And the world was turned on its head. Figuratively speaking, anyway. In actuality, the above series of button presses granted a player instant access to all of the power ups in the NES side-scrolling shooter, Gradius. This code, created in 1986 by a Konami developer hoping to speed through the testing phase, would later become known as the “Konami Code” after being popularized by a little game called Contra as the “30-lives” code. This 1988 NES shooter has gone down in history as one of the most difficult games of all time–made less difficult, through use of the Konami Code. By entering the code at the game’s title screen, the main character’s prescribed three lives would magically be increased to thirty, giving frustrated players a bit of a break.
As the word-of-mouth era gave way to the Internet, cheating continued to thrive throughout the last generation of consoles. By this time, many of the major games released had cheats of some kind, upping their replay values quite a bit. With the release of the GameShark and other peripheral devices for cheating, players found they were really able to take control of the worlds on their TV-screens. Now, as cheating has fallen out of vogue due to online gaming, a few titles with heavy single-player experiences still play host to cheats. Most developers, though, choose to spend their time adding content that all users will get to see–not just the curious ones.
That’s your quick history lesson for the day: now the moment you’ve been waiting for…
The Top-5 Video Games for Cheaters
Note: You will not find The Konami Code on this list. Of course it belongs on this list, but everyone knows that so I’m not going include it simply out of obligation. Instead, I’m going to give its spot to a less-expected game.
The following list has been compiled from reader feedback and some input on the part of our staff.
Alright, no further delay…
#5 – Pokémon Red and Blue (GameBoy Color)
This may seem like a strange choice to start the list with because there was really only one cheat in this game, and it was more of a glitch than anything. Still, in terms of changing the boundaries of the game and giving a significant edge to the player, the “Item-Duplication” cheat from Pokémon Red and Blue really turned the world of Kanto into a Pokémon master’s playground.
What the cheat does: Duplicate any item (in the sixth item slot) infinitely. How to execute: (This one is certainly the most convoluted cheat on this list)
Step 1: Go to Viridian City. Talk to the old man who shows you how to catch Pokémon. Try not to fall asleep through his instructions, but do let him teach you (don’t say “no” when he asks you if you know how to catch Pokémon).
Step 2: FLY to Cinnabar Island and walk to the side of the island that faces Seafoam Islands.
Step 3: SURF up and down the coast. Swim right alongside it, don’t stray.
Step 4: When you encounter a battle with a Pokémon by the name of MissingNo, defeat him. This shouldn’t be too difficult, even for an inexperienced Pokémon, but it’s not a bad idea to have one of your stronger Pokémon with you. (Note: prior to this battle, make sure you put whatever item you want to duplicate in the sixth item slot of your inventory. Also, be sure to RUN from any battle with regular, non-glitch Pokémon before your encounter with MissingNo.)
Step 5: Inspect your inventory. Whatever item is in your sixth item slot will have “99x” and a little picture next to it. This item is now yours to use to infinity and beyond.
Why the cheat is important: By duplicating Rare Candies or Master Balls, players were able to level up their Pokémon to level 99 effortlesslyand catch whatever wild Pokémon they wanted. From here on out, the Pokémon Championship (and the quest to catch ’em all) was theirs for the taking.
#4 – NBA Jam (SNES, Sega Genesis)
When you boil it down, there are two kinds of cheats: one kind makes a game less difficult, while the other makes a game more fun. Obviously some cheats manage to do both at the same time (what’s more fun than anti-gravity mode in Tony Hawk, not to mention you can rack up incredible combo scores), but this game tended to focus a little more on fun than on domination. The home versions NBA Jam came stocked with an impressive library of cheats, ranging from the Infinite-On-Fire power-up–allowing players to execute monstrous, acrobatic dunks at any time–to unlocking Bill Clinton as a playable character.
What the cheats do: A handful of cheats allowed players to capitalize on the game’s various power-up mechanisms by turning them on constantly. For instance, the Turbo button, a once-limited ability to be used sparingly, could now be held down throughout the entirety of a game, allowing players to spring up and down the court without reprieve. Other cheats unlocked characters like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Eric Samulski as playable all-stars.
How to execute: The power-up cheats were entered with different combinations of button presses to be entered in-game at the “Tonight’s Matchup” screen and held down until the game’s tip-off. The unlock-player cheats, on the other hand, were entered at the “Initials” screen, where players would enter their pre-historic GamerTags before a match. Instead of typing in their own initials, players could input a series of letters assigned to one of the secret characters to draft them onto their team.
