This generation, more than ever, has kept game hacking at the forefront of gamer's minds. Games aren’t just encouraged to be modded nowadays, they’re expected to be. Big releases like Skyrim and Fallout 4 thrive on their community’s desire and ability to mod and fix things Bethesda either didn’t think to do or couldn’t get around to. Most people mod their games now, but it wasn’t always like that.
A game hack was something to be cherished, whether it was one of many brutally hard Super Mario hacks or a translation of an obscure SNES game, there was something special about finding a hack for the right game. It wasn’t every day you stumbled upon a hack of your favorite video game.
As modding has become more prevalent and mainstream, many modders have gone back to see what they can crack away at some ignored classics. It was a lot harder to hack games for games in the ‘00s, after all. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. There are plenty of great hacks from the ‘00s waiting to be uncovered and played. Some fix technical issues, others take easy games and make them brutally hard, and the truly unique ones go all out and deliver something you’d never even dream of.
25 Phantom Hourglass D-Pad Hack
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, much like Skyward Sword, will always have its legacy tied directly to its controls. Phantom Hourglass was the first Zelda on the DS, and it shows. The touch controls are nowhere near as refined as they should be and Link simply doesn’t have the fluidity that his traditional control counterparts have. Thankfully, there exists a workaround that swaps those pesky touch controls for old-fashioned D-Pad and button movement.
You’d think the touch controls would be integral to the Phantom Hourglass experience, but being able to use buttons to control Link actually improves the game considerably. Link’s actions once again have that Zelda fluidity that makes adventuring so much fun. The hack doesn’t fix the tedious Temple of the Ocean King, but it certainly makes Phantom Hourglass a far more enjoyable game
24 Mario Kart DS N64 Circuit
Mario Kart DS was the first game in the series to the start the trend of bringing back old race tracks for each installment. This wasn’t enough, however, for N64 Arctus prompting him to hack Mario Kart DS into a faithful remake of Mario Kart 64. Now, that’s not to say N64 Circuit is just Mario Kart 64 on your DS, it’s much more.
N64 Circuit adds five courses from the 64 game, two battle courses, two brand new tracks, and five new characters including Toon Link, Koopa Troopa, and a yellow Luigi for some reason. With every Mario Kart entry typically improving on the last, there’s often little reason to head back to the older games outside of the nostalgia, but N64 Circuit breathes new life into a well deserving game.
23 Pokémon Shiny Gold Sigma
Before HeartGold and SoulSilver were even announced, Pokémon fans were trying their best to remake the games themselves with the foundation Gamefreak laid down with Fire Red and Leaf Green. Unfortunately, problem after problem would arise, and hacks would die almost as soon as they started. Very few managed to get past the initial stages and even fewer actually released anything resembling a proper remake. Except for one hack: Shiny Gold Sigma.
Now, Shiny Gold Sigma does recreate Gold and Silver terrifically, but it’s also been in development for so long that generations of Pokémon games have come and gone, including Gamefreak’s actual remake. To remedy this, the developer has put a painstaking amount of time into not only remaking Gold and Silver but also adding a bunch of new sidequests and every single Pokémon. That’s right, even Pokémon from Sun and Moon are available here. Come for the GBA style Gold and Silver remake, stay for hours and hours of content.
22 Super Mario 64 DS Ft. Donkey Kong, Sonic The Hedgehog, And Waluigi
Besides adding 30 stars to the base game’s 120, Super Mario 64 DS also added Luigi, Wario, and Yoshi as playable characters. It’s only natural that someone would eventually take advantage of this to add their own characters, which is exactly what one Russmarss2 did.
In a series of hacks released in 2015, Russmarss2 released mods for Super Mario 64 DS that replaced Mario with Donkey Kong, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Waluigi. It might be a bit odd that Mario is the replaced character each time, but when you take into account that Mario has access to the most stages it makes sense that he would be the main pick. Now, this does mean you’ll have to go through the work of repatching the game each time you want to play as someone else, but it’s all worth it for Waluigi.
21 Newer Super Mario Bros. Wii
New Super Mario Bros. has always been a bit of a divisive series. Some people appreciate the continuation of Mario’s 2D exploits while others curse the homogenized graphics and sound. Whether you fall in the former or the latter, I’m certain you’ll find something to appreciate about Newer Super Mario Bros. Wii.
