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Games

These are the 10 best retro game cheats ever

Before Game Shark and Game Genie were invented, and before Share Play let our friends complete a game for us, we had cheat codes. These are the 10 greatest.
Written by Adam Cook
7 min readPublished on
Imagine Dark Souls with cheat codes. You'd get to Ornstein and Smough, input a command on the controller that made you to 10,000 damage per strike, reducing them to nothing more than a joke as you laughed in their faces. What about notoriously difficult rogue-like Spelunky? What if you could pop a code in that made you invincible, or even invisible, so the shopkeeper couldn't see you stealing his wares. That was the kind of thing we used to be able to do with cheat codes. Ah, those were the days.
Some were absolutely 'enter this to win' codes, others were just plain daft, and some even unlocked things that developers couldn't quite get past the powers that be. These are the 10 best and, in some cases, weirdest retro cheat codes ever.

1. The Konami Code

Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A – no list of cheat codes can be complete without this one. It's iconic to anyone who remembers cheat codes, and while it's known as The Konami Code, that doesn't mean it was exclusively used in the famed Japanese publisher's titles.
Viva Pinata used the code, where the cheat unlocked 10 achievement points for the gamer, Ratchet & Clank borrowed it to put Captain Qwark in a tutu and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege 3 turned on God Mode with the code. Even Rocket League borrows the code, and once enabled, switches the music and changes the name of the game on the title screen to Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, which is the name of the developers' previous game and precursor to Rocket League.
Whether it's unlocking expert mode in Castlevania or getting unlimited lives in Super Contra, The Konami Code is the quintessential cheat code that those of a certain generation will never forget.

2. Doom: God Mode

If we're talking iconic codes that were used elsewhere, we'd be hugely remiss not to mention id's famed God Mode. There are loads of memorable cheats in Doom, and also of note was 'noclip' from Doom 2, which allows players to 'clip' through walls and just walk around the map freely. So popular was noclip, that it became the name for Danny O'Dwyer's documentary series on YouTube.
But back to God Mode, the code was simply IDDQD, and it made you invincible. The 'id' part is obviously the developer's name, but DQD stands for 'Delta-Q-Delta', a fraternity formed by Doom programmer Dave Daylor during his college days. The more you know, right?

3. Nights into Dreams: Seasonal content

It was a simpler time in the '90s. Sega were on top of the world, going from strength-to-strength with their console hardware, and the Dreamcast's failure was something nobody could conceive of. Games were strange, and rather than everything being sequelised, we got interesting titles that were often downright weird. Nights into Dreams was one such title.
Defying categorisation, this is a game that had you play as the titular Nights and fly in the air through rings, trying to get the best path. Ingeniously hidden away, however, were the seasonable unlockable levels. Simply setting your system clock to New Year's Day, Christmas Day or Valentine's Day would unlock the corresponding level, whether it be a snow laden stage, or one full of hearts.

4. Mortal Kombat: Blood Code

If you're of a younger generation, you might not know that some games used to get banned. It was part of a whole 'video nasty' thing back in the 1990s, where TV and newspaper reports targeted individual facets of products and made it look like they were 'evil'. Actually, not much has changed, in that respect.
Anyway, Mortal Kombat was one of the outrage games that had people in a huff due to it being incredibly graphic at the time: this game was very controversial. To keep in line with the times, the developers censored the game, but it transpired a simple cheat code could just unlock it anyway. This simply couldn't happen nowadays, as rules and regulations are so much more stringent.

5. Super Mario Bros: The continue trick

You might want to sit down for this one. The original NES Super Mario Bros. was actually a harder game than your rose-tinted goggles will let you believe. If you didn't use the level select and actually played through the eight worlds one by one, it was a tough old game, requiring concentration and skill. Game Over would come from running out of lives, and it'd mean you having to start from the beginning of the game again – unless you knew how to continue.
Yes, 30 years later, you're learning you could continue in Super Mario Bros. When you die and go back to the main menu, simple hold the A-button and press Start, and you'll restart your game at the beginning of the world you expired in. So, if you got a game over on 5–3, you can start over on 5–1 instead of 1–1. You're welcome.

6. Metal Gear Solid 3: Beat The End quickly

Arguably one of Hideo Kojima's best games, Metal Gear Solid 3 had some tremendously memorable boss fights. From The Pain, who can throw bees at you (not a typo), to The Fear, who has a scarily long tongue, it's actually The End who you can cheat around fighting.
Most people will spend an age on this fight, but you can actually kill The End with the help of Old Father Time. Get to the area where you fight The End and save your game, then turn it off and go to the main menu of the PS2. Similarly to Nights into Dreams, set your clock a few weeks ahead of the day you're on, and when you load the game, The End is dead. The ravages of time got him, and you're still a relatively spring chicken.

7. NBA Jam: Big head mode

Ah, NBA Jam. Now there’s a series ripe for a 2018 reboot. Glorious arcade basketball action, with over-the-top commentary that was, at the time, the ultimate couch-multiplayer game. With amazing secret characters and cheats to make you permanently on fire, there's a lot choose from, but we've opted for big head mode because of the hilarity that ensues from playing like this. Hold up, the turbo button, and the steal button until tip off, and you'll have huge heads for your players. Another massively memorable cheat code.

8. Sonic the Hedgehog: Level select

Simplicity personified, this one is a cheat that lets you play any level you want in the game. Up, Down, Left, Right, A + Start: that was all it took to let you jump straight to Scrap Brain Zone or Spring Yard Zone. While later games would add Super Sonic, and change up the bonus levels to be far less frustrating, sometimes the original is the best, although, in honesty, Sonic 2 was better. Still, this is one iconic cheat code.

9. Punch-Out!: Fight Mike Tyson right away

Given the Switch's popularity, and how many Nintendo franchises are dormant, we're hoping Punch-Out gets another go around. 
The original version of the game featured Mike Tyson, but Nintendo's license agreement ran out and they changed him to a fictional character called Mr. Dream, and that version was used for Virtual Console releases going forward. Tyson, though, was a formidable opponent in the game, and to get all the way through the game only to lose to him felt almost cheap. The simplest way, then, was to just punch in the password 0073735963 and jump straight to him. Phew.

10. International Superstar Soccer Deluxe: Dog officials

We've saved the best for last. This is another Konami cheat code that, while not as well known, is probably the strangest one we've ever encountered. Available on the SNES, Mega Drive and PlayStation, International Superstar Soccer was a superb football game for its time, but it was made even better by this bizarre cheat code.
On the title screen, if you grabbed the second controller and hit right, up, down, left, X, B, left, A, right and Y, you'd hear a dog bark. Then, when you play the game, the officials were dogs. Yes, dogs. They'd still book you when you committed fouls, too. What a game. What a cheat.