Contra NES Review – A Throwback Review of the Classic Run-and-Gun

by | NES

The NES video game Contra is an action game that was developed by the Japanese company Konami, and it was based on the arcade game of the same name. Our Contra NES review will have the whole low-down for you.

Game Story

The story in the Contra NES retro game is based on a war between aliens and humans. The aliens have invaded Earth, and it is up to the player to fight them off and save the planet. The game is set in various locations around the world, including a jungle, a snow-covered forest, and an ancient temple. The player must battle their way through these levels, defeating aliens along the way.

Main Characters

One interesting note about the Contra video game is that the character names were changed in the Japanese version of the game by Nintendo Entertainment. The original arcade game featured two American commandos as the main characters, but in the Japanese version, they were replaced by two Japanese soldiers. This change was likely made due to cultural sensitivities concerning America’s role in World War II.

The character of Bill Rizer was based on Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his likeness was used in early promotional material for the game. However, Schwarzenegger’s name could not be used due to licensing issues, so the character was simply referred to as “the guy with the big gun.”

Unique Weapons

The weapons in Contra were varied and powerful, and they allowed players to take down enemies with ease. The spread gun or spread shot is useful for taking out large groups of enemies, and the machine gun was great for quickly clearing a path. Flame throwers were also effective against entrenched enemies, and they could quickly clear out a room full of baddies.

Game Levels

The game levels in Contra are horizontal primarily, and the player must battle their way through various enemies and obstacles to reach it. The level design is well-done, and it is often difficult to navigate through the levels without taking damage. Not all levels were horizontal, there were some vertical levels too, as well as third-person perspectives inside the enemy base.

Gameplay and Music

The arcade version of Contra was popular for its fast-paced action and violence, and the NES version was no different. Pressing the start button at the title screen immediately drops the player into the action. To make the game more challenging, the developers added an extra enemy to each level, and they also increased the number of bullets that could be onscreen at once. They also made it possible for players to shoot in all directions, which added to the frenetic gameplay.

The sound in Contra is also well-done. The music is fast-paced and adrenaline-pumping, and it does a good job of fitting the game’s action-packed gameplay. The sound effects are also appropriate, and they add to the game’s overall intensity.


The bosses in the Contra NES game were difficult to beat, and they required a lot of skill and firepower to take down. These bosses typically were faced at the end of each stage and hopefully, you have some power ups on hand.

  1. The first boss was a large alien that could shoot fireballs from its mouth. The player had to avoid the fireballs while shooting at the alien’s weak spot. 
  2. The second boss was a giant robot that could shoot missiles and lasers. The player had to destroy the robot’s weak spot while avoiding its attacks. 
  3. The third boss was a giant alien queen that could shoot fireballs and summon smaller aliens to attack the player. The player had to shoot at the queen’s weak spot while avoiding her attacks. 

In the final stages of the game, you start to recognize the enemies resembling a certain movie franchise, especially the final boss at the end of the level.

Defeating the Bosses

NES Contra is difficult, but it is possible to beat if you are skilled and have the right weapons and cheat codes to lessen the difficulty. The best weapon for taking down bosses is the spread gun. The machine gun is also effective, but it can be difficult to hit the boss with all of the bullets. The flame thrower is also effective against bosses, but it can be difficult to use in tight quarters.

If you are having trouble defeating the bosses, try using a cheat code. The infamous Konami Code “up, up, down, down, left right, left right, B, A,” will give you 30 extra lives, and it will make the game much easier.


The graphics in Contra are colorful and detailed, the different environments are well-rendered, and the enemy characters are distinct and easily distinguishable from one another. The player’s character is also well-animated, and their movements are fluid and realistic.

Contra provides a great challenge, but it was also very rewarding and was known for having tight controls. Players who were able to complete the game were treated to a great ending sequence that showed the heroes triumphantly returning to earth. 

Overall, Contra is a great game that is perfect for gamers who enjoy fast-paced action in the run-and-gun genre. There were numerous Contra games such as Contra 3: Alien Wars, Operation C, Contra Force, and Super Contra. All these gun platformers featured the same exciting gameplay and features shown in the original Contra, so there is plenty of sequel games to play after finishing this title.

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