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Contra Wiki
For other uses, see Alien Wars (disambiguation).

The Alien Wars begin!
~ Opening introduction

Contra III: The Alien Wars, released in Japan as Contra Spirits (魂斗羅スピリッツ Kontora Supirittsu?) and in PAL regions as Super Probotector: Alien Rebels, is a run-and-gun video game originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System developed and published by Konami in 1992. It is the third home console iteration of the Contra series, following the original Contra (1987) and Super C (1988) for the NES.

The game was later ported to the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance handheld systems, and on the Nintendo Super System, the Wii Virtual Console, and re-released by Nintendo in the United States in September 2017 as part of the company's Super NES Classic Edition.


Set in the futuristic year of 2636 A.D., the alien invaders that were defeated during the previous installments have decided to launch a full-scale war against mankind on Earth, starting the "Alien Wars". Unlike the previous Contra games for the NES and Game Boy, the futuristic setting was kept for the American version. However, the identities of Bill Rizer and Lance Bean", the original Contra heroes, were changed to their "descendants", Jimbo and Sully, maintaining the continuity of the previous localizations. Likewise, the alien invader was once again changed to "Red Falcon".


Taking advantage of the technology provided by the Super NES, the graphics in Contra III improved upon the NES versions of the first two installments, bringing it closer to the quality of their arcade counterparts. The level design is more complex and provides more opportunity for interaction. For instance, players can grab onto poles or ceilings and navigate them in a monkey bar fashion, climb walls and ladders, destroy buildings and scenery, and commandeer tanks.

New styles of levels in The Alien Wars involve motorcycle chases, riding on missiles, and two Mode 7 enabled top-view levels. Players can carry and switch between two weapons at any time (including while the game is paused), only losing the weapon they are currently using if they die. They can also fire these two weapons simultaneously in a spin-jump circular fire pattern that hit enemies on all sides; however, being hit while doing so results in the player losing both of their weapons. The player can also lock their character's mobility, allowing them to shoot at all eight possible directions (including downward and at angles) without moving or jumping.

There are three levels of difficulty in the game: Easy, Normal and Hard. Each increase in difficulty setting also alters several aspects of the game. For example, enemy bosses, when fought on harder difficulties, will have new attacks or modifications to their already-existing attacks patterns. Also, some situations in the game, such as flying in the air on missiles, become more difficult, as the missiles will travel much faster on higher difficulties. In addition, some objects and boss weak points that were destructible on easier difficulty levels will become practically indestructible on Normal or Hard mode.

If the player completes the game on Easy or Normal, then they will start at the very first stage on the next difficulty with their current weapon configuration, lives and score intact, with Continues resetting to their default number. On the Hard setting, the final boss will have an additional form the player must defeat as they escape from the alien lair. After defeating this form, the true ending will be shown, followed by the credits and then the player's final score.

Like previous installments, when a two-player game is selected and a player loses all of their lives, that player can rejoin in on the battlefield by pressing the FIRE button if the surviving player has an available extra stock to spare (which removes it upon use, cannot be used on their final stock). A defeated player can retain their second special weapon (if any) so long as the remaining player is still in the game, and rejoining the game via a borrowed extra stock allows the returning player to use it upon reentering the battlefield. Points are awarded for eliminating various enemies and shooting down Power-up Capsules, plus a 10,000 bonus is awarded for clearing each stage except the final stage . The amount of points needed to earn an extra stock varies by difficulty, and using a continue will reset the players' score(s) to 0, noting any High Score achieved (top score is not saved and is erased back to default once the console/current game is shut down).

