They say the devil is in the details. Whoever said that hasn’t seen the amazing little touches video games frequently hide. While the main game can wow, sometimes the subtle, sometimes cryptic aspects of a game can be just as impressive. Such things can include clever homages to other media, illuminating narrative breadcrumbs, or even tossing digital shade at other games. These hidden details can be found in lots of different games from lots of different genres, and often take a great amount of effort to find (or to even recognize them as being a hidden secret).
Instead of combing through your game library with a fine tooth, take a look at 20 easy-to-overlook elements of some of gaming’s biggest titles. Maybe you managed to uncover these secrets on your own. Or perhaps you’ll discover new wrinkles to experiences you thought you knew inside and out. Either way, these are some of the secrets that have been hiding right under your nose in some of your favorite games.
20Silent Hills Lives On... Sort Of
A surefire way to ruin my good mood is to remind me that Silent Hills will never come to fruition. But that doesn’t mean the cancelled project hasn’t found life elsewhere. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain keeps the game’s famous demo, P.T., alive with numerous hidden references to one of the most frightening experiences of this generation.
P.T.’s memorable radio news broadcast detailing its story’s grisly murders can be heard on a radio during Mission 20 in the Ngumba Industrial Zone. The playable teaser’s endgame monologue appears as well, emitting from a boom box in Code Talker’s mansion in Mission 28. Remember the eerie creak of that swinging lamp? You can hear the same sound effect while wandering the Da Shago Kallai outpost during nighttime. Oh, and those gross roaches that gradually infest P.T.’s house? They stage a similar takeover in Metal Gear Online. Now if there was only a full release of Silent Hills hiding somewhere in The Phantom Pain.
19Nuking The Fridge
One of the only things people remember about Indiana Jones: The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, outside of it being a mixed bag, is the fridge scene. You know the one; at the film’s start, Indy climbs inside of a refrigerator to shield himself from an atomic blast. The scenario requires a major suspension of disbelief, a proposition the Fallout universe says “nah” to.
Explore the southern area of GoodSprings in Fallout: New Vegas, and you’ll come across an open refrigerator containing the long-dead remains of an unlucky person (provided you’ve previously activated the Wild Wasteland trait). It’d be easy to write this off as one of hundreds such discoveries, until you notice a familiar looking fedora sitting among the bones. It seems by Fallout’s rules, that nuclear bomb turned Indy’s fridge into his tomb.
18Bullet With A Name On It
Chalk this one up as “how on Earth would anyone be able to discover this without help?” So as we all know, Master Chief is the face of the Halo franchise. He’s on most of the game covers and nearly all of the merchandise bears his helmeted face. Where else can you slap the Chief’s name? About about on a bullet casing–an in-game bullet casing. Sure, why not?
Halo 3’s human weapons eject bullet casings with the word “Chief” engraved on their undersides. Don’t bother trying to spot this detail while playing; the casings disappear shortly after hitting the ground, not to mention the tiny writing. Theater Mode, which lets players freely manipulate the camera angles of their recorded gameplay footage, gets the job done easier.
17Taking In A Movie
One of the most affecting scenes in The Darkness is the date night protagonist Jackie Estacado shares with his girlfriend, Jenny. The couple snuggle up to the film adaptation of Harper Lee’s iconic novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. Nothing happens during this scene other than the movie, and players can choose to exit it at anytime. But if you decide to keep watching, the movie wraps up roughly two hours later. Congrats, you have just watched the entirety of To Kill A Mockingbird is in The Darkness, something many people didn’t know was possible at the time. Some people like to play games with a movie in the background; The Darkness allows for the inverse with a touch as cool as it is random.
16I See What They Did There
The greatest piece of dialogue ever uttered in a video game was immortalized as a clever storefront in Dead Rising. Jill's Sandwiches is easy to find, located in Paradise Plaza on the first floor. In fact, one of the game’s side missions takes place at the restaurant. But unless you’re familiar with the title’s Resident Evil roots, odds are you dismissed Jill’s Sandwiches as little more than a random shop sign.
