Video Game: Golden Axe

Our three heroes: Gilius, Ax and Tyris
Golden Axe, originally released for the arcades in 1989, is a side-scrolling Beat 'em Up by Sega set in a fantasy world. Notable for being one of the earliest arcade ports for the Sega Genesis.

The game follows the efforts of three warriors on a mission to gain revenge by killing the tyrant known as Death Adder, who not only conquered the land of Yuria and captured both the king and the princess of the realm, but killed a family member of each of the protagonists. The playable characters include:

  • Ax Battler: A barbarian who wields a broadsword (not an axe, as one might expect) and is able to use explosion-based magic. His mom died at the hands of Death-Adder.
  • Gilius Thunderhead: A dwarf who wields an axe and uses lightning-based magic. His twin brother died at the hands of Death-Adder.
  • Tyris Flare: An amazon who wields a longsword. She uses fire magic. Both her parents died at the hands of Death-Adder.

The game had several unique features such as a magic gauge which would increase the power of your magic attack and change its animation depending on how many magic potions you had, and the ability to ride fire-breathing dragons and other animals.

Golden Axe was ported to various platforms and inspired a series of sequels and spin-offs on various Sega platforms. The full list of games in the series are as followed.
  • Golden Axe — 1989 (Arcade, Sega Master System, Mega Drive/Genesis, Commodore Amiga, PC Engine, WonderSwan, Xbox Live Arcade)
  • Golden Axe Warrior — 1991 (Master System) . A Zelda-style action RPG with a few innovations not present in its inspiration.
  • Ax Battler: A Golden Axe Legend — 1991 (Game Gear). Another action RPG, but this one uses a side-view battle format similar to Zelda II The Adventure Of Link.
  • Golden Axe II — 1991 (Mega Drive/Genesis, Xbox LIVE Arcade)
  • Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder - 1992 (Arcade)
  • Golden Axe III — 1993 (Mega Drive; released in the U.S. and Europe on download services and compilations only; re-released worldwide via Xbox LIVE Arcade)
  • Golden Axe: The Duel — 1994 (Arcade, Sega Saturn). A fighting game that is heavily inspired by Samurai Shodown
  • Golden Axe: Beast Rider — 2008 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)


This series provides examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: The names of the characters (including the heroes) in Golden Axe III are -only- in the manual, and the game was only released in Japan originally. This also applies to the enemy characters in II.
    • The manual for III also provide some background information for the new setting, and the inputs for the more fancy moves (such as Kain's ground flame and Cragger's mini-tornados).
  • Amazonian Beauty: Tyris Flare, the Zuburokas and of course Sarah Barn. If you squint, Dora the Centaur in The Revenge of Death Adder (more so when she gets on a beast and morphs into a human).
  • Ancestral Weapon: In III, Sarah's sword was passed down to her from her father.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Gilius.
  • Animated Armor: A type of enemy in II, replacing Knights in the first game.
    • The Corvette knights in III could be this, as the player never gets to see if there's an actual person inside that suit of armour.
  • Anti-Magic: Death-Adder's first phase in Revenge of Death-Adder. Trying to use magic when the shield isn't spewing fire results in the shield inhaling and crushing all the potions used.
  • Arcade Perfect Port: While the Sega Genesis and PC versions were built with new features and slightly altered graphics, the Commodore Amiga version of the game was in fact an extremely close port of the arcade original. The only thing which really let it down was that the Amiga only had a one button joystick so the jumping mechanics had to be tweaked.
  • Armor Is Useless: Almost every hero character is either bare-chested or otherwise exposing large parts of the body. They can still take multiple slashes/bashes from weapons.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Just about everyone not controlled by the player get stuck on various obstacles, not to mention falling in Bottomless Pits while trying to reach you or escaping.
  • Art Shift: All the Mega Drive games in Japan feature a precautions guide at the end of their manuals on how to properly maintain their Mega Drive cartridges. However, the precautions guide in the Golden Axe II manual was drawn in a realistic Americanized style instead of the usual cartoony one.
  • Awesome but Impractical: The 2-player attack combos in III (not the magic combo). Also, Sarah's Diving Kick which requires a wall.
    • Also from III, the grapple attacks. Every character has another move in his/ her move list that does more damage or has greater range. Perhaps the only reason for a grapple is to set up a throw.
  • Awesome McCoolname: C'mon; Ax Battler, Gilius Thunderhead, and Tyris Flare. They're either fantasy heroes or rock stars.
  • An Axe to Grind: Weapon of Choice of Gilius and Death Adder, the latter who wields the eponymous Golden Axe. The amazons from the first game wield smaller hand axes.
  • Badass in Distress: At the start of III, all four heroes had become Brainwashed and Crazy, and Gilius could only release one /two of them to undertake the quest to recover the Axe.
  • Bald of Evil: The Bad Brothers in the first game.
  • Barbarian Hero: All three of the heroes.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Tyris. Sarah in III as well.
  • Big Bad:
    • Death Adder in the first game, Dark Guld in II, and Prince of Darkness in III.
    • Death Bringer in Genesis version of first game. Death Adder is Demoted to Dragon / Dragon-in-Chief in this version.
  • Big Good: Gilius in III. He gives the quest to the heroes to retrieve the Golden Axe, and saves one /two of them from Demonic Possession to kickstart the whole thing.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In III. Hellstrike may have perished and the Golden Axe retrieved for safekeeping. But, the King is dead and the heroes who were not rescued from their Demonic Possession were never seen again.
  • Blocking Stops All Damage: In III. Unless the blocking character gets knocked into a pit.
  • Bottomless Pits: Lots of them, and the fastest way to defeat enemies is to knock them in there.
    • In most games, you lose one life straight if you fell into them yourself.
  • Braids of Action: Sarah in III has one. It is long enough to reach her waist.
  • Captain Ersatz
    • Ax Battler and Tyris Flare couldn't be more obviously based on Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja without being outright copyright infringement.
    • Chronos (the panther-man in Golden Axe III) is basically Guin.
  • Carry a Big Stick: The club-wielding Longmoans and the mace-wielding Heningers. Also, Dora's weapon is a pugil stick.
  • Chainmail Bikini: Tyris Flare. Sarah in III too. An exaggerated trope in the sense that the women are wearing clothes into an armed brawl.
  • Combination Attack: In Revenge of Death Adder, the players may team up on a stunned enemy (bosses included) for a high-powered, multi-player pile-driver. If 3 characters grab the enemy, they do a spinning pile-driver. If there are 4 players, then they hit the unfortunate enemy with a spinning pile-driver so powerful that the enemy continues to spin into the ground after they've released him/her/it. Depending on game settings this powerful attack might take off an entire life bar and can be fatal to a mid-boss.
    • In III, on a 2-player playthrough, the players can trigger a combined magic attack.
  • Comic Book Adaptation: In Sonic the Comic.
  • Compilation Re-release: The Sega Vintage Collection — Golden Axe on Xbox LIVE Arcade, compiling the original arcade game and its two sequels.
  • Composite Character: Tarik, the main character in the Master System version, who is a renamed Ax Battler, but with the ability to use the magic powers from all three of the arcade version's characters.
  • Cool Sword: In III, Sarah's sword is called "Blue Dragon Sword". Could explain the Hitbox Dissonance.
  • Dem Bones: From skeletons to ridable dragon skeletons.
  • Demonic Possession: The heroes that are not selected by the player in III are possessed and fought as bosses on some routes. Curiously, their costumes are also of a different colour while they are possessed.
  • Demoted to Extra: Gilius goes from playable to NPC mentor who appears only in the 1st stage and ending of Golden Axe III. The manual justifies this by mentioning that he's grown REALLY old.
  • Disney Villain Death: Death Adder gets an awesomely over-the-top one in Revenge of Death Adder; he gets an axe planted in his head while preparing an extra-powerful spell, falls screaming off the dragon, and then gets blown up by his own spell.
  • Double Jump: In III, both Chronos and Sarah can do this.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Death Adder in Genesis version of the first game. The golden Headless Knight in II, complete with Orcus on His Throne moment as seen in the opening and penultimate battle.
  • Drop the Hammer: The weapon of choice for the Bad Brothers.
    • Same for the Mustang giants in III
  • Dual Boss: The Bad Brothers, the bosses in Round 1.
  • Duel Boss: In a single-player playthorough of III, if you choose to fight the possessed heroes, it'll be one-on-one. The final fights against Eve and Hellstrike are also one-on-one.
  • Dynamic Entry: Should you get to face off with a possessed Sarah in III, she enters the stage by sailing through the air using the dash attack. Yes, the attack can hit you and you will take damage.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: The Genesis version features a Beginner mode that lasts only three stages, ending with a battle against Death Adder Jr., a weaker version of the regular Death Adder. Magic spells only uses two potions instead of the entire bar.
  • Elemental Powers: The way magic spells are applied:
    • Ax had Volcano magic in the first game, Wind magic in II.
    • Gillus had Lightning magic in the first game and Rock magic in II.
    • Tyris has always used Fire magic in the games she appeared. In III, Sarah took up her fire magic.
    • Kain had Water/Ice magic in III.
    • Chronos has Lightning/Mist magic in III.
    • Cragger had Rock magic in III.
    • Dark Adder had Darkness magic in the Fan Remake
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Milan Flare.
  • Evil Laugh: Death Adder and the Bad Brothers in Revenge of Death Adder. They all have the same laugh.
  • Evil Overlord: More than one.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Zoma in Golden Axe: The Duel.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Death Adder, in the prequel, after he got his hand on the Golden Axe. The cause is unknown. The ending hints Brainwashed and Crazy / With Great Power Comes Great Insanity
  • Fake Ultimate Mook: The Corvette knights in the third Mega Drive game have full armor in a game where just about everyone else wears a loincloth and possibly a bikini top, are twice the size of the player and the first one is treated like a boss. They are rather easy to defeat once you notice their huge crippling weaknesses, namely their lack of any ability to hit an airborne character, being easily grappled as soon as they (slowly) stand up.
    • However, they are still strong enough if they appear in a group of two or three. The Final Boss session is the example. if they flank you while you are busy with the boss, it's not a surprise if they can give you some trouble. And in general, their combo attack is actually quite painful.
  • Fan Remake: Golden Axe Myth, which is actually a prequel. Telling the story of Ax Battler, Tyris Flare, Gilius Thunderhead and Death Adder as they are ordered to retrieve the Golden Axe after it was stolen by a demon.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: In III, the griffon's name is Eve.
  • Friendly Fireproof: in the first game, spells affect enemies only. Averted with normal attacks, which makes the game that much more difficult as one player can accidentally kill another.
  • Gaiden Game: Ax Battler: A Golden Axe Legend.
  • Genre Shift: The third arcade game was a competitive fighting game, while Golden Axe Warrior and Ax Battler were action RPGs.
    • III also had a fighting game mode. Besides the 4 hero characters, Eve can also be used. No magic, though.
  • Green And Mean: In III, most of the heroes have greenish skin upon their Demonic Possession. Chronos is an exception as his default fur colour is blue.
  • Groin Attack: Barn's grapple. Not to mention she can do this up to THREE TIMES in one grapple attack!
    • Also, notice how the only metal in her outfit is located on her kneecaps.
    • Also Chicken-leg's attack from the first game is seemingly this. Especially if it's done on Ax Battler and Tyris Flare, the attack looks like whipping their lower body, close to their sensitive area. It's perhaps slightly easier to be seen in the PS2 remake. And that attack even knock down your character despite the damage is quite weaker than any Mook's normal combo attack (The attack took about 7 hits to lose one of your life bars.)
    • In II, the lizardmen's tail whip may also count, considering their tail's location is in the same height as the groin of Ax Battler and Tyris Flare. And two hits from this attack are actually strong enough to make you lose one life bar!
    • Skeletons/Dead Frames in III are quite short compared to the heroes. So their low attack may also count (and considering their low attack is also one-hit knock down despite the damage is slightly weaker than their combo attack).
  • The Heart: From their short speech after being released from their Demonic Possession, Sarah from III is this among the four hero characters. She thanks the player, and warns them to be careful as the enemies in the area are very powerful.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: The weapon of choice for Ax Battler and later heroes. Tyris and Sarah both uses swords as well (Sarah's scimitar averts the Sinister Scimitar trope).
  • Heroic Sacrifice: At the end of Revenge of Death-Adder, Gilius leaps off of Gaoh and plants his axe in Death-Adder's head to stop him from killing the other heroes with an extra-powerful spell. This results in the both of them falling off to get blown to bits by the spell when it finally activates in mid-air.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Barn's scimitar can hit about 1.5 times as far as the sprite suggests.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In III, all the four hero characters picked up arms against Hellstrike (the Big Bad) because of what he or his demon army did.
  • Horse of a Different Color: There's several different Bizzarians the player can mount throughout the series.
    • In the original game, the player can ride Chickenlegs (bird-lizard creatures) and Dragons (who come in blue and red variants). The fireball-spitting red dragons are pretty much a Game Breaker.
    • Revenge of Death-Adder added giant scorpions and mantises as well. The scorpions and mantises each come in two colors, one color fighting exclusively with its claws, the other using a special attack (breathing fire for the mantis, an electric sting for the scorpion).
  • Jack of All Stats: Ax Battler.
    • Kain in III too, although his damage is the second highest out of the four, while his range is the longest.
  • Legacy Character: The three leads of The Duel, Kain Blade, Milan Flare, and Gillius Rockhead.
  • Leotard of Power: Worn by amazons Elite Mooks in first and third game.
  • Lethal Joke Character: Trix the halfling farmer in Revenge of Death Adder. Worst damage and range, but is the only one who can heal, meaning he lasts the longest in fights. As Trix always produces more than enough food for every player to heal once, it means he can be vital to a team's survival. Also, despite his poor damage and range, he attacks so fast he can easily keep multiple groups of enemies stun-locked. There's a reason Trix is the preferred character for 1-credit runs.
  • Let's Play: By Madamluna and DeceasedCrab here.
  • Lizard Folk: A type of Elite Mook in II.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Played with in Revenge of Death Adder. Making progress in his lair will cause it to crumble little by little. When Death Adder is defeated, the lair collapse completely. However, you still have to beat him one last time as he hitched a ride on your dragon.
  • Loin Cloth: Worn by almost everyone.
  • The Man Behind the Man: In the original arcade game, the player simply goes to the castle and beat up Death Adder. In the Genesis version (on the normal difficulty), the player must fight a palette-swapped version of Death Adder known as the Death Bringer after fighting the standard version.
  • The Many Deaths of You: In Beast Rider, Tyris can be reduced to various chunks of meat upon reaching Critical Existence Failure.
  • Mega Neko: Chronos "Evil" Lait in III. He's also Panthera Awesome.
  • Mighty Glacier: Proud Cragger runs slowly, moves slowly and attacks slowly... and HARD.
  • Mission Pack Sequel: Golden Axe II uses the same engine as the Genesis port of the first game.
  • Mooks:
    • Heninger and Longmoan. The Zuburoka amazons and the Skeleton knights are Elite Mooks.
    • Zakkar, Greness and the Wizards in Golden Axe II. Elite Mooks in this game are lizardmen.
    • Golden Axe III has the nameless club-wielding and spear-wielding soldiers, along with the Vanity amazons and the Dead Frame creatures as Elite Mooks.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Tyris Flare.
    • Make that most of the female cast. Possibly justified in Sarah's case. See Wandering Minstrel.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: The sheep giants in III. They can block attacks, and have impressive range.
  • Muscles Are Meaningful: In III, where every hero character (including Sarah) looks ripped and can kick lots of ass. Many enemies are also muscled.
  • Mysterious Past: In III, we know that Kain was a mercenary, Sarah a travelling entertainer, and Cragger is a descendant of giants. We know nothing about Chronos' past, apart from the fact that he Was Once a Man.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Death Adder and Death Bringer
  • No Fourth Wall: The original arcade game ends with the mooks leaping out of an arcade cabinet and invading the real world, with the heroes in hot pursuit.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Ax Battler, who wields a sword. It's because he's a swordsman who battles against the titular Golden Axe wielded by Death Bringer!
  • Orcus on His Throne: The golden Headless Knight in II, as seen in the opening and whom you actually fight in the penultimate battle. Although he's just a Dragon-in-Chief, seemingly.
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: Dora (no, not that one), as a playable character in The Revenge of Death Adder. Her outfit is notably modest for a female in this franchise, completely covering her human half. Also, her horse legs can magically change into human legs to allow her to ride mounts.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: However, in III, Gilius uses more magic than the typical dwarf, since he is old and his strength is no longer there.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Many of the bosses in the first game are giants, including Death Adder himself. Also, playables include Goah the giant in Revenge of Death Adder and Proud Cragger in 3.
  • Overtook the Manga: Golden Axe II predated the actual arcade sequel (Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder) by roughly a year.
  • Palette Swap: The original arcade game featured a set of six enemies (four mooks and two sub-bosses) that are re-used throughout the entire game in different colors. The blue and red dragons, as well as the blue and green thieves, were also palette-swaps of each other.
    • The Genesis version added even more palette swapped variants of the enemies, including different versions of the final boss Death Adder.
    • Averted in the Master System, in which every enemy and beast uses the same palette as the player. This actually made the fireball-spitting dragons impossible to tell apart visually from their short-ranged counterparts.
  • Powerful Pick: The Skeletons use this in II and III.
  • Power-Up Mount: Bizzarians, used throughout the series; became the focus of the game in Beast Rider.
    • Hilariously, Gilius rides on Goah's shoulders in Revenge of Death Adder, and Goah is able to ride on a mount, himself.
  • Private Military Contractors: In III, Kain is a mercenary. However, his business with Hellstrike is personal, as the demon army destroyed his tribe.
  • Punny Name: One possible transliteration of Sarah's surname is "Burn", which is exactly what she'll do to you with her magic.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: In III. The heroes are: a mercenary, a travelling entertainer, a descendant of giants and a panther-man with a Mysterious Past. Deconstructed too, when the four failed in their initial attempt (becoming Brainwashed and Crazy in the process) and required Gilius to remove the curse from some of them.
  • Red Is Heroic: Both Tyris (in II) and Sarah wear red.
  • Roundhouse Kick: In III, this is Sarah's Forward+Attack+Jump attack. It can be blocked, but it is fast, and the single most damaging move in her movelist.
  • Serrated Blade of Pain: Headless Knights/Animated Armors in II wield this, with shield.
  • Shields Are Useless: Subverted in first and second game for Knights and Animated Armors, respectively. Although they can't use it to block your attack, they can use it for...
    • Shield Bash: They can use this attack if you are too close to them and they're fast enough to react against you before you have a chance to attack them.
    • Averted for the Corvette knights in III, who can actually use their shield to block your attack. In exchange, they can't use their shield for Shield Bash, although it's not much of problem because their combo attack is already pretty painful.
    • Played straight for Skeletons in first and second game. Averted in III, where they can actually use their shield to block your attack.
  • Slouch of Villainy: Death Bringer in the Genesis port.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Tyris, Sarah and Dora are the only playable characters in their games who are female.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": For the names of characters in III, since the manual is in Japanese and there is no official English translation to go with it.
  • Spin Attack: In III, this is the one attack you don't want the sheep giants to do. On the heroes' side, both Sarah and Kain have this as their Attack+Jump attack (to knock down enemies around them).
  • Statuesque Stunner: Tyris Flare.
  • Stock Scream: The original arcade game inexplicably uses some screams from various movies for the death cries of the enemy character. From First Blood, they specifically used the one where Rambo stabs Mitch in the leg (which became Heninger's death cry), and the ones that Galt lets out as he falls to his death (when a villager is being tortured by a Longmoan at the beginning of the game).
