We’re willing to bet that pretty much every gamer has fond memories of the moment when they discovered their first ever hidden location in a video game. Considering most players stumble upon this bonus content at an early age, it can be an incredible experience that makes you rethink everything you thought you knew about gaming.
The exhilarating rush you feel when you discover a secret area in a game never fades with age. It’s always exciting to stumble across extra levels, surroundings or even entire worlds. Not only is there the sense that you’ve achieved something others will likely miss, but video game developers often include generous rewards in recognition of players’ ingenuity. Sometimes they don’t.
Indeed, more than a few hidden locations offer absolutely no benefits whatsoever, which can be particularly galling in situations where arriving at that location required considerable effort. Sometimes, this is simply because the space in question wasn’t really designed to found: it’s just an area of the map that the development team abandoned and didn’t bother to remove. Other times, the location was intended as more of a fun little perk, with the thrill of the hunt and the novelty of visiting a unique spot treated as being reward enough. Either way, it’s good to know ahead of time which clandestine video game environments deserve your time before you set out in search of them.
For this reason, we’ve pulled together this handy list of 15 Hidden Video Game Locations That Are Worth Finding (And 15 That Are Worthless) – happy hunting!
30 Worth Finding – The Special Zone (Super Mario World)
Super Mario World’s Forest of Illusion is notorious for requiring players to locate a “secret” portal – or else remain trapped on an endless loop. However, this isn’t the only hidden content squirrelled away in this Super Nintendo classic.
There are two other bonus zones.
The first of these is the Star Road, which contains insanely convenient shortcuts to other game world locations. The second area, the Special Zone, will only be found by those players who explore the Star Road thoroughly. It’s actually a good thing that the Special Zone is so hard to find – the additional levels here are extremely difficult, so it’s best if only Super Mario pros attempt them!
29 Worthless – The Wrap Party (Deus Ex: Invisible War)
The Deus Ex franchise is celebrated for combining elements of various game genres, creating a winning hybrid gameplay formula. Thanks to the RPG aspects of the first sequel, Invisible War, players are able to directly influence how the narrative will unfold, and which of the five endings they ultimately unlock.
That’s right, we said five endings – which will come as a shock to gamers who never found Invisible War’s secret “Wrap Party” finale, which is accessed by taking a flag to a specific bathroom and flushing the toilet. Ironically, this bizarre ritual actually sums up the quality of this clandestine climax, which is randomly set in a nightclub populated with dancing characters.
28 Worth Finding – Triangle (Tony Hawk's Underground 2)
At first glance, the Triangle bonus level of Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 – unlocked by completing Classic Mode – isn’t that impressive. That’s before you realize that to get the most out of Triangle, you need to embrace your inner lunatic.
To uncover a hidden alien base, you need to blow it open by flipping the switch on the missile launcher of a nearby Apache helicopter!
Continue snooping around the alien base, and you’ll eventually come across a wormhole to an Aztec temple – but that’s not the end of the line. Curse all of the monkey gods in these ruins, and you’ll be transported to Hell itself, Triangle’s third and final secret area.
27 Worthless – The Chris Houlihan Room (The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past)
Full disclosure: the Chris Houlihan Room in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past does serve a purpose. Named after a Nintendo Power contest winner, this secret location manifests itself when one of five possible technical glitches occurs, and the game needs to shunt the player somewhere to avoid crashing.
It’s actually very useful, as nobody wants to see their game crash. That said, by it’s very nature as an in-game safety net, The Chris Houlihan Room isn’t exactly the most exciting hidden area you’re likely to discover, and it’s best not to find yourself there!
26 Worth Finding – Warden Sharp's Secret Room (Batman: Arkham Asylum)
The thing about most hidden areas in video games is that, ultimately, they are meant to be found – but sometimes the developers bury this content too deeply. Take Warden Sharp’s secret room in Batman: Arkham Asylum, for example.
The team at Rocksteady Studios hid it so fiendishly off-the-grid that nobody had found it, months after the game was released.
Rather than run the risk of the room never being discovered, Rocksteady opted to throw gamers a bone and made it publicly known that blowing up a wall in Sharp’s office would pay dividends. We’re glad they did, as this back-of-house bunker – which offered a sneak peak at sequel Arkham City – was too awesome to go unnoticed.
25 Worthless – The Easter Egg Room (GTA: Vice City)
Rockstar Games – the gang behind the blockbuster Grand Theft Auto franchise – have a kind of “love/hate” relationship with bonus content. Sometimes, this material is genuinely deserving of players’ efforts to find it, whereas other times, it’s almost like Rockstar is trolling us all.
