Games that are only fun if you cheat

A game can be bad for many, many reasons. Maybe it's too hard. Maybe the developers forgot to include an important clue. Maybe important information got lost in translation. Maybe it was good at the time and hasn't aged well, or maybe it just doesn't make any sense.

While cheat codes won't fix bad graphics, poor storylines, or unresponsive controls, they can help rescue games from developers' oversights, and in some cases, introduce entirely new, superior ways to play. Yes, with cheats, you may not be playing some of these exactly like their designers intended—but if you're having fun anyway, then what's the real harm?

SimCity 2000

You know what's not fun? Taxes. You know what you have to deal with in a normal game of SimCity 2000? Taxes. In a standard round, the way you make money—which you need to do things like build roads, establish industrial, commercial, and residential zones, or pretty much anything else in the game—is by taxing the population of your city. If the taxes are too high (and they're always too high), existing citizens complain, and nobody new will move in. If they're too low, you'll quickly run out of cash, making it impossible to build the city of your dreams.

Given that the fun part of SimCity is building wild, impossible urban landscapes—and not balancing your checkbook—just skip the whole thing. In SimCity 2000, if you type "imacheat" at any point during the game, a mysterious benefactor will deposit $500,000 into your bank account.

Don't feel bad—everyone else is doing it too. In fact, infinite money cheats are so ubiquitous among SimCity players that almost every version of the game includes one. Just keep in mind that, when you use these cheats, there's also a chance that a disaster will strike your city. Don't worry about it, though: it isn't like you weren't going to unleash an earthquake or an alien invasion on your budding metropolis at some point anyway.

Guitar Hero III

Most people who played video games in the mid-to-late 2000s have a stack of plastic instruments in their closets, and for good reason. While the novelty of the guitar-shaped controllers might've worn off, Guitar Hero is still very, very fun—and Guitar Hero 3 is the game that really made the series a superstar. With 73 separate songs on the disc and a handful of different difficulty settings, Guitar Hero 3 has enough content to keep you busy for years—once you take the time to unlock everything.

See, for some reason, the game begins with most of its tracks unavailable, and players will have to grind through pre-defined setlists or earn enough in-game currency to access them all. Not only is that annoying and time-consuming, but it's an excellent way to get sick of the game—and its music—before even getting to play some of Guitar Hero 3's best tracks.

Thankfully, there's an easy solution. Inputting a series of chords will make every track in the game available in Quick Play mode instantly, eliminating the need to grind away to unlock everything. That's a good thing, too, because if we have to hear "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" or any of Guitar Hero's entry songs one more time, we're going to go full-on Pete Townshend on our plastic Les Pauls. You've been warned.

Castlevania II

In most games, cheating is an option. Every once in a while, it's a necessity. Just look at Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. Like other so-called Metroidvania games, Simon's Quest features an open, non-linear world for players to explore. Unlike other Metroidvania games, Simon's Quest features one of the worst Japanese-to-English translations in video game history. For some games (the original Legend of Zelda, for example), butchered text isn't a problem. In a game like Simon's Quest, which relies on subtle clues to guide players towards objectives, it's a disaster.

For example, raise your hand if you can figure out what "Hit Deborah Cliff with your head to make a hole" means. Anyone? That's what we thought. As a result, if you want to beat Castlevania II, you have two options: either you can wander through the map, trying everything possible on every square until you luck into the right solution, or you can pull up a walkthrough, which will explain that in order to proceed, you need to hold a red crystal while kneeling on a in the graveyard. Yes, that's cheating, but given the situation, nobody's going to hold it against you. Trust us.

Mortal Kombat

During the early '90s, when fighting games ruled the video game world, Street Fighter II was the undisputed king of the arcade. It had everything you needed. Not only was it the first modern fighting game, but its cast of colorful and interesting characters like Ryu, Guile, and Chun-Li, easy-to-learn but hard-to-perfect special moves, and fast-paced combat made it hard for any other game to measure up. But Mortal Kombat had one thing that Street Fighter II didn't: lots and lots of gore.

For parents (and major political figures like Joe Lieberman and Second Lady Tipper Gore), Mortal Kombat's blood—to say nothing of its ultra-violent Fatalities—presented some problems, and when Mortal Kombat migrated from arcades to home consoles like the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, Nintendo and Sega had some tough choices to make. In order to keep its family-friendly image intact, Nintendo censored Mortal Kombat's most extreme moments and made the blood gray, passing it off as sweat.

Supposedly, Sega followed suit—but as any '90s kid knows, that wasn't really the case. After booting up the Sega Genesis, pressing A, B, A, C, A ,B, and B on Mortal Kombat's "Code of Honor" screen unlocks the full, blood-soaked version of the game, delighting children around the country. As a result, there's no real question which version of Mortal Kombat is superior. The Super Nintendo version of Mortal Kombat has better sound and smoother graphics, but the Genesis one has decapitations. We know which one we'd choose.

