Breaking Down the Konami Code


Those born in the 80s (as well as some others) will likely recognize
“Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right-B-A-Select-Start” as the Konami Code, a famous cheat code that first appeared in 1986. Since then, the Konami Code has spread, now being featured in software titles and websites. Let’s consider the origins of the Konami Code, and how it has been featured in the zeitgeist.

The Origin of the Konami Code

In 1986, video game company Konami released a version of the arcade game Gradius that could be played in the home on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). As the game was being developed, however, it needed to be played through each time in order to be tested. Naturally, Kazuhisa Hashimoto—the developer responsible for porting the game—found this quite frustrating.

To simplify his process, Hashimoto created a cheat code that would give him every powerup in the game, making it far easier to progress to the point that needed testing. However, when production of the game started before the code was removed, it wound up being left in place so that removing it wouldn’t create any glitches. This was justified by the assumption that nobody would be so lucky as to input the Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right-B-A-Select-Start combination accidentally.

Regardless, it wasn’t long before the code was discovered. Since then, many game developers have intentionally included it in their products, and it has even spread outside of the gaming world. The Konami Code has itself become a pop culture reference.

Where the Konami Code Has Appeared

Along with Gradius, dozens of other games have featured the Konami Code. Most famous amongst them is possibly Contra, in which the player would receive 30 extra lives for inputting the Konami Code. It has also appeared in other media, including as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it plot device in Wreck-It Ralph, an encoded background detail in an episode of animated spy series Archer, and was recited in an episode of Family Guy.

Otherwise, various websites and services have used the Konami Code as an Easter egg. Saying it to Alexa or the Google Assistant will trigger a special response from either. If you’re using Discord and encounter an Error 404 page, you can use it to start a game of snake.

Now you’re familiar with the origins of the Konami Code, and all the ways that it can be used. Have you ever stumbled across this before, or heard how it can be used otherwise?

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