20 Hidden Levels in Video Games
Nothing beats the feeling of uncovering a hidden level in a video game after hours and hours of gameplay. Finding secret areas often takes a lot of patience and skill, as pesky developers embed these elusive levels deep within the game. So when you do find one, it’s hugely rewarding.
You might be familiar with a bunch of secret levels already, but there may be some you never even knew existed. Read on to see if you’ve discovered all of these hidden video game levels.
20. Luau level in ToeJam And Earl
With a bit of luck, in the first ToeJam and Earl game you can access a secret ‘luau level.’
The luau level is one of those Easter eggs that almost no one would know about without the help of the Internet.
If you acquire Icarus Wings, it’s possible to fly off the bottom left corner of the Level 1 island all the way to ‘Level 0,’ or the luau level.
Aside from getting an extra life from the lemonade stand, the level itself is pretty pointless.
You can also hang out with some hula dancers who are relaxing in a hot tub.
While the level doesn’t add much to the game, its sheer randomness fits in well with ToeJam and Earl‘s distinctively absurd style.
19. The retro nightmare in Wolfenstein: The New Order
The 2014 game Wolfenstein: The New Order was a stellar remake of the classic 80s and 90s game series.
The New Order edition of the game also payed homage to its predecessors through the inclusion of a neat secret level.
At multiple points in the game, your character, BJ Blazkowicz, could take a nap – wherein you’d find yourself in the middle of a retro nightmare.
The graphics and gameplay perfectly matched those of the classic 1992 edition of the game.
The nightmare sees the game’s main character revisit his experiences in 1945 as he attempts to stall the Nazis’ attempts at creating an army of undead soldiers.
The level ends when you enter a lift which ultimately causes Blazkowicz to wake up.
18. Prince of Persia level in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was a solid successor to the hugely popular action-adventure game Prince of Persia.
The sequel to the original game paid tribute to its predecessor via a secret level concealed within the game.
You could unlock this hidden level if you pressed certain keys on your controller – depending on which system you used to play the game – while on the main menu screen.
The secret level was based on the original Prince of Persia game. At the end of the level you could find a shiny new sword – just like in the original.
Within the secret level you can also find a hidden room which conceals a picture of the game’s developers.
All in all, a neat little hidden level that fans of the Prince of Persia series will no doubt appreciate.
17. Minecraft level in Borderlands 2
If you head to the northwest corner of the Caustic Caverns area in Borderlands 2, you’ll notice some carts on two mine tracks.
If you proceed to follow round the track on the right-hand side, you’ll eventually come across some dirt blocks.
You can smash these blocks and walk down the path that opens up. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself in the game’s hidden Minecraft level.
Within the level you’ll have the chance to collect a Minecraft skin and head customisation.
You can find this by mining the back walls of the cave, or if you’re lucky you may find that an enemy Creeper within the cave will drop a customisation item.
You can also find other useful items and currency within the cave, such as gold and Eridium.
16. Mario level in Dying Light
You wouldn’t think survival game Dying Light would feature a hidden level dedicated to the Mario franchise.
But the gritty zombie game does show its cheerier side on its elusive Mario level.
You can find the level by traversing the rooftops of Old Town and heading towards a large brick building near the south of the area.
You can then find a tiny green Mario pipe inside one of the building’s chimneys.
Jump inside the pipe and you’ll find yourself teleported to the game’s secret Mario level.
The level isn’t intended to be a carbon-copy of Mario games – it’s more a rendition of what Mario would look like if it were actually a zombie survival game.
15. Developer room in Adventure
The 1980 Atari 2600 game Adventure was likely the first ever video game with a hidden level.
Back in the 80s, game developers weren’t encouraged to take any credit for the games they produced.
Warren Robinett, the creator behind Adventure, wasn’t a fan of this arbitrary rule – and rightly so, given the level of skill needed to craft early video games.
Robinett disregarded his superiors and credited himself deep within the code for Adventure, hiding his name in a secret level within the game.
You were met with a screen which said ‘created by Warren Robinett’ if you collected a near-invisible dot which acted as a key to unlocking this secret area.
If you found this back in the day on your old Atari, pre-internet forums, that’s one serious achievement.
14. The Painted World of Ariamis in Dark Souls
Dark Souls has often been praised for its intricate level design and The Painted World of Ariamis level is a stellar example of this attention to detail.
To enter this level, players must go right back to the beginning of the game and retrieve a doll that belongs to Priscilla.
If you take out and clutch the doll in front of the large painting in Anor Londo, you’ll be instantly teleported to the Painted World of Ariamis.
