donkey kong arcade level

Obviously, Easter eggs have been a thing in video games for a while. Those sneaky, hidden game secrets that usually reference some odd bit of trivia or pop culture.

Sometimes video game Easter eggs are a hint at future plot events, like the hidden blueprints in Arkham Asylum, other times they reference to the past, like the useless shield in Bloodborne. Or it could just be a huge, beating heart chained up inside a thinly-veiled parody of the Statue Of Liberty, in a deeply unnerving moment within Grand Theft Auto IV. Thanks for the trauma, Rockstar. Now I have to cancel my trip to see the great monuments of America, though I’ll still probably keep the cowboy boots I ordered. No reason to dump those when I can still be gellin’ like a felon, amirite?

The point is that video game Easter eggs have differed hugely, but the Easter eggs ones that stick with us are those that go the extra mile and put some effort in, to make them more than “OH I GET THAT” moments. And I’ve always held that there’s no greater reward for playing a game than more gameplay, so let’s see which video game titles were secretly smuggling classic game ancestors within their many folds as Easter eggs.


screen to get to zork

Call Of Duty has always been trying to look ridiculously manly, to the extent where still I hope there may be an entry called “Modern Brofare.” This might be why the main menu of the first Black Ops game was presented with you strapped into a chair, looking out of the eyes of some tough dude WHOSE MASCULINE POWERS CANNOT BE CONTAINED! Tap the trigger buttons and Mr. Des Tosterone will snap his bonds like He-Man, giving you free power to stomp around the torture chamber you’re being kept in.

Of course, once you’re released you may notice the little computer in the corner that allows you to type instructions into it. Most of them come to nothing, but there are a few phrases and words which have pleasing results, the best of these being that if you hammer in the word “Zork” you can actually play the 1980 text-adventure classic video game of the same name. I don’t know how many people actually got the whole way through Zork, especially when you could machine-gun the undead in the same game (and nobody would get cross about your spelling) but it’s a nice classic game addition nonetheless. If nothing else, it tells us that there are a few geeks working in CIA interrogation, which could’ve made 24 a very different show.


wolfenstein gameplay first person shooting

Wolfenstein: The New Order is certainly nostalgic for an older period of gaming, but nothing makes that clearer than the bad dream you can potentially endure part-way through the video game. And it’s not that icky scene where a chap’s brain is sucked out the back of his head, surprisingly enough. See, our hero Blazkowicz doesn’t have to sleep in his bed, with Anya on one side and a large rifle on the other. Head to the top floor of the resistance hideout and you’ll discover a pretty gruesome-looking mattress and the option to “enter the nightmare.” B.J. will snuggle up and promptly find himself in a pretty terrifying world where the resolution is low, the physics are weird and we’ve dropped from three dimensions to about… Two and a half at best?

The video game easter egg? Yes, it’s the very first mission of the very first FPS ever made, Wolfenstein 3D! Well, if you don’t count Monster Mazein the 1980s. This classic game level is completely playable and still pretty enjoyable, though one wonders what must be going through the heads of the enemies you encounter (besides your bullets).

Why do I say that? Because although this world you’re in is a flat mess of pixels, polygons and rotating enemies, Blazkowicz and his firearms are still the fully-rendered models carried over from The New Order, which would certainly be a true existential nightmare for NPCs with no physical depth. I’m surprised they didn’t topple over and start screaming when they saw you approach, and not just because you can carry enough weaponry to invade the Philippines.


fallout pip boy with red menace

Alright, I know Red Menace isn’t actually Donkey Kong, but… Well, it’s still Donkey Kong, so it’s on this list, as well as the other distractions in the “Holotape games collection”. When Fallout 4 was announced, one part of the promotional campaign mentioned that you could find playable cartridges with smaller mini-games inside. They had names like Atomic Command, Pipfall, Grognak The Barbarian And The Ruby Ruins, Zeta Invaders, and the aforementioned Red Menace. Or, to give them their proper titles, Missile Command, Pitfall, Zork (again), Space Invaders and, of course, Donkey Kong.

Yeah, they’re basically reskinned versions of the classic video games, but that’s not a bad thing. Hunting around the wasteland for old comics to boost your stats sometimes yields magazines with Holotapes inside, which you can play in your menu screen at any point afterwards.

So if a super mutant has broken one of your legs and you’re struggling with a crippling addiction for Fancy Lad Snack Cakes, why not kick back and play some of the classic video games to take your mind off it? Just ignore E.T. The Video Game for the PipBoy 2600. Even a Deathclaw would run from that one.


crash bandicoot on tv in fallout 4

Fine, it’s not a video game Easter egg, but it’s worth a mention just for the sheer pride and ballsy ego that Naughty Dog were exhibiting very recently. Pretty early in the final Uncharted game, hair-gelled hero Nathan Drake is chatting with his girlfriend and falls into an argument over who’s going to do the dishes.

Exciting, treasure-hunting action! Elaborate set-pieces! Choose the right amount of washing-up liquid to go into the sink! Uncharted 4! Actually it’s pretty brief, and the developer’s true motivations are revealed when Drake decides to bring it down to a wager over who can get the highest score on the “TV game thing.” Except it’s not just any TV game thing, is it, Naughty Dog?

Nope, it’s the very first Crash Bandicoot from 1996 (which would explain Drake’s hair), the well-known series that the developers were originally responsible for. And you can play the first level as much as you like, though I’m not entirely sure why you would, considering it’s only one level and the first CB game hasn’t aged very well. Any chance for a bit of Jak And Daxter instead? Or perhaps one of the less annoying levels from The Last Of Us?

Honestly, I suspect that this little homage is partly there to put out feelers for a future comeback, considering that everyone’s chattering about a Crash Bandicoot return on the PS4. But either way, it’s an endearing little moment that shows us just how far one of the premier developers has come in twenty years. And also that climbing is important, apparently. A big deal is made of that.


classic starblade game easter egg in tekken 5

Saved the biggest video game Easter egg for last here, but it couldn’t escape this list. When Tekken 5 was released back in 2005 on the PS2, nobody was expecting there to be a second game nestled happily inside like remora cheerfully hanging off the edge of a shark. But there was, as well as several more to sucker on beside it. The first three Tekken games were in there as “Arcade History Mode” for when you wanted to cave in some skulls classic-style, but that wasn’t all. Smashing down a certain wall with “Devil Jin” (isn’t that a cocktail?) would also enable you to play the classic arcade game Starblade.

This pensioner of video gaming dates all the way back to 1991, and was a pretty simple 3D rail shooter where you desperately blasted spaceships like they were trying to spoil the end of Game Of Thrones for you. Starblade also hasn’t aged well, but was a nice feature to see and you could still get some fun from it. Hell, Starblade can even be said to be objectively good, because the name is an anagram of Bard’s Tale, which is an excellent musical RPG for the iPhone. Then again, it’s also an anagram of salt bread, which sounds disgusting, so… Three out of five?

Hope you enjoyed our video game Easter egg list, be sure to leave a comment if you can think of any great Easter eggs that we missed. Honourable mentions go to Black Ops II with its library of Atari games, Day Of The Tentacle containing the whole of Maniac Mansion, and Prince Of Persia secretly smuggling in… Um… Prince Of Persia. The older one, I mean.

  • Levago

    My favorite such easter egg is the original Donkey Kong in Donkey Kong 64. You actually had to beat like 5 levels of the original game in order to get some of those precious collectibles.