Grand Master Meio has returned from the dead, apparently Strider Hiryu didn't finish the job in the first game. Meio has kidnapped the girlfriend of a new Strider named Hinjo, so your job is to help Hinjo rescue the girl from Meio's prison ship orbiting the Earth.
Strider Returns is universally regarded as the worst game in the Strider series. Not that it's a bad game necessarily, but it's just not on par with the first. Basically, it's the same game with a different colored outfit on the hero, simpler level designs, easier enemies, and less detailed graphics. This is what Capcom gets for farming out their franchise. Also the name 'Strider Returns' is a bit ridiculous considering that it's not even the same character (US Gold wasn't allowed to use the name Hiryu), maybe they should have called it 'Meio Returns.'