Golden Axe

Golden Axe is without doubt one of the defining titles of the 16-Bit era and synonymous with SEGA's arcade and console reputation. The hack-n-slash beat'em up was highly popular in both the arcades and home versions when released way back in 1989.

The game was created by Team Shinobi who were behind other titles such as Streets of Rage and Revenge of Shinobi. The Mega Drive port became one of the systems earliest 'must-have' games.

Whilst not a 100% accurate port of the arcade original, it captured the spirit and contained 2 additional stages and 2 new play modes. Ultimately it became a staple Mega Drive title spawning 2 sequels whilst being ported to many systems and home computers of the time.

Golden Axe European Case
Golden Axe European Case

Includes two more levels than the arcade game

In Turtle Village the children are fleeing for their lives! The invaders are brutal, ugly, and 12 feet tall, with huge arms and bellowing laughs. They love pounding you into the dirt.


Death Adder is our evil foe - a 12ft reptilian creature that has invaded the land of Yuria. He has kidnapped the king and his daughter holding them captive in their own castle. He has seized control of the land with his armies of creatures that have defeated the King's armies.

Death Adder has found the Golden Axe, the magical emblem of the land of Yuria. He plans to destroy this icon and execute the royal family unless the people bow to him.

3 warriors - each having been scarred by Death Adder join forces to rid the land of this evil tyrant.


Golden Axe is a side-scrolling beat'em up. It's simple gameplay where you control a character wielding a weapon. You progress on the screen from left to right defeating any enemies that you encounter as well as traversing the odd bottomless drop to instant death in the landscape.

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At the end of each round there will be a boss or bosses. When a round is completed you will play an intersection were you can earn some units of magic, energy and the story of the game is progressed.

There are 3 selectable characters in the game:

Golden Axe Warriors
Ax Battler Tyris Flare Gillius Thunderhead




The game can be played in singe player mode or 2 player co-op mode which is probably how the game is best experienced. Beware that you can damage your team mate.

Be warned that continue credits are shared between the two players. The title screen reports 6 to begin with but 2 are used immediately when starting a game. For single players it is 3 credits.

Detailed below is the default control configuration.

The D-Pad moves your character around the screen. Pressing left or right twice makes your character run in that direction.

Button A triggers a magical attack. More about this further on.

Button B is attack. Pressing repeatedly makes your character perform different attacks.

Pressing once or twice gives you a stab.

Pressing 3 times gives:

A strong stab or a slice at an enemy at a slight distance,
Or to poke your weapon handle at nearby enemies,
Grab an enemy that is close and throw them.

Pressing 4 times to quickly poke your weapon handle at a close enemy.

Pressing 5 times to finish off with a kick.

Button C is jump.

Buttons B and C pressed together performs a power move. This inflicts heavy damage on an opponent. Ax and Tyris will spin their sword over their head and hit the person behind. Gillius will roll backwards and hit the person behind.

By running and pressing Button B your character will do a barge move or a flying kick.

Jumping and attacking performs a jump attack. This does not do much damage but is useful for knocking down enemies.

Running, jumping and attacking (forward, forward, C, B) makes for a high jump attack. This inflicts heavy damage. This can be tricky to time with the enemy attacking but worth mastering.

At the bottom of the screen is your life gauge. Player 1 will be on the left and Player 2 will be on the right if playing in a co-op game. By default you have 3 units of energy per life and 3 lives. It takes a few hits to loose a unit but enemy strength varies. When your units are gone you die. Different enemies inflict different amounts of damage; the biggest obviously inflicting more. You can replenish some units of energy (and magic) by collecting food from green thieves.

Golden Axe

When you have exhausted all of your credits it is Game Over and you will be shown a leader board of how much strength your character has.

The top left of the screen displays which round you are on and the red bar is your magical power status.




Magic Theif

To aid you in your physical battles, you can call upon magical powers to destroy enemies. Each character has access to a different element; Ax has access to Earth, Tyris has access to Fire and Gillius has access to Electricity in the form of Lightening.