Landing somewhere in the middle is GTA: Vice City’s Easter Egg Room, a secret room that can be entered by jumping through a not-so-solid window adjacent to the Vice City News Building’s helipad. Inside, players will find a literal Easter egg mounted on a plinth. It's a cute gag, but not much else.
24 Worth Finding – The Secret Cow Level (Diablo II)
Occasionally, video game hoaxes can give birth to actual content further down the line. Such was the case with the Secret Cow Level in Diablo II – which was included by Blizzard as a tip of the hat to false reports of such a level existing in the first Diablo adventure.
The Secret Cow Level – accessed by generating a special, red portal using a certain set of inventory items – more than lived up to the hype.
Not only could you snag some decent kit from the Cow King boss, but (until the release of a subsequent patch) it was the perfect place to level up your character, too!
23 Worthless – The Ghostly Room (Call Of Duty: Finest Hour)
If super-surreal, vaguely-creepy settings are your jam, then maybe The Ghostly Room in Call of Duty: Finest Hour will be right up your alley. As for the rest of us? Well, let’s just say it’s likely to prove a total let-down.
Accessing this mildly spooky spot isn’t overly tough: you just need to lob a couple of grenades at a locked door in the Underground Passage, press the action button, then throw another grenade into the mix for good measure. On the other side of the now-open door is a lengthy corridor, at the end of which you’ll find unnerving portraits, floating candles, explosive teddy bears, and other weird (and useless) bric-a-brac.
22 Worth Finding – The Cake Room (Portal)
At various points during first-person puzzle-platformer Portal, the player is reminded that “The cake is a lie.” Well, whoever first said that clearly never found themselves in the Cake Room, which is home to one of these otherwise elusive treats, as well as your beloved Companion Cube.
Admittedly, it’s a complicated getting into the Cake Room – a combination of exceptional portal gun marksmanship, well-timed agility, and technical glitches all need to come together for you to arrive there. Ordinarily, this would be more energy than we’d be willing to expend for even the most delicious dessert, but then, Portal is no ordinary game!
21 Worthless – Inside The Icon Of Sin (Doom II)
The final boss battle in Doom II: Hell on Earth is arguably anti-climatic enough, without coming face-to-face with its underwhelming hidden area. For those unfamiliar with the finale of Doom II, the player battles a large, wall-mounted demonic face know as the Icon of Sin, whose weakness is the hole in its forehead.
By exploiting either a glitchy jump or a no clipping cheat, squeezing through this opening is doable.
You’ll be rather disappointed with what you find. In lieu of either another Hellish presence or even a grotesque brain, you’re greeted by the sight of programmer John Romero’s head, which is just silly.
20 Worth Finding – The Castle Roof (Super Mario 64)
When it was first released back in 1996, Super Mario 64 represented a landmark moment in open-world video game design. Indeed, gamers weren’t really used to the level of freedom afforded by Mario 64’s sprawling environment – which is probably why so few of them managed to get their mitts on all 120 stars scattered throughout it.
Those persistent souls who did acquire each and every star weren’t complaining about the outcome, however. Doing so grants players access to the castle’s cannons, which launch you onto the normally inaccessible castle roof. Up here, you’re met by Mario’s dinosaur pal Yoshi, who dishes out 100 extra lives and a nifty new jump ability!
19 Worthless – The Gabe Newell Room (Half-Life)
Remember how we mentioned that some hidden areas weren’t necessarily intended to be found? Well, we’d like to think that The Gabe Newell Room in Half-Life falls under this umbrella.
What sane person would actually want players to encounter an environment textured floor to ceiling with the same photograph of their face?!
Lending further credence to our theory that developer Newell didn’t really want gamers to wander into his bonkers room is that you can’t actually reach it without resorting to cheats. That’s right: only those who use the no-clipping cheat at the exact right moment in Chapter 3 will make it to the Gabe Newell Room. Lucky them?
18 Worth Finding – The Mile High Club (Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare)
As we've established, the Ghostly Room in Call of Duty: Finest Hour is worthlesss– which shouldn’t lead you to think that every CoD hidden location is a waste of time. On the contrary, we’d rate The Mile High Club bonus mission in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare up there with any unlockable content, ever.
Available to players who completed the single-player campaign and then took the time to watch the game’s credits all the way through, The Mile High Club is set on a hijacked plane. Making the most of this thrilling premise, it’s chock full of intense close-quarters combat, as players race through the confines of the aircraft rescuing hostages.
17 Worthless – The Island (GoldenEye)
The lonely island in GoldenEye 007 is a prime example of aborted video game content making it into the finished product. Early on, developer Rare dreamed up an entire sequence where players would get behind the wheel of a boat during the Dam level, commandeering it to the island visible on the horizon. The problem was, the technology available at the time made programming such a sequence practically impossible.
