The Sony PlayStation launched in Japan in 1994, ushering in a new era of 3D gaming and a cultural shift toward software aimed at older audiences. It was Sony’s approach to software that truly set the company’s first home video game console apart from the competition, as the PlayStation offered not just more selection, but more variety of experiences. The PlayStation was arguably the first console aimed at every age demographic, as the console had games appropriate for children, as well as increasingly cinematic titles like Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil 2 for gamers who had grown up on Nintendo consoles and were seeking something more mature.
That being said, while the PS1 advanced the video game medium in many ways, much of its software adhered to familiar design conventions. One of those conventions is the concept of hidden levels — areas of a game that could only be discovered by meeting specific conditions. These hidden areas effectively became rewards for the most dedicated players to uncover, as you could not say you had truly mastered a game until you had found all of its secrets. With that in mind, here are 25 hidden levels from some of the PlayStation’s most popular games that most players probably didn’t find back in the 90s.
25 Final Fantasy Tactics: Cloud And Aerith Reunion
Admittedly more of an Easter Egg than a hidden level, Cloud Strife’s surprise reunion with Aerith remains one of Final Fantasy Tactics’ best secrets and represents something of a coda on the pair’s story following the tragic events of Final Fantasy VII.
Cloud reunion with Aerith remains one of Final Fantasy Tactics’ best secrets.
Triggering the reunion requires a series of convoluted steps, but once Cloud joins your party, he’ll end up saving a flower girl in the trade city of Sai Ghidos from thugs. That girl turns out to be Aerith and the pair share a bittersweet exchange that subtly references the events of FFVII.
24 Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2: Chopper Drop And Skate Heaven
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 began a trend that would prove the skateboarding series to have some of the best secrets in all video games, with Spider-Man taking center stage as an unlockable skater. In addition to Spidey and a wide array of cheat codes, THPS2 has a couple of hidden levels — Chopper Drop and Skate Heaven. The first is an alternative to the Hoffman Bike Factory found in the Nintendo 64 version of the game and unlocks after earning three gold medals with every character in career mode, while Skate Heaven requires attaining 100% with every character.
23 Crash Bandicoot: Whole Hog And Fumbling In The Dark
The PS1 was a dream for fans of level-based platformers, with franchises like Crash Bandicoot leading the charge. The first game, released in 1996, was more a technical showcase for the PlayStation’s graphical capabilities than a truly great game, as Naughty Dog would refine the concept in later sequels, but it did start a series trend of collecting items to unlock secrets.
By obtaining keys in Sunset Vista’s bonus round and in the level Jaws of Darkness, players unlock the game’s two secret levels: Whole Hog and Fumbling in the Dark, the latter of which is arguably one of the most difficult in the entire game.
22 Twisted Metal 2: Is That From Jet Moto?
Easter Eggs that reference other video games are always cool to see, but Twisted Metal 2 goes a step further by including an entire hidden level based on one found in another game. Entering the code ↑ ↓ → R1 at the track selection screen in the challenge match mode unlocks "Suicide Swamp", a track found in the PS1 game Jet Moto. Of course, it’s not hard to see why this happened, as both Twisted Metal 2 and Jet Moto were made by the same developer, but it’s still cool to see two different franchises connect so closely like this.
21 Rayman 2: Playable Prototype
Rayman 2: The Great Escape was a dramatic departure from the original game. Having seen what was possible with 3D platforming through games such as Crash Bandicoot, the Rayman 2 development team decided to scrap plans for another 2D side-scroller in favor of a polygonal adventure.
However, while Rayman 2 remains one of the greatest 3D platformers ever made, evidence of the dev team’s original plans for the sequel remain in the final version. Collecting at least 90% of the Yellow Lums and then completing the Crow’s Nest level unlocks a single level from the canceled 2D Rayman 2.
20 Rampage World Tour: Multiple Cities
Rampage World Tour is the second game in Midway’s classic giant monster arcade series and made its way to the PlayStation in 1997. The game sees Lizzie, Ralph, and George terrorizing cities around the globe, but also has a number of hidden cities to unlock including a palace in Casablanca and a bioweapons lab in Louisville.
Rampage World Tour was ported to multiple systems and for whatever reason, it’s difficult to find cheat codes for the PlayStation version, whereas codes are readily available for the Nintendo 64 port. Maybe this is why most players still haven’t found these hidden cities …
19 Spyro The Dragon: Gnasty’s Loot
The recently released Reignited Trilogy serves as a great reminder of just what engaging collectathons the three Insomniac-developed Spyro games are, and as it turns out, you’ll have to do a lot of collecting to uncover all the secrets.
In the original Spyro the Dragon, there’s a hidden level awaiting players who beat the game with 100% completion. After attaining this milestone, head to Gnasty’s World and walk up the green dragon head. The head will open and reveal a new level called Gnasty’s Loot, the final bonus level and the only one that allows Spyro to freely fly around uninhibited.