The strength and appearance of these powers vary depending on how many units of magic are used. Units are collected from blue thieves that scurry around each stage and sections between them. When hit they will drop blue bottles. Simply walk over to collect. If they are not attacked they will simply run off.

Each element requires a different number of units detailed by the red bar at the top-left of the screen. Each number represents a different type of magical attack.

Magical Attacks
Earth Maximum Attack Fire Maximum Attack Lightening Maximum Attack

Earth (Ax) = 4 types of attack and 6 units for max

Fire (Tyris) = 6 types of attack and 9 units for max

Lightening (Gillius) = 3 types of attack and 4 units for max

When you initiate a magical attack all of your units will be used. A full power attack usually wipes out all enemies on the screen except for the largest bosses.


On several stages you will see enemies riding on dragons. You can knock them off and take the dragon for yourself to attack with. If left unattended for a short period or you are knocked off it 3 times, it will run off the screen. Beware enemies can also reclaim their dragons.

When riding a dragon you can attack with it by pressing the Button B or charge attack by running and pressing Button B.

Dragons of Golden Axe
Tail Swiping Dragon Fire Breathing Dragon Fireball Breathing Dragon

Chicken Leg (Smaller Dragon) - Pink and Yellow - This has a tail that swipes enemies and knocks them down.

Blue Dragon - Breathes fire - short range attack.

Pink Dragon - Breathes fireballs - long range attack.


Like many games of the era, there are only a few enemies to slay. They vary in different colours and upon seeing a new colour denotes a higher strength. They are as follows:

Barbarian 1 Heninger
Barbarian 2 Longmoan
Female Barbarian Storchinaya, Strobaya, Lemanaya, Gruziya
Fat Guys Bad Brothers
Knights Lt Bitter
Sgt Malt and Hop
Col Bitter
Gen Heartland (red Fat)
Gen Blidder
Death Adder Jr
Death Adder
Death Bringer

Whilst battling an enemy, the final knock to the floor will be a deeper "thud" compared to the others. They then let out a final death cry.

Gameplay Options

From the title screen there are 3 modes of play and an options screen.

Arcade Mode - Begins a single player or two player arcade/normal game.

The Duel - pitches your character against a series of enemies increasing in size, numbers and strength. The object is to simply defeat these before the timer runs out. You have a set amount of energy at the start which can not be replenished. When you have none left you die and the duel is over.
Golden Axe Duel Match

At the end you will be given your amount of strength and a ranking.
Golden Axe Duel Ranking

Beginner - Allows you to play a much easier game to stage 3 only. Enemies are only half the strength and you will only use 2 units of your magic in an attack.


There are very few options with only one being related to gameplay. They are:

Life Meter - you can increase or decrease the life meter.

Controls - Reassign the controls.

Sound Test - play the sounds.


There are a total of 8 stages in the game. The 8th stage is a boss fight.

Golden Axe Screenshots (Mega Drive)


Golden Axe: Stage 1 Golden Axe: Stage 2

Stage 1

Stage 2

Golden Axe: Stage 3 Golden Axe: Stage 4

Stage 3

Stage 4

Golden Axe: Stage 5 Golden Axe: Stage 6

Stage 5

Stage 6

Golden Axe: Stage 7 Golden Axe: Stage 8

Stage 7

Stage 8


Using Bottomless Drops

You can use the many drops, such as the one at the starts of stage 2, to your advantage to swiftly defeat enemies. Sometimes the drop maybe just of the screen but you can still knock them down it. When enemies are at a certain distance they will charge at you. Be ready to move out of the way for them to plummet to their doom.

Sometimes standing ajar from one will make enemies simply walk off as they try to reach you.

Engage 1 on 1

If already fighting and another enemy comes along, leave and take them on 1 by one 1 again. This is because their timings will be different.

Avoid Dragons

If an enemy is charging at you with a dragon then the only way not to take damage is to avoid it. Even if you are charging with a dragon of your own you will still take the hit.

