Review – Final Fight

Final Fight Header

I tend to paradoxically refer to my memory as both a steel trap and completely unreliable. I actually have no idea how my recollection compares to other people; how can anyone? However, let me give you an example of the former claim.

Somewhere in the foggy depths of my youth, I remember the first time I played Final Fight. It was at the aquatorium (fancy name for a municipal pool). If you went left from the entrance to the building, they had a little arcade set up. It’s also where I played New Zealand Story, and I can distinctly remember it’s the first place I saw one of those snack vending machines with the metal coils. You know, the ones from comedies where extremely crucial food is held out of reach by its unfeeling hands.

Anyway, I was taking swimming lessons, which is funny in its own way because I can’t swim. It’s not that I don’t know the mechanics or technique of swimming, I just don’t float. Or at least, I didn’t. After I got on anti-depressants and put on 40 pounds, I might now have changed my water displacement in a way where I can float, but I haven’t tried it in years.

What the hell were we talking about? Final Fight? I was so young – so small – that my mother had to pick me up by the legs to hold me up to the controls so I could waste a few quarters. I’m pretty sure I remember making it to Damnd, which I think isn’t bad for someone who had to be between the ages of 4 and 6.

Final Fight Haggar suplexes a guy in front of a crowd while a sketchy police officer stands to the side.
If you didn’t want to be suplexed by the mayor, you should have gotten out to vote!


No, really, what were we talking about? Oh, right. Me. And there’s only one person more worth talking about, and that’s Mayor Mike Haggar.

There are three protagonists to choose from, but only one of them matters: Mayor Mike Haggar.

There are no female protagonists to select because it was still the ‘80s, but that doesn’t matter because everyone should just select Mayor Mike Haggar.

Listen, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 opens with a diorama video thing where freeze-framed Marvel characters are mid-fight with Capcom creations. Of these duels is The Incredible Hulk, and he’s locking up with none other than Mayor Mike Haggar. The developers at Capcom could have chosen anyone from their stable to pit against Marvel’s gamma-irradiated powerhouse. They could have chosen Albert Wesker, the Nemesis, or even Tron Bonne’s robot armor. They chose Mayor Mike Haggar, because Mayor Mike Haggar could kick The Hulk’s ass.

The plot of Final Fight has the daughter of newly elected Mayor Mike Haggar, which turns out to be a massive mistake. Did you ever watch Commando? It’s a movie about someone abducting Arnold Schwarzenegger’s daughter so they can force him into doing something (I don’t remember what, who cares?), but instead, he just goes on a rampage, killing his way to his daughter’s rescue. That’s basically what Final Fight is. Except rather than a Special Forces guy, Mayor Mike Haggar is the duly elected mayor of Metro City (and an ex-wrestler), so instead of blowing things up until he fights the big baddie, he just pile-drives everyone into the concrete.

Mayor Mike Haggar was ready to just legislate crime out of his city. He’d maybe establish some municipal social services to help support the lower classes, but then they kidnap his daughter, so fuck it. He’ll lean on his backup skills to rid the city of crime.

Final Fight Mike Haggar piledrives a guy into cobblestone.
It’s always nice to see an elected official who is willing to meet with their constituents.


The belt-scrolling beat-’em-up was hardly new when Final Fight hit the streets. Double Dragon helped popularize the format in 1987, and is still widely remembered to this day. Final Fight just perfected it by adding Mayor Mike Haggar.

But beyond that, it solidified a lot of the aspects that I consider to be essential to bemups. There’s one attack button that you can pair with a jump, but you can also grab enemies by walking into them and taking them into your muscular embrace, and that’s where a lot of the combat’s dynamism comes from. If you’re in a pinch you can simply suplex them, but if you’re feeling aggressive, you can instead piledrive them into the pavement. I’m not sure what Guy and Cody do because why would I play as anyone else when I could play as Mayor Mike Haggar.

Beyond a variety of hug-based attacks, each character also has a special attack that trades big damage for a bit of their health bar. Generally, you use these when the only other option in that moment is to take a few hits. There are also weapons found in garbage cans like knives and large lengths of pipe. There’s also a katana called MURAMASA! (including the exclamation point) which feels like a baseball bat.

Final Fight Haggar takes out Andore Jr. with a spinning lariat.
“Ugh. It’s the mayor again. Always showboating.”


I recently covered Streets of Rage, which I kept comparing to Final Fight, and this is why. Almost everything there feels lifted from Final Fight. The biggest difference is that while Streets of Rage has Constable Howitzer, Final Fight has Mayor Mike Haggar.

Another big difference is that Final Fight feels a lot more like a quarter-muncher. Its difficulty is constantly up and down, and the bosses can feel really cheap with the damage they can dish out. Getting through the first stage without dropping a life is pretty difficult, and it doesn’t get much easier. Later stages practically dump enemies on you, and arcade players at the time had to discover exploitable behaviors in the bosses. There are small secrets that can help like one during the subway sequence where you can jump on some barrels at the front of the train and wait for the train to arrive at its destination. It takes quite a while but can save you valuable life.

To be fair, arcade games had to make money somehow, but it’s the design feature that has aged them the most. It’s also why I tend to favour Streets of Rage, even with its lack of Mayor Mike Haggar. It was designed with home consoles in mind, so while it can be cheap in its own way sometimes, it’s mostly in service of challenging the player and increasing the time it takes to complete it.

To really appreciate basically any arcade game these days, you have to be able to drive yourself to improve. If you just play Final Fight to see the credits, then it’s going to feel short and insubstantial if you’re playing a modern home port.

Final Fight thug cries over the shattered remains of his car.
Don’t leave your car unattended unless you want it totalled by the mayor.


What really stuck with me when I was a kid was Final Fight’s style. It was visually impressive at the time (even if I played it well after release), and had a grittiness to it that I hadn’t experienced before. The characters are big and rather well animated and there’s a great feeling of impact to the fighting. When you ran out of lives, you were guilted into popping in another quarter by a vignette of your character tied up in front of lit dynamite and a countdown timer. In retrospect, that probably screwed with my sense of morality.

Now I know that the dynamite wouldn’t be enough to kill Mayor Mike Haggar. At best, it would singe his mustache. However, Mayor Mike Haggar wants to turn that building into affordable housing for low-income families and doesn’t want the foundation to be damaged.

I’d later get acquainted with the SNES port which kind of sucks. It has its technical problems, sure, but rather than rebalance things for the console, they limited the number of continues you have to reach the end. Even with the one level they removed and fewer enemies on screen, it feels pretty much impossible. They also removed the 2-player mode, which I feel is blasphemy.

Speaking of removals, the SNES version only has two selectable characters of the three in the arcade version. Guy got the axe, but they were at least smart enough to leave in Mayor Mike Haggar. They later released a variation called Final Fight Guy, which re-added Guy but removed Cody. I’m not sure why it matters, since you should always choose Mayor Mike Haggar.

The SNES would eventually make up for this (as if its the platform’s responsibility). It would become the exclusive platform for Final Fight 2 and 3. The sequels reimplement 2-player co-op, change out the locations, and shake up the playable characters. The second game is a bit disappointing, but the third is legitimately great. All are anchored by the massive muscles of Mayor Mike Haggar.

Final Fight Haggar piledriving Abigail
For freedom and democracy!


If there’s one place where I think Final Fight is especially deficient is with its music. Weirdly, it was done by Capcom’s dream team of composers, including the illustrious Yoko Shimomura, but none of it really excels. It’s not terrible either, but for such an important game done by Capcom, I’m surprised by how dispensible it is.

On the other hand, there’s a bonus stage where you beat the shit out of a parked car. This would be used again in Street Fighter II, but I think it’s at its best in Final Fight.  There’s just this unassuming car parked at a gas station, and the city’s Mayor walks up and starts punching it into a pile of scrap metal. And just to underline how ridiculous this is, your character walks off screen, and in comes just some random thug. He drops down to his knees and starts crying before uttering one of the funniest lines in arcade history: “OH! My god…”

And that’s just Final Fight. It’s a lively and influential beat-’em-up from the glory days of arcades. It took Double Dragon’s ball and ran with it to the end zone. Its quarter-munching DNA ages it when extracted from off the neon carpet of the arcade, but even with its teeth pulled, it’s still a fun and effective experience.

In fact, you absolutely should play Final Fight if you haven’t already. Beyond being essential reading when it comes to understanding the evolution of the beat-’em-up genre, it’s also the first game to feature Mayor Mike Haggar. Mayor! Mike! Haggar!


This review was conducted on PC using a digital version of Capcom Arcade Stadium. It was paid for by the author.

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About Zoey Handley 243 Articles
Zoey made up for her mundane childhood by playing video games. Now she won't shut up about them. Her eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer. A lover of discovery, she can often be found scouring through retro and indie games. She currently works as a Staff Writer at Destructoid.

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