Geek Trivia

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

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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–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 with 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 space ship the full set of power ups–normally would spend a significant amount of time acquiring through standard game play.

When pressed, in the same interview with Dorimaga, for the inspiration behind the specific button sequence 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, it was an artifact of the development process left behind. None the less the code went on to become an iconic element of gaming culture. It has appeared in over 80 Konami titles to date and, in homage, in over 90 non-Konami game titles–nearly 200 games titles on every platform from the NES to the Xbox 360.

In addition, the Konami Code crops up in other contexts as an Easter Egg from time to time. Appearances of the Konami Code in web sites have become common enough that there is a site devoted to tracking them:–in order to access the site you’ll need to enter the Konami Code, naturally.