Geek Trivia

In Which Game Did The Famed “Konami Code” Cheat First Appear?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Metal Gear
The First Google Server Was Built From What?

Answer: Gradius

Although millions of gamers associate the Konami Code (↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ← → ← → B A) with the popular game Contra—so much so that many people still call it the “Contra Code” and “99 Lives Code”—Contra was not the first Konami game title to feature the iconic cheat code sequence.

Back in 1985, Kazuhisa Hashimoto was in charge of porting the popular arcade shooter Gradius to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Gradius is a rather challenging (and quite lengthy) side-scrolling shooter. He found himself spending far too much time navigating the difficult levels and far too little time actually testing and coding the port. In an interview with Japanese gaming magazine Dorimaga (Issue 14), Hashimoto explained:

The arcade version of Gradius is really difficult, right? I never played it that much, and there was no way I could finish the game, so I inserted the so-called Konami code [laughs].

In order to aid the porting and testing process, Hashimoto slipped a cheat code into the game. Using the NES controller’s direction pad and primary buttons, you could press ↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ← → ← → B A to give your Gradius spaceship the full set of power-ups—which a player would normally spend a significant amount of time acquiring through standard game play.

During the same interview with Dorimaga, Hashimoto’s co-worker Shigeharu Umizaki asked him to tell the story of where the code came from. He explained:

There isn’t one, really. I mean, I was the one using it [laughs], so I just put in something I could remember easily.

The code was never intended to ship with the game and was just an artifact of the development process left behind by accident. Nonetheless, the code went on to become an iconic element of gaming culture. It has appeared in numerous Konami titles to date and, in homage, in a host of titles on platforms from the NES to modern game consoles.

In addition, the Konami Code crops up in other contexts as an Easter egg from time to time. Including the code in websites is practically a web developer pastime, and if you search for a current list of sites rocking the Konami Code, you’ll find all sorts of hidden gems to explore.

Image courtesy of Konami.