"Fire! Fire! Fire! And don't stop firing are the only instructions you need. Because in this Doomsday extravaganza, there's little time for thinking. A killer instinct is all that matters. And if your trigger finger lacks stamina, Earth will lack a future."
— From the Super C manual
Contra is a run-and-gun action game series produced by Konami in 1987, starring Super Soldier Bill Rizer (accompanied by his partner Lance Bean in the early games) who must defend the Earth using a variety of weapons, including Machine Guns, Fire Balls, Lasers, Bombs, and the ever-popular Spread Gun.The games are notoriously difficult, but fast-paced enough that most players don't mind the challenge. The NES version of the original Contra popularized what is now known as the "Konami Code": Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A.List of Contra games:
Super Contra (Arcade, released as Super C on the NES)
Operation C (Game Boy)
Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES/GB, released as Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX on the GBA)
Contra 3D, a pachislot game released exclusively for Japan roughly based on the first two games.
Contra Evolution (arcade/iOS/Android, officially licensed remake of the NES/Famicom Contra developed for the Chinese/Hong Kong market and later the international markets)
Known as Gryzor or Probotector in Europe.
This series provides examples of:
Adaptational Heroism: In the Sega Genesis version of Probotector (Contra: Hard Corps), Dr. Mandrake did not betray the Probotector, and was removed from other scenes he was supposed to be in after the first stage split. Colonel Bahamut is also replaced by an unnamed alien who has a pyramid for his head.
After the End: "Calamity on a global scale. The Earth after environmental collapse". - Shattered Soldier.
All There in the Manual: The plot for most of the games prior to Contra: Hard Corps, which is how the American version of the series managed to get away with a different continuity for several years until Contra: Shattered Soldier (aside for the fact that the Famicom version of Contra had cut-scenes which were removed from its NES counterpart).
Also, you wouldn't know that Contra: Hard Corps took place during the holiday season if you haven't looked at the manual.
Alternative Calendar: Parodied in Contra Rebirth, which is set in "Contra Year 2633", a reference to the MSX Gradius series (in which the game's universe had its own "Gradian" calendar).
Always Save the Girl: At the beginning of Rebirth stage 2, the heroes choose to jump into the mecha's head (knocking it off) in order to save a little girl, rather than just shooting it.
A Winner Is You: The first Contra had an exploding island and then said simply "CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE DESTROYED THE VILE RED FALCON AND SAVED THE UNIVERSE. CONSIDER YOURSELF A HERO."
Bait-and-Switch Boss: The Stage 2 boss in Contra 4, and Slave Beast Taka (the Stage 1 boss) in Shattered Soldier.
Big Bad: Devil Emperor Gava in most of the games. In Shattered Soldier, however, the Big Bad is at first assumed to be Lance Bean, Bill Rizer's former partner, but the true antagonists of the game are the Triumvirate. Colonel Bahamut is the Big Bad of Contra: Hard Corps, Master Contra serves as the Big Bad of Neo Contra, Chief Salamander is the Big Bad in Contra Rebirth, and Tiberius is the Big Bad of the prequel, Hard Corps: Uprising.
Bigger Bad: As of Shattered Soldier, it turns out that the Triumvirate are the true main antagonists of the Contra series, since prior to the events of the first game they had stolen a mysterious object known as the Relic of Moirai, and that they had provoked the aliens to attack Earth to get it back, starting the Alien Wars. You don't find out about this until you defeat Lance Bean, however.
Bittersweet Ending: Two endings in Contra: Hard Corps count as this, which is only achieved in the routes where you kill Deadeye Joe after the first encounter.
Alien Cell Ending: You have finally destroyed the Alien Cell and single-handedly stopped the alien mutation before it spreads to humanity. However, Colonel Bahamut escaped. Still, you'll still stand to oppose him the next time he rises, and at the very least, you pretty much wrecked his current plans (using the Alien Cell) that he cannot rise again THAT quick.
Big Magnum Ending: You destroyed Bahamut in his space station headquarters. However, it counts as a Heroic Sacrifice as you do not get out alive from space. Not to mention, the warning shot from Bahamut damages a portion of Earth, but you ensure that none of those will happen again, even if you die in process. The people of Earth reward you with a golden statue of yourself to remember your deeds and sacrifice.
Body Horror: Colonel Bahamut gets one and so does the very first boss of the 3rd game.
Boss Rush: The final stage of Contra III has six bosses in a row (seven if you're playing Hard mode), though the last two bosses were new to the series. The ones who weren't? The final bosses from the previous games and the Stage 4 boss from the Arcade version of Super Contra.
