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 Genie: You may have three wishes, mortal...

Gamer: IDDQD, IDKFA, and send me directly to level 7.

A Cheat Code is a sequence of commands which turns on an undocumented, advantageous feature within a game. These are typically backdoors inserted during programming to facilitate testing by the designers. Since cartridge-based games used fixed memory locations, removing these backdoors after development was problematic (since their removal could lead to new unexpected bugs), so they were often left in for released versions.

Even after cartridges were replaced by CD-ROMs as the main videogaming medium, cheat codes remained popular.

A cheat code is a beneficial-in-game Easter Egg. If it's completely unrelated (like the flight sim in Excel, or the special room in the Atari 2600 Adventure cartridge) then it's an Easter Egg, but not a cheat code.

A few cheat codes have become so well known that you can expect to see homages in modern games. (Homages not from video games are listed under subpages of Shout-Out.)

See Konami Code for one of the most famous cheat codes.

Some of the most well known Cheat codes are from the original Doom (The aforementioned IDDQD and IDKFA). One of the other most common cheat codes is just typing the word "god" in the console.

Examples of Classic Cheat Code include:
  • The code 'XYZZY' was a magic word within the original Colossal Cave Adventure. In Colossal Cave itself it was not a cheat code, but part of the normal game (it is used to teleport between two locations); however, homages to the game have used it as a cheat code, and the hobbyist text-adventure development community traditionally includes a hidden 'xyzzy' command as a tribute to Colossal Cave.
    • Slightly less commonly used is 'PLUGH' which functioned the same way as 'XYZZY' in Colossal Cave. (Depending on what version of the game you play, other similar words such as 'PLOVER' and 'LWPI' also appear.)
    • Trying either PLUGH or XYZZY in Zork causes the game to tell you "A hollow voice says 'Fool'." This in itself is commonly referenced.
    • In Deus Ex, this is one of the passwords JC Denton uses to attempt to get into Smuggler's place when he doesn't know the real one.
    • In the online text adventure game Grueslayer on Uncyclopedia, there will usually be an option to either pronounce or say 'xyzzy' or a variant with a different number of X's and Z's. Doing this at any time will kill you horribly.
    • Some versions of Windows Minesweeper used 'ctrl+xyzzy' as a cheat allowing the player to identify whether or not a given square contained a mine by looking at the upper-left-most pixel of the screen.
    • Kingdom of Loathing references this in the Leaflet Quest, a text-adventure parody in itself.
    • Use of this word in Level 9's Snowball (or indeed, any magic word from any of their previous games) would cause a psychiatric droid to tap you on the shoulder, then tranquillize you, and you would wake up in a padded cell. Fortunately, there was a way out. It can be used to teleport away from death, and lets you into an area that you might not have unlocked yet, but this can lead to Script Breaking and even make the game Unwinnable.
    • The adult text adventure game Moist has XYZZY teleport you to the ballroom in the middle of the map (and lampshades it with the comment "Good to see the old magic still works").
  • The first Zork game started the instructions on how to use the boat with the phrase "Hello, Sailor!." The game gives the same response to saying "Hello, Sailor!" as it does to XYZZY and PLUGH (above). The second game had the same things built in and also introduced "Hello, Aviator!" on the instructions for how to use the hot air balloon. These became a Brick Joke in the third game, in which saying "Hello, Sailor!" at the right time and place netted you an invisibility potion.
  • "id" sequences - Doom had a number of cheat codes prefixed by the character sequence "id" (Id Software created the game). The most popular of them were IDDQD and IDKFA. The first one gave the player immortality; the second, full megaarmor protection, all weapons, ammo and keys. Several later games, particularly FPSes, have carried on the tradition.
    • Speaking of other first person shooter games, the game Heretic allowed you to use IDDQD... but, in a case of Jackass Genie, doing so instantly killed you, with the words "Trying to cheat, eh? Now you die!" appearing on the screen. Likewise, IDKFA deprived you of everything except a staff ("Cheater - you don't deserve weapons!"). Players were especially likely to try these cheat codes at least once, considering that the game used the Doom engine.
    • If you put in any code from the original Doom games in the developer console in the Doom 3, a message would appear that said "Your memory serves you well!" and nothing more.
