Do the Enemies in the Original Streets of Rage Have Canon Names?

Streets of Rage

The first Streets of Rage game debuted on the Sega Genesis (and Mega Drive) in 1991. It featured some fairly rudimentary side-scrolling beat-em’-up combat, but the cast of memorable characters and wonderful soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro elevated it to something that would become the foundation of a decades-spanning franchise.

Well, the “decades-spanning” part of that is technically true, but only because of the release of Streets of Rage 4 in 2020, after having been mostly dormant for 26 years. (I say “mostly” because ports of the games ended up on several consoles over the years.)

Anyway, in the second Streets of Rage game, every enemy has a name, which is shown above their health bar as you’re chipping away at them (while every enemy design has an individual name, copies of the same design will have the same name). You can see two copies of Brash, for example, duking it out with Axel and Max in Streets of Rage 2 in the image below.

Streets of Rage 2

Not so for the original game. In fact, not even the bosses have names in the first Streets of Rage. I consulted the game manual, and while every stage has a canon name, only the playable characters are named in the booklet. In fact, even series antagonist Mr. X goes unnamed in the manual.

Streets of Rage Manual

However, Electronics Gaming Monthly (or EGM) published a mini Streets of Rage guide in their 30th issue (dated January of 1992). In this guide, many of the bosses, and even some of the regular enemies, are named.

Streets of Rage Guide

The enemies shown in the left column are stage bosses, while the enemies shown in the right column are your run-of-the-mill baddies.

I’ve been looking into this, and as far as I can tell, EGM created these names themselves. It seems to be mostly agreed upon, for example, that the portly man who breathes fire is either Bongo or Beg-Ben, but EGM refers to him as Mike the Mauler. Abadede became a recurring character (appearing in SoR 1, 2, and 4), yet EGM simply called him The Ultimate Wrestler. The spikey-haired guy with a blue jeans-jacket vest became Galsia in Streets of Rage 2, but EGM insists he goes by Terrible Terry.

Streets of Rage 2

I have no idea what was going on in the EGM offices in the early 1990s, so I can’t really comment on how these characters all got the mostly alliterative names that they did. As someone who worked in games journalism, and also in copywriting, my gut tells me that somebody in design probably asked for headers for each section of the guide, which forced the writing staff to come up with something off the tops of their heads. (This is just me spitballing a hypothesis; I can’t detail their creative process with any certainty.)

Streets of Rage 2 released in the United States in the tail end of 1992, and enemies that were clearly based on first-game baddies got actual names. These names were retroactively applied to Streets of Rage 1 characters by the fandom, and as far as I can tell, these names became canonized that way.

Streets of Rage

But it’s interesting to point out that, before the release of the sequel, there was a Wild West period where Streets of Rage bad guys could be named whatever you like, even if you worked for a professional publication. The Electronics Gaming Monthly staff put their imaginations to work, but lo and behold the EGM names were not bound to stick.

Mike the Mauler is clearly the wrong name for a dude who breathes fire though. What about Dan the Dragon, or Hot-Pepper Hank? Scotty the Scorcher? Cayenne Kyle? The Tamale Tomcat? Come on, EGM, there are so many better choices!

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2 years ago

The SoR1 enemies were all named in the Japanese Bare Knuckle 1 manual (with the exception of Mr X), and given small backstories, so they existed as far back as the original game and weren’t applied retrospectively. They are (as follows):

Antonio (Stage 1 boss)
Souther (Stage 2 boss)
Abadede (Stage 3 boss)
Bongo (Stage 4 boss)
Onhime and Yasha (Stage 5 boss)

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