8 Video Game Hoaxes, Debunked

Video games are full of secrets, mysteries, and hidden gems for gamers to unlock. But sometimes gamers are so desperate for mysteries to unlock that they’re willing to believe just about anything to find them. Here are eight video game hoaxes that were finally disproved.

1. The Game: Super Smash Bros Melee
The Hoax: Unlock Sonic & Tails

Nintendo released its first crossover video game, Super Smash Bros Melee—which featured 25 iconic Nintendo characters in one massive fighting game experience—in December 2001. That same year, Sega began licensing their characters and games to third party video game consoles after they stopped making hardware (the Dreamcast was their last console), and Nintendo released a Sonic game (Sonic Advance) for its consoles. So in 2002, when video game magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly wrote that it had discovered a way to unlock Sonic the Hedgehog and Miles “Tails” Prower as playable characters, it made sense. To play as Sonic and Tails, EGM said, gamers would have to defeat 20 enemies in a row in “cruel melee” mode.

In the weeks after EGM's issue hit stands, players tried and tried the trick, but had no success unlocking Sonic and Tails. EGM later admitted it was all a hoax and part of its April Fools’ Day issue. Nintendo would later add Sonic in its 2008 game, Super Smash Bros Brawl, but not Tails. Today, Nintendo has the exclusive rights to Sonic, but Sega still owns the character.

2. The Game: Super Mario 64
The Hoax: Finding Luigi

In 1996, Nintendo released the Nintendo 64 in the United States with only two launch titles: Pilotwings 64 and Super Mario 64, which quickly became the most popular video game for the new console; gamers spent hours unlocking its many mysteries and secrets. It was even rumored that players could unlock Mario’s brother Luigi as a playable character.

On one of the statues in the castle’s courtyard, a plaque that illegibly reads “L is real 2401” can be found. It was believed that if Mario collected all of the game’s gold coins—allegedly, 2401 of them—and went back to the statue, Luigi would be waiting.

Gaming outlet IGN received so much fan mail about the “L is real 2401” secret code that they issued a $100 bounty if anyone could send them proof of its existence. No one ever did. The bottom line: Players could collect all the gold coins in Mario 64, but nothing would happen if they returned to the statue in the castle’s courtyard.

3. The Game: Goldeneye 64
The Hoax: Playing with All Bonds

The way the “Cheat Options” menu was designed in the first-person shooter Goldeneye 64 suggested that there were 24 cheats to unlock instead of the 23 that players had found in the game. Gamers believed that the 24th cheat was a way to play as the previous iterations of the James Bond character in multi-player mode. When early screenshots from the game revealed Sean Connery as James Bond, many gamers tried various ways to unlock the elusive cheat code, but were unsuccessful.

In 1998, Electronic Gaming Monthly published additional screenshots of Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton as the Agent 007 as an April Fools’ Day joke, which led many more to believe the cheat code was real. The reality was that Nintendo could not secure the likeness rights of Connery, Moore, or Dalton, so the cheat code was scrapped.

4. The Game: Street Fighter II
The Hoax: Hidden Character Named Sheng Long

After Street Fighter II battles are finished, the victor taunts his fallen opponent via a title card. When gamers in Japan fought with the character Ryu and defeated their opponents, the title card would read, “If you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch"—or Shoryuken, one of Ryu’s signature fight moves—"you cannot win!” 

When the game was imported for American gamers, Capcom mistranslated Ryu’s taunts. Instead of referencing Ryu's Rising Dragon Punch, the title card said “You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance.” It was rumored that Sheng Long was a hidden playable character somewhere deep inside of the game, but when the fighting game was ported to the Super Nintendo, its instruction manual explained he was Ryu’s former master.

Electronic Gaming Monthly took this rumor one step further and published a story confirming that Sheng Long was a character that could be unlocked in the video game. Gamers would have to play as Ryu through the tournament without taking any damage or losing battles to unlock the mysterious martial arts master. Once again, EGM confessed that it was all a hoax and was part of an April Fools’ Day joke, despite publishing the technique in the magazine’s February issue (why anyone believed anything that the magazine published remains a mystery).

5. The Game: Final Fantasy VII
The Hoax: Saving Aeris

In 1997, Square released Final Fantasy VII for the original PlayStation. Halfway through the video game, one of its main characters, Aeris, dies. This was a very shocking revelation, and one of the first instances when players felt emotionally devastated over a video game’s storyline. That might explain why rumors emerged that there were ways to keep Aeris alive, including trying to find hidden gems and going on quests for non-existent characters. All known techniques were proven false. And although gamers spent hours trying to find ways to keep her alive, Aeris's death was important for the video game’s overall narrative.

