From Official Nintendo Magazine. This article originally reached a readership of over 100,000.

Put down that Easter egg. Honestly, you’re going to make yourself sick if you eat any more chocolate. The Day of Rabbit-Themed Confectionery has came and went so, while your blood sugar returns to normal, why don’t we have a look at another kind of Easter egg? By that we mean those from Nintendo games.

Easter eggs are a long-running tradition of game developers placing hidden secrets and sly references within their works. We aren’t talking cheat codes or unlockables meant to reward players, or glitches that were never intended for public manipulation. The eggs in question are little touches that are put there on purpose but have no bearing on gameplay or progression, intended simply as something to bring a grin (or contorted expression of confusion) to a gamer’s face. For instance, did you clock Majora’s Mask hanging on the wall in A Link Between Worlds? Or Earthbound catchphrase ‘fuzzy pickles!’ appearing in Animal Crossing: New Leaf? These mean nothing in the grand scheme of things – just a nostalgic nod to the past for eagle-eyed players.

To list every single Easter egg would probably take until next year’s bank holiday weekend. Instead, here are our favourites from some of the biggest franchises…

Pokemon – No Truck With Nostalgia
Game Freak’s astronomically-huge critter-catching RPG might possess vast communicative, competitive online interfaces these days, but they’ve been making waves throughout the web since the dial-up days when connecting to the Internet sounded like a cacophony of 8-bit Pokemon cries. Speaking of waves, one of the eggs that populated Web 1.0 fan pages (usually littered with glittery animated .gifs) is related to the sea.

Pokemon Red and Blue were the first versions to feature Vermilion City, a harbour conurbation where the player could board the S.S. Anne, a luxury cruise liner that sails away forever after you obtain a key item from the captain. By exploiting gameplay mechanics, you could leave the ship without it disappearing and return later with a Pokemon able to use the move Surf. Swimming to the right of the boardwalk would bring the player to a mysterious truck – the only one to appear in the game. Excitable kids came up with fantastic tales of how Mew was under it (we know cats hide under cars, but come on…) and how the lost keys in Celadon Game Corner could be used to drive it. These were, predictably, nonsense but, at the height of ‘90s Pokémania, a nascent, uncharted Internet was a hotbed for such myths. Amusingly, as if aware of the frenzy that they had sparked, Game Freak included the truck in the 2004 remakes, with a rare Lava Cookie item planked nearby.

There’s also the player’s television in the early instalments. The location of the Pokemon world is a long-running debate (it appears to be a fictionalised version of Earth) but, whatever the case, they seem to share our tastes in film. In the originals, it displays the  description ‘four boys are walking on railroad tracks’, a reference to the movie Stand By Me. In the remakes, if you’re playing as a female protagonist, it says ‘a girl in pigtails is walking down a yellow brick road’, referring to The Wizard of Oz. Years later, the Littleroot Town telly broadcast ‘two men dancing on a big piano keyboard’, as in Tom Hanks’s feel-good classic Big. These are but a few from a long list of pop culture references throughout the series, our favourite of which is perhaps Skyla and Elesa’s Airplane!-esque exchange…
‘Surely you wouldn’t mind having a battle with me, right?’
‘You bet! And don’t call me Shirley!’

Fire Emblem – Quite Taken With This One
On the subject of movie references, we couldn’t ignore this belter from last year’s stunning strategic-RPG-cum-dating-sim. It comes after the Avatar walks in on Gaius while he’s in the nip, and the subsequent conversation sees them agree to keep quiet about the tattoo on his arm. Believing that he’s being blackmailed, Gaius tries to bargain with cakes as he has no money, a fact put across through a play on Liam Neeson’s iconic threat from the so-bad-it’s-amazing Taken.

Another sarcy line comes in the form of Frederick’s ‘my body is ready’, a now-infamous utterance by Nintendo of America President and Internet Meme Reggie Fils-Aime before he sampled the Wii Fit at E3 in 2007. A trainer in Victory Road in Pokémon X and Y also comes out with it while preparing to take on the Elite Four.

The Legend Of Zelda – A Link Between Games
When it comes to hidden features, the myriad worlds of The Legend of Zelda timeline are more full-to-bursting than Miyamoto-san’s bank account. Whether it’s winning a Piece of Heart in an infuriating skydiving challenge, a junk-trading sequence for the sword to end all swords, or sailing to a mysterious treasure island on the advice of an anthropomorphic, paintbrush-wielding fish, you’re rarely stuck for things to do in Hyrule and beyond. That said, there are still a few Easter eggs squeezed into a series already brimming with extras.

Let’s start… well, at the start. The 1987 original was ambitious and ground-breaking for its time, but even back then Nintendo were adding little touches to their releases. The floor plans of five dungeons within the game spell out Zelda’s name when looked at from above. There’s also the more controversial design of the third dungeon, pictured on the right. You and I would no doubt see a swastika, the sign of the Nazi Party in WWII Germany, upon gazing down on it but, in the eastern cultures from which the game originated, it’s actually a traditional Buddhist symbol of good fortune. Certainly true considering the wild success that followed, and a legacy that, almost thirty years later, still has us crying out for a new release on the Wii U.

A curious artefact is the sword used by Phanton Ganon in the Wind Waker. Inscribed on the blade are Hylian characters that translate to ‘Zubora Gabora’, the names of the blacksmiths in Majora’s Mask. What’s curious about characters in such a line of work forging a sword, you ask? Well, aside from the fact it’s a sword seemingly made of darkness and bad things, those characters exist in a different world, in a different timeline. How’d they manage that one, then?

When it comes to the Big N, a company fiercely proud of its history and characters, it isn’t surprising that worlds often collide. We know Mario is gaming royalty, but it’s still surprising to see pictures of him in the castle of another kingdom. Before talking to the young Zelda in Hyrule Castle courtyard in the early stages of Ocarina of Time, looking in the windows will reveal framed pictures of the portly plumber and his entourage. In the 3DS remake, there’s a warp pipe ornament instead. This wasn’t Mario’s first cameo in the series though – his moustache appears in all its pixelated glory as a painting in certain houses in A Link To The Past. Then there’s the selection of masks in Majora’s Mask that represent certain animals – a fox, a bird, a rabbit, a frog and a pig. Sound familiar? Fans have speculated that they’re based on the StarFox team and traitor Pigma.

Speaking of animals, the seemingly innocuous Lakeside Lab in Ocarina of Time has a toothy surprise waiting at the bottom of the watery pit inside…

And – now don’t laugh – did you ever have a close look at Malon’s chest?

Super Smash Bros – Reflecting On History
Obviously trying to pass off inter-game references as Easter eggs in a series designed to celebrate all things weird and wonderful about Nintendo would be as exhausting and meaningless as a round of Sports Connection. There are, however, a few ridiculously intricate details beyond the blatant fanservice.

The Smash Bros series is a nostalgic reflection of Nintendo’s rich and varied history. It turns out that it’s also a literal reflection when you look closely at certain trophies.

Metal Mario shows the Yoshi’s Island stage within his silver lustre, while the Metroid figure, in an even cooler example, shows the Ceres lab tank in which it was encapsulated in Super Metroid on the SNES.

There’s also a cameo that’s a bit more out of the ordinary. In the cabin during the ice phase of SSBB’s Pokémon Stadium 2 arena, a poster of a cat hangs on the wall, reportedly belonging to director Masahiro Sakurai.

Super Mario – Ghoul On The Hill
For such a timeless, family-friendly series, Mr Moustache’s adventures have certainly had their fare share of genuinely scary moments. The piano in Big Boo’s Haunt? That chomping noise will forever haunt us. The eel in Jolly Roger Bay glaring at you from the darkness? Horrifying. Then Eely-Mouth’s glowing eyes as you sunk into the abyss in Super Mario Sunshine? Forget about it. As it turns out, there are a couple more unsettling entities hidden away in the background of more modern releases. For starters, hang around by the fence at the end of Super Mario 3D Land’s World 4 Ghost House. After a short while, a ghostly apparition will appear between the trees in the distance. Almost makes you miss the Boos…

Creepier still are the unknown figures peering down at you from the hills of Super Mario Galaxy 2’s Shiverburn Galaxy. Since they are programmed as part of the backdrop, they are visible from any point in the stage, as though following our hero. Hackers have reported that, within the game’s files, the image is listed as HellValleySkyTree. Because it wasn’t chilling enough. I guess now we know why it’s called ‘Shiver’-burn Galaxy…

Time for some amusing cameos after that unpleasantness.

Super Mario RPG was a SNES title made by Final Fantasy developers Square, incorporating the plumber’s platforming skills into a role-playing quest. The original never made it to these shores (although we did get the arguably better Paper Mario eventually) but enjoyed a launch on the Wii Virtual Console in 2008. After taking a nap in the Rose Town Inn, you’ll find a familiar green-clad adventurer snoozing in the next bed. Approaching him will even trigger Zelda’s timeless mystery-uncovered jingle. After that, you’ll find Metroid’s alien-blasting ultra-heroine Samus Aran resting in the Mushroom Kingdom guest suite, even mentioning that she is restoring her strength to take on Mother Brain.

