Double Dragon 1 Arcade: Pioneering the Golden Era of Beat-'Em-Ups

Double Dragon 1 Arcade

During the golden age of arcades, many of us would eagerly engage in gaming every day after school, immersing ourselves in titles like Double Dragon. Nowadays, we find ourselves settling for the experience of playing on modern arcades, complete with their bulky cabinets. Once again, I'm indulging in the pleasure of reminiscing about those days, recalling how, after school, a friend and I would head to the arcades near my house, where the "boss" generously handed out free credits.

Among the games that brought joy during that splendid era, the beat 'em up Double Dragon stood out as a classic that laid the foundation for a fantastic gaming style. Much like later Capcom arcades, Double Dragon became a cult favorite for arcade enthusiasts, prompting some to go to great lengths to secure a home version (see Amstrad CPC). Typically, when revisiting an old game, there's a fear of disappointment, but Double Dragon defies that notion. The game remains as fast and addictive as ever. We might critique the lower graphic quality of a game like Renegade, but not of the initial Double Dragon edition—a game featuring excellent animations and enemies that still provides an engaging option for an entire afternoon.

Let's face it, the storyline of Double Dragon was far from stellar. It commenced with a villain kidnapping our girlfriend, putting her in a compromising situation. Our mission? Infiltrate his base, give him a beating, and rescue the girl. To successfully achieve this objective, we could choose between two twins (in different colors) named Billy and Jimmy. The ultimate decision on who ended up with the girl was a matter of their courage.

Although later editions delved deeper into the narrative, here we were, two buddies with martial arts skills, inadvertently caught up in a significant predicament. As everyone is aware, subsequent modern editions emerged—a 1 vs. 1 fighting arcade and a live-action movie where champion Mark Dacascos showcased his skills alongside a cast of questionable actors (except Milanno).

  1. Gameplay of Double Dragon 1 Arcade
  2. Video
  3. Bezel
  4. Graphics
  5. Sound & Music
  6. Conclusion

Gameplay of Double Dragon 1 Arcade

Back in those days, finding beat 'em ups with a character boasting a diverse range of moves beyond the typical punch or kick was a rare occurrence. However, with the advent of Double Dragon, a milestone was reached that was hard to surpass, particularly by Capcom. The game offered players double combinations, introducing moves like elbow strikes, flying kicks, and the incorporation of weapons. At the start of the story, players took control of a skilled twin capable of executing headbutts, punch combos, grabs, mid-air kicks, or a backward elbow useful in various situations. As players progressed, they encountered weapons such as knives or whips that could be wielded or thrown against enemies.

One highly positive aspect of this adventure was the interactive nature with the environments. Players could fall into holes, climb elevated platforms, or grab objects like stones and barrels. Periodically, the hero faced off against bosses, usually accompanied by simple henchmen who relentlessly attacked. Although the difficulty level was not excessively high, success relied on executing combos at the right distance. A miscalculation often resulted in being sent flying through the air like feathers.

Undoubtedly, one of the game's highlights was the ability to engage in two-player simultaneous gameplay within the same scenario. While this added complexity, it allowed players to strategically corner the villains. One potential challenge was advancing too quickly, leaving a partner behind, especially in scenarios involving dodging spears, arrows, or navigating various pitfalls.

Given that Double Dragon was a product of 1987, it didn't feature the typical "devastating" screen-clearing attacks that later became commonplace. This absence contributed to the game's simplicity, emphasizing difficulty and fostering an addictive nature when navigating hazardous areas. Players had only their basic skills at their disposal. Could enemies be dispatched more easily? Certainly, but doing so required strategic thinking, whether by throwing adversaries into the water or impaling them with spears. Beyond this, there's little more to say about this exceptional game—abundant screens, impactful hits, and enemies sinister enough to keep players on edge until the very end.



You can download the game's bezel or overlay by clicking here.


The environments and designs of the original Double Dragon, debuting in arcades, have stood the test of time. Everything remains phenomenal, from the elevated second levels to the intriguing details within them. If the screens provided an incredible variety in terms of scenery, the other graphical elements certainly don't fall short in terms of their high quality.

Despite our characters moving in a somewhat peculiar manner, they boasted all the necessary animations to shine in any gathering—expressions, impactful hits, and more. The roster of enemies was quite extensive, featuring giants, unique characters, disreputable women, unsightly foes, and all the typical adversaries that tend to appear in this style of games.

Sound & Music

While my memory might be a bit fuzzy, I previously mentioned in an article that this fantastic game featured the best song ever heard in the world of video games. If that's the case, I stand by it—a phenomenal soundtrack for an outstanding game. From the iconic title song (also present in other Double Dragon games) to the additional melodies throughout the adventure, the first song, in particular, outshone any competitor, immersing us in the narrative like no other game. The sound effects played a somewhat ordinary role, delivering impactful hits, occasional screams, and various special effects emanating from elements in the environment like elevators, machines, or boxes.


The moments spent playing in the Double Dragon arcade are unforgettable; they are an indelible part of my childhood, shared with friends and my brother, and will always hold a special place in my memories.

Over time, the Double Dragon series has seen a decline in confidence—the 1 vs. 1 arcade was interesting but incomparable to the originals, a disappointment for those familiar with its inception. The current status of the license for this saga is unknown to me, but reviving it with a contemporary 2D beat 'em up, where the twins must rescue the girl again without a complex storyline, would be a promising idea.

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