Warren Robinett, creator of the Atari game Adventure, is often credited with starting the tradition of hiding "easter eggs" in video games. The story goes that Atari didn't allow game creators to put their names on their products, afraid that rival companies would use the information to lure them away. Robinett wanted to put his stamp on Adventure, however, and so came up with a way to do it on the sly. He hid the words "Created by Warren Robinett" in a hidden room that required a special "Gray Dot" item to get to. The secret was discovered after release, after Robinett left Atari, and by that point it was too expensive to erase. Atari decided it would be better to treat the hidden room as an extra incentive to challenge gamers, and resolved to put similar secrets in future games.
Whether or not Robinett did create the first easter egg, his antics certainly inspired others. Developers and programmers took to the idea that they could "interact" with players by challenging them to find secret areas and items. Players were thrilled to learn that there was more to their favorite games, and that they might even be the first to unravel those mysteries. This exchange has continued to today. And as games get more complex and gamers share clues through social media, both sides have upped the ante.
This has made programmers get trickier when it comes to hiding things, to the point that decades can pass before gamers find them. So here's a shoutout to the dedicated developers, the ones who hid their easter eggs so well it's like they never wanted us to find them. We almost didn't. But here are 25 of gaming's most well-kept secrets.
25 Super Mario 3's First Warp Whistle
In the NES era, there weren't YouTube walkthroughs available the day after a game's release. If you wanted to find secrets in games, you just had to go to every possible place and do every possible thing. I may sound like an old man waving my cane here, but hidden areas were honestly just that well-hidden. Take the first warp whistle in Super Mario Bros. 3, for example. To get it, you had to go to the 3rd level, hop on this particular white block, and crouch for a few seconds. Then you'd fall through the stage and could run to the end where the whistle awaited. How exactly is a person expected to just randomly know that?
24 Mega Man Can Do A Hadouken
Capcom certainly loves crossovers. Just look at the cool new Breath Of The Wild armor in Monster Hunter. This love goes all the way back to the Super Nintendo, where Mega Man X could learn to use Ryu's Hadouken. Oh, you didn't know that? But it was such an easy upgrade to get! All you had to do was get all the heart and tank upgrades, have all the weapons, and go back to Armored Armadillo's stage after beating him. Then you had to dash jump with full health while on the platform ride to get to a secret ledge. Once, there, you have to plummet to your doom 3 times. After all that, you get the Hadouken. Simple, right?
23 FFVI's Secret Revival
Losing a party member is always a rough thing. Final Fantasy does a particularly good job at getting players attached to characters only to steal them away in a tragic cutscene. Shadow's apparent end in Final Fantasy VI is one of the more brutal ones. But did you know you can get him back? All it takes is a few seconds of waiting. That was apparently too big an ask for many players, however, as the floating island Shadow falls off of is counting down to destruction. With time literally ticking away, players were too occupied with escaping to rescue the poor ninja. If they only knew to stand in place for a few seconds, they'd have gotten Shadow's revival sequence and averted a traumatic gaming memory.
22 Reptile Played Hard To Get
Mortal Kombat's Reptile was an impossible riddle hidden in plain sight. He would randomly come out during fights and offer backward clues like the one above. Players were able to figure out that Reptile wanted them to go to the pit stage, but that wasn't enough. It turned out the player had to win in the pit with two flawless fatalities, which was basically saying they had to be complete masters of the game. But still, that wasn't enough. While they were doing those double flawless fatalities, something had to be flying over the moon, an occurrence that players had no control over. Finally, after meeting all of those insane requirements, players still had to defeat the boss-level Reptile.
21 Naughty Dog Lived Up To Its Name Here
Though it's now known for creating cinematic games starring complex and tough female heroes, Naughty Dog was once less...respectful. When it made Rings of Power, a fantasy game for Sega Genesis, Naughty Dog's logo featured a random woman. For some reason, players were given the option to remove her outfit. All they needed was a controller plugged into port two, then to hold down and right on the d-pad, plus the A, B, C, and start buttons when Rings of Power launched. The logo displayed, as usual, but with the new character model. Ellie's kiss doesn't seem so shocking now, does it?