Turok

In 1997, Turok was fine. First-person shooters had yet to make their mark on home consoles—Turok came out a few months before GoldenEye: 007—and Turok's edgy, mature tone provided a nice contrast to the rest of the Nintendo 64's colorful, kid-friendly lineup. At the time, it was easy to forgive the blocky graphics, awkward platforming sections, or the mist that kept everything farther than a few feet away out of sight in order to protect the Nintendo 64's limited CPU.

And while the basic game itself hasn't aged well, it's still fun. If you don't know why, we've got two words for you: disco mode. Going to Turok's cheats menu and entering SNFFRR fills the game's prehistoric world with flashing lights, and transforms its enemies from foes into guests at a worldwide rave. Because you know what's better than battling cybernetically enhanced dinosaurs? Dancing with cybernetically enhanced dinosaurs.

Oh, and don't worry: if your Nintendo 64 doesn't work any more, the 2015 remaster includes both disco mode and a level editor, meaning that you're only a few clicks away from creating the prehistoric dance club of your dreams.

Final Fantasy VIII

Compared to previous Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy VIII is different. In the preceding titles, character progression works in a consistent way: earning experience points levels characters up, making them stronger, while equipping things like jobs, Materia, or Magicite teach them spells and skills that they need to survive.

Final Fantasy VIII, however, uses something called the "Junction System." Squall and his friends don't inherently know any magic. Instead, they steal spells from enemies, which they can either save or unleash on unsuspecting foes. But in Final Fantasy VIII, magic isn't just for battles—if you want to complete the game, you'll also need to attach the magic in your collection to your characters' various stats. The more copies of a spell that you have in your inventory, the stronger your characters become.

It's an interesting system in theory, but in practice, it makes Final Fantasy VIII an endless slog. In order to stay competitive, you'll need to artificially extend battles while you harvest the magic that you need, leading to repetitive gameplay and slowing Final Fantasy VIII's leisurely plot to an absolute crawl. It's tedious, not fun. Square Enix must've realized that too, because in the game's recent mobile and PC re-releases, Final Fantasy VIII comes with a number of built-in cheats that reduce grinding to a medium. Instead of spending all of your time picking away at monsters while gathering spells, you can gather all the magic you need with the press of a button. It makes the game a lot faster, and while it's easy to end up overpowered if you're not careful, it can make Final Fantasy VIII flow a lot better, too.

Battletoads

Battletoads is infamously hard, but for the most part, it's the fun kind of hard. The characters might be second-rate Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knockoffs, but the third-person brawling is solid, and most of the levels are eminently beatable if you practice and pay attention.

The same can't be said for the game's racing sections. In order to traverse the underground Turbo Tunnel Zitz, Rash, and Pimple hop on some high-tech hovercraft and partake in a high-speed race that requires split-second timing in order to dodge the tunnel's many obstacles. If Battletoads were a modern game with permanent saves and checkpoints, that would be fine. But Battletoads is a retro Nintendo title, and like most games from that era, once you run out of lives it's game over.

That makes memorizing the Turbo Tunnel's layout tedious and time-consuming, especially since you'll have to battle your way there from the beginning every time you run out of continues. Most people just give up, but you don't have to. If you hold down A, and B while you hit Start on Battletoads' continue screen, you'll resume with a few extra lives, giving you some extra chances to get things right. Using a Game Genie, a Pro Action Replay, or emulator-enabled cheats, you can give yourself infinite lives, letting you practice until you've got the whole level committed to memory. Or, if you really want, you can just skip the hardest part of the Turbo Tunnel entirely—hit the 10th gate in the fifth and final section of the level and you'll warp straight to level five, where you'll probably be killed by a floating log while cruising through Surf City.

Mario Kart DS

As the very first Mario Kart game with online play, Mario Kart DS should've been a triumph. It wasn't. Oh, at the time, the game's impeccable selection of courses, refined controls, and slick presentation made it one of the very best single-player Mario Kart experiences. It's when you ventured online that the problems started.

Ever since Mario Kart 64, racers have been able to get small speed boosts while drifting. Originally, to get the boost, you'd need to quickly flick the controller's joystick (or D-pad) in the opposite direction and back while holding down the drift button. Execute the move successfully, and your kart's exhaust turns from white to orange. Do it again, and the smoke becomes blue, increasing your speed temporarily once you let go of the drift button.

In Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, mini-boosts gave Mario Kart an extra layer of depth. In Mario Kart DS, it broke multiplayer. With a technique known as "snaking," players learned how to quickly drift and boost while effectively moving in a straight line, leaving less experienced players in the dust. It's not how Mario Kart is supposed to be played, and if you didn't master the technique, you'd be quickly left behind. If you wanted to stay competitive, you had to learn how to snake yourself. Sure, that made you part of the problem, but hey. A win's a win.

Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link

A well-constructed video game puzzle is kind of like a magic trick. The game designers need to give players all the tools they need to find the solution on their own, but if they nudge the player too far in the right direction, it takes all the fun out of solving the puzzle. Some games, like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, get it just right. Others, like Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, do not.

Take Zelda II's Hidden Palace, for example. When you start the dungeon, you'll need the Magic Key, which unlocks an infinite number of doors, to get past the third screen. In order to get the Magic Key, you have to cast the spell Spell (yes, that's what it's called) at a dead end at the edge of the Hidden Town of Kasuto in order to uncover the Key's hiding place. To pull that off, you'll need to find the Hidden Town first—which involves chopping down trees with your hammer, because that's absolutely how forestry works—and learn Spell from a Kasuto native, and then you need to figure out what Spell does, because that name doesn't help at all (Spell also transforms some monsters into other monsters, which has nothing to do with making temples appear, adding to the confusion).

Oh, and the one hint you get to set you in the right direction? In Kasuto Town, non-hidden edition, an old man says. "THE TOWN IS DEAD. LOOK EAST IN WOODS." That's it. There's nothing about hammers, spells, hidden temples, or keys. Sure, if you're nine years old and have the time (and patience) to try everything, you might find get lucky and find your way on your own. If you're not, just check a walkthrough, then get back to the fun part: decimating Moblins and making Ganon beg for mercy.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Like the radio drama and book series it's based on, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy game is hilarious. It's also brutally difficult, especially by today's standards. While text-based games don't get much play these days, back in the '80s, they were a big deal. Since nothing needed to be animated—words are cheap, after all—in these games, players can do almost anything, as long as they know the right words (known as "verbs") to type. Seasoned adventure game veterans can navigate walls of text with ease. For those of us raised on graphics and controllers, however, knowing which verbs to use can be a challenge all on its own.

That's true for both easy and hard adventure games—and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is definitely not easy. A single mistake can result in Arthur Dent's death, sending the player back to the beginning. If you don't solve certain puzzles, or don't solve them the right way, you may not be able to beat the game—but Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy won't necessarily tell you, letting you endlessly try the same commands over and over until you give up.

And then, of course, there are the puzzles themselves. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series thrives on its twisted logic, and the game does too, which is great for making jokes but doesn't always lead to straightforward solutions. For example, in order to get the Babel Fish, which you'll need to translate alien languages, you have to solve a puzzle so complex and convoluted that the developers actually made t-shirts that successful players could buy to brag about their achievements.

You could spend hours (if not a lifetime) trying to solve the Babelfish's memories— or, if you're just looking for some jokes, you can look at a walkthrough. Hey, we like puzzles too, but we also like things that make sense. In Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, those two things don't always go hand in hand.

Ikari Warriors

Many older games aren't that long—with limited storage space, there's not always room for a whole lot of content—and so, in order to make a game last longer, developers made many of them extra difficult. That's the only possible explanation as to why Ikari Warriors is so hard, especially on home systems. In the arcades, Ikari Warriors had rotary joysticks, which can be twisted in addition to pushed in eight directions, and co-op multiplayer to set it apart. On consoles like the Nintendo Entertainment System, Ikari Warriors is mostly notable for its steep learning curve, which wasn't softened at all for home release.

In fact, Ikari Warriors on the NES is longer than the arcade game, and doesn't have continues enabled by default. That's ridiculous. In arcades, harsh difficulty curves were used to gobble up as many quarters as possible. That's not necessary for home releases. The developers already have your money, and Ikari Warriors is difficult enough even with infinite retries. Thankfully, there's a solution if, after wasting your measly three lives, you want to pick up where you left off. In the gap between the game over and title screens, enter a special code (A, B, B, A) and, most of the time, you'll pick up right where you left off. Continues don't stop Ikari Warriors' brutal action scenes from feeling like a meat grinder, but unless you want to throw your controller through your television screen, it's pretty much the only way to play.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Here's an idea: take a property made famous by a children's television show, then use it to make a game that's far, far too difficult for most of the kids who actually watch the thing. That's what Konami did when it made Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The bulk of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which features unforgiving action-platforming and respawning enemies, is hard enough. The second half of the second level, in which the turtles have two minutes and 28 seconds to disarm eight underwater time bombs, is infamously near-impossible.

Enter the Game Genie. While you could spend your time trying to master the level, it's easier to use Galoob's controversial cheating device to plow through the underwater hellscape. Entering SXVZGSOO on the Game Genie's launch screen (or the analogous menu in any popular NES emulators) renders the dam level's radioactive seaweed absolutely harmless. That makes the swimming challenge a lot easier to navigate, and while you'll still have to deal with the turtles' Flappy Bird-like controls, you should be able to disarm the bombs and finally, finally see what lies beyond the Hudson River (or you could just take Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles out of your NES and swap in the superior Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game, which has just as many mutants, but is also a fun, beatable game).