The cool idea was dropped, but the island itself remained.
Gamers have since used Gameshark cheat codes to set foot there, experiencing first hand what might have been.
16 Worth Finding – Big Blue (Super Smash Bros. Melee)
You know a hidden area is worth unlocking when it’s been blacklisted from the majority of official tournaments. Such is the case with the Big Blue arena in Super Smash Bros. Melee, which becomes available after gamers go 10 rounds with Captain Falcon as their player character.
True, Big Blue is a monumentally unforgiving environment – which might be why most official competitions prohibit its selection – but that doesn’t make it any less fun to play. After all, what could be more exhilarating than a four-way rumble where the combatants bound between floating platforms while the world races past them at breakneck speed?
15 Worthless – Sector 7-G from The Simpsons (Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic)
There's just no way we're willing to give Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic’s tribute to The Simpsons a thumbs up when it comes to worthy hidden video game locations.
Admittedly, it’s pretty neat that 3D Realms was able to sneak a rough approximation of Homer Simpson’s Sector 7-G work station into the game.
Whether it’s due to the dated, mid-90s graphics used for this homage, or simply the lack of any real benefit to finding it, our reaction was more “D’oh” than “Woo-hoo”.
14 Worth Finding – The Reptile Pit (Mortal Kombat)
The Mortal Kombat franchise has a proud history of tucking away bonus material in each of its installments, dating all the way back to the first entry in the series. Funnily enough, the earliest secret stage in the game actually ranks among Mortal Kombat’s best: a showdown with Reptile amongst the spikes of the Pit environment.
It wasn't easy to get there – gamers needed to decipher clues provided by the green-garbed ninja at random, as well as meet certain other conditions. We can all agree that the end result – an extra fight against a legendary opponent – more than justifies the hard work involved.
13 Worthless – The Puff Puff Room (Dragon Quest VIII)
Frankly, the only gamers likely to think that the Puff Puff Room in Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is worth locating are those who really enjoy the RPG’s offbeat sense of humor.
A visit to the Puff Puff Room involves being blindfolded while a woman rubs her “puff puffs” against your cheeks.
Other than this surreal experience, the Puff Puff Room doesn’t have much else to offer…unless you simply can’t live without a mini medal and a silver platter in your inventory.
12 Worth Finding – Guy Savage Mini-Game (Metal Gear Solid 3)
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater doesn’t just feature a hidden area – it contains an entire mini-game that can only be unlocked following a special set of circumstances. Players first need to save their game prior to breaking out of their jail cell in Groznyj Grad. Next, they have to boot up that file, at which point they will wake up inside protagonist Snake’s nightmare: a horror-themed hack-and-slash joint!
Known as Guy Savage, this cool mini-game pits players against a horde of zombie-like enemies, which they can dispatch using the pair of swords at their disposal. Apparently, developer Konami originally intended to release Guy Savage as standalone title, but these plans were later abandoned.
11 Worthless – The Inverted Castle (Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night)
Criminally overlooked by gamers when it first hit shelves, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night fortunately went on to achieve cult classic status. Praised for successfully grafting non-linear level design and RPG mechanics onto the franchise’s action/platformer core gameplay, there was very little not to love about the game. In fact, perhaps the only unsatisfying thing about Symphony of the Night is the Inverted Castle bonus content. Unlocked by players who overcome Richter while wearing the Holy Glasses, this does what is says on the tin.
It flips the entire game map upside down.
True, it also tweaks the color scheme and throws new grunts and bosses at you – but it’s still basically the same game.
10 Worth Finding – The Painted World Of Ariamis (Dark Souls)
The games in the Dark Souls series are infamous for their eye-watering difficulty – which makes beating them all the more satisfying. The same can be said for pinpointing any of the franchise’s secret material: it's not easy, but it sure does feel good once you do it.
That’s what makes The Painted World of Ariamis hidden area in the original Dark Souls outing so great. It requires you to schlep all the way back to the start of the game to retrieve the appropriately-named Peculiar Doll. But once you’ve used the Doll to enter a magical painting boasting its own treasures and boss battle, you’ll be glad you put in the works!
9 Worthless – The Duck Race (Shenmue II)
In fairness, the Duck Race mini-game in Shenmue II totally fits with the action-adventure series’ commitment to presenting a fully-fledged virtual world. That’s certainly something this secret side-mission helps to accomplish; off-setting the larger-than-life aspects of the game’s main martial arts-driven narrative with a decidedly more mundane activity.
Unlocking this poultry-based rally is unreasonably tricky.
Not only are you expected to defeat Izumi Takano in a no-holds-barred street brawl – one of the toughest fights in Shenmue II – you’re also required to beat several arcade game challenges, as well. Again: this is all just so that you can take part in a duck race!