20 A Clandestine, Creepy Pokémon Ritual
Pokémon has introduced many ways to capture its powerful legendary beasts, but Heart Gold and Soul Silver take the cake for weirdness. Arceus, Pokémon's closest thing to a god, must be transferred into the game and brought to the Ruins of Alph. There, players will reveal a mysterious altar. This secret altar can be used to conduct a bizarre ritual where Arceus births a new legendary Pokémon. Real-life photographs of human history, the transformation of the planet into a modern world, flash onscreen when Arceus takes the stage. Meanwhile, ominous drums beat to a primal rhythm. There's no explanation for any of this, and afterwards, the player just nicknames their new Pokémon as if nothing happened.
19 Only True Detectives Could Find This Arkham Secret
While some of these secrets are amazing because people managed to find them despite all odds (that Mega Man Hadouken though), others gaming mysteries are amazing because they eluded gamers for so long. That's where this Batman Arkham Asylum easter egg falls. For a game that's about the world's greatest detective and features several concealed puzzles, it managed to hide one secret for an entire year. It took 12 months of playing for Batman fans to find a room containing the blueprints for Arkham City, offering a tease for the game of the same name. Basically, the developers threw out a huge clue for the sequel and no one saw it.
18 20 Years Later, Here's How You Beat Bald Bull
Punch Out is a game that's all about looking for visual clues. When to dodge, when to punch, where to punch. These are all things that are made apparent when players pay close attention to the movements of opposing boxers. Every character has their tell, their few seconds where they leave themselves open. Expert Punch Out players make discovering and exploiting these tells an art.
And yet, they all missed this one.
When fighting Bald Bull, a certain audience member will take a picture, causing their camera to flash. Punching at that exact moment will knock Bald Bull down. Former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was actually the one to reveal this trick, and he waited 20 years to do it.
17 The Whole Second Castle Was Hidden Behind A Simple Trick
The story of Castlevania: Symphony of The Night seems fairly straightforward at first. Richter Belmont defeats Dracula but disappears. Dracula's son Alucard comes out of slumber to investigate all that's happened, only to find that Richter has turned to darkness. It makes for a nice reversal with a vampire as the hero and a Belmont as the final boss. Except...it turns out Richter was being controlled by a dark priest, and the real final level is Dracula's castle. Of course, the only way to discover Dracula's castle is to put on an item called the Holy Glasses during the Richter fight. Yet the game never tells you this, meaning it's possible to finish without ever knowing the truth.
16 The Mario Nintendo Hides
Mario Kart 64 established the tradition of a trophy ceremony for the winners of a grand prix. But its predecessor, Super Mario Kart, included another racing tradition: the celebratory champagne. That's right, if you won first place, you would see Mario, Peach, Toad, and others take a healthy swig of bubbly.
Peach even blushed, clearly enjoying her drink.
But if you played the game outside of Japan, you might have never experienced this. European kids got to see it. But the U.S. version of the game stopped the party right before the drinks happened. Characters would just hold the bottle and smile. And this, friends, is why people push for region-free consoles.
15 Freddi The Fish Gets Brutal
Freddi The Fish is a very kid-friendly adventure game about a fish who solves various puzzles. It's meant to be easy for the sake of little ones, so it doesn't have things like secret boss fights or hidden treasure rooms. But it does have a disturbing deleted scene. It starts when Freddi must make her way past an ornery eel. The eel threatens Freddi and her friend, so it becomes a quest to find something that will distract him. However, fans found a deleted scene hidden on the disc that shows Freddi once had a very different strategy in mind.
She could feed her friend to the eel.
Even worse is that the scene is fully voiced and animated, meaning the developers got pretty far before realizing how terrible the idea is.