Bowdlerize: When the console versions of the Contra games were released in PAL territories, the main characters and some of the enemies were replaced by robotic counterparts and the series was renamed Probotector. This was due to a censorship law in Germany that prohibited selling games to children that depicted human characters killing each other with guns. The first console game in the series that was released in Europe intact was ironically Contra: Legacy of War and later Shattered Soldier. The Probotector robot later appeared as an easter egg in Contra 4. The German "indexing" of the original Contra still holds until today and will only be reconsidered in 2014.
Note that this only applied to the early console versions. The original arcade version of Contra was released under the title of Gryzor in Europe with the human characters intact (the only real lost was the removal of two-player simultaneous play). In fact, Gryzor actually received ports for the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. Super Contra also got an arcade release in Europe, with the same title and everything as the US version.
As few Contra games had dialogue or a focus on plot, the change to robots typically didn't affect much with the exception of Contra Hard Corps (which actually had a storyline). Most of the dialogue and some scenes were cut, which made several events such as Bahamut turning into an alien monster completely unexplained.
Contra ReBirth was changed when brought overseas — when a photograph of Chief Salamander is shown at the beginning of Stage 3, he looks strikingly like Adolf Hitler in the Japanese version. He was redrawn to look just like an actual salamander in the overseas versions.
Brain in a Jar: The penultimate boss in Contra III, whose official Japanese name is "Brain Organism Searle" note Zunou Seimeitai Saaru, is a sentient brain with one eye.
As it's connected to Emperor Devil Gava note Tennou Ki Gyaba, it reappears among Gava's dissected remains in Neo Contra, and Gava look-alike Black Viper has a similar counterpart in Contra 4.
Contra Hard Corps has "Big Magnum", a brainish alien being used to power a giant planet destroying laser.
Brick Joke: Area 2 of Contra ReBirth begins with the Contra(s) blowing the head off a Humongous Mecha, sending it flying and the mecha retreating. After the Recurring Boss is defeated at the end of the stage, its head falls from the sky and bonks it, resulting in its disintegration.
Bullet Hell: The ninja miniboss in Area 3 of Contra ReBirth has a bullet hell style attack as part of its attack pattern of throwing laser shuriken. On Easy, the bullet hell pattern is pretty straightforward, but as the difficulty level goes up, it becomes more complex and you get less space to dodge the shuriken.
An incredibly obscure one in Rebirth; among the fleeing citizens in the second stage is a girl on a skateboard that popped up briefly in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game, and her sprite is more or less an updated version of her NES incarnation (she wore a different outfit in the actual arcade game).
On the same stage, a billboard with Dr. Venom's face on it can be seen in the background. Dr. Venom was the antagonist of the Gradius sequels for the MSX.
The Rolling Duckers in Contra III were based on the walking Ducker cannons from Gradius.
Camera Screw: There is an invisible area "between" the DS's screens in Contra 4. Bullets can pass through it, which will result in numerous, and cheap, deaths from a bullet you couldn't even see a moment before.
Camp: Contra: Rebirth seems to be a deliberate example of this, although the trend seems to have started with Neo Contra, which is likewise whacky as hell.
Canon Discontinuity: Contra Force, Contra: Legacy of War and C: The Contra Adventure are not listed in the database of Contra: Shattered Soldier, though this has mainly to do with the fact that none of those games were released in Japan and database follows the Japanese continuity instead of the American one that was followed by every game in the series prior to Shattered Soldier. In the case of Contra Force, its arguably justified since that was never meant to be a Contra game to begin with.
Car Fu: Used by the third Mini-Boss in Hard Corps. It's pathetically easy to avoid as compared to his Eye Beams, though.
Color-Coded Multiplayer - In the NES versions of Contra and Super C, Bill and Lance are distinguished by the color of their pants. This was mainly done due to hardware limitations, since Bill and Lance in the arcade version actually have different sprites (though, they did wear color-coded bandannas), but Contra III for the SNES and Contra 4 for the DS both kept the tradition. In the arcade version of Super Contra, Bill and Lance actually wore green and purple respectively, which became the colors for "Mad Dog" and "Scorpion", the extra characters in Contra 4.
Combining Mecha: One of the stages in Hard Corps has an aeroplane robot, a sea-urchin robot and a dolphin robot as the minibosses. After the three get their asses handed to them (and escape), they merge together to form a large running robot, a robot bird, and a robot-tank hybrid respectively (aGetter Robo??) before attempting to merge one last time and exploding spectacularly instead.
Constellations: In Contra: Hard Corps, Noiman Cascade's Virtual Zone forms include the constellations Taurus, Sagittarius and Gemini.
Continuing Is Painful: In the early Contra games, losing a life will revert the player's weapon back to the default Normal Gun, which can be especially painful in the middle of a boss battle. To fix this problem, the automatic Machine Gun was made into the default gun from Operation C and onward (with Contra 4 and Hard Corps: Uprising both reverting back to the "peashooter"-style Normal Gun from the arcade and NES games), while Contra III and Hard Corps allowed players to carry more than one weapon at the same time (giving players the option to have a backup weapon in case they lose a life). Averted in Shattered Soldier and Neo Contra, which gave players fixed weapon configurations.
