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'Ready Player One' was written using cheat codes — here are our 11 favorites

A Nintendo Entertainment System.
A Nintendo Entertainment System.
Mark Ramsay/Flickr Creative Commons

There have been plenty of video game movies over the years, but there have been far fewer actually good ones. "Ready Player One," based on the 2011 video game-inspired novel, has the chance to be a great one thanks to the announcement that Steven Spielberg has signed on to direct.

That book was inspired by classic video games, and was written using classic video game cheats to play parts of classic games and write them into his book, author Ernest Cline said in a recent talk. That got us thinking about the classic video game cheats and secrets that stuck with us from our younger days playing classic video games — here's our top 11.

1. The Konami Code

Up up down down left right left right B A start! This code became such a part of video game culture that it got its own name. It was popularized in various games made by Konami, particularly Contra, leading to it also being known as the "Contra Code" for its ability to give you 30 lives in the game. Before the Internet, it was spread through gaming magazines and word of mouth — it was so influential that there are still developers who put it in their games. (There's even an entire Wikipedia page of games, both from Konami and others, that use the Konami Code. It's even been used on some websites.)

What is the Konami Code

2. Street Figher II Turbo's turbo

The game that I actually used a code for the most as a kid, the Super Nintendo code down, R, up, L, Y, B on the second controller didn't give you any advantages — it just kicked the speed up. By default, you had a few selections for how fast the game would be, but you could multiple that several-fold with this code, letting you and your friends battle at what at the time felt unbelievably fast.

3. Super Mario Bros.'s Minus World

This one doesn't involve a code, but players managed to discover what was deemed a glitch in the game that put you into a messed up version of another level, dubbed by fans the Minus World due to just "-1" instead of a full level number appearing at the top of the screen. There was no way to escape the glitched level, no matter how hard you might try, sending you to play it over and over again until your time ran out or you were killed by enemies. Still, modern players have found that you can go on thanks to various computer emulators and the like; see some of the worlds beyond below:

Minus World video

4. Metroid and Justin Bailey

Fans early on discovered that the password JUSTIN BAILEY allowed you to start with all of the available weapons along with plenty of life and ammo. Fans didn't know whether Justin Bailey was a reference to an actual person, just a code coincidence or something else, but that didn't stop them from eagerly playing through with this code. It also removed lead character Samus Aran from her armor, allowing players to discover that the game's star was an early female lead character, even if her armor didn't clue players in before the end of the game without the code.

Justin Bailey video

5. Doom's God mode

By typing the letters iddqd in PC game Doom, players could enable God mode, making them essentially invincible and letting them power through the early first-person shooter. The code had been available in developer id's earlier game Wolfenstein, but hadn't been quite as easily accessible. So, if you ever need a power boost when you're fighting on Mars, Doom has the answer. (Unfortunately, we don't believe this provides any extra protection for NASA's Mars rovers.)

6. Mortal Kombat's Reptile

The developers of Mortal Kombat made a battle against Reptile unbelievably hard for Mortal Kombat fans, including putting some randomness into whether doing what you were supposed to do to unlock the character would even work. Still, players happily pumped in extra quarters for the chance to face off against Reptile, a character with a look that mirrored that of characters Sub-Zero and Scorpion, just with a different color. Players had to achieve a Double Flawless victory on the Pit level, finish the match using their fatality move, and there also had to be a silhouette flying past the moon in the background — which only happened every sixth game.

Mortal Kombat: Reptile

7. The Legend of Zelda's Second Quest

The Legend of Zelda was a pretty challenging early adventure game, one of the first releases for the Nintendo home video game console. When you beat the game, you were given the option to go on a "Second Quest," which was a tweaked version of the game you just played except waaaaay harder. However, if you thought you were the coolest kid on the block and were so awesome you didn't need a warmup, you could name your character "ZELDA" (in one of the more obvious cheats in video game history) and skip ahead to that Second Quest from the start. You would then likely cry from how hard it was and start another new game with a different name.

8. NBA Jam's celebrity secret characters

A variety of celebrities from sports, music, and even politics were available by putting in various initials combined with buttons on the controller. These included then-President Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Warren Moon and more. That tradition has been continued in more recent NBA Jam games, with President Obama and others available for your video gaming pleasure.

9. GoldenEye's extra modes

There were a wide variety of cheat codes for GoldenEye, widely considered one of the all-time great first-person shooters. Sure, you could use codes to unlock different levels, but the reason these codes are remembered is because it gave you all sorts of new ways to play against your friends. The game also had an actual cheat menu that would appear if you accomplished one of a variety of goals, and from that menu you could cheat extra hard by using your controller to unlock things like a paintball mode, turbo mode, modes with both giant heads and teeny-tiny James Bonds and more.

10. Sonic The Hedgehog 2's Debug Mode

The Sonic debug mode is the perfect example of why so many games included cheats back in the day: They were often for the developers to be able to more easily play the games while looking for bugs and doing other testing. Sonic 2 let you get to an actual debug mode by playing various sounds from the level select screen (1, 9, 9, 2, 1, 1, 2, 4, for your reference), then pressing start and holding the A button. Developers later put them in for fun and intended them for the players to discover, but some of the early cheat codes were just meant for developers — but players proved more intrepid than they may have anticipated.

Sonic debug mode

11. Mike Tyson's Punch-Out: Go straight to Mike Tyson

There was actually a password mode in this game — before games had the option to save, plenty of games gave you codes that let you get back to where you were before. This is one of the examples from that darker time, where whether you played through opponents like Glass Joe and Bald Bull or not, you could try your changes against Lightning Mike (at least until the video game's license ran out and he was replaced in future editions with the way less exciting "Mr. Dream"). You better have had a pen and paper ready when your friend started yelling at you 007 373 5963 for you to use on your own copy of the game — no sharing. The game is hard enough that even Mike Tyson had some trouble fighting himself:

Mike Tyson vs. Mike Tyson

Let us know in the comments the classic video games — and the classic cheat codes and secrets — that inspired you.