Video game secrets have been around since the days of the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision. But the Easter egg is a specific type of secret where a game's creators attempt to send a distinct, hidden message, usually one of playfulness or jesting, directly to the player and is out of context to the title on its own. The 25 Best Easter Eggs in Gaming are a telltale sign that developers create their titles with their players in mind. These Easter eggs tend to be methodically hidden and include some type of reference to another work outside of the game itself. This may break the fourth wall and remind us that we have a controller in our hands, but it tells us something much more important: that many video game developers are just like us fans. So be ready for pop culture references and franchise crossovers, because today we're cracking open the 25 Best Easter Eggs in Gaming!
You can't have a 25 Best Easter Eggs in Gaming list without include the very first gaming Easter egg! Atari programmer Warren Robinett was a bit miffed that programmers never received the proper credit for their hard work, so in 1980's Adventure for the 2600, he threw in a few extra lines of code after the game was finished. When players went through a single-pixel dot in one of the rooms by the catacombs, they entered a secret area where they saw "Created by Warren Robinett" text running down the middle. Atari didn't want to pay for the costs to reprint the cartridge without the code, so they shipped it as is, and the video game Easter egg was born.
Red Dead Evidence
L.A. Noire was a phenomenal recreation of detective work and society in the 1940s. Detective Cole Phelps can find the family man/outlaw John Marston's hat in an alleyway while trying to investigate a crime scene. Phelps might dismiss it as not being a piece of evidence, but Rockstar fans would easily recognize Marston's famous hat (he always wore it, even if you changed outfits). The hat might be decrepit and old, but that would make sense given that Red Dead Redemption took place in 1911, with Noire set in 1947. 36 years would do that to a hat that has been riddled with bullets.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
In order to commemorate Nintendo's collaboration with Konami for the GameCube's remake of Metal Gear Solid, Solid Snake was added to the Smash Bros. roster. In the Shadow Moses level, the downward taunt of Solid Snake triggers Codec calls where you get to hear David Hayter bicker back and forth with his support team about the strange and unusual characters he has to fight against. There is about twenty minutes of secret dialogue if you were to do this for every available fighter (even if you choose Solid Snake vs. Solid Snake!).
Devil Horns and Foam Finger
Dead Space Series
Dead Space 2 and 3's secret weapons were fairly difficult to unlock, but rewarded those dedicated to the perfection of Necromorph-slaying. Foam fingers might be a common occurrence at sporting events. But when there are markers about, a foam finger is just what you need. The foam finger and devil horns weapons one-shot-kill any necromorph you aim it at, pulverizing the murderous undead with unseen forces. The devil horns weapon is not only the most effective and fun weapon in Dead Space 3, it allows Isaac to finally let off some steam and rock out.
Cuckoo for Cuccos
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is, arguably, one of the greatest 16-bit games ever made. Link's first adventure on the SNES had a little secret that would punish the sadistic players who would take their aggression out on a helpless cucco (the Hylian equivalent of a chicken). Attack a cucco once, and it will run away from you. But if you back it into a corner and keep swinging? Well, let's just say you had that coming.
Vampires of the Lost Arc
We're only a fifth of the way into the 25 Best Easter Eggs in Gaming and we've finally reached an Indiana Jones reference! In BloodRayne, Rayne finds the Ark of the Covenant. This would make logical sense since BloodRayne revolves around killing Nazis, who were obsessed with finding the Ark in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Be careful not to open that, Rayne! You might have to witness something so horrific it could kill you... like a DVD of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Max Payne and Jack Torrance
Grand Theft Auto V
Given the Grand Theft Auto series' propensity for parodies and farces, it would make sense that certain character outfit designs would include gaming and movie references. By shaving Michael's head and giving him a beard, aviators, and a Tropical Parrot Hawaiian shirt (they actually sell those shirts on Amazon!), he looks like a spitting image of a certain apathetic booze hound from Max Payne 3. And nothing screams "The CEO of Trevor Phillips Industries" than having the exact look and outfit Jack Nicholson had in the final act of The Shining. To paraphrase the movie itself, Trevor is the best goddamned psychopath from Timbuktu to Portland, Maine. Or Portland, Oregon for that matter.
The Lost Vikings
World of Warcraft
Blizzard knows how to cater to their fanbase, especially within Azeroth. World of Warcraft is filled with tons of pop culture and gaming references throughout its quests, characters and lore. In the Uldaman dungeon, you must do quests for The Lost Vikings themselves in order to reach the deepest areas of a Titan vault. You also get to quest for this wandering trio throughout the Badlands zone. Here's to hoping Blizzcon will unveil a new Vikings title!