Cranium Ride: You can do that a in some sections in Contra Rebirth.
Crosshair Aware: Inverted in Hard Corps. One of the bosses places a crosshair on the ground before firing a lot of explosives into the air... seconds later, the explosives land, and blow up the entire place except the crosshair.
Cutscene Incompetence: Actually optional in Hard Corps. At one point the Doctor tells you that the situation is hopeless and you must surrender, what with the thirteen regular soldiers with their guns trained on you. You may choose to surrender or fight it out (granted, if you do fight it out, you end up fighting completely different enemies).
Cyber Cyclops: A popular trait for robotic enemies, as well as two heroes.
Difficult but Awesome: The Laser Gun. Often regarded as a Power-Up Letdown due to its slow firing and narrow range, mastering it nonetheless nets you a powerful weapon that can take down bosses in seconds.
The game itself, though insanely difficult, is very fast-paced in nature and still became a successful franchise of Konami's.
Difficulty By Region: The Japanese version of Contra Hard Corps had a life meter with allowed three hits before dying. This was removed in other regions without otherwise modifying the difficulty, leading many to regard this as the hardest game in the series.
Also, the Famicom versions of the first two games, as well as Contra Spirits, had stage select codes which were removed for their overseas releases.
Inverted with the arcade version of Super Contra, which has a second loop not featured in the overseas release that is basically the hardest setting of the game with no continues. The western version ends the game after one playthrough.
Dragon Their Feet: One of the possible path in Hard Corps has the player fighting against Colonel Bahamut in the second to last level. The last level features Deadeye Joe, who doesn't seem to care that his boss is dead. Unfortunately for him, he's really easy for a Contra mini-boss.
Dub Name Change: Bill Rizer and Lance Bean were given the punny names of "Sgt. Bill 'Mad Dog' Ko" and "Corporal Lance 'Scorpion'" in the manuals for the NES versions. When the American version of Contra III kept the futuristic setting, their names were changed again to Jimbo and Sully and this time the manual claimed that they were the descendants of the original heroes. All four names were later used in Contra 4 ("Mad Dog" and "Scorpion" for the extra palette swaps of Bill and Lance, and "Jimbo" and "Sully" for their Contra III renditions).
When Contra 4 was translated to Japanese, "Jimbo" and "Sully" became "Spirits Bill" and "Spirits Lance", likely since many Japanese players wouldn't had been that familiar with all the name changes.
The names of the enemy characters also differ depending on the manual.
"Tsugu-Min" became "Brownie" in Contra Rebirth. Despite the similar name, she is a different character from the robot character in Contra Hard Corps, whose name is "Browny".
Easy-Mode Mockery: Contra III does not allow the player to fight the true final boss or see more than a black screen with text for an ending until completing the game on the hardest setting. The Japanese version does allow the player to fight the final boss on Normal, but only shows a partial version of the ending.
Contra 4 also ends the game on Stage 7 on Easy mode, literally telling the player that they can't see the ending unless they beat it on Normal or Hard.
In Contra Rebirth, the real final boss cannot be fought if the difficulty setting is on Easy. Players get the same initial ending regardless of the difficulty setting, but going the extra mile awards the player with a bonus ending.
Epic Fail: In Hard Corps, the second stage features an airship in the distance launching a bunch of airborne mooks at you for a little bit. How is it defeated? Simple—it abruptly crashes into a sky rise building!
Expy: The final boss in the arcade version of Super Contra, Emperor Devil Gava (a.k.a. the Red Falcon Commander himself), is based on Mad Emperor Asmodeus, the final boss of another Konami arcade game, Battlantis. Battlantis was directed by Hideyuki Tsujimoto, who was co-programmer in the original arcade version of Contra and later directed Super Contra, as well as Sunset Riders and Mystic Warriors.
In Contra ReBirth, Gava has mandibles, that make him look a bit like a Predalien.
The Aliens are in series, generally are based on those from the Alien movies. In The Final level of the original game, there is Devil Dragon Emperor Java(the big Xenomorph-like head), and Facehuggers. In Super C and Alien Wars, there are enemies, that look like adult Xenomorphs, not to mention the Metal Alien, who looks like a winged one.
A pretty wierd example from Contra: Hard Corps, were there is an expy of an attack, rather than a character. The first form of Colonel Bahamut after fusing with Alien Cell uses an attack that is pretty much the Continuous Energy Bullets attack from Dragon Ball Z. His second form after he loses control over the Alien Cell looks like Slave Beast Taka, A.K.A The Giant Turle boss from Alien Wars and Shattered Soldier.