18 Spyro: Year Of The Dragon: Super Bonus World
In contrast to the first game’s secret level, Spyro: Year of the Dragon’s final area requires a little more effort to uncover. To access the Super Bonus World, you have to not only collect all 149 Dragon Eggs from the other realms but also collect all 15,000 gems.
Once you do that, head to the Midnight Mountain homeworld and enter the new realm, which tasks Spyro with several objectives before culminating in a second and final battle against the game’s big bad, the Sorceress. Defeating her unlocks the 150th Dragon Egg, a pair of twins named Yin and Yang.
17 Crash Team Racing: Lab Basement
The classic PlayStation kart racer Crash Team Racing features several unlockable tracks, but the Lab Basement battle arena is definitely the most difficult to attain. Unlocking the Lab Basement, which is based both on The Lab and Toxic Waste levels from the original Crash Bandicoot and the N.Gin Labs racetrack, requires winning all of the cups (Wumpa Cup, Crystal Cup, Nitro Cup, and Crash Cup) on hard mode.
The Lab Basement battle arena is definitely the most difficult to attain.
Of course, you could always just use a cheat code instead, but where’s the fun in that?
16 Chrono Trigger: Secret Ending
Chrono Trigger was already an undisputed classic when it was ported over to the PS1, but players were still discovering new things about the SNES JRPG as the 90s wore on. One of the game’s hallmarks is its staggering number of endings, with one of the best (or at least most amusing) being the ending that involves meeting the Chrono Trigger development team.
The people you'll meet include Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama and Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi.
This ending, called Dream Project, is accessible by selecting a new game and defeating Lavos right away. Among the people you’ll meet are Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama and Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi.
15 Resident Evil 2: B4F Culture Room
Resident Evil 2 set a new benchmark for survival horror games, not least of which was expanding upon the original game’s dual character playthrough setup. Being able to play through RE2 as both Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield expanded the game’s replay value significantly, and also happens to be instrumental in unlocking a special hidden room.
To enter the B4F Culture Room, you have to be playing the B scenario (Claire), but also have met the required steps in Leon’s campaign first. After going through the steps listed here, players will have to take out three Evolved Lickers, which drop either an Ingram M-11 or a spare magazine.
14 Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back: Warp Room 6
Naughty Dog wasn’t content to just throw in a couple hidden levels and call it a day for Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back. Instead, the devs threw in a whole secret warp room for players to find! Commonly referred to as “Warp Room 6”, Crash 2’s secret warp room is located atop Cortex’s destroyed castle from the first game.
Accessing Warp Room 6 requires Crash to locate and stand on suspicious platforms in five different levels, which unlock corresponding entrances in the warp room (the center of the room doesn’t have an elevator, so the entrance portals are the only way of leaving it).
13 Tekken 3: High School Stage
Fighting game stages generally take a backseat to the characters themselves in terms of overall importance (unless we’re talking about Smash Bros., of course), but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have some backdrop variety for duking it out.
Tekken 3, widely accepted as one of the PS1’s very best fighting games, is acclaimed for its mechanics and character roster and doesn’t have much in the way of hidden stages. However, there is a bonus level in the form of Mishima Polytechnical High School, which is effectively an exclusive stage for Jin and Ling, as you need to select their school uniform outfits in order to fight here.
12 Tomba!: Hidden Village
Arguably one of the PS1’s most underrated side-scrolling platformers, Tomba! allows its titular pink-haired character to explore each of its areas freely thanks to its (at the time) unique sub-quest structure. One of the areas you can reach is an optional village that can be accessed either by clearing the Leaf Butterflies event or finding a hidden passage in the Lava Caves.
Tomba! is arguably one of the PS1's most underrated platformers.
The Hidden Village is small and relatively forgettable but does contain a giant egg in its northern area that will break if the Leaf Butterflies event is cleared and give Tomba the Golden Leaf Butterfly item.
11 Crash Bandicoot: Warped: Secret Warp Room
Unsurprisingly, the third Crash Bandicoot game features a hidden warp room, only this one can actually be accessed by an elevator! Unlocking this warp room is considerably more straightforward than the one found in Crash 2, as you only need to collect 5 relics to activate the lift that will take you there.
However, getting access to all 5 levels in the room requires more effort, as each new level takes an additional 5 relics to unlock. Achieving 100% completion requires playing through all of these secret levels, but there are additional levels to be found that are much better hidden ...
10 Crash Bandicoot: Warped: Eggipus Rex And Hot Coco
Contrary to what its Secret Warp Room would have you believe, Crash Bandicoot: Warped actually has 32 levels, not 30. The final two levels - Hot Coco and Eggipus Rex - can only be accessed by triggering specific conditions in the levels Road Crash and Dino Might, respectively.
Hitting the alien road sign in Road Crash takes the player to Hot Coco, the game’s most difficult Coco water ski level, while Eggipus Rex can only be unlocked by allowing the second pterodactyl to pick Crash up during the triceratops chase in Dino Might.
