One of those elements of gaming that can be fun to get into at times are finding “Easter Eggs”. These are defined as intentionally hidden elements in a game that maybe were an inside joke, a message that isn’t supposed to show up in the course of the game (in text or an image that could fit the joke idea or perhaps it was some other statement that didn’t have much to do with the game like credits or a political message), a hidden mini-game, etc. You have to pull off some tricks or specific commands to access/unlock them, they differ from cheat codes in that codes are generally made to change the game in some major way (invincibility, unlimited lives, and so on). I think that Eggs are usually a little more convoluted to access than a cheat code but it’s hard to say sometimes.
These most famously came into the cultural conscientiousness with the hidden text found inside of the Atari 2600 game Adventure, and while it is usually credited as having the first Egg, hidden stuff like it in video games had happened previously. Here is a video showing how to unlock the Egg in Adventure:
Consider this an open thread to discuss your favorite Easter Eggs found in video arcade games (or if you know about them, those in pinball games). Here are a few I know of; I certainly doubt that all eggs have been discovered but the process of searching for them is part of the fun. Here is good list found on Digit Press. Not all of it covers Easter Eggs, many of the items just cover interesting info, bugs or tricks. Still it is a good read that can take up some time to sort through.
For some I know of:
Anti-Aircraft II (Atari, 1975) – This is partially a hack and an Easter Egg as you have to slightly modify the hardware board to see it. However the code is included in the game and it is undocumented, which generally fits the bill of what an Easter Egg is. Normally the game is about shooting down airplanes that cross the screen but if you cut the ground trace on a certain component, the game will display images of UFOs instead.
Orbit (Atari, 1978) – Before Adventure had done it, Owen Rubin, Lyle Rains and a couple of others that worked on the project had their initials hidden inside the game for this raster version of a Space War type game. It would soon become very common to find programmer initials hidden in games afterwards as Easter Eggs; Orbit also originally had a cheat code that would allow you to play a free game which Owen had designed just for himself but after he tried it out one day thinking that no one was around, he found people using it a week later and so he removed it.
Deluxe Space Invaders (Taito/Midway, 1980)- In addition to a trick of pushing buttons during the attract mode to show the Taito Corp. message (Namco did this as well on their games, which at the time were licensed out to US manufacturers to release on the market), the player could unlock a different intermission screen by shooting the different saucers types in a certain pattern. That showed the “Engine Trouble” intermission.
Messages on Various Arcade Circuit Boards – If you grab certain arcade PCB circuit boards produced by companies like Atari Games and a few pinball PCBs and take a close look, you can find some funny messages printed right on them. A sound board used in Rush The Rock and T-Mek had “I WISH YOU WERE A BEER” printed on it. An Area 51 board had “I’M NOT DEAD YET” (a quote from Monty Python) while another A51 board had “MMM…DONUTS” on it. Area 51: Site 4 had “WELL, THIS RATES ABOUT A NINE ON MY WIERD SH*T-O-METER”. A few pinball PCBs also had fun things etched into them, such as Apollo 13 Pinball, with an image of Sonic The Hedgehog in a spacesuit.
Mortal Kombat (Midway, 1993) – Mortal Kombat already had managed to stand out with it’s method for digitizing actors for a fighting game but it soon became well-known for its secrets too. People already enjoyed figuring out combinations for pulling off certain fighting moves but MK kicked it up a notch with different types of fatalities but they also had some other things tucked away such as the famous TOASTY! or how to unlock Reptile. It soon became expected to have a bunch of unlockables and secrets in games. Here’s an explanation for where the Toasty egg came from.
NBA Jam (Midway, 1993) – This one might be the king of secrets and easter eggs, although this blurs the line between an egg and a cheat/secret code. I remember quite well back in the 90s that when other kids talked about this game, that one of the cool things was finding different players, including some of the game designers, to play as. This ended up serving as a selling point for the game; it is too bad that hidden secrets/eggs haven’t served such a similar purpose for any newer games that I know of. Here’s a video showing how to unlock Mortal Kombat characters to play in one of the versions of the arcade game; the very first version of the game also had a BattleZone type game you could unlock and play for free which was later removed.
Area 51 (Atari Games, 1995) – In addition to the board message on the PCB, there was this secret egg where you could play as an Alien:
Star Wars Trilogy Arcade (Sega, 1998) – In the sound test menu that is only accessible by operators, you can run through the different sound bytes that the game has but you will quickly notice that there are a lot of lines that are never used in the game that are found in the movies. My first job in the arcade was at an FEC that had this game, myself and some fellow arcade employees tried to see if there was some hidden level where these sound bytes were used (trying to finish the game as a Level 3 Dark Side but that didn’t do anything that I could notice) but if it is there we never figured it out.
CarnEvil (Midway, 1998) – If you want to see the zombies walk around with party hats & afros, then this is a pretty easy one to unlock (choose Haunted House then pump the shotgun 5 times before the stage starts). Although I’m not sure if this “counts” since it is so easy to access and is more than just a little message.
This is just a small sampling of such things but once again, if you know of anything that would “count” feel free to comment!