Curiously, (since there is a 6 feet 7 inches cyborg as a playable character), this time Axel is the "powerhouse" of the game (excluding Shiva and Ash which are superpowered). He is not anymore the Technique Master of the game, but he still remains a very good technician. His curiously low speed and his classically poor jumping ability are his downsides. His semi-special remains the "Grand Upper", this time renamed to "Bare Knuckle" and a little toned down.
- Attributes: Ex-cop, Martial Arts Master; Special Attacks: Dragon Wing, Dragon Smash
- Height: 6 ft (182 cm); Weight 165 lb (75 kg)
- Power: 6/6; Technique: 5/6; Speed: 4/6; Jump: 2/6; Reach: 5/6;
Along with Axel, one of the only characters to appear in all Streets of Rage games. This time she is the best technical fighter and the weakest one after Skate and Roo. Her stats are very balanced making her the all-rounder of the game. Her semi-special remains the Vertical Slash.
- Attributes: Ex-cop, Judoka, Private Detective; Special Attacks: Embukyaku (Backflip), Kikousho (Fireball)
- Height: 5 ft 6 in (170 cm); Weight: Unknown
- Power: 4/6; Technique: 6/6; Speed: 4/6; Jump: 4/6; Reach: 4/6;
Eddie "Skate" Hunter
Named Sammy in Japanese version, he debuted in Streets of Rage 2. He is the second fastest character and the second best jumper (behind an animal though) but still the weakest of all. His semi-special is still the Dynamite Headbutt. Recommended only for experienced players.
- Attributes: Rollerblader, Adam's little brother; Special Attacks: Double Spin Kick, Rolling Punches
- Height: 4 ft 10 in (148 cm); Weight: 88lb (40 kg)
- Power: 2/6; Technique: 4/6; Speed: 5/6; Jump: 5/6; Reach: 2/6
Zan is a bizarre character, who logically should be the "powerhouse" of the basic characters instead of Axel. His reach is great, due to his cyborg hands, and could be compared only with Shiva's. His semi-special is a Dashing Charge, something like Max Thunder's special move Thunder Tackle, but of course less powerful. His animation is very strange; obviously the programmers wanted him to appear robotic in motion, but the overall effect is of sub-standard animation. However, his weapons usage is interesting, as weapons turn into a glowing ball of energy (which means he is equally competent with each weapon) that can be thrown.
- Attributes: Doctor, Ex-criminal, Blaze's friend; Special Attacks: Electric Body, Electric Reach
- Height: 6 ft 7 in (204 cm); Weight: 332lb (151 kg)
- Power: 5/6; Technique: 3/6; Speed: 3/6; Jump: 3/6; Reach: 6/6
There are three secret characters that can be unlocked and then selected when the player uses a continue. One of them is only easily accessible in the Japanese version, Bare Knuckle 3. All the secret characters are unable to pick up and use weapons. In order of appearance:
Ash (appears in Japanese release only) is a minion of Mr. X's organization. A very tall man, wearing tight green leather boots, black panties, a necklace depicting the female symbol, and a purple waistcoat, he strikes effeminate poses, such as covering his mouth while laughing girlishly with his knees bent inward. His attacks consist mainly of grabbing and throwing his opponents. When defeated, he cries. Being a (rather offensive) homosexual caricature, he was cut from the U.S./European Streets of Rage 3.
He appears as a sub-boss at the of Round 1-2, after piloting a speedboat to drop off enemies throughout the level (Shiva drives the boat U.S./European version, and as a sub-boss he is replaced by a donovan thug).
Ash can be made available as a playable character by holding the 'A' button as from soon as he is defeated until the next level. He can also be unlocked in the U.S. and European versions by using a Game Genie code. When played, Ash has the most powerful punches, defeating enemies easier than the other playable characters (even Shiva), He uses a different colour palette from as an enemy, and uses the same voice samples as Blaze.
An another one of the main bad guys, Shiva, is also unlockable. As soon as he is defeated in the Round 1, hold the 'B' button until Round 2 begins to unlock him. Even though he has a portrait in a cutscene it is not used when unlocked (on the character select screen and at the end of the stages). He combines voice samples from Axel with others of his own.
- Fighting Profile:His moveset as playable is incomplete compared to the one he has as an opponent. As a playable character (often unlocked), Shiva has the fastest punches and attacks of every character, also the longest reach. Unfortunately, his special move is powerful but due to its short reach it manages to strike the enemies rarely. His statistics are given approximately.
- Attributes: Mr X's bodyguard
- Special Attack: Final Crash
- Power: 6/6
- Technique: 5/6
- Speed: 4/6
- Jump: 5/6
- Reach: 6/6
Roo is known as Victy in Japan. The party encounters this kangaroo in the downtown Atlas district where Stage 2 takes place. Roo wears boxing gloves and blue pants. During the players' encounter with him in Stage 2, he is controlled by Bruce (known as Danch in Japan), a whip-wielding clown trainer. If the player manages to defeat Bruce before Roo, Roo will run off and is then unlocked. If the player reaches the end of Stage 2-1 with Roo, he will still have to fight Roo as a mini boss. Unlike Ash and Shiva, Roo has a profile picture.
- Fighting Profile:Roo is capable of different spinning attacks, and kicking while standing on his tail. He is somewhat more useful than Skate. Interestingly, he uses a lot of the same voice samples as Skate. His semi-special move resembles Zan's, but it's more impressive and effective.
- Height: 5ft 3in (161 cm)
- Weight: 167 lb (76 kg)
- Attributes: A fighting kangaroo
- Special Attacks: Backflip, Spinning Kick
- Power: 3/6
- Technique: 2/6
- Speed: 6/6
- Jump: 6/6
- Reach: 3/6