Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons adds some roguelite to your side scrolling beat-em-up with mostly great results

Say what you will about Double Dragon but the games’ fighting genre owes a lot to Jimmy and Billy Lee.

These two have kicked ass on pretty much every format you can think of and were right at the forefront of side-scroller punch-em-ups from day one. They even had their own movie.

But while people look back fondly at their original adventure, most forget about their newer instalments, Neon, perhaps, an exception to that rule. So along come Secret Base PTE to try and do something a little different.

And it’s interesting because there’s something of a renaissance happening with old school side scrolling punch-em-ups, LizardCube and DotEmu leading the pack on that a little bit with Streets of Rage 4 and Shredder’s Revenge. The core elements are definitely here too, but Double Dragon Gaiden is also looking to reinvent the wheel a little bit.

Rise of the Dragons is definitely all about punching, kicking, and punishing everything from drones to rats to sumo wrestlers. But in addition to the bareknuckle brawling is a roguelite component which genuinely works very well in this format.

In fact, I would argue it makes me want to replay the game more than most others in the genre, between its massive character selection, the way it approaches missions, rewards you for your service and offers fun ways to customise your play experience.

When you start a run, there’s four main missions for you to tackle in any order you like. Each one has a different setting, with different enemies, layouts, and bonuses. Whichever mission you pick first, is a one and done with you fighting through a single stage to get to the boss and put them on their ass.

Then the next mission you try increases the difficulty by adding a second stage with an additional boss, and the third and fourth doing the same. This also adds some new story beats, new areas to visit and secrets to find.

And you’ll want to increase your bonuses as the more coins you get, the more these can be converted to tokens at the end of your run and spent in the shop on things like new music, concept art, and yes, characters.

Obviously the harder the difficulty and more challenge you put yourself through, the higher the reward. And when you complete a stage, you’ll have an option to upgrade your characters. Yes, I said characters and I’ll get to that in a sec.

The upgrades vary here, including things like health regeneration, stunning all enemies when you knock just one down, and even adding more potency to your punch. They all do something a little bit different and you’ll have to be willing to experiment a bit to find your preferred combination. What I would say, though is, this probably has more affect the higher up the difficulty ladder you climb.

And yes, about those characters, you can actually tag team with one character in solo mode to alternate your attacking intent, keep the game feeling fresh but also shoulder some of that burden when you’re in the midst of an ass kicking. As you fight, you build up your special bar and once full it lets you seamlessly tag a bro in to take on fight duties. Or you can use it to pull off a special move.

These vary between characters of course, but the key thing to remember is by taking out multiple enemies at once, you achieve effective crowd control and a health replenishment drops on the scene for you. Knock down three, you’ll just get a hot dog, but the more enemies you knock out in one go, the more food you’ll get, like hamburgers and turkeys.

Like I said, this is a game that rewards you for skill-based knockouts, if you just button mash your way through, you probably won’t get too much cash – though the crates and boxes are full of all sorts of treasures – but getting that high knee in through the middle of a crowd? You’re laughing.

It’s actually really fun and a good challenge, with the longer stages obviously making it tougher for you as the onslaughts come thick and fast. Plus there’s some devilish platforming to watch out for as the game uses a 2.5D effect, so you’re climbing mountains and burnt out cars one minute, hopping between broken platforms the next.

The drawback is that, while the ideas are sound, solid, and even very clever, I feel the game’s offerings are a tad limited and the levels themselves aren’t particularly memorable. I do love the one level which is essentially a maze which you’re walking freely around, and another where you enter a building and come out the other side of a gate. These are features we need to see more of in beat-em-ups, but unfortunately Double Dragon Gaiden doesn’t lean far enough into this.

Rise of the Dragons is very good fun for a few runs, possibly more depending on how well you do and how much you change things up, but I definitely feel like it’s a few levels light, and some of the enemy types could have been mixed up more. I also found there were some occasions where you’re essentially stun locked after being hit by a spike and end up acting as a pinball, slowly dying and can’t do anything to stop it.

However, the foundation for the future of the side-scrolling beat-em-up very likely lives in this game’s DNA and I look forward to the game’s future content and what other people might try to do with a similar concept. It’s fairly safe to say this is the best game the Lee brothers have done in years.


Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons is a smart reinvention of the side-scrolling beat-em-up with its roguelite spin, selectable missions, and explorable environments. There’s some really clever ideas bubbling around in this game, in fact it probably holds the key to the future of the genre in its DNA, but sadly Secret Base don’t lean into it quite enough and give us the content to sustain the concept. 


+ Roguelite elements work wonderfully in tandem with a beat-em-up
+ Exploring levels feels super refreshing for these kinds of games
+ Mission variety and selection does offer some replayability
+ Character selection is vast and among the best I’ve seen in the genre
+ Great visual style and animations


– None of the levels really stand out and there doesn’t feel like enough of them
– Enemy variety is sadly limited
– Some frustrating platforming and stun-locked death scenarios

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons is out now on PC, Xbox, Switch and PlayStation

Code Kindly Provided by Modus Games for review purposes

Played on PC

About the author

Brad Baker

Brad is an absolute horror buff and adores the new take on I.T. He also fancies himself as a bit of a Battle Royale master but never when anyone's watching.
Skip to toolbar