The 15 Best Video Game Easter Eggs
Discovering a video game Easter egg on your own can be a blast, but, let’s face it, doing so requires an awful lot of work. So, to spare you the hassle of hours of repetitive gameplay, we’ve compiled the 15 coolest Easter eggs right here. Consider this an early Christmas present.
Some of these secrets harken back to the infancy of video games and others are for more recent games released over the past few years. Sometimes Easter eggs are a simple homage to developers and sometimes they’re industry in-jokes. Occasionally, they offer a real benefit to the player. Check them out below and enjoy.
Although it may not look like much now, ‘Adventure,’ which was released in 1979 for the Atari 2600, was the first action-adventure game and inspired many that came after. It also has the distinction of containing one of the earliest and best-known Easter eggs.
At the time, Atari didn’t credit developers for their work, so programmer Warren Robinett secretly included a room with a message accessible only by using a 1-pixel gray dot. Once inside the room, the player was greeted by the words “Created by Warren Robinett.” Atari eventually discovered the egg, but decided to leave it in rather than spend the money to produce and distribute a new cartridge.
This ‘Donkey Kong’ Easter egg, which features the initials of programmer Landon M. Dyer, is notable for how long it took to uncover — 26 years. Dyer added his initials to an 8-bit port of the game for the Atari 800 in 1983, but it remained a secret until he mentioned it in a blog post in 2008.
A year later, a developer won a $75 prize put up by the video game database Digital Press for finding it. If you happen to have an Atari 800 emulator and a ‘Donkey Kong’ ROM handy, follow these steps to find it yourself. But be warned: it won’t be easy.
Perhaps the longest-running gaming industry in-joke, Dopefish is a green, buck-toothed fish that first appeared in ‘Commander Keen 4: Secret of the Oracle’ in 1991. Since then, the fish, which is described in the game as “the second-dumbest creature in the universe,” has appeared in dozens of titles, including ‘Psychonauts,’ ‘Portal’ and ‘Alan Wake.’
Tom Hall, the designer who created the character, seems at a loss to explain why this “stupid little fish” (his words) has become such a phenomenon. Fans should check out Dopefish’s official website for more information on his legacy.
‘The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past’
Before ‘The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past’ was released for the Super Nintendo in 1992, Nintendo Power magazine held a contest for fans to get their name in the upcoming title. If players used the Pegasus Boots and traveled from Kakariko Village through the forest to Hyrule Castle, they would gain access to a secret room containing a message from contest winner Chris Houlihan. Congrats, Chris, you’ll forever be the coolest kid on the block.
Staffers at id Software reportedly didn’t think much of notoriously egotistical ‘Doom’ co-creator John Romero. So, they secretly added him as the final boss in ‘Doom II.’
When players first encounter the giant horned demon at the end of the game, it actually says, “To win the game, you must kill me, John Romero!” in reverse. Plus, if players enable “no clipping” mode and walk through the wall behind the demon, they’ll see Romero’s sneering head impaled on a stake. Ouch.
In another example of a long-lost Easter egg, it was recently discovered that the seminal first person shooter ‘GoldenEye 007′ for the Nintendo 64 contains a fully functional emulator and 10 games for the ZX Spectrum, a gaming system which was sold in the U.K.
Turns out, Rare, the company which made GoldenEye, was developing the game and the emulator at the same time. And rather than remove the emulator from the retail version of ‘GoldenEye,’ they simply disabled it. The game was released in 1997, but the emulator lay dormant until it was discovered in March of this year.
‘Final Fantasy VII’
If there’s one title that holds a special place in the heart of every serious gamer, it’s ‘Final Fantasy VII,’ which was released in 1997. At the time, nothing could match its stellar graphics, audio and gameplay. But it really excelled in terms of story, and many gamers are still trying to recover from the heartbreaking death of major character Aeris. Not surprisingly, the game has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence lately, as Square Enix re-released it as a PC download just a few months ago.
As far as Easter eggs go, the game’s “All Lucky 7s” battle mode is probably one of the most useful, but it’s also one of the most difficult to achieve. When a character’s HP drops to exactly 7,777, it unleashes a flurry of attacks on all enemies for 7,777 points of damage and continues to do so until its hit points change.
‘Metal Gear Solid’
When ‘Metal Gear Solid’ was released in 1998 for the PlayStation, it became an instant classic and helped popularize the stealth genre. Among the game’s many dramatic touches, villain Psycho Mantis actually “reads” the player’s mind by scanning the system’s memory card and commenting on gaming habits. Thus the above reference to Konami’s Dracula-hunting title. Yes, Psycho Mantis. We do love ‘Castlevania.’
After the original ‘Diablo’ was released in 1996, players began buzzing about a secret cow level, but the rumors were untrue. So, as a special treat for fans, Blizzard Entertainment included the secret level in the game’s sequel, which came out in 2000.
If players create a special item under certain circumstances, a red portal opens to an alternate dimension where they can battle wave after wave of two-legged Hell Bovines. Their demonic moos still haunt our nightmares.
‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’
There’s no shortage of Easter eggs in Rockstar’s groundbreaking ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series. (Remember the infamous X-rated “Hot Coffee” mod?) But this egg, which can be found in ‘GTA: San Andreas,’ is probably one of the most famous.
Travel to the top of the bridge that connects San Fierro to Las Venturas and you’ll find a message reading, “There are no Easter Eggs up here. Go away,” which, of course, makes it an Easter egg.
We have a love/hate relationship with the sentry turrets in ‘Portal 2.’ Yes, they’ll riddle you with bullets without hesitation, but they’re so darn adorable while doing it. If you want another example of their disarming cuteness, look beneath one of the Ratman’s secret dens and you’ll find a turret chorus performing an instrumental from the game’s soundtrack called ‘Turret Wife Serenade.’
Consider us among the many people who were hopelessly addicted to ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,’ the wonderfully immersive action role-playing game by Bethesda Softworks. Given how expansive the world of ‘Skyrim’ is, it makes sense that developers would insert Easter eggs here and there. In fact, there are many, including several that reference ‘Star Wars.’
Our favorite can be found in Bleakcoast Cave. Look closely and you’ll see human remains frozen in the icy roof of the cave and a glowing green sword beneath, which references Luke Skywalker’s run-in with the Wampa in ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’
‘Mass Effect 3′
Forget about the controversy surrounding the notoriously vague ending in ‘Mass Effect 3′ for a moment and let’s talk pets. Is your fish tank of llium Skalds and Khar’shan Snapping Eels just not doing it for you? Then head down to the engineering deck of the Normandy and keep an eye out for your beloved Space Hamster, which somehow escaped its cage after the last game. If you purchased the animal during ‘Mass Effect 2,’ you’ll be able to capture the furry little critter and he’ll return to his former spot on the shelf in your cabin.
The Space Hamster, by the way, is a reference to Boo, the “miniature giant space hamster” that appeared in BioWare’s ‘Baldur’s Gate’ series. In fact, the animal’s distinctive squeak is the same in both series.
‘Assassin’s Creed 3′
Like most modern video games, ‘Assassin’s Creed 3′ is teeming with secret missions, unlockables and other hidden gems. But the most amusing Easter egg can be found near the Davenport Homestead. Travel to any corner of the building, whistle and a turkey will sneak up behind you. Then, enter the “Konami Code” and the turkey will suddenly appear with a hood just like Connor Kenway’s. As an added bonus, the assassin turkey will now follow you throughout the game, but, alas, it can’t do your dirty work for you.
In the beginning of the sixth mission in ‘Halo 4,’ look for two grunts standing by a forklift and you’ll hear hilarious dialogue recorded by none other than Conan O’Brien and sidekick Andy Richter. As to be expected, these aren’t your typical UNSC soldiers, and they gripe about the lack of throw rugs in the hanger and openly mock the game’s “ancient evil awakens” tagline.
Did we miss any? What’s your favorite video game Easter egg?