A Cheat Code is a sequence of commands which turns on an undocumented, advantageous feature within a game. These are typically backdoors inserted during programming to facilitate testing by the designers. Since cartridge-based games used fixed memory locations, removing these backdoors after development was problematic (since their removal could lead to new unexpected bugs), so they were often left in for released versions. Even after cartridges were replaced by CD-ROMs as the main video gaming medium, cheat codes remained popular.
Where cheat systems had access to full alphabetical input, the codes were often based on Development Gags or pop-culture Shout Outs. To deter video game magazines from publishing the codes in cheat sections, some British computer games used cheat codes containing profanities.
A cheat code is a beneficial-in-game Easter Egg. If it's completely unrelated (like the flight sim in Microsoft Excel, or the special room in the Atari 2600 Adventure cartridge) then it's an Easter Egg, but not a cheat code.
See Konami Code for one of the most famous cheat codes.
- Perplex City has a card whose objective is to name the games that originated many of these popular codes.
- Holding down shift and pressing 838 while on the title screen opened up a developer's screen on many TI-99/4A games, typically allowing you to choose what level to start on, how many lives you had, etc.
- Game Boy:
- Many games used Up, A, Start. When used at any time, it would cause an in-game reset.
- This is referenced in the Strong Bad Email "keep cool" as the last thing lifeguard Strong Bad recommends doing before getting in the pool after eating.
- Konami: Try the code (Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A) on this website: http://www.vogue.co.uk/
- The Legend of Zelda:
- In every game, the player can choose a name for the main character.
- In the original The Legend of Zelda:
- Naming your saved game ZELDA (or at least starting the name with ZELDA, so ZELDARA would trigger this too) starts you off on the second quest. It is often joked by fans as being a Take That! to fans who think Link's name is Zelda.
- Pressing Up+ A on the player 2 controller takes you to the Continue/Save/Retry screen immediately, so you can save without having to die. In rereleases on platforms where you can't plug in a second controller, substitute commands are used, such as Up+Select on the GBA version.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, entering ZELDA treats you to a catchy remix of the series theme song.
- In the Japanese version, entering とたけけ (totakeke) will play a similar remix, with the melody being Totaka's song instead.
- JUSTIN BAILEY - A password beginning with this sequence lets a player start Metroid with an unarmored Samus and much of the game completed. Various hypotheses arose as to who or what "Justin Bailey" was, note but it was later proven to be a coincidence — the password system is coded so that many English word combinations produce valid results.
- A Metroid cheat code that is not a coincidence but which remained undetected for years is NARPASSWORD. It's hardcoded to bypass the usual password logic and checksums, and grants Samus infinite health and missiles, the Ice Beam, and every power-up in the game with the exception of Energy Tanks and missile expansions. There are several hypotheses regarding the code's name. Some say the first three letters stand for Tohru Narihito, who converted the game to cartridge format from the original Famicom Disk System version (which used battery backup instead of passwords). Others say the code is short for North American Release Password, inserted into the American version for debug purposes. Nintendo themselves claim it stands for Not A Real Password (the joke being it is a real password). Still others have searched the game far and wide for the elusive Narpas Sword...
- ENGAGE RIDLEY MOTHER FUCKER. Depending on the method used to play the game, it will cause negative effects of varying severity, with the most minor of them resetting the game back to the title screen, up to hardlocking the entire system it's being played on with the potential to cause some damage to the system itself in case of the 3DS Ambassador version at its worst. The reason why the password is so destructive is because it not only has an invalid starting location, but it also changes the total ingame time value (which is used to determine the ending you get) to 2.86 billion, which comes out to 314.5 years of total playtime.
- Catherine features a Shout-Out to the "Justin Bailey" code, with a character whose full name is Justin Bailey.
- Shadow Complex, another Metroidvania, also includes a reference: completing the Master Level Challenge of collecting 100% of its items in under 2 hours gives you the title "Jason Bailey".
- In Axiom Verge, once you get the ability to enter passwords, entering "JUSTIN BAILEY" will do exactly what you expect it to do and put the protagonist in a Leotard of Power that shows a lot of leg. Even though this protagonist is male. The Big Bad also gets a leotard during the final boss fight. Appropriate, since he and the protagonist are technically the same person.