14 The Legend Of Chris Houlihan
Nintendo Power magazine once held a special a contest where the winner would get their name programmed into a Nintendo game. The winner was announced as a young man named Chris Houlihan, but the magazine failed to announce what game he'd be in. Eventually, players found Chris' name in a secret room in A Link To The Past.
It also contained prizes for Link in the form of 45 Blue Rupees.
The room is actually so secret that it can't be encountered through normal gameplay. Gamers actually have to glitch the game in such a way that Link is sent to Chris' room as a failsafe to prevent the game from crashing.
13 GoldenEye Hides Top-Secret Games
While some studios were throwing episodes of South Park onto their discs, Rare was being more productive with its empty space. The cartridge for the hit N64 game Goldeneye 007 (a game that is worse than you remember) contains an emulator for an old console as well as ten games. The ZX Spectrum, an '80s console sold mostly in the UK, was home to some of Rare's early games. The studio was possibly working on a way to bring those old games to the N64, and so snuck code for a ZX Spectrum emulator into GoldenEye's code. The emulator doesn't work as-is, but the fan who discovered it thought of a way to patch the code so that the ZX Spectrum games can be played.
12 Accidental Audio
Front Mission: Gun Hazard was a mech strategy game made by Square. Since it wasn't Final Fantasy, Square didn't seem to think it merited a decent English translation. This lazy attitude got the game into trouble during its ending sequence. For the sequence, Square took real-life audio and used it as "radio chatter" between the game's soldiers.
"We're gonna burn your building down, you [REDACTED]. C18's watching you, you communist, [REDACTED]-loving, Pa-." The "Redacted" bits were obviously not redacted in the actual audio, giving Front Mission: Gun Hazard some unintended (and off-putting) flavor.
11 A Halo 3 Dev's Hidden Message
With the number of people who actually work on video games increasing every console generation, there's bound to be those who fall through the cracks. Combine that with reports of wicked crunch times and compromises that many AAA games make, and it's easy to see how a programmer could sneak something into the code.
Fortunately, not every programmer has something tricky or malicious up their sleeve.
By setting an Xbox 360 to December 25th and pressing both thumbsticks down, gamers can make the Halo 3 load screen display a secret message by programmer Adrian Perez. It turns out to be a Happy Birthday for his wife. Aww!
10 Mario Bricks Are Made Of People
Remember video game manuals? Remember how those little booklets often held key bits of lore that 8-bit cutscenes just couldn't portray? If you do, you might remember the manual for the first Super Mario Bros. The story of Bowser's invasion is told, including the shocking detail that he turned the people of the Mushroom Kingdom into blocks! You know, the same blocks that Mario frequently busts apart with his weirdly-strong head. In other words...Mario has been reducing innocent people to dust for years. And Nintendo has never addressed this. It's just...a fact we never talk about but have to live with.
9 Nightmare-Inducing Sonic
Another feature that seems to have been left behind in the era of '90s gaming is the sound test. Games still have them nowadays, but people don't seem to play with them as much anymore. The kids of the '90s would spend good amounts of time just playing with the options menu to hear their favorite game music (don't judge, we didn't have Mp3s or YouTube). It was enough of a draw that SEGA put some easter eggs in the sound test menu of Sonic CD. One member of the team decided it would be fun to put rows of this picture featuring a really creepy Sonic as a sound test easter egg, complete with unsettling music.
8 Resident Evil 2 Showed Wesker's Odd Taste
Getting to the S.T.A.R.S. office in Resident Evil 2 is a cool little easter egg in and of itself. The series is known for its lore, so getting to dig through the belongings of the original Resident Evil characters is a treat. Sadly, going into their desks just earns a message like this one.
Unless, of course, you search Wesker's desk exactly 50 times.
If you're dedicated enough to do that, you find a roll of undeveloped film. Taking it to another room and developing it reveals that Wesker was keeping a photo of...Rebecca from RE1 posing in her gym uniform. There are some things that should stay hidden...
