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Gradius III [SNES]

Gradius III (SNES): Arcade Mode Survival (Hardest Difficulty)

Digitized space. Space immersion in the digital realm offers as many possibilities as the ever-expanding universe itself. In this setting, developers can twist classic video game mechanics into interstellar battlefields. Renown for its incredible Difficulty, Gradius III hurdles players through chaotic side-scrolling alien worlds.

The Objective: Destroy the Leaders of the Alien Planets. The player is the aggressor and, from the outset of each level, the player’s space ship begins in the furthest reaches of a planet’s exosphere to begin the alien annihilation.

The Challenge? Survive for as long as possible on Arcade Mode.

Is this a worthy Challenge? Let's find out.


Generally, lone-wolf arcade games consisting of hundreds of enemies are always Difficult. Take, for instance, the space classic Galaga that preceded Gradius III about 10 years prior. Mechanically, one difference between Galaga and Gradius III is the firing range of enemy projectiles. Similar to other games such as Space Invaders and Centipede, Galaga enemies fire down at players from the top of the screen whereas projectiles in Gradius III fly from all boundaries.

Tip: Utilize the entire screen while firing. Typically, the right-side of the screen is secure allowing the player to weave between the incoming waves of projectiles. Similar to Galaga, don't hide in the corner.

Naturally, more subtle differences between Galaga and Gradius III include the increased customizations and complexity of the laters gameplay. Specifically, the player may choose from a variety of different guns, missiles, lasers, shields and other additional options. As is His nature, Lord Rigor utilized the default weapon selections; all are sufficient so there is no reason to complicate the already complex alien world. Note that a courteous human recorded a comprehensive overview of all of the selections which may be viewed on "playMadn's" YouTube video. Additionally, and most prominently, Galaga rewards destruction through sheer numbers whereas Gradius III demands large-scale alien triumphs in the form of boss battles. Memory and quick reaction times prove to be the most valuable skill set whilst in the lair of an Alien Leader.

Arcade Mode

As known, Lord Rigor primarily seeks games that provide optional higher Difficulties. Gradius III includes the standard Easy, Medium and Hard Mode. However, living up to its legacy, there is a secret method to unlocking an even Harder tier known as Arcade Mode. Sent in binary from the edge of the Andromeda Galaxy, this coveted secret was delivered to Lord Rigor in order for Him to test his mettle against an even further enhanced alien horde. Specifically, when choosing the Difficulty in the Options menu, one must tap “A” repeatedly to unlock the new Challenge.

Compared to Hard Mode, Arcade Mode presents even faster gameplay and more enduring boss battles. Leave it to a 1990s arcade game to include a "Cheat Code" to make its Difficulty even more Difficult; Lord Rigor's Cheat Code of choice.

Lord Rigor comfortably expresses that He cannot complete all 8 levels on Arcade Mode. Emphasizing the classic video game mindset, these brutal campaigns cannot be Saved and Game Overs send players back to Level 1. Only our forebears and a small sub-sect of believers alive today can wield a candle to the deadly nature of Gradius III. See below for Lord Rigor’s attempt:

As witnessed, completing the first two Levels on Arcade Mode is attainable with relatively minimal Trial-and-Error. However, similar to not unlocking all of Iggy’s Reckin’ Ball’s characters on Hard Mode, Lord Rigor understands His limits and indeed is not perfect. To further emphasize the Difficult demands of Arcade Mode on Gradius III, Lord Rigor humbly divulges His profuse amount of deaths leading up to his final defeat at the second alien boss.

May the below video serve as an inspiration to empower endeavors:


As a product of the SNES generation, Gradius III does not include coins, par times or other vague mechanisms to motivate players to complete Difficult Challenges. As a matter of fact, this inherit simplicity sparks motivation all on its own. Players can approach these types of Challenges with minimal time commitment and achieve a fixed goal: Perform better than last time. In Gradius III, one can fire up the space ship, kill a few dozen aliens and die a honorable death all within the span of perhaps 5 minutes.

In short, there is no Collectability Challenge in Gradius III.


Is this a worthy Challenge? Yes.

How may a classically Hard video game be compared to other modern gaming Challenges? When video game developers introduce scaled Difficulties in their games, a fine-line must be walked. First and foremost, a player must enjoy the Difficult Journey. In Lord Rigor’s opinion, it is relatively safe to assume that no one can truly enjoy the nearly infinite amount of Trial-and-Error required to complete Gradius III on Arcade Mode. Alternatively, consider the systematic trials of Red Alert 2 on Hard Mode; the goal is achievable and the rewards are monumental.

Lord Rigor continually pursues and values the video games that can successfully Challenge players while also helping them achieve their full potential. Thus, the ultimate reason for Lord Rigor’s existence: finding Personal Gratification in Rigor.


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