Space Quest III

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Space Quest III:
The Pirates of Pestulon
Cover art by John Shaw
Developer(s)Sierra On-Line
Publisher(s)Sierra On-Line
Designer(s)Mark Crowe
Scott Murphy
Programmer(s)Scott Murphy
Doug Oldfield
Ken Koch
Chris Smith
Writer(s)Mark Crowe
Scott Murphy
Composer(s)Bob Siebenberg
SeriesSpace Quest
Platform(s)DOS, Macintosh, Amiga, Atari ST
ReleaseMarch 24, 1989

Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon is a 1989 graphic adventure game by Sierra On-Line, and the third game in the Space Quest series. Players assume the role of Roger Wilco, a lowly space janitor, who becomes involved in rescuing a pair of computer programmers from a sinister video game company. The game received positive reviews from critics, and contributed further to the series' commercial success for Sierra. A sequel, Space Quest IV, was released in 1991.


A scene from the garbage freighter, showing some typical Space Quest science fiction allusions: wrecks of a TIE fighter, an ACME Rocket, and the Jupiter 2 spacecraft.

Space Quest III takes place in a universe which parodies notable science-fiction franchises such as Star Trek and Star Wars. The game continues the story of Roger Wilco, a simple janitor who has saved his homeworld twice from disaster. Following the events of Space Quest II, lowly janitor Roger Wilco is in cryogenic sleep, while his escape pod drifts through space.[1] An automated garbage freighter brings it aboard, where Roger awakens. Forced to find a way out, he discovers a derelict spaceship, the Aluminum Mallard, in the freighter's garbage hold. After repairing the ship, Roger pilots it out of the freighter. Visiting the desert planet of Phleebhut, he find himself confronted by an Arnold Schwarzenegger-like android terminator, who was sent to deal with him for failing to pay for a whistle in the previous game. However, Roger outwits him and obtains his invisibility belt.

At an orbital Monolith Burger station, Roger comes across a hidden message in an arcade game he plays, stating that its programmers (known as Two Guys) were abducted by ScumSoft, a sinister video game company on the Planet Pestulon - owned by Elmo Pug, leader of the "Pirates of Pestulon". Roger learns the programmers need rescuing, as ScumSoft intends to use them to design awful games to flood the galaxy. Deciding to rescue them, he visits a lava moon orbiting the planet Pestulon to neutralize a shield generator. Heading to the planet's surface, Roger uses his invisibility belt to infiltrate the base, and secures a disguise in the form of janitor overalls.

Exploring the company, Roger tracks down the Two Guys, but is trapped by Elmo, who forces him into an arena battle using giant Mecha robots (based on the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots game). Roger overcomes Elmo, defeating him and escapes with the Two Guys. After fighting off several ScumSoft space ships, the trio realize that the warp drive is broken. After tinkering with it, and with no warp course set in, the trio are warped into a parallel dimension via a black hole, ending up before the planet Earth. Roger delivers the two game designers to Sierra On-Line's president, Ken Williams, before departing the planet to return home after being turned down for a janitorial job.


PC versions of the game support mouse movement and a new, heavily improved text parser. Mouse movement was still in a primitive state at the time of the game's release, so Roger is unable to automatically find his way around obstacles in the game world, instead stopping if he encounters a barrier. Computer mice were relatively new at the time, and Sierra's mouse movement would greatly improve in subsequent games.

Astro Chicken[edit]

Astro Chicken is an arcade minigame in Space Quest III. Gameplay consists of attempting to land a chicken on a trampoline. The mechanics of the game are similar to those of Lunar Lander, with the exception that the chicken rebounds unharmed if it strikes the trampoline too forcefully. Achieving a high score reveals a hidden distress message left by the Two Guys from Andromeda. The Astro Chicken theme music is a variation on Chicken Reel, a traditional folk song best known for its use in animated cartoons. Sierra released the Astro Chicken minigame as a demo to promote Space Quest III.


Space Quest III was developed using an early version of Sierra's SCI engine. Unlike the series' previous installments, the player is no longer able to choose the protagonist's name. From this game onward, the character is known as Roger Wilco, the name that had previously been the default.

It features music composed by Supertramp drummer Bob Siebenberg, and was one of the first games to support the new Sound Blaster sound card.[2] Sound effects include digitized audio sampling, such as the voice of Roger saying "Where am I?" during the introduction. The digitized effects can be heard in the Tandy, Amiga and Macintosh versions of the game. Though Space Quest III was designed to utilize the Sound Blaster's ability to play digital samples, the inclusion of an incorrect audio driver left the effects unavailable to IBM PC users with the Sound Blaster card.

The game features a scene at ScumSoft where parody versions of Sierra's president, Ken Williams, and director of operations, Rick Cavin, are depicted as overseers cracking whips over software developers in cubicles. Murphy designed this scene to satirize the negative trends he observed at Sierra at the time.[3]

Space Quest III was released on March 24, 1989.

