Thunder Force III

From Sega Retro


  • NTSC-J

ThunderForceIII MD US TitleScreen.png

ThunderForceIII MDTitleScreen.png

Thunder Force III
System(s): Sega Mega Drive
Publisher: Technosoft
Distributor: HOT-B (US)
Sound driver: T.S v1.21 (Technosoft)
Genre: Shooting[1][2][3]

Number of players: 1
Release Date RRP Code
Sega Mega Drive
¥6,800 (7,004)6,800e[4] T-18033
Sega Mega Drive
$56.9556.95[7] 18036
Sega Mega Drive
Sega Mega Drive
Sega Mega Drive
Sega Mega Drive
Sega Mega Drive

Thunder Force III (サンダーフォースIII) is a 1990 shoot-'em-up developed by Technosoft for the Sega Mega Drive. It is the third game in the Thunder Force series and the first to debut on a Sega console. It was brought to the arcades as Thunder Force AC.


The story takes place immediately after the events of Thunder Force II. Despite their successes, the Galaxy Federation has not been faring well in their battle against the ORN Empire. ORN has installed cloaking devices on five major planets in their space territory that conceal their main base, making it difficult for the Galaxy Federation to locate and attack their headquarters. Also, ORN has built a remote defense system to protect itself named Cerberus, which is especially efficient at neutralizing large ships and fleets. Knowing this, the Galaxy Federation creates the FIRE LEO-03 Styx (also transliterated as Stukks): a craft small enough to avoid detection by Cerberus, yet equipped with the firepower of a large starfighter. The Galaxy Federation deploys the Styx on a mission to destroy the five cloaking devices, infiltrate the Empire's headquarters, and destroy the ORN Emperor, the bio-computer "CHA OS."


Thunder Force III, Stage Select.png

Stage select

Thunder Force III is a side-scrolling shooter. The the free-directional, overhead stage format from the first two games in the series is removed and replaced entirely by the horizontally scrolling stage format for this game and all subsequent entries. The player chooses which of the initial five planets (Hydra, Gorgon, Seiren, Haides, and Ellis) to start on. After the first five stages are completed, the game continues for three more stages into ORN headquarters.

The Styx is moved in any direction using the D-pad. The player can cycle through four speeds with A. The Styx shoots with B, which can be held for continuous fire. It is equipped with multiple weapons, which can be switched with C. The speed and weapon can be switched while the game is paused. The player starts with two weapons and can acquire more by collecting items. The player can also equip two Claw add-ons, which are small drones that revolve around the ship. The Claws block weak incoming bullets and provide extra firepower by firing single, normal shots. Unlike the previous game, both Claws are equipped at the same time rather than separately.

The Styx is destroyed in one hit from an enemy or an obstacle. On Normal difficulty, losing a life only loses the equipped weapon (unless it is a default weapon). On higher difficulties, losing a life loses all acquired weapons. On all difficulties, losing a life loses Claws. The player gains an extra life at 20,000 and 50,000 points and then every 50,000 points after that.

The options menu is accessed by holding A, B or C when pressing  START  on the title screen. There are three selectable difficulty levels (Normal, Hard, and Mania), but region also dictates difficulty, with the game becoming harder if run on an NTSC-J system. On an NTSC-U system, enemies require fewer hits to kill and some obstacles are missing. The same ROM was used across all regions.


Thunder Force III, Weapons, Twin Shot.png

Twin Shot
Shoots two parallel streams of bullets forwards.

Thunder Force III, Weapons, Back Fire.png

Back Fire
Shoots one stream of bullets forwards and one steam backwards.

Thunder Force III, Weapons, Sever.png

Replaces the Twin Shot with penetrating laser beams.

Thunder Force III, Weapons, Lancer.png

Replaces the Back Fire with a large stream of plasma shots to the front and two parallel streams to the back.

Thunder Force III, Weapons, Wave.png

Shoots tall waves forwards.

Thunder Force III, Weapons, Fire.png

Launches missiles that crawl along the floor and ceiling.

Thunder Force III, Weapons, Hunter.png

Fires plasma balls that seek enemies.


