The Top 14 Video Game Cheats And Codes
Since the beginning of gaming – from the table top, to the arcades, and eventually the home consoles – cheats and codes have always existed. Whether it was hiding cards in poker, hacking the code in a computer game, or Game Genie, rules were made to be broken.
In an age before the internet, before information was just a simple mouse click away, these legendary game changers were spread by word of mouth. Some were found in gaming magazines, like Nintendo Power. Others were luckily stumbled upon by happenstance. No matter how the knowledge was acquired, it eventually passed from gamer to gamer, and news of video game cheats spread. To know these codes was to be part of some secret society. You were privy to information that very few knew, and most of the world would never know.
They altered the game. You could cheat the system and change the gaming world with a few keystrokes, but only if it worked. Some codes were rumors (many turned out to be false), but there were real cheats that unlocked a whole new realm of possibilities. These ones had you zipping across the controller, trying again and again just to get it right. You’d feel such an overwhelming sense of accomplishment when the codes finally worked. You just had to show your friends! Today, we know many of these codes by heart, and they have a special place in our memories.
Most cheat codes have gone away in lieu of downloadable content. Even so, I find myself browsing online cheat sites, just to see if there’s some button combination I can input to unlock something unknown, specially slipped into the system by the developers. These are the top 14 video game cheat codes of all time (in my opinion).
#14- Guitar Hero: Master Code
Pressing Yellow, Orange, Blue, Blue, Orange, Yellow, Yellow at the menu unlocks all the bonuses in the game!
Developed by Harmonix, and published by RedOctane in 2005, Guitar Hero was a musical phenomenon when it first appeared on consoles. My brothers and sisters would mash those guitars for hours, getting high scores and unlocking songs in rapid succession. I’d watch while they’d wail on the buttons, colors falling, flashing, darting across the screen! I could never move fast enough to play on anything above Medium difficulty, and ranking a high score was never easy. So, for the musically inept, like me, the Master Code code was a godsend! I didn’t want to slog through song after song, just to slowly unlock something new to play. And let’s be honest, a lot of these songs sucked, or were recycled in countless GH games.
#13- Guardian Heroes: Debug Mode
At the main menu screen, you needed to hold X+B+Z and DOWN. Then, you hit C when it flashed over the EXIT, and the debug options would be in the DIP switch. Debug Mode basically unlocked the entire game! You had the choice to choose stages, play as any locked character, and upgrade your character to the maximum level. You even unlocked all 45 characters in the VS. Battle Mode. Debug was essentially God Mode.
Guardian Heroes was a 2D side scrolling, fantasy adventure game originally released on the Sega Saturn on January 25, 1996. It was published by Sega, and developed by Treasure Co. Ltd. It stands as one of my favorite games of all time, and it had an amazing soundtrack. Valgar’s theme still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it! I love the intro movie. And of course it was released for Xbox Live…and I don’t own a 360. Sadness.
#12- Dragon Force: Debug Mode
This Debug allowed you to change the size of map icons, weaken enemies, get one of every item in the game, and some other nifty things.
To achieve Debug Mode, you had to hold L+R+X+Z+Start at the title screen, and then press Down, Down, Up, Down, Down, Left, Left, Left, Up, Down, Right, Right, Right. Then you’d have to press start, then start again and Debug Mode would be on the bottom.
Released by Working Designs in 1996, Dragon Force was a Real Time Strategy game for the Sega Saturn. It involved taking control of a monarch’s kingdom and gathering the eight chosen members of the Dragon Force, to defeat the evil God, Madruk.
To this day, Dragon Force is still extremely fun to play. After I lost the original copy I owned for the Saturn, I re-bought the game from a place in Los Angeles, called Game Dude, for $100! So very, very worth it.
#11- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Richter
This cheat allowed you to play as the legendary vampire hunter, Richter Belmont. For this to work, you simply needed to beat the game with Alucard, and then start a New Game with the name “Richter”.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was a massive game! It was published by Konami on March 20, 1997. You took control of Dracula’s son, Alucard, on a quest to learn why Richter had become the master of Dracula’s castle.
I remember pouring hours into this game, trying to explore every room, trying to level up to a point where every enemy would die with a swipe of my sword! I also remember dying, constantly. There were a lot of frustrating moments too…when I’d accidentally walk into a boss room, with almost no health. Or some enemy would throw their weapon from off screen, hit me, and knock me into the next screen! Oh, good times, good times. Was, and still is, an amazing game.
#10- Mortal Kombat – Blood Code
“Get over here!” would sound when you input A, B, A, C, A, B, B correctly at the Code of Honor screen on the Sega Genesis version of Mortal Kombat. This unlocked the glorious red gore the franchise is known for!
Mortal Kombat was the most controversial game of my childhood. Many parents forbid their kids from playing it, and naturally MK was the most popular game of its time because it had blood and gore. When it was ported to the consoles, they censored the blood. My parent always told me, “I don’t want you playing that Mortal DEATH nonsense.”
#9- Psychonauts – All Psycho Powers
Holding L+R and pressing B, B, Y, WHITE, LEFT THUMBSTICK, Y during game play would herald “You cheated!” if punched in correctly. This gave you every psycho power in the game, free to use at any level, any time.
Psychonauts was brought to life by the mad genius, Tim Schaffer of Double Fine. It was released for the Xbox on April 19, 2005. It is one of the weirdest, most imaginative games I have ever played! The worlds, the character designs, and the story are wickedly unique. I still haven’t played many games with that much creative soul, and I wish there were more titles that pushed the stylistic bounds the way Psychonauts did. It was a great game, but it punished you from beginning to end, and forced you to work for your progress. I still have nightmares about the Meat Circus.