6. The Game: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
The Hoax: Updating the Game for the Wii U

During Nintendo’s E-3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) presentation in 2012, a mysterious trailer emerged on the Internet. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask was one of the most popular Zelda games for the Nintendo 64, and fans were happy to see that Nintendo was updating the game for the yet-to-be released Nintendo Wii U.

Although the trailer looked convincing—it even had high-definition graphics and a symphony score!—the proposed video game was a fake. Two video game designers named Pablo Belmonte and Paco Martinez created the trailer as a pitch and proof-of-concept to Nintendo for a Zelda remake.

The fake trailer garnered a lot of attention from video game outlets, fans, and even Nintendo, but the company has no plans to re-release an updated version of the Zelda classic.

7. The Game: Mortal Kombat
The Hoax: Unlocking the Red Ninja Ermac

The original Mortal Kombat arcade game had one hidden character, a green ninja called Reptile. But in the game's audit menu—where owners can access information and analytics about the game—there was a category called “Ermac,” which led fans to speculate that Mortal Kombat actually had two hidden characters. It was believed that the character could be unlocked if you won the fighting tournament by scoring double flawless victories and fatalities against all of your opponents. Once a player defeated the final boss, Shang Tsung, the red ninja Ermac would appear to challenge you to a battle.

The reality is that “Ermac” is short for “Error Macro,” which co-creator Ed Boon wrote as an error message in the game’s programming. However, the Mortal Kombat developers were so impressed with the fans’ passion for the rumored character that they eventually introduced Ermac in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 as a secret playable fighter.

8. The Game: Sony PlayStation 4
The Hoax: Viral Video Commercial

A few days before the start of E-3 2010, a viral video that promoted new PlayStation hardware surfaced on YouTube. The commercial teased the release of the PlayStation 4 just before Sony was slated to present the PlayStation 3’s new Move motion controller add-on at the video game convention. It didn’t seem likely that Sony would release a new console only four years after the release of the PS3. Nevertheless, the commercial was very convincing, as many gaming websites and blogs ran the viral video and promoted the launch of the PlayStation 4.

But hardware PR representative Al de Leon shot down rumors that Sony was working on a PlayStation 4. “I can confirm that this video is not from SCE (Sony Computer Entertainment),” he told Game Informer. Three years later, Sony announced the PlayStation 4 would be available for the holiday season in 2013.

Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures
10 Monster Facts About Pacific Rim
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures

Legendary Pictures took a gamble on Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 monster/robot slugfest. Since it wasn’t based on a preexisting franchise, it lacked a built-in fanbase. That can be a serious drawback in our current age of blockbuster remakes and reboots. The movie underperformed domestically; in America, it grossed just over $100 million against its $180 million budget. Yet Pacific Rim was a huge hit overseas and acquired enough fans to earn itself a sequel, Pacific Rim Uprising, which arrives in theaters this week. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the movie that started it all.


Idris Elba in 'Pacific Rim' (2013)
Warner Bros.

One foggy day in 2007, Beacham—who’d recently moved to California—was walking along Santa Monica Beach. As he looked out at the Ferris wheel on the city’s eponymous pier, he pictured a looming sea monster. Then he imagined an equally large robot gearing up to fight the beast. “They just sort of materialized out of the fog, these vast godlike things,” Beacham said. He decided to pursue the concept further after coming up with the idea of human co-pilots who’d need to operate their robot as a team, which added a new thematic dimension.

“I didn’t know I had something I wanted to write until I realized these robots are driven by two pilots, and what happens when one of those people dies? What happens to the leftovers? Then it became a story about loss, moving on after loss, and dealing with survivor’s guilt," Beacham said. "That made the monsters scarier because now you care about the people who are in these robots.”


Pacific Rim was picked up by Legendary Pictures and handed over to director Guillermo del Toro. A huge fan of monster cinema, del Toro enthusiastically co-wrote the final screenplay with Beacham. Sixteen concept artists were hired to sketch original robot and creature designs for the film. “We would get together every day like kids and draw all day,” del Toro told the New York Daily News. “We designed about a hundred Kaijus and about a hundred Jaegers and every week we would do an American Idol and we would vote [some of] them out.”


In “Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats,” the tenth episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's sixth season, Charlie Day’s character gives us a darkly comedic monologue about rodent extermination. Little did the actor know that the performance would open a big opportunity for him. Impressed by the rat speech, del Toro offered Day the part of Dr. Newton Geizler, Pacific Rim’s socially-inept kaiju expert. “He said to himself, ‘That’s my guy. That guy should be in my next movie because if he killed rats, he can kill the monster,’” Day recalled during an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. On the movie set, del Toro often joked about how much he enjoys It’s Always Sunny. As a way of repaying his director, Day helped get del Toro a minor role in the series.