Capcom wasn’t content with just one reference, though. Jill’s Sandwiches’ slogan “One taste of Jill's Original BIG Sandwich, and you'll know why they call her the master of sandwichmaking” is another nod. During Resident Evil, Barry Burton proclaims Jill as “the master of unlocking”. Can someone give Barry his own restaurant, please?
15She Should Have Paid The Fine
One of the joys of playing any Bethesda RPG is observing the plethora of moving parts working together. That includes the fascinating, sometimes unexpected, ways NPC’s interact with each other. In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, one character worth keeping an eye on to is the Argonian, City Swimmer. A pickpocket, she goes around the city of Bravil relieving unsuspecting residents of their coin or food.
Sometimes City Swimmer gets away with her thievery, but other times the guards get wise and pursue her. If you want to see how the situation plays out, you can follow and spectate the chase (which begs for the Benny Hill theme). Miss Swimmer’s luck runs out when the guards corner her inside of her home where she's promptly slaughtered. But she didn’t even get to pay the fine! Nothing like a bloody hot pursuit to make Oblivion feel even more like a living, breathing world.
14When Total Control Meets Total Surveillance
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s modern-day content isn’t all that compelling, but it does hide one tantalizing tidbit. Digging around Abstergo’s computer files uncovers a brochure sent to the company from Blume Industries. Watch Dogs players should recognize Blume as the company behind the ctOS, the city-wide surveillance network Adam Pierce manipulates using his phone.
The correspondence proposes Abstergo look into implementing ctOS into their own infrastructure. A scary thought, but the Templars probably passed on the offer. I can’t see how a global conglomerate founded by a centuries-old secret society that values absolute control would make good use of such a thing anyway. Still, it’s a neat confirmation that Ubisoft’s two big sandbox franchises seemingly inhabit the same universe.
13Robbie Sees You
The Silent Hill series packs enough scares with the horrors it throws in front of you, let alone the subtle frights lying beneath. One such instance involves Robbie the Rabbit, the creepy bunny that appears in one form or another throughout most of the series. In Silent Hill 4: The Room, a doll of Robbie sits in Eileen Galvin’s room, which you can peek into using a hole in another room. Though he initially sits slumped over, that changes after Eileen gets taken to the hospital later in the story. Should you decide to look into the room again, the suddenly upright Robbie now stares directly at the camera, pointing a knowing (and menacing) finger towards the player. After suffering a mild heart attack, this is one stone you probably wish you left unturned.
12“Let’s Keep Going”
Ever watch Thelma & Louise? It’s a wonderful and popular film from the early 90’s about two women who embark on a road trip of self-discovery after they shoot a guy dead. Yeah, it gets dark at times. It has one of the most famous endings in cinema history where (SPOILER!), after getting cornered by the cops, the women opt to drive over the edge of the Grand Canyon to their deaths rather than face arrest.
Someone at Rockstar is clearly a fan, because the entire ending of that film is reenacted within the world of Grand Theft Auto V–you just need to know where to look. First, you’ll need a helicopter. Next, fly to the Chilliad Mountain State Wilderness by Raton Canyon between 7 and 8 pm. On a cliff, there’s a convertible with two women at a standoff with police vehicles just like in the movie. When a cop approaches the car, the women hit the gas and fly over the edge; though unlike the movie, which ends on a freeze-frame, you can see their car hit the ground (and sometimes explode). If they hadn’t seen the film, I can only imagine how confused players who randomly stumbled upon this scene must have been.
11The Answer Was In Front Of Us All Along
If you haven’t played Dead Space and intend to, you’ll want to skip this as a major spoiler is incoming. One of the primary motivations propelling hero Isaac Clark through his terrifying adventure is rescuing his girlfriend, Nicole. Though you encounter her a few times, you eventually learn those moments were hallucinations induced by the Necromorph-producing Marker. In reality, Nicole took her own life during the Ishimura alien outbreak prior to Isaac's arrival.
