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.
If at times Super C (or Probotector II: Return of the Evil Forces in PAL places) feels a bit "standard" from a modern perspective, it's only because it was instrumental in shaping all future side-scrolling run 'n' gunners; it created a template that would later stamp out classics like Gunstar Heroes and Metal Slug. It may lack the charm and personality of those later variations on the theme, but it's still well worth playing both as a classic of the genre and as a rewarding two-player game in its own right — any retro action fan will still have a great time with this run-and-gun rite of passage.
While it’s a shame that there are fewer games here than in other Konami collections – we’d have loved to have seen NES title Contra Force or the now-extinct WiiWare title Contra ReBirth – the ones included in the Contra Anniversary Collection are universally brilliant. The 8-bit and 16-bit Contra games are among the finest examples of the run ‘n gun genre, and to have almost all of them included in a single release and emulated flawlessly is an absolute treat. Whether you’re a fan of the series or a curious onlooker who’s always wanted to see what the fuss was all about, this is essential.
Contra 4 isn’t for everyone. The difficulty level, even when set to ‘Easy’, is quite frankly on the insane side. But with such a series you have to accept that this is intentional; a Contra title that doesn’t pose a stiff challenge isn’t worthy of the name. Stick with it, though, and you're virtually assured of huge rewards and plenty of ‘old school’ entertainment. It's an impeccably crafted blast-a-thon of the highest standard.
Contra III: The Alien Wars is often cited as a shining star in the catalogue of games available on Super Nintendo, one of the finest consoles ever launched. Incredibly, the game has lost little of that lustre all these years later, as the gameplay, presentation, controls and sheer intensity of Contra III’s attitude all manage to strike just the same chords they did in 1992. Available on Switch as part of Konami's Contra Anniversary Collection, its refreshingly short completion time, ingenious stage structure and inimitable mood and tone come together beautifully to offset the one or two design drawbacks in the top-down levels.
1. Contra (NES)
Known as Probotector in Europe — where it arrived two years after its release in North America and Japan with Bill and Lance replaced by robots RD008 and RC011 — Contra is run-and-gun royalty from Konami. Arriving just one year after the arcade original's debut, it brought all the shirt-ripping '80s action of the coin-op to Nintendo's console and gave gamers a cracking two-player game to blast through at home. Classic stuff and no mistake, whether you're rocking metal or muscle.
So there you have it! Do you agree with the above ranking? Reckon Rogue Corps is a misunderstood masterpiece (hey, you do you!)? Let us know in the comments!