Thunder Force III, Items.png
Item Carrier
Shoot to release an item.
Thunder Force III, Items.png
Equips two Claws, fighter drones that orbit the Styx and provide support fire and protect it from damage.
Thunder Force III, Items.png
Surrounds the Styx in a shield that renders it invulnerable to damage, but it dissipates after sustaining too many hits.
Thunder Force III, Items.png
Awards the player with an extra life.
Thunder Force III, Items.png
Acquires the Sever weapon.
Thunder Force III, Items.png
Acquires the Lancer weapon.
Thunder Force III, Items.png
Acquires the Wave weapon.
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Acquires the Fire weapon.
Thunder Force III, Items.png
Acquires the Hunter weapon.


The player chooses the first stage to play and then plays the rest in sequence.

Thunder Force III, Stage 1.png

Thunder Force III, Stage 1 Boss.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 1.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 1 Boss.png

Planet Hydra
A forest planet. Some enemies come from behind, some shoot homing missiles, and some shoot lasers when the Styx passes across. The boss is Gargoyle which shoots fireballs. Its stomach is its weak spot.

Thunder Force III, Stage 2.png

Thunder Force III, Stage 2 Boss.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 2.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 2 Boss.png

Planet Gorgon
A lava planet with rapidly rising columns of lava. The boss is Twin Vulcan, two machines that circle the screen and shoot bullets at intervals. Their weaknesses are their search radars.

Thunder Force III, Stage 3.png

Thunder Force III, Stage 3 Boss.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 3.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 3 Boss.png

Planet Seiren
An underwater level full of ORN enemies. The boss is King Fish, whose weakness is its eye.

Thunder Force III, Stage 4.png

Thunder Force III, Stage 4 Boss.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 4.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 4 Boss.png

Planet Haides
A mountainous level with terrain that rises, falls, and moves around in other ways. The boss is G Lobster, whose weakness is its eye.

Thunder Force III, Stage 5.png

Thunder Force III, Stage 5 Boss.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 5.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 5 Boss.png

Planet Ellis
An ice mountain planet full of ORN enemies. The boss is Mobile Fort, whose weakness is its control unit.

Thunder Force III, Stage 6.png

Thunder Force III, Stage 6 Boss.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 6.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 6 Boss.png

Destroy the destroyer one piece at a time. Penetrate through to the inside and defeat the core to destroy the ship.

Thunder Force III, Stage 7.png

Thunder Force III, Stage 7 Subboss.png

Thunder Force III, Stage 7 Boss.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 7.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 7 Subboss.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 7 Boss.png

ORN Base
Enemies stand guard left and right while a number of traps block the way. Doors close and bar the way.

Thunder Force III, Stage 8 Subboss.png

Thunder Force III, Stage 8 Boss.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 8 Subboss.png

  • Thunder Force III, Stage 8 Boss.png

ORN Core
The base of operations of ORN. This is a short level with a miniboss before facing the final boss. The boss is CHA OS, which attacks rapidly with several different types of bullets. Its wave projectiles can be neutralized by the player's fire.


Thunder Force III was released in the US, Japan, South Korea and Brazil, but it is not thought to have been released in the pan-Euro area. However, the US release is known to have been distributed in limited numbers across France and Germany, with the instruction manual exchanged for localised versions[9]. Official releases in other PAL regions have not been confirmed.

Production credits

  • Program: Izumi Fukuda, Takashi Iwanaga, Haruhiko Ohtsuka
  • Graphics & Design: Osamu Tsujikawa, Yoichi Muto
  • Stage Design: Takashi Iwanaga
  • Music Compose: Toshiharu Yamanishi, Tomomi Ohtani
  • Sound Effects: Naosuke Arai
  • Voice: kaoru
  • Manual: Fumio Sugano
  • Wording: Kazue Matsuoka
  • Produce: Techno Soft
In-game credits
Thunder Force III MD credits.pdf

Digital manuals

Magazine articles

Main article: Thunder Force III/Magazine articles.

Promotional material

Main article: Thunder Force III/Promotional material.

