6 Video Game Easter Eggs That Were Hidden A Little Too Well
Gamers have invested more person-hours into exploring other worlds than the space program has, with better technology than the moon missions and a bigger budget than all of NASA. Which would probably depress us if exploding aliens weren’t so much fun. As we showed you before, even exploration in virtual worlds can take as much time as finding actual secrets on real planets. Behold electronic Easter eggs that took so long to find they count as archaeological artifacts.
#6. Halo‘s Hidden Romance
Halo 3 has consumed more college time than courses in relativity and taken students to more distant worlds. Players have excavated every nook and cranny of that alien ring in more detail than a xenoproctologist with an electron microscope. They even found the “IWHBYD skull,” a human head stripped of flesh and engraved with initials that stand for “I Would Have Been Your Daddy” (but a dog beat me over the fence). Unlocking that involves sprinting back and forth hundreds of meters while leaping through hoops in gaming’s most sarcastic mockery of doing exercise or anything useful.
But one thing these Halo warriors never found … was love. A romantic tribute stayed secret inside the software for seven years. And even then it was found only because Halo developers flat-out told interviewers there was something still hidden. Twice. And some of those developers had found it only by accident because they’d seen it in the source code.
Team Beyond discovered that by pressing down on both thumbsticks with the system clock set to Dec. 25, you can unlock a Halo ring on the loading screen. And if you look incredibly closely as it spins, you’ll see “Happy Birthday Lauren” hidden in the game’s code by Adrian Perez for his wife. WARNING: Only gift your partner a message on a ring if you’re already married.
The only time that would ever work!
It says a lot about Halo players that they found a skull engraved with a “your mother” insult far faster than the message of love. But it’s nice to see someone get an extra present on a Christmas birthday instead of being fobbed off with “But it’s a bigger one!”
#5. Mortal Kombat Free Arcade Options
Forget stories about a school-friend’s uncle at Nintendo; the ultimate fantasy for ’80s children would have been finding a way to play with an arcade machine for free. That’s how the ridiculously expensive Neo Geo extracted thousands of dollars from the older ones. But Mortal Kombat really had one. The Cutting Room Floor website found a hidden menu in the arcade code 20 years after the initial release.
“Now, child, you must dedicate your life to this quest, as I have.”
The code doesn’t require any internal machine access, code editing, or even any money. Anyone could walk up to an arcade machine and enter this code to enter the secret “EJB Menu.” Well, they could have if they were The Flash: The code requires tighter timing than the Large Hadron Collider. You need to alternate between one-player and two-player block buttons like you’re standing between an annoyed Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. And with the same effect, because you’re stopping people from having awesome fights.
BEHOLD THE WONDERS OF ’90s GAMING!
Get the near-impossible 27-press combo right and you unlock the EJB Menu. But, then again, inputting a difficult sequence to see a few slightly different red CHECK pixels was the entire point of the first Mortal Kombat. The unlocked options are named for Ed J. Boon, one of the game’s original creators, and give you access to system diagnostics, coin records, a set of THANK YOU screens, and the complete selection of character endings. You could see every ending in the game without ever spending a penny. If it had let you see fatalities, there would have been no need to actually play the game at all.
#4. GTA V‘s Secret Cellphone Explosions
Grand Theft Auto V is the closest we’ve come to building a real Matrix: a vast computer simulation designed to keep people doing tedious daily tasks when they could be exploding giant enemy robots. Programming a computer with all the tedium of yoga but none of the physical benefit is the closest we’ve come to digitizing pure boredom.
BEHOLD THE WONDERS OF MODERN GAMING!
There’s an in-game cellphone you can dial, and it’s stuffed with cheats like DEATHCAR (dialing 1-999-3328-4227 spawns a Mad-Max-ical armored interceptor), INCENDIARY, DEATHCAR, AND DEATHCAR. Sorry I just don’t know why anyone would dial anything but DEATHCAR.
I’m in love.
@KarmaIngram1 dialed something other than DEATHCAR. He must have dialed everything other than DEATHCAR, because they crunched their way into the 10 million possible combinations until they found an unannounced secret cellphone number three years after the game’s release.
Dialing 1-999-367-3767 triggers a random explosion. Which doesn’t seem like much for the effort, but processing huge amounts of numbers just to draw explosions is most games’ entire purpose.
This has to have been a brute-force attack. The explanation videos mention no hints, no interviews, no shadowy clues: There were just enough players boredly hammering numbers into the phone that they found another secret. That’s 10 million possible combinations, and they crunched through them to wring out just one more tiny puff of something happening. Which would still be more fun than half the official minigames included. And your mobile phone triggering a random detonation somewhere around you is still better than some asshole actually calling you on it.
