Go far off enough off the beaten path in any game, and you’re almost certainly going to be rewarded. Maybe it will just be with a collectible or side quest, but in a lot of instances, that’s where developers hide Easter Eggs – those little in-jokes or nods to other games or media that are meant only for the most dedicated fans.
Easter Eggs have been around almost as long as video games themselves, and as they’ve become more common, it’s become increasingly difficult for them to stand out, but still, a few are particularly worth taking the time to find. These are the best video game Easter Eggs ever.
15. Adventure – Secret Credits
Adventure is often mistakenly credited as the first video game Easter Egg (that distinction actually belongs to 1973’s Moonlander). While it wasn’t the earliest example of an Easter Egg, it can be credited for inspiring many developers to add secrets to their games.
As the story goes, at the time of Adventure’s release, Atari would not publicize the names of their programmers to keep them from being recruited by competitors. Annoyed by this policy, Adventure’s developer programmed a convoluted series of steps where carrying an invisible pixel to another location would lead to a secret room with the message “Created by Warren Robinett.” After more than a year, a teenage player stumbled onto the secret. Atari executives initially wanted to delete the unauthorized code and release a new version of the cartridge but quickly deemed that to be too costly. Instead, Easter Eggs became more widely included in games and developers now rightfully receive credit for their work on games.
14. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Bonus Track
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably played Castlevania: Symphony of the Night in some form. After all, it’s one of the greatest games of all time. But odds are, you don’t have the original PS1 disc. It’s gotten pretty pricey in the last few years, and digital versions of the title are readily available. However, it’s worth tracking down a disc for one simple Easter Egg that can’t be replicated in any of the digital versions of Symphony.
Place the Symphony of the Night PS1 disc in any audio CD player, skip to the second track, and you’ll be treated to a special message from Alucard and a musical remix you won’t hear just playing through the game. This was actually a somewhat common Easter Egg during the PS1 era, with a few dozen other games also playing songs if inserted into a CD player, but Symphony of the Night was among the first to do it, and arguably, the best.
13. Dead Space – Chapter Names
Sometimes, the best Easter eggs only make sense in hindsight.
Though an excellent remake was just released, the original Dead Space still holds up as a disturbing horror classic. In one of the game’s more memorable twists, Isaac Clarke is encouraged throughout the game by his girlfriend Nicole to uncover the mystery of the spaceship Ishimura, but it turns out he had actually been experiencing hallucinations. Nicole died before the events of the game.
Of course, if you played really close attention, this wouldn’t have come as too big of a shock. When you take the first letter from the titles of each of the game’s 13 chapters, they spell out the message “Nicole is dead.”
12. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past – Chris Houlihan Room
In the fall of 1990, Nintendo Power magazine ran a special contest. The winner of that contest would have their name featured in a secret room in the next Zelda game. The contest was apparently won by Chris Houlihan, and the Zelda team lived up to the contest’s promised prize in a pretty cool way.
There are a number of ways to access the Chris Houlihan room, but the most reliable method involves the Pegasus boots and a secret passage hole near Hyrule Castle. Execute the trick correctly, and you’ll find yourself in a room with 45 blue rupees and a telepathic tile with the message “My name is Chris Houlihan. This is my top secret room. Keep it between us, OK?”
Curiously, after more than 30 years, the Chris Houlihan mentioned in the game has never been identified with any certainty. Some gamers have speculated that he passed away, or even that he never existed to begin with.
11. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 – Play Classic Atari Games
The Call of Duty franchise isn’t exactly a favorite among retro gamers, but that still didn’t stop Activision from inserting a few Atari 2600 classics as an Easter Egg in Black Ops 2.
On the fan-favorite Nuketown map, you’ll find several mannequins. Shoot their heads off within 30 seconds, and the Activision logo will appear on the nearby TV, meaning you’re ready to play Pitfall II, HERO, Kaboom!, and River Raid in all of their retro glory.
This isn’t the first or last time classic games have appeared as Easter Eggs in a modern title, but it really came out of left field at the time, and deserves bonus points for the unexpected and elaborate way these games are unlocked.
10. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – Jar Jar Binks Frozen in Carbonite
Some Star Wars fans hate the prequel trilogy. Others hate the sequel trilogy. There are actually a lot of different things in Star Wars that fans hate. But one part of the Star Wars saga that is almost universally maligned is the incredibly annoying Jar Jar Binks. If you explore the trophy room in the Imperial Kashyyk level of the underrated Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, you’ll find that the Gungan finally got what he deserved and he’s now frozen in carbonite, not unlike Han Solo.
Sadly, though it had a really awesome story that fits well into the whole universe, The Force Unleashed is not considered canon in any form since the Disney takeover, so we can’t enjoy this as the official fate of Jar Jar. For one brief moment, though, Star Wars fandom was able to unite around this Easter egg.
9. Doom 2 – John Romero’s Head
Doom was a phenomenon in the ‘90s. Though Doom’s rise can be attributed to a number of factors, part of its appeal was certainly its numerous secret areas and cheat codes. The bigger and better sequel featured a suitably epic final boss fight against the Icon of Sin, but the game’s “true final boss” was hidden in that fight.
Shoot the Icon with a rocket launcher, enter the game’s no-clip cheat code, and then enter the demon’s head to find another head: that of Doom designer John Romero. That’s creepy on its own, but it gets worse when the Romero Head says (backwards), “To win the game, you must kill me, John Romero.” So, you do, and the game ends. It’s one of the strangest and most meta Easter Eggs of its era.
8. Borderlands 2 – Creeper Cameo
The Borderlands series is no stranger to Easter Eggs and nods to other games, but Borderland 2 really took things to the next level with a full-on Minecraft cameo.