8 Worth Finding – Maian SOS (Perfect Dark)
Just about everything in Perfect Dark was perfectly executed – so it should come as no shock at all that this N64 shooter’s secret mission, Maian SOS, is so well handled.
After players have beaten the game as Joanna Dark on the Special Agent setting, they’re given the opportunity to take on the role of little grey alien Elvis. What follows is a wildly enjoyable romp through Area 51, as the player guides Elvis to do everything he can to escape confinement and relay a distress signal to his extraterrestrial brethren.
7 Worthless – The Secret Garden (Shadow Of The Colossus)
Marrying jaw-dropping visuals with revolutionary gameplay, Shadow of the Colossus is consistently ranked among the greatest video games of all time. The quality of the art design on display really can’t be overstated, and exploring this virtual environment was at least as captivating as the monumental battles that take place there.
Unfortunately, finding The Secret Garden – the secluded patch of land atop the Shrine – is a real bummer.
Scaling the Shrine takes sufficiently upgraded stamina, and then you’re forced to navigate a precarious pathway, only to wind up in a dull (albeit picturesque) setting that yields poisonous fruit.
6 Worth Finding – The Warp Zone (Super Mario Bros.)
Continuing the Super Mario franchise’s phenomenal run of form when it comes to secret locations, the Warp Zone in the first-ever console game, Super Mario Bros., is top-notch. All you need to do is sprint along the game score – which functions as a platform – at the top of the screen during the second level.
From here, you’ll eventually plummet to a modestly-sized room decorated with the friendly message, “WELCOME TO THE WARP ZONE!” There are also four numbered tubes, which correspond to the different game zones, allowing you to leapfrog well ahead of your current position.
5 Worthless – The Warren Robinett Room (Adventure)
The Warren Robinett Room in Adventure attained a new degree of fame this year, when it played a pivotal role in the finale of Steven Spielberg’s big screen adaptation of Ready Player One. This increased notoriety is probably more than this retro Easter egg (possibly the first in video game history) deserves.
All the Warren Robinett Room amounts to is a cloistered space that acknowledges Robinett as the creator of this Atari 2600 gem.
We’re all for seeing creators recognized for their work, but that’s what credit screens are for!
4 Worth Finding – The FBI Bunker (GTA V)
An instance of the Rockstar Games crew creating hidden content gamers might actually get a kick out of, the FBI Bunker in Grand Theft Auto V is all kinds of amazing. Located in a hollowed out cave on a small island situated in the Pacific Ocean, the Bunker is entered by walking through a seemingly innocuous tree.
It can be disorienting to find yourself transported to this subterranean hideout so abruptly, but get your bearings quickly. You don’t want to alarm any of the heavily-armed FBI agents standing on guard, or miss your chance to poke around the military-grade hardware stored nearby.
3 Worthless – Beam Me (King's Quest IV)
How you feel about this King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella Easter egg depends entirely on how you feel about the prospect of meeting up with a game’s developers in general. That’s exactly what this secret level is: a chance for players to interact with virtual representations of the King’s Quest IV creative team aboard a spaceship.
Triggered by typing “beam me” in the prison cell corridor once you’ve vanquished Lolette, this secret room does possess a certain goofy charm.
With no special items to be gained from making this social call amidst the stars, it’s far from essential.
2 Worth Finding – The Minecraft Area (Borderlands 2)
Borderlands 2 is full to the brim with bonus material, so much so that it’s almost impossible to name the best. We say “almost”, because obviously nothing beats the game’s concealed Minecraft-inspired environment!
Developer Gearbox really went all out with this one. Not only is Minecraft’s aesthetic faithfully recreated – complete with destructible blocks, natch – but Gearbox even included that game’s distinctive Creeper enemy NPCs. What’s more, players who enter this special area won’t leave empty handed, either. They’ll receive a special Minecraft character skin, making the time they spent exploring the Caustic Caverns entirely worthwhile.
1 Worthless – The Heart Of Liberty City (GTA IV)
The Grand Theft Auto series is no stranger to the odd moment of quirky comedy – but we’d argue that most gamers prefer the edgier tone that pervades the rest of the franchise’s humor. Maybe that’s why the Heart of Liberty City in GTA IV, a humongous, beating ticker chained inside the Statue of Happiness, fails to impress.
Yeah, there’s a decent chance that this Easter egg – which is accessed either by leaping from a helicopter or parachuting down to a doorway on the Statue’s pedestal – is meant as an ironic jab at town pride. Even so, that gigantic heart is just so goofy-looking, you'll wish you never laid eyes on it.
Did we miss out any other hidden video game locations that are (or aren’t) worth finding? Let us know in the comments!