Gradius III (グラディウスIII～伝説から神話ヘ～, Guradiusu Surī Densetsu kara Shinwa e, lit. Gradius III: From Legend to Myth) is a scrolling shooter arcade game, developed and published by Konami in 1989 in arcades. An SNES/Super Famicom port was released the following year.
The player returns as the role of the pilot of the Vic Viper starfighter to battle the onslaughts of the Bacterion Empire.
The game is known by fans as being considerably more difficult than its predecessors, so much so that it prompted Konami to pull it from arcades rather quickly (the arcade version did not provide a way to continue the game upon losing all lives, and did not even include an operator-selectable "allow continue" option.) The Japanese version of the game contains a 'beginner mode' that allows the player to venture through the first three levels at a much easier difficulty. At the end of the third level, the game ends immediately and bids the player to try the game again at the normal difficulty. The Asian arcade release lacks the beginner mode and retrospective introduction sequence, but reduces the difficulty overall.
The biggest addition to the game is the introduction of the "Edit Mode", which is a logical progression on the weapons system from Gradius II. Not only can players choose between pre-defined weapon schemes, but they can mix and match missile, double, laser, shield and "special" ("!") power-ups into their own custom combination. However, some of the weapons available in pre-defined schemes can not be used in custom schemes, and vice versa. Many of the redundant weapon variations from the different schemes in Gradius II were removed, in favor of new variations.
Gradius III was released for the Super Famicom in December 1990 and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991 with reduced difficulty and additional armaments for the Vic Viper. It replicates the slowdown of its arcade counterpart and discards the pseudo-3D and Crystal levels. It also introduces a boss called the Beacon Core which awaits the player at the end of the new high-speed stage, which is a counterpart of the high-speed stage in Gradius II. Unlike any other version, the Super NES port is the only one that allow players to continue when they lost all their lives. The original difficulty from the arcade version can be unlocked by inputting a code on the options screen.
In addition, most stages from Gradius II will appear after the second level.
This port was also released for Virtual Console on April 23, 2007.