Video Game Urban Legends We Totally Bought
By Matthew Arcilla
Just about everything we can learn today about video games is fact-checked or verified to some degree. But there was a time when the weirdest rumors and strangest stories were passed around the playground and cafeteria, growing from fodder for the imagination to accepted truth. The result is a layer of mystique that gets added to some of our favorite video games.
That’s right, we’re talking about video game urban legends. While most such urban legends turned out to be elaborate hoax or misunderstanding, their impact on the culture remains. Here are eight of the most memorable urban legends in gaming.
8. The Secret Cow Level of Diablo
The original Diablo featured a mere sixteen levels of monsters underneath a small town with lots of cows wandering around. When the players clicked on them they would moo, and as they kept clicking, the moos became more and more agitated. Somehow, the rumor went that if you clicked the right way, you would be transported to a secret level featuring evil axe-wielding cows. It was bull, of course.
The legend became so big that developer Blizzard Entertainment began referencing it in other games: “There is no cow level” was a cheat code in Starcraft and a loading screen tip in World of Warcraft mentions the cow level. Eventually, Blizzard gave in and included secret cow levels for laughs in Diablo II and Diablo III.
7. Confronting Sheng Long in Street Fighter II
In one of Ryu’s early victory quotes, he alludes to a mythical figure known as “Sheng Long.” At least that’s how the legend goes. But the reality is that “Sheng Long” is actually a mistranslation of Ryu’s “Shoryuken.” What was originally meant to be a boast about his Dragon Punch became rumor of a secret character to defeat.
Of course, the rumor would be a lot more innocent had a famous video gaming magazine not gotten involved. Electronic Gaming Monthly promoted the rumor as part of an April Fool’s Day prank in which they explained how to unlock Sheng Long. Most other magazines took EGM’s instructions as fact and up to now, people still believe in the legend of Sheng Long.
6. Killswitch, The Game That Deletes Itself
One of the most infamous video game urban legends is like a really great creepypasta. “Killswitch” was supposedly published in 1989 and lets you play as either a girl named Porto or an invisible demon named Ghast. Only 5,000 copies of the game were produced by the “Karvina Corporation,” and the legend goes that “Killswitch” was designed to erase itself upon completion.
With almost every piece of supposed evidence relating to this game leading to a dead end, it’s generally accepted that Killswitch is a myth by all but the most ardent believers. And there’s a reason why: “Killswitch” is also a short story by Catherynne Valente, a prolific but less than famous author of speculative folklore.
5. Bring Aeris Back To Life in Final Fantasy 7
Spoilers for a twenty-year-old video game: Aeris dies in Final Fantasy VII, after big bad Sephiroth stabs her in the back with a seven-foot long sword. Such was the grief that players experienced that they searched desperately for ways to undo Aeris’s death. Countless rumors spread detailing how you could revive her. Suggestions that her death was intended to be permanent were met with disbelief.
Some say a unique hard to find item could do it. Others said that the Revive Materia could be leveled up to such that it had the power to revive Aeris. None of the rumors were true, and some would resort to a Gameshark hack to bring her back at least in combat if not the story. In essence, Aeris’ death marked a pronounced level of grief and sentimentality on a level few games have ever evoked.