In the same way that AM2R proved that fans could make a better modern Metroid than Nintendo, Newer Super Mario Bros. does the same for the New Super Mario games. Adding 128 new levels, three new worlds, the long forgotten hammer power-up, and bosses that require more than jumping on their heads three times, Newer is easily the best thing to have come out of the New Super Mario Bros. branding.
20 Fire Emblem Elibian Nights
Set between Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword and Sword of Seals, Elibian Nights is an ambitious hack that tries to offer an explanation to what happened in those long twenty years before Roy showed his mug. The hack takes inspiration from an old Satellaview broadcast Fire Emblem that tied Marth’s games together through a series of four maps.
In the same vein, Elibian Nights is split into nine parts, each one featuring a different main character and edging close to the beginning of Sword of Seals. Each section puts just about any of the main GBA Fire Emblems to shame when it comes to pure map design, offering a genuine strategic challenge with unique victory conditions. If you’re a fan of the series, you owe it to yourself to play Elibian Nights.
19 Final Fantasy Tactics Advance Anarchy
As the sequel to what most people consider to be the best Final Fantasy spin-off, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance had big shoes to fill. Smartly, it decided to act as more of a spiritual successor instead of a full-fledged follow-up, but it was still met with some scrutiny thanks to its intense law system. Battles had to be fought with certain restrictions or else.
While some fans might be able to overlook the law system and see it as a welcome change of pace, others find it too much, Luckily, there exists a hack that removes the law system entirely. Really, that’s all it does. It’s a basic hack, but it completely changes the way Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is played. Go crazy and do whatever you want, just as life always intended for you.
18 Golden Sun Chaos Mode Hack
Golden Sun is incredibly easy. Even at its most difficulties and by limiting yourself, it still manages to be fairly simple to breeze through. The Chaos Mode Hack seeks to remedy this by upping the difficulty to astronomical levels. Enemy’s stats are doubled, experience and gold are much harder to come by, and bosses now have an extra turn in battle.
It’s not all bad though. Bosses now drop triple experience and gold, making sure you won’t be forced to grind all the time, and item drop rates have been increased meaning you can get your hands on some rare weapons rather reliably. It doesn’t cover The Lost Age, but just being able to play through one Golden Sun game with some challenge is more than fine.
17 Castlevania: Dawn Of Sorrow NIGHTMARE
The classic Castlevania games are fondly remembered for their brutal difficulty. Pixel perfect platforming, a whip that would stiffen you like a board, and a relentless onslaught of monsters made took what would have otherwise been a horror-themed platformer and turned it into one of the most prolific franchises in video game history. Sadly, that level of difficulty was lost in the Metroidvania transition. An emphasis on RPG elements meant that challenge had to take a backseat. But not anymore.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow NIGHTMARE takes the easiest of the DS Metroidvanias and completely brutalizes it. Enemies have double health and do double the damage, room layouts are more in-line with the original’s hectic design, and the hack even gets rid of the magic seal system, so gameplay never stops moving. It’s a vicious hack with Medusa heads waiting around every corner. Not recommended for the faint of heart.
16 Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne - Hardtype
What happens when you take a brutal game and decide it’s not hard enough? You get Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne - Hardtype. The Shin Megami Tensei series is already difficult as is, so it’s a bit surprising to see that someone just needed to up the difficulty. That said, Hardtype is actually more than just a difficulty hack, it’s also a quality of life one.
Transferring good skills to your demons has become much easier, shops aren’t as ridiculously expensive, MP pools have been increased, and most skills have been buffed to compensate for the higher level of challenge. You also don’t even need to play it on hard mode so feel more than free to enjoy the gameplay fixes and have fun on normal. You’ll still probably die a lot, though.
15 Halo: Combat Evolved: Ocarina Of Time
Has this ever happened to you? The only consoles you have hooked in are your original XBOX and Nintendo 64, and you just can’t decide what to play! You have Ocarina of Time and you have Halo: Combat Evolved, but it’s just too hard to choose. Well now there’s an easy fix, just mod Ocarina of Time assets into your copy of Halo and you’ll never have to choose again! Unless you actually want to play Ocarina of Time, in which case you will have to choose.
It’s honestly astounding how much of Ocarina of Time has been modded into Halo by now. Link’s model has been added as a proper asset, guns have been replaced with his bow and arrow, and entire Temples have been recreated room for room. Find a map that works for you and relive Ocarina of Time in a way you never imagined possible.
