This is actually a surprisingly good year and what a year to end on. No, there weren't that many titles, but what was released was pretty damn good. This was not an easy year to pick a #1 as a result. Dynamite Cop / Dynamite Deka 2 (Arcade)
This is the successor to Die Hard Arcade, also known as the original Dynamite Deka. And no, it has nothing to do with Die Hard. This game is both crazy and crazy awesome. It is everything the original was, but somehow crazier with more ridiculous weapons and combos, hilarious sound effects, and a good sense of humor overall. The main reason it was so hard to choose a #1 this year was because the other ones were chock full of spritey goodness.
So then I had to determine which one FELT more like a brawler. Well, uh...they ALL did. Seriously, all 4 of these titles are EXCELLENT brawlers. So eventually it just came down to preference. Did I want one that felt more like a Neo Geo beat em up (GC), an updated Warriors of Fate (KoV), or one that felt like a more modern, but somehow lackluster Golden Axe (LoS)?
I decided to settle on the one that didn't take itself too seriously, was completely over the top, and the graphics were pretty damn good, especially for the time. This game was also later ported to the Dreamcast, though I'm not sure how rare/available it is. Definitely worth checking out. Runner Ups
And here we are, finally, at 1999. To be honest, if I wanted to continue this, it might be best to go back to the 80s first, as there were so many I couldn't highlight since I started at 1990. Things REALLY started slowing down after this, unless you count the freeware indie scene (and I do). As far as mainstream titles, though, with the more or less death of the arcade, the brawler genre became absorbed into the action/adventure genre.
Problem there is that while a lot of games may have brawler elements, they don't specifically concentrate on them, so they don't really come off as brawlers...at all. Still, with XBLA/PSN being what it is and the indie scene really gaining a lot of attention, anything's possible. I would highly recommend checking out all 4 titles for this year when you get a chance.
Gaia Crusaders (Arcade)
Knights of Valour (Arcade)
Legend of Silkroad (Arcade)
LOOK WHO CAME: