Brace yourselves, Easter is coming.
Since this year Easter falls on the same day as April Fool’s Day, it’s only proper to honour this spectacular timing with a feature about video game Easter eggs, the developers’ way of telling us that they are, indeed, human and have a healthy distance to their creations. Of course picking only ten Easter eggs is ridiculous by itself, since there are game which have many more than that. We’ve settled on one Easter egg per game, and one game per franchise to keep it from bloating. So without much further ado, let’s see what amusement the developers have hidden from us.
10. Uncharted 3 – a newspaper from The Last of Us
Here’s a fun one, and its backstory is even more amusing than the egg itself, but first things first. In Uncharted 3, the penultimate instalment of a series depicting the life and times of a lucky rapscallion Nathan Drake, in one location you can spot a newspaper with a headline reading “Scientists are still struggling to understand deadly fungus”. Which on its own might seem innocent enough, except we’re talking about Naughty Dog, who have also developed The Last of Us (its sequel is upcoming), where the zombie-calypse has been caused by a fungus overriding human nervous system. Uncharted and The Last of Us shared universe confirmed? Eh. Amusingly enough, the Easter Egg ended up being a spoiler. As investigated by Kotaku way back when, it turns out that the announcement of The Last of Us was supposed to come before the launch of Uncharted 3, but due to things being ever in flux, the dates changed and people have only heard about The Last of us after they’ve already played Uncharted 3 to the end.
The best part is that Naughty Dog forgot the Easter egg was even in the game, or they would have simply removed it to avoid spoiling their secret project.
9. Kingdom Come Deliverance – Horses
Kingdom for a horse!
For all of its talk about historical accuracy and realism, Kingdom Come: Deliverance doesn’t really shy away from doing something fun, either. There are several Easter eggs in the game, but perhaps the most useful of those are two horses you can get during the game. One of them is called Epona, a name also shared by Link’s horse from The Legend of Zelda. Of course (we totally googled it) it is also the name of a Gallo-Roman divine patron and protector of horses, which grounds the name in the historical context a little bit, even if it’s unlikely that someone in late-Medieval Bohemian village would know anything about “pagan” gods like Epona.. The other horse is even more cheeky, and she’s called Roach. Which is a pretty common word, but also a name of Geralt of Rivia’s memetic horse. The game even acknowledges that, saying the horse merchant bought it “from some odd Polish fellow“. She reportedly has a mind of her own. It checks out. There’s also a line that the fellow’s wife would want to stuff the horse, a reference to the original books and The Witcher 3 saying and showing that Geralt and Yennefer would gladly have sex on a stuffed unicorn.
8. Grand Theft Auto V – Sasquatch
Big Foot Fauna 100%
Rockstar has a thing for Sasquatch. The myth first emerged in GTA: San Andreas, then you could encounter one in Red Dead Redemption (you monster), but it wasn’t until GTA5 that things really started to get weird. First we can spot a Big Foot with a thermal scope during the Predator mission. Then during The Last One we end up on a Sasquatch hunt only to find it’s a guy in a suit roleplaying one. He even offers a reference to RDR for good measure. The last one is easily one of the most convoluted Easter eggs in history. Grab your seat folks, it gets crazy. For a good start it requires the player to have completed 100% of the game, AND found all 27 Peyote Plants (which are trippy on their own). Then and only then golden Peyote plants will start appearing… on a narrow time window, in a different locations each day, and only if there’s a specific weather. The player character has to eat all seven of them, specifically in order from Sunday to Saturday. After eating the last one, a corpse of a big foot hunter will be laying nearby. Once you growl (as the character, not yourself, though it would be understandable too), a distant roar initiates a hunt, where you follow a breadcrumb trail of hunter bodies. If you manage that, a fight with a Beast (looking like Michael J. Fox’s Teen Wolf character, because nothing makes sense anymore) will begin.The process is shown neatly below in a video by GTA Series Videos.
Win that and you’ll unlock the Bigfoot and Beast as models for the Director Mode. How on Earth anyone managed to find it is beyond me.
7. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – DRM of evil
GOG have mercy
The Witcher games definitely aren’t above taking a friendly jab at the industry. The Assassin’s corpse from The Witcher 2 is well known already, but The Witcher 3 had one even better. In a quest The Tower Outta Nowheres on Skellige you encounter an obstacle in the form of a Defensive Regulatory Magicon, which locked down the tower for everyone except the one who legally owned the key. The way around it could be found in Gottfried’s Omni-opening Grimoire, a simple way to bypass the lock. Of course this is meant to poke fun at the DRM practices preventing players from sharing games, and in certain forms harming the performance, or even preventing players from playing the game they purchased because of failed verification. Goffried’s Omni-opening Grimoire stand in for GOG, CD Projekt’s platform publishing games free of any form of DRM. What makes the entire thing even more amusing is that The Witcher 3 can also be bought on Steam (of course it can), which is a DRM itself.
