1. The Very First Easter Egg
Adventure for Atari (released in 1979) is often credited as the very first action/adventure video game ever, but it also contains the earliest example of the easter egg. If you’re playing on difficulty level 2 or 3, there’s an “invisible” 1-pixel object hidden in the black castle catacombs. If you bring the object to a spot below the golden castle, you can enter a hidden room with the words “Created by Warren Robinett.” Needless to say, they got a little more sophisticated as time went on.
2. Homer Simpson’s Desk
The “Atomic” edition of Duke Nukem 3D (released in 1996) contains a sly tribute to America’s favorite cartoon family. On the next-to-last level, if you run against a wall at a certain point, you find Homer’s office at the power plant, complete with the corresponding sector number.
3. The Legend Of Chris Houlihan
Nintendo Power held a contest for its readers and the prize was seeing their name in the game The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past. The winner wound up being mentioned in a secret room that could only be accessed by using the Pegasus boots and running from one specific location to another. You’d then find a cave with the message “My name is Chris Houlihan. This is my top secret room. Keep it between us, OK?” It seems the Internet did not honor that request.
4. Meet The Big Heads
NBA Jam: Tournament Edition had a bevy of eggs to find, most notably the “big head” mode, which turned all the players into cartoon characters. Other hidden bonus features included playable characters from Midway’s Mortal Kombat series, and even then-President Clinton and his wife Hillary.
5. The Star Cannon
If you managed to attain all 120 stars in Super Mario 64 (a feat not required to fully beat the game’s final boss), a cannon would appear outside the castle to blast you to the roof. There you’d find Mario’s lovable dino-companion Yoshi, who has starred in countless other games in the Super Mario franchise. He also refills your health (not that you need it). Unfortunately, rumors of Luigi being hidden somewhere else in the game remain unconfirmed and probably untrue.
6. The Robo-Street Fighter
By obtaining all the power-ups in Mega-Man X, and performing a certain number of actions on the Armored Armadillo stage, you could obtain one final power for X: the “Hadouken,” a move made popular by Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter. It’s just too bad he doesn’t say it.
7. The Yoshi Doll
Yoshi has probably racked up cameos in more Nintendo games than any other character. You can win a Yoshi doll in the conveyor belt game in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. As delightful of a gift as GEICO customer service!
8. The Secret Cow Level
Fans of the original Diablo were always yammering on the Internet about a secret level where cows appear, for no apparent reason. The rumor became so popular it was referenced in other games, like Starcraft. The programmers, never without a sense of humor, honored their fans by hiding such a level in Diablo II, complete with hell cows and even a cow king for the player to defeat.
9. The Peeping Link
When you first meet Zelda in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, you can peek into the windows of the castles courtyard. There you’ll see photos of Nintendo’s favorite characters, Mario, Princess Peach, and of course, Yoshi. Man these guys love cross-promotion!
10. The Lucky 7s
Final Fantasy VII isn’t the most delightful game (it actually contains one of the most heartbreaking moments of our childhood), however, it did have a delightful easter egg. If you managed to get all your players health down to 7777 exactly, you’d enter “Lucky 7s Mode,” and every move you’d perform would only do 7777 points of damage.
11. The Cheese
There’s a piece of cheese hidden in EVERY LEVEL in Perfect Dark for N64. For no reason. But it’s oddly satisfying to locate them.
12. The Mother We Never Had
Known as “Earthbound” in the US, the Mother series was all named for John Lennon’s song “Mother.” Thus the musical easter eggs abound in the Japanese version (and never made it to the US for legal reasons). Several of the game’s musical selection borrow from and/or are based on Beatles songs. For a full list, check out this fan page. The easter eggs also include the question pictured here.