Gradius III

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GIII logo.png

Gradius III
GIII title screen.png

Title screen

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Director: Hiroyasu Machiguchi
Music: J. Kaneda
S. Fukami
M. Higashino
K. Nakamura
M. Izumi
Program: T. Shimomura
Y. Itoh
M. Ozawa
Art: T. Miyoshi
M. Igarashi
R. Itoh
K. Hattori
Y. Asano
Release date: Arcade JP: December 11, 1989
Arcade AS: 1989
PS2: April 13, 2000 [1]
PSP: February 9, 2006 [2]
PS4: December 24, 2020 [3]
Switch: December 24, 2020 [3]
Previous game: Parodius
Next game: Trigon

Gradius III: Densetsu Kara Shinwa e (JP: グラディウスIII伝説から神話へ, "Gradius III: From Legend to Myth") is a horizontal scrolling shoot em' up developed and published by Konami in the year 1989. It is the sequel to Gradius II.

The game was ported to the Super Nintendo in the year 1991 as a launch title for the console, featuring several changes and tweaked difficulty. Eventually, a proper emulation of the Arcade version was released in the early 2000s via Gradius III and IV on PlayStation 2 and Gradius Collection on PlayStation Portable respectively.

Gameplay Overview


Gradius III is a 3 buttons game with 10 stages, after finishing all of them the player goes back to the beginning starting the second loop.

  • A button: Equips the slot highlighted in the Power Meter.
  • B button: Fires the player's main weapon.
  • C button: Fires the player's missiles.

Game Modes

In the Japanese version the player can choose between two different modes before starting.

GIII game modes.png

Beginner Course

As the name implies, this is a mode intended for players who are just starting out. Power Capsules are more frequent, enemy placement is toned down slightly (such as no giant bubbles in stage 2) and power loss upon dying is more forgiving. Losing a life takes away upgrades in a gradual way going from right to left in the Power Meter, that is:

  1. Lose Option.
  2. Lose Laser/Double.
  3. Lose Missile.
  4. Lose Speed Up.

Moreover, the slot placement isn't reset to Speed Up after dying, if the player died with the Option slot highlighted it'll stay like that. This of course makes pulling off checkpoint recoveries much easier compared to Technical Course.

Beginner Course ends after 3 stages, afterwards the player is encouraged to tackle the full experience.

Technical Course

10 stages and power loss after death is handled like the previous Gradius games, that is losing everything. This mode loops infinitely and is very usually the one used for competitive play.

Power Meter

GIII power meter.png

Following its prequels Gradius III reuses the Power Meter to handle the power up system. Collecting Power Capsules highlights one slot going from left to right. Grabbing a Power Capsule when the last slot is highlighted makes it go back to the Speed Up. However, new to Gradius III is a seventh slot in the Power Meter, presented as the ! slot. Dying with a Power Capsule not utilized will highlight the Speed Up slot regardless of where it originally was.

Each slot does the following:

Slot Effect
Speed Up
Increases the player's speed. Can be equipped up to 5 times.
Adds a ground-based projectile.
Adds a secondary shot giving more coverage. Equipping Double replaces Laser in case the player was using it.
Upgrades the main shot. Higher damaging than both the regular shot and Double. Equipping Laser replaces Double in case the player was using it.
Adds an orange orb that mimics the player's movement and weapons. Can be equipped up to 4 times.
Activates a shield that grants protection against bullets and enemies.
See below.


Preset configurations

Type A
GIII type a.png
Weapon loadout from the original Gradius.
  • Missile: Fired downwards and travels across the ground.
  • Normal Double: Secondary shot fired at a 45° angle.
  • Normal Laser: Thin beam that can pierce through enemies.
Type B
GIII type b.png
Spread Bomb+Ripple makes it the most popular setup for high level play or just clearing a single loop.
  • Spread Bomb: Explodes upon impact dealing heavy damage.
  • Tail Gun: Secondary shot fired backwards.
  • Ripple: Becomes wider as it travels across the screen, cannot pierce through enemies.
Type C
GIII type c.png
Good coverage but rather weak power.
  • 2-Way: Two missiles fired up and down, they can't travel through the ground.
  • Vertical: Secondary shot fired at a 90° angle.
  • C Laser: Functionally the same as the normal Laser, but with a slightly taller hitbox (this needs more research)
Type D
GIII type d.png
Probably the most versatile one, but can be difficult to use.
  • Photon Torpedo: Fired downwards and travels across the ground faster than the regular Missile, can pierce through enemies.
  • Free Way: Secondary shot that can be fired in up to 8 different directions depending on the player's last directional input.
  • Twin Laser: A set of two thin small lasers.


GIII force field.png

  • Grants protection from all sides against bullets, can withstand up to 6 hits.

GIII shield.png

  • Grants frontal protection against bullets, can withstand several hits.

