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Released in February 1988, Contra was one of the first of dozens of one-hit death run 'n gun shooters. Like all run 'n gun shooters there's a plot concerning a great evil (in this case the alien Red Falcon), but in the end everyone knows the purpose of the game is to shoot everything that moves while looking buff and manly.


Note: Picking up no items is the equivalent of low% in Contra.

Runs on the Xbox 360 Arcade version:

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0:10:11 by David Heidman Jr.

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Author's comments:

Sadly, I played it safe... Although this is true, I still made a rather nice improvement. Clearly more time can can be shaven off. I am just done running this game for a short while as I have been at it since I started speedrunning a long long long time ago. And I am also playing safe with my comments, but some things should just be seen by the world. I present to you a part of one of my verifiers comments. This is just something that has many Contra speed running community jokes and does tell a fun story. Thanks for your efforts and also thanks to the SDA community for making me the SDA Pharaoh. No joke, I already have 2 paramids constructed and of them is locked because the admins were scared if it were to get any larger, I would take over SDA. Anyway, here are the comments from my verifier and a great friend/brother.


"The year is 26xx. After having defeated Red Falcon and Black Viper and enduring fate's cruel and agonizing plot twists, the last of the Contra retire. "Contra" is a master of the fighting spirit and guerrilla tactics. A real Contra only comes out when there is a real challenge that requires the manliest of men. They have not been seen for some time. Red Falcon's charred remains residing somewhere in a smoldering heap in the Much Grande Badlands. The jungles of the Galuga Archipelago were hit with napalm until all the trees were gone. A team even went underground and everything that moved or looked even remotely like a shining base core had been decimated. A flag was hung atop Black Viper's corpse infested carcass in Neo City.

That's not to say that the world wasn't threatened. It's just that there was never a threat that counted as a real Contra. There was never a threat that required a Contra to neutralize. Sure, there was some talk about alien cells. Some combatants could still kill a man with a single touch, but soldiers soon memorized their patterns and the threat was neutralized. There was some other talk about plot twists and intrigue and some shattered guy, but that was just more memorization of enemy movements. There was even talk about a Chief Salamander. No evil plot could threaten the world enough to be considered a REAL Contra challenge. They were just remakes.

Things looked bad for "Contra". As predicted at the end of the alien wars, a peaceful time had come. There were no real wars. Those other skirmishes just didn't count. There was nothing to feel sorry about. Everything was just entertainment. Women who had been irresistibly attracted to the manliness of the Contras wept in despair as they no longer had any real men to lavish their affection on. Gone were the men with real haircuts. Gone were the days when men could trudge through water without going any slower. Gone were the days when rhythm had to do with how you shot your gun. Now a man's hair extended below his neck and it could either be in a pony tail, waist length and blonde, or waist length and white. Rhythm consisted of how many notes you hit on a plastic guitar. Fashion consisted of changing the color of headband on a karate gi. "How can we find a real man?" It seemed hopeless. "Even if we found such a man, the only real measure of his manliness would be how well he kills aliens. There aren't even any aliens to kill!" It seemed so hopeless.

Then one day there came an answer. Time travel had at last been invented. As you can imagine many people came with ideas of how to use this new discovery. Some people thought of going back in time to favorably alter the course of history. Actors and filmmakers sought to use it as an opportunity to test the premises of their various screenplays on time travel for historical accuracy. Others sought to purge pop culture of its....popularity. A group of male youths also inquired about time travel. They wanted to use time travel to go back in time, risk their lives, shoot guns, and become men.. Feeling a certain Call of Duty, thousands petitioned to travel back to World War II. Some youths had more exotic tastes and wanted to go back to the Zombie Era. An argument persisted. There stood one among them who began to rage. He raged at society, he raged at his education, he raged that there were no more wars where men were men, most of all he raged that there were no more real Contras. Amidst a heated debate, the fated words fell from his lips and they brought an entire world to silence. "Send me to fight in the place of the first Contra." A solemn hush fell over the world. "And why," asked the President of the world, "Should we send you?"

