The History of the Konami Code

Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B,A. It’s the most popular cheat code of all time, appearing in more than 100 games, and gamers know it as the Konami Code. But did you know it was never intended to be used by gamers at all?

 

In 1986, game developer Konami ported the classic side-scroller Gradius to Nintendo’s NES system. While the port was being worked on, a programmer named Kazuhisa Hashimoto found the game remarkably hard to play. Fed up with Gradius‘ high level of difficulty, he decided to create a special code that would make the game considerably easier to play test.

That’s how the famous keystroke sequence was birthed. Entering it at the start of the game gave players a full cache of power-ups to start out with. Entering it in reverse gave players thirty extra lives.

The code made it to the retail version of the game because Hashimoto never removed it after play testing was complete. No one seems to know how the code’s existence became widespread knowledge — did Hashimoto himself tell a friend who told a friend and so on? did some lucky gamer happen upon the code while entering random keystrokes? — but regardless of how, it became so popular that Konami developers started using it for play testing in nearly every game they worked on. And just like before, they left it in the retail version of the game, for savvy players “in the know” to use.

Eventually, developers outside of Konami caught on to the code’s popularity, and began putting it into their games as well. You’ll find it in such classics as Contra, Castlevania, Dance Dance Revolution, Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, and more. The Konami Code appears in many modern games as well, including Half-Life 2, Mercenaries 2, Plants vs. Zombies, Quake 4, and Little Big Planet 2.

The code is so popular, it’s taken on a life of its own outside of gaming, too. A huge number of websites have at one time or another displayed easter eggs when users input the Konami Code, including Facebook, Google Reader, Digg, Marvel.com, Gamespot, Netflix.com, MLB.com, and many more.

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