Happy Easter everyone! This is, of course, primarily a religious holiday, but many of the things we associate with it are of a more secular nature. But while plastic and hard-boiled Easter eggs are only around during the spring, Easter eggs in video games are with us all year round.
Video game Easter eggs date back to the late 1970s, when programmers first hid their own names in games like Adventure and Video Whizball. They’ve been a part of gaming ever since, rewarding players who have determination, creativity, and perhaps most of all, tons of free time.
There’s a bit of the thrill of the hunt in tracking them down, the same kind of feeling that compels many of us to rack up achievements or trophies. The great part about living in the internet age is that people catalogue them all online. The site eeggs.com is one of my favorites (and not just for video games), as it’s been archiving the goodies hidden in games since 1995.
Picking the top Easter eggs is probably even more subjective than most things about video games, especially since most of them are intended to be jokes, and funny is definitely a matter of personal preference. Some very prominent sites like IGN and Mashable have done excellent lists over the last few years.
I’m not going to try to compete with them (plus the Gamesided research interns are off for the holiday), but I figured I would share some of my favorites. These are ones I’ve either taken the time to hunt down myself after learning about them or watched friends or family find.
Got any favorite video game Easter eggs of your own? Hit us up in the comment section, on Twitter or Facebook and we’ll discuss them.
The Legend of Zelda
It’s pretty common for today’s games to offer you the chance to play through again at a higher level of difficulty. Back in the NES days, this was definitely not something you saw every day.
You could play the “Second Quest” in Zelda by either beating the game in its entirety or entering “ZELDA” as the player’s name for a new game. It was definitely a bigger challenge, both in terms of the enemies and the scrambling of dungeon and item placement.
Subsequent titles in the series all did something similar, but according to Zeldapedia, the original game only had this feature due to a design mistake. We’ll call that one a happy accident.
Star Wars: Rebel Assault II
I first discovered the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 while I was in college, and it quickly became a mini-obsession for me. Imagine my delight when Rebel Assault II paid tribute to it with an Easter egg that turned the cutscenes into riffing sessions complete with little silhouettes at the bottom of the screen. Instead of Joel or Mike and their robots, though, we got some familiar Star Wars characters. I shouldn’t need to tell you who they are.
All you had to do was hold Alt-V and type in the code “OVRES.” There were a bunch of other codes that activated other surprises, but none as cool as this one.
The Grand Theft Auto series
Rockstar employees definitely know how to mess with the people who enjoy their work. The Grand Theft Auto games have more than their fair share of Easter eggs, but two in particular stand out in my mind.
In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, there was a reward for getting yourself all the way to the top of the Gant Bridge. The only thing is, it was the video game equivalent of a Marvel No-Prize, as it was simply a message that stated, “There are no Easter Eggs up here. Go away.” Pretty funny, especially since it took some effort to get to where it was written.
Players were probably expecting something similar in Grand Theft Auto IV when they found a door reading “No Hidden Content this way” at the Statue of Happiness. Anyone who turned away there missed out, as there was a giant, beating heart inside the statue. It’s alive! Or something. In any case, you have to love the meta nature of this one, because it was set up so nicely by the previous game.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Nothing like putting some advance advertising for your next game into the current one. Famously, no one stumbled onto the map showing the already approved blueprint for turning a big chunk of Gotham City into a place to hold its most notorious residents. You know, kind of like what ended up happening in Batman: Arkham City.
Since no one knew about the hidden room accessible from the warden’s office, the developers at Rocksteady had to reveal it themselves. Can it still be an Easter egg if no one finds it? I bet there’s at least one plastic egg sitting in a forgotten corner of your basement or yard that says the answer is yes.