The fight against The Relic of Moirai fused with the Triumvirate from Shattered Soldier is oddly enough, an expy of the multi-fazed boss fight against Colonel Bahamut. And their first form resembles Super Buu, again from Dragon Ball Z.
Genbei “Jaguar” Yagyu, is obviously based on the historical Samurai Yagyū Jūbei Mitsuyoshi.
Sally Inohara, from Contra: Evolution is pretty similar in looks and performance to Sayuri, from the slightly earlier Hard Corps: Uprising. She can be also be seen as Distaff Counterpart of Yagyu Jaguar, from Neo Contra.
The Recurring Boss "Big Fuzz", looks like a gigantic Terminator skeleton, and the two androids that are fought before him in Alien Wars, look like normal sized ones.
Face-Heel Turn: Colonel Bahamut from Contra: Hard Corps used to be a war hero until he turned against the Government. Uprising is actually a prequel before his Face-Heel Turn.
Fallen Hero: Lance Bean, Player 2 in the original Contra, turns out to be the Blood Falcon Commander, the apparent Big Bad of Contra: Shattered Soldier (although he did go a little nuts toward the end, his dying confession reveals he was really a Well-Intentioned Extremist trying to fight the Government Conspiracy that was really behind the whole alien war from the beginning.)
Likewise, Lucia, player 2 in Shattered Soldier, ends up as a member of the Quirky Mini Boss Squad in Neo Contra, where she participates in a conspiracy to destroy the human race, and is fought and killed by the players.
Bill Rizer himself apparently, who is the Big Bad Master Contra/Project C in Neo Contra.
A God Am I: The Triumvirate, when you confront them in their dimension in Shattered Soldier and when they start to activate the Relic of Moirai.
Gaius: We now possess the relic and its power, making us virtual gods.
Happy Ending Override: All those Alien Wars you've been fighting throughout the entire series? As of Contra: Shattered Soldier, it turns out that the war was all part of a Government Conspiracy known as the Triumvirate, and that Lance had uncovered the truth by accident. After Bill was thought to have murdered his partner Lance and destroyed 80% of the world's population, Lance returns as a notorious terrorist leader trying to overthrow the Triumvirate and is the Disc One Final Boss of the game.
Hard Mode Filler: Completing either NES game will restart the game on a harder difficulty and they can be played in countless loops until the player uses all of their continues. Surprisingly averted with the first arcade game, which ends on a single loop. The Japanese arcade version of Super Contra has a second loop not in the overseas release that is even harder than the "very hard" setting (if only for the sole fact that there are no continues).
Helicopter Blender: One of the bosses in Contra: Hard Corps, a transforming mecha with a helicopter form.
Also, one of the bosses in Shattered Soldier.
Averted in Neo Contra, where the heroes run nonchalantly and can even dodge-roll atop active helicopter blades.
Heroic Sacrifice: In one of the story branches in Hard Corps Colonel Bahamut uses the Alien Cell to power an orbital cannon on a Space Elevator, and your head after him. Destroying the cannon causes the entire top of the elevator to explode, and you perish along with it. The ending screen shows a memorial statue for your character.
Contra III: The Alien Wars has Big Fuzz, a giant robotic skeleton complete with firebreath, homing Eye Beams, and timed bombs. It was re-introduced in Contra 4 with the fire breath as its sole attack.
Contra: Hard Corps has Powered Ninja Yokozuna, a giant blue robot boss with that ran faster than a train and stopped the train with its bare hands. The second boss of Shattered Soldier is an updated model named Yokozuna Jr., who does pretty much the same thing.
I Have Many Names: Thanks to the inconsistent localizations of the early titles, Bill Rizer and Lance Bean, the original main characters, have many names from "Sgt. Bill 'Mad Dog' Ko" and "Corporal Lance 'Scorpion'", to "Jimbo" and "Sully". Additionally, the European computer ports of Gryzor (the original Contra) claimed that "Gryzor" was actually the surname of the main characters, making them "Bill and Lance Gryzor".
Also for Jaguar in Neo Contra. In ReBirth, he uses his real name, too.
Improbable Piloting Skills: Those Helicopter pilots are unsung heroes. They can fly through hostile bases and jungles, and can cruise into alien lairs without trouble to pick up the heroes after a job well done. One helicopter manages to fly through space. Shattered Soldier's airplane pilot also deserves a mention, as he also flies through space!
Infinity+1 Sword: The Spread Gun in the NES games, the Fire Gun and Laser Gun in Contra III: The Alien Wars, Brad Fang's Beast Shot, Psycho Blaster, and Explosive Punch as well as Browny's Super-Electromagnet Yo-Yo from Contra: Hard Corps, and Weapon Set D and F and Jaguar's katana in Neo Contra.
