The 6 Best Video Games Lurking Inside Other Video Games
Nowadays, every hidden video game Easter egg gets posted online about four hours after the game is released, complete with a YouTube tutorial showing you how to find it. But back when the internet was mostly a collection of Star Trek erotica, developers could create elaborate secrets -- including entire levels and game modes -- and then bury them so deep that any players who discovered them would wonder if they were having a very specific stroke.
In fact, sometimes those Easter eggs were actually better (or at least, more interesting) than the game itself. So it's kind of weird to think of how many players never knew that ...
Star Wars: Shadows Of The Empire Secretly Let You Play As The Bad Guys
In the N64 classic Shadows Of The Empire, you play as Hans So-- uh, Dash Rendar, and battle both the villainous Prince Xizor and the N64's terrible draw distance.
For non-gamers, that means anything more than ten feet in front of your character was a terrifying void.
After the legally required Hoth levels, the game becomes a straightforward romp through the B-list locales of the Star Wars universe. But if you resist the temptation to name your profile POOP_FARTWALKER and instead insert the name "_Wampa__Stompa," you can control various baddies during the Hoth and Echo Base missions, making the game approximately ten times more interesting. As the cheat code implies, you can take control of a wampa (the snow monster that kidnaps Luke at the start of Empire) and go on a rampage throughout the base.
"Excuse me, it's my first time here. Where's the bathro-- AIIIIIIII!"
You can also mindjack a snowtrooper, or get in the pilot seat of an AT-ST and stomp around while feeling all the power a mechanical chicken can offer you.
"Just saying, maybe we should add some guns to the side and back, sir."
Aside from the well-accepted fact that the Empire's forces are simply cooler, the cheat essentially lets you turn the game into Rampage: Star Wars Edition. Because while you probably never gave that movie wampa a second thought, now you can see their endless potential for violent chaos.
"And this is what we're like when we're sober."
Indiana Jones And The Infernal Machine Let You Reenact The First Movie As A Hidden Reward
Of all the terrible Indiana Jones games, Indiana Jones And The Infernal Machine is considered both one of the better ones and the one that sounds the most like a rock opera. The game is mostly about beating the Soviets to the recovery of a powerful artifact, but you can unlock a bonus level which gives players the only thing they've ever wanted out of an Indy game: the ability to play through the opening temple expedition from Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
To unlock "Return to Peru," you have to collect all 1,500 of the game's I.Q. points. Those are Indy Quotient points, which we guess measure ... how Indy you are? The point is that it's hard to do that, but if do you collect 'em all, you're treated to a level in which you can go back and get a second golden idol, because it seems that temple was overflowing with swag.
"Also, I think I left my mailbox key there. I mean, I've looked all over and this is the only place left."
This isn't a lazily tacked-on quickie -- the faithful recreation takes a solid 40 minutes to complete, and it's an inexplicable Marion nude scene away from being crammed full of every bit of fanservice a player could ask for. You find the now thoroughly decomposed remains of the guide who was killed by the spear trap ...
... the tunnel of spiders ...
... the original idol room ...
... and, of course, there's another giant boulder, because the natives apparently stacked a bunch up like a gumball machine.
Well, not so much "boulder" as "massive 20-sided die," but you get the idea.
The level is so large that it even has its own Easter egg: a hidden room that references Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Only the fact that Indy's voice actor inexplicably sounds like a stern meter maid keeps it from being a picture-perfect remake, but it's still more than enough for anyone who watched Raiders and immediately pictured themselves running around the jungle with a whip.
Medal Of Honor: Underground Had A Surreal Hidden Level At The End
In Medal Of Honor: Underground, you play as a French woman who singlehandedly kicks the Nazis out of her country. It's about as gritty and realistic as a game that looks like it was constructed entirely out of subpar papier-mache can be.
You need a health pack every time you use the gun, due to paper cut blood loss.
But if you earn the rank of "Excellent" on the final level, you unlock a secret level called "Panzerknacker Unleashed," which looks like Indiana Jones' laudanum-induced fever dream. After hearing a horrific distress call from an abandoned Nazi lab, you investigate the castle and find it overrun with dancing dogs ...
... supernatural Nazi knights ...
... and the dreaded Nazi zombie.
Walking Goosestepping Dead
Then there's the titular Panzerknacker, which translates into "Tank Cracker." If you guessed that this is some sort of super rocket launcher, were you not paying attention to the magic Nazi knights? No, it's a giant robot nutcracker which you build to fight alongside you.
"Let them try to teabag me. See what happens."
You and your new robot buddy team up to battle evil nutcrackers ...
... and your adventure concludes with a battle against a Nazi tank. Not to detract from the heroics of the French Underground, but their story gets a lot more exciting when sentient armed ballet characters are introduced.
