Video games can be a treasure trove of secrets. From alternate endings to Easter eggs to other hidden treasures placed throughout their creation by the developers, there’s seemingly no limit to the secrets a truly great game can hide. Many of us replay the same games more than once or even return to games we loved years ago because it seems like every time we play we discover something new to enjoy. Sometimes video games have hidden messages, secret codes, inside jokes, details, and stories, or in some cases even completely new endings or levels just waiting to be discovered years or even decades after they were released.
A lot of times these secrets are tucked away in some obscure corner, and finding them can be just as fun and challenging as your first time through the main quest itself. There has been a long history of developers hiding unlockable secrets in their games, either as a fun Easter egg for the fandom to find, or something as big as alternate endings and secret levels that are intended for the more studious player to uncover. When it comes to hiding their secrets, near the end is the perfect place to hide them, since by then players are completely invested in the story and more likely to bring it to its conclusion, paying closer attention to small details along the way.
Here are 20 hidden secrets at the end of video games that you probably totally missed. Please be aware that since it involves endings, there will be major spoilers for all the games on this list. We hope you enjoy!
20. Decisions, Decisions…
Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia series started with 2003’s The Sands of Time, a colorful Aladdin fantasy with puzzle-solving and platforming mechanics to die for. The follow-up, Warrior Within, adopted a dark and brooding aesthetic with a nu-metal soundtrack perfectly suited to 2004. Players spent many hours hearing Godsmack’s “I Stand Alone” as they jumped and slashed their way through the M-rated sequel. What many may not have known at the time is that there was a secret ending.
In the original, you fight and kill Kaileena, the Empress of Time, and get a rather sad conclusion. To get the secret canonical ending, you had to get all nine life upgrades in the game (one of which involved significant backtracking), and take the Water Sword. You then fight the Dahaka as the final boss instead, resulting in a happier ending where the Prince and the Empress hook up. Now, that’s closure!
19. A Tale Of Two Serpents
During the course of the Chosen Undead’s journey in Dark Souls, you’re given very little information on how to proceed. You’re told to ring the two Bells of Awakening, which is an ordeal in of itself. After you’ve done so, it summons a primordial serpent named Kingseeker Frampt, who will be your guide through the rest of the quest to kill Lord Gwyn and link the First Flame, prolonging the Age of Fire and sacrificing yourself in the process.
Unless of course, you do something clever like not give the Lordvessel to Frampt, and go to the Abyss to speak with a very hidden and very mysterious second primordial serpent named Darkstalker Kaathe, who says you should let the Flame go out instead, beginning the Age of Dark. Fans still debate over which is the “good” and true canon ending for one of the greatest games of all time.
18. This Is Why You Shouldn’t Read Someone’s Diary
In Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, otherwise known to fans as “the last Resident Evil game that really felt like Resident Evil,” the player has the option to pick up files that explain events in the series. Finding files/data logs/audio recordings is a common staple in games, but what you might have missed is that there’s a secret hidden file you can collect.
In order to gain access to the hidden file, it’s necessary to collect all 30 files in the game, which isn’t particularly difficult but requires a bit of planning. If you manage to do it, you are rewarded by gaining access to the hidden file: Jill’s secret diary. The entries detail Jill Valentine’s thoughts following the end of the original Resident Evil and its sequels, leading up to the events of Nemesis.
17. Pull The Plug
As the spiritual successor to 2010’s Limbo, the side-scrolling puzzle-platformer Inside has the same world of German Expressionist black and white, the same constant fear of death and the unknown, and the same vibe that’s creepy and scary as anything. This time you control a boy in a surreal dystopic world trying to avoid death and figure out what the heck is going on. Just like Limbo, the ending to Inside is mysterious. But if you’re really observant and a bit lucky, you might unlock the even weirder secret ending.
This can only be unlocked if the player has found and broken all 13 hidden light orbs in various bunkers, and then returns to one of them and opens a new area. What results is a cryptic conclusion with a wall of computers, a mind control helmet, the boy pulling the plug from a socket, and the game ending abruptly.
16. And I Thought My Love Life Was Bad…
Each chapter in the science fiction survival horror game Dead Space has a specific name. While most players were probably too busy trying to help engineer Isaac Clarke kill Necromorphs and rescue his girlfriend to notice, the level names gave us a clue to the final twist of the game. The developers literally spelled this out: after you finish the game, if you take a look at the first letter of the title of each level, it reads, “NICOLE IS DEAD.”
Nicole is, of course, Isaac’s girlfriend who he’s spent the entire game trying to find and rescue. As if Isaac didn’t have enough to deal with, it turns out that the woman he was trying to save has been dead the entire time. Replaying the game also gives you clues to Nicole’s ultimate fate.
15. Stand Up And Be Counted
This secret from Call of Duty: Black Ops remained hidden for quite a while after the game was released and still remains unknown to many fans of the franchise: at the main menu, Mason can stand up from his interrogation chair. After doing so, he can access a computer terminal nearby. If you enter a specific code, the following message appears: “Mr. Mason – Woods is alive and remains the sole remaining American guest at the Hanoi Hilton. Thought you should know.”
