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This surprising new Metal Slug game is $10 well spent

Key art for Metal Slug Attack Reloaded.

The latest Nintendo Direct didn’t have many surprise releases, but the one game that did come out immediately after the presentation caught my eye. Metal Slug Attack Reloaded from SNK recontextualizes the classic side-scrolling shooter series with gameplay more reminiscent of tower defense auto-battle games. Its roots go back to a 2016 mobile game called Metal Slug Attack; while that revelation might make you want to click off the page, you shouldn’t because this game is surprisingly entertaining. Metal Slug Attack Reloaded is a textbook case of how you can take the core ideas and aesthetic of a classic, reinterpret it with a new style of gameplay, and still feel faithful to the franchise at large.

Metal Slug games are typically side-scrollers where players control soldiers blasting their way through stages with a variety of bombastic weapons. It’s explosive, fairly fast-paced, and still quite fun today. I still have the Xbox 360 re-release of Metal Slug 3 downloaded on my Xbox Series X and boot it up whenever I’m in the mood for it. In comparison, Metal Slug Attack Reloaded is a slower-paced game that plays quite differently. The core conceit of every level is that players want to protect their own base while destroying their opponent’s base. These bases are both attacked and defended by Units, which players customize decks of before a battle in order to determine what will be at their disposal.


Once players accrue enough AP to spawn a unit, they can press a button to summon one, which will march from one player’s base to another and attack any units encountered on the way. Every level in Metal Slug Attack Reloaded follows that core gameplay loop, though each has its own spin on the kinds and frequency of enemy units encountered and the length between the bases. The AP system and constant need to refresh units mean that Metal Slug Attack Reloaded is far from being an idle game, even if its minimalist presentation, pixel-art style, and quick levels make it an excellent fit for Nintendo Switch. I also needed to stay engaged because Metal Slug Attack Reloaded gets quite difficult at times.

That difficulty is of the game’s appeal. SNK wants players to create a deck of units and then tactically modify it with units better equipped to fight the threat they are going up against. Sometimes, simply stocking up AP to craft powerful tanks can be enough to win a match; other times, I’d have to go into an encounter with a deck specially tailored to fight a flurry of flying units in order to be successful. As someone who didn’t play Metal Slug Attack when it was released for mobile devices, there was a lot of trial and error involved in finding out what the best strategy was for each level.

Gameplay from Metal Slug Attack Reloaded.

I tend to find that kind of design frustrating in games, but it feels fitting for a game with the Metal Slug branding. It’s a joy to watch a well-constructed army quickly bombard and destroy an enemy’s base, so the trial and error required to get there is worth it. That calls back to the difficulty of the original Metal Slug games, which get more engaging as players try levels over and over again and memorize enemy patterns and the best way to take them down. Metal Slug Attack Reloaded replicates that feeling across a far longer adventure and has lots of unit acquisition and progression systems that kept me hooked with nary a microtransaction in sight.

When franchises with well-established gameplay styles like Metal Slug branch out into new genres, that unfamiliarity can be worrying as a fan, but Metal Slug Attack Reloaded shows loyalty to the core elements that make this SNK series great, thankfully. Hopefully, the turn-based strategy game Metal Slug Tactics will do the same when it launches later this year. Don’t let Metal Slug Attack Reloaded‘s roots as a mobile game or different gameplay style scare you off; take solace in how it demonstrates that the Metal Slug series isn’t a one-trick pony.

Metal Slug Attack Reloaded is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch for $10.

Tomas Franzese
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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