The world is packed full of enemies that are tricky to beat and you’ll have a hard time escaping – but it’s oh-so-rewarding when you do beat the level.
To beat the level you’ll have to go to the basement area, unlock the boss area, and then climb across to face the final boss.
Once you reach the boss, Crossbreed Priscilla, you can choose to fight her – and you’ll need luck on your side if you do.
13. Developer Room in Fallout 4
This secret area in Fallout 4 can only be accessed on a PC. To get there, press the tilde (~) key to bring up the console commands prompt.
From there, simply type in “COC QASMOKE.” If done correctly, you’ll be transported to a secret room full of all the items in the game.
The room got nicknamed the ‘Developer Room’ as players theorised that the area was initially used by developers to test certain items, but was then ultimately left in the game.
The room is full of everything you could ever want – every weapon; every type of armour; every bobblehead.
Obviously, supplying yourself from the room does sort of ruin the whole game, so a lot of players never actually take anything from there.
But no judgment from us if you do decide to give yourself the best armour and weapons after a trip to the Developer’s Room!
12. Giant ant level in Command & Conquer: Red Alert
The giant ant level in Command & Conquer: Red Alert was the stuff of legend in school playgrounds back in the 90s.
Before the days of internet forums, secret levels really had to be seen with players’ own eyes to be believed.
After all, a Red Alert level featuring giant ants did sound slightly incredulous. Which made the fact that it was genuinely real even more exciting.
You could unlock the infamous giant ant level by holding down then the shift key and clicking the main menu’s speaker icon.
The ensuing four missions involved taking out an army of giant ants – as one might expect from a level dubbed the ‘giant ant level.’
The ants were notoriously vicious and could wipe your forces out in seconds, making the hidden level one of the most difficult in the game.
11. Original levels in Doom 2016
If you know where to look, you’ll be able to find small secret levels scattered throughout the 2016 edition of Doom that hark back to the original Doom game.
Since there were quite a few of these secret ‘original’ levels hidden throughout the game, it was pretty likely that you’d stumble across one at some point.
There are 13 secret missions to find in total which play out like missions from the original game.
Once you successfully found and completed any of these missions they’d be available from the start menu.
This was a great Easter egg for Doom fans, young and old alike – while newbies to the franchise got a taste of what the original game was like, veterans no doubt enjoyed the throwback levels.
All in all, there’s a lot of nostalgic fun to be had through seeking out these 13 levels on Doom 2016.
10. Aztec Temple in GoldenEye 64
This 1997 adaptation of Pierce Brosnan’s first (and best) Bond movie is fondly remembered as one of the best ever first-person shooter games.
If you complete the game on the ‘Secret Agent’ difficulty level, you’ll unlock another mission and gain access to the secret 19th level – Aztec.
Based on the classic Bond film Moonraker, Aztec is considered by many to be the toughest level in the whole game.
The level ends with a duel between Bond and iconic villain Jaws – who is exceptionally hard to defeat.
Jaws first appeared in the 1977 Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, played by actor Richard Kiel.
When you encounter him on the Aztec level, he can withstand around 15 Moonraker Laser headshots. No wonder the level has a reputation for being so difficult!
9. Special World in Super Mario World
Launched in 1990 for the SNES, Super Mario World is packed full of secret levels.
Arguably the most extensive is ‘Special World,’ the ninth and final area in the game.
It can only be accessed after completing ‘Star World’ and taking a secret exit from Star World 5. Special World is home to some of the most challenging levels in the whole game.
To get to Special World, you’ll have to go past a bunch of falling grey platforms on Star World 5 then hit a ? block that unleashes a trail of coins and press right immediately.
After about 10 seconds, press the P-switch, and the coins will turn into blocks. If you did everything correctly, you’ll be able to hit a yellow block with a beanstalk inside it at the end of the trail of blocks.
Climb up the beanstalk, go over the bridge, put your key in the keyhole and you’ll be granted access to Special World.
8. Mile High Club in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Does anybody ever sit through the end credit sequences that you usually get on completing a video game?
Well, if you did after completing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, you were treated to a secret level called Mile High Club.
If you resisted the urge to power through the end credits, you found this fun mission set on a hijacked plane.
Unlocking the level doesn’t really impact the game in any meaningful way, but it’s a neat little added bonus.
Infinity Ward have stated that the Special Ops missions in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 were inspired by the Mile High Club mission.
Modern Warfare was the first game in the long-running Call of Duty series not to be set during World War 2.
