TNK III (also called T.A.N.K and T.N.K. III) is a 1985 arcade game that features a vertical scrolling multidirectional shooter. SNK developed and released the original version of the game as arcade coin-operated machines. In 1987, Ocean Software released the home version of TNK III for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, and Amstrad CPC. SNK developed Iron Tank, the sequel, for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). TNK III is one of the first games to introduce rotary joystick controls.
Fortunately for modern gamers, TNK III has been re-released multiple times over the years. Currently, the Nintendo eShop has the Arcade Archives T.N.K III version for $10.50. The PlayStation store also has Arcade Archives T.N.K III available for $7.99. For gamers who are interested in checking out this classic game but don’t want to pay for it, there are some other options as well. Retrogames.cc has a browser-friendly version and so does ClassicReload.com. Classic Reload has some other great classics too, like Thexder (1985) and The Rocky Horror Show (1985), a video adaptation of the infamous musical.
When TNK III first debuted, it received mostly positive reviews. TNK III received praise for the action-packed gameplay and use of the rotary joystick. The only complaint critics and gamers had was how the game looked. Critics agreed that the game had dated graphics. Capcom released a similar game in the same year called Commando and many critics compared TNK III to it. Fortunately for SNK, critics claimed that TNK III’s quality was almost on par with the incredibly successful Capcom game. The arcade unit received decently high marks, but the home version wasn’t reviewed as high. The home version received mixed or average reviews. Today, gamers seem to agree with that sentiment because only 74% of Google users who weighed in on TNK III claimed to like it. In comparison to other classic games of the time, this score is incredibly low.
TNK III Premise
SNK, the original developers of the TNK III arcade version, were on the edge of bankruptcy when they made the game. Koji Obada, the game’s designer and director, said, “If we’re going to go bankrupt, let’s do something crazy and go out with a bang!” At the time, Obada didn’t think TNK III could save the company, but he wanted to release one more game that pushed boundaries and showed the world what SNK was capable of. Front Line (1982), an arcade shooter from Taito, heavily influenced TNK III’s gameplay. SNK wanted to take the foundation of Front Line’s gameplay and enhance it.
Thanks to the development of the rotary joystick, which the team called a “loop lever” joystick, SNK managed to push Front Line’s mechanics far enough to create a new game. Obada elaborated on the development of the rotary joystick. According to him, they created the rotary joystick because, “our hands hurt, so someone got the idea to put a film capsule container over the joystick, which would spin around in place there.”
TNK III, like many games of the time, didn’t have much of a story or plot. The player controls a tank that has to mow down weapon-wielding enemies. Most of the game’s enemies have machine guns or cannons to destroy the player’s tank. While pushing through the enemies, the tank will also be moving along the map in search of its final destination. Players can pick up power-ups during their journey, which improves the efficiency of their tank. The rotary joystick allows the tank to turn in a complete 360-degree rotation.
TNK III Main Characters
Many retro games that came out between the 1980s and 1990s didn’t have stories or plotlines. Many of them didn’t even have a main protagonist. Instead, players had control of a vehicle or a suit of armor. TNK III is one such game. Players don’t control a named protagonist. The “player character” in TNK III is just the player’s tank. The tank can spin around 360 degrees and shoot in every direction. Players need to navigate the map to find their final destination (the end of the level).
Other classic games that feature this sort of approach include Thexder and Gradius. In Thexder, players control a “hyper dual armor” called Thexder. Thexder isn’t alive and isn’t a person, it’s just an advanced piece of technology the player controls. In Gradius, much like TNK III, players control a trans-dimensional spaceship called the Vic Viper. In both games, players only control a vehicle. They never learn anything about the person who may be driving or piloting the tank or the Vic Viper.
TNK III Titles in the Series
Classic video games are known for branching off into massive franchises. Games like Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, and Metroid all spawned franchises that are still ongoing today. TNK III didn’t spawn a huge series, but it did give birth to the rotary joystick, which opened up massive doors for other arcade games.
- TNK III (1985) – This game was also published under the names T.A.N.K and T.N.K. III.
- Iron Tank (1988) – This game was also published under the names Iron Tank: The Invasion of Normandy and Great Tank
Koji Obada’s Continued Work:
- Ikari Warriors (1986) – After creating TNK III’s rotary joystick control, Obada went on to develop Ikari Warriors. This game notably combined the run-and-gun mechanics of Capcom’s Commando (a game TNK III was constantly compared to) with the rotary joystick created for TNK III. In many ways, Ikari Warriors is a legacy piece to TNK III despite being a separate game.
TNK III Cheats, Cheat Codes, & Exploits
TNK III came out during a period when game developers designed short and simple games for players to complete in a single sitting. Players either completed the game or lost all of their lives and received a Game Over. Most video games of the 1980s and 1990s operated on a keep playing until the player receives a win or a Game Over system. Video games were quick-paced and heavily gameplay-oriented because most consoles and computers had no way to save game progress. There wasn’t the time, space, or technology for fancy cutscenes, long stories, and a bunch of character development.
Since players needed to complete games in a single playthrough, many games like TNK III were incredibly difficult. Their replayability came from the challenge of failing, replaying, getting better at the game, making it a little bit further, and then failing again. Because of this, many game developers built cheats, cheat codes, and other exploits into their games on purpose. If players knew how to use these cheats and purposeful bugs, they would have an easier time completing the game in a single run. This was such a common practice of the time, that it was shocking when a game didn’t have cheats or other ways to make playing the game easier.
Unfortunately, TNK III is one of those rare retro games that doesn’t seem to have any cheat codes or exploits. Popular gaming websites that post guides and cheats, like GameFAQs.com, have nothing to offer modern gamers. Other popular websites like Super Cheats only have a stub page for the game. When Googling “TNK III arcade game cheats”, the very first result that pops up is a GameFAQs guide for Tekken 3, a completely different game that has nothing to do with TNK III.
TNK III Cheats FAQ
If a curious player Googles “TNK III cheats”, no frequently asked question results pop up at all. Searching “TNK III arcade game cheats” comes up with a few results, but none of them are related to the game. Most of them are asking general questions about cheat codes, while some of them focus on Tekken 3, a classic fighting game. Googling “TNK III arcade game” and “TNK III” also have no frequently asked questions results.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Game Archive - No Commentary Gameplay / SNK / Ocean Software.