Top-view stages[]

There are two top-view stages in the game: Stage 2 (the Collapsed Highway) and Stage 5 (the Steep Cliffs). The controls in the top-view stages differ from those in Super Contra and Operation C. The player's character always faces the same direction when moved with the control pad and must be rotated with the shoulder buttons (L and R). Instead of jumping, the B button allows a player to adopt a prone position (concealing in the Super Probotector instruction booklet) that avoids small enemy fire for as long as the button is held. When using weapons, each weapon will be assigned to an arm: using the left weapon will have the player fire from the left gun while the right weapon selected will use the gun from the right arm. This detail changes firing angle depending on where the player is at and can sometimes be used as an effective strategy if utilized properly. Weapons in top-down may differ slightly from side-view. The stage perspective differs depending on which game mode is played. When these stages are played in 1 Player mode, the character always faces up and the area rotates around him. In 2 Players A mode, these stages use a horizontal split-screen format, with Player 1's half of the screen on the top and Player 2's half on the bottom. Both characters face right in this mode and each player's screen behaves similarly to a one player game mode's screen. In 2 Players B mode, both players share the same screen, and their characters rotate while the perspective remains fixed. A player is unable to move far into the stage without the other player nearby. In this perspective, the animation for when a player falls into a bottomless pit is not present and they will simply vanish and respawn (the latter if extra lives are available).

The objective in these stages is also different from the standard side-view stages. Rather than moving into a linear path toward the end of the stage to face a boss, the player must first destroy a series of targets situated at fixed locations. The player may select their landing point at the start of the stage from between 16 different locations spread out across the battlefield, while onscreen arrows help them lead their character to the nearest target (a map can also be used that pinpoints the player's current location while showing the remaining targets). In 2 Players A mode, each player can choose their own starting zone. In 2 Players B, the starting zone cursors are locked together in place, and both are moved simultaneously on either controller, meaning both players must select the same landing point. After all targets are destroyed, the player is transported to a new area to face the boss.

Some of the franchise's earlier weaponry returns (Rifle, Spread Gun, Laser Gun), but a number of new weapons also make their first appearances:

  • Homing Gun: Fires out several orange, fast-moving missiles that home in any targets in their vicinity. Damage output is rather weak.
  • Crush Gun: Fires out blue missiles that explode on contact, or after they travel a certain distance. The explosions cause successive damage to any target they hit.
  • Fire Gun: A large gout of flame projects from the gun's tip, causing major damage to anyone it cooks. The flame's distance is limited, however.
  • M-80,000 Helio Bomb: A portable helio bomb that, when activated, severely damages or vaporizes any enemy in its explosion's radius. The player starts with one in their arsenal and can get more from Weapon Wings or enemy drops (in top-down stages), but if the player loses an extra life, the bomb counter resets back to one.


Stage Name Minibosses Boss Music
1 Occupied City Street Middle Fortress
Magnus Mk. 2
Slave Beast Taka It's Time for Revenge
2 Destroyed Highway Dome Defender Bosco Spider Megalopolis
3 Factory Zone Tri-Transforming Wall Walker
Garth Base
Brother Robots Kenny 1 & 2
Big Fuzz Battle Runner
4 Air Battle High Speed Tank Booby
Sensor Arm
Fierce Cannon
Rocket Ninja Sasaki
Anti-Contra Sergeant Dodriguez Daredevil
5 Sheer Cliff Oggie Generator Anthell Hell Messenger
6 Alien's Main Base Demon Dragon God Java
Gomeramos King
Shadow Beast Kimkoh
Metal Alien
Emperor Demon Gava
Living Brain Organism Searle
Six Men Feromedos
Go Forward Under Fire
The Showdown


The game's tentative title in North America was "Super Contra IV". This was presumably because Contra Force, an unrelated NES game by Konami, was originally intended to be the series' third console installment.

The packaging artwork for the North American version was created by Tom duBois, who also designed the packaging for many other Konami titles outside Japan.

Regional differences[]

