Way back in the 1990s, before every game had mods that somehow put Thomas the Tank Engine in them, all gamers had were cheat codes. These were usually a random selection of words, phrases or just plain old nonsense that made the game easier, usually. Other times, though, the cheat codes brought you nothing of value, and simply made the game more interesting.
Sometimes, the codes were found in gaming magazines, and then, after the internet started to become a household thing, you could use your painfully slow dial-up to see if there were any cheats for a game tucked away on some fan powered code website. Some of these websites still exist and haven’t been maintained since back when they were relevant, so feel free to snoop around.
Mike Tyson was a formidable boss you had to fight at the end of Punch-Out!! and it took ages for you to get there, so it really took the wind out of your sails to get so far only to lose.
There’s a code to enter to jump straight to that fight, saving your little fingers from having to mash your way through all of the worlds best boxers. Added bonus: if you press select while Doc is giving a pep talk to Little Mac, you’ll recover even more health, which is essential for taking on the juggernaut that is Mike Tyson.
There’s no shortage of fun and useful cheat codes in Banjo-Kazooie, like infinite lives, feathers, eggs, the works. Those are all well and good, but the real cheat codes were the ones that ultimately had zero use.
Certain codes allowed you access to previously inaccessible mystery eggs, which served no purpose. The story goes, these eggs were meant to be used in Banko-Tooie although that feature never came to fruition due to hardware limitations of the console. Frustrating, yet mysterious….
8 Rampage: World Tour
Sure, Rampage may have had cheat codes to level select, eliminate bad food or even turn all bad food into good food, but all of that pales in comparison to the cheat that allowed you to play a secret, alternative version of the city you were about to attack. They didn’t add much in the way of gameplay (truthfully, not much did, the levels start to blur together) but they tend to be more fantastical than the normal cities.
You’d have a parody version of Area 51, a Big Ben dominated map and even a tour of the Underworld, which looks appropriately hellish. In a game all about smashing up different locals as giant monsters, adding new places to go berserk on is a huge plus.
7 Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron for the N64 had one of the most comprehensive cheat code lists anyone has ever seen, so it would be impossible to list them all here. There were classics, like unlimited lives or ammo, all the way to the bizarre, like seeing a photo of the development team (which is more of an Easter egg.)
Many fan favorites were the ones which involved unlocking hidden content, like doing the infamous Death Star Trench Run, or even playing as an AT-ST (the code was appropriately CHICKEN.)
6 South Park
People don’t look back on the South Park game for the Nintendo 64 with fondness, since the jokes fall flat, the animation doesn’t age well and the gameplay was clunky, but it was still fairly popular back in its day.
Another game with a bizarre number of cheat codes, you could either spend ages trying to unlock the huge list of multiplayer characters, or just enter BOBBYBIRD, which unlocked literally every cheat in the game.
GoldenEye, the James Bond movie tie-in game, is another childhood staple of 90s kids, and one of the only examples of a good game based on a movie. Like Rogue Squadron, it was rife with cheats, most of which were useless, like having a giant head or firing paintballs instead of bullets.
An awesome one to annoy your friends was to enable invisibility while playing in multiplayer. An obvious unfair advantage, but they are called CHEAT codes for a reason.
4 NBA Jam
This friendship ending cheat code for NBA Jam allowed players to do a slam dunk from anywhere in the court, which is unfair, considering the physics in the game were already pretty fast and loose.
Of course, there were also cheat codes which allowed you to make every character be on fire, make you characters babies, or even unlock Reptile from Mortal Kombat. Suffice to say, this game was kind of crazy.
3 Mortal Kombat (Various Games)
Speaking of Reptile, the entire Mortal Kombat franchise is notorious for all their added secrets and unlockables (many of which turned out to be rumors.) There were codes to make the game bloodier, to get special levels and fatalities and even adjust the difficulty.
Everyone loves the one’s that let you play as someone not on the roster. Obviously, there was Reptile, but Goro, Motaro and Shao Khan have been series regulars as incredibly overpowered unlockables. It’s so satisfying to go from being beaten to a pulp by a giant centaur to being the person stomping people with your hooves.
2 Duke Nukem 64
Duke Nukem 64 was the Nintendo port of the classic computer game, and it had a huge list of cheat codes, although it was missing a few of the classics, like CASHMAN which let you vomit forth dollar bills to the benefit of nobody.
Still, the port had the classics, like infinite jet pack fuel, as well as giving you early access to overpowered weapons like the shrinker or the RPG. Any code that gives you an edge (or more realistically, let’s you fill your screen with more carnage) is a must for this awesome first-person shooter.
1 Star Wars: Shadows Of The Empire
A game that is often overlooked, and may not have aged all that well, but at the time, it was an intense and lengthy game that satiated many hardcore Star Wars gamers. Based on one of the now non-canon books, the game let you get in a blaster fight with Boba Fett long before Battlefront sucked the life out of that concept.
The cheats on this game were insane, from standard ammo boosts and health upgrades, which are fun, to wandering around terrorizing people as a Wampa (the space yeti that ruined Luke Skywalker’s face.)