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Merciless Mutants: Ranking the Best Blows of the X-Men Arcade Game

a man sitting on a table

Posted May 3, 2021

By Jacob Rubin

Everyone has a favorite arcade game, and they all like them for different reasons. However, we all have that one cabinet that took more of our quarters than any other. For me, that cabinet was absolutely the X-Men arcade game from 1992. X-Men lacked the raging competition of Street Fighter or the high energy of Time Crisis. But it has one perk that makes it one of the Greatest of All Time: six-player simultaneous co-op game play.

Six players! Not until every console got online functionality could we even imagine playing with five friends at once. Even if beating X-Men cost $30 and only took about half an hour, it was a special game that still holds up today.

a box on a table

As with all classic 1990s side-scrolling beat-em-ups, X-Men features all the perks you would expect from a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Battletoads, including the much-loved “kick ‘em while he’s down” animation. See, when a player character is near a prone enemy that you’ve already knocked over, they use a special attack reserved specifically for an enemy that’s completely incapable of defending themselves. Aside from defeating a boss, this is probably the most satisfying feeling you can get out of this game: doling out pure humiliation to your faceless opponent.

Look at this chump. He can’t even stand up, and here I am, whittling away at the little health he has left without a care in the world. However, as the X-Men are a much more physically diverse bunch than the aforementioned fighting amphibians, they each have their own special way of dealing these life-ending blows. And, though no one has asked, I have ranked them from most generic to most exciting.

Which X-Man is best at beating defenseless enemies?

6. Cyclops

The “bottom of the barrel” award goes to the first official member of the X-Men team, going all the way back to the first issue of the comics series. Not that there’s anything bad about how Cyclops works. Nothing unique or powerful about this maneuver: a pretty standard “Hey, screw you, pal” kick to the back. It makes sense that Cyclops wouldn’t have the mightiest kicks: when your power is punching someone with a beam that comes out of your eyes, it stands to reason you would skip Leg Day. Direct with no frills. That’s how Cyclops gets it done.

5. Dazzler

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Just like Cyclops, but Dazzler kicks with the force of someone who’s been wronged. Look at her, she really puts her upper body into it. Her time as a struggling musician, forced to hide her mutant powers, has filled her with a rage that Cyclops could never understand. She lets it out on whatever crony or robo-crony Magneto sends her way. (Why did this game have Sentinels working for Magneto? This is never explained.)

4. Wolverine

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The most famous X-Man is also the most ruthless when it comes to kicking a man while he’s down. Wolverine doesn’t just punt them in the gut or slam them with a heavy fist, he jams those adamantium claws right into the poor sap’s side. You’ve seen Logan. Those claws go through everything. That pulsing contortion from the Sentinel isn’t so much a reflex as it is a death rattle. Gruesome.

3. Colossus

Colossus is the most physically intimidating of the X-Men, so it stands to reason he’d have the most forceful punch. However, it’s not Colossus’ organic metal epidermis that makes his punches so strong, it’s his choice to go straight for the groin. If that Mandroid survives this encounter, he will surely never be able to make any more little baby Mandroids. From his penis. Because his genitals have been completely pulverized. It’s a smart game.

2. Storm

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Holy hell, Storm actually uses her powers! She’s not the most physically formidable of the X-Men, but she does command the weather. Therefore, she’s opted for a full-on 1.21 gigawatt burst every time she throws down a killing blow on a helpless grunt. It’s like experiencing ten heart attacks at once, and the eighth one’s the one that kills you. She could have just summoned a wind storm to blow you into the air and let gravity finish the job. No. Storm wants you to feel every muscle in your body tense and burn as if you were inside the thunder clap yourself. Welcome to hell, you horrible idiot.

1. Nightcrawler