Unstoppable Combo

If you time your hits so that your character does not complete their combo, you can create an unstoppable combo where you can beat enemies till they die.

Stage Select

At the character select screen, hold Down + Left + B and press START. On the upper-left corner of your screen, there will be a number. Pressing Up and Down will change the number to the stage to begin the game.

9 Continues

To begin the game with 9 continues, on the character select screen hold the bottom left corner of the D-Pad making the warriors spin continuously. Next press A and C together then let go of everything and press START.


Original Arcade Version

This ran on the System16 arcade board as did many of the classic SEGA games from that era.

Golden Axe Arcade Version
Golden Axe Arcade Version Golden Axe Arcade Version

Xbox Live Arcade Version

Available from July 07 was the original Golden Axe available to download and play via Xbox Live Arcade for the cost of 400 Microsoft Points. There is also a version on PSN.

This game is an emulated version of the System16 arcade original (as opposed to a port of the PC version).

Highlights include co-op play via Xbox Live, online leaderboards and the ability to save at any point in the game. The 'How To Play' option from the help screen provides very basic instructions for newcomers.

Golden Axe Xbox Live Arcade Screenshots
Golden Axe Xbox Live Arcade Golden Axe Xbox Live Arcade
Golden Axe Xbox Live Arcade Golden Axe Xbox Live Arcade

Emulation is virtually perfect. There is the option to apply smoothing though it must be said the effectiveness is debatable and an option for enhanced sound simply creates a small amount of ambience for the music.

Responsiveness of the controls and the problem inherent to the original arcade version was hit detection may irritate some newcomers.

For more information checkout the official website

There are a total of 200 gamer points to be earned via achievements. They are:




Gamer Points


Ride a cockatrice (small dragon)


Omni Character

Play as every character


Turtle Village

Reach Turtle Village without dying


Amazon Magic

Perform a level 6 magic attack with Amazon


Dwarf Magic

Perform a level 3 magic attack with the Dwarf


Barbarian Magic

Perform a level 4 magic attack with the Barbarian



Collect 3 potions from a thief or thieving party



Choose any character and reach Across The Sea without dying once.


Co-Op Win

Beat the game in local co-op mode


Online Co-Op

Complete an online co-op game



Beat the game


Perfect Win

Beat the game without dying


As it was so popular, Golden Axe is another SEGA title that was ported to the many consoles and home computers of the time from PC Engine to ZX Spectrum.

Other Releases

Below are some of the more significant. For a complete list of every version of Golden Axe out there checkout the links to the sites below.

More recently it is included in many of the re-released clone Mega Drive devices from Blaze.

Mega Drive Play6in1

Both the Mega Drive version and the original arcade version are available on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console.

The Mega Drive version is available on Steam.

It was included on the SEGA Smash Pack for the Dreamcast in 2001, Mega Drive Collection for PS2 and PSP and Ultimate Mega Drive Collection for PS3 and Xbox 360 where the original arcade version can be unlocked.

This (Mega Drive) version was later included as part of the Mega Games 2 collection and the Mega 6-in-1 collection.

An 'upgraded' (though somewhat downgraded) version was included on the SEGA Classics Arcade Collection for the Mega CD along with Streets of Rage, Columns, Super Monaco GP and Revenge of Shinobi. This version had CD audio and a few sound samples taken from the original arcade version (screaming villagers) but mysteriously the 2 player mode is non-existent. Apart from that the game is identical to the Mega Drive version.

Golden Axe was also released on PC (DOS) and was a direct port of the Mega Drive version containing the extra levels. It looked much better having access to 256 colours in VGA mode.

Golden Axe PC (DOS) Version
Golden Axe PC (DOS) Version Golden Axe PC (DOS) Version

It can be played online or downloaded from

Golden Axe Gameboy Advance Version
Golden Axe Gameboy Advance Version Golden Axe Gameboy Advance Version Golden Axe Gameboy Advance Version

Master System Version

SEGA ported the game to its popular 8-Bit console with some changes. In this version you could only control Ax Battler and the game only had the standard 5 rounds. Enemy placement was slightly different and there was also an oddity where the music for two stages were swapped. It did show some of the best graphics on the system.

