Nuclear Throne Review thumbnail

Nuclear Throne Review

Teenage mutant post-apocalyptic fish

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a PS4 on

Nuclear Throne is Cross-Buy with PS Vita and also available for Nintendo Switch and Xbox One

Nuclear Throne is rated Everyone 10+ by the ESRB

Indie developers love making rogue-likes and twin stick shooters. Sometimes, they craft a hybrid of the two. Here we have Nuclear Throne: an action-intense shooter with the promising premise of post-apocalyptic mayhem, but is it any good?

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Nuclear Throne screenshot 1
This robot sure is a master of dodging lasers

Upon first booting up Nuclear Throne, it's surprising to see that it has a 4:3 aspect ratio. After actually playing it, you'll feel like you've gone back to the '90s and it all starts to make sense. You basically control a character of your choice to run around, avoid enemy fire, and shoot until you're the last one standing. You gain experience as you progress which allows you to choose one upgrade from a randomized selection between stages for every level that you climbed. Selecting the best one to fit your play style can be tricky so be sure to choose wisely. Whenever you bite the dust, you have to start the entire game again. Thankfully, the whole journey isn't a very long one. On top of the hectic shooting action; picking up new weapons, taking advantage of each character's unique ability, and discovering loads of secrets makes this one addictive shooter! v1d30chumz 3-239-112-140

Although you only start off with a choice of two characters, many show their faces as you progress. They're all quirky for sure, but what makes them a joy to experiment with is that they each possess distinct characteristics as well as an ability. For example, the fish can roll out of harm's way while the robot can eat weapons. This variety creates a constantly evolving learning dynamic as you try out newly introduced mutants to see what they're capable of. Getting a combination of ideal weapons and upgrades for your chosen character so you can make it further than ever before just feels awesome (even though the weapons and upgrades are only temporary).

Nuclear Throne screenshot 2
If you want to see in the dark then having loads of eyes definitely helps

Generally speaking, there is only one mode to play. The stages are randomized but you basically play through the same succession of themes and bosses. If you have a pal who enjoys games like this then you can get them to assist you in a cooperative mode which is the same thing except with two players. Anyway, the replay value starts to materialize after your skills improve to the point where you start discovering goodies. Not only do you get more characters to play as, you'll also eventually uncover gold weapons, optional skins, crowns, and secret areas. It takes a while to begin finding these bonuses but once you do, every achievement will make you want to keep playing just to see what you can stumble upon next. Maybe you'll make it to the Nuclear Throne one day...

The most notable downside is the fact that there's only the one mode. I wish this was called arcade mode and another mode was an adventure with permanent upgrades and save points. That way, hardcore gamers can put their skills to the test while folks who are more inclined to slowly work through an adventure have something that appeals to them as well. Also, why not implement a versus mode that can be played online? There are so many places the developers could have taken their concept yet they chose not to for some reason. That leads into my next point, replaying from the beginning over and over again wore me out after a few hours. I needed to put it down and pick something else up before playing it again. It really gets tedious fast. Finally, the menus are needlessly clumsy. How come it takes so long to load when you back out of a menu? Why is "Menu" highlighted when I pause? Surely, "Continue" would make more sense. Even the screen before you start playing that shows a counter for how much the stage is being generated seems out of place. This isn't a big complaint but these things add up to make the whole package appear less polished than it should be.

Nuclear Throne screenshot 3
Never mess with a crystal that's holding a machine gun

Nuclear Throne is a thrilling rogue-like twin stick shooter that'll keep you coming back for more. With loads of characters and extras to uncover, you'll spend hours shooting away like a maniac in this post-apocalyptic wasteland.

  • + Addictive twin stick shooting action
  • + Large cast of quirky characters to play as
  • + Rewarding unlockables for those skilled enough to discover them
  • - Could use some additional modes
  • - Menus can be needlessly clumsy
  • - Having to constantly replay from the beginning quickly becomes tedious
7.6 out of 10
Gameplay video for Nuclear Throne thumbnail
Watch A.J. play Nuclear Throne
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