Golden Axe (video game)

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Golden Axe
The game's cover art.
European Mega Drive cover art for Golden Axe
Designer(s)Makoto Uchida
Composer(s)You Takada
Jeroen Tel (Commodore 64)
SeriesGolden Axe
Platform(s)Arcade, Sega Genesis, Master System, Sega CD, DOS, Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad, Commodore 64, iOS, PC Engine CD, WonderSwan Color, ZX Spectrum, Android
May 1989
Sega Genesis
  • JP: December 23, 1989
  • NA: February 1, 1990
  • EU: November 30, 1990
Sega Master System
  • NA: March 1, 1990
Genre(s)Beat 'em up
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer
Arcade systemSega System 16
DisplayRaster, 336x240

Golden Axe (ゴールデンアックス, Gooruden Akkusu) is a side-scrolling, beat 'em up, arcade video game released in 1989 by Sega for the System 16-B arcade hardware.[1] It is the first game in the Golden Axe series.

Makoto Uchida was the lead designer of the game, and also was responsible for the creation of Altered Beast. The game was ported to the Sega Genesis and Master System consoles, among many other systems.


The game takes place in the fictional land of Yuria, a Conan the Barbarian-style high fantasy medieval world. An evil entity known as Death Adder has captured the King and his daughter, and holds them captive in their castle. He also finds the Golden Axe, the magical emblem of Yuria, and threatens to destroy both the axe and the royal family unless the people of Yuria accept him as their ruler. Three warriors set out on a quest to rescue Yuria and avenge their losses at the hands of Death Adder. The first is a battle axe-wielding dwarf, Gilius Thunderhead, from the mines of Wolud, whose twin brother was killed by the soldiers of Death Adder. Another is a male barbarian, Ax Battler, wielding a two-handed broadsword, looking for revenge for the murder of his mother. The last is a longsword-wielding amazon, Tyris Flare, whose parents were both killed by Death Adder.

The warriors rescue the inhabitants of the ransacked Turtle Village, which turns out to be situated on the shell of a giant turtle. The turtle takes the characters across the sea, and they then fly to the castle itself on the back of a giant eagle. Once at the castle they defeat Death Adder, who is wielding the Golden Axe, and save the land. In the Mega Drive and PC versions, and also in other ports, the characters also battle Death Adder's mentor, Death Bringer, as the true final boss. After the final battle, the warriors receive a magical golden axe that imbues the player with immortality.


Progress is made through the game by fighting through Death Adder's henchmen, including men armed with clubs and maces, skeleton warriors, and knights. Players are able to attack using their weapon, jump and cast spells that hurt all enemies on the screen. The force of this magic depends on the number of "bars" of magic power currently available. The bars are filled by collecting blue "magic potions" attained by kicking little sprites who then drop the potions. These sprites appear during regular levels and during bonus stages in between levels. The male warrior Ax is able to cast earth spells. The dwarf Gilius casts lightning spells and the female warrior Tyris casts fire magic. Each character has a different number of maximum magic bars and varying ranges of attack.

Various steeds known as bizarrians are found in the game. These can be ridden when the enemy rider is knocked off, or if one is found dormant. The least powerful steed is known as the Cockatrice (which also appeared in Altered Beast),[2] which can be used to knock down enemies with a swipe of its tail. The more powerful dragon, which can either shoot fireballs or breathe fire depending on its color scheme, is found later in the game.

In addition to the main quest, some home versions of the game included "duel mode", a survival mode type game that pitted players against increasingly powerful foes in consecutive rounds of play. This mode also featured a two-player one-on-one option.


Lead producer Makoto Uchida was fond of action movies, particularly the Conan films and wanted to create a game influenced by them. He said that the development team for the game was small and development of the game took about a year.[3] Uchida's "idea was to come up with a Double Dragon that was not a Double DragonTechnos was an experienced rival who had been working on the Kunio-Kun series, so there was no way we could compete if we did the same thing as them. I had a feeling that arcade games should be competitive against the great hit console title Dragon Quest (created by Enix) and therefore studied the world of magic and swords, combined this with the gameplay of Double Dragon, and finally came up with the concept of Golden Axe."[4]


Several ports of Golden Axe exist for many platforms. The Mega Drive/Genesis version remained largely faithful to the arcade game, adding a level and the aforementioned duel mode, along with a new ending. A one-player only version was later re-released on the Mega-CD/Sega CD as part of the Sega Classics Arcade Collection, with new Redbook background music and new voice-overs carried over from the Arcade version. The Genesis/Mega Drive version was later released in other compilations – Sega Smash Pack, Sega Genesis Collection, Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection. The Mega Drive/Genesis port is also available on Virtual Console.[5] The arcade version is also on the Virtual Console and Xbox Live Arcade[6] A port of the game was released on PlayStation Network on July 12, 2011 and has been available free for PlayStation Plus users. In August 2017, Golden Axe got an IOS and Android release.

It is now part of the Sega Forever service.