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter Had A Code That Unlocked An Artsy Pen And Ink Mode
As we alluded to earlier, a common tool in early 3D games was "distance fog," which disguised the fact that the hardware only had the power to render the area immediately surrounding the player by making every game look like it was set on a Scottish moor. And one game that especially relied on fog was Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, because attempting to display a majestic herd of dinosaurs far off on the horizon would have made the N64 start uttering screechy prayers for death.
"They do move in ... ones."
So while Turok is fun and all, playing it feels like your hero is suffering from a bad case of cataracts. Unless you turn on Pen and Ink Mode, in which case it feels like you're an art student who dropped a ton of acid in a paleontology museum.
All you have to do is enter "DLKTDR" (That's "I'd like to draw" without the vowels. Or the 'W.' Or the apostrophe. It might just be a big mess of letters), and suddenly the game looks smoother and more stylized than the array of polygons and dull colors it was before.
The dull enemy AI remained.
The N64's notorious slowdown issues become much less noticeable when the game is reduced to looking like the doodles on your fifth-grade social studies notebook came to radical life. And, best of all, your erotic Turok fanfiction is suddenly justified by the fact that Turok's loincloth looks like a big floppy dick.
"I can use it as a melee weapon when I'm out of ammo."
SimAnt Becomes SimLaserSpider With The Right Cheat Code
SimAnt is a game in which you guide an ant colony in a war against their rivals. It didn't get the many sequels that SimCity did, possibly because it came out too early for a marketing tie-in with Archer, but it's hard to deny the appeal of creating an ant empire so mighty that it drives a man to sell his house in anger and madness.
Although that might have had something to do with the fact that the ants could talk.
You controlled one ant at a time and could switch between any in your colony at the touch of a button, but what the game didn't tell you is that you could also seize control of the spiders with the same command. And if that doesn't sound impressive to you, keep in mind that to an ant, spiders are the equivalent of the dragons in Skyrim.
Except more people freak out at the sight of them.
In a game which emphasizes how frequently and brutally ants die, being able to take control of the spider is like suddenly gaining control of your very own slasher movie villain. You can devastate your enemies, turn on your friends and suck their guts out like a maniac, or randomly stomp around the yard as an avatar of pure destruction, or at least until the lawnmower runs you over.
"God save the Queen!"
Oh, and with the right cheat code, you can also make the spider shoot deadly lasers.
No one show this game to Jon Peters.
Why isn't secretly being able to control a laser spider an option in every game?
On a similar note ...
Command & Conquer: Red Alert Lets You Fight Giant Ants If You Click The Right Area Of The Title Screen
Red Alert is a strategy game based on the idea that Albert Einstein built a time machine, went back and killed a young Adolf Hitler, and in doing so accidentally turned the Cold War into a very hot one. So C&C: Accidental Soviet Invasion Factory is a serious game ... unless you stumble across the first expansion's secret campaign, called "It Came From Red Alert," at which point it turns into a wacky B-movie.
If you consult the game's weird, unorthodox paperback tutorial (our research suggests it's called a manual?), you'll notice Morse code messages at the bottom of every page.
"I swear, if this is about Ovaltine ..."
Most readers would assume that it's merely meant to add to the manual's military vibe, but anyone who decided to put aside their fun new game and instead translate 94 pages' worth of Morse code would be rewarded with a story about Allied forces stumbling across a lethal army of giant, radioactive ants.
"WHERE ARE YOUR LASER SPIDERS NOW?!"
Note that the little story gave absolutely no hint as to how to proceed from there, although obviously you hold down the shift key while clicking on the speaker icon in the options menu. If you were somehow lucky enough to have a kid at school tell you this and not dismiss him as another con artist like the guy who told you how to see Lara Croft's boobs, you'd get to experience a hilariously straight-faced four-mission campaign wherein the Allies battle giant, sometimes fire-breathing ants.
"In hindsight, science really should have saved that name."
You have to survive a tense initial mass attack, rescue civilians, gas ant nests, and then hunt down and exterminate the lightning-spewing queen ant and her larvae deep in the bowels of an abandoned Soviet laboratory. It's like the developers heard Starship Troopers was coming out and said, "Hey, let's make the official video game for free, but not tell anyone."
"Also, let's make it better than the movie."
This was the late '90s, when the internet was still a hodgepodge of misinformation which many gamers couldn't access anyway, so countless players would never have had a clue that this campaign existed. And while today it would be sold as 15-dollar DLC with more bugs than the ones you kill with tanks, back then they just threw it in because they thought it would be fun. We guess the lesson is that greed is the real giant killer ants.
For horrors developers buried in their games, check out 7 Creepy Video Game Easter Eggs We Wish We Never Found and 7 More Creepy Video Game Easter Eggs You'll Wish We Never Found.
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Angels are real, and they are bad frickin' news. Robert Brockway's Vicious Circuit series is a punk rock, dark fantasy full of horror and humor. Check out the first two books, and pre-order the third, Kill All Angels, available December 26th.