Samus and Link
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Super Mario RPG was one of the frontier titles within Squaresoft's prime which proved to the world that Mario does not need to be strictly contained in side-scrolling platformers. From Xenogears, Parasite Eve to Brave Fencer Musashi, Squaresoft was rolling out classic after classic, and Square's team up with gaming's face did not disappoint. As a small nod to Nintendo fans, both Link and Samus were included as guests sleeping at the Rose Town inn.
Payback for Episode 1
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2
We might have labelled Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 as one of the worst sequels ever made, but there is one small, redemptive quality about it. We finally get to see some form of retribution done to Jar Jar Binks for being a major ruining character of the prequel trilogy. The Force Unleashed 2 might have thrown its story, gameplay and quality out the window when compared to its much better predecessor, but it was still good to see this Gungan forever sealed away in carbonite.
Chris Houlihan's Room
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
A second Link to the Past entry on our list of the 25 Best Easter Eggs in Gaming? Killer cuccos might be one thing, but a top secret room filled with 45 blue rupees and a message from Chris Houlihan is another. This room cannot be reached by conventional means. Instead, you have to force the game to crash, which automatically warps you to this room. Chris Houlihan won a contest Nintendo Power held in 1990 in order to have his name immortalized in the weirder side of Hylian history.
How Altair Should Have Really Died
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Geralt of Rivia is back to slay more monsters in The Witcher 3, due sometime in 2014. But in his latest quest, there was a little spoof of the Assassin's Creed franchise. Given its namesake, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was the perfect opportunity to make fun of one of the most ridiculous concepts in Assassin's Creed, jumping from thousands of feet in the air and perfectly landing in a tiny pile of hay somewhere near the bottom. This is what should have happened to Altair, Ezio and Connor thousands of times throughout our interactions with the Animus.
Half-Life 2 helped redefine the first-person shooter. But there is a small secret Valve threw into Half-Life 2 that is downright bone-chilling. Headcrab zombies are a frequent occurrence throughout the series, and Gordon has plenty of ways in dispatching them. If you were to light one on fire, you hear the expected cries of a horrible monstrosity. If you were to take the creature's audio and play it backwards, you get messages along the lines of "Put it out! Help me!", which disturbingly suggests that the possessed human is well aware of everything that has happened to them.
This entry contains major spoilers for the first Dead Space title. Then again, if you were to notice the first letter of each chapter title, the game already does it for you. Dead Space's chapter headings are as follows: New Arrivals , Intensive Care, Course Correction, Obliteration Imminent, Lethal Devotion, Environmental Hazard, Into the Void, Search and Rescue, Dead on Arrival, End of Days, Alternate Solutions, Dead Space. Take the first letter of each of these chapters and what do you get? "Nicole is dead." As if you couldn't have figured it out with each scene of her being oblivious to the thousands of undead creatures aboard the Ishimura.
What About Brad?
Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 was a pioneer for survival horror, back when survival horror wasn't a code name for "action game cliches". The first areas of Resident Evil 2 are filled with the reanimated corpses of Raccoon City's denizens. But if you were to reach the police station without picking up a single item, you will find S.T.A.R.S. helicopter pilot Brad Vickers in zombie form. Fans were shocked to find Brad this way, given that he flew Chris, Jill and Barry to safety at the end of the first title. Sorry, Brad. Sucks to be you.
The Heart of Liberty City
Grand Theft Auto 4
With only 10 entries left to go in our list of the 25 Best Easter Eggs in Gaming, we have gotten to the heart of gaming's best secrets, literally. The Statue of Happiness has a hidden entrance where you can find Liberty City's corroded heart. The horrific view of the Statue of Happiness' heart seems to be inspired greatly by the Hellraiser movie series, with its blood and impaling chains. Could this be Rockstar's critique of the Statue of Liberty's commercialization as a tourist attraction?
Expanding the Facility
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Arkham Asylum is filled to the brim with Easter eggs and plenty of DC references. In the high-security sections of Arkham, you can look into the holding cells of various supervillains and have a little look-see into how they decorate their quarters. In Warden Quincy Sharp's office, there is a hidden area where you can find Sharp's plans to expand Arkham's perimeters beyond the island of Arkham and into areas of Old-Gotham. This actually foreshadowed the location of Arkham Asylum's sequel, Arkham City. The question remains, was it Sharp pushing this expansion? Or was it Hugo Strange?