The IBM PC compatibles version released in 1990 is similar to the Mega Drive/Genesis version, but features richer 256 color palette in VGA mode as well as the ability to run in 16 colors (EGA/Tandy 1000), 4 color (CGA) and 2 color (Hercules Graphics Card) modes.The Atari ST and Amiga versions of the game released in late 1990 by Virgin Software are more similar to the arcade.[7] Unlike the PC version, the Amiga version is not a port of the Genesis/Mega Drive version – rather, it is similar to the arcade game, with some palette changes and without parallax scrolling.[8] The ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 versions suffer from the limitations of the two platforms.

Variations of the original game have also been released. The Sega Master System version of the game retells the original story from the perspective of Ax Battler, who is called "Tarik" in this game. While the game is only one-player, it features all of the levels and magic powers of the arcade version. In Japan, Golden Axe was released by Telenet for the PC Engine CD-ROM in 1990 with high-quality resampled music and cut scenes.[9] The game was also released as part of the handheld TV game Arcade Legends Sega Genesis Volume 1. An enhanced remake with 3D graphics and orchestral music was released for PlayStation 2 as part of the Sega Ages line.


Aggregate scores
GameRankings(Gen) 69%[10]
Metacritic(X360) 68/100[11]
Review scores
CVG(Amiga) 90%[12]
(Atari ST) 91%[13]
Crash(Spectrum) 76%[14]
EGM(SMS) 31/40[15]
(Gen) 29/40[16]
Sinclair User(Spectrum) 71%[17]
Your Sinclair(Spectrum) 91%[18]
ACE(SMS) 890/1000[13]
Joystick(Gen) 91%[13]
Mean Machines(Gen) 91%[19]
The Games Machine(Gen) 92%[13]
The One(Amiga) 5/5 stars[13]
Zero(Gen) 94%[13]
Zzap!64(C64) 96%[20]
MicroHobby (ES)(Spectrum) 88%[21]
TouchArcade(iOS) 3.5/5 stars[23]
Computer and Video GamesC+VG Hit![13]
The One for Amiga GamesStar Buy[13]
ZeroZero Console Classic[13]
Zzap!64Gold Medal[20]

The Spectrum version of the game went to number 2 in the UK sales charts, behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,[24] and was voted number 66 in the Your Sinclair Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time.[25]

Reviewing the game's appearance in Sega Arcade Classics for the Sega CD, Glenn Rubenstein commented that the game had become outdated in the years since its original release.[22]

In 1991, PC Format named Golden Axe one of the 50 best computer games ever, describing it as "deliciously animated hacking, slashing and generally whaling".[26]



  1. ^ "Golden Axe". The International Arcade Museum.
  2. ^ Retro Gamer magazine, issue 76. Pages 38–45
  3. ^ The Making of Golden Axe: Beast Rider. Part 1.
  4. ^ "The Making Of Golden Axe" (2014-12-02). Retrieved 2019-01-31.
  5. ^ Parish, Jeremy (2006-10-31). "Wii Virtual Console Lineup Unveiled". Archived from the original on 2012-07-18. Retrieved 2006-11-01.
  6. ^ "Xbox Live Arcade: Golden Axe". Xbox. Archived from the original on July 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-07.
  7. ^ Penn, Gary (December 1990). "Golden Axe". The One (27). p. 79.
  8. ^ When asked: "Surely having to put all that stuff from the big and hard arcade machine into a poxy little home computer [the Amiga and ST] has meant that he's had to leave stuff out?" programmer Richard Costello replies: "No, not really. The only major difference is minor graphical details." (Penn, Gary (December 1990). "Golden Axe". The One (27). p. 82.)
  9. ^ "PC Engine Longplay [040] Golden Axe". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
  10. ^ "Golden Axe for Genesis". GameRankings. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2018-10-29.
  11. ^ "Golden Axe for Xbox 360 Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2018-10-29.
  12. ^ "Archive – Magazine viewer". World of Spectrum. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Golden Axe Reviews". Amiga Magazine Rack. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
  14. ^ "Archive – Magazine viewer". World of Spectrum. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
  15. ^ "Golden Axe" (PDF). Electronic Gaming Monthly. March 1990. p. 16. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  16. ^ "Golden Axe" (PDF). Electronic Gaming Monthly. March 1990. p. 20. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  17. ^ "Archive – Magazine viewer". World of Spectrum. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
  18. ^ "Golden Axe". Archived from the original on 27 April 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
  19. ^ "Golden Axe review - Sega Megadrive" (PDF). Mean Machines (1): 42–4. October 1990. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
  20. ^ a b "Zzap!64 100th Issue Pull-Out Special Page 5". Retrieved 2012-07-26.
  21. ^ "Archive – Magazine viewer". World of Spectrum. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
  22. ^ a b Rubenstein, Glenn (January 1993). "At the Controls". Wizard. Wizard Entertainment (17): 21–24.
  23. ^ Musgrave, Shaun (2017-08-31). "'Golden Axe' Review – Be Careful What You Axe For". TouchArcade. Retrieved 2018-10-29.
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 June 2014. Retrieved 15 June 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ "Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time". Your Sinclair. September 1993.
  26. ^ Staff (October 1991). "The 50 best games EVER!". PC Format (1): 109–111.

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