‘No More Heroes 3’ Is Just the Kind of Bonkers I Needed

Subtlety is overrated

Key Takeaways

  • No More Heroes 3 is a goofy, violent, surly, bizarre non-sequitur of a good time.
  • It manages to surpass its predecessors by embracing its own absurdity to levels that are themselves absurd.
  • The visual style is all over the place, in every sense, but that randomness actually ties everything together.
Screenshot fro the 'No More Heros 3' game.

In a series known for its over-the-top action and ridiculous everything else, No More Heroes 3 excels by (somehow) leaning even harder into the absurd.

No More Heroes is known for its stylish looks, madcap violence, and unique characters, and Travis Touchdown’s third outing into Santa Destroy is no exception. I know Travis Strikes Again exists, but that took place in a possessed game console, so it doesn’t count. No More Heroes 3 is just as crass, colorful, violent, vibrant, weird, and wonderful as its predecessors (so definitely not for kids), but it works.

It works because Grasshopper Manufacture decided it needed to be more ridiculous and outlandish. Why stop with laser sword fights with super-powered assassins when you can have mecha suit battles with boisterous alien invaders?

Nonsense That Makes Sense

I know video game sequels tend to push themselves farther—to make everything bigger, fancier, and so on. So it’s understandable that No More Heroes 3 would want to up the ante over the first two games. What I wasn’t expecting is just how much it embraces its weirdness or how well it all fits together.

First off: Aliens.

A screenshot from 'No More Heros 3.'

It’s so obvious now that it’s out there but jumping from inhumanly adept assassins to straight-up space aliens (from space!) as antagonists is perfect. As wild as No More Heroes could get, it was still mostly bound by natural laws. By throwing interstellar weirdos into the mix, you can get away with doing pretty much anything, and it still makes sense within the established world. Of course I’m piloting a mech suit and fighting a living space anomaly inside his own body! It’s aliens!

Second, the side jobs. These go so far beyond just gathering coconuts on the beach. Now I’m exploring volcanic caves to mine for precious minerals and searching for scorpions to deliver to a ramen shop. I’m pulling off stylish moves while mowing someone’s lawn and unclogging the city’s toilets. I’m gathering lost kittens with a glove that can digitize physical objects, and I’m suplexing alligators while collecting trash.

The Style of Everything

No More Heroes 3’s magnificent weirdness also extends to the way it looks on-screen. Not just the technical stuff like character models (which are all eccentric), but also the menus and loading screens. It’s all over the place, visually, but in a roundabout way, that’s what actually makes everything come together so well. It’s cohesive precisely because it’s all so incoherent.

I get the impression that when the developers were trying to decide what sort of overall visual style to use, they decided to go with "anything and everything." The options menu looks like it was pulled from an old PC game and is so bright it hurts to look at for too long.

A screenshot from 'No More Heros 3.'

The 'interact' prompt that appears when you’re close enough to open a door or talk to someone is a screen-filling collage of nuclear-colored buttons.  Most NPC conversations adjust the camera to look like a CCTV feed, complete with a timer for no discernable reason.

Even the level/chapter transitions are all over the place (in a good way). The start of a new section typically involves an 'Ultraman' homage of a title screen, complete with credits. At the end, there’s usually a "We’ll Be Right Back" style title card that shows a cutesy illustration of one of the characters.

One section ended with a slow panning shot of a sort of Star Wars-looking watercolor painting depicting most of the main cast, but more stylized. It’s the focused visual theming you’d expect from a modern Persona game, except all the elements from every game were thrown into a blender.

Then there are the aliens themselves, which are something else entirely. The designs are all over the place and run the gamut from relatively simple mannequin-like creatures to something out of a cubist painting and everything in-between. Some are humanoid, some are robotic, some have cute little pink octopus pets that shoot city-destroying lasers.

No More Heroes 3 feels like a greatest hits album of most of the weird stuff Grasshopper Manufacture was experimenting with up to now. Shadows of the Damned, killer7, Lollipop Chainsaw, Let It Die, Killer Is Dead—there’s a little bit of everything on display here.

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