    • There was an unintended and unforeseen cheat code portability between Heretic and its sequel Hexen. If you entered the invincibility code (QUICKEN) and the all weapons code (RAMBO) from Heretic while playing Hexen, Hexen would pick up its own all weapons code (NRA).
    • Using IDDQD in Mechwarrior 2 detonated your BattleMech, with the message "This ain't Doom, bub"
    • In Activision's Windows release of Earthworm Jim, entering IDDQD and IDKFA would display two different credits screens.
    • Not many iD Software fans know the etymology of the legendary IDDQD and IDKFA. IDDQD is a combination of iD (from iD Software) and DQD, Delta-Q-Delta, the name of a three-person informal fraternity organized by Doom programmer Dave Tailor during his college days. IDKFA is similar a combination of Id and KFA: Keys, Full Ammo. [1]
    • The original NOCLIP code for Doom was IDSPISPOPD. It was both a code and an in-joke, considering it was an acronym for "Smashing pumpkins into small piles of putrid debris." [2] Lampshaded in the novel for Doom, where the Cacodemons are called Pumpkins by the hero(es) and after a particularly gruesome encounter, the Action Girl shouts, "OOH-RAH! Smashing pumpkins into small piles of putrid debris!"
    • IDSPISPOPD is referenced in a Cracked Photoplasty: Ads for Products That Must Exist in Video Games
    • If you have one of the older versions of Excel that has the mini-FPS hidden inside it, try the code "EXCELKFA."
    • Typing "IDKFA" into Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3's password entry screen allows you to skate as the Doom Guy, complete with his own set of Doom themed skateboards.
  • In the PC version of Tomb Raider II, attempting to use the All Weapons cheat [3] from the original Tomb Raider would cause Lara to explode. The sequence did work if Lara was holding a flare at the time.
  • JUSTIN BAILEY - A password beginning with this sequence lets a player start Metroid with an unarmored Samus and much of the game completed. Various theories arose as to who or what "Justin Bailey" was, but it was later proven to be a coincidence - the password system was coded so that many English word combinations produced valid results.
    • One theory stated that it was actually three words, "Just In Bailey", as, according to now discredited legend, a "bailey" was supposed to be outdated slang for a bathing suit. (Nope.)
    • A Metroid cheat code that was not a coincidence, but which remained undetected for years, is NARPASSWORD. This assumed debug mode gives Samus infinite health and missiles, the Ice Beam, and every power-up in the game with the exception of Energy Tanks and missile expansions.
    • There's a couple of theories as to what the code is short for: Some say the first three letters stand for Tohru Narihito, who converted the game to cartridge format from the original Famicom Disk System version, which used saves instead of passwords, but others say the code is short for North American Release Password, inserted into the American version for debug purposes. Nintendo themselves claim it stood for Not A Real Password, ironic since it was a real password, while still others have searched the game far and wide for the elusive Narpas Sword...
    • Along similar lines, Kid Icarus (which used the same game engine and password system as Metroid) featured no less than five such passwords - 8 followed by a series of "you"s, DANGER !!!!!! TERROR HORROR, PAKING PAKING PAKING PAKING, ICARUS FIGHTS MEDUSA ANGELS, and MEDUSA FIGHTS ICARUS ANGELS. Whether or not any of these are 'intentional' is, as with Metroid's passwords, hard to tell.
    • The single greatest Metroid password ever is '{{{1}}}'.
    • Or: 4CHAN_ PARTY_ VAN___ -B-_H_. No, really.
    • ICARUS FIGHTS BaRACK -OBAMa puts you into an unwinnable situation where all you can do is fight Kraid.
  • Shadow Complex, another Metroidvania, has a Shout-Out to the famous Metroid passcode - Completing the Master Level Challenge of collecting 100% of its items in under 2 hours gives you the title "Jason Bailey".
    • Catherine also features a Shout-Out to the code, with a character whose full name is Justin Bailey.
  • In every Zelda game, the player can choose a name for the main character. If the player enters the name ZELDA (all caps) in the original The Legend of Zelda, the second quest can be played. In The Legend of Zelda Links Awakening, entering ZELDA treats you to a catchy remix of the Zelda theme song. something, no matter how minor, occurs in every single game in the series.
  • The Sega Megadrive has Up, Down, Left, Right, Then hold A + Start to activate a cheat. In Sonic the Hedgehog the code enables level select. A variation was used (Pressing "C" between the button combinations [IE. Up, C, Down, C, etc.]) to activate debug mode. The code is also useful in The Terminator, and many other games for the system.
  • For layers of awesome, it's hard to beat Mortal Kombat's cheat code on the Sega Genesis to unlock actual blood. The code was ABACABB, which was quite likely reference to the album ABACAB by The Eighties rock band... wait for it... Genesis! The Genesis version of Shadowrun has a variation--ABBACAB, most likely also referencing the band's album.
  • In reference to a rumor in Diablo and an actual level in Diablo II, the password for an instant win in Starcraft is "there is no cow level." There was also an user group in the Blizzard forums before the official release of Starcraft, known as "Operation: CWAL (Can't Wait Any Longer)"; as a Shout-Out, the cheat code for super fast construction is "operation cwal". The cheat for infinite energy is "the gathering" a reference to Magic: The Gathering. Other cheats include "black sheep wall", "food for thought", "power overwhelming". Starcraft II has terribleterribledamage and moredotsmoredots
  • In the first Warcraft, the code to enable cheat codes was "corwin of amber". The "god mode" cheat (making your units invincible and allowing them to kill enemies in one hit" was "it is a good day to die". "ides of march" took you to the last mission for the campaign, while "eye of newt" gave all casters all spell upgrades.
  • In Warcraft II, "on screen" removes the fog of war, "make it so" gives fast building/training/researching, and "it is a good day to die" makes your units invincible and capable of killing most enemies in one hit. Meanwhile, "there can be only one" results in instant victory, and "every little thing she does" upgrades your units' magic.
  • The instant win password in Warcraft III is "allyourbasearebelongtous"; the instant defeat password, meanwhile, is "somebodysetupusthebomb". The code to give yourself gold is "keysersoze n", where n is the amount you want. "greedisgood n" gets you n of both gold and lumber. "thereisnospoon" gives all units infinite mana. "strength and honor" prevents the computer from declaring your loss. "whoisjohngalt" allows research upgrades even if you haven't met the requirements (such as having a Workshop in order to research Long Rifles); WarpTen gives instant builds, and you get instant death attacks for all your units with IocainePowder. Finally, "iseedeadpeople" removes the Fog of War while the instant-death plus invincibility cheat is "whosyourdaddy".
  • Quite a few games for Sega Genesis used the password B, A, Right, Right, A, C, Up, Down, A for some hidden feature; when abbreviated, this spells out "barracuda".
  • The Sega Genesis game Skitchin' used B, A, Down, A, Start, Start.
  • The Crusader games' cheat codes required an activation code to be entered. In the first, this was JASSICA16. In the second game, entering this would result in a message popping up, saying, "Of course we changed the cheats...duh." And then you were teleported to an open room with no cover to face down ten of the game's boss fight at once. (In No Regret, the "activation" code was LOOSECANNON16, the game being the brainchild of...Loose Cannon.)
  • The space combat game Tachyon the Fringe had several cheats, but upon inputting any of them, the main character, voiced by Bruce Campbell, would voice his disapproval of cheating by making comments such as "Excuse me? Mr. Cheater? Why don't you try beating the game fair and square, huh?"
  • In Theme Hospital entering any cheat, of any kind, would result in the receptionist (on loudspeaker) saying "A CHEAT is running the hospital!"
  • The "Supreme Cheat" from the first Turok game was easy to remember if you knew what it stood for (and then removed the vowels): NTHGHTHDGDCRTDTRK, which stands for "ON THE EIGHTH DAY GOD CREATED TUROK". The sequel had a cheat that also functioned as a Sequel Hook, bewareoblivionisathand. Except for the PC port, which came out after Turok 3: "oblivionisamongus".
  • Perplex City has a card whose objective was naming the games many of these codes were from.
  • In Sim City "iamacheat" gave you ten grand, no problem. Well... every fifth time you entered it, there was an earthquake.
  • SimCity 2000 used "FUND", the cheat code to give you more money in the original, as a request for you to be loaned $10,000 at 30 percent interest a week. (This could be exploited by using it repeatedly until the ridiculous interest rate wrapped around and turned hugely negative.) As a Shout-Out, entering "fund" in the cheat console of SimCity 3000 makes your news ticker scroll a message about "an ancient, arcane code". "iamacheat" gives you $500,000 and unlocks all buildings and rewards. Typing "priscilla" gives access to a lovely Debug console.
  • In SimCity 3000 "Call Cousin Vinnie" causes a shady-looking character would show up in a message offering a large sum of money. The offer would only work once per game, and if you rejected it, a cop would arrive congratulating you for passing a Secret Test of Character and give you another code, which gives you the ability to build a castle, so you kinda won either way.