Metal Gear Solid
The first Metal Gear Solid title had its fair share of Easter eggs, such as finding Meryl without her pants on if you catch her fast enough. The infamous bout with Psycho Mantis led to a breakdown of the fourth wall, which was extremely unexpected in MGS, given its in-depth story and serious approach to stealth. The cutscenes before Snake's fight with Psycho Mantis adds in lines of additional dialogue based on whether or not you have other Konami save files on your memory card. Also, if you had the dual-shock controller, Psycho Mantis would use its vibration capacities to make it seem as if he's making the controller move with his mind.
Let's make one thing clear, we love the Mega Man series and are extremely disappointed in how abandoned the Blue Bomber has been over the past few years. In Mega Man X, Capcom threw in an Easter egg in the form of the most overpowered attack the game has to offer. If X has all four armor upgrades, eight heart containers and four filled sub tanks, you can unlock the Hadouken in the Armored Armadillo stage. You can only perform the Hadouken with a completely filled health bar, but it is always a one-hit-kill, even on Sigma. That sounds down-right-fierce.
An urban legend existed that if you were to spam-click a specific cow outside of Tristam, you would enter Diablo's cow level. While this was proven to be false, Blizzard watched the debates about the supposed cow level go back and forth across various message boards and gaming sites. They eventually decided to add a cow level into Diablo 2 in order to acknowledge their fans and let them know that they were listening. Unfortunately, the cow level offered the best drops out of the various levels of Diablo 2, so players would grind cow-runs day in and day out.
Duke Nukem 3D
We're at the final stretch of our 25 Best Easter Eggs in Gaming! The popularity of the foul-mouthed, babe-bagging Duke can be much attributed to the movie references spread throughout Duke Nukem 3D. Most of Duke's catchphrases and one-liners were famous quotes from cult classic films. In the prison level, there is a specific cell that directly refers to The Shawshank Redemption. Much like Andy Dufresne, Duke can rip down the Rita Hayworth poster into a tunnel that acts as an escape route to outside the prison. Unlike Andy, Duke didn't have to crawl through a mile of human waste and sewage (unless you count Duke Nukem Forever).
NBA Jam offered a 2 vs. 2 basketball experience that went way beyond the norms of sport simulations. In this crazy hoops series, players were able to perform unbelievable dunks and moves. Score three times in a row and the ball catches on fire. Midway also included secret characters you could play as, based on the initials you would enter for your matches. This included Mortal Kombat characters, but also President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. Slick Willy might have revolutionized the use of a Cuban cigar, but he could also tear Scottie Pippen apart on the court.
Crono Meets his Makers
After defeating Lavos in Chrono Trigger for the first time, players were able to start a new game. This restarted the entire story using your gear and statistics from when you previously finished Chrono Trigger. From the get-go, our favorite red-haired, silent protagonist is able to warp straight to Lavos (using the right telepod during Lucca's experiment). Defeating Lavos by yourself was extremely difficult (until you did a few more playthroughs of the story), but paid off in the form of the development room ending, in which Crono is able to speak to each of the programmers and developers of Chrono Trigger. Once you're there, hilarity ensues in the forms of jokes and fake boss fights.
A Buster on the Battlefield
Final Fantasy Tactics
Final Fantasy Tactics might not have been the greatest real-time strategy role-playing game of all time, but we loved its intricate plot, classes and combat system. In FFT, After finishing specific side missions and defeating optional bosses, Cloud gets warped to Ivalice and can eventually join your party. You can even find Cloud's Buster Sword and equip it on him so he can perform his Limit Break techniques on the battlefield. There is even a bonus scene where Cloud rescues a certain flower girl from a band of bullies.
In Loving Tribute
World of Warcraft
At the top spot in our nest of the 25 Best Easter Eggs in Gaming, we have a very sad and heartfelt backstory. Dak Krause was a young, dedicated Warcraft player who unfortunately died of Leukemia in 2007. As a loving sign of remembrance, Blizzard added a quest giver named Caylee Dak (Caylee being Krause's character name in WoW). During the quest, you must deliver a poem to Caylee Dak, which reads as follows:
"Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
across Northrend's bright and shining snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
on Westfall's fields of golden grain.
I am in the morning hush,
of Stranglethorn's jungle, green and lush.
I am in the drums loud and grand,
the thunderous hooves across Nagrand.
I am the stars warmly gleaming,
over Darnassus softly dreaming.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die."
The poem is an altered version of "Do not Stand at My Grave and Weep", written by Mary Frye.
This heartfelt Easter egg reminds us why we love the camaraderie of online gaming communities and that certain developers truly care for their gamers.
next: 10 best secret bosses of gaming