Physical scans

Sega Retro Average 
Publication Score Source
{{{{{icon}}}|L}} Division by zero.
Based on
0 review
Sega Retro Average 
Publication Version Score
1700 igr dlya Sega (RU)
Beep! MegaDrive (JP) NTSC-J
Complete Guide to Consoles (UK)
Complete Guide to Consoles (UK)
The Complete Guide to Sega (UK)
Consoles + (FR)
Console XS (UK) PAL
Computer & Video Games (UK)
Electronic Gaming Monthly (US) NTSC-U
Mean Machines: The Essential Sega Guide (UK)
Famitsu (JP) NTSC-J
Game Power (IT)
GamePro (US) NTSC-U
The Games Machine (UK)
Hobby Consolas (ES)
Joypad (FR)
Joystick (FR)
Sega Mega Drive Advanced Gaming (UK)
Sega Mega Drive Advanced Gaming (UK) PAL
Mega Drive Fan (JP) NTSC-J
Mega Force (FR) NTSC
Mega Play (US) NTSC-U
MegaTech (UK)
MegaTech (UK) PAL
Micromanía (segunda época) (ES)
Mean Machines (UK)
Mean Machines Sega (UK)
Player One (FR)
Sega Power (UK) NTSC
Sega Power (UK) PAL
Sega Pro (UK)
Sega Pro (UK) PAL
Sega Pro (UK) PAL
Sega Mega Drive Review (RU)
Sega Saturn Magazine (JP) NTSC-J
Supergame (BR)
Tilt (FR)
Tricks 16 bit (RU)
Zero (UK)
Sega Mega Drive
Based on
40 reviews

Thunder Force III

Mega Drive, JP
ThunderForce3 MD JP Box.jpg
ThunderForceIII MD JP Cart Top.jpg
ThunderForceIII MD JP Cart Back.jpgThunderForce3 MD JP Cart.jpg
ThunderForce3 MD JP Manual.pdf
TFIII MD JP pcb.jpg
Mega Drive, US
ThunderForce3 MD US Box.jpg
Thunderforce3 md us cart.jpg
Thunder Force III MD US Manual.pdf
TFIII MD US pcb.jpg
Mega Drive, FR

Thunder Force III MD FR Manual.pdf
Mega Drive, DE

Mega Drive, ES

Mega Drive, BR
Thunderforceiii md br cover.jpg
MDCartThunderForceIII c.jpg
MDCartThunderForceIII f.jpg
Thunderforceiii md br manual.pdf
Mega Drive, KR
ThunderForceIII MD KR cover.jpg
ThunderForceIII MD KR cart.jpg

Technical information

ROM dump status

System Hash Size Build Date Source Comments
Sega Mega Drive
CRC32 1b3f399a
MD5 64766dae889d039eb391bc5bf2973f5d
SHA-1 9eadee76eb0509d5a0f16372fc9eac7a883e5f2d
512kB 1990-03 Cartridge (US/JP)
Sega Mega Drive
CRC32 2b5c2063
MD5 5d694df1dbe9648ea6533871a6a07c3e
SHA-1 5debc42ff0355e6ade7cf30f778b6a5c682fea7f
512kB 1990-08-01 CD-R disc Page


