Blast from the Past: Contra (NES)



The 80s was a weird and wonderful time. Everything was bigger and better and as result movies such as Rambo, Commando and the Terminator drove home that ‘macho’ shirtless vibe. Though there were movie tie-in games in the 80s there was nothing that quite captured the action hero era quite like Contra.

Start up a game of Contra and you’ll be humming to the tunes right away as Billy and Lance spawn right into an alien-invaded war zone. The plot is as cheesy as any 80s action game or movie can be and requires the duo to infiltrate Galuga and rid it of alien scum, using nothing but brute force. If that’s not enough to tell you it’s a far-fetched 80s plot then the year of 2633 should seal that deal. That’s as in-depth as it gets as you’ll be doing little thinking about the plot while blasting everything to bits.

What made Contra such a special title at the time was the inclusion of co-op 2-player sessions. Think of it as the 8-bit Gears of War era where you could bro it out with your bestest buddy. Sometimes having a friend join you could aid you, seeing that he or she knew what they were doing because that person either assisted you or stole all your lives. Normally that would result with the latter ringing true. That’s not changed, and you should be aware that when you play Contra with a friend today it could be the end of your friendship as the game, as it was back then, is hard as nails. Around each corner, there is something that wants to kill you.

Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A

Contra consists of eight levels in total whereby you’ll make your way through a Jungle, Waterfall and alien-like levels. There were two levels that were revolutionary at the time and as ‘3D’ as it got in 1988, and those were the base levels 2 and 4. Instead of moving from left to right you would enter a new perspective and move in towards the screen as you blasted your way through some futuristic base. Getting a good understanding of both jumping or going prone when attacking is a matter of life and death, as one mere bullet will put an end to Billy or Lance. That’s where the Konami code comes into place. Enter it and you’re granted 30 lives – more than enough to finish the game.

As you’re battling your way past onslaught after onslaught of bad guys you’ll require quick reflexes to shoot new weapon pickups that come floating past the stage from left to right, or bottom to top. On the pseudo-3D levels shooting an enemy with red clothing produces a pickup. In it you’ll find M (Machine Gun), L (Laser), F (Fireball Gun), S (Spreader), R (Rapid Bullets) and B (Barrier) to make your experience that bit more enjoyable. The most beloved weapon of the lot still remains the Spreader, but now that I’m a little older and perhaps a little more skilful, I actually don’t mind using the Laser. It’s much more powerful, though you do need accuracy on your side. The rest of the weapons are okay, but the second prize.

The biggest negative point for Contra all these years later is that it’ll be over before you know it. If you’ve played Contra to death as a kid, and can vaguely remember how to play the game, you’ll see the end credits rolling in under 20 minutes. Of cour, e if it’s the first time you’ve ever played the game – good luck trying to finish it without the Konami code in under a good few hours.

Contra is a highly addictive action shooter from beginning to end and feels like an 80s action hero timestamp that will forever remain a classic in the eyes of fans. If you own a NES you need this in your library.


  • 2-Player co-op goodness
  • Great level design
  • Fantastic soundtrack
  • Konami code FTW!


  • Can be a little short these days
  • Incredibly tough for newcomers


A classic action shooter that has stood the test of time really well. It might be a short experience, but what is there is as addictive and challenging as it has always been.


Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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