What Is the Konami Code, and how we can Use it?

Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A. It’s named the Konami Code, and it often meant the difference among life and death in a video game back in the 1980s.

Perform those key presses in the correct sequence, and you’ll unlock cheats that help you win. But recently, the code has grown into a broader pop-culture reference, and you might be curious about how it got started. Let’s take a look.

Cheat codes were originally a tool used by developers to help test video games back in the 1980s. One developer at the Japanese company, Konami, created his code that would become the most famous video game cheat code, and it’s still used today.

Kazuhisa Hashimoto, the producer of the Konami Code, died Tuesday at the age of 61. Konami validated his passing Wednesday on Twitter after the news was first tweeted by composer and sound designer Yuji Takenouchi earlier in the day.

In 1986, while working on a port for the Konami arcade game Gradius, Hashimoto formed a cheat code for testing. The cheat became known as the Konami Code and has been an Easter egg practiced by game developers ever since.

What Is The Konami Code
What Is The Konami Code

Contra Made It Famous 

The Konami Code began as a cheat code—a sequence of button presses that unlocks secret features in a video game, usually making it easier to play.

The first-ever game to feature the Konami Code was Gradius for the NES, begun by Japanese third-party developer Konami in 1986. If you pause the game and insert the code, it activates several helpful power-ups.

Gradius is a challenging game, and the creator of the Konami code, Kazuhisa Hashimoto, stated in a 2003 interview that he built the code to make play-testing the game easier for him. (Unhappily, Hashimoto passed away in Feb 2020.)

The Konami Code became legendary thanks to another Konami game named Contra, released for the NES in 1988. This run-and-gun shooter features excellent graphics and satisfying co-op play, but it isn’t easy. Inserting the Konami Code at Contra’s title screen just before starting the game gives the player 30 extra lives, which supports non-experts live long sufficient to at least play past the first stage.

Cheat codes that let you capture more enjoyment out of a game were a big deal in the late 1980s, at a time when each NES game retailed for around $40 apiece (about $87 today, corrected for inflation). Many kids took only a handful of new games per year; if you got stuck with a game that was too difficult to play, it could be a frustrating situation.

Fortunately, hint books and magazines often came to the saving. Nintendo Power, a broadly distributed video game magazine held by Nintendo itself, introduced Contra’s Konami Code to a large American audience as part of its Classified Information column in its first issue in 1988, and gamers nevermore forgot it.

Konami Code Ps4
Konami Code Ps4

Examples of the Konami Code in Gaming

The Konami Code isn’t just confined to NES games. Dozens of titles have carried the Konami code (or references to it) over the past three decades.

As a general rule, games that use the code on non-Nintendo systems (such as Sony PlayStation) require a minor modification to the Konami Code. Substitute that system’s cancel or confirm keys for B or A. For example, in the U.S., on the PlayStation, O is commonly canceled, and X naturally ensures. Then the PS-style Konami Code would be Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, O, X.

To give you an idea of the breadth of Konami Code’s help in games over the decades, let’s take a look at a few examples.

  • Gradius (NES): While the gameplay, pause the game and enter Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A. Your ship will take all power-ups except for Laser, Double, and Speed Up.
  • Contra (NES): Enter Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, then Begin(or choose, Start for two players) on the title screen, and you’ll get 30 extra lives.
  • Gyruss (NES): If you insert the Konami Code in reverse order at the title screen (A, B, Right, Left, Right, Left, Down, Down, Up, Up), you’ll get 30 extra lives.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan (GB): Pause the game and insert Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A. Your health will completely replenish, but you can use it only once per game.
  • Gradius III (SNES): You require to replace the Left and Right directions for the shoulder keys in this game. Pause the game and insert Up, Up, Down, Down, Left Shoulder, Right Shoulder, Left Shoulder, Right Shoulder, B, A, and your boat will power up.
  • Mario Party (N64): During player 1’s turn, pause the game by controller 2. Then, with controller 1, input Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, and you’ll catch Toad’s shout. Then hit C-Left, and a debug menu will pop up.
  • Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (GBA): When the Konami logo looks, enter Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, and later pick Boss Rush mode. You’ll be capable to play Simon Belmont from the NES version of Castlevania.
  • Bioshock Infinite (PS3): In the main menu, insert Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, O, X. You’ll unlock the challenging 1999 Mode.

The Konami Code in Popular Culture and Beyond

The Konami Code executes a cameo in the 2012 film Wreck-It Ralph when King Candy uses the code to open a safe. Disney

Because gamers grew up with the Konami Code memorized, it makes sense that the code has become a broader pop culture reference in recent years. It has been published on t-shirts and merchandise and referenced in films like Wreck-It Ralph. A current Fisher-Price baby toy called the Game & Learn Controller also supports the code: When input, the lights flash, and a voice says, “You Win!”

Around 2013, a version of the Netflix website allowed users to access a hidden settings screen by inputting a modified version of the Konami Code on their remote controls. And on many prominent websites (hint, hint), entering the code can activate an Easter egg.

It’s apparent the Konami Code has unlocked a secret place in our hearts, and I suspect it will keep finding its way into various forms of media for years to come.

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