The man's mutated right bicep tightened. It was over twice the size of his left arm. It might've been bigger than his thigh. "I can do it faster."

Everyone gasped. One woman fainted.
"Silence!" shrieked the president of the world. "Young man, you have the proportions of a Greek statue and a gaze more paralyzing than a thunder wave. In my solemn duties as president of the world, it is clear to me how this magical power of time travel must be used. We must send our finest warriors back in time in pursuit of aesthetic standards of perfection in combat that can only be measured by how quickly we disgrace and decimate our enemies! Therefore I am sending you off to a time warp."

The man was sent back to the Galuga Archipelago that time had all but forgotten. Only time would tell if he were truly a Contra."

No Items: 0:11:27 by David Heidman Jr.

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Author's comments:

Shout outs to all of the back end people. All of them deserve more credit than what they are currently getting. Thanks for making SDA more awesome than what it was.


2-player: 0:10:06 by David Heidman Jr. and Kyle Halversen.

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Author's comments:

This run took place during the Contra Conference. This was a week long event were the only goal was to get submittable two player runs for the first three Contra games. We quickly learned that two player and an speedrunning is a lot harder to plan than it appears. You can't just rush into everything and shoot everything that moves. The game lags significantly more with two players in the positioning and the movement mechanics need to be relearned. We had to retool a lot of our strategies throughout the run because while a strategy seemed fast, it did not necessarily save time over Heidman's one player time. Having said all that Contra speed running is much easier than Super C with two players. Overall I'm very happy that we were able to get a run this nice and this polished in the amount of time that we had to work with. A good speedrun can take months or even years to complete and due to the nature of our circumstances we did it in a few days.

Before I begin like to give a few shout outs to some people.

Hurblat: SPLIT!!!! I really appreciated your support of this run. It was really important to have someone to bounce ideas off of while Heidman was asleep. I can confidently say that without major changes to our route would not of been able to get a submittable run in the amount of time that we had to work with. It was a great pleasure having you over for the week. I can't say everything I want to in these run comments, but to sum it up, without your support and enthusiasm for the Contra franchise I don't think I would've ever learned the first two Contra games and we would've never had the opportunity to do this run.

DK28: I'm so glad that you were able to drop by for the tail end of a conference, Next time I'm definitely going to make sure you get here early. Your commentary was absolutely fantastic and it was fun getting demolished by you in SFII. Thank you for the work and effort that you put into this game. RAMPAGE!

Mikwuyma: I've always appreciated that you have a soft spot for the Contra series. I also appreciate the support that you get to this event and that you were able to extend the conference up through Christmas. Thank you for sticking with us through this process. It means a lot. We'll have to see about getting you to the main event somehow.

Zallard: Your continued and undying support for all things Contra is greatly appreciated. You were even awake for my Contra III NES controller shenanigans at 2AM. Contra Force!

While I'm at it, shoutouts to the faithful people in chat. We didn't have a huge group in chat, but the people we did have were amazing and they stuck with us through the entire process of routing and making attempts. Of the people that I can remember off the top of my head that were around, thanks to Hellclan, Garik16, Birdmonger, Mike89, Puwexil. Now I know that I've missed several of you and I'm really sorry, but thank you for your support. I really had no idea what to expect from viewership for this little event, but what I got was nice and small group of people who cared about Contra speedrunning and I was not at all disappointed.

Runner Notes from Mr. K
After some careful planning, we decided that the best way to handle the first few stages would be to have one player use peashooter with the R upgrade and the other player use spread with the R upgrade. That's the TAS strat. Having two players with spread doesn't make a drastic improvement on the stage 1 boss because the second player's position is too far away from the boss to get very many good shots in. The shot limit with one player is 10. By that I mean the game has only dedicated the programming resources to keep track of 10 of your shots on the screen at a time. With two players, the limit increases from 10 to 16. This makes it significantly easier to get spread rhythm, however this change also causes the game to lag in several places. We decided that the best approach would be to have one player use R. This allows us to clear through the base stages extremely fast.

