It’s kind of wild to think that the classic video game Pong came out 50 years ago. That’s five decades worth of memorable gaming experiences with some of the most classic video game series starting with the 8-bit era of games on consoles.
Two amazing experiences from this time both came from Konami in the form of Castlevania and Contra
. These two series are still talked about today and have spawned many sequels and inspired countless other titles.
What’s even more amazing is that they still hold up to this day and gamers of any era can appreciate them for their gameplay, stories, and art.
Now that we’re adding the awesome Konami Collector’s Series: Castlevania & Contra
to our evergrowing library of games on GOG.COM, we thought it would be the perfect time to look back at some of the games that defined a generation.
First released in 1986, Castlevania has you playing as Simon Belmont. Your task? Defeat Count Dracula, the vampire. It features 18 levels divided between 6 stages. While your iconic whip will be your main weapon, you’ll have access to sub-weapons like holy water, a dagger, and more.
These additional weapons helped make each run-through unique and allowed players to cater to their playstyles around the weapons they enjoyed most.
Even in 1986 and with 8-bit graphics, Konami was creating atmospheric titles and Castlevania is the perfect example. The game takes heavy inspiration from horror movies and the director of the game, Hitoshi Akamatsu, notes that he approached the game
with a "film director's eye,” and that he wanted players to feel like they were playing a horror movie.
Another fun fact, the iconic whip not only fits the game’s setting, but Akamatsu was also a big fan of the Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and wanted to include the whip because of that.
The original game has spawned multiple sequels, including Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, and more.
While Castlevania is definitely a tough game, it barely holds a candle (in terms of difficulty) to the next game we’re going to look at.
Ahh, Contra. This infamous title, known for its iconic “Contra Code” that gave players an extra 30 lives, is a shooter title that features both sidescrolling and 3D-esque levels. It was released in 1987 in arcades, and then made its way to the NES in 1988 and has been the cause of many broken controllers ever since. Even with its high levels of difficulty, it keeps people coming back to this day.
Like Castlevania, Contra also gives players the chance to use multiple weapons to blaze through its levels. A personal favorite is the fireball gun, but it’s up to you to find the ones that work best for you! And you’ll need those lives from the Contra Code, because this game is brutal. Unlike many games, you don’t have a health bar, and if you get hit, that’s it for your life. You will respawn (without an upgraded weapon), but watch those lives because if you run out, it’s back to the very beginning.
That’s why the extra life code was so important, but did you know that it made an appearance in a Konami game before rising to fame in Contra? It actually made its first appearance in Gradius, a sidescroller that was released a year earlier, in 1986.
Another thing that helped set Contra apart was its addition of simultaneous 2-player gameplay. Giving gamers a way to play games on the couch with friends, without having to take turns, really helped set the title apart.
With the Konami Collector's Series: Castlevania & Contra
on GOG.COM, you get access to these classics and more. The full list of games includes Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, Contra, and Super Contra.
A look back at Konami
If we’re going to talk about two classic games, we have to take a couple of moments to talk about the studio behind it all. Founded in 1969, Konami actually started in the jukebox industry! It wasn’t until 1978 that the company found its way to video games.
They really caught their stride in 1981 with the arcade release for games like Frogger and Super Cobra.
And since those humble beginnings, the company has made a name for itself through various hit franchises including the Metal Gear series, the spooky Silent Hill series, and even Dance Dance Revolution. Did you play the classic versions of Castlevania and Contra? Let us know down in the comments!