There’s a special blend of satisfaction and smugness that comes with discovering and deciphering a digital Easter egg. The very best are substantial enough to be interesting yet subtle enough to provoke that feeling of pervading intelligence in your bolstering ego. Gaming has long played home to a richly dense history of Easter eggs in a way that no other medium really can.Be it a designer’s homage to the game that inspired them, or a bitchy programmer’s slight toward a polarizing gaming mascot, these little nuggets of intertextuality often serve as the sweetening garnish to our favourite games.
We here at Power up Gaming will grab at any excuse to rant about the cream of the crop; so what better excuse than Easter Sunday? With that, we have taken a brief respite from encrusting our arteries with chocolate in order to bring together a handy directory of some of gaming’s funniest, bitchiest and nostalgia-stuffed Easter eggs.
No Cloud, No Squall – Final Fantasy IX (2000)
Remember when you were searching high and low for eggs during Easter, only for one would appear right in front of your eyes, hiding in plain sight? This little line of dialogue is the video game equivalent of that sugar-rush-induced, thrilling moment.
In one of the very last scenes of the game, the Tantalus theatre crew returns to Alexandria to perform the play from the game’s opening moments, bringing the story full circle. Zidane, playing the role of Marcus, makes plans to elope with his lover, Cornelia. To demonstrate his determination, he proclaims to Cornelia, “No cloud, no squall shall hinder us!”
FF9 is one of our favourite titles in the series, but it usually plays second (or third) fiddle to 7 and 8. This little tribute at the end of the game feels like a younger brother taking pride in its older siblings’ accomplishments, and, as one of the very last lines of dialogue, it is a perfect way to wrap up the PS1 Final Fantasy trilogy.
Ghosts – Metal Gear Solid (1998)
In a game series that is characterised by crazy secrets, the original Metal Gear Solid holds one of the more surprising Easter eggs for any budding photographers out there.
Part way through the game, Snake receives a digital camera which allows the player to take snaps and save them to a memory card. What players might not realise is that this camera has the ability to peer through our mortal realm, unveiling ghosts in spots where you wouldn’t expect. Some are rather benign, but some are just downright creepy.
Of course, these aren’t just any old ghosts, but are actually superimposed pictures of the developers themselves. For those who are looking for Hideo Kojima’s ethereal roll call, you can find his spooky mugshot by taking a picture of the Policenauts poster in Otacon’s lab (one of Kojima’s previous games). While ghosts may appear in various guises over the course of the MGS series, this original incarnation remains our personal favourite.
The Golden Chicken – Gears Of War 3 (2011)
In the final chapter of Delta Squad’s struggle against the Locust hordes, you’d think that Marcus and company would have very little else to fear than legions of underground armies. However, a humble chicken provides one of the game’s tougher and, frankly, surprising moments.
By standing next to the four pipes on the boat level in sequence, Marcus will shout into each one. Once you’ve done this to all four, a humble chicken will appear. Shoot the chicken, and it will transform into a giant, golden, fire-breathing chicken.
For some reason, Gears of War 3 contains more than one poultry-related Easter egg, including one where you receive a hidden weapon known as “The Cluckshot”. Is this a hidden meaning behind the franchise? Or maybe Cliff Blezinski just has a fetish for fowl. Either way, this is one of the funniest and most bizarre Easter eggs in video games.
First Ever Easter Egg – Adventure (1979)
Back in 1979, Atari seldom credited its authors for their work. Indignant at being left in the dark, Adventure creator Warren Robinett introduced possibly the earliest Easter egg to the world. By manipulating an ‘invisible’ dot (actually the same colour as the background) in seminal fantasy game Adventure, gamers could access the secret credits room, pictured above.
Although Atari discovered they’d had the wool pulled over their eyes after a young fan wrote a letter to them detailing the secret, they decided against re-releasing the game without the cheeky message, due to the prohibitive cost of manufacturing a new memory chip (then $10,000).
According to Robinett, the use of the term “Easter egg” to refer to such secrets was coined by Atari staff as the discovery of his message reminded them of traditional chocolate hunts.
Secret Blueprints – Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)
An Easter egg so well hidden the game’s creators actually had to publicise it themselves after six months of gamers failing to spot it, the warden’s secret room in Batman: Arkham Asylum contained the blueprints for Arkham City, which would become the game’s sequel.
Tucked away behind a wall in Warden Quincy’s Sharp’s office, the room and its entrance don’t feature in any maps nor can be spotted using Batman’s detective vision; in fact, they are only accessible via several crafty applications of explosive gel.