Stage 1
Player 1 - Heidman
Player 2 - Mr. K
Heidman's responsibility in this stage is basically to complete it the same way that he normally would. His positioning is a bit further forward than usual and that changes the timing of several jumps and some item collection. As player 2, I need to collect the first R upgrade. Normally this upgrade would be ignored, but since this stage has two R upgrades we need to take advantage of both of them. Player 2's responsibility in this stage is to keep up and also to destroy the weapon carrier for Laser to prevent player 1 from carrying it. The pickup for the second R upgrade is different in this run than it is in the 1 player run because of the positioning of the first player. It's a bit tricky to collect.

Stage 2
Player 1 Heidman
Player 2 Mr. K
The base stages are where this run gains significant time over the 1 player run. Barring some inhuman skill the spread gun, the peashooter with the R upgrade is the single most powerful weapon in these stages. A player can just pepper the cores with a steady stream of bullets. As player 2, I just mash on the cores while Heidman tries to get spread rhythm. The combined power of both waves of bullets makes these stages a joke. Holding forward before the electrical barrier clears gives you the cool electrocution animation and it allows you to advance onto the next room on the earliest frame. You don't want to do this in a one player run because this can interrupt the rhythm of spread bullets you want to maintain in one player. Two players are a different story because if one player advances forward, both players will move on to the next room.
The boss fight is slightly faster as well. Heidman uses the traditional strategy of taking out the cores starting from left to right. I have plenty of time to take out the lower right core, causing the boss to spawn a bit earlier. Together we take out the boss very quickly. While the boss can be destroyed slightly faster if both players have spread, peashooter on player 2 is still the overall better choice for this stage.

Stage 3
Player 1 - Heidman
Player 2 - Mr. K
This stage was the great run killer for us. The jumping mechanics in this level are really interesting. The jump height of each player fluctuates in this level and it makes it difficult to predict when the screen will scroll up. If one player jumps up and scrolls the screen, it may negate most of the height of the other player's jump and require the other player to jump again to reach a platform. In some cases, it may even negate the other player's jump height entirely. Another run killer related to jump height is at the bridge with the moving flames. Normally in single player, you jump up and onto the bridge and you hope to just barely make it over the flame on the left. If your random jump height is a bad value it means death. To add to the chaos, it can be difficult to keep track of your player as both players crisscross each other often. If one player collects barrier it makes keeping track of your player even more difficult. This stage was ending too many runs so I tested a new strategy. I decided that we should just kill off player 2 for the first phase of the stage. This eliminates the pain and randomness out of most of the stage. We're still left with a problem and that's that player 2 needs to get an R upgrade before the stage is over or a lot of time will be lost in stage 4. Player 2 can steal a life from player 1 at any time, but will always be a slight distance behind when respawning. This distance is a problem because if both players don't sync up jumps you risk wildly variable jump heights and delays due to the scrolling mechanic. Fortunately, thanks to an elaborate strategy on the bridge, we take care of everything.

Heidman makes a neutral jump to reach the platform where the bridge is. This triggers the weapon carriers with the barrier upgrade and R upgrade. I need to collect both of them. As soon as Heidman lands, I can respawn and I will be on the same platform as he is. Heidman then jumps between the flames and shoots up to trigger the R upgrade to land in the upper right platform. While he's doing that, I move forward and shoot diagonally down to collect the barrier without having to stop moving forward. On the climb up, Heidman makes an extra jump to avoid collecting the R upgrade. I collect it on the way up and from this point on, our jumps will stay in sync for most of the level. I eat an explosion for Heidman on the way up since I've still got some barrier left. During the boss fight, Heidman destroys both arms. The boss does not open its mouth any faster the first time when both arms are destroyed, however the shots from the arms can be problematic. I do not do anything as Heidman destroys the arms as I don't want to cause lag. Once both arms are destroyed I'm in position and we both take out the head very quickly.