7. Green Hill Zone in Sonic Adventure 2
Sonic Adventure 2 was the last Sonic game produced for the Dreamcast before Sega withdrew from the console market altogether. This historic video game harbours a secret level that is so well-hidden, it was initially thought to be a myth.
The level is essentially a 3D remake of the Green Hill Zone from the original Sonic the Hedgehog.
To get there you’ll need to collect all 180 Emblems – and that’s much harder than it sounds.
You’ll need to beat the Chao challenges, complete every mission in every stage, and get an A rank on everything.
This is hard anyway, but given the game’s hard-to-master controls, it’s sometimes literally impossible to be as precise as is needed to achieve this.
You’ll definitely need luck on your side if you want to unlock the Green Hill Zone.
6. Debug Room in Donkey Kong 64
This 1999 Nintendo 64 title was the first game featuring Nintendo’s iconic ape with 3D gameplay. A secret level can also be found by the sneakiest of players in Nintendo’s Donkey Kong 64.
The game’s secret ‘Debug Room’ is easily accessed by collecting all of the Blueprints.
You go to Snide’s HQ, bringing up the Bonus Menu, highlighting any of the mini-games, and then pressing A and B simultaneously.
If you did it right, you’d find yourself in a strange room with no music and a motionless clone of Donkey Kong.
If you walk off into the dark space beyond the borders, you will appear to exit the room, but will reappear back inside of it again.
While there’s not really anything to do in this spooky room, it’s still a cool hidden area.
5. Cow level in Diablo II
Back when the first Diablo was released, rumours circulated that claimed the game had some sort of secret cow level.
While this was proven to be just a myth, Blizzard did turn the idea into reality in Diablo II.
Players are able to access the cow level after completing Act V of the game.
If you then combine Wirt’s Leg and a Tome of Town Portal in the Horadric Cube as they stand in the Rogue Encampment, a red portal will appear.
You must then defeat the boss before entering the secret cow level which is, unsurprisingly, packed full of cows.
It’s actually quite a useful level as you can collect a lot of goodies from the cows you slaughter.
4. Inverted Castle in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Released for Playstation in 1997, this was the tenth entry in the popular and long-running horror-themed adventure franchise, and something of a return to form. Exemplifying the game’s classic gameplay with a twist, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night contains a secret level which literally turns the whole game on its head.
First of all, you have to complete a lot of tasks, including collecting a pair of glasses and defeating an orb.
After that, the game will surprise you by flipping the entire castle upside-down.
This level is not easy to navigate – not only do you have to reorientate yourself, but the enemies awaiting you in the newly-inverted castle are even tougher than previous villains.
Surviving this level enables the player to access one of the three ‘real’ endings as well as engage in a final fight against Dracula.
This upside-down level has long been considered one of the most popular secret video game levels ever.
3. The Princess’s Secret Slide in Super Mario 64
1996’s Super Mario 64 was a big step forward for Nintendo’s iconic franchise, moving the platform game into three dimensions.
Princess Peach’s secret slide in Super Mario 64 is one of three secret levels in the game.
To find the slide, head inside the castle and go behind a 1-star door (a door which requires one collectible Power Star to open).
There you’ll find two stained glass windows, and you’ll need to go through the one on the right to access this hidden level.
The level is essentially one great big slide covered in coins, which sounds like heaven for Mario fans!
If you complete the slide in under 21 seconds, you’ll be able to nab a bonus star at the end of the course.
2. Hot Coco in Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped
Released in 1998, Crash Banidcoot 3: Warped was the third game in the popular Playstation series. The game’s elusive Hot Coco level can only be accessed via Level 14, the dirt bike level.
At the start of the level, drive slowly on the left side of the road until you see a yellow road sign with an alien on it.
If you knock over the sign, you will find that you’ve triggered a secret exit.
There is both a gem and a relic available for collecting in this hidden level.
If it’s the gem you’re interested in, this will be awarded if you collect all the crates.
To acquire the relic, as with other levels, you’ll need to complete the course as quickly as possible by hitting time crates to freeze the clock along the way.
1. Hell in Cave Story
Cave Story’s secret level is aptly-named ‘Hell’. It’s a painfully tricky area with an assortment of enemies that are very difficult to overcome.
To get there, you must firstly meet all the criteria for obtaining the Booster Jet Pack 2.0; meet all the criteria for rescuing Curly, and enter the house from the balcony area.
Once these conditions are met, the door to the Prefab House will open during your final escape, and you’ll be able to venture down to Hell.
While most other levels in Cave Story are a bit more complex, Hell is a single corridor which leads to the game’s ‘real’ final boss, Ballos.
You’ll need to fight and defeat him five times to take him down once and for all.