14 Grand Theft Auto IV: Horse
You would think that a mod that both “Grand Theft Auto” and “horse” in the title would change all the cars in the game into horses ala Red Dead Redemption. Or so you’d think. No, Grand Theft Auto IV: Horse is so much more than just an equestrian filled Liberty City. By so much more, I do, of course, mean that all it does is change Niko Bellic into a horse.
The fun from this mod really comes from the sheer absurdity of a horse terrorizing Liberty City’s citizens. Get five stars and speed away on all fours, occasionally shooting a rocket launcher into the sky as a distraction. A mod doesn’t have to fundamentally change a game to be memorable, sometimes all it needs to do is be silly.
13 Persona 420
Some hacks fix things, others just add new characters or levels, but the truly special hacks, the ones that take your breath away and remind you why you love video games, give you something you never knew you wanted. Persona 420 is that something. It’s a simple hack that turns Yosuke Hanamura into the marijuana enthusiast he’d probably be in real life.
Yosuke’s in-battle lines have been dubbed over by a surprisingly convincing impersonator to be weed themed. He’s constantly screaming at the top of his lungs and initiating a conversation without so much a prompt. The best thing about the hack is that it leaves the story completely intact. The only difference is how Yosuke acts in battle. He also gets a sick new t-shirt.
12 Super Mario Sunshine Multiplayer
Super Mario Sunshine is probably the most polarizing of Mario’s 3D adventures. Its detractors are quite vocal, pointing out its level design in comparison to 64, its constant padding, and the decision to theme the whole game around a tropical island. As loud as Sunshine’s detractors can be, however, its fans are just as passionate. They’re so passionate, in fact, one of them created a multiplayer mod for the game.
Complete with online, Super Mario Sunshine Multiplayer renders the second player as Shadow Mario. Both Marios can run through Delfino Island together, clearing stages and getting stars side by side. Find a friend, and run through the whole game together. It’s a vacation worth taking.
11 Paper Ness
In a generation that has neither Earthbound or a proper RPG Paper Mario to offer us, it’s easy to look back and yearn for those simple days when we could play as a pre-teen going on a road trip across America and a paper version of Super Mario. Thankfully, there’s no need to yearn any longer as Paper Ness will satiate all your needs. Unless you really just wanted a new Earthbound, in which case look elsewhere.
Paper Ness replaces Mario with Ness and swaps out his hammer for Ness’ iconic bat. Everything needed to play through the game is accommodated for and, while it may not feel like Earthbound or a new Paper Mario, it does give The Thousand Year Door a revival of sorts. At the very least, you’ll certainly have a better time than playing Color Splash.
10 Pikmin 2: Captains As Pikmin
Imagine an alternate universe where when Nintendo made Pikmin, they instead decided that the player should hatch small men from the ground and toss them to their death en masse. Now imagine someone made that a reality. Pikmin 2: Captains as Pikmin is exactly what the title says it is. You play as a red Pikmin, you pick Captains, and you go about your day.
The fun of the hack comes from how much chaos you can inflict with your team of Olimars. They'll die by the dozen, but isn’t that just the circle of life? You’re harvested from the ground, and then you drown because a red alien didn’t bother checking where he was throwing you.
9 Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix Yu Narukami Mod
There’s probably quite a bit you can do hacking wise with Kingdom Hearts II, but it’s the little mods, the ones that give you something so simple and so endearing that you can’t help but want to indulge in them. The Yu Narukami Mod takes Sora’s character model and edits his color palette to match the main protagonist from Persona 4.
Not only that, Sora’s voice clips have been replaced with Yu’s in combat and his entire spell set has been renamed to more accurately represent Yu’s main Persona, Izanagi. Like Paper Ness, it’s a charming mod for a specific audience, but it has plenty of polish to be enjoyed by anyone looking for a change of pace for one of their favorite games.
8 Peppa Pig, Santa Claus, And More In Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 3
When people think of Dragon Ball Z they’re using thinking about Goku and Vegeta’s rivalry, Goku going Super Saiyan for the first time, or one of Gohan’s many temper tantrum fueled moments. Very rarely do they remember the real underdog moments like: Peppa Pig and Kermit the Frog fusing to defeat Majin Buu. Thanks to one person’s constant Budokai Tenkaichi 3 modding it’s not too far from the truth.
For years now, modder Kinnikuchu has been hacking Budokai Tenkaichi 3 to include increasingly ridiculous character combinations. Occasionally he’ll add characters from the currently airing Dragon Ball Super, but it’s the outliers that make his mods so fun. Within the past six months, Spongebob, Crash Bandicoot, and Santa Claus have all been added to the roster. It’s weird, but it’s the kind of weird that keeps a six-year-old game alive.