#3. Wasteland 2‘s Catastrophically Bad Buttons
One dangerously interesting interaction is the Big Red Button.
It’s even more beautiful than the car.
On a deep epistemological level, how could you not push that? Press it, the screen shakes, and then! That’s it. Who knew a red button could end up with blue balls? But when people press a big red button and don’t explode, they demand to know why. It took a whole year to discover, and this isn’t like those old games where things could stay secret for a decade because there was no internet. This was a great, big, red exclamation mark released in 2014, attacked by an entire online community of wikis and hyperlinked information sharing, and it still took a full year to find out — and even then only because someone asked the developers.
A Kotaku journalist interrogated the creators to find that pressing the button opens a secret location on the game’s main map. Go there and you’re greeted by Aaron Chwatt, who’s a bit of a jerk.
Just like most guys you meet on the computer.
Ignore him and you find … a second Big Red Button! Go on. It was fine the first time.
You know you want to.
Another earthquake and now Chwatt demands to know what the hell you thought you were doing, why you would do that, and then cries that you’ve doomed everyone before running for his life.
Yep, still like most online interactions.
And you might never even notice the payoff: Aaron Chwatt was a real comedian who lived from 1919 to 2006. And he went by the stage name “Red Buttons.” So gamers spent a year working out the most incredibly obscure and over-elaborate reference ever written. This is what happens when a dad gets a job in the game industry just to deliver the jokes to more kids.
#2. Serious Sam‘s Secret Pacifist Path
He’s so clearly a man with hidden depths.
For over a decade, players blasted through the Sacred Yards blissfully, blast-fully unaware of a pacifist path hidden in the code. It was only discovered when devoted player SolaisYosei was hired by Croteam, the company that made the game, and he asked the CEO. And even then Solais was given only a hint about where to look. Because a gaming company CEO’s entire job is creating fun challenges.
The level is stuffed with secret switches and hidden paths. Play them perfectly and you can get through an entire level of Serious Sam without killing or even seeing any enemies. That’s like trying to create a hit Gordon Ramsay show without using any cursing or screaming. Behold the resulting bullet-free ballet.
Almost every step is a structured secret. Smashing statues for switches, avoiding invisible pressure plates, taking teleports past enemies, collecting power-ups like pieces of an invisible time-locked puzzle, everything. It’s a masterwork visible only to people who’ve spent years of their lives studying SeriousSamology. Infiltrating the company to decode an electronic lock so that an agent can win without ever having to fight an enemy? This secret turned Serious Sam into the world’s most unlikely espionage agent.
#1. Nintendo’s 22-Year Knock Out
Boxers not knowing minor details 22 years later isn’t unusual; it’s a natural consequence of being punched in the head for a living. The memory tends to go look for where common sense and survival instinct disappeared to. But NES owners grew up with the Nintendo back catalog instead of a childhood, and Punch-Out!!‘s micro-second reaction times demanded closer attention than someone doing microsurgery on your eyes.
And, as you’d expect, an 8-year-old trying it by themselves never saw the end.
Nobody noticed an instant-win strategy that was literally lighting the screen to help us win. For 22 years. The game’s ROM seems too small to hide even a zero, but it is apparently stuffed with secrets. A secret so far above anything that friend’s uncle at Nintendo could know, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata himself descended to interview the game’s creators and reveal it.
Thousands of voices cried out, “Just like that?!”
Did you spot it? There’s more detail in this video:
Who knew the secret was “looking at pixels on the screen” all along?
Makoto Wada revealed that Bald Bull’s most lethal attack, a cross-ring charge for an instant loss, can be reversed for an instant win. If you launch a body-blow when a little light goes on in the right of the audience you’ll knock him down instead of having your face punched into pixelated soup.
Twenty-two years! And this wasn’t some obscure title; this was an official Nintendo title, name-brand Punch-Out!! We spent longer on that game than we did on walking back then. In the interview:
Wada: I was wondering when I would have a chance to tell people that.
Iwata: You’ve been holding that information for 22 years since the release. (laughs)
Wada: Now that I had the chance. (laughs) There are a lot of hidden elements in the NES version.
Wait, there’s more? Excuse me. I need to get my old NES and a microscope and take a year off work.
Discover more creepy Easter eggs in 7 Creepy Video Game Easter Eggs We Wish We Never Found, and check out the toughest Easter egg in the entire Halo franchise in The 5 Most Well-Hidden Video Game Easter Eggs Ever.
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