Contra III: The Alien Wars review - Super Nintendo

Read Original Review PDF for Contra III: The Alien Wars

Contra III: The Alien Wars box artEarth is in trouble! An alien space craft of vast proportions has somehow managed to completely deactivate the Earth Defence Net and launch a massive attack on the major population centres of the world. Unable to retaliate, the leaders of each nation watch as the aliens build their own command centres and begin to take over the world!

Meeting at an underground location, the leaders decide that only a small, one or two-man task force could successfully breach the aliens' defences and in a blaze of photon annihilation, send them back from whence they came.

You (and your chum in two-player mode) are charged with the task of tackling the enemy forces. This occurs over a series of overhead and side-on shoot 'em up scenarios, collecting new weapons, driving armoured transports, and blowing up anything vaguely alien-looking. But during their short-lived occupation of the Earth, the aliens haven't been idle. Using their strange and extraordinary skills, they've managed to deposit a lethal alien at the end of each level. They've been trained to absorb many hits before their eventual demise, and even their looks have been distorted to make ordinary humans cringe in fear and soil their trousers with primal terror.

Against such phenomenal odds, do you still reckon yourself hard enough to get the job done? Or will the only job done be the one in your undies?

What the Mean Machines staff thought


" Anyone who doubts the abilities of the Super NES should take a look at this - it's unbelievable! The graphics, sounds, special effects and varied, highly addictive gameplay and all absolutely outstanding anbd make for one of the greatest shoot 'em ups yet seen. In fact it's so good it puts most of the coin-ops I've played recently to shame! The sideways scrolling bits are all action-packed with tons going on, and the overhead sections are like a mega version of Crackdown. The game is very, very challenging, especially when you play it on your own, and the final guardian is nigh on impossible to dispatch until you learn his special attack patterns. Contra Spirits is a superlative game and Super NES owners shouldn't miss it under any circumstances. "

" Wow! Contra Spirits grabs you immediately with its ultra-violent gameplay. Literally thousands of enemy sprites bite the dust before the game is complete, and that's just in EASY mode! The graphics are spectacular. Konami have incorporated every Super NES graphics trick in the book, and added plenty of new ones too! I defy you not to be impressed by the overhead rotational levels - they're just jaw-droppingly amazing. The sound is awesome too, with atmospheric scores that almost rival Actraiser in their brilliance. It's a shame that the effects are just so loud, as they tend to drown out the music. Other than that, you just can't fault Contra Spirits. Basically, what we have here is ultra-addictive, arcade quality blasting action - with simultaneous two-player action thrown into the bargain! Once again, Konami have produced a product that simply MUST be purchased! "


Overall Score95%

Retrospective comments


Konami really went all out with this the third instalment to the Contra series (or Probotector to gamers in the PAL regions). The development team at the time must have relished the challenge of developing on the Super Nintendo as this is one of the more impressive games on the system. Everything is so much bigger and brasher than the 8-bit NES games. Gone are the jungle themed landscapes in favour of a post-apocalyptic fallen city overrun by alien invaders.

You and a friend can take on these evil alien hoards as Rambo style mercenaries (or blue and pink robots in the Probotector variant of the game!). Most of the action takes the form of a standard run n’ gun platform style however there are two top-down sections in the game all with liberal helpings of the Super Nintendo’s famous Mode 7 technique to provide some nice scaling and rotating effects.

The action is always fast and furious. The game really plays like a 80s big budget Hollywood film with huge setpieces happening almost constantly. You’ll take on terminator style robots (and their Dad!), rush through a collapsing city with earthquakes and fire rising from the ground and take on a giant enemy vehicle in style on a motorbike.

The controls in Contra III are perfection. The players are very manoeuvrable and can hang on to railings, grapple up walls, dual wield weapons and somersault through the air to avoid oncoming attacks.

The visuals work really well in this game. The detail in the backdrops is outstanding for a game of this era, the sprites still look good today and the special effects still impress. The musical score is amazing too, it becomes instantly very memorable and the tension really builds up during boss fights.

Some newcomers to this game may be intimidated by the difficulty level. The action is fast and frantic and your reactions will be really put to the test. Don’t be ashamed to set the player count to 7 and put the settings to easy if you are finding the going too tough. You will never die because the game is sluggish like some similar games, it is always because you just didn’t react fast enough.

This really is a great game and deserves to be played by any SNES gamer. It is lots of fun playing solo but it shines even more brightly when playing two player co-op. Highly recommended.

Tris Wicks - 05 Nov 2008, 06:38 GMT

They say graphics don't make a great game, but i'm inclined to disagree now I've bought the crappy robots-instead-of-austrian-style-chunkheads on the Wii VC. Damn i used to love this game.

Richy Girth - 03 Dec 2008, 16:33 GMT

Ahhhh the Probotector version.
Thats the version I had at first. I do sympathize.
I preferred the Contra version graphics featured in the review too.

My love of this genius, genius game knows no bounds.

When I die, I want my digitised ashes to be featured in this game as a sprite to be atomised by flame unit or something. This is the Citizen Kane of shooters in all of SNES history. A Grand opus of destruction that starts at medium chaotic pace then gathers pace over the next couple of levels to an unremitting yet perfect feeling curve of challenge as you blast your way through to tunes that could have come nine months later after the salacious rendevous of the Terminator 2 soundtrack and the score from Revenge of shinobi as it would be played by Faith No More.

The graphics while a little cartoony in a few places are visual poetry in motion with massive intricately drawn sprites whizzing around at lunatic speeds that you could easily be amazed at coming from a SNES, the level designs are memorable and navigating your way through involves many sets of gaming skills. (one part involving jumping from moving missiles feels a bit like like frogger!)

A classic I'll play 'til I kick the bucket.
(Not so much the Probotector version though)

Edd Haddon - 23 Feb 2009, 13:13 GMT

I totally agree with Richy Girth (cool name by the way). One of the best shooters ever. I had the Probotector version too. Wicked in every way. Looks, sounds and plays great and is hard as nails. Took me and a friend AGES to complete it on hard. I have played it countless times and even now still love it to death. Konami made some top games and I think this could be their best.

Faith No More - epic band!

Dan - 19 Mar 2009, 14:32 GMT

Yup, the Probotector version was just that little bit more pants n I was lucky enough to own the original Contra 3, but either way it's still one of the best games of all time. The overhead levels were but a diversion, the real meat was those sexy sids-on blasts - enemies jumping out of windows and turrets popping up from the ground, destroying a blockade, riding a tank, avoiding a napalm blast from an visually AMAIZING swooping airplane, and taking out a 30ft monster who bursts out the wall at you.......and that's just the 1st level!! Sheer genuis in terms of enemies and level design, and in terms of overall game, with the hard mode adding those extra little bits for fun. Absolute classic and no mistake.

Stayrsaigh - 21 Mar 2009, 23:33 GMT

I read the review of this and just couldn't wait to get it, and the WOW factor when I started playing was just off the scale! It's just relentless action from start to finish! I loved the original Probotector but this was just far and beyond that! The graphics really grabbed me by the balls and the manic orchestral music really fitted the action (And showed off the SNES's sound capabilities!) The Mode 7 bits really were the icing on the cake of this fantastic blaster and I still play the game to this day (And somehow it still seems to me like a brand new game, all shiny and flash!) Excellent!

Matt Taylor - 04 Aug 2009, 00:50 GMT

Now I'm at an age where my friends and I can afford to own every new console and new release, those heated rivalries over who owned the best machine are sadly a thing of the past. But I'll never forget taking my brand new SNES over to a Megadrive owning friend's house and watching his jaw drop an inch lower with each new level of Konami's seminal run and gun shooter. Its no wonder at that time that Konami was staffed by the people who would make up the development team of Treasure, but in my opinion Gunstar Heroes, while often revered, doesn't come close to the sheer majesty of Contra Spirits.

Jaz's Sheep - 02 Jun 2010, 14:20 GMT

Gunstar Heroes couldn't hold a candle to this - it blitzed it into next bumcake!

Ritchie - 04 Jun 2010, 01:07 GMT

Pretty good game for the time, really impressive with some nice set pieces, the top down stages really sucked though.

Contra: Hard Corps on Mega Drive completely blew it away though.

Billy Bullshot - 08 Sep 2010, 21:50 GMT

Indeed, I have never played Contra 3 but I have owned Hard Corps since I was little and it is one of those rare, rare games that is even better to play now than it was back then. Judging from YouTube videos of Contra 3, it appears to be a lot less impressive than Hard Corps. Some of the bosses in the Genesis game simply defied description - I have NEVER seen ANY game on ANY format that rivalled Hard Corps in this regard. Disregarding the poor sound quality, the music is exceptional and the gameplay superb. One of my all-time favourite Genesis titles. And I owned the Probotector version which is harder than Contra (and therefore better, even despite the lack of story scenes) seeing as you have one less credit.

the retro king - 17 Sep 2011, 15:07 GMT

Me and a friend (BEEFY) that was his name would spend hours on this game do you no what i dont think we ever completed it.Yet another SNES classic and by the way mean machines you kicked ass back in the day.I remember i used to buy cvg (ok mag) total magazine (there screen shots were rubbish) and you and you were the best.happy days

Andrew Laggan - 05 Jul 2013, 17:19 GMT

I spotted the US version of this bad boy in the window of a second hand shop in Newcastle only months after it's release - obsucre but true. Needless to say it was one of the best £25 quids I've ever spent. Brilliant one player, just as good 2 player. Top graphics, stunning sound track and no slowdown. Konami at the height of it's magic during the 16-bit era!

Mean Machines Issue 19 - April 1992
Shoot 'Em Up Super Nintendo
Buy today!

Mega Game

Contra III: The Alien Wars

Contra III: The Alien Wars

Contra III: The Alien Wars

Contra III: The Alien Wars

The Mean Machines Archive Sega Megadrive Reviews Super Nintendo Reviews Nintendo Entertainment System Reviews Sega Master System Reviews Amstrad GX4000 Reviews Nintendo Gameboy Reviews