GIII free shield.png

  • Shield pod that can be attached to any part of the ship, can be equipped multiple times.

The weapon assigned to the ! slot for all the preset weapon configurations is the Mega Crash. Using the Mega Crash clears the screen from bullets and small enemies, acting like the blue Power Capsule from previous Gradius games (which is mysteriously absent here).

Edit Mode

GIII edit mode.png

A new addition and possibly the most robust one. Edit Mode allows players to combine multiple different weapons in whatever way they feel like. Some weapons from the preset configurations aren't present in Edit Mode and vice-versa.

Missile slot

  • Control: Missile that flies horizontally and moves up and down based on the player's movement.
  • Upper Missile: The same as the regular Missile, but it's fired upwards.
  • S. Spread: The same as the Spread Bomb, but it's fired behind the ship and the explosion has a smaller radius.

Double slot

  • Spread Gun: 2-Way shot that becomes a 3-Way shot. Can be equipped up to 2 times.

Laser slot

  • E. Laser: Energy orb that can be charged by holding down the A button. While charging it'll deal constant damage but blocks visibility.

Option slot

  • S. Option: These move in the opposite direction the player is going, similar to the Free Way there's 8 possible directions. Snake Options are spread out a little more compared to the regular ones and stay in place once the player stopped moving, allowing for several different formations.

? slot

  • Reduce: Shrinks the Vic Viper's size but doesn't grant protection. Can be equipped up to 2 times.

! slot

  • Normal: Reverts back to the regular shot.
  • Speed Down: Reduces the player's speed.
  • Lives for Options: Trades lives to get multiple Options at the same time.


GIII power capsule.png Power Capsule
Appears upon defeating enemy formations and orange colored enemies. Advances the Power Meter by one slot.


Gradius III loops infinitely. Higher loops introduce suicide bullets from enemies after being destroyed, the increased difficulty affects some stage gimmicks such as the speed at which the bubbles from stage 2 travel is considerably faster, turning it into one of the scariest stages in the game. The loops also feature a few stage changes.

Stage 1

A complete layout overhaul, the sand dragons have considerably higher HP and spawn more often, several jumping enemies who fire nasty spreads can also be found throughout the whole stage.

Stage 3

Before the underground section begins all the volcanoes spew fireballs instead of just the first two. Furthermore, right before the little enemy rush at the end there is an extra hatch on the ceiling.


For a collection of video references see: Gradius III/Video Index

Development History

If available, you can include information here about the hardware, the development of the game, and its general reception. Try to have as much information in this section cited as possible.

Version Differences

Asian version

This version removes Beginner Course and Technical Course, however it actually plays like a combination of the two. With the easier first 3 stages and the gradual power loss, but with the entire game being playable.


This is the first release of the actual Arcade version for home consoles. It features several configuration settings and new content not seen before.


  • 1 Player: Starts the game in single player mode.
  • 2 Players: Starts the game in two players mode.
  • Hi-Score Try: Starts on Technical Course with default settings. When the run ends, the player is given their score along with a unique code that could be submitted to Konami's website. That is, unless the player scored exactly 0 points in which case no code is granted.
  • Option Mode: A variety of options that allow the player to change several aspects of the game.
    Default settings.
    • Game Level: Determines difficulty settings. The lowest difficulty setting is Easiest (1) while the highest is Very Hard (6). Unique to this version is that difficulties below Normal differ from the Arcade version, tweaking several sections to make them easier, such as the fireballs during stage 7 won't split to their smallest size after being shot and the "Cube Rush" section of stage 9 is much shorter. However, this comes at the cost of the game not looping by playing in these lower difficulties.
    • Extend: Determines extend thresholds.
    • Player: Determines the number of lives the player will start with.
    • Power Up: Power Meter behavior. Manual works the same as the Arcade version, the other option is Semi Auto that equips specific power ups in the Power Meter automatically, these being Speed Up->Missile->Laser->Option(x4)->?.
    • Wait Level: Determines how frequently the game will slow down while playing. 2 is the most prominent amount of slowdown, 1 is not as much and 0 is no slowdown. This can also be changed in the pause menu in-game.
    • Adjustment: Pressing the Square and Circle buttons move the screen horizontally while the X and Triangle buttons move it vertically.*
    • Key Config: Rebinds buttons.
    • Default: Reverts all options to their default settings.
    • Sound Test: In-game BGM.
    • Save/Load: Current playtime, autosave option and saving/loading a profile.
    • Exit: Self explanatory.

*This option is not present in the US version.




  • Cool facts and random tidbits go here!


See (Template Page)/Gallery for our collection of images and scans for the game.

References & Contributors

  • Page creation and primary info provided by Andrew98
  1. Gradius III and IV at MobyGames
  2. Gradius Collection at MobyGames
  3. 3.0 3.1 Gradius III at MobyGames