And perhaps the niftiest of all are the images on the pillars in Super Mario 64’s Dark World, which you might not have noticed before, having been too busy kicking Goombas right in the face and trying to stay on course following an inexplicable gust of wind. Closer inspection reveals a hieroglyph depicting the original Mario and Bowser sprites doing battle. This might be inspired by Star Wars characters R2-D2 and C-3PO appearing as ancient markings in the Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Gamecube – Famicom Affairs
Before we finish, here’s a particularly mind-blowing bonus Easter egg – one that isn’t even part of a game. The Famicom Disk System was an add-on for the NES released in Japan in 1986, one that never made it to the West. Its legacy did arrive on these shores in one largely overlooked way, however. Remember the Gamecube’s menu system and those ambient sounds that would attempt to calm your rage as you tried to fit the entirety of your game data across two memory cards? Speeding it up reveals that it’s not an original track, but simply a slowed-down version of the FDS start-up music, as evidenced by the video below.

You’ll also – perhaps unwittingly – have seen this screen in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door when an invisible Princess Peach hacks into Grodus’s computer, which itself is a Disk System console.

Banjo-Kazooie – The Key To An Egg-cellent Adventure
It was a sad day when developers Rare were bought over by Microsoft at the turn of the century, having produced some ‘90s classics including Donkey Kong Country, GoldenEye and the Banjo-Kazooie series. The adventures of the eponymous bear and bird were genuine contenders to Super Mario 64’s crown, taking the ideals of Mario’s 3D revolution and pushing the bracket to incorporate loveable characters, slapstick humour, vast, rich environments, and a palpable difficulty gradient of platforming joy; it often felt like you were playing a role the world’s greatest cartoon. With it, however, came possibly one of the greatest gaming mysteries of all time that had players scratching their heads for years to come. It’s probably worthy of its own article, and we’re bending our own egg-defining rule a tad, but there’s no way we couldn’t include the Stop ‘N’ Swop story as one of our favourites in this list.

Collecting all 100 Jiggies (golden jigsaw pieces, the world-unlocking equivalent of Mario’s Power Stars) in the 1998 original revealed clues about items hidden in the game. One was an ent-ice-ing key (sorry) that was visible in the Freezeezy Peak world as well as two eggs (how fitting for this article!) emblazoned with question marks. It later transpired that these items, as well as four other eggs, could be found by entering certain passwords in the Treasure Trove Cove level. Once collected, they would appear in the menu under the title of Stop ‘N’ Swop, a feature that would remain even if the save slot was reset. It was hinted that they would be used in Banjo-Tooie, a sequel that arrived two years later. But how would this work? What mechanic would allow data to be transferred across the two games? And most importantly, what purpose would they serve?

The answer was that they unlocked various power-ups in the second adventure, including the option to turn Kazooie into a dragon, complete with a ferocious fire attack. It was, however, a little anticlimactic, as the items could be obtained without any connectivity with the original Banjo-Kazooie, making the first set completely redundant. While Rare initially kept schtum on the matter, it was later revealed that removing one game while leaving the N64 switched should have opened a ten-second window, in which the sequel could be inserted to enjoy the unlockables from the original. Sadly, due to a change in the console’s hardware during 1999 developments, the idea was rendered unusable on newer units. Still, until the millennium, Stop ‘N’ Swop was a bonafide gaming enigma that the ever-tongue-in-cheek Rare have referenced in multiple games since – an Easter egg about an Easter egg, as it were.

As well as a few other cheeky inter-game references (such as Banjo’s sister who is absent from the second version apart from appearing on the side of a milk carton) there’s an inclusion that stretches right back to the original concept of the series. In the Jolly Roger’s Lagoon tavern is Captain Blackeye, a seasick pirate, teetering in his chair and drinking painkillers from a tankard. But what do you do with this drunken sailor? You get references to Project Dream, a seafaring adventure game that was in development for the SNES but was, ultimately, reworked into Banjo-Kazooie. Banjo was set to be a supporting character, while Blackeye was, presumably, the main antagonist. He mutters ‘a bear stole me glory… looked a bit like you, ‘e did!’ among other hints.

Well, that’s our favourite hidden touches. Which do you like best? Did we omit any gems? Which Easter eggs would you put into a game? Post your thoughts below while we go snaffle what’s left of the chocolate…

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