Gaming Easter eggs that weren't discovered for years

A lot of video games are very complete experiences that have you going on adventures or competing to reach a high score in a game of skill, all without too many frills. Every now and then, you might come across a game that has little Easter eggs hidden away, something that a developer or two might have placed in some obscure spot for the player to witness.

Most times, these Easter eggs are just fun tidbits that are inconsequential and have no bearing on the main objectives of the title, existing simply because the developer thought it would be a cool thing to do. While a good number of Easter eggs are discovered within a game's release window, sometimes it takes a little longer to find the more secret ones. Let's put saving Hyrule on hold while we explore some Easter eggs that were hidden a little too well and took a while to find.

Halo 3: Happy Birthday Lauren

Halo 3 was released in 2007 to much excitement. Who doesn't love a good first-person shooter and seeing Master Chief wreck Covenant face the only way he knows how? During Halo 3's creation, one of the developers sneaked in a little message that took years to find. In fact, he actually had to reveal the secret himself after seven years since no one had found it. Adrian Perez revealed in 2014 that he hid a secret message in Halo 3's main loading screen. The only way to get it was to set your console's clock to December 25 (or play the game during this actual day) and press in both thumbsticks while the game is loading. "Happy Birthday Lauren" will appear on the loading screen if done correctly. Lauren must have been a lucky lady.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - Chris Houlihan's room

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is regarded as one of the greatest games ever made. Link's no stranger to time travel, and this was one of his first temporal treks. With that in mind, let's skip around a bit and start in 1990, when Nintendo Power ran a contest that would allow a fan to get their name included in an unannounced SNES game, which turned out to be A Link to the Past. It was revealed in early 2000s that the winner was a fan named Chris Houlihan. In order to see his name, you'd have to glitch Link into a secret room full of rupees and a plaque that featured the lucky fan's name.

Final Fantasy IX: The Nero Brothers Quest

You either really loved Final Fantasy IX or you were kind of just indifferent to it. Regardless of how you felt, it was one of the biggest games to be released in 2000. Since its debut, many players have burned through its very sizable amount of content. But it wasn't until 2013 that the final quest in the game was found. This quest had players encountering the Nero brothers as they taught Zidane the finer points of gambling. What made this secret so difficult to track down was the fact that you had to find them throughout multiple points in the game in order to continue with the quest's progression. After all that work, you would have received a Protect Ring. Yay?

Batman: Arkham City - Calendar Man's creepy message

Here's a bit of a weird, slightly meta Easter egg in Batman: Arkham City involving the psychotic and wholly unnerving serial killer, Calendar Man. Batman can visit this member of the Rogues Gallery on different holidays in the real world to listen to some unique dialogue. But if you set the date on your PC or console to December 13, 2004 (the date Rocksteady Studios was founded), you get a totally different message that references Batman: Arkham Knight, the next game in the series. This is definitely a guy obsessed with dates who'll never score a date himself. After the Easter egg remained undiscovered for three years, Rocksteady Studios intervened and revealed how to discover this hidden bit of dialogue.

Sprouting a beanstalk in Super Mario Bros.

Even the portly plumbers who are arguably the face of the entire gaming industry harbor some longtime secrets. Mario and Luigi's popularity really took off with the 1985 Super Mario Bros. game for the Nintendo Entertainment System—and its Easter egg is more of a glitch, but it's still interesting to see that after 30 years, people are still finding secrets for the first Super Mario. In order to reach it, you have to play a two-player game. Have Mario die at World 1-2, and progress Luigi up to World 5-2. Once you're there, proceed to the second Hammer Bro., and there should be a hidden beansprout in one of the nearby blocks. Let Luigi die from a hammer throw while climbing the vine.

If done correctly, Mario will spawn at World 1-2 with a vine sprouting right next to him. You can use the vine to keep hitting the Buzzy Beetles near the start of the level and keep spawning 1-ups until you reach the maximum number of extra lives. If Mario can fly around the galaxy without a spacesuit, we're pretty sure we don't have to explain the physics behind this bizarre but awesome glitch. Warning: this featured video contains NSFW language.

The Mortal Kombat series' secret menus

The first three Mortal Kombat games helped rejuvenate arcade fighters and offered a graphically violent alternative to the Street Fighter franchise. While feeding the trilogy all of our quarters and tokens during the early '90s, few of us suspected that the arcade versions had a back door to series co-creator Ed Boon's secret menu. To get in, you had to hit the Block button on the arcade cabinet's Player One and Player Two sides multiple times in a specific order. For example, from the first game's title screen, you'd press Player One's Block five times, Player Two's ten times, Player One's twice, Player Two's once, Player One's twice, Player Two's three times, and Player One's four times.

After mastering the sequence and getting into the menu, you were treated to a secret hello message from the developers—and able to run diagnostic tests, keep track of how many coins the machine had taken, and watch each character's ending. Each Ed Boon menu is pretty much the same throughout the trilogy, but MK3 allows you to unlock hidden features, watch a Fatality demonstration, or play a secret Galaga-type game.

It's crazy to think that these menus have remained largely undiscovered since 1991, when the first game came out. Now you can use this knowledge to wow your friends the next time you're at a bowling alley with a working Mortal Kombat cabinet and don't feel like dropping a quarter.

Donkey Kong's other title screen

Since its debut in 1981, Donkey Kong has been an arcade cornerstone. After decades of people trying to break the world record for the highest score, one particularly dedicated gamer unlocked a secret from one of its home console releases. Landon Dyer, who helped port Donkey Kong to the Atari 400/800, blogged in 2008 that he hid a small Easter egg in his version of the game. Over a year later, video game code expert and arcade game pro Don Hodges finally found it.

