O’ cheat codes where oh where have you gone. You were in everything when I was young. You helped me get hidden characters in WWF No Mercy. You got me out of a tight bind when I was in over my head in Grand Theft Auto. Most importantly, you helped me get a slew of funny effects for Goldeneye 007. But it seems that no matter where I look today, you’re never there. Come back cheat codes, come back from whatever dark mansion or castle you’re hiding in.
When I was a lad almost every game I played had some type of cheat code available. Usually this was something that made the game funny or made it easier. An example of this is Rare’s Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64. There were cheats upon cheats, most notably paintball mode, big head mode, and the bizarre tiny Bond. But there were other cheats that made the game pretty darn easy. Favorites among the gaming community being the maximum ammo cheat and the invincibility cheat. The thing about Goldeneye was that while it did make the game easier, it made the game fun. I have fond memories of playing the game in paintball mode with my brother and friends during the early 2000′s. As time goes on things and people change, and I rarely play video games with friends anymore as other, more interesting things came along. To this day I long for those days to return.
Taking a trip down memory lane shows that cheats have been around almost as long as games themselves. An early example of this being for Manic Miner nearly thirty years ago. Entering “6031769″ (the drivers license of Manic Miner programmer Matthew Smith) brought up the cheat menu, offering anything from infinite lives to the ability to hyper jump to any given level. Originally cheats were only used during the play testing portion of game development but players were smart enough to uncover them when the games came out, the most well known being the Konami Code. The Konami Code, or Konami Command as it was sometimes known, was a common code used by developer/publisher Konami in games such as Gradius and Contra. Because Konami’s games were so hard, the developer needed a code to make the game easier and playable when porting it from the arcades to the Nintendo Entertainment System. The code became so popular it went beyond video games and ended up everywhere from Facebook to Marvel.com.
When the home console market was resurrected by Nintendo after the Video Game Crash of the early 1980′s, cheat cartridges came along as well like the Game Genie. The Game Genie was a pass-through to the NES, SNES, Genesis, and others. Ultimately you were able to modify the games you wanted to cheat in and find things that the developer either scrapped or hid for other reasons. Although Nintendo sued Game Genie seller Galoob toys in the Galoob v. Nintendo court case for copyright infringement, Galoob ultimately got away with it and the Game Genie stuck around for years and years.
Cheats didn’t come back into the public’s eye until Grand Theft Auto III came out and changed everything you could do with cheat codes. With it you could get the police off your back, spawn tanks, refill your health/armor, and more. You could even enable flying cars! But with these cheats you could make the game difficult as well by making the pedestrians hate you and riot. I played GTA III multiple times and to this day I’ve never finished it because whenever I play it all I want to do is mess around and use cheats. I had more fun flying over the bridges and evading the police than doing anything in the story mode.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City upped the ante when it came to cheats as well. I’ve played this game more times than any other game because I want to just mess around in the unofficial world of Scarface/any 80′s movie. In what other game could you have hover boats, hover cars, and sped up time? Among the codes were ones that allowed you to play as other NPCs in the game. My personal favorite was launching a last stand against the police in the estate and having my women followers defend me as I held back the inevitability of death and justice.
Not wanting to keep things at a reasonable level, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas went off the freaking reservation. It contained a phenomenal 94 cheat codes, letting you could run faster, jump higher, and above all else: fly. Unfortunately, the cheats came at a cost. Certain cheats, when enabled, couldn’t be turned off. “Pedestrians attack” and “pedestrians riot” were two in particular that, once activated, played on throughout the rest of the game. I personally did not like this direction Rockstar had taken, as the whole point of cheat codes was to cheat and get away with it. The addition of the consequences negated the whole point of using cheats to begin with.
The primary reason I’m bringing up Grand Theft Auto is because that’s the only game series, with the exception of San Andreas, that has made the game fun with cheats. Every other game stops your progress or punishes you. In Goldeneye, if you play a mission with cheats enabled the mission is counted as incomplete and forces you to do it all over again. Or in Portal the word “Cheated” is displayed when you finish a level with a cheat activated. These are just more examples of why cheat codes are barely seen nowadays. Because you have to play the game fair and square to get the achievement/trophy you can’t use a backdoor to get said achievement/trophy. In Grand Theft Auto IV if you use cheat codes, achievements are disabled. The same applies to games like Saints Row, Quake 4, and many others.
Even though cheats are still around they aren’t really cheats anymore. They’re either unlock-able or something you could purchase. An example of this being Dead Rising 2: Off the Record a game whose cheats model couldn’t be farther away from tradition. For a certain amount of money you could buy a piece of downloadable content called the “Gamebreaker pack.” Gamebreaker lets you manipulate the clock, enable god mode, enable both infinite ammo, and infinite weapon durability. While this is worth five dollars, it is completely against the spirit of what a cheat is supposed to be. Cheats have always been something in the game that let you modify the game to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do. The fact that things I could find in old games for free I now have to pay for in current games just makes me sick.
Cheat codes not only made video games easy, they made video games fun again. I long for the days when I’d put in Goldeneye and my Gameshark and unlock everything just so I wouldn’t have to try a difficult level for the tenth time. If somehow cheat codes came back in a way Goldeneye or GTA had it I’d be happy. As I said earlier, playing these games with friends while cheats were enabled didn’t just make the game fun, it brought us together through the fun we were having. I admit that having cheats come back would be unfair when it comes to gamerscore/trophies but I’d happily trade one for the other. While some people these days just play for the achievements or trophies I have a different stance, I play for the love of cheats, and for the love of the game.