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!
Mooo-ve over goats, it’s time to pay our respects to the bovine beasties of the world with our next list. Trot on over to your seats ladies and gentlemen, as it’s Saturday and that can only mean it’s time for another strange collection to graze through. Selected by you, we’ll prove we’ve got no beef with this weeks choice. We’re not playing around when it comes to milking these puns today, it’s time for our Top 10 Cows!
Ah yes, the Tauren of Warcraft are an incredibly nomadic people. These huge humanoids resemble cows and bulls, akin to that of a Minotaur. The difference with these folk are their shamanistic and druidic ways, as opposed to a typical Minotaur view of solitude and isolation, making the Tauren a lot more of a herd mentality that we’re used to from cows in general. The Tauren are a noble people, who sided with the Orcs and their Horde.
One interesting point about the Tauren is their strange relationship to the Night Elves. On the one hand, war separates the two, yet they’re both keen on the protection of the Earth. If only these two races kept to themselves; perhaps fel energies wouldn’t be so present there on Azeroth. Coming in only at number 10, the Tauren are one of the more neglected, but certainly lovable aspects of Warcraft.
9. The Brazen Bull
Torture is a terribly creative affair, it’s incredible the ways we find to bring each other pain. The bronze bull or Sicilian bull was devised a means of executing prisoners by imprisoning them in a metal sculpture that is slowly heated until the victim is cooked to death, oh but that’s not the creepiest part. Smoke was allowed to curl out of the beast’s nostrils, and a series of pipes and tubes made the horrified screams emerge as the enraged howling of the bull.
If you want to see exactly how horrific that can be, watch Immortals by Tarsem Singh, it’s a rather superb take on a classic Greek tale, but it’s also rather gruesome. Magic: the Gathering also brought out a Brazen Bull card entitled Deserter’sQuarters. And as if Amnesia wasn’t creepy enough, there’s even a haunted Bull in the torture chambers that still screams when a fire is lit beneath it.
8. Cow – Cow and Chicken
The cartoon series that featured the grotesque and childish mishaps and happenings of the brother sister team, hard-done-by 11 year old Chicken and his overly emotional 7 year old sister Cow. While Chicken largely tries to ignore or berate his sister he cannot escape the fact that he is literally overshadowed by the big, fat and ugly cow he is charged with protecting.
Cow is massive, loving, easily brought to fits of hysteria or bouts of tears, either accompanied by an emotional moo. Considering their neglectful and unhinged parents it’s little wonder that the unlikely siblings have issues of their own, although it probably doesn’t help that they share a creator with Ren and Stimpy.
7. #241 Miltank – Pokemon
When Miltank was released upon the Pokemon franchise, at first I thought it was going to be a bit of a joke Pokemon, not really understanding the meta-game importance it would achieve. Even to this day, a well trained Miltank can seriously soften a blow for a team that needs the time to set up. This beefy, tanky cow is able to withstand some really devastating attacks from many different types.
Miltank isn’t anything special really; but the fact it was such a sturdy tank for so long and can still soak up the damage is testament to how well this bovine Pokemon has fit in with the franchise. Whether it’s surviving by the skin of its teeth and drinking… Er… It’s own milk to recover health, or if it’s the surprisingly useful move set that jumps out at you, don’t worry: Miltank will never be forgotten as one of the greatest assets from Generation 2.
6. The Secret Cow Level – Diablo 2
If you’ve never heard of the Secret Cow level, then you’ve either never played Diablo 2 or you’ve never used Google before. The Secret Cow level is an Easter Egg of mythical proportions, a secret passed down from player to player and even from Diablo to Diablo (only it sometimes changes forms to other things, such as rainbow unicorns and ponies in the process).
The Secret Cow Level requires you to get the Horadric Cube and to place inside of it Wirt’s Leg, a seemingly useless item from Tristram and with it, put a Tome of Town Portal in there with it. Transmute the items together and a red gate will appear, as if conjured up by hell itself. This only happens when you’ve beaten Diablo and are taken back to the Rogue Encampment for the first time. Do not select a higher level of difficulty, for you’ll have to beat that ones Diablo. Be prepared, as these cows are tough, wielding halberds and polearms of all sorts… But the treasures beyond the portal are immeasurable.
5. Ballistic Cow/Fetchez la Vache – Monty Python and the Holy Grail
We have a Holy Grail, it’s very nice, but you cannot come in to see it. Now go away or we shall taunt you a second time! Or hurl livestock at you via trebuchet, or possibly mangonel.
In the same way that this flung cattle is the opening salvo in a barrage of assorted debris, clutter and livestock, this is one of the many, many, many many, manymany MANY jokes from Holy Grail that would seemingly live forever in the form of a wide variety of weaponised cows, many of whom appear on this list! It may not be the most famous part of the scene, but it’s perhaps the most parodied.
And this one is for your mother.
4. Cow Launched – Earthworm Jim
Considered one of the weirdest plot devices in all of video game history, Earthworm Jim is about an earthworm, named Jim, who becomes super powerful whenever he puts on his intergalactic suit. With the universe in danger from Queen Slug-For-A-Butt, Jim sets out to go and save Princess Whats-Her-Name and to hopefully steal a smooch from her. Little did he know, his dreams of smooching the damsel would be completely smooshed.
