Easter season is upon us, and while we all love Easter eggs, the term carries a special meaning in the world of digital technology.
In the tech industry, an ‘Easter egg’ refers to an undocumented feature that’s hidden by software or game developers for users to find and enjoy. Easter eggs usually serve no purpose other than to entertain – secret games, pop culture references and inside jokes are common examples.
Over the years, developers and engineers have left all sorts of weird and wonderful Easter eggs for people to discover. Here are 10 Easter eggs that were so well-hidden, it took more than 10 years for them to be discovered.
1. Windows 1.0 developer name reveal
Just last month a list of developer names in Windows 1.0 was revealed, having been concealed for almost 37 years.
Lucas Brooks shared the find on Twitter. The hidden Easter egg is not part of the software that can be found through conventional means, but it’s interesting to know that Easter eggs were buried even in the earliest iterations of Windows operating systems.
This Easter egg also comes with a “Congrats!” message, which is apt given that it took almost 37 years to uncover it.
2. Prodigal’s hidden Commodore 64 program
In 1984, the Christian rock band Prodigal hid a Commodore 64 program on their vinyl album “Electric Eye”, which went unfound until 2019.
On vinyl records, the run-out groove is usually an endless groove that keeps the record player from running off the records. On one side of Electric Eye the run-out groove looks normal, however on the reverse side it looks thicker than usual. This led to a YouTuber discovering a Commodore 64 program hidden within the vinyl. By recording the audio onto a cassette and loading it onto a dataset, a secret message is revealed courtesy of Jesus and Albert Einstein.
3. Gumball’s congratulations message
Released in 1983, Gumball was a small game released for Apple II that was almost completely forgotten about – until 2016 when a hidden Easter egg was discovered.
33 years after its release, anonymous hackers fought their way through Gumball’s incredibly advanced copyright protection, and studied its code, to discover that each game phase hid a cipher. After solving all the codes, they discovered a special screen where the game’s programmer Robert A. Cooke congratulates the player.
In response to their discovery, Cooke tweeted: “Congratulations! I figured it would take a thousand years for someone to figure this out, but you figured it out in just 33 years!”
4. Donkey Kong programmer reveal
This Easter egg in Donkey Kong (Atari version) took so long to find, the programmer who created it eventually gave up and revealed the secret to fans himself.
After waiting 26 years for it to be found, Landon M. Dyer, the coder who worked on the game, revealed that his initials appear on screen after Mario’s final demise.
5. Mario’s appearance in Astal
A hidden image of Mario was discovered sitting in the files of Sega’s platformer game Astal. The Easter egg remained hidden until it was discovered in 2021 – 26 years after it was first released.
Nowadays, most gamers wouldn’t think twice about seeing Mario appear in a Sega title, however that wasn’t the case in 1995 when Sega and Nintendo were major rivals. In the hidden image of Mario, he wears an uneasy expression, leading many fans to assume that Sega developers were poking fun at Nintendo and their mascot with the Easter egg.
6. Windows 95 developer name reveal
Windows 95 was one of Microsoft’s breakout products. Although incredibly popular, last year, a Windows hacker found a never-before-seen Easter egg in the operating system’s mail app, 25 years after the software was first released.
Within the mail app, the hacker discovered a secret window through the ‘About’ screen. After selecting one of the files and typing ‘Mortimer’, a display appears that scrolls through a list of developers who worked on the app.
Prior to 2021, there is no known mention of this Easter egg, meaning it has remained undiscovered for nearly 25 years.
7. Halo: Combat Evolved hidden message
A message hidden in the original Halo game, Halo: Combat Evolved, went uncovered for 21 years until a gamer made the discovery in February this year.
The message, which appears among a galactic scene on the game’s home screen, is hard to read, leaving gamers divided over what the design actually says. Most agree the first part reads: “This is whack. If you can read this, you are too damn…”, but the final word has most gamers stumped. Many argue the final word is either ‘dope’ or ‘close’ – both of which would make sense.
Whatever the final message turns out to be, it’s been well-hidden for more than 21 years.
8. Pokémon Yellow’s hidden game mechanics
More than 20 years after its release on Game Boy, a Pokémon Yellow fan discovered Pikachu can briefly light up a cave after learning the Thunderbolt or Thunder move.
A video uploaded to Twitter shows a screenplay of the fan entering a cave, before altering Pikachu’s moves so it has Thunder capabilities. Having done so, instead of having to use HM Flash to light up the environment, Pikachu briefly illuminates the area on its own.
The video has now been viewed more than 330,000 times and has led to many players expressing their surprise at the hidden Easter egg.
9. Hidden rainbow coin in Donkey Kong 64
In 1999, games that focused on hunting collectibles were on the rise, and Donkey Kong 64 was no different. Fans rushed to collect all 976 banana coins hidden throughout the game, but one Twitch user went a step further in 2017 and uncovered an ultra-rare 977th coin.
Hidden in the game’s code for more than 17 years, the hidden rainbow coin can be found by pounding a specific patch of dirt in the Fungi Forest. In fact, the Easter egg is so well hidden that the Twitch user only became aware of it while combing through the game’s save data.
10. Totaka’s music in Wii Sports
15 years +
Composer Kazumi Totaka is responsible for the scores of dozens of games, including: Animal Crossing, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Mario Artist and more. Within these games Totaka always leaves the same Easter egg – a hidden 8-bar melody now known as “Totaka’s Song”.
The song has already been found in many games, but Totaka has admitted that the melody is yet to be found in several games, including bestseller Wii Sports, which was released in 2006. This means the Easter egg has remained hidden for 15 years and counting!
These 10 discoveries all took more than a decade to be found, however, the big catch here is: the most well-hidden Easter eggs of all time probably haven’t even been discovered yet!