Golden Axe review - Sega Megadrive

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Golden Axe box artOne of the most evil beings in the entire Universe, Death Adder, has kidnapped the King and Princess of Yuria! And the dirty swine has also carried off the legendary Golden Axe! And to cap it all, he's killed some of your family. So grab your axe or sword and put on your fighting trousers, 'cos it's time for revenge!

Death Adder's gone and hidden himself in his great big castle, and between you and him is his army of horrid creatures. Goblins, skeletons, black knights, ogres, giant swordsmen and even dinosaur riders are all present to wear down your energy bar and stop you in your tracks! Sounds pretty tough, eh? Well, fortunately there are a few useful options on the title screen to help make life easier.

First of all you can select a character - either a Dwarf, Amazon or Barbarian. After that you can adjust how much energy your character has, from six units to a suicidal one unit. You can fiddle with the control method and pick one which suits you best. There are also practice options - but more of those later. And finally there's a two-player option for simultaneous baddie-bashing!

What the Mean Machines staff thought


" I love this game - it's got everything I want in an arcade conversion. The two-player option is the most fun - but watch out, it's easy to hurt the other guy (that can be fun too!). The Duel adds a whole new dimension that wasn't in the coin-op, and there are two new levels; this adds to my high opinion of the game. Nothing beats a great beat 'em up, and this is one of the best I've seen. It's easy to get into, and the fun doesn't stop - although the opposition gets tougher all the time! You won't regret buying this excellent game, I'm just about to go back for just one more headbutt...and I'll still be there in an hour or two! "

" I like a good beat 'em up. But I love a brilliant one! And this is one such game. As soon as you stick this in the Megadrive you know it's a classy product. There are a wealth of options that let you change the game's parameters, and there are also two practice options which are mini-games in their own right! The game itself is an exact (and I mean exact) copy of the arcade original bar two things - there are a couple of extra levels added onto the end of the game! Some people say that console software is expensive. But when you're getting the equivalent of an arcade machine with extra levels AND two bonus games, £35 doesn't seem like a lot of money! "


Overall Score91%

Retrospective comments


This was the first game I ever loaded into my Japanese Megadrive way back in Xmas, 1990. What an introduction to the machine! It was like having an arcade in your living room. One thing must be said though - the MM crew stated that this conversion was 'arcade perfect', but in the cold light of day it's pretty obvious that it isn't quite as good-looking as the coin-guzzling original. However, it's just as good (if not better) visually than much of the Megadrive software that followed it. Sure, in terms of gameplay it's pretty basic when compared to the likes of genre-classics such as Final Fight and Streets of Rage (the lack of a 'grapple' move limits your attack options), but with two players it's just as addictive as when it was first released. And hitting bad guys on the top of the head with the butt of your weapon simply never gets old!

Laurie - 27 Aug 2008, 09:04 GMT

I do not believe that this version of Golden Axe is quite up to the arcade original. Although everything is in place: large sprites, detailed graphics, reasonable sound and the stills can be an excellent representation of the arcade, this early Megadrive game lacked the umph of the orignal, something that the PC Engine, for example, was in contrast able to recreate (R-Type anyone?) This was rectified to a greater degree when upgraded 16 Mb carts were introduced (Streets of Rage II) later on.

Tris Wicks - 05 Nov 2008, 02:29 GMT

My Megadrive Golden Axe Haiku:
Men once stone disappear
Drums of lead fizz upon tin
Thoughts wander in the extra dungeon
Thwack thwack I smile as you fall beefy friend

hoolak - 02 Dec 2008, 13:04 GMT

This game has a great comedy ending too. Reminds me of Blazing Saddles.

Dan - 12 Feb 2009, 11:01 GMT

Awesome game, but as good as the arcade? Well considering you got 2 extra levels for your dough I'd say yes, even if the asthetics didn't quite match up.

I was only 10-11 yo when this was released and paused it sooooo many times on Tyris Flares arse. A classsic.

