Do Retro Games Still Hold New Mysteries?

Every day I find a big black spider somewhere new in my apartment. Sometimes I'll pick up my PS4 controller and find with a start that it's blended in with the black touchpad. Sometimes I'll open the top of my coffee maker and it'll fall out onto the counter. I've even found in the bathroom drawer on top of the toothpaste; it's always a nice surprise. I should clarify, the big black spider is plastic, and it's something that my wife and I take turns planting for each other to find at some point in the day. Since I work from home and she goes downtown all day, it's one of the few ways we can still interact while apart.

Of course, it's only fun when it's a true surprise. If I hide the spider and she doesn't find it, I'm perfectly content to wait a few days for her to open that one pouch in her purse. If she hides it and I don't find it, she just has to tell me where it is so we can laugh about it. She's not the best secret keeper. Now, Genyo Takeda, Makoto Wada, and Shigeru Miyamoto - those are some good secret keepers. They are the men behind Punch-Out!!, an almost 30-year-old game the still contains secrets never discovered by anyone. 


You may have heard about the recently discovered Punch-Out!! Easter egg: a Reddit user who goes by the name "midwesternhousewives" discovered a previously unknown visual cue which is the key to putting an early end to some later fights. You can see in the video here that there's a lone, inconspicuous member of the crowd behind your opponent (either Piston Honda or Bald Bull) that gives a very subtle nod when it's time to strike. I can say, with absolute confidence, that I would have never noticed this. It's such a small touch, but it's something that was very intentionally placed by the designers at the time for the sole purpose of aiding the player. It's incredible that, after all of this time, they were all able to keep their mouths shut, and that's why finds like this make headlines.

It's such a thrilling thing when games that we think we've known inside and out for decades become new again. Sure, every now and then someone will break out a retro console or pull up an emulator and we think we're hot stuff because we know the Konami code or the password to unlock all the stages in Mega Man X, but there's more out there! There are still Easter eggs and button input codes waiting to be discovered. Just look at Mortal Kombat, another game that recently made headlines as we discovered hidden diagnostic menus for the very first time. How have these things been kept secret for decades, and what's still out there, waiting to be discovered, in your favorite NES or SNES games? 


We know for a fact that there are still undiscovered secrets in Punch-Out!!, and we may never find them. That's an incredible thought. Sometimes we forget that the video game industry as a whole is still quite young, and in its earlier stages - before licensed engines, automated asset generators, and advanced AI - designers and artists had to come together and pool their creativity in astounding ways to make a product that stood out from the competition. While today we may notice subtleties in the way a character's hair or some fabric moves and we praise a game engine, in the NES era the subtleties we notice are more deliberately placed; hand-crafted, in a way, by cunning and playful designers; things like a lone, bearded spectator in the background with an oddly-timed nod. Are there any games out there that you think are probably still holding secrets? I for one think there are probably still some corners of the world of Pokemon Red and Blue that haven't been explored, but that's another theory for another time. 

Matthew Hayes
Matthew Hayes

Contributing Writer
Date: 04/18/2016

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