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A beat-em-up is a game where the player controls a character who uses close-combat to defeat a multitude of opponents to achieve a goal. These game are traditionally 2D side-scrollers that make heavy use of martial arts, but over the years, they have drifted into other genres as well. Some gaming databases make a distinction between a beat-em-up and hack-and-slash. Hack-and-slash games usually have a fantasy setting and the player's character has weapons, but the play mechanics are effectively the same, so I group them together. Beat-em-ups differ from fighting games because they put less emphasis on complex individual character battles and more emphasis on defeating many basic opponents.

Examples of early beat-em-ups:

In general, I find the classic beat-em-up to be a flawed gaming idea. It was good for draining quarters in the arcade, but it doesn't create a very enjoyable experience. Some beat-em-ups place less emphasis on developing perfect timing and player control, and more on the game's environment and story-telling, which I prefer.

My favorite beat-em-ups: