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Our three heroes: Gilius, Ax and Tyris

One of Sega's early hits, Golden Axe combined Beat'Em Up gameplay with a fantasy setting to create one of the best games in the arcade.

The story 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 of her parents, the Royal Couple of a nearby kingdom, 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.

This series provides examples of:

  • Amazonian Beauty: Tyris Flare, the Zuburokas and of course Sarah Barn. If you squint, Dora the Centaur in Death Adder's Revenge.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Gilius.
  • An Axe to Grind: Weapon of Choice of Gilius and Death Adder, the latter who wields the titular Golden Axe. The amazons from the first game wield smaller hand axes.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Just about everyone not controlled by the player get stuck on various obstacles, not to mention falling in Bottomless Pit 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.
  • Bald of Evil: The Bad Brothers in the first game.
  • Barbarian Hero: All three of the heroes.
  • Battle Bikini: Tyris Flare.
  • Bottomless Pit: Lots of them, and the fastest way to defeat enemies is to knock them in there.
  • 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.
  • Comic Book Adaptation: In Sonic the Comic.
  • 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.
  • Compilation First: The third Genesis game received only a limited US release on the Sega Channel (same as Pulseman). The first widespread release was the Sega Genesis Collection for the Play Station 2.
  • Dem Bones: From skeletons to ridable dragon skeletons.
  • Demoted to Extra: Gillius goes from playable into NPC mentor that appears only in the 1st stage and ending of Golden Axe III. The manual justifies this that he's grown REALLY old.
  • Drop the Hammer: The weapon of choice for the Bad Brothers.
  • Dual Boss: The Bad Brothers, the bosses in Round 1.
  • 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 the second game.
    • Gillus had Lightning magic in the first game and Rock magic in the second
    • Tyris has always used Fire magic in the games she appeared. In the 3rd game, Sarah took up her fire magic.
    • Kain had Water/Ice magic in the third.
    • Chronos has Lightning/Mist magic in the third game.
    • Cragger had Rock magic in the third game.
    • Dark Adder had Darkness magic in the Fan Remake
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Milan Flare.
  • Evil Overlord: More than one.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Zoma in the 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
  • Fallen Princess: Tyris turns out to be one, as the surviving princess of the destroyed Firewood Kingdom.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: 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.
  • 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, falls screaming off the dragon and then for no reason EXPLODES in mid-air.
  • Fake Ultimate Mook: The Corvettes 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.
  • 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.
  • Four-Man Band: In the fan remake prequel:
  • 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.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: The weapon of choice for Ax Battler and later heroes.
  • 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).
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Barn's scimitar can hit about 1.5 times as far as the sprite suggests.
  • Groin Attack: Barn's grapple.
  • Jack of All Stats: Ax Battler.
  • Legacy Character: The three leads of The Duel, Kain Blade, Milan Flare, and Gillius Rockhead.
  • Lethal Joke Character: Trix the halfling farmer in Revenge of Death Adder. Worst attack 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 meant he could be vital to a team's survival.
    • "Worst attack" is very relative. Although the hits are weaker, 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.
  • 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.
  • Mega Neko: Chronos "Evil" Lait in the third game. He's also Panthera Awesome
  • Mighty Glacier: Proud Cragger runs slow and moves slow and attacks slow... 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.
    • Zuckal, Greenness and the Magicians in Golden Axe II.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: Dora (No, not that one), as a playable character in The Revenge of Death Adder.
  • 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: The first of the Mega Drive sequels (Golden Axe II) was made before the actual arcade sequel (Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder).
  • 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.
  • Powerup Mount: Bizzarians, used throughout the series; became the focus of the game in Beast Rider.
  • 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 (when a villager is being tortured by a Longmoan at the beginning of the game), and the ones that Galt lets out as he falls to his death (which became Heninger's death cry).
  • Stone Wall: Possibly Dora.
  • Stripperific: 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 Damned 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 Play Station 2 compilation) most people mistake them for their predecessors.
    • Zuckal and Greenness, 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.
  • Theme Naming: The names of the enemy characters in the first game are mostly alcoholic references.
    • The names of Longmoan and Heninger are mangled references to "Longmorn" (a brand of whiskey) and "Henninger" (a German brewery).
    • The Zuburoka amazons are named after a brand of Vodka (Żubrówka). Two of its members, Storchinaya and Strobaya, are named after other brands (Stolichnaya and Stolovaya) and while Lemanaya and Guruziya don't fit into the Vodka theme, they have Russian names like the rest.
    • 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).
  • The Many Deaths of You: In Beast Rider, Tyris can be reduced to various hunks of meat upon reaching Critical Existence Failure.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Forward-back-forward-Attack+jump for Barns.
  • Unwilling Suspension: The King and Princess when you rescue them. The poor King is hanging upside down.
  • 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 dwarven Gillius to guide the next generation of heroes
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In Golden Axe III, certain paths takes you 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 return. If not... nothing's known about them.
  • You Killed My Mother, Both Parents, or Twin Brother