What is the Konami Code and How Do You Use It?


Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A! The Konami Code, or Contra Code as it was often known, is one of the most famous cheat codes in video game history. Although the code first made its appearance in 1986’s Gradius for the NES, it was the punishingly difficult Contra — released two years later — that gave it its fame. 

The Konami Code would give Contra players an extra thirty lives. Given how difficult Contra was, those lives made it possible to survive significantly longer in the game until you got the hang of it. Since that time, the code has become world famous and has seen use in many games. 

Who Created The Konami Code?

In the early days of gaming, difficulty sliders didn’t exist. When someone created a game, the only way to test it was to master it. If you designed a challenging game, the process of playtesting it became that much more difficult.

Such was the case with Gradius, a 2D shoot-em-up (or schmup) released on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1986. Although originally an arcade game, Konami wanted to bring Gradius to more platforms. One of the playtesters was a man named Kazuhisa Hashimoto, known as the father of the Konami Code. 

Hashimoto programmed the code into Gradius to make testing the game easier. Like Contra, it was known for its extreme difficulty. 

In Gradius, the code would give players every power-up available. The original intent was to remove the code before launch, but it was accidentally left in — and unlike today, you couldn’t patch games back then. 

Developers assumed the code wasn’t left behind by accident. Of course, the code was soon discovered and attained enough acclaim that it was kept in other Konami titles. However,  the true popularity of the Konami Code came into effect with the runaway success of Contra.

Konami Games That Use The Konami Code

Konami has a huge list of games that use the Konami Code in different ways. 

  • In Gradius III, entering the Konami Code would give you all the power-ups…and subsequently blow up your ship.
  • In Castlevania: Bloodlines, the Konami Code will unlock the optional Expert Mode in the game. If the background music is set to a specific tune, it also gives the player the option to begin with nine lives. 
  • In Batman Returns for the Super Nintendo, entering the Konami Code with the player two controller allows the first player to choose the number of lives they have. 
  • In the cult-classic Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hands for the Game Boy Advance, the player can open a hidden chest using the code. 

Konami Code has a presence in non-Konami games, too.

Non-Konami Games That Use The Konami Code

  • Borderlands 2 has been given away for free on almost every platform imaginable, from Twitch to Xbox Live to PlayStation Network. Enter the Konami Code on its title screen to unlock the optional setting called Extra Wubs.
  • In Bioshock Infinite, you can enter the code to unlock “1999 Mode,” a difficulty mode beyond the standard Hard mode. It’s designed to be incredibly difficult in honor of the original games that inspired the Konami Code.
  • There was a game for the PlayStation 3 called Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Propelled Battle Cars. If you enter the Konami Code on Rocket League’s home screen, the music switches to the original PlayStation 3 game. 

There are more than 100 games that use the Konami Code in some form, with more on the way. There’s rarely any harm in entering the code, so give it a shot whenever you start a new game.

The Konami Code in Popular Culture

The Konami Code is so prevalent that it has made its mark on many aspects of popular culture. 

Take Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant. If you tell her the Konami Code, she will say something like, “Sorry, no power-ups for you!” Google Assistant and Siri both have their responses to the code.

If you go to the Overwatch website and enter the code, the talented gamer, Dva will appear all over the screen as a decoration. 

If you want to tuck a little bit of gaming trivia away in the corner of your mind, just remember: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A — and sometimes Start. It’s easy to remember and might earn you a few extra lives. 

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