Contra is one of a handful of franchises that have become completely synonymous with gaming; indeed, chances are if you haven't played any Contra games, then you'll have at least heard of them. Konami's run-and-shoot-'em-up behemoth may have lost a lot of its lustre in recent years (pretty much par for the course with Konami these days, it seems, save for some excellent retro collections), but its earlier iterations have become iconic in their own right.
From the original arcade Contra in 1987 all the way up to Contra: Rogue Corps in 2019, the series has rarely strayed from its relatively simple formula — run through a bunch of linear levels and shoot up a bunch of bad guys — but this is arguably its biggest draw. In an age where gaming is more complex than ever, Contra is a fantastic reminder that you don't need a boatload of features to make a cracking game.
So, much like our other reader-ranked polls, we asked you fine people to rate your favourite Contra games on Nintendo platforms from the list below.
If you missed the voting phase, then worry not! The list below is automatically updated in real-time according to each game's corresponding 'User Rating' on the Nintendo Life game database. This means to can influence the order right now, if you wish, by clicking on the star next to each game and awarding it our own score.
So equip yourself with a Spread Shot and let's check out the very best Contra games on Nintendo systems, starting at the bottom.
Note. Yes, we've included the Anniversary Collection for completeness' sake - if you're not keen on collections being included in our rankings, then simply pretend it isn't there; the rest of the list will still be in the same order!
Contra's high-profile return to modern platforms landed with more of a whimper than a bang. Contra: Rogue Corps swaps out the side-scrolling shoot-em-up action for top-down twinstick gameplay; the problem is it's just not very fun to play. The shooting mechanics are far too inaccurate and the muddy textures and low resolution make for an ugly experience on the Switch. There are some good ideas here, but Rogue Corps is far from the Contra rebirth we were hoping for.
Part of the 'Arcade Archives' line-up on Switch, Contra is the arcade title original through and through, warts 'n' all. Its purity and simplicity are perhaps its greatest features in this day and age, but subsequent Contra titles have arguably trumped it in terms of quality and replayability. Still, it's worth checking out on Switch, though we'd probably recommend the more rounded offering available in the Contra Anniversary Collection.
Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX certainly seems like a neat idea in theory; one of the greatest shoot-em-ups of all time on a portable device? Neat! In practice, however, Contra Advance introduces a number of compromises to the experience that makes it less-than-ideal: blockier sprites; washed out visuals; downgraded audio quality. It all adds up, making this one a tough recommendation when the SNES version of Alien Wars is so readily available.
A Game Boy version of the SNES original, this was developed by Factor 5, the studio behind the Super Turrican games on the Super Nintendo and the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron series. The levels and overall structure were altered and a password system was added but it still manages to deliver a serviceable game of Contra on a system with the processing power of a modern day toaster.
This is without a doubt a Contra game (or Probotector if you’re a robot-loving European) more worthy of its title than, say, certain PlayStation entries. It hits on most of the aspects that make a good entry: challenging gameplay, tight controls, varied enemies, killer arsenal, macho tunes, big bosses. For a title two years into the mighty portable’s lifespan, it accomplishes an impressive amount in shrinking the essentials of the beloved console/arcade series. Sadly, players are forced to go gung-ho solo, which is disheartening for multiplayer fans and kills some of its longevity, but it’s remarkable just how well the game holds up on the humble Game Boy and fans of the NES games would foolish to pass this up.
One of M2's Rebirth series which we'd dearly love to see return to modern consoles in some way, Contra ReBirth reminds us that it's entirely possible to revisit a beloved franchise and deliver a thrilling nostalgia trip without destroying treasured memories in the process. It's a shame such a gem is effectively stranded on a dead service, so fingers crossed it gets the rerelease it deserves at some point down the line.