7 The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod
Developed in collaboration by six different modders, The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod is one of the most ambitious mods out there, restoring most of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II’s cut content back into the game in a way that makes sense. The mod adds back in conversations, alternate endings, and a full dungeon.
The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod doesn’t do anything except add in what the original developers didn’t have to. In a way, it’s the definitive complete version of Knights of the Old Republic II. Noticeably absent from the mod are M4-78 and the GenoHaradan Organization, but that’s only because they’re being added in via separate projects.
6 Luigi’s Mansion Specular Edition
While the project has been abandoned for a few years now, what Luigi’s Mansion Specular Edition managed to get done is nothing short of impressive. Dolphin Forums user rlaugh0095’s hack retextures Luigi’s Mansion and fixes the shading to more accurately convey the game’s horror atmosphere.
The mansion pops with a realism that the original game didn’t have, but it doesn’t compromise Luigi’s Mansion’s identity either. While the project is dead, individual texture packs do exist, so it's easy enough to get the Specular Edition up and running. If you’re looking to revisit Luigi’s Mansion sometime soon, you may as well do it in high resolution.
5 Twilight Princess To Wind Waker
One of the biggest complaints levied against The Wind Waker, when it came out, was its art style, so it’s pretty funny that, years later, someone decided to mod Twilight Princess to look more like The Wind Waker. Now, because of the height differences between The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess’ character models, that means they can’t be changed. That doesn’t mean textures can’t, however.
Hyrule has been modified to resemble The Wind Waker as close as possible. While you might think the TP models would clash with TWW textures, they actually play off each other quite nicely, creating a unique art style that feels totally at home with The Legend of Zelda.
4 Devil May Cry 3 Style Switcher
While Devil May Cry 3 is widely considered to be the best game in the series, most fans will tell you that Devil May Cry 4 has the better combat for one reason: the style switcher. 4’s overall design might be worse, but being able to switch between four different play styles at the tap of a button completely changes how Devil May Cry is played, and now it can be used in Devil May Cry 3.
Allowing Dante to switch between all six of his DMC3 styles, the style switcher mod takes an amazing game and makes it so much more. Weaving in and out of different styles to juggle enemies has never been more fun or easy. Sure, it kind of messes with the balance a bit, but it completely opens Devil May Cry 3 up to endless combat possibilities. Now if only someone would make a hack that fixes Devil May Cry 4’s hours of backtracking.
3 Multi Theft Auto: San Andreas
Grand Theft Auto Online is pretty fun for the most part, but a bad lobby can really kill the game. There’s really no way around it unless you play in a private lobby with friends. Grand Theft Auto V is an incredibly popular game which attracts all kinds of audiences, so there’s no saying how your GTAO experience is going to be. That said, maybe you’re looking for something a little less populated.
Multi Theft Auto: San Andreas takes the PS2 classic and turns it into a free-for-all playground where anything goes. Given how much effort it takes to get on MTA:SA compared to GTAO, you’re more likely to find people playing it out of passion than to grief other players and call them racial slurs. So sit back, drive around, and relish is the solidarity that is nostalgia.
2 Sonic Adventure 2 Battle: Hub World
If you played the original Sonic Adventure before Sonic Adventure 2, then odds are you a bit disappointed when the hub world was unceremoniously removed. While we may never get a version of Sonic Adventure 2 that adds in a proper hub, you can at least mod it to feature some hub worlds.
The Hub World mods forcefully stops enemies from moving, kills the timer, removes all music but no sound effects, and lets you play as any character you want in any level. You’re given free rein to explore till your heart’s content and, honestly, it’s actually incredibly creepy. You’re alone in a massive level, devoid of life and song. As Youtube commenter, Ya Boi Shedinja put it, “Without the music, you get a feeling of harsh reality.” And isn’t that what Sonic Adventure 2 is all about?
1 Project M
Arguably the greatest mod to come out this century, Project M takes Super Smash Bros. Brawl and turns it into the Melee sequel it always should have been. What started out as a simple fix that made Brawl play more like its Gamecube predecessor, Project M quickly grew into a Goliath of a mod featuring its own characters, stages, and alternate costumes.
Everything from mechanics to its roster feels perfectly at home with Super Smash Bros. Melee. Even though Nintendo has officially called for its takedown, Project M has still managed to retain its loyal following and player base. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see a mod with this kind of scope again, but the fact we did in the first place is something worth commemorating.