The cheat code is a lost art. Back in the day, codes were used as debug functions or inserted as Easter eggs. These weren't necessarily intended for players, but gamers began uncovering them and enhancing gaming experiences nonetheless. Nowadays, game testing is far more sophisticated and debug codes are seldom left inside a finished product. In addition, developers have become far less interested in hiding Easter eggs (at least in the form of cheat codes.) No one really wants to insert any function into their game that will make it easier and thus reduce play value.
Still, cheat codes are an important part of gaming history. Since we here at Cheat Code Central have been sharing these codes for fourteen years, we thought it was about time we take you on a little walk down memory lane. Here's a list of the top ten video game cheat codes of all time.
(One little note before we begin: we are considering cheat codes only. No passwords, no glitches, and no Game Genie-type game alteration device codes.)
How to Execute: Hold up, turbo, and steal at the "Tonight's Match Up" screen.
Effect: Makes all players' heads three times as large.
Big Head Mode became a bit of a poster child for cheats as the years went on. Though NBA Jam was chock-full of game-enhancing codes (infinite turbo!) and secret characters (you have to love Al Gore and Bill Clinton), Big Head Mode was the one cheat to rule them all, simply because it was so goofy. We later saw Big Head Modes in games like Goldeneye, Ratchet and Clank, and the Tony Hawk franchise, but NBA Jam was the game that popularized it. Heck, you can even input the code in the new Wii version.
How to Execute: Hold down start and a combination of buttons corresponding to your assist character of choice when the match starts.
Effect: Allows you to choose your assist character rather than relying on a random pick.
The original Marvel VS Capcom was filled to the brim with secrets. However, beyond the six secret characters, the hidden Ryu transformations, and the ability to swap characters before a match, it was the Assist Select Code that made the biggest impact. This is one of the few instances where a cheat code actually made a game more tournament viable. Using this code, players were able to select their assist from a list of 22, rather than letting the game pick randomly for them. This allowed for actual strategies for assist characters, rather than forcing players to depend on the luck of the draw. All you had to do was remember the button combination that corresponded to your character of choice. But let's not fool ourselves; we all just picked Sentinel (MP, MK, HP). It's good to know that after all these years, the tradition of picking Sentinel hasn't changed.
How to Execute: Press and hold right on the second controller to give Mega Man a super jump, and press and hold up and A to freeze enemies. If you jump into a pit while holding right, Mega Man will lose all his energy but will not die, and he'll remain invincible as long as he does not gain any lift.
Effect: Super Jump, Invincibility, and Freeze Enemies, Duh!
I would argue that Mega Man 3's second controller cheats were incredibly important to the gaming scene. Why? Because they let a second player get in on the action in an otherwise one-player game. Not only did these codes make Mega Man ultra-powerful, they also let your friends screw with you if they wanted to. They could activate super jump at a bad time to make Mega Man jump into spikes or unfreeze enemies when you least expected it. All the crazy stuff you could do with the second controller turned Mega Man 3 into one of the very first griefing games, making it a blast even for the person not directly controlling the Blue Bomber. There weren't many other games that used the second controller for cheats in a one-player game, so this remains one of the most innovative cheat codes in existence.
How to Execute: At sound test, play tracks 19, 65, 09, 17, in that order, then press A and start at the title screen. This activates level select. Then play tracks 01, 09, 09, 02, 01, 01, 02, 04, in that order.
Effect: Allows you to have almost complete control over Sonic 2 levels, including the ability to place items and enemies where you want and fly straight through walls.
Debug Mode codes have always been cool, but Sonic 2's was the coolest because of all the awesome stuff you could do with it. You could give yourself all the rings you wanted, make the stage extra hard by putting more enemies in your way, select the stage you want to play, or skip a stage entirely. There were even items that weren't put in to the original game, including a box that immediately turns Sonic into Super Sonic. With the help of a Game Genie, you could even explore some deleted levels that never made it into the final game. The Sonic 2 Debug Mode put the power of a game design god into your hand, and it felt good.
How to Execute: On Windows 3.1, type BUDDAMUS. On Windows 95, type IMACHEAT. On Macintosh, type ARDO.
Effect: Gives you $500,000 and activates all rewards.
The infinite cash trick in Sim City was classic because it turned a simulation game into a sandbox paint tool. Nearly every sim game that has followed has had some sort of infinite cash trick that just lets you bypass all that gameplay crap and make your dream town, railroad, rollercoaster, or whatever. Even RTS games eventually got in on the craze, including similar codes that gave you unlimited resources and access to entire tech trees. This cheat proved that sometimes all players like to screw around a little.