The 14 best computer game cheats of all time

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Cheating is bad in all situations apart from one: when you’re playing games. If you want to complete a computer game and retain some sense of pride in the achievement, you don’t cheat, but such “seriousness” is only part of the fun of gaming.


The other part – no-nonsense, unpretentious entertainment – is why cheats exist. Whether it’s to skip all the hard stuff and just enjoy the most enjoyable levels in a game or just to give your character an inflated head for no reason whatsoever, cheats are where game developers really let go and have some fun. Through the history of gaming, there have been many legendary cheats, but these are arguably among the best...

\#14 - Mario Kart (SNES) – Skip to the Special Cup

Mario Kart is a legend among racing games, having the core elements of any racing game with the added bonus of an arsenal of ridiculous power-ups you can use to overtake your opponents without all the hassle of actually tackling the course efficiently. The pinnacle of achievement on the game was getting the gold in the Special Cup, but you have to complete all the others before you can play it. To skip ahead and get right to the biggest challenge, enter “L,” “R,” “L,” “R,” “L,” “L,” “R,” “R” on the cup selection screen.

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\#13 - Mega Man 3 (NES) – Super jump and invincibility

This cheat makes the list partially because it improves Mega Man’s jumping ability (something he isn’t ordinarily too good at), but mainly because of the unique method of activating it. When you’re playing the game, press right on the second controller. That’s right: you enter this cheat with your spare controller. It also allows you to walk on the bottom of pits, and if you’re at the bottom of one and press right on the second control again, your energy bar goes black and you’re invincible until you pick up any energy.

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\#12 - Goldeneye 007 (Nintendo 64) – Multiplayer invisibility

As one of the most-loved multiplayer games of all time, the invisibility cheat for multiplayer mode makes this list because although being invisible is quite an advantage, it adds another layer to the already-enjoyable death-matches, especially if one player usually wipes the floor with the other. When you’re playing, press “L” and “C-up” (“and” meaning press them at the same time), “L” and “R” and “C-left,” “R” and “up,” “L” and “C-right,” “R” and “C-left,” “L” and “right,” “L” and “R” and “C-left,” “L” and “C-right,” “L” and “up,” then “L” and “R” and “C-down” to activate the cheat. There were plenty of great cheats for Goldeneye 007, but this may take the cake.

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\#11 - Half-Life (PC) – Invincibility and invisibility

Valve's legendary first-person shooter Half Life featured some pretty awesome cheats that could only be accessed by opening the game in “console mode.” Do this by right-clicking your desktop shortcut to the game and choosing “Properties” from the menu, then going to the “Target” field. Change the line that says “X:\Sierra\Half-Life\hl.exe” by adding “-console” at the end, changing it to, “X:\Sierra\Half-Life\hl.exe -console” (with a space after “exe” – note that the “X:\” is in place of your disk-drive’s letter, which will probably be “C”). Launch the game in this mode and type “/god” for invincibility and “notarget” for invisibility, both without quotations.

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\#10 - NBA Jam (cross-platform) – Big head mode

There were useful cheats for NBA Jam like unlimited turbo, but there were also many completely pointless ones, including secret characters (such as George Bush and Dick Cheney, the Beastie Boys and Reptile and Raiden from Mortal Kombat, on various versions) and “big head mode.” Although the latter is even more pointless than alternate characters, the absurdity of it made it into a gaming staple, replicated on many games to follow including Goldeneye 007 and the Tony Hawk series. To activate it, hold the “up,” “turbo” and “steal” buttons on the “Tonight’s match up” screen.

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\#9 - Legend of Zelda (NES) – Second quest

The original Legend of Zelda game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) actually has a whole bonus game-mode you could play after completing the main game, but thanks to a cheat you don’t even have to do that. All you have to do is start a new game and enter your name as “Zelda” and you’ll be taken to the “second quest,” which in fairness is a lot like the first but the dungeons and various items have been moved around. It’s not mind-blowing, granted, but a great feature that makes the game all the more re-playable. The same basic extra exists in more modern incarnations, too.

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\#8 - Metroid (NES) – The real Samus

When Metroid first came out, it wasn’t a particularly well-known fact that Samus was actually female, and the discovery came as quite a shock to many gamers at the time. However, if you knew the name “Justin Bailey,” you got to find out in a pretty up-front fashion. This was back in the days when games used passwords instead of save files, so the code was entered into the password entry screen (with all spaces on the bottom line) to see Samus in her true, feminine form throughout the game. Whether she should be fighting space pirates with so little on is another question entirely...

