Top 100 SNES Review: #14 – Contra III: The Alien Wars (1992)

Friends Forever.

Nothing cements life-long relationships like repeated death in the face of an alien invasion. 
Contra III The Alien Wars Title Screen
Sydlexia’s Ranking: #14/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

Over the past year, I’ve played Contra III multiple times with different people. It’s inclusion on the SNES Classic has made it easy to get into a two-player bug tussle for the fate of humanity. The game is best with multi-player; I can’t imagine it being as fun if you decide to go at it alone.

That’s because this game can be brutal. What would otherwise be a frustrating solo endeavor leading to a probable temper-tantrum becomes a shared experienced: you are both in this ridiculous plight together, and with some judicious tactics and occasional reckless abandon, you can make this happen…

…as long as you get past stage three.

Contra III The Alien Wars Teamwork
Nothing says friendship like wearing a matching bandanna color of your friend’s outfit. 


Stage three is the turning point in Contra — it determines whether you have a chance of beating the game or not.

Running out of lives requires the use of a continue (which you only have a few) and makes you start the stage over from the beginning. Level three is a long trek, full of perils and pitfalls. It requires a wide range of skills: quick-thinking, aim, dexterity, agility, fearlessness, managing inventory, accurate jumps, problem-solving.

Let’s give it a go!

Mosquito attacks.

The level opens up normal enough: some jumping and shooting. Then comes the insect invasion.

As you try and cross a solitary monkey bar, the only way to cross an open gorge, oversized mosquitos begin to flood the screen. They can’t kill you in the traditional sense: they have to latch on and lift you up out of the screen. This begins a frantic barrage of ammo and grenades as you begin saving each other from being dropped 1000ft to your death.

Contra III Mosquito The Alien Wars
If we have the chance to obliterate the mosquito during our life time, we need to take it. 

Then comes the first boss.

Twirly Red Eye.

This thing gives you a run for your money. The monkey bar is safe, but the only way to destroy this thing is to latch on to its twirly poles and shoot its weak point as it spins you ’round. Randomly, it projects a spike and will ram your player into it for an instant death. Upon its death, it will begin to swirl out of control and you have to then make a jump for the monkey bars without begin caught in its centrifugal spaz out.


Death Stab With Long-Ass Legs.

As you leave the monkey bars to climb a long ladder, Mr. Red Eye comes back with a vengeance: it now has two very long legs and likes to fire missiles. As long as you stay in the center, you are safe, but going too far north or south leaves you exposed.

Then, the ladder detaches and you are trapped in a quadrilateral hell.


Mr. Red Eye will oscillate back and forth hovering over your body. Occasionally, he will pull back at the last second, just toying with you. Other times, he will project a spike and instantly kill you. This truly might be one of the most visceral moments in all of video game history.

A Long Trek Past Mary Poppins’ Helicopter. 

Your journey is just beginning.

Now it’s time to climb a long ladder and cross the roof of the compound. There, you will be greeted by a helicopter that releases endless ninjas and grenade mines. I’ve never seen a 10 x 5 ft space hold so much stuff.


You reach another industrial looking building and begin to ascend. This part isn’t so much dangerous as it is unfair.

As you go higher, the camera obviously comes a long with you. The problem is that if you fall down, EVEN IF THERE IS A LEDGE BELOW YOU, it is an instant death. What’s worse is the amount of friendly fire: since two people are climbing at the same time, it’s possible to jump when a friend is not ready and kill them by moving the camera.

While most games this would annoy the living hell out of me, it actually just makes sense for Contra. Everything should be out to get you, even the camera.

Twin Robots and A Scary Man. 

After finally reaching what has to be the ending room (though this game makes you doubt every thought you’ve ever had, including your existence), you battle two separate but eerily similar robots that loosen themselves from a bundle of cords.


Thankfully the room is lined with sticky paper, so you can jump around while hanging on to the sides or ceiling with only an outreached hand. These two are schizophrenics: they rarely settle down and constantly move around in the stage in opposite patterns leading to many deaths by contact.

Killing them decapitates them. The heads fly about in every which way with anxious alacrity. After disposing of them, you know you must be done: you’ve defeated Mr. Red Eye, a Mary Poppins’ Helicoptor, and Bert and Ernie. But wait, who is opening that door?

Contra III The Alien Wars Boss

Oh, yes, how could I forget!

The actual last boss of this level. Titled “Robo-Corpse” (is he sentient but dead but also alive?) he attacks you with a laser that follows you around the stage as he releases a flamethrower that goes in clockwise fashion followed by grenades.

Good luck.


Most fun I have ever had losing.

Other People’s Takes:

  • Double Jump: Aside from us laughing at our ridiculous mistakes and how quickly we’ve died, I probably won’t pick this game up again. On the SNES Classic, there are plenty of other games that I will turn on multiple times over this.”
  • SNES A Day: Contra III: The Alien Wars is the best Contra game. It’s very difficult, so don’t expect to blow through it in an afternoon, even with a friend.”
  • Wizard Dojo: Contra III: The Alien Wars remains a fun and exciting run-and-gun title, and provides a truly testing challenge, especially for two players.

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