  • In Sim Ant the Sim City "iamacheat" code (see above) results in a message saying "Congratulations, you are now $10,000 richer. Unfortunately, money is useless in this game." And using it in SimFarm donates the money to the nearby city, rather than to your own bank account. Rather than actually doing something useful with the money, the mayor squanders it all on a new car.
  • Donkey Kong Country has "BARRAL", the 50 lives cheat. There is also "DYDDY" for accessing the bonus stages ("Diddy" being the name of Donkey Kong's sidekick, of course!)
    • Entering "B-A-down-B-up-down-down-Y" (BAD BUDDY) after selecting "Erase Game" on the file select screen allows players to swap out in co-op mode by just one person pressing the 'A' button, and pressing "down-A-R-B-Y-down-A-Y", then Select in the same manner changes the music on the screen.
    • Donkey Kong Country 2 features two cheats on the game select screen that spelled words. "BARRALAX" removes the DK barrels [4], and "YASADLAD" gives you 50 lives (because if you need 50 lives to beat the game, YA have to be a SAD LAD).
  • Donkey Kong Country 3 has a code menu you could access with a key combination, but then you'd have to input letters to create the code, and it had quite a few codes to play around with. Where's the fun in that?
  • Grand Theft Auto 3 on the Playstation 2 had a number of codes, including some (like making the pedestrians fight each other, or hate and attack you) that could not be disabled; if you saved, the cheat was restored/re-enabled when the game was reloaded. The only way to undo them was to restart the game, either from scratch or from a save game in which the cheat had not been enabled. The PC version had memorable codes, too. gunsgunsguns gave you every weapon (repeating "guns" over and over gave you more ammo), giveusatank made the Rhino fall out of the sky, tortoise gave you 100 armor, gesundheit gave you 100 health, ilikedressingup made you look like a random pedestrian. And the eternally entertaining BANGBANGBANG, which blew up every single car on your screen. Like gunsgunsguns, every new entry of bang blew up all the cars again, meaning a skilled typist could send all the vehicles on screen into orbit, only to have them come crashing down several minutes later provided the player didn't leave their current location.
    • Such "undoable" cheat codes also exist in the other games. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had a particularly nasty attitude towards the use of cheat codes, with many causing AI characters in the game to act strangely and, if one saves a game with a cheat code active, or too many cheat codes are entered, some missions become impossible to complete, rendering it impossible to complete the game.
  • Sega Genesis [5] Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure: the level select cheat was B, Right, A, Down, Right, Up, B, Left, A, Up, Right, A. Which, of course, makes one wonder just who Brad and Laura are...
  • Heroes of Might and Magic III. Tab-nwc[culturalreference]. In all three versions of it. One referenced Monty Python and The Holy Grail: nwcalreadygotone gives you the holy grail and nwcigotbetter to gain a level. The expansions used Matrix and Star Wars Episode 1 references.
  • Similar to the Metroid example above, the Password system in the NES version of Metal Gear is coded in a way that it recognizes actual names and words. One of the most infamous passwords in the game is FUCKM E1111 11111 11111 11111, which takes the player directly to the final boss battle with no weapons in their equipment. The PAL version censored this by revamping the Password system so that it no longer featured vowels and certain consonants.
  • Hype the Time Quest has a bunch of these: thereyougo= all magic, houdini= infinite arrows, druidik= infinite magic, along with a bunch more.
  • In the Virtua Fighter series, Dural was always selectable on the home consoles by pressing Down, Up, Right, A + Left on certain characters (usually the one on the furthest right or left), or D.U.R.A.L. However after 4, you either had to purchase Dural, or attain a certain rank to be able to fight as her.
  • klapacius (later rosebud) from The Sims. Of course, finding how to get the cheat window to pop up is the fun part. (Ctrl-Shift-C, in case you were wondering.)
    • We have "motherlode" now.
  • One of the oldest cheat codes, and possibly one of the best-known, is "6031769" from the 1983 Sinclair ZX Spectrum game Manic Miner (it unlocked a teleport system). This was later homaged in Grand Theft Auto (by British developers Rockstar North), which uses this as one of its cheat codes.
    • The sequel, Jet Set Willy, in its original release had a similar teleport system if you typed in the word "typewriter". A later re-release when the author moved from Bug Byte to Software Projects changed it to "writetyper".
