The 5 Most Elaborately Hidden Video Game Easter Eggs
For the most part, secrets in video games are difficult to find, but not impossible. After all, the point of sticking something neat in a video game is for people to find it and bathe in its hot, sticky awesomeness. Some developers, however, prefer to hide their secrets like you would hide your particularly shameful pornography. As a result, it can take years before anyone finds them. Like ...
Underground Duck Racing in Shenmue II
Despite Shenmue's laudable, perhaps excessive, attempts at immersion (who plays games to "realistically" get a part-time job?), there is one moment that breaks it all. We are referring, of course, to the underground duck racing circuit.
That's not Engrish. It's just a totally accurate description of events.
And as you can see, it's quite the dignified affair.
They never mention the ducks in the main game, nor do they even hint at the many ridiculous steps required to find them. To start, you need to talk to two random NPCs on opposite sides of the map, in places you have no reason to visit. Once you speak to them, walk down an obscure back alley, and pick up a bronze medal featuring a schoolgirl's face.
Or pick up actual women from elsewhere in the lot. Your choice.
Whoa there, partner! Don't spend that schoolgirl token at the used-panty machine just yet -- you need to use it to unlock the third floor of a local arcade. Inside the arcade is a fight club featuring the two NPCs you spoke to earlier. You must beat the tar out of them to continue and, of course, they're the toughest fighters in the game. Even though one of them is an unassuming shopkeeper. Once you win, you get the silver medal, and the shopkeeper introduces you to duck racing. You can bet on your favorite duck and everything, but no matter how often you win, you won't get the gold medal until you win with your own duck. Where do you get a duck? Why, from the duck tree, of course!
"Oh great, they're still in season!"
Yep: There's a duck stuck up in a random tree, apparently so drunk it's forgotten it has wings, and it's your job to knock him to the ground. Of course, to even see the duck, you must first catch several leaves from the tree at once. So this whole secret is all really banking on the player having severe, crippling ADHD, basically.
"My greatest regret is that my father didn't live to see this."
The Secret Rules That Control Every Pokemon Game
Since the series debut in 1996, Pokemon has featured hundreds of different creatures that you can abduct and force into combative slavery for your own amusement. Obviously, each species is different, since that's kind of the point. But as it turns out, every single individual Pokemon, even those within the same species, is also different. That's right: Those are unique snowflakes that you're stuffing into tiny, cramped prisons. Each has its own personality, complete with hopes and dreams, or at least, they used to, before you came along ...
And before they came along, you had a personality, hopes, and dreams.
The game's creators pulled this off by installing two hidden statistics that you never see, access, or hear about. Well, not unless you hack the game and change the internal poke-clock, which has been essentially deciding the fate of the game in secret while you toiled away in the long grass, kidnapping squirrels, thinking you're in charge. The statistics are called effort values and individual values (EV and IV if you're nasty.) EV secretly builds each time you defeat another Pokemon, but at least you have some influence over that one. You have less control over IV, which consist of the numbers between zero and 31 assigned at random, yet IV influences every single Pokemon's final stats. In other words, two identical Pokemon born at the same time, raised in the same way, and with the same kill record, will still be different from one another because your machine rolled invisible dice two different ways.
"Pikachu" is Japanese for "illusory choice; the futility of effort."
In short: Life is arbitrary, and you could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Gotta catch 'em all!
Street Fighter's Hadouken and Shoryuken Hidden in the Mega Man X Series
In case 40 or so different Street Fighter games isn't enough Ryu and Ken for you, Capcom generously stuck their signature maneuvers, the Hadouken and Shoryuken, into the first two Mega Man X games. And all you have to do to get them is absolutely everything.
Mega Man X-1 offers up the Hadouken, which is the strongest attack in the game by far. Save for the final boss, it can destroy anything in just one hit. Before you can start your quest for ultimate power, however, you must first collect every single power-up and weapon in the game. Then, return to the Armored Armadillo stage (all the evil robot bosses are also giant animals, like something out of a Luddite zoologist's nightmares) and jump to an off-screen, completely unadvertised platform containing an energy pellet. Grab the pellet and then commit suicide.
Bad pellets'll do that to you, brah.
Seriously, the Hadouken appears only after you've collected the same pellet four times, so you might as well jump to your horrible, violent death and start all over. After three deaths, go back to the cliff, receive your Hadouken, and question exactly how much free time you have on your hands these days.
