The Retro Critic

Rambo III

Seeing as everyone’s favourite (read: most affordable) action heroes are back in the unsurprisingly not very good The Expendables 3, I thought we’d delve into one of the toughest retro games out there.

“Tough” as in big muscles tough, of course.

And no, I’m not talking about that wimpy NES Rambo game where you’re knifing chickens and punching owls in the ear or whatever.

Nope, not even Duke Caribbean: Life’s A Beach.

Make way for Rambo III.

There are actually quite a few Rambo III games around including versions on the arcade, the ZX Spectrum and the Amiga. For the time being, though, I’ll focus on the ones I know the best: the Master System version and the Genesis version.

The Master System port is in fact a Light Phaser-led rail shooter closer to the arcade version except nowhere near as awesome. This console version has a POV style whereas the arcade one had Rambo himself running around from left to right in the middle of the screen. That sounds a bit silly, and it was, but it made the game far more entertaining in that it distracted you somewhat from the fact that Rambo III on both versions is essentially one long panning shot.

Rambo III Enemy

The Master System’s aspirations of arcade greatness once again backfire here as what is admittedly not a bad game is a bit ruined because of its sluggish pace and its lack of energy altogether.

I mean, it’s Rambo!

It should be exciting and relentless, not akin to spinning around the desert very slowly where you’re standing while spitting out poppy seeds at people who are really far away.

The game is repetitive but, every so often, you’re required to save a hostage so there is an attempt at variety there, I suppose.

Rambo III Hostage

It’s altogether not too bad, it’s just…

A tad dull.

Now, here’s the thing about the Sega Genesis version.

It’s pretty cool.

This one goes for more of a Metal Gear-style top down view as Rambo goes around causing vast amounts of destruction and brutally killing vast amounts of (I’m hoping) bad guys.

And when I say vast amounts of destruction, I mean:

Rambo Blows Up

Vast. Amounts. Of. Destruction.

The man is a walking arsenal! Not only does he have his pockets stuffed with bombs but he’s got a knife, guns AND that sweet crossbow Mr Rambo uses so well. Oh, and rockets.

It’s a surprisingly violent game as Rambo seems to be shooting blood directly into his then-bleeding enemies:

Rambo Blood Shot

I guess kids can just imagine Rambo’s shooting tomatoes at people or is simply enjoying a good old fashioned game of paintball.

In Afghanistan.

Rambo Paintball

I do appreciate a Rambo game that doesn’t shy away from being brutal and that’s also why that fourth Rambo movie worked as well as it did, by the way. Random dudes getting crossbowed IN THE FACE, exploding babies, Stallone shooting down an entire army screaming the entire time, you name it: that movie made it happen and it more than earned its R rating.

This game isn’t quite as harsh as that, obviously, but Rambo does knife people in the stomach pretty often:

Rambo Knife


That’s gonna leave a mark.

A knife mark.

Each level is straight-forward enough: walk around, basically shoot and explode everything and everyone you see (except the odd prisoners), avoid the hundreds of projectiles coming your way and rock out to the bitchin’ soundtrack, if you can hear it over the loud 16-bit gun shots, that is. At the end of most levels is a mini boss you need to defeat arcade-style:

Rambo vs Copter

These segments bring in some welcome variety to the game and introduce you to Rambo’s favourite pastime: shooting down helicopters.

He does that a lot in this game.

Rambo Rocket Copters

A heck of a lot.

Rambo vs Copters

And he’s not too fond of tanks either.

The game follows the plot of the movie rather well and even provides some familiar faces:

Rutger Hurry


Is that… Rutger Hauer?!

Rutger Hauer

It is!

I mean, don’t get me wrong: I love Rutger Hauer, he’s a great actor but…

I don’t recall the guy being in any Rambo movie so this is one weird, kinda awesome cameo!

I wonder if Rutger knows his likeness is in a Rambo Sega Genesis game for no reason whatsoever and that he plays a secret agent rescued by the titular character himself.

Not Secret Agent

Yeah well you’re not Rutger Hauer either, he’s in the other room.

This Rambo III is a lot of fun to play, even if it is challenging. It’s the game Die Hard on the NES wanted to be and should have been, basically. But set in a big glass building and without John McClane stabbing random folk at every turn.

The game’s controls can be a bit tricky at times as you’re required to shoot in every direction but if you’ve survived through Ikari Warriors then you’ll be fine. The game also makes good use of its source material and never forgets what made the Rambo movies so enjoyable (yes, even the third one).

I do recommend you check out this particular version.

Rambo Headband

Ok, Rambo.

Here’s the deal: I need you to come back for one last job.

You’re the best we’ve got, John.

There’s an illegal Sega shipment arriving tonight. Hundreds of boxes carrying thousands of red Sega Saturns: very rare, flammable stuff.

I need you to take the bad guys out and bring the Saturns back, unharmed.

Sega Boxes Rambo III

Rambo, NO!

Don’t shoot the b…


Explosion Rambo III

Explosion Close Up


You’re fired.