Stage 4
Player 1 - Heidman
Player 2 - Mr. K
This stage plays out in a way that's very much similar to stage 2. Since I've got the R upgrade going into this stage, combine that with Heidman's spread rhythm and stuff goes down pretty fast. Several of these rooms have multiple cores and we split up. The boss fight went well. Barring some inhuman luck or mashing skill, the heads can't be destroyed in one pass. We get the right head most of the way done as it appears. Heidman moves over to take out the left head while I stay in place to finish off the right head. The fact that I die taking out the right head does not cost any time.

Stage 5
Player 1 - Mr. K
Player 2 - Heidman
We do another controller swap here. Heidman mashes A to instantly take a life from player 1 and respawn. Again in two player, player 1 is slightly in front of the middle and player 2 is slightly behind . This allows us to walk through the grenades in this stage without stopping. Random soldier spawns on the screen can cost a lot of time here so Heidman will try and take them out where possible. I had to wait for a shot that one soldier fired, but other than that this stage went well. Also in 2 player you can basically run through any gunners in your way. You have enough spread bullets to annihilate anything in your path. We had a slightly bad boss pattern, but we had the firepower to make up for it.

Stage 6
Player 1 - Heidman
Player 2 - Mr. K
We do our last controller swap here. Heidman uses a gutsy strategy where he doesn't collect the barrier. This is difficult to pull off with one person and nigh impossible with two. Collecting the barrier would cost too much time so we elected to kill off player 2 again. Heidman gets close to doing a perfect barrier skip, but he gets the next best skip. I don't respawn here until the boss to get a few pot shots on him. I think I hit him once. He got a jump in which was unfortunate, but we've seen worse.

Stage 7
Player 1 - Heidman
Player 2 - Mr. K
This stage is a nightmare with two people. We're pretty much in sync and make a difficult jump over the gunner's bullet early on. Heidman stops passing over some of the claws, but it costs no time as I keep the screen scrolling forward and he catches up while I wait a cycle. I don't shoot the spiked walls that come up because I don't want the game to lag. I need spread for the next stage and we collect it in a really efficient way. Random spawns at any point in the stage could lag the game like crazy and although there were a few we got off well all things considered. Getting past the last series of claws can be difficult to coordinate as it's hard to keep track of your character's sprite. I wait a cycle and it ends up going fine. I duck over the first gunner's shot and jump over the second and Heidman does the opposite and we keep the screen scrolling fairly consistently. Heidman's position is slightly forward and he uses it to take out the last boss fast.

Stage 8
Player 1 - Heidman
Player 2 - Mr. K
Although I don't have R, both players have spread going into this stage. Besides the cocoons at the start, the miniboss doesn't even get a chance to drop any more. Heidman intentionally drops back a bit so that he's in a good position to take out some of the spider spawns on the path to the heart. We don't stop on the entire path to the heart and we obliterate it. End game.

Runner Notes from Heidman: Formalities

Xbox 360 Arcade version: 0:04:52 by Zakkie Starres.

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Author's comments:

I adjusted the settings to use the Original graphics and music. As far as I can tell this has no affect on the speed of game. I also tested this and my times appeared to stay consistent between settings.

The Jungle:

Nothing out of the ordinary here. Quick and clean.

Base 1:

Again, not much of note here. Cores go down quickly and then it is on to the boss.

Base 1 Boss:

This started out as usual, with the two left panels going down fast, but that was all that went to plan during the first phase. The shot I fired when I jumped did not fire diagonally and up, but directly to the right. Fortunately it hit the lower right panel. From there I just improvised the rest of the first phase.

The second phase went as usual and despite that improvised start I actually gained a small amount of time on this fight!


The jumping in this game is...special. Boxfat referred to them as "Dolphin Flips" in my stream chat one day and it stuck. How appropriate that you see the jumping the most in this stage.

There is a rather tight jump in this stage (see if you can spot it!). I also have to make some fine adjustments for a couple of jumps, which is not at all easy with a 360 controller joypad.

