The Konami Code | Gaming Historian


Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A.
The Konami Code is the most famous cheat codee of all time.
But there’s more than that.
First used in 1986,
the code has appear in over 100 video games.
It’s been referenced on TV shows,
and has been an easter egg in a few…
…unexpected places.
In short, The Konami Code has become more than just a cheat code.
It has become a part of the pop culture lexicon.
So what’s the story behind this famous code?
Let’s take a look.
It all started at video game developer, Konami, in 1985.
Kazuhisa Hashimoto was part of a small team working to port the arcade game, Gradius,
to the Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System.
Gradius is a classic side-scrolling shoot-’em-up.
In it, the player controls the Vic Viper spaceship,
which you must protect from alien attackers.
As you fly through space, you try to collect capsules,
which grant you access to more powerful weapons.
It’s a tough game, and Kazuhisa Hashimoto wasn’t great at it,
and that presented a big problem.
He needed to play through the entire game to check for bugs, but he couldn’t beat the game.
So, he created a cheat code:
Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A.
By pausing the game and entering the code, it game him a full set of power-ups,
which he desperately needed to complete the game and finish testing.
He said he chose the famous combination of button presses because it was easy to remember.
When Gradius was released in 1986 for the Famicom/NES,
the cheat code still worked.
Why it worked is up for debate.
Some say that the code was left in by accident.
Others say that Konami liked the code and kept it in intentionally.
Either way, the code worked, and several of Hashimoto’s coworkers
put the code into their own games as they ran them through testing.
Although the Konami code was first introduced in Gradius,
it didn’t really become widespread knowledge until a few years later,
when the code appeared in the NES port for Contra, in 1988.
By entering the Konami code at the title screen,
players could increase their lives from three, to thirty.
This was extremely helpful, as Contra is not an easy game.
But how did people find out about the Konami code?
It’s possible that some people discovered it organically,
but there’s no doubt that Nintendo blew the lid off it when they wrote about the Code
in the inaugural issue of Nintendo Power.
Nintendo Power’s first issue came out in the summer of 1988.
On a page marked ‘Classified Information’, they shared the code and wrote,
“this trick will give you all the help you need to defeat the Aliens.”
Afterward, the Konami Code also became known as the ‘Contra Code’, or the ’30 Lives Code’.
It went on to appear in Konami games and non-Konami games too.
What it does depends on the game.
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, using the Konami Code at the title screen nets you two extra continues.
In Tengen Tetris, entering the Code drops a long Tetromino.
In Castlevania Bloodlines, it unlocks Expert Mode, which you normally have to unlock by beating the game.
It doesn’t always help, though.
Sometimes the developers teased us with the Code.
If you enter the code in Kid Dracula for the Famicom, you’ll get a message saying,
“Too bad, there’s nothing here!”
In Metal Gear Solid 2, entering the code causes Snake to question your decision.
[Snake] What do you think you’re doing?
[Gaming Historian] The Konami Code has appeared in more than 100 video games, far too many to list here,
but what makes the code a pop culture fixture, is the fact that it crossed over into other genres.
It was a joke on Family Guy.
It unlocks colorful raining dots on Buzzfeed.com.
It’s the name of a song by The Ataris,
and it plays a key role in the movie, Wreck It Ralph.
Years ago, when you entered the code on ESPN.com, sparkly unicorns and rainbows filled the screen.
Entering the code on Facebook created a lens flair effect.
It was also a question on the game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
The contestant didn’t know about the Konami Code, though.
The mistake cost him $7 thousand dollars.
More recently, the Bank of Canada got in on the fun.
If you enter the code on its webpage celebrating their new $10 bill,
Oh Canada plays and fireworks shoot off.
So as you can see, the Konami Code has firmly entrenched itself
in video game and pop culture.
It may have debuted in Gradius by mistake,
but I think we can all agree that as far as mistakes go, this was a pretty good one.
That’s all for this episode of the Gaming Historian.
Thanks for watching.
Funding for Gaming Historian is provided in part by supporters on Patreon.
Thank you.

100 comments

  1. Happy Friday! Enjoy this quick history on the most famous cheat code of all time. I'm currently researching a big episode and hope to have it out in a few weeks.

  2. I'm really not seeing the Konami code in the Canadian currency. Wish you'd have done a bit more than just showing the bill with no signs on it.

    EDIT: Alright, he covers it later on in the video, but I find the initial presentation to be misleading. More than likely wasted people's time, which is a huge no no for Youtubers. Time is precious currency, and anyone that wastes it, should find the time allotted to them given to someone else.