It’s a gut-punch of a revelation, but turns out Visceral spelled it all out using the mission titles. Take a look at the first letter in each mission and read downwards; it spells NICOLEISDEAD. Talk about a clever and somewhat eerie method of hiding the game’s biggest twist in plain sight.
10Receiving Permanent Honors
The most emotional hidden touch on this list involves a developer, Ubisoft in this case, giving a digital salute to one of its fallen players. Rainbow Six Siege features a theme park map complete with a working arcade. Inspect the cabinets, and you’ll notice that one screen displays the stats of a player named BostonBearJew. That’s not a random name; it was the moniker of an avid and skilled Siege player who, unfortunately, passed away earlier this year.
BostonBearJew, whose real name was Zach, frequently played Siege with a squad of friends and was apparently quite awesome at it, boating diamond rankings and regularly competed in tournaments. He was also a regular member of the game’s online community. After Zach’s passing, a friend contacted a community developer asking for a way to permanently honor him in-game. Ubisoft received the request and delivered with this touching and fitting tribute.
9You’re Welcome, Nintendo
Leave it to Nintendo to hide a secret touch not just in a game, but on peripherals themselves. Earlier this year, people discovered the Switch’s Pro Controller hides a cute little message under its $70 exterior: “thx2 allgamefans!” Aw shucks, Nintendo.
Removing the controller's front panel is the best way to get a clear look at the note in person. But if you don’t feel like tearing your $70 controller apart, Nintendo’s show of gratitude can be seen with a bit of finagling and patience. Tilt the controller forward, pull the right analog stick down (you may have to click it in too) and, if you’re under good lighting, you can spot the message through the translucent shell. Or you could just look at the header image above. But it’s not the same as seeing it yourself!
8The Other Burial At Sea
Some BioShock fans players may have asked the same, burning question: what ever became of the Jack’s plane after it crashed in the first game? If the answer of “it sank into the ocean, dummy” isn’t conclusive enough, you can spot some of the wreckage yourself in BioShock 2. While taking the first ocean walk of the Adonis Luxury Resort, the tail of the plane is visibly lodged between rocks above the player’s path. You’ll need to be looking up to catch it. Squint hard enough, and you’ll see the faint Apollo Airways logo on the wreckage, confirming it as the plane that sent Jack to Rapture’s doorstep.
7Cameo By A Clueless Gamer
Late night host Conan O'Brien has an entertaining relationship with video games. Despite having next to no history or proficiency with the medium, his curiosity led to the humorous Clueless Gamer segments where he bumbles through the latest releases. O’Brien has even filmed himself attending conventions such as E3. Conan's growing involvement with games led to him, alongside sidekick Andy Richter, receiving the top gaming honors: actually appearing in a video game.
O’Brien and Richter recorded dialogue for Halo 4. During Mission 6: Shutdown, the comedic pair, reimagined as two marines, are located by a forklift in the loading bay. Though silent at first, they’ll begin chatting after a few moments. Funny topics include Conan’s character suggesting that Oriental area rugs would improve the room’s vibe. It’s a neat and totally silly touch that’s very easy to miss out on.
6Ramblings Of A Rattmann
The cake may be a lie but the existence of Doug Rattmann’s voice in Portal 2? There might be something to that. The Portal series’ most mysterious figure was the only employee to survive GLaDOS’ neurotoxin attack on Aperture Laboratories prior to the events of Portal. He survived the malevolent A.I.’s subsequent attempts at his life by sneaking undetected around the building's inner workings, orchestrating Chell’s awakening along the way.