Modeler - 21 Mar 2009, 17:12 GMT

One of my favourite dragon-riding, dwarf-battering beat 'em ups this. As awesome as this conversion seemed at the time, you only need to run the arcade version in MAME for a few minutes to realise how far the Megadrive's hardware fell short of the System 16 arcade board. This was only a 4 Mbit cartridge, much of the background detail and character animation was reduced and many of the great sound effects were replaced by rubbish ones. The colour palette was too garish (the arcade game had a much darker atmosphere altogether) and the game itself had a smoother, more "floaty" feel to it. Playable and enjoyable but ultimately disappointing.

The reason it was so well-received was that in 1990, no home version could have been expected to match the arcade game exactly. This was near enough to be called "arcade perfect" but looking back now, it so wasn't. Makes me want to relive my childhood, keep the 35 quid and go outside.

Stayrsaigh - 21 Mar 2009, 21:08 GMT

Definatly not arcade perfect but a great game nonetheless! I still always for some reason prefered the Amiga version but I definatly still liked this. I still say to this day that the music of this game is awesome and kudos to Sega for coming up with the idea "let's give Double Dragon swords"

Greg - 06 Oct 2009, 01:50 GMT

Still a great game to this day. This was one of the first wave of Mega Drive games that showed the world what was going to happen to the video games business. For an arcade game to be ported to a home system so well was incredible.

GM - 18 Jul 2010, 03:42 GMT

IMO it's not on par with Streets of Rage, but definitely a classic for the system which still holds up today in its own right. And besides, what other SMD games would let you ride a giant chicken or kick a gnome in the face?

deekay - 06 Apr 2011, 10:47 GMT

cracking game, not arcade perfect but hay, who cares!!

leeleicester40 - 27 Nov 2012, 23:12 GMT

i was a very very lucky teenager to receive the megadrive (alterd beast pack ) as a birthday gift, and had saved enough paper round money for weeks , so that i could afford a seccond game to go with it , ,,,,,, the shop was called dimension computers on the high st in leicester , a place i have fond memories of many1.99 mastertronic c64 games beforehand .

i can still remember loading up golden axe for the first time with 3 or 4 school m8's ,,,,,,, our jaw's hit the floor ,,,,,,,,,,, ok so in retrospect it wasn't arcade perfect ,,,,, but at the time it was simply staggering that this level of quality could be played in the home ,,,,,, no other system available at the time could compete ,,,,,,,,,, its still a blast now , and so responsive ,,,,,,,,,,

sega had kept their promise ,,,,,,, they truly did bring the arcade experience home.

soon after i got strider ,,,,,,,, omfg ,,,,,,,,, i think i almost wet myself .

digi-d - 15 Dec 2012, 17:32 GMT

As close to arcade perfect as possible back in 1990.
The home computer an terrible PCEngine CDRom title hold no light to the excellent Megadrive conversion :D

mouphi - 07 Apr 2013, 08:31 GMT

The Amiga version was good, considering it was done by a non-SEGA team. But I remember the gameplay being better on the SMD; more simultaneous enemies and more responsive controls.

mogsy - 12 Nov 2014, 01:16 GMT

Bought this in early 91 (as well as micky mouse and ghouls n ghosts) and thought it was an amazing port. I suppose in a way it was the beginning of the end for arcades. Thank god for mame which I discovered in 2004.

mogsy - 09 Dec 2014, 01:24 GMT

You know I had this issue given to me In 91. And then gave it back to the person about 7 years later explaining it's value and rarity, for him to rip it up into roach material . Twat! As for the game yeah Flipping wicked

Robs - 01 Jan 2015, 13:35 GMT

I love golden axe. I'm badass or beginner at golden axe. Bring out golden axe for ps4.

Robs - 01 Jan 2015, 14:54 GMT

My whole life I'm told to complete golden axe and complete 2 golden axe 2 and nearly complete one. Over and over again. My family from golden axe whole life. Along with the rest of these games.
I'm determined badass to complete it. Your winding me up to everyone again into yazing the web.

Mean Machines Issue 1 - October 1990
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