The best video game Easter eggs are either funny or hard to find or both. That's the point, of course, which makes uncovering the special secrets that hide just under the surface of your favourite games all the most enticing. Some are developer in-jokes that creators want to share with players. Others are nods to other series or games – sometimes from the same devs, other times from other studios entirely. Some make little sense at all, which makes them interesting in their own right.
Grab your magnifying glass, your metal detector, or whichever instrument you reckon might help you find virtual treasure and let's discover 25 of the best video game Easter eggs of all time together.
25. BioShock – Jack's picture
When you're looking through the eyes of another person, it's obviously difficult to see your own face. A lot of first-person game developers seem to get a kick out of teasing what your character's face might look like without ever revealing their mug, and the same can be said about the original BioShock. That said, you can see surveillance photos of Jack's face shortly after you enter Andrew Ryan's office. Just keep checking the walls for the string diagram alongside the famous words, "Would you kindly" scrawled in big red letters.
24. Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Craft an ocarina, just like Link
Animal Crossing New Horizons was one of the few positive things to come out of 2020, offering gorgeous, customisable worlds for us to explore at a time when real-world exploration was significantly restricted overnight. With customisation in mind, this Easter Egg gives a prominent nod to another of Nintendo's juggernaut series, The Legend of Zelda, namely its smash hit Ocarina of Time. First launched in 1998 for the N64, Ocarina of Time has since appeared on many other systems – and with ocarinas a craftable item in New Horizons via the DIY Beginners book sold by Timmy in resident services, you can bring OoT to the world of Animal Crossing.
23. GTA 4 – The beating heart of Liberty
One of the best things about Grand Theft Auto 4 is its faux-NYC Liberty City setting, a sprawling metropolis rooted in realism. That is, until you happen upon the innards of its Statue of Liberty-like, Statue of Happiness. Take a helicopter up there, look for the door sandwiched between two signs that say "no hidden content this way" and walk on in. Inside the statue you'll find a giant, beating heart. No, we're not sure either.
22. Pokemon X and Y – The great thing about shorts
"Hi! I like shorts! They're comfy and easy to wear!" That's the undeniably random battle cry of a Youngster in the original Pokemon Red and Blue. And because this bizarre bit of fashion advice was such a memorable, goofy line to many players, it's stuck with the series as a running joke. Multiple Pokemon games have referenced it, including Pokemon X and Y to great effect.
21. Resident Evil 2 – Photo of Rebecca Chambers
Some Easter Eggs are a lesson in tedium. This one isn't quite as tiresome as GTA Online's illuminati-bathroom situation, but, checking Albert Wesker's desk - situated in the S.T.A.R.S. office of the Racoon Police Department headquarters - a whopping 50 times uncovers a roll of undeveloped film. Take it to the dark room at the back of the save room downstairs and unveil a photo of Rebecca Chambers, with the word "Recruit" written across the top. After that, you might consider apologizing to the "X" button of your PlayStation controller. Poor thing.
20. GTA: San Andreas – Gordon Freeman was here
During GTA: San Andreas' "Black Project" mission, you'll be tasked with infiltrating Area 69 deep within the Senora Desert (the game's answer to Area 51 in the Nevada Desert) and stealing a jetpack. The mission is surely one of the most memorable in the entire Grand Theft Auto series as a result of its reward, but, if you pay attention to the rooms housed within the Black Mesa-like facility en route to the prize, one has a crowbar very similar to Half-Life protagonist Gordon Freeman's sitting idle on a table.
19. Portal – Reconfigure the keys for Half-Life
This one is easily missed, overlooked or ignored, but while taking a stroll through any of the office areas in Portal, take a gander at some of the keyboards. On some of them, you'll notice that the following keys are yellow instead of black: A, S, D, E, R, H, N, I, P. These can be unscrambled to spell Adrian Shepard, the protagonist of Half-Life: Opposing Force. As if Portal wasn't brain-teasing enough, right?
18. Mortal Kombat - Fight with Reptile
Syzoth, or Reptile as he's more commonly known, is one of the Mortal Kombat series' longest-serving stars, having first appeared in the original game as a secret opponent. Unlocking the battle with him was the only way to fight in the spike pit arena too. In order to do so, players were required to fight an opponent (in single-player mode) on the bridge arena, get two flawless victories back-to-back, and then unleash a Fatality at the end of the second round. After that, their next fight would be with Reptile down in the spike pit.