In Name Only: Contra Force for the NES is a localization of an unreleased-in-Japan Famicom game titled Arc Hound. The game has nothing to do with the rest of the Contra series, being set in present times with the Big Bad being a group of human terrorists instead of aliens.
The opposite is the case with Hard Corps: Uprising where it's clearly an official prequel to Contra: Hard Corps for the Genesis despite not having Contra in the name. It is also a prequel to the original Contra.
It's a Wonderful Failure: In Shattered Soldier, if the player doesn't have a high enough ranking when Mission 5 is completed, the player will get a Downer Ending where the island is destroyed by a Kill Sat, killing everyone including the heroes.
Karmic Death: In Shattered Soldier, as the Triumvirate ready to use the Relic against Bill and Lucia, it ends up overwhelming and fusing with them, becoming the Final Boss.
Karma Houdini: In one of the endings of Hard Corps, the Big Bad Bahamut ends up escaping after the destruction of the Alien Cell. Subverted that his master plan hinges on that Alien Cell, but you destroyed it, so it pretty much diminishes his chance of being a threat in the future.
Katanas Are Just Better: Jaguar in Neo Contra. Though he uses guns too, his katana is enough to destroy a single machine. One of the endings in Neo Contra shows he slices the enemies with just Katana instead of guns. However, he won't use it in ReBirth.
Kill It with Fire: The Fire Gun in Super C has an extra-powerful charged shot that destroys most of the stronger enemies with one or two hits.
Konami Code: Didn't begin here, but most certainly popularized by these games (at least among American players, who are not as big Gradius fans as the Japanese were).
Lone Wolf Boss: Mystery G in Neo Contra. He has no connection to the enemy group of the same name, he's only there to test Bill Rizer to see if he's the ultimate soldier. He also pulls a Heroic Sacrifice depending on your performance throughout the game.
Contra: Hard Corps includes in its sound test a BGM titled "Jurassic Dope." This tune is played in only two areas of the game. One is nothing but a very brief dialogue sequence. The other instance is a second dialogue sequence, this one with a whopping one dialogue box. The tune itself is a minute and a half in length. Unless you're an extremely slow reader, you won't be hearing the whole thing in-game.
Arguably all of the Shattered Soldier soundtrack due to the inability to hear it over the gunfire and no separate volume controls for SFX and BGM.
The worst offender is "Critical Moment of Contra", a 2-minute tune played during a 30-second boss battle.
For some reason, in the arcade version of Super Contra, "Hotter than Hell" plays during the very short Penultimate Boss battle instead of during the Final Boss battle, which uses the same music as the main stage. And the "Game Clear Jingle" is misplaced, playing before the final boss instead of after.
Luck-Based Mission: The Low Ammo 2 and Pacifism 4 challenges in Contra 4 basically come down to "Did a running enemy spawn on the same platform as me?"
Macross Missile Massacre: Occurs in Contra III, and your character is right in the thick of it. Lots of missile also appear in Stage 3 in Contra: Rebirth, including a miniboss who is upside-down on a missile and a boss which is a giant missile shooting smaller missiles.
Marathon Level: The final four stages in the original arcade game is set in one extra-long level, with the changes in backgrounds and music being the only cues that you've reached the next stage. In the NES and MSX2 versions, the game lets you know when you've reached a new stage,
Market-Based Title: The arcade version of Contra was retitled Gryzor in Europe, while oddly enough the arcade version of Super Contra kept its original title for its European release. The European versions of the early console games were retitled Probotector and had the human characters replaced with robots. This was done so that the games could be sold to children in Germany without any problem due to the country's strict censorship laws. This lasted until Contra: Legacy of War, in which all further European releases were identical to their American counterparts.
In Japan, Operation C is known as Contra (although spelled in katakana instead of the kanji used in the arcade and Famicom versions), Contra III: The Alien Wars is known as Contra Spirits, Contra: Hard Corps is known as Contra: The Hard Corps, Contra: Shattered Soldier is known as Shin Contra, Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX is known as Contra: Hard Spirits, and Contra 4 is known as Contra: Dual Spirits. Super Contra was shortened to Super C on the American NES, even though the arcade version kept its full title for its western release. Contra Force would've been known in Japan as Arc Hound had the Famicom version actually been released.
Mutually Exclusive Powerups: In the arcade Super Contra and Contra 4, your weapon can be upgraded to a second level, but the extra power-up is lost if the player changes weapons. This also applies to the "Rapid Bullets" power-up in the two NES games, in which the increased bullet speed is lost when the player changes weapon. Averted in the arcade version of the original game, in which the Rapid Bullets power-up is still in effect after changing weapons (presumably due to the fact there are only two Rapid Bullets power-ups in the entire game in that version and they can only be acquired when the player is wielding the default gun).
Nintendo Hard: Every single entry in the series. Just try beating the first game without using the Konami code.
