Contra Returns

App review by
Paul Semel, Common Sense Media
Contra Returns App Poster Image
Classic-style arcade shooter hits mobile from the consoles.

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Ease of Play

This notoriously tough and frantic game has two difficulty options — "Normal" and "Elite" — as well as multiple control options. It also offers a helpful tutorial for people unfamiliar with this series and similar shooters.


Players use a variety of guns and grenades to destroy aliens, drones, and other enemies, human and otherwise. That said, there's no blood, gore, or dismemberment.


Some female characters have skimpy outfits and somewhat unrealistic proportions, and will strike sexy poses in the menus.


Players use in-game currency to unlock new characters and weapons, to upgrade those characters and weapons. This currency is earned by playing, or bought in the game's store. This is the latest game in the long-running Contra franchise, which has spanned multiple consoles for decades.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Contra Returns is an arcade shooter for iOS and Android devices. This is the latest chapter in the long-running Contra franchise, which has covered multiple consoles. In it, players use a variety of guns and explosives to kill aliens, robots, stationary turrets, and other human and non-human enemies, though there's no blood, gore, or dismemberment. Some female characters are well-endowed, partial to skimpy outfits, and will strike sexy poses, though this behavior is far more noticeable in the menus than when playing. Players earn in-game currency by beating levels, completing challenges, or just continuing to play, though they can also buy some in the game's store. This currency is then used to unlock new weapons and playable characters, or to improve said weapons and characters. Read the developer's privacy policy for details on how your (or your kids') information is collected, used, and shared, and any choices you may have in the matter, and note that privacy policies and terms of service frequently change.

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What's it about?

Set years after the original arcade game, CONTRA RETURNS once again has super soldier Bill Rizer using his itchy trigger finger to fight aliens, robots, and other enemies who are hoping to take over the world... and are as trigger happy as Bill (and you). Using an arsenal of guns and grenades, Bill and other characters from this long-running series have to shoot their way through numerous levels, most of which are loosely based on the jungle and waterfall sections of the original 1987 arcade game.

Is it any good?

You know a mobile game is good when you wish you could also play it on a console or PC. Like the 1987 original arcade game, and its good sequels, Contra Returns is a side-scrolling shooter in which you -- as super soldier Bill Rizer -- have to take out a seemingly endless army of trigger-happy aliens, human hating robots, effective stationary turrets, and other enemies, human and otherwise. Good thing you're also a lover of guns, and come armed to the teeth with futuristic weapons, a ton of grenades, and an ability to jump even when you're in mid-air. All of which make this feel a lot like the original arcade game.

That said, Contra Returns does add some new elements, including the ability to upgrade your weapons and character. Also, while you have some special weapons, as well as grenades, you're not limited by how many you happen to find along the way. Instead, you can only use one at a time, and then have to wait for them to recharge before deploying them again, like when you use a magic spell in a role-playing game. While this new installment perfectly captures the spirit of the original arcade game, it would clearly work better if it had the same controls. Sure, the touchscreen and virtual joystick work fine, but it's hard not to imagine how much better this would be if you could use a real controller with a real joystick and could play it on a bigger screen. But even with the less than ideal controls, Contra Returns will give you the same feeling as the original did back in the day.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Contra Returns affected by the fact that you're killing both human and non-human enemies? Would the impact be lessened if you were only killing aliens instead? Do you feel any differently when killing people as opposed to when you're destroying robots or inanimate objects?

  • While you can play Contra Returns for free, and use the in-game currency to buy and improve your weapons and characters, you can also buy the currency with real-world money, so how do you decide when to spend money on a free game?

  • Some of the female characters in Contra Returns are wearing skimpy outfits and strike sexy poses, but why do you think the people who made the game did this? Do you think being sexy helps someone be a good soldier?

App details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action

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