17. Metal Gear Solid 3 – The End's early ends
The End is the oldest of The Cobra Unit's assassins, who goes by the pseudonym "Ancient Sniper". At over 100 years old, age is his thing, then, which can ultimately go against him above and beyond the epic jungle battle between the older timer and Naked Snake. One involves sniping the geriatric while resting in his wheelchair immediately after his first appearance at the Ponizovje Warehouse. If the player succeeds in killing him, the explosion from his microbomb will send a wheel of his chair towards Naked Snake which must be dodged. The second involved setting your PS2 console's date forward by at least one week. When you next returned to the game, a message informed The End had died of old age.
16. Dark Souls 3 – Quelana's Body in Demon Ruins
Space and time in the Dark Souls universe operates on an infinite, doomed-to-repeat itself loop. Even the late Stephen Hawking would have a job ironing out some of the kinks in the Souls timeline, granted, but, in practice, the cycle manifests by way of reworked locations that span multiple games. Firelink Shrine, for example, appears in Dark Souls and Dark Souls 3, as does Demon Ruins. It's here that the eagle-eyed among us will spot a mummified Quelana embedded in an otherwise non-descript wall in the bowels of the lava lair. This timeline has not been kind to the queen of pyromancy.
15. Batman Arkham Asylum – Arkham City map in secret room
An Easter Egg of superhero proportions – not only did this seemingly innocuous map blueprint appear in a secret room, it only blooming teased Rocksteady Studios' next instalment of the Arkham series. To find it, head to the warden's office inside Arkham Mansion, blow up the wall to the left of the fireplace, and uncover a secret room. Head straight in and, voila, the blueprint for an approved Arkham City reconstruction hangs in all its glory. So well-hidden was this Easter Egg, in fact, that Rocksteady had to unveil it six months after the launch of Arkham Asylum.
14. The Last of Us – Naughty Dog pinatas
Before the zombie apocalypse, it seems developer Naughty Dog will take a run at the pinata business. When searching around the apartment in The Last of Us' Pittsburgh chapter, you might stumble upon some familiar faces: Nathan Drake, and Jak and Daxter, all in adorable pinata form. Makes sense, given Naughty Dog is responsible for both Uncharted and Jak and Daxter.
13. The Witcher 3 – Siri's nod to Cyberpunk 2077
Despite The Witcher 3 having arrived several years before Cyberpunk 2077, one of the former's central characters, Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon, aka Ciri, mentions the latter in no uncertain terms. Cyberpunk was first announced way back in 2012, of course, and is also developed by CD Projekt Red. In The Witcher 3, we learn early doors that Ciri can travel through space and time, and in one conversation about evading The Wild Hunt, she mentions a realm where people "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 ship instead." In Cyberpunk 2077, Ciri appears on a magazine cover, bringing the Easter ggg full circle.
12. Silent Hill 4: The Room – The all-seeing evil bunny
In Silent Hill 3, Heather Mason is at one stage chased through the abandoned Silent Hill Amusement Park by possessed bunny mascots and it is as terrifying as it sounds. While locked inside his apartment in Silent Hill 4: The Room, protagonist Henry Townshend can spy on his neighbour through a crack in his wall. On her bed is a small version of the pink bunny mascots, however, during one random viewing, the bunny can be seen with its head turned to face Henry with a finger extended, pointing back towards the crack. It is, once again, bloody terrifying.
11. Uncharted 3 - The Last of Us exclusive scoop
This Cordyceps-styled Easter egg was almost one of the biggest leaks in video games history. There's a long story behind it, but the short version is that Naughty Dog put this reference in Uncharted 3 when it believed The Last of Us would be announced before Nathan Drake's then latest adventure hit store shelves. It wasn't, but by leaving this Easter egg in got people talking about a Naughty Dog-inspired zombie game. And the rest, as they say, is history.
10. Silent Hill 2 – Alien and Doggo endings
One of Silent Hill 2's most powerful weapons is symbolism, wherein even the monstrous beasts that stalk James Sutherland around the fog-flooded town are, in fact, figments of his imagination and manifestations of his guilt. It's all very serious. The survival horror classic's alien and dog endings, on the other hand, poke fun at itself and show a lighter side to an otherwise sombre and serious game. In order to unlock these tongue-in-cheek endings, players are required to jump through a series of hoops over the course of James' adventures
9. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past – the Chris Houlihan room
Back in 1990, the now-defunct Nintendo Power held a contest whose winner would get to appear in a future NES game. Chris Houlihan won, latterly receiving his own fancy room in 1991's The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. There were five different ways you could enter the Rupee-filled room, though it had been intended as a crash prevention measure, the game would only send players there when it couldn't determine Link's destination when transitioning between maps.
