his Darksiders incarnation, is an speedy and agile whirlwind of scythes, and with a collection of powerful tools, weapons and magical abilities, there really aren’t any contenders he can’t take down. Well, he is death.

When the situation calls for it, he can transform into his true form, in which he can one-hit even the most powerful god into the afterlife. That’s power you just don’t mess with.

Ryo Hazuki – Shenmue series 

Arguably, Ryo Hazuki belongs on this list more than any one else. After all, Shenmue was originally a Virtua Fighter RPG, and Ryo is a total badass when it comes to martial arts.

Ad – content continues below

Many beat ’em up’s have that one character that eschews flamboyant, unbelievable special moves in favour of down to Earth skills, and Ryo would certainly take that route, but would do so without hurting his chances of victory.

He’s studied all sorts of martial arts, and is always looking to improve his skills. Those that saw the ending of Shenmue II also saw that the game was going to take a decidedly supernatural turn, so who knows where his skills could have ended up?

And that’s it, 20 would-be fighting legends. Any more you’d like to add?

Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.