For other uses, see Gradius (disambiguation).

Gradius (グラディウス Guradiusu?) is a horizontally-scrolling shoot 'em up released by Konami in 1985 for video arcades. It was released outside Japan under the title of Nemesis,[1] although later international releases included in compilations, such as Gradius Collection for the PlayStation Portable and Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits for the Nintendo DS, would retain the Gradius name.

Gradius has the distinction of popularizing a weapon selection bar called "Power meter", based upon collecting Power Capsules to 'purchase' additional weapons. The game was ported to many systems, most notably the Nintendo Entertainment System (with this version also appearing on the Wii's Virtual Console).


Across the galaxy, there exists a distant planet known as Gradius. A lush, beautiful world, the planet Gradius has thrived in peace for many years. Unfortunately, that peaceful existence came to a sudden end when Gradius became the target of a subspace star cluster known as Bacterian. Facing inevitable defeat before their ruthless invaders, Gradius has pinned its last hopes on the hyper-space fighter Vic Viper.

Its target is the enemy fortress, Xaerous. The only way to put an end to the war is to plunge deep through the enemy forces and destroy its very core. And so, the Vic Viper takes off, far into the depths of space!


Gradius 1 Gameplay

In-game screenshot

The player controls the trans-dimensional spaceship Vic Viper, and must battle waves of enemies through various different environments.

The game became synonymous with the phrase, "Destroy the core!", as the standard of boss battles in the Gradius series involved combat with a giant craft, in the center of which would be situated one to several blue colored spheres. These bosses would be designed in such a way that there would be a straight passage from the exterior of the giant craft which leads directly to one of these cores. The player must fire shots into this passage whilst avoiding attack patterns from weapon emplacements on the body of the boss. However, small but destructible walls are situated in this passage, impeding the bullet shots from damaging the core, and must be whittled away by repeated well-placed shots. In a way, these tiny walls represent the boss' shielding gauge until its core is finally vulnerable to attack. Some bosses have the ability to regenerate these walls. When the core has sustained enough hits, it usually changes color from blue to red, indicating that it is in critical condition and its destruction is imminent. Upon the destruction of a core, a piece of the boss may be put out of commission, seeing that it is no longer powered by a core, or if all of the cores are destroyed, the entire boss is defeated and explodes satisfyingly. Note that these cores are not present on the more organic bosses of Gradius. Such bosses have weak spots in places such as a mouth, head or eye.

The name "Gradius" refers to the human-inhabited planet in which the Vic Viper is from (also known as planet Nemesis), and is not a mistranslation of the word "gladius" (cf. Engrish) as one might assume.
Vic Viper Classic

The sprite of the Vic Viper.

Weapon system

When gameplay begins, the Vic Viper is relatively slow and has only a weak gun. This level of capability is generally insufficient for engaging enemies, but the Vic Viper can gain greater capabilities by collecting and using power-up items.

While most arcade games utilize distinct power up-items that each correspond to a specific effect on the player character, Gradius has a single power-up item. The effect of this power-up item is to advance the currently selected item in a power-up menu that appears at the bottom of the screen. When the desired power-up is highlighted, the player can obtain it by pressing the power-up button, returning the menu to its initial state in which no power-up is highlighted.

Konami Code

Home console and portable versions of Gradius spawned the now-legendary Konami Code, considered by some to be one of the defining elements of Gradius. The code, when entered while the game is paused, grants the player most of the available power ups.


Ports of Gradius were also done for the Commodore 64, Microsoft Windows, NEC PC-8801, NES, TurboGrafx-16, Virtual Console, Sharp X1, Sharp X68000, Mobile Phone, PlayStation 2 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. The MSX port of Gradius has some differences which subtly lead into the Nemesis MSX series. The TurboGrafx-16 port is Arcade identical but also adds bonus stages. Gradius was also converted for the Nintendo Vs. Series arcade platform. It is identical to the NES version, but includes no cheat codes and allows the player to continue indefinitely. A light open source clone called Monadius was completed in 2005 implemented in Haskell (programming language) using OpenGL.