Yes, the first Black Ops foreshadowed Frank Woods being alive before the character reappeared in Call of Duty: Black Ops II years later. During the struggle in the original game, it turns out the knife severed the grenade belt of the henchman, sending it flying away from them both at the last second.
14. Too Little, Too Late
Hailed as one of the greatest video games of all time, Portal 2 did what no one thought was possible and became a sequel that surpassed the original. It brought back a bigger, better Aperture Science, further fleshed out the lore of the series, and introduced the new fan favorite Wheatley, the wise-cracking and bumbling Personality Core that awakens Chell and helps you take on GLaDOS for the first half of the game.
Of course, in one of the greatest betrayals in gaming history, Wheatley becomes corrupted and merely replaces GLaDOS in running Aperture Laboratories. After Chell strands him floating in space above the moon at the end of the game, patient players were rewarded with a post-credits sequence where the treacherous Wheatley is seen floating in space lamenting his fate and wishing to apologize to Chell.
13. How Tim Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb
Anyone who’s played to the end of Braid will tell you it’s a beautiful indie game, and that the ending is one of the biggest mind screws in video gaming history. It’s shocking enough when you learn that the entire game has been playing in reverse and you’re not the hero of the story but a creepy stalker the Princess was running away from, but there’s an even more sinister meaning lurking Braid‘s symbolism.
If you collect the seven hidden stars (you have to wait in a screen for two hours to get one of them), you unlock an epilogue room with texts that drop hints about the terrible truth: Tim is a scientist on the Manhattan Project and the “princess” is the atomic bomb, made pretty clear when one text quotes Oppenheimer. His time-reversing powers are really just his wish to undo the destruction his invention caused.
12. Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold
Anyone who has played the Fallout series knows the joys of the Bloody Mess perk, a trait that treats you to violent death animations where your opponent is reduced to a bloody mass of giblets. Mechanically, the trait doesn’t affect much. But it does change the ending of the first Fallout game in a big way.
After returning to your home of Vault 13, the Overseer informs you that you can never go home again because your adventures have changed you so much and hero worship of you will inspire others to leave. A brief period of gameplay before the ending cinematic will play with the Overseer walking back into the Vault. If you have the Bloody Mess perk or have bad Karma, your Vault Dweller will shoot the Overseer as he walks away, blowing him to bits in a violent animation. Revenge is sweet!
11. Talk About An Easter Egg
When it comes to classics like the Banjo-Kazooie series, their secrets and Easter eggs have now reached the status of legend. Of the many rumors circulated about cut content, none are more talked about than the Stop ‘N Swop. The word refers to a concept that was meant to connect it to its sequel Banjo-Tooie, but it was never fully implemented. Instead, what we’re left with are six brightly-colored eggs, a key made of ice, and an empty menu.
You only get told about them if you finish the game after collecting all 100 Jiggies. Though the items are largely inaccessible in the game, cheats can be used to find them. While there are many theories as to what Stop ‘N Swop was supposed to be, it seemed it was a scrapped idea for the player to be able to switch between Kazooie and Tooie without turning off the N64.
10. Possibly The Meanest Unlockable Of All Time
Ghosts ‘N Goblins is notorious as one of the hardest games ever released for any platform. As a knight in shining armor at war with zombies, you play through this ridiculously hard NES game only to encounter a hidden secret that feels outright malicious on the part of developer Capcom (yes, that Capcom): it turns out the final room you were in was an illusion and “a trap devised by Satan.” So it was all a dream, and you have to go back and play through the whole game a second time.
But wait! There’s more! The second run is even harder than the first, and if you somehow succeed you are rewarded by a poorly translated ending screen containing such classic gems as: “Congraturation. This story is happy end.”
9. Hey Kids, Bribery Solves Your Problems!
Page 22 of the manual for Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest states the following: “There are rumors of a lost world located deep within Crocodile Isle. It has been said that this is the source of the Kremlings, and that there is a valuable treasure to be found here, including the elusive true ending of the game. Only the most clever explorers will find this place.”
To reach the Lost World you have to gather 15 Kremcoins to bribe Klubba, the gigantic buff club-wielding crocodile who guards the entrance. If you can manage it, the Lost World is one of the most fun (and challenging) parts of Donkey Kong Country 2. But few bothered to get enough of the hard-to-obtain Kremcoins, and even fewer completed the Lost World’s gauntlet of levels to get the true ending.
8. You Hit Like A Girl
Back in 1986, Nintendo’s Metroid had one of the greatest endings ever made for a video game. It may seem quaint to us now, but for the time, finding out your badass power armor-wearing, laser-shooting, Mother Brain-destroying bounty hunter was really a young woman all along was pretty revolutionary. Almost all players would have assumed Samus was male, and even the instruction booklet implied this. The ending showed the preconceptions surrounding gender in the gaming world. It was surprisingly ahead of its time.
