An Easter egg is a little inside joke that references other work, popular items or trends, or could simply be a running gag in a series of games. The first widely recognized video game Easter egg was in the Atari title Adventure and simply stated the programmer’s name since at the time game credits were not the norm and his contributions to the game would not have been made public otherwise. Since then, gaming Easter eggs have become more complex and bizarre. Let’s take a look at a few that probably slipped under your radar.
Alien Pupu (Final Fantasy VIII)
Like most of its predecessors, Final Fantasy VIII is chock-full of meaningless quests that distract the player from saving the world, as well as an amazing level of detail that doesn’t contribute to anything other than backstory. For example, the only way to find this Alien Pupu Easter egg is hidden inside an in-game magazine that can only be read if you repeatedly activate a stack of completely innocuous magazines. The clues the magazine provides are extremely cryptic, yet from them you must deduce the four annoyingly precise locations where the alien lurks.
Eventually, Pupu’s ship attacks you, but even after you’ve destroyed the vessel you still aren’t done. Rather, after defeating the ship you learned of only after leafing through in-game magazines and hiring Sherlock to translate a series of shaky clues, you still have to wander to another unadvertised area to find the alien itself.
You can attack Pupu and gain an item for defeating him, but since you’ve come this far you probably want to see this secret through to the end. Like that friend who’ll definitely for sure pay you back — eventually — Pupu then asks for five elixirs and absconds. Great. Really worth the time. But what’s this? He dropped something!
That something is a playing card, which you can use in the Triple Triad mini-game located within the game that you’re probably not really playing anymore.
Rescue Seals (Splinter Cell: Double Agent)
In Splinter Cell: Double Agent, there is a secret side mission where you rescue a bunch of captured seals. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about the specially trained Navy soldiers, but instead the animal kind. Baby ones. Alien ones. Baby alien ones.
This little bundle of fun was so secretive that only the guy who made it knew how to unlock the side mission until he uploaded a tutorial which showed how to find Muffin and Cookie, the baby alien seals who ask you to return them to their home planet. One of the reasons that this remained a secret for so long was that there are no in-game hints or directions, and it requires two players to unlock.
The process is long and bizarre and full of backtracking to find items to gain each seal’s trust. You know, stuff like flowers, party hats and reading glasses. Seal stuff. Also, if you give a seal the wrong item, it’s mission over. At the end of this crazy tangent from the spy business, all the alien baby seals are safely taken home, leaving you with… nothing. Possibly one of the most complex, useless Easter Eggs out there.
Dated Message (Batman: Arkham City)
Calendar Man is an NPC in Batman: Arkham City who sometimes has something to say on special occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving. An unknown YouTube user who almost certainly had inside information hinted that there was a hidden message that would only be heard on a specific time. If the console is set back to Dec. 13, 2004 — seven years before Arkham City was released — you can hear the following cryptic message.
“Well, well, well. And on today of all days. Do you remember my early work? Flawed, but it showed promise. Just like you. As your skills improved, I perfected mine. Starting with seasons and moving through the weeks, I became stronger, my work more… elaborate. Days were the secret, Batman, and the end of days is coming. I was there at your beginning and I will be there at your end.”
Creepy Statues (Call of Duty: Black Ops III)
Back in 2007, there was an episode of Doctor Who called “Blink.” The basic idea was that a bunch of statues were alive, but only when you weren’t looking. In Call of Duty: Black Ops III‘s Nuketown there are a bunch of mannequins dotted around the map, originally designed to simulate human casualties. Whatever you do, do not go around and shoot off their arms. If you do, all of the creepy figures will miraculously regrow their arms and come after you. To keep the field fair, only the ones that you’re not looking at will hunt you down to kill you. On the bright side, they probably can’t do this in real life.
Happy Birthday (Halo 3)
Even with fanboys and Easter egg hunters tearing apart everything they could, some sneaky developer managed to hide away an ingenious message in Halo 3. Much like Calendar Man, this message is date-locked. On Dec. 25, press in the controller joysticks during the loading screen before any campaign mission, and the pixels forming the Halo ring will spell out “Happy Birthday Lauren,” a reference to the wife of one of the Bungie programmers working on the game.