Super Contra, (specifically the arcade version) Contra: Hard Corps, and Contra 4 are considered the hardest of them all. When Hard Corps was released in Japan, they added a health bar and gave unlimited continues.
A poster◊ for Contra 4 included in Nintendo Power followed suit by depicting "newcomers" Mad Dog and Scorpion as pastiches of Wesley Snipes and Vin Diesel.
Non-Indicative Name: The "hit rate" in Shattered Soldier and Neo Contra on the top of the screen is actually a destruction rate of every unique (i.e. non respawnable) enemy and object in each stage.
One-Hit-Point Wonder: Every game except the MSX2 port of the first Contra and the Japanese version of Contra: Hard Corps. Oddly, Konami took this feature out of the overseas versions of the game, feeling it would water the challenge down too much.
Poison Mushroom: Area 2 of Contra ReBirth has a Normal Gun power-up on Hard mode that changes your weapon to your default pea shooter.
Power-Up Letdown: In most games, when you have too many shots on screen to fire a full spread, the Spread Gun will instead fire partial spreads or single bullets to keep your firing rate consistent. It does not do this in Super Contra (arcade version only), turning the Spread Gun from a Game Breaker into an annoyance as you have to wait for your previous shots to clear the screen before you can fire again. The "upgrade" makes it worse: it fires five shots per spread instead of three, and your shots-on-screen are increased from nine to ten, which would be good in any other game, but here it means you can only have two spreads on screen instead of three. In the fast-paced One-Hit-Point Wonder world of Contra, this can be the difference between life and death.
Pun: Contra 4 has the "over the shoulder soldier folder," a most "terrible tumbler" which is just a boulder.
Pun-Based Title: Contra: Hard Corps, which is a play on the word "hardcore". Unfortunately, this pun isn't so obvious on people who mispronounce the word "corps" as "corpse".
Punny Name: The localizations of the early installments were filled with these. For example, Bill Rizer and Lance Bean were renamed "Sgt. Bill Ko" (as in "Sgt. Bilko") and "Corporal Lance" (an inversion of "Lance Corporal") respectively in the manual for Super C.
Racing The Train: One of the robotic bosses of Contra: Hard Corps and Contra: Shattered Soldier makes his entrance by outrunning the train you're on, pushes it to a stop, lifts the end of it, then climbs on top. This turns out to be a bad idea in the end- upon defeat, he falls backwards off the front of the train, and gets hit by it!
And in Contra: Shattered Soldier, an Expy of said boss does the exact same thing, except that you're on a small train carriage which the boss lifts off the ground with ease.
Rated M for Manly: In spite of being able to play as female characters (Sheena, Lucia, Tsugumin/Brownie, Krystal, Sayuri), this game demands you to be as manly as hell (Shoot everything that can be shot) to attain victory.
"Shadow Beast Kimkoh"note 陰獣キムコウ, In Juu Kimukou, the final boss of Super C for the NES, an alien with a woman's face inside its mouth. It comes back as a boss in Contra III and subsequent games. There are lots of little ones in Rebirth.
"Slave Beast Taka"note 奴隷獣タカ, Dorei Juu Taka is a giant mutated tortoise who serves as the first boss in Contra III (he was renamed Kimkoh in the American version for reason). In Contra: Shattered Soldier, he appears again, but this time with a deformed human face on his behind.
"Great Awakening Robo Big Fuzz"note 大覚ロボビッグファズ, Daikaku Robo Biggufazu (or "Robo-Corpse"), the third boss of Contra III, is a skeleton-likezombie robot who reappears in Contra 4.
The Metal Alien/"Slave Hawk" (which resembles the winged Queen Alien from Aliens) from the arcade version of Super Contra returns in the final stage of Contra III. It was planned to be included in IV, but was ultimately scrapped.
Super Power Robot Yokozuna, who first appears in Hard Corps, and a later version Yokozuna Jr. appears in Shattered Soldier. Both battles against it are Traintop Battles, and both of them demonstrate the ability to stop a train.
The Magnus series of tanks (Magnus in Super C, Magnus Mk. II in Contra III, Magnus Mk. IV in Shattered Soldier, Magnus Mk. V in Neo Contra).
Recurring Riff: The "Stage Clear" riff from the first game and the "Game Over" riff from Contra III.
Recycled Title: In Japan, Operation C was simply titled Contra (but spelled in kana instead of kanji).
The modified versions of Contra for the NES, Operation C, and Contra: Hard Corps that were released in Europe were all simply titled Probotector.
Refuge in Audacity: The over-the-top missile-jumping sequence in the end of Stage 4 in Contra III: The Alien Wars.
