Golden Axe is a side-scrolling, fantasy-based hack’n’slash video game that dominated arcades in the early 1990s. Released in 1989 by Sega, the game was one that my friends and I would happily pump quarters into until we completed its epic quest, usually laughing our asses off whenever we did something particularly dumb on screen. It plays a minor role in Ready Player One, earning a single mention in a throwaway line, but it had an outside roll in my own teenage years.
Aech and I had wasted countless hours on two-player classics like Contra, Golden Axe, Heavy Barrel, Smash TV, and Ikari Warriors.
Golden Axe is a straightforward, side-scrolling button masher. Players choose one of three fantasy characters:
- Gilius Thunderhead, a male axe-wielding dwarf.
- Ax Battler, a male human who – despite his name – fights with a two-handed broadsword
- Tyris Flare, a female human who fights with a long sword
The moves for each one were similar: attack with a weapon, jump, or use magic. The game featured a limited (as in two) combos but my friends and I rarely bothered with those. Each character has different magic attacks fueled by potions collected during their quest. Each character’s magical attacks were different – Ax Battler had volcano/explosion magic that maxed out at 4 potions; Tyris Flare’s fire magic was the game’s most powerful (maxing out at 6 potions), while Gilius could bring thunder and lightning attacks that topped out at 3 potions (but was easy to max out).
The game also included special beasts – like drakes that could spit fire and dinosaur-like lizards with tail attacks – who’s primary purpose seemed to be sowing dissension among players as we scrambled to get the beasts … and then utterly failed to use them effectively.
The game proceeds through a number of bosses, with the heroes traveling from location to location on an overland map. The game culminates with the final fight against Death Adder, the game’s signature big bad (and the star of its arcade sequel, Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder, in 1992.
Released in 1989, Golden Axe was one of our go-to arcade games in high school. The series really came into its own, however, when I got a Sega Genesis. Golden Axe II was one of that platform’s signature titles, and my friends and I played the hell of the game. At the time, it felt like having an arcade-quality game in your living room; along with games like Gauntlet and Off-Road it cemented my allegiance to Sega over Nintendo when it came to consoles.
After beating Golden Axe multiple times, we eventually put it back on the game shelf, but it had a most excellent run … and the power of nostalgia compels me to fire it up from time to time.
The Ready Player One Replay is an exploration of the games that inspired the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
- My High Score: I beat the game multiple times; there’s no real “score”.
Where to Play
- Wikipedia: Golden Axe
- Sega Wiki: Golden Axe (series)
- Time Extension: Best Golden Axe Games – Every Golden Axe Game Ranked