Before the massive popularity of the internet, video game communities were often small and secluded, confined to a small social circle. Back in the day, when your dear Piki Geek didn’t exist, the only information you could get about a video game was on the schoolyard. From there, information became disinformation, and one kid’s story of catching a Mew near the S.S. Anne would evolve into a full-on urban myth. Take a nostalgic look back at some of gaming’s biggest urban legends as we count them down.
7. The Chris Houlihan Room
The name Chris Houlihan may ring a bell for veteran Zelda players, as many myths and discussions spawned around good old Chris. In a Link to the Past, there was talk about a secret room named after Chris that was either some sort of glitch or unlockable area. The myth here is no longer in regards to the existence of the room (it is indeed real), but why it exists, and more importantly, the identity of Chris Houlihan.
The secret room is fairly basic, containing a water covered floor and 45 blue rupees. A tile at the back of the room proudly declares “My Name is Chris Houlihan. This is my top secret room. Keep it between us, okay?”. The room can be reached in a variety of ways, all obscure, such as charging certain walls and trees with the Pegasus Boots.
The real mystery starts once you find the room however. Some players believe that the room is a failsafe area for data to be deposited in when a glitch occurs, while others say it is just an incredibly obscure secret area.
The most widely accepted theory about Mr. Houlihan, however, is that he was a winner of a Nintendo contest where the devs would enter his name into the game, presumably as a random NPC. Well, it turns out that the location of the namedrop happens to be the secret room, where Chris’ name lives on in fame. Since the game was released far before the popularity of the internet, myths and secrets like these couldn’t spread quickly, so it was very likely that Chris wasn’t aware of the room. Somewhere out there, Chris Houlihan may be toiling away, not knowing that he is the namesake of one of gaming’s biggest urban legends.
The coolest thing however, is the fact that the room had been undiscovered for years after the game’s original release. What other secrets could be out there?
6. The Michael Jackson Connection
A long running urban legend involves the king of pop allegedly teaming up with Sega for the production of Sonic the Hedgehog 3. According to Roger Hector, Sega Technical’s director, Michael Jackson was brought in to be a consultant or music composer for the game. Many doubt this claim however, as Jackson was never credited for any work on the game, and he’d never publicly spoken about his involvement with it.
Various rumors and forms of the myth have been tossed around, such as Jackson being whited out (no pun intended) from the game, as the Sega crew decided to remove his credit in the wake of many personal controversies. Some believe that Jackson did varying amounts of work on the game, but either had his name removed or resigned due to his dissatisfaction with how the music turned out. A few Sega employees have even gone as far to claim that the demo tapes of the soundtrack exist somewhere, locked away, far from human ears. With no conclusive evidence, and only a handful of conflicting personal accounts, the myth will live on.
We’d ask Michael Jackson himself, but, you know. (Too soon?)
5. Anything Involving Mew
You really didn’t think that there wouldn’t be a Pokémon entry on this list? Back when the original first generation Pokémon games were released, every kid on the schoolyard was a Pokémon master, and every kid happened to know a guy who knew a guy who managed to catch Mew.
Yes, through GameShark (and forced glitching), it was actually possible to obtain Mew, but there were dozens and dozens of rumors floating around that detailed other ways to catch the legendary Pokémon. There was no single definitive urban myth about catching Mew, but many should sound familiar to you if you were a young Pokémon trainer.
Perhaps the most well known is the infamous truck myth. Not far from the S.S. Anne is a small patch of land that can only be reached via surfing. On this dry strip is a pickup truck, which according to lore, is where Mew hides. If only there was a way to move that damn truck…
Other popular rumors include being rewarded with a Mew after defeating the Elite Four 150 times, catching it in the inaccessible wild grass outside of Pallet Town, and receiving it from Professor Oak after catching all 150 Pokémon. Another popular urban legend is the idea that upon catching all of the Pokémon, Bill would let you into his backyard, where a wild Mew would roam.
Most of these legends and myths can probably be traced back to schoolyard origins, the result of overactive children’s minds. But damn, what if one of them turned out to be true? Time to fire up my old copy of Pokémon Blue… for science.