  • The Japanese version features unlimited Continues, regardless of the Difficulty setting, whereas the number of times the player can continue in the overseas versions varies between Difficulty settings.
    • The PAL version, Super Probotector: Alien Rebels, is identical to the American release in terms of difficulty.
  • The Japanese version, Contra Spirits, features three unique cheat input button commands to access a Sound Check Mode, Level Select, and 30 Lives per gameplay. Although these were removed in international releases, they can still be accessed utilizing hacking codes.
  • The European version had many changes, such as the main heroes being replaced with robotic soldiers codenamed RD008 and RC011. Interestingly, one of the ending photos, where an alien brain is seen, does not contain the protagonists, while normally in the photograph Bill Rizer and Lance Bean would appear in front of the brain guns ready. The Final Score screen also replaces the unique image of Bill and Lance in uniform with a close-up of RD008 that is used during the game's intro.
  • During the ending in the Japanese version, the photographs display a small date on the bottom right corner (A.D. 2636) signifying the proper timeline placement for the series. Due to the timeline changes in the North American release of the Contra series and the changes made in the European counterpart, these dates were removed from the photos.[1]
  • In the Japanese version of the game, the (translated) intro message reads: "Now, Contra's greatest battle begins." Also, the title logo uses a more fade-in approach.[2]
  • The Japanese text for when Bill and Lance are speaking in the intro has colored outlines (red for Bill and blue for Lance). Also, their text is more expressive. In the North American version, the text is more simplified and Lance has a simple green coloration on his text. The European version does not use a colored text.[2]
  • In Japan, the font of the "CHOOSE YOUR STARTING POINT" text in the top-down stages uses a metallic color with a red outline. Other versions use a simple yellow coloration.
  • During the credits, the text "Very thanks" from the Japanese version was changed to "Many thanks" in the export versions.[2]

Other releases[]

Contra III was one of a few select titles for the Nintendo Super System, an arcade system which was used to preview Super NES games in North America. Players insert credits to buy time which allows them to pick and choose from a list of available games to play. The game is identical to the Super NES version.

Game Boy[]

Main article: Contra: The Alien Wars

In 1994, a Game Boy port was released simply titled Contra: The Alien Wars in North America (dropping the numeral from the game's title), as Contra Spirits in Japan, and as Probotector 2 in Europe and Australia (following up on the Probotector localization of Operation C). The port was developed by Factor 5. In this version, the level structure had been altered, many of the enemy bosses were removed, and Stage 4 of the original game (the Air Battle level) was removed. A strafing ability was included to compensate for the absence of rotation in both top-view stages, and a password feature was added. The player no longer has the ability to hold two weapons, but can still carry and use Helio Bombs with the SELECT button. All the weapons from the original Super NES game are featured except for the Laser Gun. The game features Super Game Boy support, which provides a custom color scheme and enhanced sound effects. This version consists of four difficulty levels, Easy, Normal, Hard, and Maniac, with Easy mode cutting the game's length at the third stage.

Game Boy Advance[]

Main article: Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX

Konami released a second portable version of Contra III in 2002 for the Game Boy Advance titled Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX, which was released in Japan as Contra: Hard Spirits (魂斗羅 ハードスピリッツ?). Unlike the original Super NES game and the previous Game Boy adaptation, Contra Advance was released in Europe and Australia under the "Contra" name without the "Probotector" title and robotic characters. The designers made changes to many of the features of the original game due to the Game Boy Advance's lack of X and Y buttons. The Helio Bombs and the ability to wield two weapons were removed, but the player can now lock their character's aim like in Contra: Shattered Soldier (allowing the player to move anywhere while shooting at one direction) and is given a choice to revert to their previously held weapon when picking a new one. The top-view stages (Stage 2 and 5) from the original Super NES game were replaced with two stages from Contra: Hard Corps (the Military Train and Big Battle stages). This version only has two difficulty levels, Normal and Novice, with Novice mode cutting the game's length at the end of the fourth stage.

Virtual Console[]

The original Super NES game was also released as part of the Virtual Console lineup on January 2007 for the Wii in all three territories (Japan, North America, and the PAL region) and on late November 2013 for the Wii U in Japan and North America. The American version of the game was released on the European Wii U eShop on January 9, 2014. It was also released on the 3DS Virtual Console, exclusively to New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL owners, along with other SNES games.

Super NES Classic[]

Nintendo re-released Contra III: The Alien Wars worldwide in September 2017 as part of the company's Super NES Classic Edition. In Japan, the version included is the Japanese version of the game, while in North America and Europe, the version included is the North American version of the game.