I can honestly say I beat the game without the aide of the cheat above.
#8- Super Mario Bros. – Little Firepower
This was a strange glitch that I ever only witnessed once. My older cousin was playing through a castle, and it happened completely by accident! Without even meaning to, he struck the axe and Bowser’s head at the same time, while “big”. After entering the next level, a mushroom made him smaller, and a fire flower gave him fire power.
This was an entertaining glitch to behold, because Mario remained small. However, when you shot a fireball, Mario would grow, spit fire, and return to his tiny size. I called it, “fire power when you’re little”, although I’m not sure if there’s an official name.
After he achieved the tiny fire power, he gave the controller to me. I was a kid! So, I playfully spit fire, hopped around, and fell into a pit… Since then, I have never again witnessed or been able to achieve firepower when as tiny Mario. Super Mario Bros. was released on the NES by Nintendo, on September 13th, 1985.
#7- Super Mario 3 – Hidden Warp Whistles
The Warp Whistles took you to an island of secret warp zones. This isn’t really a cheat. Well, you do warp, which allows you to bypass levels, which I guess is cheating? But there’s no special code to…oh, whatever.In World 1-3, there was a white box with a red turtle on it. After killing the turtle, you needed to hold DOWN for a few seconds. Eventually, you’d fall through the box, and end up behind the scenery. Then, you’d have to run straight, and when you hit the end of the level, you’d end up in Toad’s house. He’d give you the first whistle.
You needed the raccoon tail in order to find the next whistle. In the first castle of World 1, after the two floating disks, You needed to fly up and over the rest of the level. On a ledge you can’t see, above the screen, you’d find a hidden door, that would lead you to the second whistle.
The final whistle is the hardest one to get. In World 2, you need to kill the Boomerang Bro to get a hammer, that would break a rock in the top right corner of the map. Beyond it, there’s two Fire Bros that you need to defeat. Take them out, and the last whistle is yours.
Released by Nintendo on October 23rd, 1988, these whistles were the only reason I ever beat Super Mario 3. That, and finding the P-Wings. So many memories playing this classic.
#6- The Legend of Zelda: Second Quest
After you beat the game once, your save icon was given a white sword. This allowed you to start the game’s second quest, which changed the location of all the items and dungeons. You could also do this from the beginning, without beating the whole game, by naming your save slot “Zelda”. The Legend of Zelda was published by Nintendo on February 21st, 1986, for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was the first game I played that allowed you to save your game; a true innovation! I only ever beat the first quest, and that’s because I used the guide in Nintendo Power. I’ve never beaten the second quest.
#5- Mike Tyson’s Punch Out – Warp to Tyson
Using the code 007 373 5963 would send you straight to Mike Tyson! I talk more about this game and this code in my article The 13 Worst Video Game Endings.
#4- Metroid – Justin Bailey
Entering this code would unlock Samus without her armor and 255 Missiles:
JUSTIN BAILEY—— ——
Published by Nintendo on August 6th, 1986, Metroid was one of the first NES games I ever touched. I was only able to conquer this massive game by using the Justin Bailey code. I’d grab the freeze beam, upgrade my missiles, and head straight to Mother Brain! Then I’d break her capsule, bomb her face in, and beat the clock before the planet exploded.
#3- Super Mario Bros – Infinite Lives
In World 3-1, there’s a stairway with turtles bouncing down. If you jump on the second turtle, just as he’s coming down on the step above you, you can jump on it continually, gathering extra live for as long as you want! Eventually, the icon will change, and you’ll have an infinite amount of lives to waste on the game.
I’ve always envied anyone who could pull this off! I’ve seen it done many times, but every time I attempt to whomp the turtle on my own, he smacks the step and gets knocked away. I’ve never been able to pull it off.
#2- Mega Man 3 – Super Jump
By holding right on the second controller, you were able to jump the height of the screen, and fall into holes without dying. Pits became launching pads that threw you into the air. If you stayed in a hole long enough, you’d hear the “death sound”, your power would drain completely, but you wouldn’t die. Then, you’d be able to jump out of the hole, and nothing, save for spikes, could kill you! Or collecting a power up, which would fill your life, and then you were vulnerable.
Mega Man 3 was released for the NES on September 28th, 1990 by Capcom. This glitch was found totally by accident, when I was a kid. My brother sat on the second controller, and pressed right, by accident. At first, I freaked out because I was able to jump into holes without dying! But as soon as my brother got off the control, it was back to instant death. It took us awhile to figure out what exactly caused our momentary invincibility.
#1- Contra – Konami Code
At the start screen, just as the words slide in to form the title, you needed to quickly press up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start! This gave you 30 lives instead of the standard 3.
Contra was released on February 20th, 1987 by Konami. Ask most anyone who plays games what video game cheats stand out most in their minds, and they’ll be able to repeat this combination of buttons. This is a button sequence that every gamer has learned, and memorized. Most codes outright cheat and give you God status. The Konami Code simply gave you a chance; the rest was up to you. Contra was a punishing game. As a child, it was nothing but brutal! It rewarded recklessness with death, while patience garnered a hail of bullets. I was only able to make it through the first level and could only beat the game with the use of this code. The Konami Code has been used in countless games since, including the recently released Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. The code’s origins began with the 1986 release of Gradius for the NES, but it was popularized by North American players in the NES version of Contra. Kazuhisa Hashimoto was developing the home port of Gradius, but found it too difficult to play through during testing. He created the code to give the player a full set of power-ups, but forgot to remove it in the game’s final code. The rest is history. The Konami Code has become so ubiquitous that it’s even paid tribute in Disney’s recent animated film Wreck-It Ralph.