Contra was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America in February 1988. This version was produced in-house by Konami and features several differences from the arcade release in order to better suit the NES’s hardware. For example, sprites for effects (like explosions) are shown at 30fps instead of 60fps to work around the sprite limitations of the system. Another game to use this technique is Recca. The Famicom version contains cutscenes, an additional music track, and environment effects which were removed from the NES version.
The game can be played by one or two players, but due to the graphical limitations of the NES, Bill and Lance lost their individualized character designs. Instead, they are both depicted as shirtless commandos distinguished by the colors of their pants (blue pants for the first player and red pants for the second). When one player loses all of their lives, they are given the option to use the other player’s stock to keep fighting.
The power-up icons for the Machine Gun and Laser Gun are represented by letter-based falcon symbols (M and L) used by the other weapons. The Rapid Bullets and Barrier power-ups are also more common in this version, since unlike the arcade game, the flying item capsules now appear regardless of which weapon the player character currently possesses. The NES version introduces a seventh item that clears the screen of all on-screen enemies when obtained.
The NES version recomposes the seven stages of the arcade version into eight stages. Stages 2 and 3 were combined into one stage, resulting in the renumbering of the Waterfall level from Stage 4 to Stage 3, while Stages 5 and 6 were combined into the new Stage 4. The final four stages of the NES version are based on the different areas featured in the arcade version’s final stage.