Meanwhile, Neo Contra shamelessly does its best to top that bit. The opening scene alone includes riding ballistic missiles, outrunning explosions, a giant robot, and dinosaur riders, arguably reaching the pinnacle of audacity when the new Player 2 character (Jaguar the black samurai) slices a missile in half by riding a plane into it with his sword raised. The actual game itself isn't very different. As above, players seem divided about whether it's ridiculously fun, or just ridiculous.
Even Contra Force gets in on this. One level features the player fighting his way through an enormous transport airplane in the air, then jumping on to the wing of a nearby A-10 ground attack aircraft while dodging missiles, then jumping to another transport.
Stage 4 of Contra 4 has the player scaling the launch platform of a giant missile, fighting a giant robot clinging to its side as it takes to the air, grappling the warhead as it detaches from the first stage, leaping between handholds and shooting down projectiles as it barrels through the air, dodging the flames of its misfiring engines as it up-ends, and finally riding it harmlessly as it smashes through a high-rise building and buries itself in the earth.
The first stage of Contra ReBirth is a space station that is brought down by a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere. This becomes the stage boss, which the player fights while air-surfing on the space station's wreckage during atmospheric reentry.
Hard Corps: Uprising has a hilarious or awesome (or both) part in one mission which involves climbing an elevator shaft on missiles.
Ret Canon: Contra 4 implements elements of the old American continuity (before Shattered Soldier reverted the continuity to keep it consistent with the Japanese version). The two new heroes, Mad Dog and Scorpion, take their names from Bill and Lance's old nicknames from the American localization of the NES Contra, while the alien Black Viper was originally the supposed antagonist of Operation C (in the Japanese version it was an unnamed nation that was using an alien cell to develop weapons). Contra 4 retcons the events of Operation C so that it was a previous mission of Mad Dog and Scorpion against Black Viper in an attempt to explain away the sudden appearance of these "new" characters.
Revenge of the Sequel: The arcade version of Super Contra bore the tagline Alien no Gyakushu in Japan, which literally means "The Alien's Counterattack" or "The Aliens Strikes Back". Similarly, the European version of Super C for the NES is titled Probotector II: Return of the Evil Forces.
Rule of Cool: In Contra III, what's the best way to destroy a giant flying battleship? Chase it with motorcycles, and then cling to a cruise missile that's heading for the ship! And then leap from missile to missile in the salvo as they impact uselessly on the alien's shield. Considering that you've mostly been running along the ground, climbing walls, and riding tanks so far, it's an unusually... brazen choice of attack.
There's no way in hell that you can jump from missile to missile like in stage 4 in Alien Wars. But damn, is it cool?!
Sand Worm: The red Crawler Tank/Twilobite in Stage 5 of Contra III and the "Land Worm" in Area 3 of Neo Contra are the most obvious examples of this trope.
Shout-Out: Contra Rebirth has several references to other Konami games in addition to the aforementioned cameos. Chief Salamander and his Neo Salamander Force are named after the Konami game Salamander, with the Zelos Force being a reference to that game. Plissken, the alien lizardman, is possibly named after Iroquois Pliskin, Solid Snake's alias in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (which in turn is a reference to Snake Plissken, the anti-hero from Escape from New York). And the Shizuoka ruins that Stage 4 of the game takes place at is a reference to Silent Hill (Shizuoka means "silent hill" in Japanese).
And a lot of the aliens in the series are a homage to the Alien movies.
A boss in Hard Corps is a three part Combining Mecha. Its battle theme is titled "GTR Attack." Hm... GTR...
Shout-Out Theme Naming: The original Contra duo, Bill Rizer and Lance Bean, are named after four actors who appeared in Aliens: specifically Bill Paxton and Paul Reiser for the former; and Lance Henriksen and Michael Biehn for the latter. The different spellings used for the surnames, obviously the result of a clueless translator, does obscure the reference a bit.
Referring to the same film, the reptilian Plissken in Contra ReBirth sometimes prefers to be called "Newt."
Stealth Pun: The name of Contra: Hard Corps's final boss theme is Last Springsteen. Bruce Springsteen's nickname is "The Boss." Thus, the song can be called Last Boss.
The Stinger: If you beat Contra ReBirth on the Normal difficulty or higher, you'll get a scene after the credits revealing that Plissken was Chief Salamander, the game's Big Bad, all along, and it's implied that BR-W9 makes a Face-Heel Turn as well (that, or Plissken makes a Heel-Face Turn).
The Famicom version of Contra also had a secret stinger by holding Select and Start during the end credits, foreshadowing Red Falcon's eventual return.
Story Branching: In Contra: The Hard Corps, at the end of the first stage you have the choice of either going after Deadeye Joe or saving the alien cell. At this point, the only impact it has on the game is the second stage (which depends on the choice you make) and whether or not Deadeye Joe appears at the end of the fourth stage. Afterwards, you have the choice of surrendering or fighting to the end. This choice, along with the choice at the beginning of the game, determines how the plot unfolds for the rest of the game. Also, there's a secret story path that doesn't regard the first decision, and it is hidden in the third stage.
