Contra: Rogue Corps has been released and it's, unfortunately, another pitiful entry in the series. Despite the series being a legend in retro gaming, there are next to no good entries in the franchise from over the last 25 years. With that being said, that doesn't mean that the series has nothing left to offer. So instead of playing the latest sub-par Contra game, why not revisit some of the best games in the franchise? Here are five of the best entries in the series to get you started.
The first game in the franchise is still arguably the most nostalgic in the franchise. Jumping and shooting -- that's all you do. Nice and simple and to the point. You play as United States commandos Bill and Lance, two characters modeled after Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and you must stop the evil Red Falcon Organization from taking over the world. Little do Bill and Lance know, though, that the Red Falcon Organization is being controlled by an alien entity.
The game features side-scrolling levels, behind the shoulder "3D" levels, and static levels. The guns are also well known for their effectiveness (or not). There was always a rush to get the spread gun and always a grunt of exasperation when you got the fire gun. This game also popularized -- not invented -- the Konami code: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start.
The game was an arcade release but a tweaked version came out on the NES that is arguably the version players know the most. Both versions have been ported several times, including Xbox Live Arcade, Nintendo DS, and most recently on the Contra Anniversary Collection for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PC.
Contra III: The Alien Wars
The series jump to 16-bit resulted in one of the most difficult entries in the franchise but also one of the most polished and arguably the best. Levels were made longer and they would change and evolve as the action went on. The faux 3D levels were replaced with top-down levels that took full advantage of the Super Nintendo's Mode 7 features. The game as a whole has a sillier yet more intense tone to it. Add the ability to climb and hang, changeable and upgradeable weapons, and larger than life bosses, and this is the series at its most blockbuster action film-ist.
Contra III: The Alien Wars was released on the Super Nintendo and several ports have been released since then, included Wii, Wii U, and 3DS Virtual Console as well as the SNES Classic console and the previously mentioned Contra Anniversary Collection. (Side note: It's best to ignore the Game Boy Advance version.)
Contra: Hard Corps
This game has a lot of new features intended to shake the formula up. Starting off, this game introduces four new characters to play as human soldiers Ray Poward and Sheena Etranzi, werewolf-android Brad Fang, and robot Browny. All the levels in this title are side-scrolling levels, with no 3D, static, or top-down levels. However, branching paths are also introduced, meaning that multiple runs of the game are required to experience all of the levels in the game.
All the climbing and hanging from Alien Wars return and a slide were added as well to improve the mobility. Four weapons can also be carried now. Finally, the game has multiple endings to make sure you'll want to play through it more than once. Contra: Hard Corps was released on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive exclusively, but can now be enjoyed on the Sega Genesis Mini or the aforementioned Contra Anniversary Collection.
All of the games up to this point have been during the franchise's heyday during the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, we are now pushing past that time -- and past the rough late 90s and early 2000s -- to Contra 4. Developed out of house by WayForward Technologies, the game takes advantage of the DS' two screens, featuring more vertical level design. The gameplay plays a lot like Alien Wars as it was developed to play like the series during its heyday. Unfortunately, many of the features added in Hard Corps and future games are removed, including holding four weapons, and branching paths. Luckily, multiple playable characters are still here and this game also has a challenge mode alongside the standard campaign. The faux 3D levels also make a return. Contra 4 was released on Nintendo DS and mobile devices.
Hard Corps: Uprising
The final Contra game released before Contra: Rogue Corps, Hard Corps: Uprising was developed by Arc System Works, a company known more for its fighting games -- Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, Dragon Ball FighterZ -- than anything else, but this anime-inspired prequel shows the studio is capable of doing a lot more. Like System Woks' fighting games, the protagonist Bahamut has a lot of mobility at his disposal being able to dash, air-dash, and double jump. The game also has some light RPG mechanics as you collect points throughout the level, which you spend at the end of the level to upgrade your abilities. There are two modes in this game, Rising and Arcade. Rising has the RPG mechanics, as well as a life bar. Arcade is like most of the games where you die after one hit. The RPG mechanics are also removed. Hard Corps: Uprising is available on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.