- Tomb Raider:
- In the PC version of Tomb Raider II, attempting to use the "All Weapons" cheat note from the original Tomb Raider causes Lara to explode. The sequence does work as expected if Lara is holding a flare at the time.
- Tomb Raider III had even more fun with that: you have to do everything like in the second game, but with your pistols unholstered and adding a crouch before turning around. Wielding any other item or omitting the crouch once again causes Lara to explode.
- The Konami Code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start) was and still is used in several games made by Konami. The first time was in the NES game Gradius, where it gave your ship every powerup available. Another was Contra, where it gave you 30 lives.
- In the PC Engine version of the Irem game Mr. Heli no Daibouken, the code for up to 99 continues was I, II, II, I, Select. Entering the same code in Ninja Spirit would just display the message "Do you play Mr. Heli?" (This confused some American players, since Mr. Heli was released in the U.S. only as an Arcade Game under the Market-Based Title Battle Chopper.)
- Castlevania: Rondo of Blood had X-X!V''Q as the level select code. In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, entering the same name allowed beginning with Alucard in Luck Mode, with 99 Luck and a Lapis Lazuli which further increases his Luck.
- "XYZZY" is a magic word in Colossal Cave Adventure. While not originally a cheat code, homages to Colossal Cave use it as such, and the hobbyist text-adventure development community traditionally includes a hidden "xyzzy" command as a tribute. Slightly less commonly used is "PLUGH" which functions the same as "XYZZY" in Colossal Cave. (Depending on what version of the game you play, other words such as "PLOVER" and "LWPI" also appear.)
- In Deus Ex, this is one of the passwords JC Denton uses to attempt to get into Smuggler's place when he doesn't know the real one.
- In the online text adventure game Grueslayer on Uncyclopedia, there will usually be an option to either pronounce or say "xyzzy" or a variant with a different number of X's and Z's. Doing this at any time will kill you horribly.
- Kingdom of Loathing, a text-adventure parody in itself, references this in the Leaflet Quest.
- Some versions of Windows Minesweeper have a cheat where typing "xyzzy" and then pressing the Shift and Enter keys enables the player to identify whether or not a given square contained a mine by looking at the upper-left-most pixel of the screen.
- The adult text adventure game Moist has "xyzzy" teleport you to the ballroom in the middle of the map (and lampshades it with the comment "Good to see the old magic still works").
- Use of this word in Level 9's Snowball (or indeed, any magic word from any of their previous games) would cause a psychiatric droid to tap you on the shoulder, then tranquilize you, and you would wake up in a padded cell. Fortunately, there was a way out. It can be used to teleport away from death, and lets you into an area that you might not have unlocked yet, but this can lead to Script Breaking and even make the game Unwinnable.
- Trying either "plugh" or "xyzzy" in Zork causes the game to tell you "A hollow voice says 'Fool'." This in itself is commonly referenced.
- Counterfeit Monkey: Typing "plugh" or "xyzzy" results in the response "What we do isnít magic. Itís science."
- Max Blaster and Doris de Lightning Against the Parrot Creatures of Venus has a silly response to "plugh" or "xyzzy", akin to a tie-in promo found in 80s comics. The command turns out to have been the "secret word" of the day. Max and Doris break character to address an unseen audience of "Max-and-Doris Patrol Club Members" and give them a message to decode using their special decoder rings. If you decode it successfully, it gives you two commands you can use for bonus material.
- Savoir-Faire: Typing "xyzzy" or "plugh" actually serves a gameplay purpose; it spawns a recipe cylinder for Easter eggs. If you find the ingredients, you can even cook it.
- Best of Three: Typing "xyzzy" results in the perfunctory response "ó obligatory easter egg ó".
- Pythos Mask: The "xyzzy" command results in the text "It will take more than petty incantations to save the day."
- Galatea has a special response. Typing "xyzzy" or "plugh" results in a surreal ending where you break the fourth wall and apparently end up as a game developer.
- Cragne Manor: Subverted with "xyzzy", which does nothing special.
The world falls silent for a moment, as if holding its breath for something to happen... but nothing does. You donít know what you expected, really.
- Using "plugh" or "xyzzy" in City Of Secrets gives the response "The strange word, though meaningless, endows you with a brief flush of confidence and self-assurance."
