Contra (NES)

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North American box art.

Contra is a run-and-gun action shooter developed and published by Konami for the NES on 1988-02-09. It is a port of the original arcade game, the first in the Contra series. While the game has several similarities to the arcade game, Konami made enough changes to it to warrant calling it a different game.

The game has three different releases, one for Japan, the USA, and Europe. The Japanese release is the best featuring more polish than the USA release with added cut-scenes, background animation, and an in-game story line. Despite having more work put into it, the Japanese release came out before the US release. I presume Konami sent a mostly-complete version to their US offices to be localized, but then continued to polish their version. The European release was based on the American version, but has heavily-altered artwork where all the humans have been replaced by robots to placate European censors.

My earliest memory of Contra for the NES was playing it or watching it being played with my step-brother. He always referred to the flame thrower as "freaky" and purposely avoided it, which, at the time, I thought was odd, but now, I completely understand. I was so bad at gaming in the 1980s that, even the Konami Code which granted 30 lives, I wasn't able to beat the game without needing to continue. Although, part of this was because I knew I had so many lives, I didn't really try to learn to play the game properly. I've since become a more seasoned player and can now beat it with the provided three lives.


I have beat the American and Japanese NES ports several times without needing to continue.


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6 7 5 6 5

Best Version: 58%

— This section contains spoilers! —


  • Input is really responsive and intuitive giving you great control over your jumps. Certainly better than the arcade original.
  • I prefer how the NES port breaks up the Snow Field, Energy Zone, Hangar, and Alien's Lair into their own stages, rather than make them one long grueling level. The the new enemies, scenery, music, and length to the maps are all desired additions.
  • Even with a weaker GPU, I find that the graphics are more effective on the NES port. The designers of the arcade game chose to make the background graphics muted compared to the foreground. This makes it easier to track foreground objects, but it looks pretty bad, and the overall color palette is rather washed out. This is a shame because the arcade graphics are expertly drawn. The NES wasn't really capable of displaying such muted colors, so the designers took a different approach of using large blocks of color for backgrounds. This has a similar effect of differentiating area, but I find it more aesthetically pleasing. A lot of the sprites were also redesigned. The player's characters and enemy soldiers no longer look ridiculous while jumping and the the bosses for stages 3 and 6 look better. The Waterfall boss looks much more sinister and the Energy Zone boss looks less like a football player. Though all the graphics had to be redrawn, the artists wisely kept the H. R. Giger style.
  • Hidenori Maezawa and Kyouhei Sada did a great job at arranging Kazuki Muraoka's soundtrack. I even prefer the NES version because the melodies are more noticeable.
  • Allowing a player who has lost all their lives to steal a life from the remaining player to join in was a great way to keep the fun going for both players (although, it more frequently leads to a lot of ire when you don't want to give up your hard-earned lives). It would be nice if this were a setting you could turn off.


  • The weapon power-ups should have been reworked before shipping to make them more balanced. As it is, some are clearly better than others. The spray gun is overpowered, the machine gun and rapid fire are a nice boost, but the flame thrower's slow speed and erratic pattern makes it difficult to use, and the laser is particularly bad. You can only have one beam out at once, and it's the only weapon that doesn't speed up with rapid fire.
  • I kind of which power-ups were doled out more randomly. You quickly learn to memorize which power-ups you'll get and when you'll get them, and this kind of makes for a less-exciting journey.
  • The cheat code is certainly desirable for beginners, but it's a bit much. 30 lives is so many, it basically eliminates the need for even trying to get better at the game.


  • The game is painfully difficult. Survival comes less from skill, and more from level memorization. Had I encountered this game later in life, I wouldn't have the patience for it.


Box Art




Fan Art



Role Staff
Directors Shigeharu Umezaki (Umechan), Shinji Kitamoto
Programmers Shigeharu Umezaki, Satoshi Kishiwada, Kouki Yamashita, T. Danjyo, Mitsuaki Ogawa
Graphic Designers T. Ueyama, Setsu Muraki, M. Fujiwara, T. Nishikawa, C. Ozawa
Sound Composer Kazuki Muraoka
Sound Arrangers Hidenori Maezawa, Kyouhei Sada
Special Thanks To Kenji Shimoide, Naoki Sato, AC Contra Team


Language Native Transliteration Translation
English (America) Contra
English (Europe) Probotector
Japanese 魂斗羅 Kontora Contra


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