Several fan remake attempts were cancelled over the years.[4] On 2003, a non playing VGA demo was released.[5][6] In 2023, a fan remake titled Space Quest 3D was released.[7]


In the September 1989 edition of C&VG (Issue 94), the reviewer gave the Atari ST version of Space Quest III a score of 83%, calling it "enjoyable and addictive".[8] In 1989, Dragon gave the game 4 out of 5 stars.[9] The Macintosh & PC/MS-DOS versions of the game were also given 4 out of 5 stars.[10] Compute! praised the game's graphics and sound card audio, stating that they were the best of the series.[11] STart also praised the ST version's graphics and sound. While warning that Space Quest III was "essentially a text adventure" with syntax guessing and frequent saved game reloading, the magazine described it as "not-too-difficult" and suitable for those new to adventure games.[12] Computer Gaming World gave the game a positive review, noting improvements in the presentation and action sequences over its predecessors.[13] In 1989 the magazine gave it a Special Award for Achievement in Sound,[14] and in 1996 listed the player's body parts being sold at a butcher shop as #2 on its list of "the 15 best ways to die in computer gaming".[15]

Game Player's award for Best PC EGA Graphics -1989. Presented to Mark Crowe

The editors of Game Player's PC Strategy Guide gave Space Quest III their 1989 "Best PC Adventure Role-Playing Game" and "Best PC EGA Graphics" awards.[16]

Close up of the Plaque of the Game Player's award for Best PC EGA Graphics -1989. Presented to Mark Crowe

In the May 1990 edition of Games International, John Scott called this program "Brilliant! The graphics are super." He also thought the musical soundtrack was "the best I have yet encountered in any computer game." He noted the streak of humour running through the game, saying, "sometimes it's warped, sometimes cruel, but it's always funny." He did criticize the long loading times for each screen, and the computer's habit of prompting a disk change before the save sequence was finished. Nevertheless, he gave both the gameplay and graphics an excellent rating of 9, saying, "I think you'll like this. I did. A lot."[17]

According to Sierra On-Line, combined sales of the Space Quest series surpassed 1.2 million units by the end of March 1996.[18]


  1. ^ "Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon Walkthrough". Retrieved 2024-04-13.
  2. ^ Kirk Green (Spring 1989). "From Supertramp to Space Quest III: An Interview with Bob Siebenberg". Interaction Magazine. Retrieved 2024-04-13.
  3. ^ Kosta Andreadis (2014-08-31). "Clearing Up Space Quest's 25 Year Old Mystery". IGN. Retrieved 2024-04-13.
  4. ^ "Space Quest III - A classic Sci-fi adventure sequel reviewed by Cola Powered Gamer". 2019-10-07. Retrieved 2020-02-22. Sadly, the game did not receive a VGA remake or a fan remake. There were several attempts by the fans to make a Space Quest III remake, but they never came to fruition.
  5. ^ "Space Quest 3 VGA Non-Playable Demo". Adventure Game Studio. 2002-08-17. Retrieved 2020-02-22.
  6. ^ Space Quest 3 VGA [non-playable demo] at the Internet Archive
  7. ^ Yarwood, Jack (5 June 2023). "Space Quest III Gets 3D Fan Remake Complete With Voice Acting". Time Extension. Hookshot Media. Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  8. ^ Campbell, Keith (September 1989). "Space Quest III". Computer and Video Games. No. 94. p. 68.
  9. ^ Lesser, Hartley; Lesser, Patricia; Lesser, Kirk (September 1989). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (149): 78–79.
  10. ^ Lesser, Hartley; Lesser, Patricia; Lesser, Kirk (December 1991). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (176): 62.
  11. ^ Guerra, Bob (November 1989). "Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon". Compute!: 134. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
  12. ^ Plotkin, David; Reese, Andrew; Cushman, Carolyn (January 1990). "Strange New Worlds to Conquer". STart. Vol. 4, no. 6.
  13. ^ Lombardi, Chris (August 1989). "Review: Space Quest III". Computer Gaming World. No. 62. pp. 36–37.
  14. ^ "Game of the Year Awards". Computer Gaming World. October 1989. p. 8.
  15. ^ "The 15 Best Ways To Die In Computer Gaming". Computer Gaming World. November 1996. p. 107. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  16. ^ "Game Player's First Annual PC Game Awards 1989". Game Player's PC Strategy Guide. 3 (2): 11, 12. March–April 1990.
  17. ^ Scott, John (May 1990). "Drakkhen". Games International. No. 14. p. 46.
  18. ^ Sierra On-Line Form 10-K (Report). Bellevue, Washington. March 31, 1996. pp. 7–9. Archived from the original on April 16, 2018.

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