  • Carmageddon has the family unfriendly IBETYOUCANTPRINTCUNT code, which enables Cheat Mode and also gives the player debug access.
  • Holding down shift and pressing 838 while on the title screen opened up a developer's screen on many TI-99/4A games, typically allowing you to choose what level to start on, how many lives you had, etc.
  • In Star Wars Episode One: Racer for the Nintendo 64, holding down the Z button and using the L Button to set RRTANGENTABACUS as your file name gave you access to the debug menu when you paused. In this menu you could change things like your acceleration and top speed, invulnerability, enabling zero gravity on the whole track, and enabling an otherwise unavailable control scheme with two N64 joypads.
  • Neverwinter Nights had the memorable command "dm_cowsfromhell", which sent a swarm of cows flying around dealing 50 damage and exploding every time they hit anyone.
  • In Yoshis Island, you could access several mini-games by holding Select and pressing XXYBA. Not in vain, since you could keep the items you won. Happy farming!
  • Populous normally has 500 levels, with the level names working as a password system. Entering "killuspal" (kill us, pal) as the password warps you to level 999, which is basically suicidal.
  • The Konami Code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start) was and still is used in several games made by Konami. The first time was in the NES game Gradius, where it gave your ship every powerup available. Another was Contra, where it gave you 30 lives.
  • In Gradius III, you must substitute the L and R buttons for left and right directional touches in the Konami Code -- or your ship will gain all those lovely powerups and then explode.
  • The game GoldenEye for N64 actually featured unlockable cheat codes that could be activated individually for Campaign Mode missions after completing an unspecified challenge within the game. Although, one could simply bypass the Challenge system and use a cheat code to unlock the cheat codes.
  • Golden Sun and its sequel The Lost Age both had two cheat codes that allowed for character renames. One was Select, Select, Select, which let you rename the playable characters in the first and the first 4 playable characters in second. The other, Up, Down, Up, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, Up, Right, Down, Left, Up, Select, let you rename the playable characters and some major NPC characters in the first and let you rename all eight party members in the second, provided you didn't use the Old Save Bonus.
  • The SNES port of Street Fighter II featured Down, R, Up, L, B, Y to unlock mirror matches. The "sequel" Street Fighter II Turbo used it on controller 2 to enable mega turbo mode or disable specials.
  • Deadlock had several that could be entered in single player by using the multiplayer talk prompt.
  • In the Home Alone PC game, you can press Insert, F1, F2, F3 to make Kevin fly. While using that, if you go to the top left or top right corners of the screen, you can end up warping to a different room.
  • A5 B2 D5 D4 C5 C1 B4 C3 E2. Many gamers fondly remember this password that brought them to Wily's Castle with 4 E-Tanks. You may not remember those exact coordinates, but I can assure that you will recognize it once you see it.
  • Some Hudson Soft games allow to continue from the last stage you got game over (instead of going back to 1-1) by using hold LEFT and press START cheat code. Works in Adventure Island and Milon's Secret Castle.
  • Maze of Galious had one that was more of a secret move than a cheat code: if you had the Dagger, typing "UMBRELLA" on the keyboard would kill all the Goddamned Bats on screen.
  • Apparently averted by L.A.Noire which, despite being a Rockstar game like Grand Theft Auto, and being a major release in its own right, has apparently no known cheat codes.

Fictional Examples

  • In Retro Game Challenge, your gamer friend will occasionally bring in magazines that contain cheat codes and other weird gaming rumors. These can even be used when the games are made available to you in Free-Play mode.
    • In fact most of the cheats you get from the magazines are okay to use on challenges, unless stated otherwise.
  • In Space Quest 6, the ABBACAB cheat is used to activate a secret weapon on the Stooge Fighter game. You have to learn this by buying a cheat sheet. Unless the cheat is used, the game is rigged against you.
  • Kid Radd had an infinite Rocketboard cheat activated by Right, Up, Right, A, Down, Down, Start (RURADD).

Notes

  1. There are less likely interpretations such as Killer Fucking Arsenal
  2. the phrase comes from Usenet discussions related to DOOM prior to its release. A game based around the concept was also released.
  3. (one step forward, one step back, turn around three times, and jump back)
  4. Barrel Ax
  5. Mega Drive, outside of North America
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