Stripperiffic: Sheena Etranzi's outfit in Contra 4 is akin to a bikini. See it here◊.
Super Title 64 Advance: Averted by Super Contra, which was originally an arcade game, and then adapted into the NES under the shortened title of Super C. When the series made it to the SNES, they had no choice but to come up with a different name for its installment (Contra III in America and Contra Spirits in Japan). However, the GBA port of Contra III plays it straight by being called Contra Advance.
Played straight with the European versions. Super C became Probotector II and Contra III became Super Probotector. However, the Game Boy and Mega Drive installments are both simply titled Probotector.
In Japan, Contra 4 is known as Contra: Dual Spirits.
Talking Animal: Brad Fang in Hard Corps, and Animal Contra in Neo Contra.
Theme Naming: The members of the Triumvirate in Shattered Soldier—Gaius, Commodus, and Nero—are named for three of the most infamous Roman emperors (you may know Gaius better as Caligula).
Timed Mission: In the arcade version of the original Contra, the first "3D maze" stage needs to be completed in seventy seconds and the second one in 110 seconds. Since the maze stages don't feature infinitely respawning enemies, the timer is a contrivance to keep the game from sitting in the same place (much like how the bosses in Gradius will eventually self-destruct just in case a player could find a safe spot and walk away from the arcade machine). As such, NES version discards the timer, yet the Commodore 64 version is punitive, giving only forty and fifty-five seconds respectively.
The last part of stage 6 in Neo Contra gives you even more punitive 30 seconds to complete. Afterwise, if the time runs out, the game is over immediately even you have multiples of remaining lives.
Traintop Battle: Contra: Hard Corps has a stage taking place on a military train, featuring two mid-boss battles and culminating in a fight with Powered Ninja Yokozuna, all on its roof.
Contra: Shattered Soldier has a level that involves chasing a train down on motorcycles, attacking the weaponized caboose, and heading to the engine. At which point the Yokozuna Jr. mecha attacks the train, leaving the player to wonder why our One-Hit-Point Wonder heroes had to bother.
Master Contra, the Big Bad of Neo, won't be fought unless you score an A or S rank in the first five stages. If you beat him in the sixth stage (along with its Timed Mission) with an A or S rank as well, you'll have to fight him one final time in his true final form, which is a giant head, while falling through Earth's atmosphere. You don't need to attack him, you can simply dodge all his attacks until he burns up in the atmosphere.
Also, the Giant Space Flea from Nowhere final boss of ReBirth, the garbage ball you fight on the moon for some reason, won't be fought unless you play the game on Normal or above.
In The Alien Wars, you won't fight the True Final Boss unless you play on Hard mode.
You also won't fight Black Viper in 4 unless you play on Normal or Hard mode.
The Unfought: One of four main story paths in Contra: Hard Corps ends with an outbreak of alien organic matter, providing a distraction for the main antagonist, Colonel Bahamut, to escape to fight another day.
Chief Salamander in Contra Rebirth. Justified for plot twisting reasons.
The Triumvirate in Shattered Soldier, unless you count the Relic of Moirai merging with the Triumvirate and overwhelming them.
The Unseen: General Hal, the commanding officer of the GX Army, is only mentioned in the (Japanese) backstory for Super C and never actually appears in the game (since he is presumably killed before the events of the game). He makes an appearance in Contra 3D as one of Bill and Lance's radio contacts.
Unstable Equilibrium: Especially prominent in the arcade games. As mentioned above, dying in most of the games reduces your gun to a pea shooter, and certain bosses, eg the Stage 4 boss of the original, who is IMO That One Boss, increase in difficulty/cheapness the longer the fight drags on. In some of the later Contra games starting from Contra 3, it's less severe.
Worthy Opponent: Deadeye Joe considers the player this in Hard Corps, to the point that in one route, he breaks the player out of his (or her) cell and gives his (or her) back your weapons so that he can be the one to defeat you.
Villain Exit Stage Left: Bahamut does this in one of the endings of Hard Corps. Lance Bean does this when you first meet him in Shattered Soldier and Master Contra does this as well in Neo.
Zeerust: For a series set during the 27th century, the technology used the by characters look way too modern by late 1980s/early '90s standard. This is probably the reason why the American version of the storyline took place in the present until Contra III.
Averted in Contra Evolution (Remake of the Famicom version of Contra) which all versions uses the Japanese continuity.
"YEAH!" Shot: The true ending of Contra: Shattered Soldier has this, though the characters are shown jumping toward the crowd instead of the camera and they don't really shout "YEAH!"
Zerg Rush: The second half of Contra: Re Birth's stage 5.