MSX version differences

  • A 2nd level for Laser and Missiles
  • Stages 2, 3, 4 and 6 now hold bonus stages
  • Secret commands other from the Konami Code
  • There is a newly created stage consisting of a field of bones, similar to the additional level found in the PC Engine port.

MSX version cheats

Type these commands to access cheats.

  • F1 M O M O K O Enter F1 - All Weapons (only Stage 1)
  • F1 C H I E Enter F1 - All Weapons (only Stage 2)
  • F1 A K E M I Enter F1 - All Weapons (only Stage 3)
  • F1 S Y U K O Enter F1 - All Weapons (only Stage 4)
  • F1 C H I A K I Enter F1 - All Weapons (only Stage 5)
  • F1 N O R I K O Enter F1 - All Weapons (only Stage 6)
  • F1 S A T O E Enter F1 - All Weapons (only Stage 7)
  • F1 Y A S U K O Enter F1 - All Weapons (only Stage 8)
  • F1 K I N U Y O Enter F1 - All Weapons (only Special Stage 1)
  • F1 H I S A E Enter F1 - All Weapons (only Special Stage 2)
  • F1 M I Y U K I Enter F1 - All Weapons (only Special Stage 3)
  • F1 Y O H K O Enter F1 - All Weapons (only Special Stage 4)
  • F1 H Y P E R Enter F1 - All Weapons (works on any level, only usable once)
  • F1 D O W N Enter F1 - Speed Down (always works)
  • F1 B A K A or A H O Enter F1 - Instant Game Over (Either one works)

Finally, entering SPEEDUP, MISSILE, DOUBLE, LASER, OPTION, or SHIELD enables those equipment options.


  • Alfa Records released a limited-edition soundtrack album for this game (Konami Game Music Vol.1 - 28XA-85) on 27/06/1986.
  • Apollon Music released a limited-edition soundtrack album for this game (Original Sound of Gradius - KHY1016) on 05/05/1987.
  • Legend of Game Music ~Premium Box~ - Contains music from various video game companies, including Gradius among the Konami roster.


Gradius received positive to favorable reviews. GameSpot stated it to be the toughest scrolling shooter game in the NES library, only second to Contra. ING rated it 7 out of 10 of great classic side-scrolling shooter games.

Stages and bosses

1 VolcanoVolcanoBig Core MK IChallenger 1985
2 StonehengeZub RushBig Core MK IBeat Back
3 MoaiMother and ChildBig Core MK IBlank Mask
4 Reverse VolcanoIron MaidenBig Core MK IFree Flyer
EX WastelandTornado (MSX)
Tyran Pace (MSX)
Re-Bone (PC-E)
Big Core MK IStage 5 BGM
5 TentacleTentacleBig Core MK IMazed Music
6 CellNucleusMechanical Globule
7 BaseElectronic CageXaerous BrainFinal Attack





  1. U.S. Nemesis flyer
Ships Vic Viper
Stages VolcanoStonehengeMoaiReverse VolcanoWasteland (PCE) • TentacleCellBase
Sub Bosses VolcanoZub RushMother and ChildIron MaidenTentacleElectronic Cage

Re-Bone (PC Engine) • Tornado (MSX) • Tyran Pace (MSX)

Bosses Big CoreCell NucleusXaerous Brain
Gradius video games
Gradius series GradiusGradius IIGradius IIIGradius GaidenGradius IV: FukkatsuGradius GalaxiesGradius VGradius ReBirthGradius: The Interstellar AssaultGradius NEOGradius NEO Imperial
Spin-offs Salamander (Life Force) (MSX ver.)• Salamander 2Nemesis 2 (Nemesis '90 Kai) • Nemesis 3Nemesis (Game Boy)Cosmic WarsSolar Assault
Parody games ParodiusParodius Da!Gokujō Parodius!Jikkyō Oshaberi ParodiusSexy ParodiusParo WarsOtomedius (Otomedius Gorgeous) • Otomedius Excellent
Other games ScrambleThunder CrossThunder Cross IISpace ManbowForce Gear
Pachislot Gradius: The SlotCR Parodius Da! EXGokuraku Parodius!
Cancelled Vic ViperGradius ArcSalamander HD Remaster
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