Contra is a series of fast-paced run-and-gun shooters from Konami. The Contra series began with the release of Contra for the arcade, but it has been on many other consoles since then. While the arcade game was popular, the series really shot off once it hit the Nintendo Entertainment System. The series has since seen many sequels and spin-offs, including the recent Contra 4 on the Nintendo DS. The series has appeared on arcade, MSX2, NES, Game Boy, SNES, Nintendo Super System, Game Boy Advance, Genesis, PlayStation, Saturn, PlayStation 2, and Nintendo DS.
The series is well-known for popularizing the Konami Code, a code featured in many games (mostly games from Konami, but is even referenced to in popular culture, such as on Gmail) that do various effects. To enter in the code, the player would press Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A (and then sometimes Start). In this particular game, it would give the player ten extra lives.
Contra (Arcade, NES, MSX2)
Contra is the first game in the series. It introduced many of the series' standards, including the cooperative play, the incredibly high difficulty, and the quick and high jumps. The game was released on February 20, 1987 on the arcade, February 2, 1988 on the NES, May 25, 1989 on the MSX2, and November 5, 2006 on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The game (as well as most of the series) is known as Probotector in Europe. While the game did become popular on the arcade, it really became popular upon being ported to the NES. It is well-known for its high difficulty, and has been voted one of the hardest games of all time in many polls. The game starred Bill Rizer and Lance Bean, two incredibly powerful commandos fighting an alien menace.
Super Contra (Arcade, NES)
The game was retitled to Super C in North America because of a scandal involving Contra (not the game). This game introduced "top-down" stages, in which the player has a bird's eye view of the action. Super Contra was originally released on the arcade on January 8, 1988, in April, 1990 on the NES, on July 25, 2007 on the Xbox Live Marketplace, and on August 27, 2007 on the Virtual Console. The game was known as Probotector II: Return of the Evil Forces in Europe. Super Contra once again starred Bill Rizer and Lance Bean fighting an alien menace in an undisclosed location in South America.
Operation C (Game Boy)
Operation C is the first handheld title in the franchise. Operation C was the first game to feature the homing gun that has become a standard gun in the series. Operation C was released on the Game Boy in February, 1991. Operation C, despite not being a direct sequel, is the third game in the Contra franchise. Again, Bill Rizer and Lance Bean save the world from an alien threat. The game is known as Probotector in Europe.
Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance)
Contra III: The Alien Wars was the first game to allow the player to hold two weapons at once. The game also featured Mode 7 (on the SNES version), a popular feature of the SNES. Contra III was released on April 6, 1992 for the SNES, April, 1992 on the Game Boy, and on November 7, 2002 on the Game Boy Advance (as Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX. Contra III actually isn't the third game in the franchise, but rather, the fourth. In Europe, the game is known as Super Probotector: Alien Rebels. Bill Rizer and Lance Bean once again star in this game, this time in the year 2636.
Contra Force (NES)
Contra Force is rarely recognized as part of the official series. The game was originally planned as an unrelated game in Japan, but it was never released there. Contra Force was released on the NES in September of 1992. The game is generally lesser received than the other games in the franchise, mostly due to its departure from the regular gameplay that the franchise is known for. The game was originally announced in a Japanese flyer under the title Arc Hound, a game completely unrelated to the Contra franchise. The game takes place in the fictional Neo City, and stars a group known as Blue Group, an anti-terrorist group.
Contra: Hard Corps (Genesis)
Contra: Hard Corps was the first game to feature a female character--and even a werewolf. This game is widely recognized as the hardest in the series. Contra: Hard Corps was released on September 14, 1994. Contra: Hard Corps switched up the gameplay just a little bit by making it so that the game was less just enemies, and more boss encounters. There were also multiple endings in the game. The game was set in 2641, five years after the events of Contra III. The threat of the alien wars is over, and now to keep the peace, the Hard Corps has been established. A hero from the alien wars has kept an alien cell, and it is up to the Hard Corps to keep him from taking over the world.
Contra: Legacy of War (PlayStation, Saturn)
Contra: Legacy of War was the first Contra title to be developed by Appaloosa Interactive. It was also the series' first venture into 3D territory. The game was originally sold with 3D glasses. Contra: Legacy of War had gameplay changes that were quite controversial, that were changed soon thereafter. Contra: Legacy of War was released in November of 1996 for the PlayStation. Contra: Legacy of War is notable for being the first game in the franchise to retain the title of Contra in Europe.
C: The Contra Adventure (PlayStation)
C: The Contra Adventure was the second (and last) Contra title developed by Appaloosa Interactive. The game had several side-scrolling and 3D levels. It is notable as the only console game in the series without a multiplayer mode. C: The Contra Adventure was released in August of 1998 for the PlayStation. The game was only released in North America, and is not even mentioned in the series continuity for Japan or Europe. Most of the game is a third-person shooter, however some of the levels are side-scrolling.
Contra: Shattered Soldier (PlayStation 2)
Contra: Shattered Soldier has fully 3D graphics in 2D side-scrolling gameplay. The player also has a fixed weapon configuration in this game, as opposed to picking up weapons along the way. At the end of each level, the player gets a grade depending on the performance on the stage. Contra: Shattered Soldier was released on October 22, 2002 on the PlayStation 2. It marks the series' return to 2D side-scrolling. Originally, the development team that handled Contra: Shattered Soldier planned to work on a Nintendo 64 Contra game that was to be titled Contra Spirits 64.
Neo Contra (PlayStation 2)
Neo Contra is notable for being the only game in the franchise to have only overhead stages. The player can choose the weapon configuration in this game, with several new weapon (including one that locks onto flying enemies). Neo Contra was released on October 26, 2004 on the PlayStation 2. It is the tenth game in the Contra franchise, and the direct sequel to Contra: Shattered Soldier. It is another departure from the series' classic 2D side-scrolling gameplay. The game takes place in 4444, and Earth has been turned into a prison planet. When a revolt breaks out, Bill Rizer and a samurai by the name of Genabi Yagyu are sent to deal with the threat.
Contra 4 (Nintendo DS)
Contra 4 was released on November 13, 2007 on the Nintendo DS. In Japan it was released under the title Contra: Dual Spirits. It takes most of it's gameplay aspects from Contra III: The Alien Wars. The graphical style is also reminiscent of classic Super Nintendo games. There is also the possibility to unlock the original Contra and Super C. In addition to being able to unlock Contra and Super C, there is a library containing box art, artwork (including comics for some of the games), and a history of the franchise.
Contra ReBirth (WiiWare)
Contra ReBirth was released for WiiWare on September 7, 2009. Designed to looks like Contra games of the 16 and 8-bit eras, ReBirth is a throwback to those classic games. It was relatively well-received upon release, despite the fact that its gameplay doesn't differ in many regards. The game is available for 1000 Wii Points, the equivalent of $10 USD.
Hard Corps: Uprising (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network)
Hard Corps: Uprising, developed by Arc System Works Co., Ltd. of Guilty Gear fame, was released on February 16, 2011 for the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. The game is a spiritual successor to Contra: Hard Corps, and shares some similarities with that game (such as the inclusion of a female character). The game's art style is drastically different from previous Contra games, but the basic gameplay is retained; run to the right, collect power-ups, and shoot baddies.