9 Tomb Raider III: All Hallows
Like many 3D action games of their time, the PlayStation era Tomb Raider games have aged quite poorly. Still, one can’t deny the importance of Lara Croft’s early adventures and while Tomb Raider III wasn’t as well-received as the first two games in the franchise, it does contain a pretty neat hidden level.
Set in London, All Hallows can only be accessed after finding 59 of the game’s 60 secrets. Completing the level unlocks infinite ammo, but unfortunately also triggers a bug that restricts access to only a few different levels.
8 Mega Man X3: Abandoned Factory
The Mega Man X series may have gotten its start on the Super Nintendo, but it ended up making the transition over to 32-bit consoles like the PlayStation with X3. While Mega Man X3 is a middle-of-the-road installment overall, it does contain a secret level with a pretty cool boss fight.
By utilizing special teleporter capsules, players can travel to an abandoned factory where they’ll encounter Vile, a major enemy from the original Mega Man X. Depending on whether you defeat him with the X-Buster or the Ray Splasher, Vile will either reappear later in the game or be replaced by a different boss, respectively.
7 Jumping Flash!: Super Mode
Super Mario 64 may have signaled the dawn of the 3D platformer, but the Sony PlayStation arguably beat Nintendo to the punch a year earlier with the release of Jumping Flash!, a first-person Sony-produced title that holds the Guinness World Record for "first platform video game in true 3D".
Jumping Flash! is the "first platform video game in true 3D".
While not a hidden level per se, beating Jumping Flash! without using continues unlocks Super Mode, which grants protagonist Robbit with huge jumps, an even bigger triple jump, faster running movement, and a dive-bomb attack.
6 NBA Jam: Tournament Edition : Celebrity Characters
NBA Jam is one of the most beloved sports video games ever made and the PlayStation got a pretty good port of it in the Tournament Edition (though not as good as the 32X - no load times, baby!). In addition to updated rosters, the most notable feature of the Tournament Edition was the addition of a number of hidden celebrity characters from the early 90s.
These include the likes of Will Smith, Jazzy Jeff, then-President Bill Clinton, and even Prince Charles. Early versions of the arcade edition also featured Mortal Kombat characters like Raiden and Sub-Zero, but they were removed from the console ports at the request of the NBA.
5 Colony Wars: Multiple Endings
The now-defunct British development studio Psygnosis was best known for creating the Wipeout series, but their other claim to fame on the PS1 was the excellent space sim Colony Wars. Similarly to rival space combat game Star Fox 64, Colony Wars features a branching mission structure that changes depending on the player’s success and failures.
Unlike Star Fox though, Colony Wars actually has an interesting plot that can resolve itself in one of five ways. However, there’s also a rare modified ending involving aliens that can only be triggered by not failing any act or mission during the game.
4 Final Fantasy IX: Nero Family Side Quest
Here’s a quest so obscure that even most game guides don’t cover it! In Final Fantasy IX, there’s a sidequest at the beginning of disc 4 involving the Nero family that involves a series of convoluted tasks in order to trigger (you can find the steps here).
Basically, triggering the quest involves going back and forth between the Tantalus hideout and Memoria. In the end, you’ll be rewarded with a chest containing a Protect Ring. Interestingly, the quest will reset the next time you return to the area, but there aren’t actually enough events to complete it twice.
3 Doom: Club Doom
It’s easy to forget that one of the most influential first-person shooters ever made was ported over to the PlayStation, but the PS1 version of Doom was a surprisingly good port with a super secret map that couldn’t be found on the PC version.
Club Doom is the only Doom map to feature dynamic music changes.
Club Doom, as it’s called, is accessed from MAP58: The Mansion and is unique in that the music changes as you venture further into the level — the only map in any version of Ultimate Doom, Doom II or Final Doom to do this. Other features include a nightclub section and a bizarre maze at the end made of what seems to be human organs.
2 Blood Omen: Legacy Of Kain: Pirate Ship
It’s quite possible that no one who played through Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain back in the late 90s ever discovered the hidden Pirate Ship level because, as far as we can tell, it wasn’t discovered until 2010 — 14 years after the game was first released.
In a pub in Nosgoth, there’s a secret rear entrance containing a Time-Streaming Device, which will take Kain to a large explorable pirate ship filled with treasure. There are even pirates on board who will attack Kain with swords, as well as more explorable areas in the surrounding water and land.
1 Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night: Secret Castle
It should come as no surprise that one of the greatest PlayStation games ever made also contains one of the best hidden secrets in the console’s library. While it’s pretty well known at this point, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’s Reverse Castle is still a wondrous hidden level, though labeling it as just a level is doing it a disservice.
Accessing the Reverse Castle requires Alucard to free Richter Belmont from Shaft’s dark spell rather than defeating him, resulting in a vertically flipped version of the normal castle map with all sorts of different color schemes, music, and enemies.