RPO Replay: Contra

The Ready Player One Replay is an exploration of the games that inspired the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.


Aech and I had wasted countless hours on two-player classics like Contra, Golden Axe, Heavy Barrel, Smash TV, and Ikari Warriors.

Game Play

Contra is a side-scrolling two-player shooter by Konami featuring two muscle-bound warriors – Bill and Lance – who blast their way into a military compound.  Released in 1987 in the arcades, it showed up on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988.

Wikipedia’s summary of the plot gives way more backstory than I was ever aware of the few times I played the game in the arcade:

Contra is set in the distant future of the year 2633 A.D., when the evil Red Falcon Organization have set a base on the fictional Galuga archipelago near New Zealand in a plot to wipe out humanity. Two commandos, Bill Rizer and Lance Bean[6][5] of the Earth Marine Corp’s Contra unit (an elite group of soldiers specializing in guerrilla warfare), are sent to the island to destroy the enemy forces and uncover the true nature of the alien entity controlling them.

The two Contras (a name which I always associated with the Iran-Contra affair, but what would you expect from a Gen Xer?) go to battle with a battle rifle with infinite ammunition that can be upgraded to a laser rifle, fireball gun, and multishot weapon. The sidescrolling view occasionally switches to a pseudo-3D view as you move through base corridors.

It’s typical of the Rambo-inspired, bring-all-the-guns style games of its time, in which one or two heavily muscled warriors do battle against an infinity of enemies (see also Heavy Barrel and Ikari Warriors).


Contra was never a favorite of mine. It’s far too easy to die in this game; bullets and other slow-moving projectiles will kill you if they hit, so there’s a lot of run-and-gunning, as well as rolling and jumping, needed to beat the game’s various stages. By design, it was meant to devour quarters and if I was going to do that, I was going to choose a better game, like Golden Axe.

High Scores

  • My High Score:  65,000


Where to Play

Commentary & Resources

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