- The first Zork game has the instructions on how to use the boat start with the phrase "Hello, Sailor!" (The game gives the same response to "Hello, Sailor!" as it does to "xyzzy" and "plugh".) The second game has the same things built in and also introduces "Hello, Aviator!" on the instructions for how to use the hot air balloon. These become a Brick Joke in the third game, in which saying "Hello, Sailor!" at the right time and place nets you an invisibility potion. Alternately, in the original, Mainframe Zork that was cut up into three pieces to make the commercial Zork series, knowing that "Hello, Sailor" was utterly useless was important.
- In the SNES port of Street Fighter II, you could punch in Down, R, Up, L, Y, B, on the Capcom logo to unlock mirror matches. The "sequel" Street Fighter II Turbo used it on controller 2 to enable mega turbo mode or disable specials if done on the "Licensed by Nintendo" screen. King of Dragons appended X and A to the code to unlock same-character select.
- Later id Tech 3 games of the Dark Forces Saga are consistent across the years with cheats unlocked by entering either "devmapall" or "helpusobi 1" and featuring a godmode (god) all weapons, ammo and full health/shields (give [blank] or give all) level jumps, noclip mode and the latter two games letting you set Force powers as high as you like and spawn both friendly and hostile Non Player Characters. Also present in the last game is a punching mechanic, unlocked with the code "iknowkungfu." The PS4 port of Jedi Outcast allows for cheats by pausing the game and inputting up, down, up, down L3, R3, L3. Each of the cheats is accompanied by a Mythology Gag and, while most achievements are disabled, there is an achievement for completing a level with a cheat code active.
- Doom has a number of cheat codes prefixed by the character sequence "ID" — the most popular being "IDDQD" (God Mode) and "IDKFA" (full armor and ammo plus all weapons and keys). The "ID" prefix obviously stands for developer id Software, but not many fans know that "DQD" stands for Delta-Q-Delta, the name of a three-person informal fraternity organized by Doom programmer Dave Tailor during his college days. "KFA" simply stands for Keys, Full Ammo.note Several later games, particularly in the same genre, have carried on the tradition.
- If you type any code from the original Doom into the developer console in Doom 3, you get the message "Your memory serves you well!" and nothing more.
- In Activision's Windows release of Earthworm Jim, entering "IDDQD" and "IDKFA" would display two different credits screens.
- The same thing happens with the PC version of Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, displaying a screen of the team saying 'This Ain't Doom!'
- If you have one of the older versions of Microsoft Excel that has the mini-FPS hidden inside it, try the code "EXCELKFA".
- Heretic includes "IDDQD"... but, in a case of Jackass Genie, doing so instantly kills you with the message "Trying to cheat, eh? Now you die!" Likewise, "IDKFA" deprives you of everything except a staff ("Cheater - you don't deserve weapons!"). Players were likely to try these codes at least once, considering that the game used the Doom engine.
- Using "IDDQD" in MechWarrior 2 detonates your BattleMech with the message "This ain't Doom, bub".
- Typing "IDKFA" into Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3's password entry screen allows you to skate as the Doom Guy, complete with his own set of Doom-themed skateboards.
- Hyper Princess Pitch has a complex reference to the Doom cheat codes, where each of the game's cheats are prefixed by a RG (Remar Games) much like how Doom cheats use the company's name as a prefix. The game also uses the Konami Code to trigger a one-time Smart Bomb.
- Typing one of the Doom cheat codes into the console in Zortch unlocks the "This is NOT Doom!" achievement.
- The no-clip code for Doom is "IDSPISPOPD". It's both a code and an in-joke: an acronym for "smashing pumpkins into small piles of putrid debris." note Lampshaded in the novel for Doom, where the Cacodemons are called Pumpkins by the hero(es) and, after a particularly gruesome encounter, the Action Girl shouts, "OOH-RAH! Smashing pumpkins into small piles of putrid debris!"
- By the way, none of "IDKFA", "IDDQD", "IDSPISPOPD", "IDBEHOLD" or their ilk work on the version of Doom that comes with the Doom 3 BFG Edition.
- They actually do, as long as you type them in the console, rather than just during gameplay. Except "IDDQD" becomes "IDQD" for reasons unknown.
- In Heretic, god mode is "QUICKEN" and all weapons is "RAMBO". If you try "QUICKEN" three times in the sequel Hexen, your character instantly dies. However, in an unintended and unforeseen portability between the two games, typing "QUICKEN" and then "RAMBO" just so happens to include the sequence for Hexen's own all weapons code: "NRA".
