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Protector icon

Icon of the "Protector" upgrade from Uprising. This upgrade increases a health gauge's amount.

Health is a feature in the Contra series.


A main staple of the series involves the hardcore gameplay of "one hit = instant death". Some games have introduced Health meters as a way to alleviate some of the intense difficulty the game otherwise would bring. In many of these titles, the general Health Meter appears as a segmented colored bar, with each bar colored a certain color of energy varying by game. When damaged, a bar is grayed out ("emptied") and once all Health depletes, the player loses a life.


Contra (MSX2)[]

The first game to feature an energy meter, which was absent in both the Arcade and NES/Famicom versions of the game.

Contra: Hard Corps[]

The Japanese version of the game contained a Health Meter: Each player starts off the game with 3 orange bars. When a player receives damage, one orange bar is subtracted (grayed out, as if emptied), and that player will be knocked back while grunting in pain. The knockback distance varies by action:

  • If damaged on the ground, a player is slightly pushed back, flinching for a brief second.
  • If damaged while jumping, a player is knocked back slightly far. Mid-air damage can interrupt and repel a forward jump.
  • If damaged while climbing, the player will not move for a second or two.

After receiving damage, a player is temporarily invincible. Once a player loses all 3 health bars, a life is lost. When a fully-defeated player returns into battle via a borrowed spare life, the returning player starts with three full Health Bars. Although pitfalls will only subtract one bar before character respawning, certain enemies or hazards may deplete an entire Health meter regardless of how much health a player has. When a stage is cleared, player(s)'s health will restore to full upon the Stage Clear display. An exception is the Battle Arena: Health will not be restored if entering this stage from the Junkyard, but will be restored after the victory dialogue against the Huge Face.

Health was removed in both the European and North American releases of Hard Corps, though all character's damage grunts remained within the Music Test. The removal of this feature was likely to make the game appear similar to previous Contra titles (where a player can immediately die from any damage received). Although removed, it is revealed that the features still remain within the game, albeit disabled. Hacking or a restoration patch can re-enable the Health Bar feature for both overseas versions of the game.[1]

Curiously, some magazine images promoting Contra: Hard Corps and Probotector (MD) displays Ray possessing a slightly thinner Health Meter, which has eight bars of Health instead of 3. These images were likely taken during the game's production, from an earlier pre-release build.

Hard Corps: Uprising[]

This game marks the first official time Health is used within the Contra series for versions outside Japan. Health is similar to Contra: Hard Corps, but is now colored green and displayed as a bar inside a character's HUD, which is shaped like their wielded weapon. The health bar in this game is more precise than what is visually shown at first glance. Although appearing as bars, each health actually contains multiple units within, meaning some attacks may not always deplete a full bar or more, rather only partially instead (an example being the Poison Flower in the Jungle stage, where its poisonous clouds will steadily drain a player's energy). Certain hazards can deplete a player's health gauge fully regardless of how much Health they have. Certain pick-ups in-game can restore a player's vitality. Each playable character possesses a default number of health bars for their respective Health gauge:

Exclusive to Rising Mode, a player's health gauge can be extended by purchasing health upgrades in the shop with earned CP. Some health gauge upgrades are not initially available to purchase and must be unlocked by purchasing the previous Health upgrade first. Within the shop, health gauge amounts can also be toggled OFF to lower the Health gauge should the player wish to challenge themselves or recreate classic Contra difficulty. Even if the lower Health upgrades are toggled OFF, a player will still have a high meter if the highest health Upgrade ON is left ON.

Contra: Operation Galuga[]

Similar to previous installments. Each player possesses a certain amount of default health bars within their Health Meter:

In addition, each health bar is color coded for ease of display. Naturally, the bar starts off green when full, yellow when damaged or below 50% maximum HP, and red when critically low or about to die. Certain characters possess Spirits that increase their HP Gauge; equipping certain Perks will also increase the Health Meter.

Having a Health Meter is entirely optional to play. An option can disable the Health Meter for all players, treating gameplay under the "One-Hit Kill" style seen in previous titles - and also granting a point multiplier upon completing a level. Unlike Hard Corps: Uprising, it is not possible to decrease the amount of a Health Meter lower than a player character's given default number, or by a specific amount.




  1. Contra: Hard Corps at