Games | NES | Contra

Article by Tomm Hulett? | December 31, 2010

As the NES grew in popularity, dumb kids like GameSpiteís writing team began to think of video games as this new generationís movies. No shortage of the Japanese developers creating said games felt this way, too, and they werenít shy about aping Hollywoodís finest. In doing so, they created some of the most memorable video games of the í80s. Konamiís Castlevania gamble paid off (and without a Universal lawsuit to boot), so a few short months later they released an arcade game called Contra (not Gryzor) starring alien-shooting super-commando Dutch (Bill Rizer) and his pal John Rambo (Lance Bean). A year later, Konami would take the step that upgraded Contra from forgettable arcade blip to slice of gaming history: the NES version.

Simply recreating the arcade experience on a console would have been impressive in itself, with all the bullets, bosses, and special effects that somehow had to be pushed through the NESís processor. But, as was customary at the time, Konami went the extra mile and added new stages, greatly expanding the gameís size. Even the music made the transition, arguably better for its downgrade to console chiptune. This makes NES Contra the earliest arcade-to-console conversion to become the definitive version of a game.

In fact, NES Contra was a game of iconic firsts. For many gamers, it was the first taste of co-op multiplayer action. It was also one of the first games to feature enormous, screen-filling boss creatures, something that would shortly become a calling card of Konami and expatriate super-developer Treasure. Even lapsed gamers can recognize floating pods and winged letters as Contra powerups, and we all owe the game a debt for blessing us with the five-way spread gun. Lastly, Contra popularized the Konami Code (despite the fact it originated in Gradius) -- something even casual gamers are aware of, regardless of whether or not they can recite it. The image of two shirtless soldiers shooting at a wall in the jungle is undeniably Contra, which actually works against more recent games in the series.

Unfortunately, Contra wasnít quite flexible enough to develop beyond its roots the way Mario, Zelda, Castlevania, et al. managed to. While we all purchase new Mario games willing to go wherever the plumber wants to take us, we wonít give Bill Rizerís compatriots the same courtesy. There is a downside to evolving from such an iconic third-party NES title; without the trappings and iconography established during the Reagan administration, it just isnít Contra.


Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
U.S. Release: 1987
Format: NES

Based on: An arcade game channeling James Cameron channeling Ridley Scott channeling some sort of H.R. Giger-inspired psycho-sexual horror. With spreadguns.

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