What is Konami code and how is it used?

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Valery Aloyants
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Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A! 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 appeared in 1986's Gradius for the NES, it was the very difficult Contra, released two years later, that gave it its fame. 

The Konami code would give Contra players thirty more lives. Given the difficulty of Contra, those lifetimes made it possible to survive much longer in the game until you got used to it. Since that time, the code has become world famous and has seen use in many games.

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Who created the Konami code?

In the early days of the game, difficulty sliders didn't exist. When someone created a game, the only way to test it was to master it. If you've designed a challenging game, the game testing process just got a lot harder.

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

Hashimoto programmed the code in Gradius to make testing the game easier. Like Contra, he was known for his extreme difficulty. 

In Gradius, the code would give players every available upgrade. The original intent was to remove the code before launch, but it was accidentally left in and, unlike today, it wasn't possible to fix the games back then. 

The developers assumed that the code was not left by accident. Of course, the code was soon discovered and gained enough acclaim to be retained in other Konami titles. However, the true popularity of the Konami Code took effect with the overwhelming success of Contra.

Konami games that use the Konami code

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

  • In Gradius III, entering the Konami code would give you all the upgrades… and as a result 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 melody, it also gives the player the option to start with nine lives. 
  • In Batman Returns for Super Nintendo, entering the Konami code with the second player's controller allows the first player to choose the number of lives. 
  • In the cult classic Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hands for Game Boy Advance, the player can open a hidden chest using the code. 

Konami Code is also present in non-Konami games.

Non-Konami games that use the Konami code

  • Borderlands 2 has been distributed for free on almost every platform imaginable, from Twitch to Xbox Live to PlayStation Network. Enter the Konami code on the 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 PlayStation 3 game called Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Propelled Battle Cars. If you enter the Konami code on the Rocket League main screen, the music switches to the original PlayStation 3 game. 

There are over 100 games that use Konami code in some form, with more on the way. There is rarely anything wrong with entering code, so try it every time you start a new game.

The Konami Code in Popular Culture

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

Take Amazon's Alexa smart assistant. If you tell her the Konami code, she'll say something like, "Sorry, no upgrades for you!" Google Assistant and Siri both have their own code responses.

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

If you want to hide some game trivia in the corner of your mind, remember: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A - and sometimes Start. It's easy to remember and could earn you a few more lives. 

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