Cheat codes, sometimes called a game hack, within video games were intentionally created to help game developers to test the games prior to them coming out. They were almost a necessity because the later levels were so difficult, even the developers couldn’t beat the game without the codes. That tells you just how difficult some of the early video games actually were.
An example of an early game hack was for the game Manic Miner for the 1983 ZX Spectrum system. It was activated by entering in the number “6031769.” It was rumored at the time that this number was developer’s personal phone number, but this was probably not true. Manic Miner was a super popular game that was also intensely difficult to beat in the later levels without this cheat.
The Konami code is a well-known cheat code that began showing up in games back in 1986, when the creator, Kazuhisa Hashimoto, was working on porting over the game Gradius to the new NES system. IT was originally just an arcade game. The game was insanely hard and was impossible to beat without this cheat, which gave you 30 lives instead of the game’s normal 3.
Any games that come out from Konami still have this code imbedded in them. The most popular game to use it was Contra, which was also quite difficult. It is said that anyone who played Contra pretty much had this code memorized, they used it so much. The code is: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A. Other games that use this code include: Castlevania, DDR, Metal Gear Solid, and many others.
The original game of Sonic the Hedgehog has a debug mode that you can enter if you know the right code. This mode was accidently left in during production and it made it into the game that was shipped out to stores. While on the title screen press up, down, left, right to reach the mode. The game will play a ring chime letting you know you are in debug mode.
These cheats were all mistakenly left over from the testing phase of a game’s development. It gave players kind of a behind the scenes look into the making of the game. These codes became so popular that it finally dawned on the developers that they could insert codes into games as Easter eggs for the players to find.
The most-known cheat code like this is the “big head mode.” It was inserted into the game, NBA Jam and does what you would imagine. It makes your players on the court all have giant heads. It doesn’t help you play the game, but it sure is funny to watch these little basketball players run around the court with overly large heads.
One of the more recent games to have intentional cheats is the series, Grand Theft Auto. There are a variety of cheats within the game, some of them allow you to spawn in large tanks as well as every weapon in the game. These were useful so that you wouldn’t have to take the time to hunt for them all yourself.