  1. File:ThunderForce3 MD JP Box.jpg
  2. File:ThunderForceIII MD KR cover.jpg
  3. 3.0 3.1 (Wayback Machine: 2020-07-02 23:21)
  4. Beep! MegaDrive, "May 1990" (JP; 1990-04-07), page 115
  7. GamePro, "November 1990" (US; 1990-xx-xx), page 107
  8. 8.0 8.1 Supergame, "Julho 1992" (BR; 1992-07-xx), page 37
  9. (Wayback Machine: 2013-04-14 08:23)
  10. File:Thunder Force III MD credits.pdf
  11. 1700 igr dlya Sega, "" (RU; 2001-xx-xx), page 243
  12. ACE, "August 1990" (UK; 1990-07-xx), page 60
  13. Beep! MegaDrive, "June 1990" (JP; 1990-05-08), page 109
  14. Complete Guide to Consoles, "Volume III" (UK; 1990-08-xx), page 85
  15. Complete Guide to Consoles, "Volume IV" (UK; 1990-11-xx), page 37
  16. The Complete Guide to Sega, "" (UK; 1991-05-xx), page 50
  17. Consoles +, "Tilt Hors-Serie" (FR; 1991-07-xx), page 36
  18. Console XS, "June/July 1992" (UK; 1992-04-23), page 135
  19. Computer & Video Games, "August 1990" (UK; 1990-07-16), page 84
  20. Electronic Gaming Monthly, "November 1990" (US; 1990-xx-xx), page 19
  21. Mean Machines: The Essential Sega Guide, "" (UK; 1993-11-18), page 108
  22. Famitsu, "" (JP; 1990-0x-xx), page 1
  23. Game Power, "Dicembre 1991" (IT; 1991-1x-xx), page 56
  24. GamePro, "November 1990" (US; 1990-xx-xx), page 106
  25. The Games Machine, "August 1990" (UK; 1990-07-19), page 55
  26. Hobby Consolas, "Noviembre 1991" (ES; 1991-1x-xx), page 24
  27. Joypad, "Mars 1992" (FR; 1992-02-1x), page 138
  28. Joystick, "Septembre 1990" (FR; 1990-0x-xx), page 105
  29. Sega Mega Drive Advanced Gaming, "September 1992" (UK; 1992-xx-xx), page 80
  30. Sega Mega Drive Advanced Gaming, "January 1993" (UK; 199x-xx-xx), page 95
  31. Mega Drive Fan, "October 1990" (JP; 1990-09-08), page 79
  32. Mega Force, "Septembre/Octobre 1991" (FR; 1991-09-13), page 97
  33. Mega Play, "February 1991" (US; 199x-xx-xx), page 40
  34. MegaTech, "Xmas 1991" (UK; 1991-12-06), page 81
  35. MegaTech, "February 1992" (UK; 1992-01-20), page 43
  36. Micromanía (segunda época), "Noviembre 1991" (ES; 1991-1x-xx), page 43
  37. Mean Machines, "October 1991" (UK; 1991-09-27), page 88
  38. Mean Machines Sega, "October 1992" (UK; 1992-09-xx), page 142
  39. Player One, "Octobre 1991" (FR; 1991-xx-xx), page 54
  40. Sega Power, "October 1991" (UK; 1991-09-05), page 54
  41. Sega Power, "November 1991" (UK; 1991-10-04), page 22
  42. Sega Pro, "April 1992" (UK; 1992-03-19), page 30
  43. Sega Pro, "July 1992" (UK; 1992-06-18), page 28
  44. Sega Pro, "April 1993" (UK; 1993-03-11), page 68
  45. Sega Mega Drive Review, "1" (RU; 1995-04-03), page 170
  46. Sega Saturn Magazine, "September 1995" (JP; 1995-08-08), page 85
  47. Tilt, "Septembre 1990" (FR; 1990-0x-xx), page 58
  48. Tricks 16 bit, "Tricks Sega Gold 800 igr" (RU; 1998-03-20), page 27
  49. Zero, "September 1990" (UK; 1990-08-09), page 72

Thunder Force III

ThunderForceIII MD US TitleScreen.png

Main page | Comparisons | Maps | Hidden content | Magazine articles | Reception | Promotional material | Region coding

Music: Technosoft Music Collection: Thunder Force III & AC (2020)
Sega Mega Drive
Prototypes: 1990-08-01

Thunder Force games for Sega systems / developed by Sega
Sega Mega Drive
Thunder Force II (1989) | Thunder Force III (1990) | Thunder Force IV / Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar (1992)
Thunder Force AC (1990)
Sega Saturn
Thunder Force: Gold Pack 1 (1996) | Thunder Force: Gold Pack 2 (1996) | Thunder Force V (1997)
Sony PlayStation 2
Thunder Force VI (2008)
Nintendo Switch
Sega Ages Thunder Force IV (2018) | Sega Ages Thunder Force AC (2020)
Thunder Force related media
Best of Thunder Force (1997) | Thunder Force VI Soundtrack Demo (2008) | Thunder Force IV (2019) | Technosoft Music Collection: Thunder Force III & AC (2020) | Technosoft Music Collection: Thunder Force IV (2021) | Technosoft Music Collection: Thunder Force I & II (2022)