Capcom's Bionic Commando series is a little complicated to decipher, mostly due to the way that most of the games in the series are simply called "Bionic Commando." The common theme that they all contain, however, is that they put the player in the role of a super soldier with a bionic arm, which can stretch out to grab things or, more importantly, grapple onto surfaces to enable climbing and swinging.
The series started in arcades, with a 1987 released called Bionic Commando (released as Top Secret in Japan). This game introduced the grappling mechanics that the series would become famous for, but it was otherwise a standard (and difficult) shooter. This version would come home for various machines, including the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amiga, and Atari ST. In a weird twist, there are actually two different ports of the arcade game available for the C64.
In 1988, Bionic Commando was released for the NES. This game is technically a sequel to the arcade game, going by the name of Top Secret: Hitler's Revival in Japan. This game ditches the simplicity of the arcade version for a more open-ended approach, where the player would visit areas multiple times, unlock equipment, and so on. At the end of the game, the player faces off against Adolf Hitler, though in the US version all mention of Nazis and of Hitler were replaced with less controversial names.
Four years later, Bionic Commando was released on the original Game Boy, and for the first time the Bionic Commando name was used worldwide, marking the end of the Top Secret line. The Game Boy version has many similarities to the NES game mechanically, but the story is new.
Bionic Commando would stay handheld with the 1999 release of Bionic Commando: Elite Forces, this time appearing on the Game Boy Color. Nintendo's US-based NST division developed this game under license from Capcom, perhaps signifying the popularity for the series in America. This game retained some of the same gameplay mechanics and style of the past two games, but had an all-new plot and additional moves.
After letting the series lie dormant for nearly a decade, Capcom once against revived the franchise. GRIN, a Sweden-based developer who previously worked on PC ports of Ubisoft's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter games, developed Bionic Commando Rearmed. This was an updated remake of the NES game released as a downloadable title on PC, Xbox Live Arcade, and PlayStation Network in August 2008. The game featured a multiplayer component consisting of online competitive matches and local co-op play.
In 2009, the imaginatively-titled "Bionic Commando" brought the franchise to the next generation consoles, going from the side-scrolling sprites that every other game has used to a behind-the-back third-person camera. The title also featured connectivity with the downloadable Bionic Commando Rearmed remake game.
A sequel to Bionic Commando Rearmed was released in early February 2011, introducing the ability to jump for the first time and adding a mustache to the physical appearance of Spencer.
- 19XX AD - A former president is kidnapped by rebels while on a humanitarian mission in the country of Zutula. Joseph "Super Joe" Gibson and the other members of the Mercs are contracted to recover him. ( Mercs)
- 2030 AD - War between the FSA and the Empire. Super Joe is sent in to stop the Empire's Albatross project and is captured, requiring Nathan "Rad" Spencer be sent in to save Joe and finish the job. This chain of events culminates in Spencer facing Master D/The Leader, a revived dictator from the past. ( Bionic Commando, Bionic Commando, Bionic Commando Rearmed)
- 2032 AD - The FSA sends Colonel Brubaker into the Papagayan Islands in response to a threat from the nation's leader General Sabio. When Brubaker vanishes, Rad Spencer and five other Bionic agents are sent in to complete the mission. ( Bionic Commando Rearmed 2)
- 2035 AD - Spencer is sent on a mission to stop rogue Bionics and instead helps them after discovering they were illegally experimented upon by the FSA government. This leads to his court marshall and imprisonment. ( Bionic Commando: Chain of Command)
- 2040 AD - The terrorist organization BioReign uses an experimental weapon to destroy Ascension City. Super Joe secures Spencer's release to fight the terrorists and prevent them from acquiring the super-weapon Project Vulture. ( Bionic Commando)