8 Video Game Hoaxes, Debunked
By Rudie Obias
Video games are full of secrets, mysteries, and hidden gems for gamers to unlock. But sometimes gamers are so desperate for mysteries to unlock that they’re willing to believe just about anything to find them. Here are eight video game hoaxes that were finally disproved.
1. The Game: Super Smash Bros Melee
The Hoax: Unlock Sonic & Tails
Nintendo released its first crossover video game, Super Smash Bros Melee—which featured 25 iconic Nintendo characters in one massive fighting game experience—in December 2001. That same year, Sega began licensing their characters and games to third party video game consoles after they stopped making hardware (the Dreamcast was their last console), and Nintendo released a Sonic game (Sonic Advance) for its consoles. So in 2002, when video game magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly wrote that it had discovered a way to unlock Sonic the Hedgehog and Miles “Tails” Prower as playable characters, it made sense. To play as Sonic and Tails, EGM said, gamers would have to defeat 20 enemies in a row in “cruel melee” mode.
In the weeks after EGM's issue hit stands, players tried and tried the trick, but had no success unlocking Sonic and Tails. EGM later admitted it was all a hoax and part of its April Fools’ Day issue. Nintendo would later add Sonic in its 2008 game, Super Smash Bros Brawl, but not Tails. Today, Nintendo has the exclusive rights to Sonic, but Sega still owns the character.
2. The Game: Super Mario 64
The Hoax: Finding Luigi
In 1996, Nintendo released the Nintendo 64 in the United States with only two launch titles: Pilotwings 64 and Super Mario 64, which quickly became the most popular video game for the new console; gamers spent hours unlocking its many mysteries and secrets. It was even rumored that players could unlock Mario’s brother Luigi as a playable character.
On one of the statues in the castle’s courtyard, a plaque that illegibly reads “L is real 2401” can be found. It was believed that if Mario collected all of the game’s gold coins—allegedly, 2401 of them—and went back to the statue, Luigi would be waiting.
Gaming outlet IGN received so much fan mail about the “L is real 2401” secret code that they issued a $100 bounty if anyone could send them proof of its existence. No one ever did. The bottom line: Players could collect all the gold coins in Mario 64, but nothing would happen if they returned to the statue in the castle’s courtyard.
3. The Game: Goldeneye 64
The Hoax: Playing with All Bonds
The way the “Cheat Options” menu was designed in the first-person shooter Goldeneye 64 suggested that there were 24 cheats to unlock instead of the 23 that players had found in the game. Gamers believed that the 24th cheat was a way to play as the previous iterations of the James Bond character in multi-player mode. When early screenshots from the game revealed Sean Connery as James Bond, many gamers tried various ways to unlock the elusive cheat code, but were unsuccessful.
In 1998, Electronic Gaming Monthly published additional screenshots of Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton as the Agent 007 as an April Fools’ Day joke, which led many more to believe the cheat code was real. The reality was that Nintendo could not secure the likeness rights of Connery, Moore, or Dalton, so the cheat code was scrapped.
4. The Game: Street Fighter II
The Hoax: Hidden Character Named Sheng Long
After Street Fighter II battles are finished, the victor taunts his fallen opponent via a title card. When gamers in Japan fought with the character Ryu and defeated their opponents, the title card would read, “If you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch"—or Shoryuken, one of Ryu’s signature fight moves—"you cannot win!”
When the game was imported for American gamers, Capcom mistranslated Ryu’s taunts. Instead of referencing Ryu's Rising Dragon Punch, the title card said “You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance.” It was rumored that Sheng Long was a hidden playable character somewhere deep inside of the game, but when the fighting game was ported to the Super Nintendo, its instruction manual explained he was Ryu’s former master.
Electronic Gaming Monthly took this rumor one step further and published a story confirming that Sheng Long was a character that could be unlocked in the video game. Gamers would have to play as Ryu through the tournament without taking any damage or losing battles to unlock the mysterious martial arts master. Once again, EGM confessed that it was all a hoax and was part of an April Fools’ Day joke, despite publishing the technique in the magazine’s February issue (why anyone believed anything that the magazine published remains a mystery).
5. The Game: Final Fantasy VII
The Hoax: Saving Aeris
In 1997, Square released Final Fantasy VII for the original PlayStation. Halfway through the video game, one of its main characters, Aeris, dies. This was a very shocking revelation, and one of the first instances when players felt emotionally devastated over a video game’s storyline. That might explain why rumors emerged that there were ways to keep Aeris alive, including trying to find hidden gems and going on quests for non-existent characters. All known techniques were proven false. And although gamers spent hours trying to find ways to keep her alive, Aeris's death was important for the video game’s overall narrative.
6. The Game: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
The Hoax: Updating the Game for the Wii U
During Nintendo’s E-3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) presentation in 2012, a mysterious trailer emerged on the Internet. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask was one of the most popular Zelda games for the Nintendo 64, and fans were happy to see that Nintendo was updating the game for the yet-to-be released Nintendo Wii U.
Although the trailer looked convincing—it even had high-definition graphics and a symphony score!—the proposed video game was a fake. Two video game designers named Pablo Belmonte and Paco Martinez created the trailer as a pitch and proof-of-concept to Nintendo for a Zelda remake.
The fake trailer garnered a lot of attention from video game outlets, fans, and even Nintendo, but the company has no plans to re-release an updated version of the Zelda classic.
7. The Game: Mortal Kombat
The Hoax: Unlocking the Red Ninja Ermac
The original Mortal Kombat arcade game had one hidden character, a green ninja called Reptile. But in the game's audit menu—where owners can access information and analytics about the game—there was a category called “Ermac,” which led fans to speculate that Mortal Kombat actually had two hidden characters. It was believed that the character could be unlocked if you won the fighting tournament by scoring double flawless victories and fatalities against all of your opponents. Once a player defeated the final boss, Shang Tsung, the red ninja Ermac would appear to challenge you to a battle.
The reality is that “Ermac” is short for “Error Macro,” which co-creator Ed Boon wrote as an error message in the game’s programming. However, the Mortal Kombat developers were so impressed with the fans’ passion for the rumored character that they eventually introduced Ermac in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 as a secret playable fighter.
8. The Game: Sony PlayStation 4
The Hoax: Viral Video Commercial
A few days before the start of E-3 2010, a viral video that promoted new PlayStation hardware surfaced on YouTube. The commercial teased the release of the PlayStation 4 just before Sony was slated to present the PlayStation 3’s new Move motion controller add-on at the video game convention. It didn’t seem likely that Sony would release a new console only four years after the release of the PS3. Nevertheless, the commercial was very convincing, as many gaming websites and blogs ran the viral video and promoted the launch of the PlayStation 4.
But hardware PR representative Al de Leon shot down rumors that Sony was working on a PlayStation 4. “I can confirm that this video is not from SCE (Sony Computer Entertainment),” he told Game Informer. Three years later, Sony announced the PlayStation 4 would be available for the holiday season in 2013.