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.
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!
Nothing screams in-crowd quite like a running joke. One person does or says something stupid and never gets to live it down, a weird moment of inspiration catches fire and spreads through the gang, or some reoccurring verbal tic becomes a catchphrase. Comedians know this, so do game designers, writers and artists of all types. A good gag can be brought back time and time again, recycled and replayed and somehow it only gets funnier.
Join us as we revisit some of the best recurring gags in geek culture. Ten of them to be exact. And some honourable mentions.
What can I say? We have a pattern.
10) M’aiq the Liar – The Elder Scrolls Franchise
M’aiq has been in so many of the Elder Scrolls games now, that he’s a bit of a running joke. But more than that, he’s actually full of rather interesting lines of dialogue, depending on how you interpret his meanings. He runs seemingly aimlessly, from place to place, just sharing his stories, which is hard to believe. He’s not exactly renowned for telling the truth, hence his title.
Only just clawing his way onto our list, M’aiq is definitely an in-joke for Elder Scrolls fans. Well, if not M’aiq himself, his great, great grandson, who is also called M’aiq. This Khajiit knows more than just a few lines of dialogue and usually runs around at quick speed. He’s worth catching up to for a quick chat, so if you find him roaming around Skyrim or even any of the other TES games, stop for a chat!
9) Troy and Abed in the Morning – Community
Unlikely friends in the Greendale Community College study group, sports jock and cool kid Troy Barnes and awkwardly nerdy and fourth wall breaking Abed Nadir bond over a mutual immaturity, creativity, and generally childlike view of the world. Through the various misadventures of their time at college with the others in the group they turn the world upside down, warp genres and create entire worlds. But in their downtime they host a show, Troy and Abed in the Morning.
The catchy jingle, enthusiastic “guests” and the delightful hosts of Troy and Abed in the Morning make it a cheery and oddly grounded highlight of Community’s otherwise deeply bizarre and twisted world. The fact that the boys are making the whole thing up and there are no cameras, or that the guests often have no idea what’s going on, has absolutely no bearing on whether or not they’re enjoying themselves.
8) “Reticulating splines” & Llama fascination – The Sims and SimCity
Everyone who knows the original Maxis brand of Sims titles, extending out to SimCity, will be fondly remember the strange loading words of “Reticulating Splines”. Many of us to this very day are uncertain of what exactly that means, or even if it was just some crazy in-joke, starting from SimCity 2000. In actuality, it was literally made to be a nonsensical phrase intended to just make the Maxis guys laugh. Besides: It sounds cool.
Of course, The Sims is well known for one animal. No, not the pink flamingo! I can only be talking about the Llama, a majestic creature who can be used in everyday conversation. With an insult option for calling someone’s mother a Llama, there’s plenty of different options for how to use the Llama. These include dressing up as one to be a mascot for a team by the same name, bleating like a Llama being an illegal form of interrogation, rejecting a date by saying you need to wash your Llama. Yeah, Maxis are a strange bunch.
7) Horse Mask – Tomska
Creator of the ASDF animation shorts, Thomas “Tomska” Ridgewell is a favourite online comedian of mine. While ASDF may be his most famous series, his life action skits are as good if not better, and his recent fascination with his horse mask has added another rather disturbing layer of comedy. Meet Mrs Johnson.
Appearing in multiple, completely unrelated videos, Mrs Johnson basically a man in a dress and a horse mask who appears long enough to spout a catchphrase “I LOVE IT”. It shouldn’t be funny, but I love the surrealism of Johnson’s appearance at any moment, and it takes one hell of a dark twist when she gets her own skit entitled “Horse”. Sounds like there’s more backstory than what has been hinted at so far. Or Tomska’s just making crap up as he goes along.
6) Short Jokes – Fullmetal Alchemist
“Who you callin’ so puny he could be squished by a bug?!” – Edward Elric.
The Fullmetal Alchemist himself appears to have a running gag, well it was sooo hard to see this one coming. That’s because he is really short and due to that, various characters will allude to this. But he doesn’t like to be reminded of his physical limitations, so he will get pretty angry at anyone who dares insinuate he’s a tiny little man. After all, it’s no different to calling him a child, which he resents. He’s not.
Now, it doesn’t matter how you say it, he really doesn’t want to hear it. He won’t even accept it if you say you didn’t mean it in that way. He’s been known to psyche himself out as well, as he once crawled through some vents, stating how glad he was that he was small enough to fit in the vent, before pausing and screaming out “Aah! I just called myself a tiny little runt!” Oh Edward, we hope you never grow up.
5) Kenny Dies – South Park
Kudos to Parker and Stone for keeping a joke that should have worn out years ago fresh enough that we don’t hate them for dragging it out. This is a joke that has transformed, been cast aside and brought back, observed from every angle and yet… never dies.
The joke originates with a former classmate who was never present and was therefore presumed dead on a daily basis. In early seasons Kenny was killed off every episode only to respawn the very next week. This culminated in an entire season of the gang grieving his death until he spontaneously returned with no fanfare in the last episode. And now Kenny uses his powers for good.
Kenny’s immortal curse now has an overly elaborate backstory wrapped in eldritch mysteries, and looks set to take centre stage in the upcoming game The Fractured But Whole.
4) Wirt’s Leg – Blizzard
Wurt is a running joke in Blizzard’s Diablo franchise, but has gone further than just the Lord of Terror’s titles. He started off as a man in the original Diablo, who basically had his leg tore off by the big bad evils in the game. Then in the second and third games, you could get Wirt’s Leg as an item. In World of Warcraft, you could get Wirt’s Third Leg and in Diablo III you could also get Wirt’s Other Leg. Oo err.
