The Super Spy is a first-person beat-up that was developed and published by SNK. The visual layout of the game is often compared with another game of the genre released by SNK, Crossed Swords.
The player is international super spy, Roy Heart, who has been asked by the CIA to wipe out the terrorists who have taken over a skyscraper in Japan. Armed with a gun, a knife, and his martial arts skills, Roy takes action. The game starts with Roy at the lowest level; he must work his way to the top to face the leader.
Movements in the game were automated with a fixed camera system, the player's line of sight is only straight ahead of him and progress cannot be made until all the enemies have been cleared from the screen. Joystick motions are used to help the player dodge incoming attacks from his enemies, similar to various first-person boxing titles at the time. Occasionally, the player can move forward into rooms to save hostages or ambush a boss or other enemies. Saving hostages will grant the player healing items, chances to repair or upgrade his weaponry, or random moments of exposition.
Roy's choice of weaponry is limited. His handgun only carries up to three~six shots at first, leaving it to be more of a finishing blow against tough bosses. His survival knife is more sturdier but will rust when used too often. Hostages will sometimes give Roy a semi-automatic machine gun that can help clear a screen of foes. The majority of the fighting is done through Roy's punches and kicks, encouraging players to block and attack when needed. Hand to hand combat resembled the fighting system featured in Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! as quick reflexes and quick thinking usually were more effective than button-mashing. This system applied to all enemies, including the common ninja villains that frequently gang up on the player.
The game is generally panned for relying too much on fist-fighting over the spy's weapons, rendering the weapon system to be almost pointless. Enemies also seemed to have an imbalance of power when compared to the player and had little variation in appearance (despite coming in swarms). Some enemies will go down with a few hits and others will take up to nearly 13 gunshots before they fall. Critics also cited frustration at the protagonist's lack of movement as enemies can sometimes walk out his attack range only to counter with their effective long-ranged attacks.