Hodges' website tells us how he was able to unlock the Easter egg. You must play through the game and reach a new high score between 33,000-33,900. You then kill off your remaining lives, with your final death from falling too far (obstacles won't count). Set your game difficulty to four by hitting the Option button three times and wait. After the game loads the intro, you should see Landon Dyer's initials on the title screen underneath the Nintendo copyright. After 28 years, Donkey Kong still had a small trick up its sleeve. Who knew? (Besides Dyer, that is.)

GoldenEye's in-game ZX Spectrum emulator

James Bond's original Nintendo 64 first-person shooter helped revolutionize the genre, especially in terms of multiplayer gameplay on a home console—and 17 years after GoldenEye's debut, one dedicated fan found something amazing hidden deep within its code. The game's developer, Rare, disabled the Easter egg, but a fan-made patch allows you to turn it back on. What's the 007-level secret? An in-game emulator with ten working games.

Yes, you read that right: an in-game emulator. We're talking Sabre Wulf, Atic Atac, Jetpac, Lunar Jetman, Alien 8, Gun Fright, Underwurlde, Knight Lore, Pssst, and Cookie, which are all titles made for the ZX Spectrum, the UK's Commodore 64 counterpart. All this time while you were duking it out with your friends in the Bunker or Complex stages, you had an in-game emulator with a handful of roms just waiting to be found. This blog post breaks down how you're able to unlock it, and it's fairly technical. The easiest way to do this would be via an N64 emulator (which is technically piracy that we certainly do not advocate, wink/nudge), but it's awesome to see nonetheless.

Serious Sam with zero encounters

Serious Sam: The First Encounter's long-hidden secret is something of a two-parter. The game has a hidden level called Sacred Yards, which usually requires you to run-and-gun your way through it. A few years ago, one player found that you could skip much of the Yards by exploiting bugs, grabbing certain items, and shooting down certain environmental objects, but you still had a few enemies to kill along the way. This secret remained only partially unlocked until YouTuber SolaisYosei was hired by the game's developer, Croteam, as a designer. Kotaku reports that SolaisYosei contacted Croteam CEO Roman Ribaric, who was originally the first game's lead designer, for answers.

Since this stage had a lot of mechanics that weren't in the rest of the game, Croteam decided to hide it. Thanks to Ribaric suggesting that SolaisYosei use the game's level editor to find its secrets, you can now clear the stage without the use of exploits, as long as you grab specific items and shoot objects throughout the level in a very particular order. As a result, Yosei was able to make the provided video which showcases a perfect playthrough—14 years after the game launched. This Easter egg is quite serious, even for Sam Stone.

Splinter Cell: Double Agent - Seals!

This is probably one of the strangest, cutest Easter eggs on the list. Splinter Cell: Double Agent was released in 2006, but it wasn't until 2010 that players learned, courtesy of one of the developers, that you could take on a very unique mission involving baby seals. During co-op mode, you could find a secret mission that tasked you with rescuing baby seals wearing party hats. They're just these cute little things with names like Pepperoni and were beamed up after you rescued them, because apparently they're aliens as well. Considering how gritty and dark the Splinter Cell series is, this was a welcome, light-hearted distraction, albeit one that was found pretty late.

Wave Race: Blue Storm - Sarcastic announcer

The GameCube jet-ski racing game, Wave Race: Blue Storm came out in 2001 and offered a great multiplayer experience that was accompanied by an announcer who would provide color commentary whenever you performed something worthwhile on the water. In 2009, it was discovered that players could input a code on the audio settings screen in order to activate an alternative announcer who was decidedly more sarcastic and insulting. As you raced, he would say things like, "pathetic!" or "greeeat…" in the most bored voice imaginable. It was greeeat.

Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!: Bald Bull's tell

Now here's an Easter egg that actually helped players out in Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! The Easter egg involves your first fight with Bald Bull and wasn't discovered for 22 years. In 2009, the late, great Satoru Iwata revealed that there was an easier way to beat Bald Bull that didn't require you to punch him after his third hop in order to interrupt his Bull Charge. All you had to do was look at the background and try to spot an audience member who was taking a picture with a flash camera. Once you saw the flash go off, you could deliver a body blow to Bald Bull to bring him down, without waiting for him to telegraph with his hops. How's that for a late training tip?

Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! Bonus Round: Piston Honda's tell

After all the retro gamers out there learned about Bald Bull's tell, a similar trick was found for Piston Honda. On April 8, 2016, Reddit user and YouTuber midwesternhousewives discovered a visual cue that can help Little Mac beat Piston Honda with ease. During your World Circuit rematch, Piston Honda will go for a barrage of hits and will backstep before charging. Veteran gamers are well aware that you can counter his delayed charge during this sequence for a knockout, but you must have precise timing. Similar to the Bald Bull trick, watch the front of the crowd. On the left side, a bearded audience member will nod/duck the exact moment you're supposed to counter-punch Honda.

This standout spectator also does the same thing for Bald Bull's charge during your rematch with him! It's crazy to think that another Punch-Out!! secret was hiding in plain sight until it was discovered 28 years after the game's NES debut.

Hidden Messages in Paper Mario

Here's a look at a whole mess of Easter eggs that come in the form of hidden messages in the original Paper Mario game for the Nintendo 64. It just so happens that you can get characters to speak to you with strange dialogue if you perform a "log skip" glitch on Toad Town at any point before the end of Chapter 1. The messages were found by Strider7x, who then uploaded the method to find them and gave us a look at what some of the characters said.

Many of the characters you can interact with simply tell the player that they shouldn't be there and that their messages shouldn't even be appearing at all. Some messages actually tell the player to get in contact with Nintendo, because it meant the game had a bug that needed fixing. Stryder did just that on October 23, 2016—which, given that it had been 16 years since the game was released, might have caught Nintendo off guard.