The Game Boy version received very positive reviews from Electronic Gaming Monthly and GamePro, both of which expressed surprise at how accurately it recreated the Super NES version, particularly special effects like the scaling plane in the first level. Two of EGM's reviewers commented they felt the game's only weakness was the awkward control configuration when playing it on the Super Game Boy.

Reviewing the Virtual Console release of the Super NES version, IGN criticized the game's short length, but praised innovations to the series such as the spinning playfield in levels 2 and 5, and remarked that "Contra III is arguably the best installment in the Contra series, as it polished the gameplay of the earlier titles and kicked up the action energy even higher than before."



Packaging artwork[]


Promotional artwork[]




  • In the English localization of Contra III, the ruined city of the first stage is identified as "The Streets of Neo City" (originally the city was nameless in the Japanese version); Neo City being where the events of Contra Force take place, making it one of the only links this game has with the rest of the Contra series, possibly being the same city just in a different time period (over six hundred years earlier).
  • In the Japanese version of the game, the credits will always roll regardless of the difficulty setting.
  • The game's attract mode features three different demonstrations. In order, the demos feature both Jimbo and Sully trekking through the flames of Neo City, blasting their way through the Destroyed Highway, and racing through the highway section of the Air Battle level.
  • The English Instruction booklet mentions that in top-down stages, pressing the B button activates a magnetic force field that would either absorb or deflect enemy bullets. In-game, pressing and holding the B button allows a player to go prone, which avoids small enemy fire. The method of which a player avoids enemy fire may have been changed during game development, or this could simply be a mistranslation.[4]
  • Contra III 99 Lives Option

    The unused 99 Lives option.

    If a Game Genie code is used to access the 30 lives option, there will be an additional option to add 99 lives in the Options menu. Early pre-release screenshots show this option available, hinting it was scrapped before the game's release. When used, the player(s)'s life counter will appear glitched as lives are lost. If an extra life is gained, the counter will revert back to a number before 30. It is also possible the 99 lives option was removed due to glitches it may contain.
  • If the level select cheat is used, the game automatically selects a two-player game. If the level select is used to warp to either of the top-down stages, the two players are set in a glitched variant of 2 Players B mode. Once the stage starts this way, the HUD appears positioned higher than usual and cropped by the screen, and the camera stays locked on Player 2's movement until he is eliminated. Player 1 is able to travel offscreen in this mode. If entering Stage 5 via the level select cheat and a player steps on a spinning sand trap, additional graphical issues will occur (such as falling into a pit where ground is visible or the screen shifts slowly and suddenly for unexpected reasons). If taken to the Continue screen and the player selects the option to continue, an option not visibly present will be "highlighted", which will force the game to enter the above setting if Start is pressed. All of the graphical stage issues are fixed by using a continue to reload the stage in a normal game mode, while moving the cursor up or down while on the highlighted debug/glitched option will return the highlighter to a normal game mode selection.

Ports, remakes and compilations[]

Related products[]


  1. Hard Mode Message | Contra III: The Alien Wars at The Cutting Room Floor.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Regional Differences | Contra III: The Alien Wars at The Cutting Room Floor.
  3. Restored by Jefferson Taylor. @JTaylorPro at Twitter (April 17, 2023).
  4. Contra III: The Alien Wars instruction booklet, page 8: "Press to activate the magnetic force field. Enemies can still do damage, but their bullets can't touch you."

External links[]

Contra III: The Alien Wars
Bill RizerLance BeanJimboSullyRD008RC011
Red Falcon
Slave Beast TakaBosco SpiderBig FuzzAnti-Contra Battleship DodriguezAnthellEmperor Demon GavaLiving Brain Organism SearleSix Men Feromedos
Middle FortressMagnus Mk.2Dome DefenderTri-Transforming Wall WalkerGarth BaseBrother Robots Kenny 1 & 2High Speed Tank BoobyTetranduckerSensor ArmFierce CannonRocket Ninja SasakiOggie GeneratorJavaGomeramos KingKimkohMetal Alien
Occupied City StreetDestroyed HighwayFactory ZoneAir BattleSheer CliffAlien's Main Base
Contra III: The Alien Wars Original Video Game Soundtrack