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The Top 7... secret rooms in video games

 

3. Adventure

Atari 2600 was home to the first true action adventure game. And boy, was it amazing. With graphics more stylised than Wind Waker and a plot that genuinely has fewer holes than Heavy Rain's, it's a gaming classic and no mistake. Not that any of us would play it today. It's no Ico.

But it is also home to another gaming first - the secret room. Wait... how did you know I was going to say that? Anyway, it holds nought but a credit for the game's creator, Warren Robinett.


Above: Don't worry, your browser hasn't crashed - this is what games looked like in 1979

It may have been the first secret room to name the developer, but it certainly wan't the last. Indeed, Quake 2's secret room is pretty much identical in concept to Adventure's, it just has more concubines.

Fact is, though, this secret room was born out of necessity, or at least necessity for a creative mind with even a normal-sized ego. With rules at the time forbidding programmers to list their name in the game itself, Warren decided to break the rules... but hide his credit.

So on one grey background, you'll find there's a single grey dot. It seems insignificant in the Adventure game world, but you can pick it up and carry it. Taking it to the screen south-east of the Gold castle causes the wall on the right-hand side to blink - this is due to a hardware limitation that makes sprites blink when there are too many on the screen. This blinking temporarily switches the collision detection on and off, allowing you to pass through... and there it is. The secret room. Awesome.

How secret is it?


Secret enough that it got by the QA testers at Atari, but not so secret that an 11-year-old boy couldn't find it during normal play... Hey! Stop eating the grey pixel!

How roomy is it?

 

Well, it's actually an area outside of the castle, so not terribly room-like. That said, it's a single-screen with barriers you can't traverse so... good enough. 

 

2. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

There was a magazine competition in Nintendo Power back in the day, which had a modestly attractive prize. Your name in the next Zelda game. By modestly attractive, I mean freakin' amazing, of course and the lucky winner was one Chris Houlihan. There never was a more 'boy who plays Nintendo a lot and won a competition' name than that.

Trouble was, he did get his name in the game, but it was hidden so deep in the game's code, nobody ever knew about it. Until the internet came along, and with it software emulation that allowed hackers to tear into the game's code and discover the secret.

The way to trigger it in a regular copy of the game is to start the game afresh with the Pegasus boots equipped. Now, dash to the sewer entrance to the right of the castle. You'll fall down into the sewer... only it's not the sewer at all. It's Chris Houlihan's lost secret room! AND IT'S FULL OF RUPEES.


Above: We'd have wooted if we'd found all those Rupees. And if wooting had been invented in 1991

The room was removed from regular play in the GBA remake (although it's still there if you hack the ROM, apparently), meaning this particular secret room remains one of the coolest and most exclusive secrets in the Zelda universe. Tsk, I dunno - lucky kid gets his name in one of the greatest games ever made and all he did was enter a competition. I'd bet you anything we don't even get an honorary mention in Okamiden. Bah.

How secret is it?

 

Very. Dave H swears that he knew about it back in the 1990s, but I reckon he's just being contrary. Nobody was likely to find it during regular play. I mean, how many times do you start a game of LTTP with the thought 'I have to be in the sewers in 12 seconds' time!' We're not all as weird as Mr Garrison.

How roomy is it?


Above: Yep, that's a room alright. It's also very secret. Do we have a winner? Not quite...

Topics

Top 7

55 comments

  • seventhangel - February 9, 2013 9:34 a.m.

    for Skullmonkeys, you should've used the bonus level hidden inside a bonus level, "The Incredible Drivy Finn". Only found by running past the first level exit. Still impressed to see that game in any kind of list.
  • Grivien - January 28, 2013 11:19 a.m.

    The puff-puff thing, lol. I saw the blueprint in Batman Arkham Asylum. But I did'nt look further. I did'nt know it was a whole room! By that point, I'd got bored by the overated drivel, I said frakk this and shortly after I deleted it.
  • murphy341 - November 1, 2010 10:53 p.m.

    That was an awesome article but I really wanted to see "Level 0" from Toejam and Earl included - that was a great secret room!
  • CountZero - October 20, 2010 4:18 p.m.

    The secret rooms in Portal were also extremely cool.
  • SoulFinger74 - October 7, 2010 4:19 a.m.

    I always thought the Level -1 trick in Super Mario Bros. was the better secret. That was a fun one to do on the NES store display ... nothing like a perpetual water world to confuse the staff at Lechmere (RIP).
  • Memph - October 7, 2010 12:49 a.m.

    no romero head even in Doom 2? Blimey
  • ShokuaHyuga - October 6, 2010 7:58 a.m.

    Wow, I stumbled across the warp zone so randomly I never realized it was supposed to be a secret.
  • ScrEAMaPiLLar - October 6, 2010 7:02 a.m.

    Loved the feature. This probably the Crash 3 fan boy in me, but those secret rooms you get after beating the game was just fun to play. I wonder what the discussion for each pick was like.
  • SenatorPepper - October 6, 2010 5:17 a.m.

    I love secret rooms, especially in platformers. I love that feeling that something is subtly wrong with the world, that there are hidden parts that make no sense.
  • Silentboy - October 5, 2010 11 p.m.

    What about the Insomniac Musuem in Rachet and Clank 3 : Up Your Arsenal? It was giant, had vehicles and mini games, but you could only access it on a certain day at a certain time.
  • philipshaw - October 5, 2010 11:39 a.m.

    Great article, the arkham ayslum one is great
  • sleepy92ismypsn - October 5, 2010 8:25 a.m.

    Meh, I haven't played any of these games except Batman Arkham Asylum and I didn't even like that game. Sorry for not reading but at least I left a comment.
  • jmcgrotty - October 5, 2010 7:53 a.m.

    For me, the top is a no-brainer and related to SMB's warp zone. The warp to level -1. The epitome of useless, but who the hell figured that one out?
  • revrock - October 5, 2010 2:57 a.m.

    Donkey Kong 64... the room with an original (and playeble) Donkey Kong arcade machine. I think it is the only way to play the "pie level" at home.
  • Thequestion 121 - October 5, 2010 1:43 a.m.

    Awesome Top 7. I love secret rooms :)
  • batmanboy11 - October 5, 2010 12:46 a.m.

    Good list.
  • deformedorange - October 4, 2010 11:39 p.m.

    I agree with #1 and the zelda one, but Halo Reach????? The tribute room is amazing
  • IwishIwasaDog - December 22, 2014 4:20 p.m.

    My favorite is Metroid Prime. One room is part of the game but off the map, and it's got ghosts and stuff. My favorite (spoiler) though is the powerup under the lava tunnel. Those walls aren't destructible. It's a connection tunnel with a view, you can't possibly go outside of it. What's it doing down there?
  • PushesPaperInACircle - October 4, 2010 11:10 p.m.

    @Ultima, here is a link, you do have to have Serpent's Isle. It was my favorite easter egg from that era.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xevee872p4w
  • MrSuitMan - October 4, 2010 10:28 p.m.

    Secret Squirrel? That show was awesome.

Showing 1-20 of 55 comments

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