Golden Axe 3 – Is It Really As Bad As People Say?

Everyone of a certain age remembers the original hack-and-slash Golden Axe game of 1989. The story followed the characters of Gilius, Ax, and Tyris in their quest to exact revenge on the villainous Death Adder. Its sequel, Golden Axe 2 (1991), followed the same heroes as they dealt with fresh evil in the form of the Dark Guld. 

The third game in the main series, Golden Axe 3, was released in 1993 and follows completely new characters, while also attempting a stylistic shift from its predecessors. The game was not very well received by critics (which perhaps influenced Sega’s decision not to release it in the west) and has since largely been forgotten. But, in my opinion, the criticisms of the game were unreasonable and over the top. Read on for my Golden Axe 3 review. 

Golden Axe 3 Review

The Story

Golden Axe 3 - Kain Grinder
Golden Axe 3 – Kain Grinder

Golden Axe III follows four brand new characters in the form of Kain Grinder (a swordsman), Sarah Burn (a swordswoman), Chronos Lait (a beastman), and Cragger (a giant). 

As with the previous games, the main objective is to navigate a number of side-scrolling levels in order to eventually confront the game’s antagonist. In this instance, that villain is Damud Hellstrike, also known as the Prince of Darkness. 

Prince Hellstrike has stolen the Golden Axe, and the heroes are tasked with defeating him in order to return the axe and lift the curse that has blighted the world. One of the new aspects brought in to Golden Axe 3 was that players can choose the path they take to get to the Prince of Darkness. This was done at junction points in the game, and enabled players to select the direction and path they wanted to walk. 

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The Good

Golden Axe 3 - Chronos
Golden Axe 3 – Chronos

Golden Axe III does many things well, and introduces some new features to the game that its predecessors lack. For starters, it introduces new movesets with increased variety. Each character has unique abilities and is also able to perform a super move. There is also the addition to grapple moves a la Streets of Rage

Another plus for the game is the introduction of new characters. Granted, Kain Grinder and Sarah Burn are almost exact replicas of Ax Battler and Tyris Flare, but we get two completely different characters in the form of Cragger and Chronos. Cragger is a brutish giant who likes to get up close and personal with the enemy, whereas Chronos is a humanoid panther who, despite being quite weak, has a special move that can get you through the whole game. 

Further positives for the game are in its decision to add variety to the route you take to the finale. This adds replay value to the game and allows you for a different experience depending on the path you take. There are also multiple endings that are based on the decisions you make. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Golden Axe III reintroduces the little thieves that were present in the original game. I missed kicking those little tyrants around in the second instalment. 

The Bad

Golden Axe 3 - Proud Cragger
Golden Axe 3 – Proud Cragger

Despite being a fan of Golden Axe 3, there are some not-so-great features of the game. To start with, the background scenery is seriously lacking in vibrancy and detail in what feels like a missed opportunity for the third instalment. 

Another drawback, and this is entirely objective, is the use of grappling. One of the things that set the original apart from other beat ‘em ups (such as Streets of Rage and Final Fight) is the focus on purely melee attacks. In fact, the characters were differentiated by their melee range (e.g. Gilius had better range). The introduction of grappling makes Golden Axe 3 just like any other beat ‘em up of its era, and perhaps that’s why it was largely forgotten and overlooked upon release. 

The final negative for Golden Axe 3, and it’s not a big one, is that there are no cameos from Ax and Tyris. Gilius makes an appearance at the beginning, and is the reason that the heroes are able to pursue the Prince of Darkness, but it would have been nice to see them all together again. 

All in all, though, Golden Axe 3 is one of the best beat ‘em up games for the Sega Genesis, and the good far outweighs the bad. 


How many stages are there in Golden Axe 3?

There are 7 stages in Golden Axe III. Some of the stages also have different paths to choose within the level. 

How long does it take to beat Golden Axe 3?

A standard play through will take around 1½ to 2 hours to complete. However, some speedrunners (see below) have been able to finish the game in under 30 minutes!

Get in Touch

Have you played Golden Axe 3? What’s your favorite game in the Golden Axe series? Let us know in the comment section below!

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If you’re into speedruns, check out this incredible playthrough on YouTube by FlowerSpeedrun. 

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