Rambo III (Genesis, 1989)



80s Stallone is best Stallone.



As long as Sly remains Godzilla-sized, that army should be no problem.


PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating


GENRE: Action/shooter

RELEASE DATE: 10/21/89 – (JP), 12/89 – (US), 09/90 – (EU)


No, you’re not crazy. And neither am I! There are two Rambo III games on Sega consoles. I already reviewed the Master System version, otherwise known as one of the toughest 8-bit light gun games of all time. The army you fight in the game is an elite one, full of trained, brutal warriors who can shoot from the shadows with insane precision. If you aren’t able to fire back in kind, you won’t get past the first couple stages.


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Look at all that war.


Rambo III for the Mega Drive is a different beast, thank Stallone. You guide Rambo through a series of top-down environments in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. As in the movie and Master System version, you’re tasked with rescuing Rambo’s old war buddy, Colonel Trautman, from the Russians. Rambo is fully loaded: a machine gun with infinite bullets and three secondary weapons, including a knife for up close and dirty shanking, timed bombs for clearing out the clutter, and explosive arrows that will definitely leave a mark. The machine gun works beautifully as an assault spray; you’ll rarely need the knife or explosive arrows. Timed bombs, however, are essential when you’re surrounded by Russian thugs or need to take out a large helicopter or two.


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“Then what good are ya?”


While Rambo III is for all intents and purposes a six-stage shooting spree, each stage does provide different objectives. In Mission 2, you’re tasked with rescuing a secret agent amidst a series of non-linear corridors. Other false flag agents are scattered around the same complex and will inform you if they’re the person you’re looking for or not (shoot ’em if they’re not – one more casualty won’t hurt). Once you rescue the correct agent, you’ll have 120 seconds to vacate the area before it explodes. In Mission 4, you take out large crates and containers filled with enemy weaponry. You’re given a hit ratio that informs you how much you’ve destroyed. Once the hit ratio reaches 100%, book it for the exit. Missions 1, 3, 5 and 6 all end with a battle, of sorts, with a helicopter, tank, or both. Here, the camera shifts behind Rambo’s sculpted body. In order to hit the target, you charge explosive arrows. You’re given a bit of cover to avoid enemy fire, but stay behind the cover and you won’t be able to shoot at the target, despite what your crosshair position might imply.


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This screenshot is oozing with testosterone.


Thanks to the varied objectives, I was never bored barreling my way through Rambo III. The stage design, however, is banal. All of the levels are set up like sprawling office plazas, full of white unfeeling concrete, beige floors, and a needless abundance of windows. Outside of the boss battles which all seem to take place in the mountains, there is no sign of a desert, a forest, a city – anything that would imply that you’re in Afghanistan or a world with more than three colors.


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I believe it was Voltaire who said “Hit ratio waits for no man.”


While the six stages are a bit on the short side, the raucous difficulty (which can be raised or lowered in the options menu) will keep you fighting for Trautman ’til the wee morning hours. Steady streams of soldiers shoot tiny black pellets at you that are difficult to see. The soldiers fire so quickly, they can easily get a handful of shots off before they’re killed. I boosted my lives to 5 from the standard 3, and I still used a handful of continues along the way.


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Until the next battle, anyway.


Uninspired stage design aside, Rambo III‘s action is enthralling. Rambo’s eight way movement and ability to continuously shoot a la Contra makes you feel every bit as badass as Stallone’s fictional war hero. War is not something one should desire or admire, but taking on an entire army by yourself is so cathartic when executed properly. Rambo III wins this war.



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This game is OK. I mean it does some neat stuff. Yet still feels rather generic. That’s the best I can describe it. Those first person graphics at the time blew me away. Now not so much. Sega does a lot of digital stills and stuff early on.


I remember playing this in a department store once.