The gun turrets on the defense system go down fast and I got really good luck on the gun panel opening right away. How fast the panel opens is completely random. It can open fast like it did for me, or take a really long time; long enough for a soldier to come wandering on the screen from the left before the core goes down. If we do not see that soldier at all; that "bringer of bad news", it is a good fight. If we do, we shoot the messenger and reset.

Fortunately we did not see the messenger and I am sure he was relieved to not have to get shot.

Base 2:

Not much to note until the last room. In this last room there is a box blocking the core. It is possible to shoot over the box and kill the core, instead of having to burn a few shots on the box before being able to hit the core, thus saving some time. During my first runs I could neither pull this off nor had the confidence that I could, so I was not going to even try. Then Boxfat and I had a bit of a lighthearted chat about "saving the boxes" and being a good sport about it I decided to take on the challenge. So I worked on it and it became second nature and so the box, although it gets destroyed in the end anyway, is not destroyed directly by me.

Base 2 Boss:

2-cycle is all you need to know here.

The Snowfield:

The aiming in this game is pretty special, too. Add the 360 joypad and it makes it worse. Add in more enemy congestion and things can go awry fast. I had to fire an extra laser shot at the first shield gunner and let fire a stray shot, but fortunately that is all that went wrong there and it did not cost much time.

The Energy Zone:

Discus Guy #1 gave me a good pattern. He is usually fairly consistent from run to run.

Right after the discus guy, I need to make a fairly precise jump. Too early I die to the flame behind the shield gunner. Too late and I end up dying to the lower flame behind the shield gunner. You may notice I pass right through the shield gunner's sprite. Shield gunners have no hitbox, only their bullets do, so you can pass right on through them.

The Hangar:

Discus Guy #2 also gave me a good pattern, but as those who have watched the runs I have streamed know, he is a massive troll. I took no chances and did a safety jump.

You are set up perfectly to just keep running through the spiked balls in the next section and I take advantage of the shield gunner non-hitbox again.

Missed a shot on the shield gunner at the end, but recovered quickly.

Alien Lair:

Luck was really good to me on the midboss this time. The enemies the midboss spawns can show up in such a way that it is impossible to kill them before they kill you or that they can eat up a lot of time while you kill them before you attack the midboss. I got probably the best luck I have ever had here and was able to killed them really quickly.

You see me fire off some laser shots that do not hit anything. The purpose of this is to make sure my aim is staying where it should and to make sure I properly time the two shots I need to kill the lower mouths. The rest of the mouths and their projectiles are of no concern.

A few properly placed laser shots take care of the "spiders" and the rest of the shots break the heart quickly.

The Wait Until the Credits: can walk around while the victory music plays and up until the screen has faded out completely and switched to the credits. This takes fifteen seconds no matter what.


This is a very short run, but it is much harder than it looks. There is so much execution squeezed into a short time. There is also the factor of bad RNG in critical areas being able to just outright kill a really well executed run over and over again in the same place. That I only made several minor mistakes and got pretty much the best RNG possible is quite fortunate.


First and foremost to Mr. K. I would not have at all picked this up seriously if not for him and he provided a lot of key advice and encouragement. I also finally took his advice about letting this run be! Also a great big thanks to Mr. K for doing audio commentary with me.

Boxfat who also provided encouragement, was around for many of my run attempt streams and that 4:53 I got the day before this run, came up with "Dolphin Flips" as a descriptive phrase for the jumping, and encouraging me to "save the boxes!"

Hurblat, PJ, sinister1, DK28, zallard1, Deuceler, Murphagator, and anyone else I might be forgetting who showed interest in my progress and/or offered encouraging words. You all rock!

All the stream viewers who watched me reset over and over and over and over again, but still stayed tuned in throughout it all.

And lastly to the boxes who gave their lives before and while I was learning how to be consistent enough to shoot over the one in the last room of Base 2. I am happy to report that I did not hurt a single box in this run (directly anyway).

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