"I keep a sunlamp on to keep the rickets manageable."
The path to Shoryuken Heaven in Mega Man X-2 is just as insane. First, collect every item in the game again. Then, go to the second stage of Sigma Castle. Freeze a bat in order to climb up an otherwise-inaccessible ladder that just about nobody saw.
Scientifically possible, because of sonar.
Navigate some spikes by freezing more bats (what, you didn't think "frozen bat" was a viable method of locomotion?), jump down a chasm, and slide down the left wall until you fall into a completely hidden passageway. This leads to the Shoryuken that, again, kills just about anything with one hit.
And transports you back to those magical few weeks when Wayne's World references were fresh and cool.
Final Fantasy VIII's Pupu the Alien
RPGs are usually chock full of meaningless side quests, presumably to distract you from the crushing burden of saving the world with only your teenage crush and a talking cat-penguin to assist you. But few are as obscure as the ones in Final Fantasy VIII and IX. The former features a game-spanning event called "Pupu the Alien," where you stalk a UFO for really no apparent reason, other than that you giggle every time its name comes on screen. Seriously, the only hints that Pupu even exists are contained in one issue of "Occult Fan," an in-game magazine that you can access only by repeatedly examining a stack of unrelated magazines. Which, we should note, you would be doing instead of fighting epic monsters with magic. The clues the magazine provides are obtuse and vague, yet from them you must deduce the four annoyingly precise locations where the alien lurks.
The beamed-up cow is located "in a field, somewhere."
Eventually, Pupu's ship attacks you, but you're not done after defeating it and blowing up its ship -- of course not! What are you, using logic and reason to dictate a reward-based player incentive? Idiot. No, after defeating the alien you found out about only after leafing through in-game magazines and Sherlocking a series of shakily translated clues, you have to wander to another unadvertised area to find the alien itself.
You can attack him and gain an item for defeating him, but you want to see this secret through to the end. What happens if you give him the five elixirs (rare and expensive healing potions) he's asking for?
He pays you? He joins you? His skull dong goes erect?
Why, he ... leaves! Sweet. Well worth the time. Oh, but what's this? He dropped something! Finally, some payoff! It's a playing card, which you can use in another mini-game located within the game that you're already not really playing anymore.
Rescue Seals in Splinter Cell: Double Agent
If you told us that Splinter Cell: Double Agent had a secret side mission where you rescued seals, we'd say "cool" and agree that it makes perfect sense, Cell being a military game and all. Until, of course, you clarified that you meant actual seals. Baby ones. Who are ... also aliens. Then we would move down one seat on the bench and politely ask you to stop talking until the bus came.
We can't take our car. There's a seal in the trunk.
In a mission so secretive nobody noticed it until the guy who created it uploaded a tutorial, a race of alien baby seals with names like Muffin and Cookie ask you to return them to their home planet. Yes, that's for real. That's actually coded into this deadly game of espionage and intrigue. Luckily, you (the super-secret black ops soldier) have nothing better to do with your time and agree to help. Of course, first you have to find them. That's not an easy task, because not only does the game not hint at the seals' location, you can access them only while in two-player campaign mode. So now you have to convince a friend to help you play hide and seek with gibberish animals instead of stealth-killing terrorists. The process is lengthy and random, requiring constant backtracking to fetch specific items to gain each seal's trust. What items, you may ask? Why, things like reading glasses, flowers, and party hats, of course. Y'know, seal stuff.
You would put a party hat on a seal if you could. Don't front.
You had better give the right item to the right seal, though -- these adorable aliens are fussy, and if you mess up even once, you lose. The entire process takes about 30 minutes, but that's only if you know exactly what to do. If you're just winging it -- like, say you've stumbled onto these seals purely by accident, thinking the plot to your spy game sure took a weird turn -- you might well be playing for the rest of your life. But the sweet, sweet reward's totally worth it, right? Nope! The Seal Princess descends from the heavens, gives you a quick atta-boy, and then leaves. No money, no special powers, not even a tasty mackerel for performing your tricks so well.
See, this is why human-seal diplomacy is on such shaky ground these days.
Karl is currently the lead writer and researcher over at Fact Fiend, so you can find more work from him there.
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Related Reading: While we're on the subject of easter eggs, check out Skyrim's room of the dead. And of course there's the wandering ghost in Hitman. Hungry for more? We've got it.