The Coolest Secret Codes In Video Game History

A secret code can give brand-new life to an old video game, or make an impossible game winnable. Traded like treasures in the back pages of magazines or on scraps of homework in the school cafeteria, the secret code has always been the best part of gaming. Even though modern games don't use secret codes as much as their 8-bit predecessors, some publishers still include these hidden tricks for pure nostalgia. Here are some of the coolest secret codes from the history of gaming.

The Konami code

Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A

The iconic Konami code first appeared in Gradius, where it grants the player most of the game's power ups, turning your feeble little ship into an alien-blasting powerhouse. The code's most notable appearance is in the notoriously difficult Contra, where it grants the player 30 lives ... which is still somehow not enough. The Konami code appears in at least 90 more Konami games to varying effects, and is so infectious that it's even appeared in games by other companies, including Borderlands 2, BioShock Infinite, Mortal Kombat 3 ... and even Tetris.



Someone should have issued a spoiler alert with this infamous Metroid code. While the surprising reveal of Samus' gender is usually saved for the game's final scene, entering the words JUSTIN BAILEY, followed by a series of spaces, on the password screen will start our heroine off in her purple bodysuit, and equipped with an array of weapons.

Rumors have circulated for years about the meaning of the password, but all have been proven false. There was no person named Justin Bailey on the Metroid crew, and "just in bailey" does not actually mean "just in a bathing suit." The current consensus is that the sequence of letters and symbols accidentally trips the game's checksum values. This is pretty much confirmed by other unlikely word sequences setting up Samus in different locations and with different arsenals. However, there is at least one intentional password for Metroid: NARPAS SWORD0 000000 000000, which gives the player nigh-invulnerability and the best weapons in the game.

Kid Icarus


It may sound like the beginning of a creepypasta, but this password for the extremely difficult Kid Icarus sets up Pit fully equipped, and right before the final battle with Medusa. Because the password system in Kid Icarus is similar to the one used in the aforementioned Metroid, it's likely that the eerie incantation is just tripping random code within the game cart, but that doesn't make it less creepy. If you don't beat the game, will Medusa crawl out of the screen all Ring-like and paralyze you, controller forever affixed to your sweaty hand? We didn't want to find out.

Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!


Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! mostly served to make you hate your own thumbs and/or Mike Tyson. Even if you could reach the lightning-fast, gap-toothed, barbarian boss, you probably couldn't last more than a few seconds in the ring with him. So, why waste the effort moving up through the ranks and beating up racist stereotypes like Soda Popinski when the last boss was just going to turn your spine into pudding?

Old-school nerds know the "skip to Tyson" code better than their own mothers' birthdays. While it's unlikely that anyone can beat Tyson if they're unwilling to practice on Piston Honda or King Hippo, the code remains a sobering reminder of a time when video games took pleasure in punishing you, and would give you codes that would still kick your butt from here until Tuesday. Or, as Mike would say, Tuethday.

The Legend of Zelda


The objective of the original Legend of Zelda is to rescue Princess Zelda from the clutches of an evil pig overlord, using the power of the magical Triforce and a badass sword. Even though the hero's name is Link, the game allows the player to enter whatever name they like in the save slots. While most of us would enter our own name, our edgy gamertag, or slang for some fleshy anatomical part, players looking for a challenge simply entered "ZELDA." This starts you at the game's second quest, which is a harder version of the game usually reserved for players who beat Ganon the traditional way. But if you want to quickly die without practicing first, we won't judge you.

Mortal Kombat


Most notable for being the game that freaked out parents enough to establish a ratings system, Mortal Kombat was a bloody, awesome mess of a fighter. While Nintendo didn't allow the game's gorier graphics and fatalities onto their system, Sega made a compromise. By pressing the buttons ABACABB, in that order, during the game's opening Code of Honor screen, all the sloppy red blood gets turned back on.

Most interestingly, the code is a reference to the band Genesis, and their album Abacab, since the code was exclusive to the Sega Genesis system. Sadly, there doesn't appear to be a follow-up fatality where Scorpion kills his opponent by forcing them to listen to Phil Collins.

Donkey Kong Country


In another case of clever wordplay, hitting BARRAL in sequence while the "Erase Game: option is highlighted will snag you fifty lives to conquer whatever you choose to conquer next. Since Donkey Kong Country is a relatively challenging platformer, those extra chances really make a difference when your greatest enemy is falling into any number of bottomless jungle pits.

Speaking of DKC games using button letters for codes, try out DARBYDAY to listen to the game's soundtrack (use the down button for "D"). Meanwhile, BADBUDDY will allow both players to take control of their chosen ape whenever they'd like, instead of the usual organized trade-off. And if you just want to go bananas in a bonus stage, enter DYDDY when Cranky Kong starts cranking his old gramophone after you die.

Grand Theft Auto III

Circle x 6, R1, L2, L1, Triangle, Circle, Triangle

By the time Grant Theft Auto III appeared, secret codes were going out of fashion. The nature of gaming had changed, and as games became infinitely more complex than stomping on mushrooms and turtles, codes increasingly felt like cheating. However, a game like GTAIII is pretty much all about cheating. Stealing, killing, and mayhem are a natural fit for shady secret codes, and the best one of all gave your anti-hero a nearly impervious tank. A huge step up from the ever-so-delicate vehicles of the lowly pedestrian, the tank is the dream vehicle of the wantonly destructive.

GTAIII includes a slew of other codes to manipulate just about every aspect of the game, all without having to force your Game Genie into the PS2. Everything from becoming a quick millionaire to changing the weather is at your disposal, and if you're already making roadkill out of pedestrians ... why not? Play God. Then take out the trash.



Do you enjoy basketball, but wish that it included more aging politicians? NBA Jam includes a fair number of codes to make gameplay more interesting, but perhaps the most interesting of all is the ability to summon Bill Clinton and Al Gore to the court. If you're under 20 and flunked history class, go watch Futurama to find out who these guys are.

Enter the letters "NE" on the "Enter Initials" screen, and select the letter "T," but don't enter it. Hold down the L and R buttons, and A. Now, you're playing as the guy who invented the Internet himself, Al Gore. Feeling a little more saxy? Enter the letters "AR" and select the letter 'K,' hold down Start and L, and hit X. Now, you're the former Governor of Arkansas, and ex-prez, Bill Clinton. Unsurprisingly, the game omitted George Bush and Dick Cheney, because those guys just can't dunk.