After the fall of the Commonwealth (2625-2626), Claudius (known as Gordea in other games), a former senator who was involved in criminal activities, confronted the government of the Federation and decided to revive the Empire. In order to do so, he created a private military company which later became to be known as the Red Falcon Army.
In 2638, an unidentified cosmic object approached the Earth and caused the appearance of several "dark areas" (copies of real places). Meanwhile, Bill Rizer and Han Feng discovered the revived Red Falcon on the Galuga Archipelago. They also found a laboratory that had been overrun by zombies. These beings were the remnants of failed experiments performed by the head scientist, Doctor Geo Mandrake, in his attempts to "revive" (clone) his dead daughter, Lucia.
A long war soon took place, marked by the beginning of the coup d'état of 2639. It was during this time that the Triumvirate entered the stage. The zombies successfully settled the "dark areas" and declared war on humanity, with the heroes having to fight against the Red Falcon, aliens, zombies, and the former commander at the same time.
Contra: Return is different from previous Contra installments in many aspects. There are RPG elements, new levels, heroes, weapon sets, vehicles, and even new gameplay mechanics. The game is constantly updated and new features are being added.
Besides the classic side-scrolling, platform action of the classic games, Contra: Return adds many new game modes to make use of the system's online capabilities, such as multiple PvP modes (like real-time ranked 3v3) where players can compete for loot to improve weapons and armor.
- Characters can equip weapons and armor upgrades.
- There are two weapon slots, three slots for a Super weapon, and two active hero's abilities.
- Players can shore up on both premium currency and in-game gold to acquire gear of higher rarities for better firepower and survivability.
- Gear can be enhanced with loot (such as EXP tickets). In addition, players can gather upgrade materials in order to evolve it.
Bill Rizer is the only available character at the beginning of the game, but many more are unlocked as the game progresses.
New playable characters were also added to the roster in the following months of the game's release, each with their own unique abilities, up to a total of 22 characters. These include:
Many of the stages in this game are based on levels from earlier Contra games. For example, stage 1-4 is based on the Jungle stage of the original Contra, and stages 1-5 and 1-6 are based on the Waterfall stage.