The media form so massive that it’s possible to leave thousands of details for the players to uncover… or never to uncover. Sometimes they’ll discover it decades later, or maybe players have to travel the world to uncover the truth, or devote hours monitoring every little detail. Sometimes it’s an easter egg, sometimes it’s facts about the game dispersed throughout the game or hidden behind puzzles so elaborate, it’s impossible to even begin to know how to begin!
Here we have pointed large neon signs at some of the best secrets, and some of our favourite secrets from games.
10) Minecraft Level – Borderlands 2
Tucked away in the Caustic Caverns alongside yet more failed mining efforts from the Dahl corporation you can encounter yet more of the alien geography and local fauna that is encountered nowhere else on Pandora, a set of strange stone cubes, oddly destructible and mysteriously filled with guns and money. Wandering among these cubes are cubic beasts with green skin, usually an indicator of corrosive damage, but these explode like a Torgue teapot!
It’s not even as subtle as I’m implying, the brazen Minecraft section also includes head and skin drops that give you the pixelated, block headed look of a Minecraft character, but far more heavily armed. Just right of where the mine tracks terminate, it’s a well concealed little corner, tough for even the most thorough explorers, but these days that Easter Egg is pretty well known.
9) M’aiq the Liar – The Elder Scrolls Series
M’aiq tells many lies, or does he? M’aiq is one of the more entertaining recurring characters of The Elder Scrolls franchise. He moves very fast, to where it’s not possible to keep up with him ordinarily (there are always ways). People love to find M’aiq, as he’s always got a little story to share. I think Skyrim fans may recognise the line “Werewolves? Where? Wolves? Many wolves.” (this is paraphrased a bit).
M’aiq may be a bit more than people first thought though. The developers at Bethesda have used M’aiq to say what they (and many fans of the series) have been thinking. As an avid Elder Scrolls Online player, one of my favourite quotes from the MMO comes from M’aiq, where he says the following:
“M’aiq asked an Argonian if she could breathe underwater. She asked if he could see in the dark. M’aiq had no good answer”
This refers to the fact that in all other Elder Scrolls games, Argonians can breathe underwater and Khajiits get Night Vision. M’aiq knows many things, though M’aiq tells them through riddles.
8) Rattmann’s Ramblings – Portal 2
Ever masters of storytelling and cunning set design, the Portal team seeded Portal 2 with little narrative nuggets in the form of hidden chambers covered in graffiti, filled with assorted trash, and strongly implying that someone is living there, a poet, a dreamer, a scientist, a paranoid maniac who has lost his mind, who has deified Chel, and painted her in murals across every wall praising her as the saviour against the nightmarish all-seeing horror that dosed him with nerve gas and left him alone to crawl through the tunnels.
Doug Rattman also drops some seriously alarming truthbombs. He may have been wrong about the cake, but there’s an unsubtle hint that Chel’s surname is Johnson… yes, that Johnson, a theory backed up by a potato project, the one that may have taken over the science fair. Possibly the daughter of Caroline/GLaDOS, between his graffiti, his art, and the slowed down gibbers audible in some of his secluded hideaways. The contents of Lab Rat also tell how he bridged the gap between titles, have a read.
7) Piston Honda – Punch Out
Short one, but cunning. Punch Out for the NES is staggeringly well animated for the console it’s on and the simplicity of the mechanics. Look for the unique tells of each fighter that communicate, not only the punch that’s coming, but also a little of the personality of each. It makes the game feel like each fight is unique, rather than the same repetition of dodges and punches.
But Piston Honda’s most subtle tell came from a fan of his in the audience, who could apparently see something we couldn’t. There’s a tiny cluster of pixels that is set apart from the rest of the crowd because of his distinctive beard who ducks reactively when a big hit is coming. He’s the one to keep an eye on, because he’s clearly studied Piston’s fighting style more thoroughly than we have.
6) The Hidden Path – Grim Dawn
The Crate team love their secret hiding places, a reward for anyone willing to click anything or try any direction that looks vaguely path-like. Go hunting and you’ll eventually find hidden merchants, chest behind walls, torches that turn revealing hidden chambers, and The Hidden Path, an enormous questline seeded across Cairn and right on your very doorstep.
East from Burrwitch prison, there’s a path through shallow water leading to a blast point. Set your dynamite and start a journey filled with tough as nails bosses, clues to unravel, and ending in a visually stunning combat with great rewards. Along the way you learn about the Witch Gods who form the backbone of the game’s most recent DLC, and discover things about the world of Grim Dawn that make the hack-n-slash deeper than your average RPG setting.
5) The Chris Houlihan Room – The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past
Well this is a cute one isn’t it? A fan entered a competition for a Nintendo Power magazine back in 1990 and in 1992, Nintendo made a room in his honour. Although, due to the lack of information available at the time, the Chris Houlihan Room was often seen, but very few people really understood what the purpose of the room was. Instead, they’d stumble into this room, get quite confused, take their treasures and leave.
There’s nothing inherently strange about this either; in the early days of gaming, competitions in magazines were common and the developers loved the response. So they added in the Chris Houlihan Room, a room filled with Blue Rupees. There’s then a sign on the wall at the far end, which reads as follows: “My name is Chris Houlihan. This is my top secret room. Keep it between us, okay?”
No, Chris. No. I’m sharing your room today and you can’t stop me.
4) The 24 Year Secret – Doom II
There’s a stage in Doom II that could never be “100 percented”, only 90% could ever be reached. By travelling around the map and exploring for more guns and ammo you’ll occasionally see a pop-up message that says “secret found”, and finding and unlocking them all has been impossible for twenty four years since the game’s release. And then Zero Master finds it.