What many players may not know is that every game in the Metroid series (except Other M and Prime Pinball) has an ending that changes depending on how long it took you to complete the game, as well as other factors like difficulty, level of completion, etc. They usually feature Samus wearing progressively less clothing depending on how well you did. Hey, it was still progress.
7. Dance Magic Dance
It’s common for games to have multiple endings based on player choices, and Deus Ex: Invisible War is no exception–there are four of them, plus a secret ending. The four choices are pretty much between a Nanomachine Utopia ruled by a “perfect democracy” or three options for dictatorships by Mega Corps, Church Militants, or Social Darwinists.
Then there’s the secret joke fifth ending, which you unlock by flushing the United Nations flag down Manderley’s toilet. After that, everyone on Liberty Island stops fighting and the player is transported to Club Vox where all the still-living characters have a dance party. Even better, there are 14 datacubes with humorous comments from the developing team floating in midair. Now, that’s what we call a party.
6. Before There Was Doge, There Was Mira
In 2014, the “Doge” meme depicting a shiba inu dog with internal monologue captions exploded on the internet, leading to many variations and even a cryptocurrency named Dogecoin. But before Doge, the most famous shiba inu was Mira from the “Dog Ending” of Silent Hill 2. To unlock it, you have to beat all three original endings, and obtain the Dog Key item from the dog house near Rosewater Park. After that, watch the video tape in room 312 of the Nightmare Lakeview Hotel, and go to the Observation Room.
James will walk into a hidden control room and find a dog named Mira wearing headphones and listening to music while pulling levers and pushing buttons. It turns out all the events of Silent Hill 2 were directed by her. James bursts into tears and the dog licks his face before the credits. Did not see that one coming.
5. Well, It’s Still Creepy…
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice caused a big stir when it was first launched because of its “permadeath” mechanic: die too many times and the game will delete your save file, forcing you to start all over again–that was the bold declaration. The in-game explanation is the mental illness consuming Senua, which manifests as a dark “rot” which grows each time you die. You’re told if it reaches her head, it’s game over and your progress is lost.
So is this the “secret” of Hellblade‘s ending? Well, not exactly: the real secret is that it turns out their “permadeath” mechanic might not be real. The folks over at PCGamesN and Eurogamer did some testing where they intentionally died over 50 times in a row and didn’t lose their save. So, either permadeath is actually a myth, or you have to be pretty darn bad at the game to trigger it.
4. The Empire Wins
It’s not difficult to guess how Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader ends. It concludes in much the same way the original trilogy does: Rebels win, Empire loses, everyone goes home happy. Most players would probably accept that as the end of the game, but hardcore game completionists discovered two secret levels where you play as Darth Vader working to destroy the Rebel Alliance. And get this…you succeed.
In the first mission, “Triumph of the Empire,” you kill the Rebels attacking the first Death Star, including Luke Skywalker. In the second one, “Revenge on Yavin,” the Empire destroys the Rebel base on Yavin 4, taking out Leia and everyone else. If you want to see a non-canonical alternate timeline where the Empire wins, these pro-Imperial levels can be unlocked with points or passwords.
3. Sick Burn
After spending all of Firewatch in the beautiful Shoshone National Forest, in the third act an uncontrollable fire starts out of nowhere. After an emotional roller coaster of a conclusion, a helicopter arrives at the very end to evacuate you. Your character Henry meets it up on a mountain with orange fire blazing all around you. While up there, it’s natural to want to look out on the view of the beautiful and terrible devastation left behind.
You don’t want to gaze out for too long, though–if you wait too long the helicopter will leave without you. Yep. In what has to be one of the strangest alternate endings of all time, the rescue team, probably fearing for their own safety, flies off without you without a word of warning. As strange as it is, you have to admit it makes the game more like a Shakespearean tragedy.
2. Tidus Lazarus
Believe it or not, it’s possible to resurrect Tidus in Final Fantasy X-2. Even though it’s the canonical ending to the game, players who are new to it often miss it. In order to bring Tidus back to life, you have to press a certain combination of buttons during cutscenes and complete a required high percentage of the story. Since the game never tells you this, you’re probably going to miss the secret Lazarus effect unless a friend tells you about it or you read a list like this on the internet.
Square Enix deserves props for hiding the game’s perfect ending within cutscenes, which is almost unprecedented in the gaming world. Really, all you have to do is press X while Yuna walks through the field of flowers in the Farplane, and then select the “Yes” option.
1. It’s All In Your Head
Ah, a classic. Fans of YouTube star videogamedunkey are used to him (ironically) putting it as number one on his “Best Games of the Year,” no matter what year it is. It’s a much-maligned game that falls in the shadow of its predecessor and its excellent successor very often, yet nearly every gamer over a certain age has fond memories of it. Part of the reason is because it’s so mechanically different from other Mario games since 2 was a re-skin of another Japanese game.
What the few players who made it to the end of this difficult NES gem may not have noticed is the events of 2 are canonically a dream. After defeating Wart, the final boss, the people of Sub-Con are freed and Mario wakes up in his bed. And don’t even get us started about how 3 was really a stage play!
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