While they’ve fallen out of popularity in recent years, video game cheats and secrets were the topic of discussion on the playground in the ’80s and ’90s. Some tricks, like the Konami code and Super Mario Bros’ Warp Zones became almost universal knowledge, but other cheats never quite gained the same kind of traction. Today a game’s secrets are all discovered and posted on a well-formatted web page within hours of its release, but back in the day cheats could actually fall through the cracks.
So, here are a few secrets you may not know about games you might’ve been playing for 25 years or more. Some of these cheats could have saved your younger self a lot of frustration, but hey, better late than never, right? Let’s start playing these classic games right…
Super Mario Bros.
You Can Continue After a Game Over, And Select Stages From the Intro Screen
Everyone knows about the infinite lives Koopa Troopa trick, but all those lives wouldn’t be so necessary if Super Mario Bros. actually had continues. Well, lo and behold, it turns out it actually does.
When you die in Super Mario Bros. just hold down A on the Game Over screen, then just press start like usual on the title screen (while still holding A) and you’ll start back at the beginning of whatever world you were on. So, if you lost all your lives on World 8-3, you’d can continue at World 8-1. Not perfect, but it basically means you can continue battling away at level 8 without repeatedly having to play through early stages to access Warp Zones.
Oh, and once you beat the game and unlock hard mode, you can select your level from the intro screen by holding down the B-button for a second.
No need for this nonsense any more.
Super Mario Bros.
Bloopers Can’t Touch You at the Bottom of the Ocean
I hate Bloopers more than anything ever. Their unpredictable patterns just wig me the eff out. Well, turns out there’s a very easy way to avoid them. Just sink to the bottom and walk along the floor of any water level and the Bloopers won’t be able to touch you. You’ll have to do some swimming to get over some obstacles, but still, you’ll be a lot safer overall.
This guy’s doing it wrong.
Get Up At 9 To Recover All Your Health
Of course we all know pushing select between rounds in Punch-Out!! will get you a vigorous, life-restoring shoulder-rub from your Carl Winslow-looking trainer, but there’s a lesser-known health-restoring trick that’s actually more useful.
When you’re knocked down, try to recover as close to Referee Mario’s 9-count as possible. The longer it takes you to get up, the more health you regenerate, so if you get up at 9, you’ll get a solid 95% of your health back. Getting up as quickly as possible may feel like the manly, fighting thing to do, but if you do, you’re actually shooting yourself in the foot.
Stay down, Little Mac! Or at least stay down until 9!
Super Mario Bros. 2
It’s Possible to Kill Phantos
I lied up above when I said I hate Bloopers more than anything – Phantos, the terrifying invincible masks that chase you when you pick up a key in Super Mario Bros. 2 are actually significantly worse. So, I’m very happy to report that there is a way to kill these seemingly indestructible menaces.
If you stop time with a stop watch, then hit a Phanto while powered up with a star you can actually kill the evil bastard. Just hitting it with a star alone won’t effect it. The recipe for dispatching gaming’s greatest nightmare – you’re welcome.
Mega Man 3
There’s a Super Jump That Makes You Impervious to Pits
There’s Nintendo Hard platformers and then there’s the Mega Man series. The Blue Bomber’s games require a level of platforming precision that’s demanding even by 8-bit standards, so it may surprise you to know there’s trick in Mega Man 3 that makes you impervious to falling in holes.
You’ll need two controllers and maybe a helpful friend to make this trick work. If you hold down right on controller two, Mega Man will jump much higher than usual and be able to survive falls into chasms. When you do fall into a pit, Mega Man’s life will deplete, but he won’t actually be dead, and he’ll then rocket out of the pit and be invincible until you grab a health power-up.
The Legend of Zelda
You Don’t Have to Die to Save
The Legend of Zelda is an undisputed classic, but it isn’t without it’s odd design choices like, for instance, only letting you save once you’ve died. But what if you don’t want to sacrifice yourself to save your progress? Thankfully, it turns out Zelda does have a secret save screen, because yeah, saving is totally something you want to make a hidden Easter egg. Old games, man, old games.
To get to the secret screen you’ll need two controllers – on controller one, press and hold start, then on controller two, hold up and A. Now you can save without having to die like a dweeb.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
You Don’t Need Keys if You Have the Fairy Spell
The Fairy Spell is one of the more mysterious and interesting power-ups in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. For the most part, you use it to fly to otherwise inaccessible areas, but it also has other uses like, for instance, completely negating the need for keys. When in fairy form just fly around near the keyhole of a locked door and Link will pass right through the door without the need for a key.
To hell with this noise.
Super Mario Bros. 3
Hammer Bros. Can Be Turned Into Coin Ships
The Hammer Bros. that stomp around the Super Mario Bros. 3 overworld maps are mostly useless and kind of a nuisance, but did you know it’s possible to turn them into ships loaded to the brim with delicious coins?
The method for transforming Hammer Bros. into cash is a bit complex, so follow along closely. You need to beat a stage with a coin count that’s a multiple of 11, and a score where the second last digit matches your multiple of 11 and the last digit is a zero. So, if you beat the stage with 44 coins, the second last digit of your score would have to be a four, followed by a zero. Oh, and you also have to beat the stage with an even number of seconds on the clock. Phew.
Do all that, and the Hammer Bros. marauding around whatever map you’re on at the moment will turn into a white ship filled with several 1-ups worth of dem sweet, sweet coins.
One of the Walls in That Damn Speeder Bike Level is a Warp
The speeder bike stage in Battletoads is one of the most infuriating challenges in gaming history. You’ll smash into countless walls trying to get surpass it, but it turns out you’re actually supposed to crash into one of those walls. During the final sequence when the walls really start flying by at a ridiculous pace, intentionally ram into the 10th wall (it’s one of the ones on the bottom) and you’ll warp directly from Level 3 to Level 5.
Just looking at this picture makes my hands sweat.
You Can Make the Game Give You More Long Pieces
Turns out Tetris is pretty smart for an 8-bit game, but its smarts can be exploited. Tetris keeps track of how much you jostle pieces around as they fall, and since the designers of the game were jerks, the pieces you move around more are assumed to be giving you more trouble and thus served up more often. So, if you want more long, “I” shaped blocks (and who doesn’t) just jerk them back and forth as they fall, and the computer will “punish” you with more of them. [Note: This only works on the Nintendo version of Tetris, and not the unofficial Tengen version of the game.]
Mmmm, yeah, get that long block up in that slot.
So there you have it, a few lesser-known cheats and secrets from the 8-bit era. You may have already known a few of them, but I bet you didn’t know all of ’em. What about you folks? Do you have any favorite old-school cheats? Know any secrets you rarely hear people discuss? Share away.