Golden Axe (Master System)
Golden Axe (Master System) Golden Axe (Master System) Golden Axe (Master System)

Other 8-Bit titles include Golden Axe Warrior on the Master System and Ax Battler: A Legend of Golden Axe on the Game Gear which were RPG games played in a top-down view.

SEGA AGES 2500 Series Vol 5 / SEGA Classics Collection

Golden Axe SEGA AGES 2500 Series Vol 5

It was released in 2004 in Japan for the PS2.

The structure of the game overall is essentially the same and there are 2-Player modes. It keeps the same graphical theme and has remixes of the original tunes.

Golden Axe SEGA AGES 2500 Series Vol 5
Golden Axe SEGA AGES 2500 Series Vol 5
Golden Axe SEGA AGES 2500 Series Vol 5
Golden Axe SEGA AGES 2500 Series Vol 5
Golden Axe SEGA AGES 2500 Series Vol 5

Unfortunately the game is pretty dire. All the characters look terrible with dodgy polygons. The gameplay has some issues. The rounds are far too long and the intersections for collecting magic and food are now just crappy cinematics. The responsiveness of the controls is bad and the hit detection sometimes fails. It all makes for a very lacklustre fight.

Unlike the majority of the SEGA Ages 2500 Series, this title was released in Europe and the US as part of the SEGA Classics Collection.


The game has 2 different sequels; Golden Axe 2 on the Mega Drive and Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder in the arcades.

Golden Axe II

The Mega Drive version was released in 1991 and it offered much the same gameplay but with some tweaks to the magical attacks and a longer, harder game. Graphics were better also.

Golden Axe 2 (Mega Drive)
Golden Axe 2 (Mega Drive) Golden Axe 2 (Mega Drive)

For in-depth information, check out the Golden Axe 2 Feature.

The arcade version was released in 1992 on the System32 Arcade board which was SEGA's most powerful sprite hardware at the time. This had the ability for 4-Player co-op.

Golden Axe: Revenge of Death Adder (Arcade)
Golden Axe: Revenge of Death Adder (Arcade) Golden Axe: Revenge of Death Adder (Arcade)

It can be played with current versions of MAME.

Golden Axe III

Golden Axe III Japanese Case

The third game was released for the Mega Drive in 1994 and in Japan only.

Golden Axe 3 (Mega Drive)
Golden Axe 3 (Mega Drive) Golden Axe 3 (Mega Drive)
Golden Axe 3 (Mega Drive) Golden Axe 3 (Mega Drive)

Golden Axe: The Duel

This was released on the Saturn in 1996. This was basically a 2D 1-on-1 beat 'em up. It failed to make an impact.

Golden Axe: The Duel (Saturn)
Golden Axe: The Duel (Saturn)
Golden Axe: The Duel (Saturn)

Golden Axe: Beast Rider

This final instalment was released for the Xbox 360 and PS3 in 2008. The gameplay was full 3D with heavy emphasis on riding various beasts. The only playable character was Tyris Flare. Unfortunately it scored very badly and a talked about sequel was never released.

Golden Axe: Beast Rider (Xbox 360)
Golden Axe: Beast Rider (Xbox 360)
Golden Axe: Beast Rider (Xbox 360)


Perfect! The Mega Drive/Genesis and Mega-CD/SEGA CD versions can be played on KEGA Fusion, Gens and Gens32 Emulators. These can be downloaded from the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis Emulators Page.



Golden Axe II Feature

Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder Feature (Arcade)

Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder Games of the Month Archive (April 2005)

Golden Axe III Games of the Month Archive (June 2003)


Golden Axe Resource

Detailed information on all of the releases in the Golden Axe series including the ports and conversions.

Golden Axe at Hardcore Gaming 101

A much more graphical overall of all the games in the series.

Mega Drive/Genesis SEGA!

SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis Feature

Back to SEGA Main Index

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