  • Stone Wall: Possibly Dora.
  • Stripperiffic: Tyris again. Not to mention most of the human enemies, male and female... actually, just about everyone except Gilius, Adder, a few Giant Mook enemies and the civilians.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute
    • The main villains in the Mega Drive sequels (Dark Guld and Damud Hellstrike) are obvious stand-ins for Death Adder.
    • Kain Grinder and Sarah Barn from Golden Axe III are so similar to Ax and Tyris that (thanks to the game's lack of an overseas version until the PS2 compilation) most people mistake them for their predecessors.
      • In Sarah's case, it's more of No Name Given, so the fans just call her "Tyris". Apart from using fire magic and the fanservice, Sarah's a very different character. Even their swords and hairstyles are different!
    • Zakkar and Greness, the mooks from Golden Axe II, are often mistaken for Heninger and Longmoan from the original game.
  • Taken for Granite: The bodies of the dead enemies would turn into rock, in the arcade version. In Death Adder's Revenge, using Goah's (actually Gilius's) Earth Magic while there were enemy mooks on the screen would actually show a short animation of one screaming in terror as he was petrified.
  • Theme Naming: The enemies in the first game are named after alcoholic beverages.
    • Longmoan and Heninger are mangled references to "Longmorn" (a brand of whiskey) and "Henninger" (a German brewery).
    • The Zuburoka amazon tribe are named after Żubrówka, a brand of Vodka. Three of the amazons belonging to the tribe (Storchinaya, Strobaya and Lemanaya) are named after other brands of Vodka (Stolichnaya, Stolovaya and Limonnaya respectively), while Guruziya is named after Gruzia (the Russian name for Georgia, the country known for discovering wine).
    • For the bosses, we have the Bad Brothers (a misspelling of "Bud", as in "Budweiser"), Sgt. Malt & Sgt. Hop, General Heartland (named after a Japanese brand of beer) and the Bitter knights. The PC Engine version has its own names for the bosses in the form of "Biyadaru" (beer barrel) for the hammer-swinging giants and "Heineken" for the armored knights.
    • Golden Axe III has bosses named after cars (Mustang and Corvette).
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Forward-back-forward-Attack+Jump for Barns in III. Partially subverted, because enemies who can block can still block her sword... unlike Chronos' similar hidden move.
  • Underwear of Power: Ax Battler in the first game, pictured above. For Fan Disservice, Bad Brothers and their Palette Swap in the first game wear this. In II, Minotaurs also wear this.
  • Unwilling Suspension: The King and Princess when you rescue them. The poor King is hanging upside down.
  • Wandering Minstrel: In III, Sarah once belonged to a troupe of travelling entertainers. Could help explain her Dance Battler moves.
  • Was Once a Man: In III, both Chronos and Eve.
  • We Are as Mayflies: By the time of both Revenge of Death Adder and Golden Axe III, Ax and Tyris have already passed away, leaving a very old Gillius to guide the next generation of heroes.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In Golden Axe III, certain paths will allow you to fight against a Brainwashed and Crazy player character that you didn't select. If you fight them, they're freed and appear in the ending, greeting you for returning the Golden Axe. If not... nothing's known about them.
  • X Meets Y: Golden Axe is Double Dragon meets Conan the Barbarian.
  • You Don't Look Like You: In the unused cover of III by Boris Vallejo, Sarah's hairstyle is completely different from the one she has in-game. Also, she was blond in that cover.
    • For the cover which was eventually used, her long hair is hard to spot and was left unbraided.
    • For Golden Axe, Ax was a blond on the cover, which he is not in-game.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In III, just before entering the castle, after the heroes defeated Eve, he returns to his true form: the missing King. After a short speech, he is then killed by lightning.
  • You Killed My Mother, Both Parents, or Twin Brother
    • Averted for two heroes in III. Chronos wants to reverse the curse on him, while Cragger is paying back for his imprisonment by the demon army (and as a favour to Gillius, who freed him).