At first the look now a days the Streets of Rage games look like an atypical generic beat-em-up genre game. The advancements made throughout the series is what made them a cult classic and fan favorite. Be it classic beat em up arcade action, great music, or memorible characters, this series has solidified a place in fans hearts enough for the shut down by Sega Streets of Rage Remix project.
Streets of Rage 1 took the classic arcade formula of a popular game like Final Fight to a home console with (looking back) somewhat choppy action, great music on the Genesis, and character achetypes we all know now. Borrowing heavily from Final Fight, Streets of Rage was on of the first home console beat em ups in the arcade style that offered 2 player gaming and an at home arcade experience unlike Golden Axe. Streets of Rage also had one of the first casts covering both white male, black male, and female, non-typical for games at the time. Basically a player archetype for your self insert and stats for any playstyle. The music by Yuzo Koshiro in both 1 and 2 is something that made the Genesis soundchip something that could be put on your ipod and not be ashamed of, while a lot of developers struggled with the FM chip.
Streets of Rage 1 was not exactly the hardest game, especially compared to arcade comparisons that thrived to suck up your quarters, but for an early launch title it was ridiculously good. When the sequel was released the difficulty was ramped up, the music was better, and the graphics and framerate increased. The formula to a successful sequel basically.
Streets of Rage 2 took the formula to a new level maximizing the Genesis. More levels, Yuzo Koshiro learning more about the FM chip in the Genesis hence a better OST, a new character replacing Adam (his son) Skate with some new gameplay mechanics. Not only does the game have better sprite art, it runs at 60fps like a fighting game or an arcade game. This in my opinion is the supreme Streets of Rage game. They also removed the longwinded cop assist specials for special moves for the players.
Then came Streets of Rage 3, which was semi a downgrade as the US version is noticably harder, no longer has Koshiro doing the OST and the graphics are noticably changed (for the worse). In this case it's best to get the Japanese version (Bare Knuckle 3) where you can unlock the Kangaroo as a playable character as well, and the difficulty is more like the originals.
Then we come to the prototype rejected by Sega... don't know why especially with Sega being so hard into arcades. The video should speak enough. To me this is as good as Double Dragon Neon, but it's Streets of Rage.
To me this is one of those genres I love, games I still play, programming and art I look up to and music as a composer I'm blown away by. Any one who has any feelings about this series feel free to share.