8. Borderlands 2 – Minecraft caves
Lots of games make Minecraft references, but Borderlands 2 goes all out. While spelunking through the Caustic Caverns, you may find some unmistakable dirt cubes blocking your way. Bust through them with your melee attack (in classic Minecraft fashion), and you'll find a cave filled with Creepers on the other side. Killing them may even net you a Minecraft helmet accessory, complete with chunky pixilation.
7. Spider-Man – MCU locations around the city
Some of the easiest to locate Easter Eggs on this list, in that you'll pass the headquarters of various other MCU characters on a regular basis as you zip back and forth and up and down Spider-Man's slant on NYC. Stark’s Department of Damage Control makes an appearance, for example, whereas Fogwell’s Gym, the gym where Daredevil’s dad trained, can be seen down a side street. The Clinton Mission Shelter, where Daredevil's mother works is in there too, as is the Avenger's Tower. The full list of adjacent MCU locations can be ticked off within the game's Landmarks side-quests, which make for some interesting sightseeing stop offs.
6. Resident Evil Village – Duke's rare nod to RE4's Merchant
Resident Evil Village's resident shopkeeper Duke is, for the most part, a friendly, chatty fellow who appears to specialise in trivial conversation. By interacting with him several times he will randomly asks the player, "What’re ya buying?" in the same fashion as The Merchant from Resident Evil 4 did with Leon S. Kennedy way back when.When he does, the Duke will also mention the fact that an "old friend" of his used to say this. There's no way of knowing what happened to The Merchant in the end, but Duke's words suggest they were buddies once upon a time.
5. The Last of Us 2 – Precursor Orbs from lands afar
The so-called 'Strange Relic' can be found in the Chinatown Street in Hostile territory, in one of its upstairs rooms. This unusual artefact is, in fact, a 'Precursor Orb', a collectible from Naughty Dog’s old Jak and Daxter games. They’ve turned up in every Uncharted game so far as similarly obtrusive pick-ups, however this one is the first, and we believe only, in the entire Last of Us series.
4. Hitman 3 – Get abducted by aliens outside a Berlin nightclub
The ravers among us will attest to having had many out-of-body experiences in dimly-lit nightclubs over the years, but it's not normally something we associate with Agent 47's elaborate kills. Hitman 3's UFO Level Exit (the cinematic that details the Bald Butcher's exit from whichever killzone he's departing), can be activated by circumventing the line at the front of the Berlin nightclub, locating the 'Entrance Shortcut Door' and taking a photograph of the UFO graffiti that's scrawled prominently on the wall. Once you've offed the five ICA targets on your hitlist, dialling 1-9-9-3 into the Gas Station payphone then sends you skyward in a glowing green light. 1993, of course, being the year the X-Files first aired.
3. GTA Online – Join the illuminati by tipping toilet attendant
We all like to think we're generous tippers, but the question is: have you ever tipped a toilet attendant 575 times? If the answer is yes, and the toilet attendant was on-shift in a Los Santos nightclub, then you might be part of the illuminati. At least, that's what happens when you tip the toilet attendants introduced in the summer of 2018's After Hours update this number of times. After 10 tips, a message tells the player they are "Seeking The Truth". After 155 times, it's "Chasing The Truth". And then, after 575 times (around 15 or so minutes after the first tip, assuming you're spamming the tip prompt), the message becomes "Bearing The Truth", whereafter players receive Epsilon Program robes – GTA 5's illuminati-aping secret society.
2. Cyberpunk 2077 – Hideo Kojima on a night out
Esteemed Metal Gear series and Death Stranding mastermind Hideo Kojima makes a cameo appearance in CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077 that's actually quite easy to miss. In fact, Mr Kojima is so easy to miss in Night City that we've written a dedicated guide on how to find him. In short: when undertaking the mission titled 'The Heist', the Kojima Productions top man can be found regaling his company with stories of trying to ""surpass the expressive limitations of braindances". It's all very Kojima.
1. Metal Gear Solid – Psycho Mantis reads your memory card
Psycho Mantis wasn't the toughest nut to crack in the original Metal Gear Solid, but his mental powers make him one of the most terrifying. The psychic operative even reckoned he could read your mind, by way of reading your memory card. It was pretty amazing for the time, when Mantis started telling you what games you were playing away from Metal Gear. Assuming one of those was another Konami game, he'd go a little deeper in conversation. I do like playing Suikoden Mr Psycho, how did you know?