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\#7 - Max Payne (PC) – Infinite bullet time

The original Max Payne was an enjoyable game, but that was largely due to the slow motion “bullet time” feature, allowing you, say, slow-mo-dive through a glass window (which satisfyingly shatters) while firing a volley of shots at some helpless enemies. The only problem was the limitation on how long you could be in bullet time, but that’s what cheats are for. To activate the cheat, start the game in “developer” mode by right-clicking the desktop icon, selecting “Properties” and then adding “ -developer” (no quotations, space before hyphen) to the end of the text in the “Target” field. Then in-game, press “F12” and type “GetBulletTime” to refill your meter.

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\#6 - Mortal Kombat (Sega Mega Drive) – The blood code

A Mortal Kombat game without blood is like a Mario Bros. game without the undertones of psychedelic fungus usage. Although blood has been turned on as standard in every Mortal Kombat game since, on the original it was only available on the Sega Mega Drive (or in the US, the Genesis) edition, and it required a cheat code to be entered on the “Code of honor” screen to activate it. The code is “A,” “B,” “A,” “C,” “A,” “B,” “B,” like Genesis’ (the band’s) album “Abacab” with an extra “B,” a subtle joke based on the console’s North American name. No go uppercut some 2D, pixellated characters with added violence.

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The Grand Theft Auto series is really about wandering around aimlessly and causing chaos, and Rockstar definitely made the right decision to pack the games with cheats. Some cheats, like the weapons package (ordinarily giving you one of a few different selections of guns and melee weapons), feature in the majority of incarnations of the franchise, but some memorable options – like the flying cars cheat – are in found specific games (Vice City, San Andreas and GTA V feature the flying cars, for example). It’s hard to select just one from the bunch, so we’ll just cheat and choose several: a combination of invincibility (although this is limited to five minutes per code entry in GTA V), flying cars, a spawned vehicle (or two) and a healthy store of weapons gives you the freedom to unleash untold destruction on the virtual city without being taken out within minutes by the fun-police. Well, the actual police... and the army...

Related: Prima: GTA 5: The 5 best cheats you should know about

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\#4 - Super Mario Bros. (NES) – Unlimited 1-ups

This makes the list not only for its usefulness but for the fact that it wasn’t an intentionally-added cheat, more like a way you cheat the game. On level 3-1, on the stairway before the end-flag, two Koopas are descending the stairs as you approach. Jump over the first, and jump on the second. Now all you have to do is bounce on the Koopa’s shell, sending it bouncing off the step to the right and back under your position so you can bounce on it again. After a handful of bounces, you start getting a 1-up every time – just don’t touch the ground! This method is known as “turtle tipping.”

Related: YouTube: Original Super Mario Bros - Infinite lives - Turtle tipping

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\#3 - Sonic 2 (Sega Mega Drive) – Debug mode

This is a pretty unusual cheat, giving you the ability to change Sonic into in-game items like a computer monitor or even a ring, and even fly around the courses. It’s entered using the “Sound Test” function on the “Options” menu: play song 19, 65, 09 and 17 in that order, and then press “Start” and “Exit” to restart the game. Hold “A” and press “Start” when the game loads up again, then play tracks 1, 9, 9, 2, 1, 1, 2, 4 (in this order) on the sound-tester, and finally, hold “A” and press “Start” before you select a stage. The 17th of September, 1965 (1965, 09, 17 if you write your dates strangely) was the lead designer Yuji Naka’s birthday, and the game was released on the 24th of November, 1992 (1992, 11, 24) – which is where the seemingly arbitrary codes come from.

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\#2 - Metal Gear Solid 3 (Playstation 2) – Let the End die of old age

Why go through all the effort of a full boss fight with an aging and challenging foe when you can just let nature take its course? If you don’t want to fight the End, when you get to the area of the boss fight, save the game and go to the hardware settings page for your Playstation 2. Advance the date at least a week and load your save up again. You’ll have found that old man time, or more precisely, old-man-alter-the-time-purposefully, has dispatched the boss for you, and you’ll be greeted to an amusing cut-scene explaining that it must have been old age. If it actually took you a week, this is basically the developers’ way of showing mercy by just letting you pass the otherwise tough boss battle.

Related: YouTube: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater - The End dies by old age

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\#1 - Various games, including Contra (NES) – The Konami code

Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start. The code is etched into the minds of gamers everywhere; making it a truly legendary cheat code. Although Contra wasn’t the first game it appeared on, when entered onto the opening screen (or during a pause) on it you were awarded with 30 lives. This wouldn’t have been anything special, but completing Contra with the stock three lives was near-impossible, so most players committed the Konami code to memory to give themselves a fighting chance. The code has been absorbed into pop-culture since then, so as well as working on many other Konami games, it’s also referenced in films and even reveals Easter eggs on some websites.

Related: Konami Code Sites

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