- Most first-person shooter games whose game engines can have their origins traced all the way back to Quake (such as games developed by Valve Software) tend to share a lot of cheat codes for their developer consoles. Some shared cheat codes are:
- "god", which gives the player invulnerability.
- "noclip", which lets the player move through walls and enemies, and lets them ignore water.
- "notarget", which prevents enemies from noticing the player. Interestingly, in Quake itself, it only worked as long as the player didn't attack them, similarly to the Ring of Shadows powerup.
- "impulse <number>", a debug command that triggers the action that is identified by the chosen number - for example, "impulse 2" in Quake makes the Shotgun the active weapon while "impulse 255" activates a Quad Damage. However, all Quake-derived games have an "impulse" that gives the player all weapons and maximum ammo. In Quake, it's "impulse 9" (which also gives the player both the Silver and Gold Key, but they are lost upon changing levels. It's also the only way to use the Thunderbolt in the demo), while in Half-Life-derived games it's "impulse 101".
- Sonic the Hedgehog:
- In Sonic the Hedgehog, the level select code is "up, down, left, right, then hold A and press Start". Pressing C after each direction activates debug mode. The first version of the code is used in a number of other Mega Drive games.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the level select code is "19, 65, 09, 17" on the Sound Test. It's the birthday of Yuji Naka!
- In Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island, press B, A, right, A, C, up, down, A ("BARACUDA") to unlock level select. This is also a common sequence in Mega Drive games. Alternatively...you can just slap your cartridge while itís in the slot since the level select also acts as a failsafe when the game has an untrappable error.note
- One of the oldest cheat codes, and possibly one of the best-known, is "6031769" from the 1983 Sinclair ZX Spectrum game Manic Miner (it unlocked a teleport system). This was later homaged in Grand Theft Auto (by British developers Rockstar North), which uses this as one of its cheat codes.
- Jet Set Willy, in its original release had a teleport system if you typed in the word "typewriter". A later re-release when the author moved from Bug Byte to Software Projects changed it to "writetyper".
- Some Hudson Soft games allow to continue from the last stage you got Game Over (instead of going back to 1-1) by using hold LEFT and press START cheat code. Works in Adventure Island and Milon's Secret Castle.
- In Bubble Bobble (the arcade version), entering certain controller codes on the title screen that would make powerups permanent, reveal all secret doors, and unlock the "Super Game." In Rainbow Islands, the same three codes produced hint messages instead.
- Spyro the Dragon:
- The original Spyro games on PS1 feature cheat codes for 99 lives, Big Head Mode, Flat Spyro, colour changing and level warps (although not all at once in the same game).
- Spyro Reignited Trilogy: Only the 99 Lives code from 1, the colour-changing codes and the Big Head/Flat Spyro codes from 3 were used. This is because they're the only ones that don't use the Circle button (unless it's the last input), as that cancels out of the remake's pause menu.
- Donkey Kong Country: At the save file menu:
- B, A, R, R, A, L (Barrel) — Grants 50 lives upon starting or loading a file.
- Down, Y, Down, Down, Y (DYDDY -> Diddy) — Instant access to the animal bonus stages.
- Down, A, R, B, Y, Down, A, Y (Darby Day) — Sound Test.
- B, A, Down, B, A, Down, Down, Y (Bad Buddy) — Allows either player to switch in two-player co-op, not just the active player.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan, in addition to featuring the ability to use the Konami Code to fully heal during the game, has a code where pressing A, B, and Select at the same time on the level select screen will reveal an extra "?" option, which allows the player to access any of the three bonus stages anytime they want.
- All of the Age Of games have stock cheats that devious players (or campaign schemers) will know off by heart, ready to Ctrl+V and double-Enter into oblivion. The resource ones are arguably the most well-known, for Foodnote , Woodnote , Stonenote and Goldnote , as well as instant units and research.note
- In Planet Blupi, by typing a certain word in-game, you can either refill all Blupis' energy and cure the sick ones ("POWER"), make all Blupis' Life Meter stay full regardless of task ("SUPERBLUPI"), make the Blupis outright invincible ("INVINCIBLE"), clear out all the black fog that limits your vision ("VISION"), among others.