Rock Paper Shotgun, Polygon, Screenrant and so many others made a huge deal out of… what is essentially a bland and tiny little moment in a fast paced and intense game, that requires an absurd amount of effort to set up. The location of the secret has – apparently – been known for a while, and understood to be impossible to attain because of the positioning of certain level elements that make it possible only to stand on top of it without ever interacting, unless you get a pain elemental to spawn a soul on your head while your stood in the exact right place, forcing you to be pushed downward through world elements and into the trigger spot!
A game approaching twenty five years old can finally be completed.
2) Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth vs Reverse Castle – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’s
Sometimes it’s easier to just think about things from a conceptual level – and these secrets are simply ridiculous. Both of which required the players to think thoroughly outside of the box. However, which is the better secret?
Binding of Isaac Afterbirth
Cicada 3301 is one beast of a puzzle requiring astonishingly diverse technical and historical knowledge, a capacity for lateral thinking, and the tenacity to see it through. There are theories that it was used as a recruiting mechanism for some secret organisation somewhere! Said organisation may want to look to the people who unlocked this easter egg.
I daren’t even go into the obscenely long details, that required an internet scavenger hunt through link after link, decoding hidden messages, and sending people off on a real life scavenger hunt for a tiny figurine that led to a twitter account that had to be filled with tweets before the developers closed it off and released a new character for every player! It’s something of a leviathan for the serious fans to have conquered, because knowledge of the game down to the near-granular level.
Reverse Castle – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
The Reverse Castle is one of those really cool secrets that just blew me away. When you play through Symphony of the Night, you find Richter and go ahead and kill him. That’s it, game complete – Though it’s bizarre to have a Castlevania game not feature Dracula – In fact, this is what puzzled so many fans. The game was fantastic in its own right, but why on Earth was Dracula not there?
Turns out, he was.
If you don’t kill Richter, you get a quest to go about and find some body parts for, you guessed it, Dracula. This is the true ending of the game that a lot of fans missed. Killing Richter seemed like the logical thing to do, if you look at how the game is structured. It’s a fascinating foray into how to, quite literally, turn expectations on its head. Besides, you don’t get the true ending without doing this.
1) Every Ending and Everything – Doki Doki Literature Club
Having this at number one almost feels like a cheat, but when you think about what Doki Doki Literature Club is, it deserved the top spot. A game built on secrets, portraying itself as a game that it is not… and let’s not even begin to get into how many strange real-world treasure hunts people had to go on. Let’s go through a couple of the secrets and I’ll try not to give away too much of the plot.
When you play through, the game acts like a Dating Sim. What you actually are presented with is a horror visual novel, but you don’t realise it until it’s too late. With files that rewrite themselves, with you having to delve into your Steam folders and with images that’ll definitely disturb some viewers, Doki Doki goes from a pleasant romp of a protagonist who joins a Literature club as he has to join a club at least.
Some of the secrets include hidden audio, whole distortions to how the game looks, a menu screen that keeps changing, monochromatic images… And that’s just a couple of the in-game secrets. With secret images which had to be analysed, websites being found, leading onto secret projects, this game wasn’t a game… It was a secret finding experience.
Not every secret is so secret, once they’re out, they’re everywhere. In our honourable mentions this week we raise a couple of such “secrets” that were once hidden, and became renowned, thus eliminating the secrecy…
Warp Zones – Super Mario Bros
Duh duh duh duh-duh duh, duhh.
Now that the theme’s stuck in your head, let’s talk about the famous Warp Zones of Super Mario Bros.
Considered one of video games worst-kept secrets, the Warp Zones are a way to quickly get through Super Mario Bros. without glitching the game. You can get to a Warp Zone in a variety of ways, but the most famous one is the one at the end of the pipe level in World 1 (World 1-2 specifically). Getting to it is simple – Get on top of the blocks where your score and everything is kept – run along the top and jump down at the end to get to three pipes.
These three pipes will take you to worlds 2, 3 and 4 respectively. If you go into world 4, you can eventually find a block that unleashes some vines leading up, off the map. Climbing these vines makes it so you go to another Warp Zones. This is how speedrunners achieve ridiculously good speeds at Super Mario Bros.
Oh and I haven’t even spoken about glitching through the world 1-2 pipe and wall at the end, which takes you to 1 Warp Zones pipe, which takes you to world -1. Yeah, Super Mario Bros. is a glitchy, fun title.
Moo Moo Farm (The Secret Cow Level) – Diablo 2
In keeping with the theme of well known, memorable secrets in video games, who could forget Moo Moo Farm? I personally love this stage and it was a great way to get yourself some experience and lots of gear. It was entertaining, tricky enough to find (except the invention of the internet meant it was incredibly easy to find it all) and yeah, it was fun. But it all stems from a seemingly innocuous item; Wirt’s Leg.
By using the Horadric Cube, you could combine Wirt’s Leg with a Tome of Town Scroll Portal. On doing this, you create a hellish looking portal. Travel through and it’ll come up saying “Entering Moo Moo Farm”. You know you’re in for a tough fight when a bunch of cows wielding halberds coming swinging at you. You’d better moo-ve it, as these bovine brawlers seriously pack a punch.
Keep this one under your hat, okay? We were never here, neither were you. Leave your vote at the door, and we’ll see you back here next week. Mum’s the word, and we didn’t even tell you that, you hear me?
Were there any secrets that we couldn’t uncover. Does your favourite still remain elusive, never ever tell us what we missed in the comments, or on Facebook and Twitter. People might overhear, the truth could get out, and we will not be held responsible for that!