7 Your Reward Is... Not Nice
This one was so well hidden it actually took gamers nine years to find. Wave Race: Blue Storm has a secret announcer that actively insults the player. The voice is hidden in the options menu. On the audio settings screen, there's a waveform that can be manipulated by the Z-button. After making it so that the wave looks like fog, players need to type in this code: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, A, X, Z. An audio cue confirms the code worked, after which players can begin a race. The new commentator will be there to sarcastically react, saying things like "Your wins are like diamonds—very rare."
6 Buy Golf Game, Get A Free South Park Episode
Many gamers might not remember this, but in the PS1 days, developers would sometimes put meaningless data on video game discs to fill up empty space. The person in charge of that task for PGA Tour wanted to spice it up, apparently, because they put in an episode of South Park instead of just random data. Unfortunately for them, PS1 owners could freely access the files on their discs.
It didn't take long for players to discover the hidden South Park and spread the news.
The game's producer, EA, ended up having to recall over 100,000 copies of the game. And the programmer who thought it would be a fun joke probably never worked in the industry again.
5 How Dr. Cortex's Mom Put Him Through Medical School
Crash TwinSanity certainly played fast and loose with the Crash Bandicoot world. Aside from forcing Crash and Cortex to work together, it also gives an answer to the question no one asked- "Where is Cortex's mother?" On a mountain stage where Crash uses Cortex as a snowboard, players can find a strange building called Moulin Cortex. If Crash is made to slide into it, the camera zooms out as chaos ensues. Women's screams are heard as the player is left to imagine exactly what goes on in Moulin Cortex. Except...one detail is revealed when Cortex says "Mother?" Apparently, Cortex's mother works in a multi-species club on a snowy mountain. Check that off the list of easter eggs no one needed.
4 Hitman's Inexplicable Coin Trick
I've done my best to include a variety of hidden things on this list. Hopefully, by the end, you'll have seen that developers hide the most amazing, heartfelt, overpowered, and downright creepy things in their games. This one, however, manages to set itself apart by being just plain weird. As in, the developers actually took time to program this function for no other reason than for laughs. In Hitman: Blood Money, Agent 47 attends a wedding at a mansion. If players look in the garden's pond, they'll find a coin underwater. Shooting this coin will cause a small army of underwear-clad dudes to appear around Agent 47 and cheer. Then, just as mysteriously as they arrived, they leave.
3 Wario's Weird Bomb
Nintendo games are a treasure-trove of secrets you were never supposed to find. Mostly because Nintendo in the West loves to change games from their Japanese versions, leaving confusing gaps in their place. Take Wario Land II, for example. When Wario gets hit by this penguin-looking guy's bomb he becomes dazed and the controls get messed-up.
The Western version of the manual calls this "Crazy Wario."
But why does a penguin's bomb make Wario crazy? Well, because in the original Japanese version the penguin throws a drink. Wario is supposed to have too much, explaining why the controls suddenly turn topsy-turvy. Man, Nintendo just won't let its characters enjoy anything.
2 Get Literally Everything in Fallout 4
This one requires console gamers to think like their PC brothers and mod. Of course, only Bethesda really works to put mods on consoles, so this trick is for Bethesda's Fallout 4. PC players discovered they could use console commands to get into a secret room in Fallout 4 that contains every item in the game. Apparently, the room was a testing ground for developers, never meant to be accessed by players. But players got in, and in doing so opened up a one-stop shop for weapons, DLC items, and power armors. All the power armors. Since console gamers don't have access to console commands, they have to rely on mods. This link for Xbox and this link for PS4 lead to mods that create doors to each console's developer rooms.
1 The Secret Of The Hippo
Kids playing Link's Awakening DX for the Game Boy Color had no idea what this hippo was doing. She's meant to be posing in the buff for the gator artist. The original Japanese version had her with a towel and even the hint of a chest. So when she sits, it makes sense as it implies she's covering up because she's embarrassed. The chest and the towel are removed in the Western version, so when she sits down there's no real context for the action. Since the joke was removed, players could even be forgiven for thinking it's the start of some odd quest. Their only reward, however, is disappointment.