Wirt has had many different legs, which have appeared over at least 5 different games, from Diablo I, II and III, World of Warcraft, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. He was also a test item in the Blizzard MOBA Heroes of the Storm. Now, don’t forget, the most important thing about Wirt’s leg is the ability to create portals to incredibly secret cow levels. They’re so secret that everyone knows about them… Because Wirt’s Leg combined with a tome of town scroll totally makes a portal.
3) Phrasing! – Archer
I think we’re all a little tired of “That’s what she said”, this isn’t the 90’s any more and frankly I think we can all agree She has a dirty mouth but doesn’t have a lot to say otherwise.
Now where do you even begin with all of the jokes in Archer? Between the creative insults, the worst passwords ever, the voicemail pranks, and LAANNAAAA there’s so much to choose from. But phrasing rather escaped the show and slipped out into the real world. It’s quick, effective, and points out an innuendo far faster than She ever could, and it spread so fast that the show not only stopped using it, but made a joke out of no longer using it.
The in-jokes of Archer spring up so naturally and organically that it makes the cast feel more real, and less written. It feels like these people are living and working together rather than being thrown together in a comedic situation. And now that series 8 has begun I have to ask…
Seriously, are we not doing phrasing any more?
2) Bart Simpson Writing on the Chalkboard – The Simpsons
Bart Simpson has started up every episode of The Simpsons with a different bit of ‘detention writing’ to put up on the chalkboard of his classroom. Sometimes, these lines he has to write are just purely silly, such as not putting gum under his desk, but other times, it’ll be reference to a real life event or celebrity. He has, in the past, mentioned presidents along with big name celebrities (although they rarely specify the full name of the celebrity).
It seamlessly blends the real with the typical cartoony values that Springfield has become customary of. We don’t watch an episode of The Simpsons without thinking of those ridiculous Simpson openings, either. Bart makes up one of the two major parts that changes episode by episode, also meaning that he’s been doing this since the late 80s. Now, in 2017, we’re going to finally see the writing on the wall for Bart and his family, as it’s officially coming to an end.
This is probably the longest running gag on this list, so if you’d like to see some of these amazing jokes for yourself, check them out at Bartsblackboard.com.
1) Stan Lee – Every Marvel Comic Universe Film
When a returning cameo is so good you have people on the edge of their seats in the cinema waiting for it you know you’re onto a winning formula. The face of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee keeps showing that face in as many films based on his properties as he possibly can, and he’s escalated from a quick and unsubtle look at the camera to being the centrepiece for some of the MCU’s funniest moments. We’ve seen it all from a brief appearance as Hugh Hefner to a librarian obliviously sorting through returns while Spidey and Lizard tear each other to shreds behind him.
The prevailing theory is that Stan is actually playing a recurring role rather than just popping up as a friendly face, Uatu the Watcher, an ancient being tasked with witnessing the most important events in the universe. The kind of power that would give him might explain how his presence spans the cinematic, television and animated aspects of the Marvel property, as well as popping up across the Galaxy, meaning he may well play some kind of important role in the upcoming Infinity Wars.
Throughout 2016, fans waited on tenterhooks as the grim spectre of death stalked one beloved celebrity after another, wondering with each cameo if it could be his last. Of course if he doesn’t turn out to be an actual immortal, then he’ll always live on through his works.
While many jokes will outlive their series and outreach their audience, there are a few that will remain as a calling card for those niche little groups and die-hard fans. Some just fizzle. But let us not forget them, but let us also not list every single one of them here, we’ve got a word count to keep to and nowhere near the man power to list them all. Here’s some honourable mentions.
Ghost Nappa/Nappa Haunting – DragonBall Z Abridged
We’ve mentioned it before and we’ll mention it again – We love abridged series, so much so that today at the GeekOut Bristol Meetup (8th April 2017), we’re hosting an abridging challenge with some great top prizes. Now that we’ve shamelessly plugged this, let’s continue with this entry.
Ghost Nappa is a character that was dreamed up from the pure stupidity that is Nappa. In the actual series of DragonBall Z, he was quite an imposing character, with a lot of seriously deadly skills (at least early in the show). After Vegeta ruthlessly despatches him, Vegeta cements himself as the real bad guy here. However, on DragonBall Z abridged, it seems like Nappa’s personality has an everlasting effect.
Out pops Ghost Nappa, complete with a theme song and all! He’s really damn annoying and he haunts Vegeta occasionally on the Namekian saga. Even in death, it seems like Vegeta can’t get rid of this once proud, but rather unintelligible Saiyan warrior.
Chinese Swearing – Firefly
How do you get around censorship when you really want to swear liberally? Well, a host of sci-fi series would suggest making up your own swearwords that don’t appear on any list, but Joss Whedon’s verse had a rather cunning addition to its backstory that allowed for as much cussing and grotesquely creative insults as you could want, all able to be shown to an American audience during dinner, because it’s all in Chinese.
So it may not be hilarious, but it’s a running bit that adds flavour to an awesome world and deepens its history. When Mal launches into a long string of unintelligible syllables we all know what’s going on, and can’t help but imagine that somewhere there’s native speakers in the audience either covering the ears of the children in the room, or wincing at Nathan Fillion’s wooden and badly pronounced delivery.
Some jokes outstay their welcome, get old, and get stale. And yet somehow you guys never seem to tire of our Top 10’s. That’s fine, we love making them, probably more than you guys enjoy reading them. And just like every week you get to pick which Top 10 we discuss next week.
What jokes tickle your funny bone no matter how many times you hear them? What are your favourite running gags? Tell us in the comments or Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.
Hey, you there, I see you like our Top 10’s! That’s great, but we need your help now. We are thinking of writing up our Top 10’s as an eBook. Interested? Let us know what you would like to see in our Top 10 eBook!