15 of the Most Famous Video Game Glitches Ever

Ancient Nord ruins line a mountainside in Skyrim.

15 of the Most Famous Video Game Glitches Ever

It’s not easy to make a video game. A lot can go wrong at virtually every stage of the process, as developers, writers, programmers, and artists all come together to create something new. There are a lot of mundane glitches that can come to life when a video game gets off the ground. These bugs are awfully common, and most gamers don’t even bat an eye at them. But some glitches are truly special. Some bugs become memes in their own right, and some even change the course of video game development as we know it. Here are fifteen of the most famous video game glitches in the world.

Madden NFL 15: Tiny Titan

For some reason, Madden NFL 15 famously shrunk Christian Kirksey.
For some reason, Madden NFL 15 famously shrunk Christian Kirksey.

©Screenshot from Madden NFL 15 – License

The yearly Madden NFL franchise is the brand name in football video games. This series combs real-life player stats to ensure that your simulated teams are as accurate to real life as possible. This was not the case in Madden NFL 15, however, when it debuted Cleveland Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey. Rather than standing 6 feet tall like his real life counterpart, this player appeared in the game at a diminutive one foot, dwarfed not only by the other players but by the football itself. EA, to their credit, fully leaned into this glitch, running a special in-game challenge to show off their beloved “Tiny Titan.”

Minecraft: Creeper Pigs

The hostile creeper is one of the most terrifying foes in Minecraft.
The hostile creeper is one of the most terrifying foes in Minecraft.

©Screenshot from Minecraft – License

Nowadays, Minecraft’s creeper enemies are absolutely iconic, serving as an unofficial mascot for the entire game. But they owe their popularity to a complete accident. In the original build of Minecraft, there were no creepers. Instead, there was a glitch that swapped the dimensions of the pig, making them tall and skinny instead of short and stout. Original designer Notch liked this shape so much that he used it for a new mob. Thus, the famous creeper was born, and it’s been doing incalculable property damage ever since.

Space Invaders: The Glitch That Built the Game

Space Invaders is one of the most iconic arcade games out there.
Space Invaders is one of the most iconic arcade games out there.

©Screenshot from Space Invaders – License

The core gameplay loop of Space Invaders is pretty famous nowadays. As you destroy the invading spaceships, the ones left on screen will become progressively faster. It’s a simple and elegant progression system that organically increases the difficulty as you play. It was also a total accident. Because of the way the game was programmed, it simply runs smoother with fewer entities on screen. As you remove ships, the game can operate faster, and make your remaining enemies move at more effective speeds. The developer liked this bug so much that they kept it and incorporated it as a main feature.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2: The White Cube

Neither of the two Spider-Men are safe from this bizarre glitch.
Neither of the two Spider-Men are safe from this bizarre glitch.

©Promotional image from Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 – License

By all accounts, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was a considerable success when it launched last year. The game reinvigorated the already-popular web-slinging action of Insomniac’s original Spider-Man game, and did well enough to earn a Game of the Year nomination at that year’s Game Awards. But it wasn’t without its flaws. One of the most infamous glitches to afflict Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was the infamous white cube glitch. As the name implies, this bug transformed both playable Spider-Men into small white cubes. What made this glitch so special is that in spite of the limitations of their strange new forms, both Peter Parker and Miles Morales could still act normally in cube form. Videos of tiny white boxes swinging freely through New York City quickly went viral. The glitch turned out to be a vital piece of the fandom surrounding the game at launch. 

Super Mario Bros.: Minus World

This eerie glitch is the stuff urban legends are made of.
This eerie glitch is the stuff urban legends are made of.

©Screenshot from Super Mario Bros. – License

The infamous Minus World glitch presents an entire secret level in the original Super Mario Bros. By manipulating a warp pipe at the end of World 1-2, you can enter a glitched level whose very name the game will fail to render correctly, presenting instead the infamous title “World -1.” This underwater level copies World 7-2, a real water level in the game, but with one crucial difference. Going through the pipe at the end of the level sends players straight back to the start, preventing them from leaving without dying or resetting the game entirely. This eerie sort of in-game purgatory made World -1 an icon and a fundamental piece of early video game creepypasta.