6. Batman: Arkham City – Calendar Man
In case you lose track of time
There’s always a degree of creepiness involved when the games access your system for some inscrutable reason. There’s no shortage of games which do something festive when your PC or console’s calendar shows Christmas, but the Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham City goes a bit further.
See, in one of the cells Bats can find Julian Gregory Day (horrible parents with terrible sense of humour), a guy better known as Calendar Man (no idea why). When approached on specific dates (easily manipulated by changing your system’s time manually), Calendar Man has something to say about a number of holidays. One for each month, to be exact, and he speaks of murders he committed on those days. Here it is, documented by WikiGameGuides.
One has to admit, the guy has a grim sense of humour, and is a pretty decent storyteller, because his tales are rather interesting. The deeds were despicable, sure, but one has to admire the dramatic flair.
5. Divinity: Original Sin – Battle of the bands
Thank you for the music
Here’s one for the audiophiles. So you know Divinity: Original Sin? Yeah, the first one. It was a fairly cheeky game, with an unobtrusive narrative and plenty of humour. An inquisitive player would spot a number of references are Easter eggs, but there is a couple of them that share a common theme, which is what we’re writing about here. Early on in your adventure among various items to pick you can spot a pile of Nine Inch Nails, an American prominent rock band founded by Trent Reznor back in the late eighties. A bit further on you can unearth an undead on the Cyseal cemetery, a guy called Rob. A Rob Zombie, if you will, a musician active since mid-eighties, who over the course of his career has worked with the likes of Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne. In Homestead, the game protagonist’s intertemporal HQ an item a perceptive character could reveal is Hanneman’s Axe, a reference to Jeff Hanneman, a co-founder of the metal band Slayer, and his signature guitar. Something tells me that somebody at Larian enjoys the soothing tones of electric guitars and drums. Respect.
4. Doom (2016) – Classic levels
Back to the basics
The sequel/reboot of Doom published by Bethesda back in 2016 was a jackpot, an instant hit with critics and audiences for its unrelenting bloodbath and surprisingly competent storytelling, including a strong, if silent, characterisation of the Doom Slayer. A hardcore original soundtrack didn’t hurt either. But in the end it boiled down to it being, you know, DOOM. It’s DOOM so much, in fact, that the developers, id Software, have included the original Doom’s levels hidden in there. There is one classic level per each of 13 levels of the new game, each opened with a cleverly hidden lever and entered through a door somewhere nearby. And when we say ‘classic levels’, we mean it. They are flat corridors filled with sprite-based enemies. And since the Doom Slayer and his weapons don’t change, it is a nice way to see just how much the video game visuals have progressed over the 23 years since the original Doom.
3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Notched Pickaxe
There is a peculiar item in Skyrim, located on a mountaintop called Throat of the World. It can normally be accessed only at the end of the quest of the same name, but patient and dedicated players can go there using the ages-old solution of jumping up the mountain slopes in video games. The item is called a Notched Pickaxe, and has a simple enchantment: gives you +5 to Smithing, and its attacks are boosted with 5 points of shock damage. But its enchantment isn’t the interesting part. On the surface, the joke is clear: it refers to Minecraft, where pickaxes are the basic tools, and the game’s creator, Markus Persson, who goes by “Notch”. Thus: Notched Pickaxe.
However TES Wikia suggests a different possibility: a reference to a marked pickaxe left by an unlucky expedition to Mount Everest back in 1924. It was found relatively near the top, but it seems the mountaineers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine had never made it.
2. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes – Psycho Mantis
It’s in the cards
Remember the part with Calendar Man? The original Metal Gear Solid was even more nosy, since it read your PlayStation’s memory card looking for game saves from other games published by Konami. The nosy character in question was Psycho Mantis, whose fourth-wall powers also involved being able to read your controller…until you plug it into a different port. If your card had saves for games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Suikoden, or Vandal Hearts the antagonist would address it in dialogue. There would also be a double-special dialogue should you have saves from both Snatcher and Policenauts, games developed by Hideo Kojima before MGS. Is Mantis spots that, a message from Kojima plays, thanking for support. That’s nice. Disturbing and somewhat invasive, but nice.
1. Silent Hill 2 – The Mastermind
Sometimes an Easter egg takes you by total surprise, destroying what you felt real and supplanting it with madness. Which feels just about right when it’s Silent Hill that we’re talking about. This one is pretty well known, mostly by word of mouth, but still worth writing about for the sheer absurdity of it. It can only be accessed on a second playthrough at best, since it requires having achieved specific endings (In Water, Leave, and Maria, or Rebirth), using a Dog Key and entering the Lakeview Observatory room. Then it turns out that everything that happened was controlled and masterminded by a very clever Shiba Inu called Mira.
Why a nice and rather friendly dog would go to such lengths to torment James with all the horrors of the game remains unknown to this day. Perhaps this dog was actually a cat. That would explain everything.
Your easter eggs
That’s just a tip of a retired simile as far as the old and vast world of video game Easter eggs are concerned. Hundreds, perhaps thousands could be spotted across the past decades of gaming. What are your favourites? Do let us know in the comments.