Tuesday, August 23, 2016

If Playing Contra Was An Olympic Sport, I'd Have A Gold Medal

[This article is in response to this week's Pop Culture League topic. Find out more about contributing to this fun online community here.]

It's no secret that Contra is one of my all-time favorite video games. I've expressed my love for Bill and Lance's quest to destroy the vile red falcon many times on this site. The new Contra action figures by NECA are the first I can remember ever pre-ordering online and cannot wait for the day (hopefully this month) when they will be shipped to my house. I even remember the first time I played it at a little league teammate's house, punching in the code and going through countless lives to finally beat the game. That experience has drastically changed and over the years, Contra has evolved into my perfect retrogaming challenge when the need arises.

I tend to classify retro video games in three categories. First, you've got the games that are easy to complete. They are fun, but not enough of a challenge to hold your interest even when you come back to them after any length of time. Next you've got the games that are impossible to beat. You've put in hours, used cheat codes, and aren't even worth picking up a controller for nowadays. Then, you've got games that are equally fun and challenging every time you play.

For me, Contra hits that sweet spot in retrogaming. I absolutely love playing it and is still challenging to this day. Just from my experience, I feel like my friends tend to rank it in that impossible category which to me, justifies the reason for the famous Konami code. Who can actually beat Contra starting with just 3 lives? Who would even want to attempt it with the Konami code just sitting there?

(Raises hand)


I was also the kid who never wanted to use the warp zones in Super Mario Brothers just so I could truly beat the entire game. Does that mean I hate cheat codes? No, but there is always a higher satifaction level when you complete a game without any help. Plus if you find a game that probably 9/10 gamers can't complete or maybe won't even attempt, you can relish in your victories even more. That's why Contra continues to be the first cartridge I reach for on retro game night.

Several months ago was the first time I can remember actually beating Contra with just 3 lives to start and not using a single continue (and never even losing the spread gun!) I felt like champion or maybe a wizard if you prefer. Coming back to the NES since then, I've realized it was no small feat as I've never managed to match it. But even though it typically takes me one or two continues, I feel like if trained for Contra as an Olympic sport, I could medal in any tournament, anywhere in the world.


What's your gold medal game? Leave a comment with the one video game that you could beat on an Olympic level or tell me if you've ever had a similar experience with Contra.


Pop Culture League participants this week also include:
Diary of a Dorkette
Green Plastic Squirt Gun
20 Years Before 2000