  3. the konami code in france was used by the net provider free for unlock the bluray player on the freebox player in 2014(doesn't work anymore)^^

  4. Can't remember what video I watched but it was about the history of cheat codes. It explained how codes were made as secret developer tools as stated here, but usually left in out of fear of ruining parts of the game while removing bits of "cheat" coding before getting it to the consumer. Too risky, so they left them in, and kept it secret until it became a hot item for magazines to publish. Then it became an extra fun thing for players to know and try.

  5. I used to use the Konami code on Contra on my NES when I was a kid, at least until I got good enough to beat it without the code.

  6. Speaking of gaming stuff being implemented on random websites, see what happens if you type "do a barrel roll" on Google.

  7. Was on game theorists channel and went to the gateway. Went here in gate 3A because up up down down left so I went here for clues

  8. Thanks for all the vids Gaming Historian! I’m currently plowing my way through all of them (even the more obscure ones I know nothing about, like the Sharp Nintendo TV lol), and I’m loving the work. Keep it up!

    Fave’s gotta be Tetris so far, what a beast of a story. You should probably submit that episode to film festivals, cause it’s legit Documentary quality.

  9. As A videogame concept creator of over A thousand titles, the code was left in on purpose. It is there to help out people who would have given up on A game otherwise.

    I no longer create game concepts and my last game will hit the market in the near future.

  10. Great video! There are other codes lingering in other video games. I didn't know it existed in Gradius. I knew when I played Contra.

  11. The Konami code was used in Gravity Falls to bring arcade characters to life. Dipper used Rumble McSkirmish to protect him from Robbie.

  12. A bad and creepy website has the konami code = YANDERE SIMULATOR WEBSITE

    If you entered the Konami Code in the characters page and choose a random character enter the konami code 2 times then a creepy phantom girl appears and the screen will glitch

  13. I know Ultra was a subsidiary of Konami, but I had no idea that they used that code in TMNT. Wow, sure would have made life a lot easier. Plus that Ninja Turtle game sucked

  14. Ok Mandela effect!!!!! I remember the code being "up up down down left right left right B A B A" as in B & A repeated twice

  15. I was today years old when I learned that the code worked on TMNT, Tetris, Metal Gear Solid, Facebook & the Canadian $10 bill website

  16. Deftones also have a song based on the code ("U,U,D,D,L,R,L,R,A,B,Select,Start" from Saturday Night Wrist, released in 2006).

  17. In many ways, this is also the story of how cheat codes in any video game of the era existed at all… When you're testing a specific bug on level 18 of a game with 3 lives, every time you have to play to level 18, then you only get a maximum of 3 tests before having to start again. This adds hours per test, multiplied by 30+ levels to do the same thing on, = hundreds of man hours of testing time spent just getting to the part where a test coulf be carried out. The solution was simple, add a backdoor code to unlock a level select screen. And one to have more lives.

    In fact, the time savings that cheat codes allowed for development and testing made the creation of longer, more complex games more economically feasible.

  18. 日本により年単位で遅れてるとはいえ、ネットも無かった時代に世界各国に隠しコマンドがこんなにも広まるって凄いよね
    当時のコナミは本当に名作、人気作を量産してた時代
    とりあえずコナミのソフトを買ったらコマンドをスタート画面かプレイ中、死亡シーンで入力してたw

  19. My father and The Atari's lead singer, Kris Roe, were best friends growing up. I have a picture of both of them playing a 2600 when they were probably 5-6.

  20. After looking at the katakana lattering
    Yes its pronounced gu-ra-dī-us
    but some of you got used and me got used to
    Gu-ray-di-us

  21. I remember entering the code in frustration while playing Gradius 3 and it helpfully blew up my ship.
    Good times.

  22. In high school, I had a friend who was in a band called 'The 8 Bits', and they would start each song by calling out:

    "Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Let's START!"

    …They did punk rock/ska cover's of old NES soundtracks, like Dragon Warrior, Metroid, etc… Awesome!

    Thanks for the vid! (+1)

    Edit- 'Contra was not an easy game'… a Massive uderstatement!

  23. When accessing Area 51:
    Security: What's the password?
    Me: Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A
    Security: Door Cracked, Turning off root lock

  24. 2 jumping jacks. 2 Squats. Dash to the left and then to the right. Do it again. Stomp your left and then your right feet. The Konami exercise. If I’m not the 30000th person to make this joke, then I don’t know who I am.

  25. I want a game that if you input those brings you to a pinchinko machine minigame because that is what komani is now.

  26. I thought it was "up down up down left right left right A B A B left, select, start."?
    Whatever the correct code is, I remember it working on a Mickey Mouse game for NES. Lol

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