Players can uncover his secret lairs, AKA Rattmann dens, throughout both games, which are laden with cryptic graffiti and seemingly incomprehensible messages. But if you listen closely while inside certain dens in Portal 2 and you can hear a faint gibberish from behind the walls. Given that Rattmann's fate is up in the air by the start of the second game, you could theorize that he’s still watching events unfold from behind the scen-er-walls. Is he trying to deliver a message to Chell?
5A (Threep) Killer Tribute
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II players may have been too distracted by the underwhelming, nonsensical story to notice this neat tribute to one of adventure games' finest. Towards the end of the second level is a room displaying a hologram of Jabba the Hutt. If you aren’t fixated on the crime lord’s digital presence, you’ll notice the room also contains several gold statues of Monkey Island star, Guybrush Threepwood. The double-take inducing likenesses were likely glossed over if the player wasn’t familiar with LucasArts’ beloved point-and-click series. More than just a nod, destroying the slot machines in the room unlocks a Guybrush skin (complete with “Threepkiller” surname) to give the bland Starkiller clone a heavy injection of personality.
4Only True Detectives Picked Up On This
Batman: Arkham City throws players for a loop when (SPOILER!) the man players thought was the Joker turns out to be an impersonating Clayface. But that revelation can be spoiled, or at least hinted at, much earlier in the game. Using detective mode to scan not-Joker prior to the big twist reveals that he lacks a skeleton. The Clown Prince of Crime may be a homicidal monster but even he's human enough to have a few bones in him. I can imagine players who randomly scanned Joker simply overlooked this crucial detail or assumed it was just a weird oversight on Rocksteady’s part.
Another small clue: throughout the story, Clayface Joker only addresses Batman as, well, Batman. Not “Bats” or any of the shorthand names the real Joker classically uses.
3More Like Leap Of Fail (Amirite?)
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings’ action-packed prologue chapter hides a clever jab at another open-world blockbuster series. Search around the Ballista section near the iron gates and you’ll find a dead figure clad in a familiar white hood. Yep, he’s a Ubisoft Assassin all right. The best part about this scene: the body sits atop a hay bale. I guess the somewhat romantic Leap of Faith doesn’t quite work in The Witcher’s gritty world of death and downers. Ever the snarky jerk, Geralt reacts to this find by remarking “They never learn.” and even receives a bump in his Assassination attribute for witnessing this disaster.
2Wait, You Can Eat Those?
Team Ico games do a lot of things, but spelling all of their secrets clearly isn’t chief among those. Though Shadow of the Colossus’ primary objective of cutting down giant beasts is presented as the only activity, there are little things players can partake in around the edges. For example, those lizards you see running around now and again? Not only can Wanderer kill and eat them, but he gains an increase in stamina doing so (with the white-tailed variety bestowing greater benefits).
The game never even hints that players can interact with lizards, which, on the surface, appear to be little more than a small environmental touch. I played Shadow of the Colossus at launch and had no idea this was a thing until many years after the fact. The HD re-release nudges players towards lizard-hunting via a trophy, so I wonder if the upcoming remake will point this out in a more direct manner.
1Foreshadowing At Its Finest
Unbeknownst to approximately everyone at the time, Halo 3: ODST gave the world its first hint at Bungie’s ambitious secret project: Destiny.
A poster in the game depicts Earth with the ominous statement “Destiny Awaits”. According to a Game Informer interview with Destiny Art Director, Chris Barrett, he tossed the teaser in the game without the knowledge or consent of the studio’s higher-ups (whom he believes would have vetoed it). Barrett also confirmed the celestial body orbiting Earth is not the Moon, but the Traveler, confirming the concept had been established to a degree way back in 2009. Considering Destiny wouldn’t be formally unveiled until five years after ODST’s release, it’s crazy that something that big would be hinted at so early.
The poster can be found in the Mumbasa Streets level. Unfortunately, the image was altered in the remastered version of ODST. It instead reads “For Her” and replaces the Traveler with partial phase Moon. That’s due to 343 taking over the Halo franchise after Bungie left Microsoft umbrella.
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