History of Double Dragon – Arcade Game That Dominated the 80s and 90s

1980s were the golden years for arcade games, and there’s one in particular that stood among the coin-op classics: Double Dragon.

Double Dragon: The Story

The retro game has an action-packed theme where the player has the option of choosing between two avatars. You could either opt to play as Jimmy Lee or his brother Billy to fight off deadly gangsters in your city which has now been infested with gangs.

The end goal of the game is to rid the streets of violence and prevent the dangerous Black Warrior gang from terrorising the citizens. With your awesome martial art skills and cool weapons, you can slowly ascend the levels in the game and inch closer to saving Billy’s girlfriend who is held hostage by one of the gangs.

Like most arcade games, Double Dragon could only be played by putting quarters into the coin slot of the machine

The Double Dragon was the classic brawler game from the 80s arcade that kept young kids busy in the after-school hours. It was a thrilling karate-kicking, fist-flying session that dominated the gaming genre back in the day. Like most arcade games, this one could only be played by putting quarters into the coin slot of the machine, and the more you played, the closer you would get to the beautiful girl in a red dress waiting to be rescued from the gangs.

Even though the action-packed game wasn’t the first of its kind, it quickly reached the peak of its popularity after its creators added exciting new 2D features to the martial arts franchise. As time passed, Double Dragon turned into somewhat of a global phenomenon crossing over with other arcade games and even leading to a successful big screen adaptation.

Rise of Martial Arts in Entertainment Industry

In 1984 the kung fu culture was booming thanks to brawler arcade games like Kung Fu Master which could be found at almost every shop in the country. The trend was also catching up in Hollywood too where martial arts films like Karate Kid were all the rave.

Two years later, Taito released its first martial arts-inspired arcade game called Renegade. The format of the franchise was very similar to Double Dragon and it even became a stepping stone for the  brawler game that was released in 1987 by the game producer Technos Japan.

In 1984 the kung fu culture was booming thanks to brawler arcade games like Kung Fu Master which could be found at almost every shop in the country

Double Dragon shared many similarities with its precursor, Renegade, in terms of its street backdrop and the scrolling screen. The game also introduced some exciting features that were new to the arcade gaming scene such as the two-player feature that allowed friends to make a coop and play together, as well as weapons like dynamite sticks, oil drums and whips to defeat the bad guys.

But probably the most interesting twist in the game’s storyline was that when the players would defeat the gangs and finally kill their leader, there would be one final showdown between the two brothers Jimmy and Billy to determine which one of them deserved the kidnapped girl’s affection. Whoever won the final battle who claim the girl in the red dress.

Early Roadblocks and Improvements

The game also set itself apart from the rest in terms of the variety of maneuvers you could perform with the avatar such as throwing the opponent in a headlock position, throwing elbows, headbutts and tag-teaming on the enemy as you progressed through each level.

The game was first produced in 1988 but the arcade version wasn’t really compatible with NES because of the missing features like the dual-player system and only an incomplete arsenal of martial arts moves.

By early 90s, the Double Dragon brothers had transformed into heroes of the arcade gaming arena, and were even featured in franchises like Super Spike V’Ball

Later that year, Sega came up with an improved version of the game that employed better graphics and more features. In this version, the plot was a lot different since the girl in the red dress had already been killed and the two brothers would now have to avenge her death by defeating the Black Warrior.

The sequel quickly translated to NES with the co-op features and more levels which made the game more interesting to play. By early 90s, the Double Dragon brothers had transformed into heroes of the arcade gaming arena, and they were even featured in other franchises like Super Spike V’Ball and WWF Superstars.