- The password for an instant win in Starcraft is "there is no cow level", referencing a rumor in Blizzard's Diablo (which became an actual level in Diablo II). There was also a user group known as "Operation: CWAL (Can't Wait Any Longer)" on the Blizzard forums before the official release of Starcraft; as a Shout-Out, the cheat code for super fast construction is "operation cwal". The cheat for infinite energy is "the gathering", a reference to Magic: The Gathering. Other cheats include "black sheep wall", "food for thought", and "power overwhelming". Starcraft II has terribleterribledamage and moredotsmoredots.
- In the first Warcraft, the code to enable cheat codes is "corwin of amber". To make your units invincible and able to kill enemies in one hit, type "it is a good day to die". "ides of march" takes you to the last mission for the campaign, while "eye of newt" gives all casters all spell upgrades.
- Warcraft II once again has "it is a good day to die", and adds "on screen" to remove the Fog of War and "make it so" for fast building/training/researching. Meanwhile, "there can be only one" results in instant victory, and "every little thing she does" upgrades your units' magic.
- The instant win password in Warcraft III is "allyourbasearebelongtous", while the instant defeat password is "somebodysetupusthebomb". The code to give yourself gold is "keysersoze n", where n is the amount you want. "greedisgood n" gets you n of both gold and lumber. "thereisnospoon" gives all units infinite mana. "strength and honor" prevents the computer from declaring your loss. "whoisjohngalt" allows research upgrades even if you haven't met the requirements (such as having a Workshop in order to research Long Rifles). warpten gives instant builds. iocainepowder grants instant death attacks to all your units. "iseedeadpeople" removes the Fog of War. The Attack*100-plus-invincibility cheat is "whosyourdaddy".
Shoot 'Em Up
- Burai Fighter has two special cheat passwords: LOBB (after Ken Lobb) for all weapons, and KAGA (after Taxan's parent company, Kaga Electronics) for 99 lives.
- In the original SimCity, hold Shift and type "fund" to get $10,000 (each time). If you use it eight times, though, you trigger an earthquake. You can avoid the downside by saving and reloading before you reach the trigger, or by using the code prior to building anything.note
- In SimCity 2000, this code offers to loan you $10,000 at 25 percent interest a week. You can exploit this by using the code repeatedly until the ridiculous interest rate wraps around and turns hugely negative.
- Entering "fund" in the cheat console of SimCity 3000 makes your news ticker scroll a message about "an ancient, arcane code".
- In SimCity 2000, "iamacheat" gives you $500,000 and unlocks all buildings and rewards. Typing "priscilla" gives access to a lovely debug console.
- In SimAnt, SimEarth, and Sim Life, using "iamacheat", "fund", or any other money-related cheat from prior games results in a message saying "Congratulations, you are now $10,000 richer. Unfortunately, money is useless in this game." Using them in SimFarm donates the money to the nearby city, rather than to your own bank account. Rather than actually doing something useful with the money, the mayor squanders it all on a new car.
- In SimCity 3000, "Call cousin Vinnie" causes a shady-looking character to offer a large sum of money, though this works only once per game. If you reject it, a cop congratulates you for passing a Secret Test of Character and gives you another code to build a castle.
- klapacius (later rosebud) from The Sims. Of course, finding how to get the cheat window to pop up is the fun part. (Ctrl-Shift-C, in case you were wondering.)
- In every main Sims game since the The Sims 2, it's been "kaching" to get 1000 simoleons and "motherlode" to get 50000 simoleons.
- Heroes of Might and Magic III. Tab-nwc[culturalreference]. In all three versions of it. One referenced Monty Python and the Holy Grail: nwcalreadygotone gives you the holy grail and nwcigotbetter to gain a level. The expansions used Matrix and Star Wars Episode 1 references. Popular fanmade expansion Wake of the Gods replaces cheatcodes as well - this time with Lord Of The Rings references.
- Parodied to a mocking degree in Super Mario RPG. When the player inputs Down-Up-Right-Left-L-R-L-R-B while in the menu, Toad pops in to congratulate the player on unlocking the secret code. But when he looks over your stats and experience points, he notes that nothing has changed, meaning the code does absolutely nothing gameplay-wise. The gag was exclusive to the Japanese version in the original SNES but added to all regional versions in the Nintendo Switch remake.