There weren't that many brawlers this year, but trust me...if you recognize at least half the games in the runner ups list, you'll know immediately this was a hard year to call a #1. Die Hard Arcade / Dynamite Deka (Arcade)
I've seen this title in at least a dozen arcades. It has everything you would want in a brawler: nice variety of weapons, plenty of combos and context-based attacks, awesome graphics (oldschool 3D in this case), great music and sound effects, just enough story but not so much to weigh it down, plenty of action, quick time events, good pacing, and even some humor sprinkled throughout.
It can also be HARD, but absolutely fun overall. The Saturn version is an excellent port as well, making this one of the best arcade-to-home ports ever. It doesn't exactly follow the plot of the movie, but that's mostly because it really ISN'T Die Hard, rather enough elements were similar that when it was ported to an American audience, they opted for the Die Hard license.
This is a title you absolutely cannot pass up. Runner Ups
While I certain can't recommend Batman Forever or Perfect Weapon, everything else is damn fun and absolutely worth playing. It was actually down to Guardian Heroes and Die Hard Arcade for a while, but I eventually made the call for one of my all-time favorite brawlers ever.
Batman Forever (SNES)
Batman Forever - The Arcade Game (Arcade)
Black Touch '96 (Arcade)
Dungeons & Dragons - Shadow over Mystara (Arcade)
Final Fight 3 / Final Fight Tough / Fainaru Faito Tafu (SNES)
Guardian Heroes (Saturn)
Marvel Super Heroes - War of the Gems (SNES)
Perfect Weapon (PS1)
LOOK WHO CAME: