A secret in a video game is something that has been hidden by the programmers and game developers to offer an advantage to the player, reveal hidden content, or to grant some type of reward for the painstaking effort that the gamer had to endure. Not to be mistaken with glitches, where a player exploits a flaw in the game coding and was not intended by the development team or hacks which requires an outside source or program to change the coding of the game. In this day and age of the internet, secrets are so quickly uncovered and revealed that the exploration and discovery process has dwindled. The following are some of the most nostalgic, iconic, game breaking, and coolest secrets that I have personally discovered and hopefully you have discovered as well.
The Konami Code
Games: Gradius, Contra, and Various Konami Games
History: One of the most iconic and first secret codes introduced to young gamers during the Nintendo era, the Konami code, when entered will usually give the player extra lives, or provide distinct upgrades to their arsenal. The Konami code was created by Kazuhisa Hashimoto who was porting the arcade game Gradius to Nintendo home consoles. During testing, he found the game too hard and created a cheat code that would give the player all the power-ups at any point in the game. When Gradius was released on the NES, the cheat code accidentally remained in the game. The code that Hashimoto-san created would later then be intentionally included in later Konami games to help players receive the advantage that they needed to complete the game.
How it’s done: On the control pad the player enters the following sequence: UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, B, A, START. It would be up to the player to determine when to enter the code to fulfill the required parameters. For example, Contra required the player to enter the code on the title screen, whereas, Gradius will need to be in progress, paused and then the code entered.
The Second Castle
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
History: This Playstation One game revolutionized the much beloved Castlevania franchise. Deviating from the standard side-scrolling platformer style of early iterations of the game, Symphony of the Night maintained the end goal of slaying the evil Count Dracula, but the game was turned into an open world concept akin to the Metroid series. The secret to be uncovered happens at the supposed end of the game where you are forced to face one of the series’ main protagonists, Richter Belmont. Winning the battle treats the player to a cinematic conclusion, but in truth is not the real ending. There is another castle to be discovered if only the secret of Castle Dracula is revealed.
How it’s done: During your dungeon crawl through Dracula’s castle you will eventually come across the gold and silver rings. Equipping these two rings while in the clock tower will activate the clock to chime thirteen times allowing your character to drop down where you will be awarded an item called the holy glasses. Before the final encounter with Richer, equipping the holy glasses, will allow you to see the spirit possessing Richter. Defeating the spirit will unlock the second castle and the real game begins. If you want to know what’s in store for you in the second castle and why it deserves to be on this list, dust off your old Playstation, explore this often overlooked secret and be prepared to have your world flipped upside-down.
The Cow Level
History: Hacking and slashing through the deep, dark and dank catacombs to face the lord of darkness was a grueling, yet satisfying experience. Diablo I had a great deal of weapons, armor, and magic spells to unlock which could all be attained through time, patience and a little bit of luck, but nothing that would be considered a secret. However, a few months after Diablo’s release; screen captures posted on internet forums and message boards started popping up detailing a secret level aptly named The Cow Level, where the player will be transported to a new location where they will have to fend for their life as they are attacked by possessed weapon wielding cows. Unfortunately, this was all an amusing April fool’s joke, and our dreams of slicing through hellish bovines were quickly dashed. Until the second installment of the Diablo series, where the game developers at Blizzard made rumors and myths a reality by making it possible to access a secret level where the player will be swarmed by bi-pedal, weapon wielding cows out for the player’s blood.
How it’s done: In order to access the tormented realm of these fierce bovines, first, finish the game on normal difficulty or higher and enjoy your success of triumphing over the forces of evil and go back into Act I on the same difficulty level that you completed the game. Next, find the item Wirt’s leg, buy a Town Portal Tome, and head over to the rogue encampment. Place the leg and tome inside of the Horadric cube and transmute these two items together. A glowing red portal should be beside your character leading to the secret cow level. Arm yourself with the sturdiest of armor, equip the mightiest of weapons, and learn the most powerful of spells, and be prepared to step into this new world, and test your mettle against these evil mad cows.
Author's Note: I know that Diablo II was released in 2000, but since the origins of the cow level are from the 90's I decided to include this secret on the list
Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior
History: 1991 sparked the juggernaut that would be the fighting game genre with the release of Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior. Arcades were packed to the gills with young world warriors putting their quarters down on the arcade cabinet to challenge and hope to dethrone the reigning champion of that day. Players could choose out of eight characters of different cultural background and martial arts skill. It was to the excitement of many young gamers where two years after the release of Street Fighter 2 to arcades that we could own a personal copy of the game to be played in the comfort of our own homes on the Super Nintendo and various consoles. When playing with friends and family it was always a race to try to select your favorite character because you were not able to fight against each other using the same character. There were many instances where young people would almost come to physical blows because they both couldn’t select the same character in versus mode. Game developers at Capcom most likely saw this as a potential issue with the young populace of gamers, and embedded a secret code into the Super Nintendo version of the game that would finally allow players to choose the same characters, and avoid any physical altercations caused by Street Fighter.
How it’s done: On the Super Nintendo version, when the Capcom logo fades in, player one inputs the following on their controller: Down, R, Up, L, Y, B. The player will hear a special chime and the title screen background will be blue, instead of black to indicate that the code has been activated. Players can now play as the same character in versus mode.
Mortal Kombat I
History: With Street Fighter 2 dominating the arcade scenes it would seem that nothing would be able to over-take the fighting game legend. However, a year later Midway’s Mortal Kombat was released and changed the face of gaming. With opponents spouting blood with every brutal attack, and the infamous fatalities, MK1 single-handedly birthed the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and its age and content ratings are currently used in the video game industry today. While fighting through the Mortal Kombat tournament a mysterious ninja clad in green calling himself Reptile, will randomly appear before your match to give you a cryptic message and clues on how to find him, and possibly fight him. Reptile will go down in the annals of gaming history as the very first secret character to appear in a versus fighting game. It is no easy task to finding Reptile, and victory against him so not guaranteed as he combines the speed, deadliness and skill of the two other ninja in the game, Scorpion, and Sub Zero. The reward for destroying this foul creature is 10,000,000 points, and the respect and adoration of all your friends and family who happen to witness you fighting and defeating him.
How it’s done: Reptile gives the player ten messages in order to goad you into finding him. The messages that he gives are as follows:
“I am reptile, Find Me!”
“You must find me to beat me”
“Alone is how to find me”
“Perfection is the key”
“10,000,000 points if you destroy me”
“Look to La Luna”
“You cannot match my speed”
“TIP EHT OF MOTTOB”
“Blocking will get you nowhere”
From these clues we can deduce the method of which to fight Reptile. While playing a one player game, you will fight in the stage called “The Pit”. In the background you can clearly see the moon (La Luna), and every sixth match on this level, mysterious silhouettes will glide past the moon. This is the time to execute to perfection. You must earn a Double Flawless Victory, with a fatality, and without blocking; once you defeat your opponent and collect your points a message will display above your character that says, “YOU HAVE FOUND ME NOW PROVE YOURSELF !!” You will be transported to the bottom of The Pit where reptile awaits to engage you in Mortal Kombat.
The Hadouken Upgrade
History: We have been enjoying the adventures of Megaman for over twenty-five years now, and each game is chock-full of weapon power-ups, and upgrades for the Blue Bomber. Some are accessible through the game’s progression, whereas others require careful timing; precision and skill to receive your reward. Super Nintendo’s Megaman X overhauled the original design of the character, introducing new characters both friend and foe, and pumped it full of sixteen-bit greatness that nostalgic gamers still talk about with great adoration even to this day. The icing on this near-perfect game is the inclusion of a secret that crosses Megaman with another beloved franchise in the Capcom family; Street Fighter. With a full life meter, this ultimate upgrade of destruction grants X the ability to throw the trademark Street Fighter move, the Hadouken.
How it’s done: Since this secret is a special reward for players seeking absolute power, the gamer will need to have collected all weapons, armor upgrades, heart tanks, and sub tanks. In Armored Armadillo’s stage you must go through the level and it is imperative that you have full life energy at the end of the stage. When you reach the final mine cart and you’re sent flying into the air, jump off the mine cart at the peak of its flight and climb the wall that is directly above the boss gate. Get the large health capsule on top of the cliff and exit the stage by dying in the pit below, or using escape. Repeat this process five more times and on the last run through, there will be an upgrade capsule. Dr. Light will be in street fighter garb and bestow upon you the Hadouken ability which has the destructive capability to destroy almost every single thing in the game in one shot.
Final Fantasy VI
Spoiler Alert! The following contains spoilers of tragic deaths in the Final Fantasy series:
History: The Final Fantasy series is a much beloved series amongst role-playing game (RPG) fans. Not only did this series revolutionize the RPG genre with the development of innovative battle systems, and unique magic mechanics; it also engrosses the player in its rich story with powerful and heroic characters and even more detestable and sometimes relatable villains that the player will form a love-hate relationship with. As we begin to grow attached to our characters through multiple adventures - there will come a time where one of our very own playable characters will meet their untimely end. As early as Final Fantasy four with the demise of the revenge-driven Tellah, the self-sacrifice of Galuf in Final Fantasy five, and the most iconic and tragic death of all; Aeris in Final Fantasy seven. Grief-stricken players would traverse through the ends of the Final Fantasy universe to find some way to revive their fallen heroes. Especially with the instance of Aeris, the internet is flooded with rumors and methods in how to bring her back to life; however, no legitimate method has ever been proven to exist without the aid of hacking. Final Fantasy six (three in North America) is the exception where the player can actually choose to either wait and save Shadow the ninja, or abandon him as the floating island falls.
How it’s done: Shadow is a character cloaked in mystery and intrigue. In the first half of the game there are points in the story where he will join your party and offer his ninja skills for a price; however, just as quickly as he appears he will leave the party at the most inopportune times. When your group arrives at the floating continent they encounter an injured Shadow who will again join you in order to help stop the Emperor from acquiring the power of the Statues. After some fierce battles and dramatic plot twists, the floating continent begins to fall where the cataclysmic crash will result in changing the landscape of the world forever. It is here where the player can either choose to jump into their airship and leave Shadow behind or wait until there is precious little time left to give Shadow enough time to rejoin you on your flying machine. After the great crash, the characters are spread out all throughout the world. If you chose to wait and save the ninja you will come across him in your travels and after some questing you will have the opportunity to have him join your group permanently. It is an often over-looked secret, and if missed, the player will miss out on some important plot points that link Shadow with another one of the main characters.
The video game world has its own collection of mysteries that are still awaiting to be uncovered. These secrets trigger fond memories that add a whole new element to the gaming experience. These are a few of my personal, favorite and nostalgic secrets that I have experienced and look back on with warm hearted affection. I look forward to the next generation of games and finding even more elusive, and ground-breaking secrets; and with our current age of the internet it is going to be a tall order for game developers to keeping a tight lip in divulging these video game surprises. Think back on your own video gaming experiences and recall some of your fondest memories and discoveries. I’d be happy to read some of your own personal accounts in the comments, or send me a message. Happy Hunting!