Why these cheats are important: NBA Jam was the first game to really embrace the “fun side” of cheating. Because the game was so ridiculous to begin with, cheating for-the-win seemed almost unnecessary. Though the game first became famous for its Big-Head mode–featured in the arcade version–the home console editions expanded on that goofiness, paving the way for games like Grand Theft Auto and Tony Hawk to go crazy with their cheats.
#3 – Mortal Kombat (Sega Genesis)
Few things are more satisfying than getting around the censors, and for that reason, Mortal Kombat has landed the #3 spot on this list. Though these days the presence blood and gore in video games is practically commonplace, when Mortal Kombat released in 1993 the world wasn’t as comfortable with such elements. Like with the Big-Head mode in NBA Jam, certain changes had to be made when Mortal Kombat was ported from the arcade to home consoles. One of these changes included the deletion of blood and gore from fatality moves. That was the idea, anyway. In actuality, the developers at Midway snuck in a cheat to bring back the blood. On top of that, they added in a hidden menu wherein players could change essential settings to tailor the game to their liking.
What the cheats do: The “Blood Code” as it became known, changed the visual settings of the game back to their original, gory arcade defaults. It was like the original Hot-Coffee Mod. The other cheats Midway included let players modify a variety of different settings–giving them access to unlimited “kontinues,” allowing them to select different stages to fight on, and letting them cripple either of the on-screen characters.
How to execute: A player pressing A,B,A,C,A,B,B at the “Code of Honor” screen during the intros would be greeted with Scorpion’s famous line, “Get Over Here,” and would know he had enabled all the blood and gore he could wish for. The secret cheat menu was known as the DULLARD menu, named after its input sequence: Down, Up, Left, Left, A, Right, Down.
Why these cheats are important: The Blood Code earns its importance in that it existed under the radar of common knowledge at a time when the industry was just starting to catch flack for its presentation of violence. The DULLARD menu, too, was a big advancement for cheaters, giving them the chance to really change the game to fit their liking, as so many game-hackers would learn to do in the future.
#2 – Doom (PC)
Two words: God Mode. For the gamer who wants to annihilate his computer-generated opponents, there’s no better weapon than the power of God, introduced for the first time in the 1993 PC classic, Doom. The game had a handful of other cheats, but God Mode was the one to set a precedent of invulnerability cheats that has lasted through decades.
What the cheat does: God Mode, or “degreelessness” as it was known in Doom, gives players infinite health.
How to execute: To turn on God Mode, players would simply type “IDDQD” while playing and reap the benefits.
Why the cheat is important: Doom’s God Mode was the first code to give players unlimited power and would launch the implementation of thousands of codes like it over generations of consoles. It’s short, sweet, and will continue to provide gamers with the ultimate edge for years to come.
#1 – GTA Series (PS2, Xbox, PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Alright, this might not count as a single game, but when you think of cheating, you think of Grand Theft Auto. It’s just that simple. Starting with Grand Theft Auto 3, the GTA series has played host to a vast number of cheats, ranging from “Get All Weapons” and “Full Health Refill,” to “Spawn a Tank” and “Super-Punch Mode.” The expansive collection of cheats included in each game–combined with the fact that very few people have played a GTA game without using cheats at some point–earns this series the number one spot on our list.
What the cheats do: Practically anything. Whether you want to change the weather, have a Harrier jet fall from the sky, be followed around by every hooker you happen upon, or simply get rid of your wanted level, Grand Theft Auto lets you do it instantly. There are literally too many examples to list here.
How to execute: Another great thing about GTA cheats is how easy they are to input. Players of Grand Theft Autos 3, Vice City, and San Andreas simply entered a series of buttons during gameplay (using the d-pad, the four main buttons, and the triggers) and they received a nice little message stating, “Cheat Activated.” Those playing Grand Theft Auto 4 had it a little tougher, needing to enter different numbers into Nico’s cell phone to activate cheats. In this game, however, the cheats saved were saved the phone’s menu for easy access.
Why the cheats are so important: Their mass popularity alone gives Grand Theft Auto cheats a leg up on most of the competition. Add to that the total tonnage of different cheats for each game, and the fact that cheats allowed players to do almost anything they could dream of, and this series becomes a shoe-in for the top spot. No doubt Rockstar will bring back some of the classics and probably throw in some new cheats when they release the highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto 5.