Heavy Rain: Shaun

Ethan's journey gets a lot less fraught and a lot more hilarious with the Shaun glitch.
Ethan’s journey gets a lot less fraught and a lot more hilarious with the Shaun glitch.

©Screenshot from Heavy Rain – License

Heavy Rain is a narrative adventure game with a heavy, emotional plot about murder and deep, psychological issues. The title’s somber plot is completely ruined by the infamous Shaun glitch. In the final level, protagonist Ethan attempts to rescue his kidnapped son Shaun. Early in the level, you’re given a prompt to make Ethan shout Shaun’s name, immersively channeling the character’s desperation. However, the glitch prevents this prompt from ever going away. Throughout the level, you can constantly and unceasingly scream Shaun’s name, yelling over the villain’s monologue and even Ethan’s reunion with Shaun himself. This turns the game’s tense climax into an absolute farce, as even getting shot by a serial killer isn’t enough to stop Ethan from bellowing Shaun at every opportunity.

Grand Theft Auto IV: Swing Set Glitch

With the help of the swing set glitch, you can go even higher than this.
With the help of the swing set glitch, you can go even higher than this.

©Screenshot from Grand Theft Auto IV – License

In an expansive open-world game like GTA IV, there are bound to be things that don’t fit quite right. The game’s celebrated swing set glitch is a prime example. By driving a car into certain playground swing sets, or hitting them with enough force, the player will be catapulted with extreme force. Thanks to the game’s lovingly animated car wreckage, this can result in some pretty spectacular destruction. The swings can launch a vehicle halfway across the city, resulting in a calamitous wreckage once it finally hits the ground.

Assassin’s Creed Unity: Missing Faces

This promo image belies Assassin's Creed Unity's frankly terrifying launch.
This promo image belies Assassin’s Creed Unity’s frankly terrifying launch.

©Promotional image from Assassin’s Creed Unity – License

Ubisoft’s long-running Assassin’s Creed series is rich with highs and lows. By many accounts, Assassin’s Creed Unity was one of the latter. The game’s poor reception was epitomized by the nightmarish missing face glitch. This bug would fail to render a character’s head, except for their hair, eyes, and ghoulishly bared teeth. This horrifying error was one of many bugs plaguing the game at launch, but it was certainly the most memorable, as it turned the revolution-era stealth adventure into something more akin to a Silent Hill title.

Super Smash Bros. Melee: Wavedashing

Super Smash Bros. Melee was a major release for the fighting game community.
Super Smash Bros. Melee was a major release for the fighting game community.

©Promotional image from Super Smash Bros. Melee – License

Not many glitches have a tangible impact on an entire video game community, but the wavedashing bug does. This exploit requires a pretty complicated input, but the result is a powerful movement technique that lets you dash across the ground while simultaneously performing any ground-based action. This versatile move became all but essential to competitive play in Super Smash Bros. Melee, and it’s a big reason why so many pro players still prefer the GameCube title over its many sequels.

Skyrim: Getting Launched by Giants

Skyrim's giants can often be found herding mammoths.
Skyrim‘s giants can often be found herding mammoths.

©Promotional image from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – License

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is arguably one of the most famous open-world RPGs in the world, even to this day. It’s also legendary for its glitches. You could remake this article with nothing but glitches from Skyrim and you’d have more than enough content for twice as many entries. But all things considered, it’s impressive that one of Skyrim’s most famous glitches is now so renowned it’s practically a feature. This glitch sees players getting launched cartoonishly high into the sky by giants with one swing of their mighty clubs. This happens because giants’ damage output is so high that the excess damage is converted to force, launching a player’s corpse with all the damage that wasn’t needed to kill them. This was such a memorable part of giant encounters that Bethesda chose not to patch it, epitomizing the developer’s notorious “it’s a feature, not a bug” philosophy.