4. The 7 Year Myth
Just to show that schoolyard speculation is occasionally not totally bogus, we have a video game myth that took almost seven years to be discovered. In the Super Smash Bros. franchise, the ridiculously named Master Hand was always the coveted character that all of the kids wanted to unlock, despite being firmly unplayable.
Or at least, that’s what everyone thought. Master Hand had a full move set programmed, so theoretically, gamers believed that he could somehow be a playable character. In Super Smash Bros. Melee, the myth was actually validated.
Discovered by using a name registry glitch at the player select screen and applying a little finesse, Master Hand can be unlocked fairly easily. What makes Master Hand unique is the fact that, as far as anyone knows, he is only accessible through a glitch. Even though he is fully playable, he was never meant to be used by players. The discovery of Master Hand, seven years after Melee’s original release, stands as a beacon of hope for all other video game myths. Perhaps Mew is hiding under that car; we just haven’t discovered the method yet.
3. Can You Shoot the Pooch?
Everyone’s been there. You’re playing Duck Hunt, starting a brand new round of hunting, and you’ve just come off of three straight perfect rounds. You can’t even remember the last time you missed a shot. Suddenly, the birds come flying out, and your hand, pasty and moist, slips up for a brief moment, and you miss a duck. Adding insult to injury, your dog pokes his head out of the grass, and stifles a laugh. Don’t you just want to shoot the son of a bitch? Turns out, pretty much everyone else has at one point or another.
The desire to shoot your canine companion has been so strong that it has spawned an almost ancient urban myth that you can actually deal damage to the smarmy bastard. There have been many different theories, such as being able to shoot the dog after beating 100 flawless levels, but none have proven to be true. The closest thing players can get to shooting the dog is by reaching the bonus round in the arcade version of Duck Hunt. Alas, as for now, the claims about being able to shoot the dog are all baseless.
2. Play as Luigi in Super Mario 64
Luigi may always be Robin to Mario’s Batman, but ever since the release of Super Mario 64, players have been pining to play as the less stocky of the two Italian plumbers. While Luigi was included in the DS remake of Super Mario 64, the taller Mario brother was nowhere to be seen in the original.
That didn’t stop the myth from spreading, however. A simple Google search brings up countless YouTube videos and discussions which detail how to obtain Luigi. To this day, there are people arguing and debating the existence of a playable Luigi. Perhaps one of the most popular theories is that you unlock Luigi after earning 120 stars – which is sadly false. There are many, more elaborate methods, involving following long, meticulous paths through levels and environments, though none have been proven to be correct, making the variout tutorials out there nothing more than fine works of trolling.
1. The Game of Nightmares
Everyone knows that Polybius was an ancient Greek historian (No? Just me?), but few have heard of the famed arcade game, Polybius. Acording to the urban legend, Polybius was an obscure arcade game that popped up in a few areas of suburban Portland, Oregon during the early ‘80s. The game allegedly played like Tempest, and featured mind blowing vector graphics. Apparently, Polybius was incredibly addictive and spawned line ups that went out the door.
However, as fun as the game was, something was wrong. You see, the game was too addictive. People started fighting in the line ups. People would have insomnia, and when they did manage to get to sleep, they suffered from night terrors. Allegedly the game resulted in short term memory loss, and in some cases, even suicide.
Eventually, government officials started showing up, taking unknown data measurements from the arcade machines. And then suddenly, like Keyser Soze, it was gone. The Polybius arcade machines had disappeared, presumably taken by the government.
How much of the story is true? It’s hard to tell. There has never been any concrete evidence that Polybius was even a video game, let alone some sort of brainwashing device. Over the years, various people have come forward claiming that they had worked on the game, or were in possession of a ROM of Polybius. One popular explanation was that the game’s fancy vector graphics could cause epileptic fits, and were thus removed from arcades, and from there, the legend grew.
To get to the bottom of it, I tried contacting the United States Department of Technology, asking them what the story behind Polybius was. When I finally managed to get in touch with someone, all I received in response was, “We have top men working on it now. Top… men.”
Have you heard of any of these urban legends? Did we miss any? Sound off in the comments below.