Deep in the Caustic Caverns, you’ll find some familiar dirt cubes. Hit them with a melee attack, and you’ll soon find a cave with creeper enemies straight out of Minecraft. As an added bonus, you can also find Minecraft skins for your characters and weapons. This is an especially cool little Easter Egg since unlike most crossovers, there was no warning ahead of time it would be in the game. It’s just something players discovered after release.
7. Batman Arkham Asylum – The Arkham City Map
It’s easy to forget now, but there had been so many bad Batman games before Arkham Asylum that there was no guarantee the game was going to be a hit. Of course, Arkham Asylum turned out to be a massive success in every respect, and we eventually got its stellar sequel: Arkham City. Fans may have not known Arkham Asylum would be a hit, but developer Rocksteady certainly seemed confident. They even hid a reference to Arkham City in Arkham Asylum.
If you go to the warden’s office in Arkham Asylum and blow up a secret wall, you’d find expansion plans for Arkham City: the setting for the game’s sequel. This one was so well hidden that gamers didn’t even find it (or think anything of it) at release. Rocksteady had to point it out a few months after the game came out when the sequel was already well into production.
6. Grand Theft Auto V – Thelma & Louise
With their large open maps, the Grand Theft Auto series has always been ripe for well-hidden Easter Eggs. Grand Theft Auto V is full of dozens of secret references to movies and other games, plus odd little secrets like UFOs (a reference that consumed the game’s community for quite some time). But the one Easter Egg that really stands out for just how elaborate it is and the steps required to find it is a callback to the ending of the classic 1991 film Thelma & Louise.
If you fly a helicopter near Raton Canyon between 7 and 8 p.m., you’ll find a group of police closing in on two women in a convertible. Keep watching until the car drives off the edge of the cliff and goes out in a blaze of glory, just like the ending of the movie. It’s a fantastic reference made that much better when you realized that few players probably discovered it organically.
5. Wave Race: Blue Storm – Sarcastic Announcer
Wave Race was an awesome little jet ski racing series developed by Nintendo around the turn of the century. Though it’s fondly remembered, in typical Nintendo fashion, the company has barely acknowledged it over the last two decades. The game’s regular announcer is your fairly typical excitable racing announcer, but when you put a cheat code into the options menu, his demeanor does a complete 180. Every race is now called by a complete jerk with quips like “You don’t have an inferiority complex. You’re just inferior.”
Somehow, this Easter Egg wasn’t discovered until 2010 (nine years after the game’s release), but it quickly became a fan favorite for its uniqueness and for being the type of thing that Nintendo wouldn’t typically even allow in one of its games. Maybe that explains why they refuse to make another Wave Race sequel.
4. Uncharted 3 – The Last of Us Newspaper Article
Similar to Arkham Asylum’s Easter Egg, Naughty Dog actually referenced the then-upcoming The Last of Us in Uncharted 3 before the former game was even officially announced. At the time, no one really understood the reference, though. Admittedly, it’s hard to spot if you don’t know what you’re looking for, as it really just amounts to a newspaper in a corner of a bar with the headline “Scientists still struggling to understand deadly fungus.”
Creative Director Neil Druckmann later said the Easter Egg had been left in by mistake, as The Last of Us was originally going to be announced months before the release of Uncharted 3. Instead, the game was unveiled a month after Uncharted 3 hit shelves, potentially spoiling the surprise. Still, this little slip-up led to one of the greatest Easter Eggs ever.
3. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Ciri Goes Cyberpunk
Years before CD Projekt Red released Cyberpunk 2077, they made a pretty clear reference to the game in The Witcher 3.
After Geralt finds his dimension-hopping adopted daughter Ciri in the main quest, he can question her about where she’s been. She tells him of a world where “People there had metal in their heads, waged war from a distance, using things similar to megascopes. And there were no horses, everyone had their own flying ships instead.”
While the reference is a little vague, it’s commonly interpreted as an Easter Egg that Ciri spent at least a little bit of time in Night City. Cyberpunk 2077 also has several Easter Eggs referencing The Witcher series, though sadly, fans have yet to see a full-on crossover between the two properties.
2. Hitman 3 – Alien Abduction
The Hitman series might have more Easter Eggs than any other franchise in gaming. If you know where to look, previous Hitman games have featured a ghost, a Kraken, and even Godzilla. But one secret exit in Hitman 3’s Berlin level is truly out of this world.
To access this Easter egg, Agent 47 simply needs to take a picture of some UFO graffiti at the start of the level and complete the mission as normal. But instead of going to one of the normally marked exits, go to the telephone booth by the gas station and dial “1993” to be beamed up. Why 1993? So far as anyone can tell, it’s because that’s the year the X-Files started. As awesome as this exit is, it sadly doesn’t lead to a bonus level onboard the UFO.
1. Silent Hill 2 – The Dog Ending
Silent Hill 2 is widely regarded as one of the greatest survival horror games of all time. It’s the rare horror title that doesn’t just rely on jump scares and gore, but instead delves into issues like grief, guilt, and mental illness in a way that few other games have even come close to. Oh, and then there’s the completely ridiculous ending where it turns out the whole game was just controlled by a Shiba Inu.
You have to unlock the three other “normal” endings to get the dog ending (which will take some time). Either way, it’s worth checking out for the organ happy ending theme, complete with accompanying barks. Even most games that actually try to incorporate humor don’t include off the rails content like this. Hopefully, Bloober Team includes this Easter Egg in their upcoming Silent Hill 2 remake. The world needs more Shiba in full 4K glory.