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The evil Slick has kidnapped Ryan's girlfriend and taken over the high school. The player is cast as either Ryan or Alex (second player) and has to fight his way through River City's merciless gangs before confronting Slick and freeing his girl.

River City Ransom is a side-scrolling beat-em-up similar to Double Dragon. The player, or players, travel through the locations of River City, encountering various gangs along the way. Gang members can be defeated with punches and kicks, or beaten up with objects scattered around. Upon their defeat, gang members drop money which Alex and Ryan can spend in malls to buy items that restore health and improve their combat abilities. The main characters have RPG-like numerical stats that can be improved this way, and can also buy books to learn combat manoeuvres. To finish the game, the player(s) have to find and defeat all the bosses.

The Game Boy Advance port of the game adds a number of features, including the ability to recruit certain characters (including defeated bosses) to fight alongside you. It also has different gangs and several new weapons.


River City Ransom TurboGrafx CD Don't mind the chain, baby... It's not what you think...
River City Ransom Sharp X68000 I only came for the WC, but if you punks want to fight about it... OH IT'S ON!
River City Ransom NES Through a tunnel, waving a chain
River City Ransom TurboGrafx CD Watch out!

Promo Images

River City Ransom Screenshot
River City Ransom Screenshot
River City Ransom Screenshot
River City Ransom Screenshot

Alternate Titles

  • "ダウンタウン熱血物語" -- Japanese spelling
  • "Street Gangs" -- European title
  • "River City Ransom EX" -- Gameboy Advance title
  • "Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari" -- Japanese title

Part of the Following Groups

User Reviews

River City: Where the smiles are free! NES Adzuken (861)
Barf! NES Zovni (10667)
Take Street Fighter, add Final Fantasy, throw in some Super Mario Brothers, what do you get? River City Ransom! NES Jimmy Sherrill (8)
Street fighting never got better than this NES MaiZure (126)
Humorous Fighting is "In" on the Gameboy Advance! Game Boy Advance Stephen Lambert (5)

Critic Reviews

Thunderbolt Games NES Jul 29, 2004 10 out of 10 100
GamesCollection NES Nov 26, 2007 8.5 out of 10 85
Game Informer Magazine NES Sep, 2001 8.5 out of 10 85
Nintendo Power Magazine NES Sep, 1989 4 out of 5 80
Game Informer Magazine Game Boy Advance Jun, 2004 8 out of 10 80
Digital Press - Classic Video Games Game Boy Advance Jun 13, 2004 8 out of 10 80 NES Mar, 2003 7.9 out of 10 79
Game Informer Magazine Game Boy Advance Jun, 2004 7.5 out of 10 75
Diehard GameFan Game Boy Advance Jun 07, 2004 5.5 out of 10 55
Total! (Germany) NES Jul, 1993 4.25 out of 6 35


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Despite what a first-time player might think, the enemies aren't randomly generated -- each of the gangs has nine pre-defined members, each with his own specific name, appearance, and even different stats.


  • When you are on the 3rd floor of the school and you fight the "Dragon Twins", the background music is the same music from the NES game Double Dragon.
  • The gang duo Benny & Clyde is an obvious take on the famous criminal duo "Bonny & Clyde" from the 1930s

Version differences

In the original Japanese version (Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari) the characters wore schoolboy jackets and belonged to high schools instead of gangs. This was changed in the American version because the jackets could be mistaken for bathrobes and beating up evil gang members seemed like a more worthy cause. This, however, does not apply to the Game Boy Advance port, where the character still wear the "bathrobes" in the American version.


  • Electronic Gaming Monthly
    • December 1989 (Issue 5) - Most Power-Ups in a Video Game
  • GameSpy
    • 2004 – Best Use of Barf of the Year (GBA)
Information also contributed by Jimmy Sherrill
Contributed to by Ghost (130), WildKard (12993), GTramp (55720), Michael Cassidy (19382), Infernos (15496), Zovni (10667) and gamewarrior (5120)