Most of the film’s special effects were computer-generated, but not everything was digital. For the robot cockpit scenes, del Toro had his team build the interior of a full-scale Jaeger head. The finished product stood four stories tall and weighed 20 tons. And like a Tilt-A-Whirl from hell, it was designed to rock around violently on its platform via a network of hydraulics. Once inside, the actors were forced to don 40-pound suits of armor. Then the crew strapped their feet into an apparatus that Charlie Hunnam has compared to a high-resistance elliptical machine.

Certain shots also required del Toro to dump gallons of water all over his exhausted, physically-strained stars. So yeah, the experience wasn’t much fun. “We saw every one of the actors break down on that set except for the female lead actress Rinko Kikuchi," del Toro said. "She’s the only actor that didn’t snap."


Del Toro wanted Gipsy Danger, his ‘bot, to have the self-confident air of a wild west gunslinger. To that end, he and concept artist Oscar Chichoni developed a swaggering gait that was based on John Wayne’s signature hip movements. The Jaeger’s Art Deco-like design was influenced by the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings.


Hailed as the “fortieth greatest guitarist of all time” by Rolling Stone, Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello rocked the MTV generation with hits like “Bulls on Parade” and “Killing in the Name.” Pacific Rim bears his mark as well. The film’s lead composer was Ramin Djawadi, whose other works include the Game of Thrones theme. Wanting to add a “rock element” to the Pacific Rim soundtrack, he and del Toro reached out to Morello. The guitarist didn’t need much persuading.

“When they asked me to put some giant robot riffs and screaming underwater monster licks on the film score, I was all in,” Morello said. Djwadi was pleased with the rocker's contributions to the project. As he told the press: “Tom’s unique style and sounds really defined our robots.”


A definite highlight of this movie is Gipsy Danger’s duel with the winged kaiju Otachi in downtown Hong Kong. Both characters were computer-generated, as were the majority of the streets, cars, and towers in this epic sequence. However, there is one moment which was at least partly realized with practical effects. Gipsy punches through the wall of an office building early in the fight. We see her fist rip through a series of cubicles and gradually decelerate until it lightly taps a chair with just enough force to set off a Newton’s Cradle desktop toy. For that shot, effects artists at 32Ten Studios constructed a miniature office building interior featuring 1/4-scale desks, cubicles, and padded chairs. The level of detail here was amazing: 32Ten’s staff adorned each individual workspace with lamps, computers, wastebaskets, and teeny, tiny Post-it notes.


Rinko Kikuchi in 'Pacific Rim' (2013)
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures

Audiences reacted strongly to Kikuchi’s character Mako Mori, who inspired an alternative to the famous Bechdel test. Some critics praised the culmination of her relationship with Raleigh Beckett (Hunnam). Although it’s common practice for the male and female leads in an action flick to end their movie with a smooch, Mori and Beckett share a platonic hug as Pacific Rim draws to a close. Del Toro revealed that he shot three different versions of that final scene. “We did one version where they kiss and it almost felt weird. They’re good friends, they’re pals, good colleagues,” del Toro said.


At the end of the credits, there’s a tribute that reads: “This film is dedicated to the memories of monster masters Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda.” Harryhausen passed away on May 7, 2013—two months before Pacific Rim’s release. A great stop-motion animator, he breathed life into such creatures as the towering Rhedosaurus in 1953’s The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

Ishiro Honda was another giant of the kaiju genre, having directed Rodan, War of the Gargantuas, and numerous Godzilla films. Del Toro has great respect for both men. When Harryhausen died, the director said, “I lost a member of my family today, a man who was as present in my childhood as any of my relatives.” He also adores the Japanese monster classics and says he’d love to see a Pacific Rim-Godzilla crossover someday. Maybe it’ll happen.


If you’re not familiar with the practice of “Sweding,” let us fill you in: The 2008 comedy Be Kind, Rewind is about two co-workers at a VHS rental store who accidentally erase every tape in stock. Hoping to save their skins, they create ultra low-budget remakes of all the films they’ve destroyed using cardboard sets and cheap costumes. It’s a process these guys call “Sweding” as a ploy to convince everyone that their (unintentionally hilarious) knockoffs were produced in Sweden. Since Be Kind, Rewind was released, Sweding has become a legitimate art form.

When Pacific Rim’s first trailer debuted in 2013, YouTubers Brian Harley and Brodie Mash created a shot-for-shot, Sweded duplicate of the preview. Instead of state-of-the-art CG effects, their version used toy helicopters, duct-tape monster masks, and an ocean of packing peanuts—and del Toro loved it. At WonderCon 2013, he praised the video, saying that it inspired the editing used in Pacific Rim’s third trailer. Harley and Mash happened to be at the same gathering. When del Toro met the comedic duo, he exclaimed “I loved it! My daughters loved it, we watched it a bunch of times!” Then he invited the Sweding duo to attend Pacific Rim’s premiere in Hollywood.

