The Konami Code explained: Kazuhisa Hashimoto’s legacy
It’s the king of famous cheat codes, but why was it created and why is it still so famous today?
The OG cheat code
Konami is one of the all-time great studios, with titles like Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill on their roster. But, did you know that it was a Konami producer named Kazuhisa Hashimoto who created the Konami Code – and cheat codes – as we know them today?
The Konami Code was created in 1986, for Gradius on the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Players could enter the sequence “↑↑↓↓←→←→BA”, then hit the start button to begin the game. Whether or not the start button actually counts as part of the code splits the room, but we’ll leave that for later.
On Gradius I, pausing the game and entering the Konami code activated all powerups except for Speed Up, Double, and Laser (who needs those anyway?). But what made Hashimoto decide to programme this easter egg into the game?
How to beat your own game
During testing, Hashimoto found he couldn’t play through the game as he needed to: it was just too hard. So, he created a code that allowed him to test the game in God mode, with the full complement of power ups that players normally had to earn..
The code was supposed to be removed before the game was published, but the development team decided to leave it in as they were worried about creating new bugs or glitches by removing it. Plus, it was long enough that no unsuspecting players could enter it by accident.
You have to wonder if the team behind Gradius knew what they had started. When they introduced the world to the Konami Code, they laid the groundwork for every famous cheat code created since.
The 30 Lives Code
If you entered the code on the title screen in Gradius II, you could start the game with 30 lives. It was known as “The 30 Lives Code” (a bit unimaginative, but they’re gamers not writers).
Meanwhile, Contra – another Konami title – exploded in popularity and spread the legend of the Konami code even further. It became more popularly known as “The Contra Code”, as players sought an edge in their new favourite video game.
More and more players were discovering the code: Gradius III saw three different applications for it, and it went on to appear in Konami games like Dance Dance Revolutions, Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill.
The code in popular culture
The Konami Code is so ubiquitous that it pops up in all kinds of crazy places: a variation of it is used to reset the Netflix program on some devices. On Discord, you can enter the code on any Error 404 website and unlock a secret game of snake.
If you’re bored at work, you can enter the code on a Google Hangouts conversation to change your background – but maybe don’t do it for an important call!
Google Assistant, Siri and Amazon’s Alexa will all respond to the Konami Code if you recite it. That’s, “Up, down, up, down, left, right, left, right, B, A”. The fact that this is programmed into these products shows how impactful the code was on a generation of gamers, who now work for these massive tech companies.
In 2016, famously boring British retailer Marks and Spencer even got in on the action: if you entered the code on their Christmas ordering site, 8-bit festive creatures would pop up and dance all over your screen. The website designer must’ve been a fan!
A true gaming icon
In 2020, the gaming world was saddened to hear about the passing of Kazuhisa Hashimoto. He was just 61 years old, but he would go down in history as a deeply talented producer who first introduced the concept of cheat codes to the world.
He enjoyed a great career by any standards, working on several successful games series for a groundbreaking studio. But, his contribution to the world of cheat codes cannot be underestimated: he’s the reason we could all drop our wanted levels on our Xbox 360s, or shower ourselves with a motherload of cash on the Sims.
Nearly 50 years later, the code still enjoys prominence among gamers and in the wider online community. That’s what makes it a truly iconic code – and one that we loved researching.
Follow us on Twitter for more Cheat Code stories, news and more information about the project.