Welcome, one and all, to today’s Top 5! This time around I’m looking at my top 5 weird and creepy things to appear in family friendly retro video games. What dark secrets could be lurking in those 80’s and 90’s titles? Let’s find out!
The Apprentice [Phillips CD-i – 1994)
Released by The Vision Factory, this was a colourful little platformer that was deemed suitable for all ages. On the face of it, that’s accurate. The bright colourful sprites, and the cartoony cut scenes all make it a prime example of a 90’s family game. Some years after the demise of the CD-i though, the game was discovered to have a darker underbelly. You see, there were cheat codes. Some of them were pretty mundane – granting invincibility or allowing you to paly a Space Invaders clone – but the others? We’re talking a violent fatality and some nudity. You can check out the full run through in the video below, but it’s definitely NSFW.
Sonic CD [SEGA Mega CD – 1993]
The Blue Blur is a true gaming icon. Whether you enjoy his modern output or not, Sonic the Hedgehog has been remarkably enduring as a character, and this classic release is often cited as one of his best outings. But did you know that there’s a hidden screen in the game? Following along with the video below, you get taken to darkened image that’s accompanied by the creepy (but cool) US version boss music. It’s not as bad as it seems, mind you. The message actually translates to: “Tanoshi sa (Fun by [from]) SEGA ENTERPRISES — Majin”
Super Mario Bros. [NES – 1985]
Not one to be outdone by his speedy rival, Mario was actually a darker character than many realized. By now, the vast majority of gamers will have played this legendary title, and probably even find themselves humming the much loved soundtrack to themselves. But did you know that Mario was technically a mass murder? The instruction manual states: “The Quiet peace-loving Mushroom people were turned into mere stones, bricks, and even field horse-hair plants, and the Mushroom Kingdom came into ruin.” Now, we also that Princess Peach can turn the citizens back into people. You’d think Mario would know that. Despite this though, he simply continues to jump up and smash the former inhabitant of the Mushroom Kingdom into tiny pieces. Of course, this is something that’s been argued back forth for a while now, so whether you’re smashing citizens or not is clearly up for debate.
California Speed [N64 – 1999]
Originally an Atari arcade title, this racing game got a port to the N64 thanks to Midway Games. While there’s nothing inherently bad I the core gameplay, there is a creepy little Easter Egg if you go looking for it. If you drift along the edge of the track, a billboard comes into view that reads: “SoMETIMES God TaKes MOMMIES aND PuPPIES AWAY…And SoMETIMES…JustSoMETIMES…I do.” As it happens, the inclusion of this message was an accident. The person who entered it did so as a placeholder that absolutely would not be mistaken for a finished asset. I guess that didn’t work out.
Crash Bandicoot 2 [PlayStation – 1997]
The Japanese release of this Naughty Dog classic has some additional material that the Western release didn’t: a karaoke cutscene! If you use the right button combo before the Title Screen, you get the video below. Here, Crash dances with women and just generally acts like his video game self. It’s all quite odd to look at.
And there you have it. But what about you? Do you remember any weird little Easter Eggs and hidden stuff in retro games? Let me know in the comments below.