5 Ways to Define a Sandwich, According to the Law

It’s easy to say what a sandwich is. Grilled cheese? Definitely a sandwich. Bacon, lettuce, and tomato? There’s no question. Things start to get messy when you specify what a sandwich isn’t. Is a hot dog a sandwich? What about a burrito, or an open-faced turkey melt?

The question of sandwich-hood sounds like something a monk might ponder on a mountaintop. But the answer has real-world implications. On several occasions, governments have ruled on the food industry’s right to use the delectable label. Now, Ruth Bader Ginsburg—pop culture icon, scrunchie connoisseur, and Supreme Court Justice—has weighed in on the matter.

When pressed on the hot-button issue as to whether a hot dog is a sandwich while appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Ginsburg proved her extreme judiciousness by throwing the question back at Colbert and asking for his definition of sandwich before making a ruling. Her summation? A hot dog fits Colbert's definition of a sandwich, and therefore can be considered one.

While RBG's ruling may not be an official one, it matches Merriam-Webster's bold declaration that a hot dog is a sandwich (even if the Hot Dog Council disagrees). Officially, here’s where the law stands on the great sandwich debate.


Hot dogs are often snagged in the center of the sandwich semantics drama. Despite fitting the description of a food product served on a bread-like product, many sandwich purists insist that hot dogs deserve their own category. California joins Merriam-Webster in declaring that a hot dog is a sandwich nonetheless. The bold word choice appears in the state’s tax law, which mentions “hot dog and hamburger sandwiches” served from “sandwich stands or booths.” Applying the sandwich label to burgers is less controversial, but it’s still worth debating.


When Qdoba threatened to encroach on the territory of a Panera Bread in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, the owners of the bakery franchise fought back. They claimed the Mexican chain’s arrival would violate their lease agreement with the White City Shopping Center—specifically the clause that prohibits the strip mall from renting to other sandwich restaurants. “We were surprised at the suit because we think it’s common sense that a burrito is not a sandwich,” Jeff Ackerman, owner of the Qdoba franchise group, told The Boston Globe.

The Worcester County Superior Court agreed. When the issue went before the court in 2006, Cambridge chef and food writer Christopher Schlesinger testified against Panera [PDF], saying, “I know of no chef or culinary historian who would call a burrito a sandwich. Indeed, the notion would be absurd to any credible chef or culinary historian.”

Justice Jeffrey A. Locke ruled that Qdoba would be allowed to move into the shopping center citing an entry in Merriam-Webster as the most damning evidence against Panera’s case. “The New Webster Third International Dictionary describes a ‘sandwich’ as ‘two thin pieces of bread, usually buttered, with a thin layer (as of meat, cheese, or savory mixture) spread between them,’” he said. “Under this definition and as dictated by common sense, this court finds that the term ‘sandwich’ is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos, and quesadillas.”


If you want to know the definition of a certain dish, the officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are good people to ask. It’s their job to make sure that the nation’s supply of meat is correctly labeled. When it comes to sandwiches, the agency follows strict criteria. “A sandwich is a meat or poultry filling between two slices of bread, a bun, or a biscuit,” Mark Wheeler, who works in food and safety at the USDA, told NPR. His definition comes from the Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book used by the department (the USDA only covers the “labeling of meat, poultry, and egg products,” while the FDA handles everything else, which is why the USDA's definition excludes things like grilled cheese). Not included under their umbrella of foodstuff served between bread are burritos, wraps, and hot dogs.


The USDA’s definition may not be as simple and elegant as it seems. A sandwich is one thing, but a “sandwich-like product” is different territory. The same labeling policy book Mark Wheeler referred to when describing a sandwich lumps burritos into this vague category. Fajitas “may also be” a sandwich-like product, as long as the strips of meat in question come bundled in a tortilla. Another section of the book lists hot dogs and hamburgers as examples of sandwich-type products when laying out inspection policies for pre-packaged dinners. So is there an example of a meat-wrapped-in-carb dish that doesn’t belong to the sandwich family? Apparently strombolis are where the USDA draws the line. The Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book clearly states the product “is not considered a traditional sandwich” [PDF].


When it comes to sandwiches, New York doesn’t discriminate. In a bulletin outlining the state’s tax policy, a description of what constitutes a sandwich warrants its own subhead. The article reads:

“Sandwiches include cold and hot sandwiches of every kind that are prepared and ready to be eaten, whether made on bread, on bagels, on rolls, in pitas, in wraps, or otherwise, and regardless of the filling or number of layers. A sandwich can be as simple as a buttered bagel or roll, or as elaborate as a six-foot, toasted submarine sandwich.”

It then moves on to examples of taxable sandwiches. The list includes items widely-believed to bear the label, like Reubens, paninis, club sandwiches, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Other entries, like burritos, gyros, open-faced sandwiches, and hot dogs, may cause confusion among diners.


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