Urban legends and modern-day fairy-tales are nothing new; there are many that predate gaming itself. However, with gaming’s explosion in popularity, it was almost inevitable that gaming would get a few myths of its own. There have been dozens of them throughout the years. Here’s a look at some of the most notorious.

This, like several entries on this list, was a myth based partially on fact. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a hotly anticipated game for the Sega Genesis and received a lot of media attention. However, like most games, it also had its share of content that was cut. At least four zones were known to have been in development before being scrapped due to time constraints. One such level, which had been demoed in a few previews, was the “Hidden Palace Zone.” When Sonic 2 eventually launched, a few attentive gamers noticed the missing levels and wondered if they were actually hidden content; it was the HIDDEN Palace, after all. Hidden Palace was the zone furthest in development before it was scrapped, and, thus, there are a few not-so-subtle traces of it in the final copy of the game. The easiest of these to spot is the presence of the level’s background music in the sound test. The most promising clue came when a beta of the game was loaded online and it was discovered that it contained a half-finished rendition of the Hidden Palace Zone. This beta was cited as proof of Hidden Palace Zone's existence. Gamers quietly pondered as to how to unlock this mysterious level but, try as they might, no one was successful. A level of the same name, though featuring a radically different design, eventually appeared in the saga's fourth installment, Sonic and Knuckles, further straining the myth's credability. The truth would come out years later from a series of interviews with Sonic creator Yuji Naka. It turns out that a beta copy of the game, which was stolen from one of the game’s public demos, had a half-completed copy of the zone in it, which was pretty much as far as the level got before being scrapped. Naka explained that the level was going to be a special way to introduce Super Sonic but was cut due to time constraints, and that this was far from the only zone that had been removed from a final Sonic game. Kinda makes you wonder what they had planned for those zones...

This rumour seems far-fetched to the point of ridiculousness, but it somehow caught on in the online worlds of Diablo. Presumably inspired by the immobile and utterly pointless NPCs (no, not Farnham) sitting in front of the church, these peaceful bovines provided some bored rumour-maker somewhere with an idea for an utterly insane gaming myth. According to the legend, it was possible to gain access to a “Secret Cow Level” by doing such random tasks as “looting Diablo’s ear and giving it to one of the cows” or “killing all the creatures in the game and having someone stay out of the final boss fight and head down into Diablo’s lair after he’s dead.” What was in the Secret Cow Level? What was its purpose? No one could really say, mostly because the damn thing was a complete and total fabrication, but it also happened to be one that Blizzard caught wind of. In a rather humorous nod to the fans, the game’s follow-up sequel, Diablo II, featured a secret cow level tucked into the game and unlocked in a rather random method, put there as a tribute to the original myth.

The Tails Doll has a fearsome reputation, though it’s hard to really tell where it initially came from. It’s unique on this list, because it’s the only myth that also extends out of the digital realm and into real life. The Tails Doll is a strange, rather eerie character from Sonic R, but is fairly unremarkable other than its very obvious creepiness. However, some time after the game launched, mysterious stories started popping up around the internet about how people who had played as the Tails Doll suffered horrible accidents. Thus was born the legend of the “Curse of the Tails Doll.” Supposedly anyone who uses this character even once will eventually be struck by the curse and suffer a calamity. The dubious nature of this legend, along with the stories that started it, is fairly obvious (it’s been five years since I first played as the Tails Doll and I have yet to have the curse strike) but it’s still rather cool that gaming has its own counterpart to other media myths like theatre’s “Curse of MacBeth.”

This one was only really big if you were an arcade-goer back when they were in their prime. Mortal Kombat 2, one of the most celebrated fighting games of the era, was released in the arcade to rave reviews, later getting ported to consoles. The game featured a trio of unlockable opponents, as well as a few additional secrets, that were all exceptionally hard to get to. Facing Noob Saibot required playing 50 two-player matches while unlocking Pong required playing 250! Keep in mind, this is in an arcade where each round will eat up one of your quarters. To put that in perspective, a single game of Pong would run you $62.50 in quarters! That would be a stack roughly half a meter tall and weighing over a kilogram! Given the semi-ridiculous nature of the unlockable requirements, it’s no real surprise that a myth or two sprung up around this game. The most prominent was a method to fight/unlock Kano, the cycloptic thug from Mortal Kombat 1 who spent the duration of MK2 chained up beside the final boss, Shao Kahn, along with Sonia, his arch-rival. Some arcades even played along with the gag, posting made-up lists of gamers who had defeated Kano. Though false, it is still probably one of the most well-coordinated myths to date.

This one was likely the product of wishful 13 year old minds with nothing better to do at the time. Being one of the first mainstream games to use sex appeal as a major selling point (barring earlier, less well-known attempts like Bubble Bath Babes), the creation of a rumour like this was almost inevitable. Since shortly after the series’ release, there has been a steady stream of made-up methods on how to play as Lara in her birthday suit. Thus far, nothing official has ever surfaced, despite the developers making a coy nod to these rumours in their advertisements; “Sorry, but still no nude code,” was used as a catch-phrase for one of the Tomb Raider sequels in years gone by. This one will probably remain firmly in the realm of 13-year-old fantasy, given the rather angry reception "Hot Coffee" got from the media when it was discovered, but hey, there’s always a chance, right?

This pair of pint-sized pokemon were the focal point of countless myths for Nintendo’s runaway handheld hit, Pokemon. The most common version seemed to have one (or both) of them sleeping under the immovable truck at the dock where the S.S. Anne sets sail from, though this was far from the only variation on the myth (all Pokemon level 99 anyone?). Mew, the rarest Pokemon in the game, was actually only available directly through Nintendo events and Pikablu, a fabled aquatic evolution of everyone’s favourite electric rodent, did not actually exist at all. Despite that, these myths kept many-a-poketrainer occupied for long hours, searching for the keys to the truck, or for the mystic Mew flute that would wake the creature from its slumber.

The origin of most myths is shrouded in mystery, as they just sort of appear out of nowhere. Not so with this one. The origins of this myth are unusually well-documented and we have EGM to thank for this little gem. In the April 2002 issue, they posted a method to unlock Sonic and Tails as playable characters in Super Smash Bros. Melee, which involved killing 20 computer characters in the game's exceptionally hard endurance mode, cruel melee. It was intended to be a well-meaning April Fools joke, but turned into something much more. Unwittingly tapping into a deep undercurrent of fan desire, EGM unleashed a proverbial Pandora’s Box upon the Smash Bros. world as their readers flocked to various game forums and cheat boards to post the new method and discuss its ramifications. GameFAQs was flooded with cheat submissions to the point where a sticky topic had to be made explaining that Sonic and Tails were, in fact, not present in the game and the code was an April Fools’ joke gone horribly wrong (or wildly successful, depending on your viewpoint). Though this myth was relatively easily disproved, it certainly made the most of its short lifespan, wreaking havoc over forums across the internet.

The death of Aeris Gainsborough in Final Fantasy VII came as a huge shock to the gaming community at large. Up until that point, few games had dared to kill off a major character, let alone permanently, and almost none had done it as well as FF7. Some gamers were so shocked that denial set in and they knew that there must be a way to bring her back from the dead. Their hopes were only bolstered by the presence of a rather glitchy “Aeris Ghost” that could be glimpsed briefly within Midgar’s cathedral. FF7 had its share of quasi-impossible goals (defeating all weapons, getting a full set of fully-levelled up Materia, etc.), so there were plenty of things to try. However, no matter what anyone did, the flower girl from the slums was gone for good, martyred and forever immortalized as the death gamers would never forget.

The N64 incarnation of Nintendo’s popular green-clad hero was widely hailed as one of the best games ever produced and, yet, a few mysteries still persisted after the game was finished. Chief among them was the presence of a Triforce design in one of the menu screens that was hollowed out, as though it could be filled. Many gamers combed the land of Hyrule, searching high and low for any sign of the mythical triangles, but coming up empty-handed. However, imagination was quick to fill in the blanks of the story, capitalizing on other strange in-game enigmas (such as the unexplained and unreachable alcove at the bottom of Zora’s domain, or the Stones of Truth scattered about Hyrule) and coming up with dozens of methods on how to gain the Triforce, ranging from impressively creative to downright idiotic. In the end, none of these methods worked (surprise, surprise...) leaving the question as of yet unanswered. The most logical explanation seems to be that it was a potential add-in for the ill-fated 64DD peripheral, but no official explanation has ever been offered by Nintendo.

Arguably one of the largest gaming myths in the industry was founded when Nintendo launched their third console, the Nintendo 64, along with the smash hit Mario 64. Up until that point, every major Mario game in the series that had you play as Mario also offered you the chance to play as his (usually palette swapped) brother, Luigi. From the original Mario Bros., to the Super Mario Bros. series (including both Mario 2s), to Super Mario World, Luigi was always there as Mario’s companion. And yet, his presence was strangely and very noticeably absent in Super Mario 64. People began to think he was stuck in the game somewhere as unlockable content, and Super Mario 64s rather glitchy physics engine did nothing to stop the rumour mill and prevent people from trying. There were more methods for unlocking Luigi were stars in the game and everything from “get to the castle roof with zero stars” to “get every coin in the game” was proposed. Just to muddy the waters a little more, people glancing at the writing on the star fountain in the back of the castle could swear they could read “L is Real 2401.” Despite countless calls to the Nintendo help line and official statements from Nintendo executives churning out the same answer of Luigi not being in the game, people still searched and made up their own rumours as to how to unlock him. Nintendo gave a quiet nod to these rumours by putting Luigi in Super Mario 64 DS and making him an unlockable in Super Mario Galaxy, but still some people claim that he’s really in the game. Of course, no one’s figured out that trick about beating Bowser in the Dark World with 999 coins...

Some of these myths are downright silly, some actually partially plausible. You may have been caught by one of these myths; hell, maybe you even contributed to one of them. Point is, they still provide a good laugh years later when we look at what we thought was possible in some of our favourite games. Also, thanks to fellow GameFAQs user Wedge Antilles for helping me think up the last few entries on this list.

List by darkknight109 (02/12/2008)

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