You’d be forgiven for thinking that every game in SNK’s Metal Slug series was essentially the same. In a lot of ways they are. From the debut of the original in 1996 up to Metal Slug XX in 2009, the basic formula wasn’t messed with too much. This includes Metal Slug 3, but for a lot of fans, it’s still considered among the very best in the series, and there are a few good reasons for it.
Released in 2000 for the Neo Geo, Metal Slug 3 was the last game in the series to be released before SNK’s initial bankruptcy and subsequent rebirth as SNK Playmore. While the earlier games laid the basic groundwork, Meal Slug 3 goes all out to be the biggest, most epic game in the series. It’s certainly one of the longest MS games, with four moderately sized stages followed up by an enormous fifth stage that’s longer than the first four combined. There are also numerous branching paths and hidden areas, so replaying the game can always provide a slightly different experience. The number of “slugs” (aka vehicles and animals) you can ride has also been greatly increased, with some really crazy ones like an ostrich and an elephant. This was also the first Metal Slug game with underwater swimming sections.
The story is… well, who cares what the story is, it’s Metal Slug.
For me, this was the first Metal Slug game that I was really able to get into, and I played it a good bit in the arcade. It’s still a personal favorite of mine that’s never quite been topped, and it came out at a time before the formula had started wearing itself out. But even now, with its enormous variety and relentless energy, it holds up well against many of its own sequels. Perhaps the series might have done better to try to dramatically reinvent itself after MS3‘s penultimate statement, but instead it settled into a comfortable rut with only minor tweaks being made. That’s not to say the series hasn’t been experimented with with its various spin-offs, but those games amount to little more than curiosities.
Metal Slug 3 is available in many formats, including the original Neo Geo MVS and AES releases, as well as the PS2 and original Xbox. It’s also available as part of the Metal Slug Anthology for PS2, PSP and Wii, and is downloadable on the Wii Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade, Steam, and mobile devices.
Yes, you can say that all the Metal Slug games tend to blend together, and if you’ve played one, you’ve played them all. But if you do only play one Metal Slug, I highly recommend you make it Metal Slug 3.