Half-Life 3 (Various)
A true sequel to 2004’s Half-Life 2 has been the subject of rumors and speculation for years, and with the lack of any solid news on the sequel’s development, it makes sense that other developers have started inserting various little gags and gibes in their own games. Here are a few of the best ones so far.
Forget subtlety and metaphor. In this reference to Half-Life 3, the developers of Battlefield: Hardline left three crowbars — the signature weapon of Half-Life protagonist Gordon Freeman — under a red valve, which just so happens to be the name of the developer that made Half-Life and Half-Life 2.
In SteamWorld Dig, one decrepit store called “GameGo” has several decomposing gamers slumped outside, with HL3 posters plastered across the windows. Here’s to hoping that we get to play the game before the end comes.
Rounding off our little Half-Life 3 list, last year’s Mad Max includes a badly burnt hand clutching a crowbar beside an orange number three.
Various (Just Cause 3)
Unfortunately, due to the chaotic nature of Just Cause 3, most people only see the more psychotic or bored players strapping multiple rockets to innocent civilians and sending them flying in all directions. If less people spent all of their time sending people flying, players might have stumbled across some of these gems earlier on.
Yes, I made a horrific pun. But JC3 took it several steps further and has a secret mode that can be unlocked by leading a special little doggy to his home. If you want to add delightfully colored wording such as “Much Cool” and “Very Boom” to the game’s many explosions, this is the Easter egg for you.
Some people see it as white and gold whilst others see blue and black. Few see brown, but we tend to ignore those crazy people. It seems that one group of developers fought each other until only the black and blue believers reigned supreme. Still exhausted from their bitter feud, they marked a dress texture thus.
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
OK, we’re about halfway through the entries for Just Cause 3 and I’m flummoxed as to how they even managed to squeeze most of these in. I’m not even entirely sure how to properly describe this one so just see the .gif (soft “g,” if you don’t mind) below.
For what is essentially GTA with a jetpack and wingsuit, I am finding a lot of deliciously nerdy references hidden about. Cast your minds back to the days of Stargate and your virtual body down a hole into a miracle of coding that is a real (in-game) working Stargate. Add in some VR goggles, and this is every nerd’s dream.
In one Marvel movie, somebody misplaced their magical hammer in New Mexico. Of course, it is possible that it got lost later and ended up lodged in the Medici countryside of JC3, where our chaotic anti-hero stumbles across this mighty weapon lying in a crater.
Final Fantasy VII‘s Buster Sword
Far and away my current favorite egg, Just Cause 3 developer Avalanche, possibly at the prodding of publisher Square Enix, has included an impossibly huge Buster Sword from Final Fantasy VII implanted in a mountainside. Other than being able to use this behemoth, nothing could make me happier.
Totaka’s Song (Various)
Back in Mario Paint, a few people discovered that if you clicked the “O” in “Mario” on the title screen a little song would play. After a while, people would start finding this 19-note chime in other games, such as Animal Crossing, Yoshi’s Story and X — a GameBoy game that pre-dates Mario Paint. Totaka’s Song, named after composer Kazumi Totaka, has also been found in dozens of other games so far. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening apparently contains three distinct tracks but players have only found two. Even with all the nerds on the Internet, it’s nice to see that we haven’t found every secret from the GameBoy generation. Check out a list of the currently-known Totaka Songs here.
Skulls (Halo 2)
One of the most-loved additions to the Halo franchise, the skulls in Halo 2 are devilishly tricky to find and only activate when they are found. With the exception of the first game (which contained no skulls at all), Halo 2 is the only game without a menu to turn skulls on and off so any player who wants to unlock their wide range of abilities will be forced to find them all in a single run.
Final Mission (Final Fantasy IX)
OK, I know that this isn’t really an Easter egg, but you’ve got to admire how long it remained undiscovered. Longer than Halo 3’s Happy Birthday message, the final quest in FFIX wasn’t revealed until 13 years after it was released! The Nero Brothers have their own “story” that advances after key points in the game to yield new dialogue. Due to this, it’s entirely possible to miss a couple of things and lose the quest. If you have the tenacity to see it all through to the end, the incredible award for this quest is… a Protect Ring! Enjoy your spoils.