Cheat codes are amazing. I love cheat codes in single-player games… I love cheat codes in co-op environments as long as your partners/adversaries are in on the shenanigans. Cheat codes are never a bad thing as long as the person holding the controller has control over them and they interfere with nobody.
The best cheat code of all time is the Konami code (Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A) It is classic. It is immortal. Known for a time as “The Contra code” its use extends past Contra and works on other Konami games as well.
Another popular code is the “Tyson” code (007 373 5963) that allows you to skip right to Mike Tyson in Mike Tyson’s punch out.
Who could forget getting infinite 1ups or finding the warp whistles in the respective Super Mario Bros. games?
Later on, as games evolved, the nature of the codes became a bit more diverse but their ideas remained the same. Cheat codes mostly were about removing vulnerability and time displacement. The gamer wanted to either be stronger/have enemies be weaker or skip to the end at will. These two ideas evolved in various ways. As 30 lives turned into health bars it would not be uncommon to find “God mode” or “Health codes” within the game you’re playing. PC RPGs usually give the player the ability to “spawn” items they would need as a way to cheat.
DOOM, is a great example of cheat code evolution. There is the standard code of buffing the player with all the guns, armor and keys by typing IDKFA.
If that would not suffice, you could then make yourself immune to damage by typing IDDQD, God or “Degreelessness” mode.
Maybe being immune to death and armed with infinite ammo is not enough. If you want to skip to a specific level you would type IDCLEV21 to go to Episode 2 Level 1.
But maybe you simply want to move through the space. IDSPISPOPD and you become Wall Jesus.
These were the standardized ideas of codes. All the weapons, none of the damage plus Wall Jesus if I so desire.
There was a time that these codes were almost expected in every game. I cannot remember the last game I played where I messed with the Cheat Codes. I tend to find I either don’t need them or the game lacks them. In the case of EA, they find ways to turn the idea of them into microtransactions. But Rockstar still puts them in Grand Theft Auto and EA published Dead Space which has the last set of codes I remember using.
Cheat Codes are a lost art. They are a hangover from the old days I wish would never go away. They are the broke gamer’s DLC.
Grand Theft Auto 3 and onwards were always sprawling, epic adventures on their own, but with the addition of DLC, the player was a whole new monster. Imagine going on a mission, hitting the 5 star wanted level, then hitting the “All cars are airplanes” cheat and taking flight to shake your pursuer. Changing one mechanic changed the way you played the game for a few minutes or a few hours.
I was one of the few kids I knew that could reach the conclusion of Contra without the famous Konami code, but only if I had a pretty decent 2up who wouldn’t eat lives. It was a challenge, being the point. The Konami code allowed many kids to play the game and have fun with it instead of throwing it down in frustration again and again on the Snow Level.
PC “cheats” are always much more elaborate. RPG character hacks are always my favorites. Diablo was famous for having armor generators that would make custom armor you could name and list the stats the way you felt fit. I made the Shaft’s Blunt Staff of Vengeance which had 99 charges of Apocalypse because OF COURSE IT DID! I managed to play through the entire game one more time because I was wearing The Coat of Fail armed with Shaft’s Blunt Staff of Vengeance making duplicates of hacks. It was harmless.
Cheat Codes were worse than crack. If the factory installed cheat codes weren’t to your satisfaction, there were the hired guns over at galoob who created Game Genie.
Game Genie was a Bane mask you would attach to your game of choice.
Then you would put in a code from a book.
on a screen that looked more or less like this…
or maybe this…
Game Genie paved the way for Game Shark and Game Shark paved the way for Action Replay which paved the way for Abraham who begat Isaac.
Cheating was hard work for gamers. If you were hardcore into Game Genie, then you had a subscription to cheat codes.
Game Genie was almost a game within itself. If you or a friend had one, then you would want to cheat together with your friends. Wait. That sounds weird. You and your friends would run off and cheat together. Friends would trade ways to cheat. Cheating was very commonplace in this era. The gaming kind. Games that were collecting dust would immediately be resurrected if a new Game Genie code was found.
Aside from Game Genie, another staple was Tips & Tricks magazine. Specifically their yearly codebooks
If you were a gamer, chances are you tucked this one away and used it to store that clutch cheat code in your brain to be a hero later.
Ahhhh. Cheating definitely was its own genre. Those were the days.
Now get off my lawn.
The Jaded Gamer