Literal Easter Egg – Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002)
With Grand Theft Auto’s open-ended game worlds offering countless opportunities for developers to hide away secrets, Rockstar really excelled themselves in 2002’s Vice City. A hidden room near the VCN building, accessible via a seemingly innocuous window, contains the ultimate hidden extra: a literal, chocolate Easter egg on a stand!
Easter Bunny – Saints Row 2 (2008)
Clearly taking cues from Rockstar, THQ went one step further than a chocolate egg in Saints Row 2. By following the directions provided on a number of tiny ruinous islands, players were able to get up close and personal with a giant-sized Easter bunny! Utterly pointless and yet so much fun.
Indiana Jones’ Skeleton – Fallout: New Vegas (2010)
One of our favourite Easter eggs in recent years came in Fallout: New Vegas, where, with the Wild Wasteland trait enabled, players could encounter a fridge containing a skeleton and, unmistakably, the fedora of Indiana Jones! In a game littered with popular culture references, this is undoubtedly our pick of the bunch.
While this Easter egg poked fun at Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in which Harrison Ford’s influential character rather ridiculously takes refuge inside a lead-lined refrigerator to protect himself from an atomic explosion, Obsidian parodied many other films in the game including Forrest Gump, Anchorman and RoboCop.
You Weren’t Supposed to Get Here! – Grand Theft Auto III (2001)
In a series littered with Easter eggs, the revolutionary PS2 open world game Grand Theft Auto III features one particularly ingenious secret. By climbing on a vehicle to scale a ten-foot wall, adventurous players were rewarded for reaching the hard-to-reach area with the message pictured above.
In the game’s PSP prequel, Liberty City Stories, gamers were greeted in the same spot by a sign reading, “Hello again!” with a giant smiley face. Not only that, but the title’s PS2 port featured a different message, appropriately reading: “You just can’t get enough of this alley, can you?”
Timmy Vermicelli – Driv3r (2004)
In an Easter egg that just failed to make our list, Grand Theft Auto III saw the inclusion of a character based on John Tanner, protagonist of the rival Driver series. Referred to as being “useless out of his car” and given a female pedestrian’s running animation, Rockstar took aim at the lack of on-foot abilities afforded to players in Driver 2. However, Reflections hit back hard in PS2 entry Driv3r with the inclusion of a pedestrian character heavily based on Vice City’s Tommy Vercetti, complete with Hawaiian shirt and water wings; poking fun of the inability to swim in the GTA series.
The joke was ultimately on Atari in the end though, as Driv3r bombed and was universally panned by critics, while Grand Theft Auto continues to be one of the most popular series today.
Hidden Rant – The New Tetris (1999)
Although messages hidden in game ROMs have been around almost as long as ROMs themselves, the late David Pridie – one of the main programmers on the New Tetris for the N64 – undoubtedly takes the title for most epic secret message.
Well, less of a message and more of an expletive-laden diatribe against his co-workers and their apparent incompetence, Pridie apparently thought his closing statement (he would soon jump ship from H2O to 3DO) would take years for hackers to uncover. However, within three days of release, the full text would be published online, the highlights of which can be summed up as follows:
“Well boys and girls, I just thought I would immortalize some thoughts I have at the moment into a rom which will be burned forever…
“This game sucks.”
Sackboy – The Order: 1886 (2015)
Easter eggs featuring Sony’s loveable LittleBigPlanet mascot Sackboy aren’t really anything new, with the iconic character having being hidden away before in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception back in 2011. However, his latest appearance as an inspectable item in Ready At Dawn’s divisive Victorian London shooter The Order: 1886 came as a very cool surprise.
The cute little doll can be found in an empty building you explore in the Eyes in the Sky portion of Chapter 3, sitting on a dresser. Picking him up even counts towards your overall collectibles total.
Codec Calls – Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008)
Snake showed up for the first and possibly final time in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and along with him came a Metal Gear-themed level, which was soundtracked by some of the franchise’s most epic music. But who would’ve thought that by pressing the taunt button twice when playing as Snake on the stage in question, players would get a bunch of unique codec calls that give some of the iconic character’s interesting thoughts on his foes?
Players can learn his deep respect for Luigi, his desire to eat a Yoshi, and his unwavering disdain for Sonic (an emotion that’s seen a big boom lately). They can also hear him fawn after each of the women in the game; his desire to take off his gear to catch Zero Suit Samus is particularly disturbing. Snake has never let the disturbing hold him back, though!
What are some of your favourite gaming secrets and Easter eggs? Let us know which we’ve missed out in the comments below!