In a weird twist, the princess is flattened by a cow that falls from outer space. Jim, beside himself, leaves the scene… Only to return to steal her crown after the land has cracked away at the cow and the princess. But why would a cow fall from space like that? Back in the first level, a trap is set up to force you to progress the game. The trap forces you to launch the same cow into orbit, where you see the cow travelling by at insane speeds throughout the game. Crazy, silly ending, for a crazy, silly game.
3. Cows & Cows & Cows and Moo – Cyriak
Cows & Cows & Cows is a video featuring a large bunch of cows in a field, perhaps even a whole herd of cows. They start to moo in a rather catchy rhythm, mooing cheerily, but somewhat eerily too. They then start to bounce around in silly manners – Oh the joy in those moos. But then, suddenly, the joyful bouncing turns into weird shapes, such as spider cows… And even puddle cows. Very odd. Moo is just as odd, featuring aliens and cows fighting it out for… Something.
It’s really hard to explain what makes these videos (and thus Cyriak) such a highly talented piece of animation. But hey, Cyriak’s YouTube ventures, including both Cows & Cows & Cows and Moo saw his animation expertise be snapped up by both the BBC AND Adult Swim. Who would have ever thought that making some cow-monstrosities would create such an impressive career?
2. Angel/Demon Cow – Black and White
Black & White was a highly anticipated game by Lionhead Studios, who recently shut down for good. It’s a shame, as Lionhead produced some amazing games, such as Black & White and of course, the legendary Fable series. WIth this said, the cow in Black & White was hilarious in many respects. This was a cow that could be bigger than a mountain; or “only” as tall as a building. This was a cow that could be good and heal the sick, or be rotten by healing the sick… then eating them. It could inflict pain like no other, or it could help those who truly were in need. This cow was not only a godsend: It was a literal avatar of a god put on Earth.
This was a close call, having almost made this our number one pick… However, it just loses out because this simply isn’t as well known as our number one choice. That was the only determining factor between the avatar of a god and our next choice…
1. Minotaur – Mythology
Asterion, the bull of Minos, was the misbegotten child of Pasiphae and the Cretan Bull, sent as a curse upon King Minos for failing to sacrifice the bull. In his dispair Minos commanded Asterion imprisoned in a labyrinth, to be slain years later by Theseus, a son of Poseidon. The minotaur is also one of the first things most people think of when they hear the words Greek Myth.
Minotaurs have entered gaming circles as an entire species of evil carnivores bent on destruction. It may be a misappropriation of the source material but it’s one that’s spread throughout the fantasy genre and has built something of a mythology around themselves. A playable race in D&D, a pivotal race in Magic’s plane Theros, and in the mythology based RPG Titan Quest you can fight your way through a horde of the beasts to kill the original beneath the palace of Knossos.
Was there really another choice for geekiest cow? Well yes, it got pretty close with the Avatar in Black and White. In the end it was the far reach and cultural impact of the bullheaded maneater that won out the number one slot.
That wasn’t so bad now, was it? Now that these Moo-vers and shakers have been shuffled along, it’s time for two more to be mentioned. There’s always a couple of layabouts in a large herd. So whether it’s all about being punny, or it’s all about hoofing over another ‘potential’ for our list, here are two more that just deserved to be mentioned.
Bison – Street Fighter
BECAUSE HE’S A BISON?
I am so sorry. Bad pun it may be, but it is nerdy, and it’s kind of an interesting piece of trivia. The powerful crime lord in the red military garb is actually named Vega in the original Japanese, the masked fighter with the claws is named Balrog, making the original M. Bison the pugilist we know better as Balrog. The name swap was brought about by the unapologetic similarity to Mike Tyson.
But no matter which Bison you know, both are almost comically exaggerated combatants, and regular antagonists of the series. The boxer is a dirty fighter, and cheats to land bigger paychecks, but the head of the operation has a real god complex that has driven him to pursuing the dark Psycho Power beyond his physical limits.
Not exactly cows, but we couldn’t resist.
Mad Cow – Worms
Amongst the wide variety of brilliantly ridiculous weaponry at the disposal of the heavily armed invertebrates are a collection of barnyard animals, including the sheep, super sheep, concrete donkey, and of course the Mad Cow.
Not the most devastating, not the easiest to control, but a rather interesting balance of the two. Point and shoot to unleash a stampede of wildly trampling cows that detonate on impact, y’know, like cows do. The problem is what they might make contact with, one badly angled launch can be result in a devastating backlash or a heartbreaking waste, but I have seen some rather effective uses by dropping cows from a grappling hook.
I’ve gone mad from all of this cow-talk. So give yourselves a pat, you’ve seriously made us need to farm through the banks of our memories for this one. But don’t think you’ve defeated us, because once again we rose to the occasion and we’ve come up with a list that is definitively GeekOut and is as barn-y as we are. Oh, I really should stop with milking these puns. Take a moment to help us pick our next Top 10:
Don’t have a cow man, that’s the end of our list for this week. Whether or not you had fun trotting through this list, or if you now have some personal beef with us for forgetting your favourite cow, let us know in the comments below. Do you agree with our ordering of these shapely creatures, or do you think we’ve forgotten one all together? Alternatively, share your bovine frustrations with us over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.