Arcade Kill Screens

Pac-Man's kill screen completely wrecks the game.
Pac-Man‘s kill screen completely wrecks the game.

©Screenshot from Pac-Man – License

The kill screens of early arcade games are an iconic part of the origins of video games. Arcade hits like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong has simple gameplay loops and rudimentary levels that can repeat essentially forever until the player dies. Some players, however, simply refuse to die. At some point, truly skilled competitors will reach a point where the game simply fails to render anything new, causing it to crash and display a now-iconic kill screen. These screens are usually full of gibberish and they’re impossible to progress past. These kill screens are effectively the only way to truly “beat” one of these old arcade games, and seeing one back in the day was proof that you were one of the best gamers out there.

Fallout 76: Freaky Friday

Much of the appeal of Fallout 76 comes in the gear you can collect.
Much of the appeal of Fallout 76 comes in the gear you can collect.

©Promotional image from Fallout 76 – License

To say Fallout 76’s launch went poorly would be an understatement. The game’s cavalcade of bugs and glitches has been well documented, as has the lack of content in the actual game. Looking back, it seems like Bethesda was ill-prepared for the strain of hosting a massive online game, and this is epitomized by one particular glitch that affected a fan in the early days of the game’s launch. Reddit user DahBunny attempted to log into their level 110 character only to find themselves stuck in the body of a low-level account instead. It speaks volumes that a wildly bizarre error like this was just a drop in the bucket that was the calamity of Fallout 76.

Pokémon Red & Blue: Missingno

Missingno is a deeply mysterious glitch.
Missingno is a deeply mysterious glitch.

©Screenshot from Pokemon Red & Blue – License

The early Pokémon games are rife with glitch Pokémon, but arguably the most famous is Missingno. This eerie error Pokémon has become an icon in the fandom for its almost eldritch nature. Its mere presence on your team can cause a variety of other glitches to afflict your data. Some of these are beneficial. Having a Missingno in your possession can allow you to perform an item duplication glitch, for instance. Fighting with a Missingno will corrupt not only the sprites of the other Pokémon but also the trainer of themself. Not even the owner of a Missingno is safe from its reality-altering effects.

Civilization: Nuclear Gandhi

India's peaceful leader harbors a deadly secret.
India’s peaceful leader harbors a deadly secret.

©Promotional image from Civilization VI – License

One of the most iconic glitches of all time can ostensibly be found in 1991’s Civilization. It has since been debunked by the game’s creators, but the urban legend remains an iconic piece of video game history, and is still worth bringing up here. The story goes that Gandhi’s aggression level was programmed to be so low that when his nation, India, achieved democracy, it would actually sink below zero. This would cause an integer overflow, making Gandhi the most aggressive leader by a wide margin. Since democracy also leads to the option of developing nuclear weapons, Gandhi would then immediately begin nuking rival governments. While this may not actually be true, its legacy has influenced future entries in the Civilization series, which see Gandhi ready to take the nuclear option at any moment.

World of Warcraft: Corrupted Blood Plague

The Corrupted Blood Incident claimed many virtual lives.
The Corrupted Blood Incident claimed many virtual lives.

©Screenshot from World of Warcraft – License

Few glitches have had a legacy more profound than World of Warcraft’s Corrupted Blood plague. This glitch was tied to a raid boss who would cast a contagious debuff on participants. Players found out that by fast traveling away from the boss or using their own pets as disease vectors, they could retain the Corrupted Blood debuff and spread it to players throughout the world. The Corrupted Blood soon became an all-out virtual pandemic. Populated social hubs became major outbreak zones, and low-level players could be killed by the disease in seconds. Some people took the role of healers, curbing the spread of the Corrupted Blood and attempting to quarantine hotspots. Others attempted to deliberately spread the Corrupted Blood, griefing on an apocalyptic level. This event went down in gaming history, and real-life epidemiologists even used it as a study of how diseases might spread in the real world.

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