25 Fun Facts About Video Games You Likely Didn't Know
[This feature originally appeared in Game Informer issue #291]
You may have an encyclopedic knowledge of a game, but you likely don’t know all of the stories behind it – even if you complete every side quest in an RPG or prestige a dozen times in a multiplayer shooter. Some of these tales stretch into the realm of the weird, draw inspiration from the strangest of places, or can be oddly touching. Other stories don’t make a lick of sense. We rounded up 25 little tidbits that should give you a greater appreciation of some of video games’ biggest hits.
The Nintendo Comboy
South Korea put a ban on Japanese cultural imports following World War II, and it wasn’t lifted until 2004. That didn’t mean South Korean gamers didn’t get to know Mario. Hyundai Electronics distributed Nintendo’s product in South Korea. The NES was called the Hyundai Comboy, which was superseded by the Super Comboy and Comboy 64.
Batman: Arkham Asylum was almost rhythmic
During the early stages of development, Batman: Arkham Asylum was prototyped as a rhythmic action game. The second prototype focused on 2D fighting, which would pop up whenever enemies were engaged, and involved colored circles bashing into each other. Both of these failed attempts fueled the basis of the final combat system.
Super Mario and Nine Inch Nails
Many of the Koopalings from the Super Mario games are named after famous musicians. Most people can see the pattern in Ludwig, Iggy, and Lemmy’s names. What you may not know is Super Mario World’s fire-breathing triceratops is named Reznor, named after Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who also created the soundtrack for Quake.
The lion that would eat itself
Scribblenauts almost launched with a strange bug, in which a lion would eat itself if bacon was glued to its back. The odd occurrence was found in the late stages of A.I. finalization.
The lunch bell nuke
The satisfying “ding” that rings out when a Fat Man nuke is launched in Fallout 3 is the lunch bell from Bethesda Softworks’ cafeteria. The Fat Man itself is modeled after an actual nuke launcher called the M-388 Davy Crockett Tactical Nuclear Recoilless Rifle, which was developed in the 1950s.
Master Chief is a radio DJ
The voice actor who has played Master Chief in every Halo game to date is more famously known as Steve Downes, a radio DJ dating back to the late 1970s. Downes was most recently on Chicago’s WDRV “The Drive.”
Lara Croft was originally Laura Cruz
Core Design animator Toby Gard wanted to make an interactive movie starring a male character looking for treasure in Egyptian pyramids. The character was deemed too close to Indiana Jones, and was quickly switched to a South American woman named Laura Cruz. Core ended up wanting a U.K. friendly name, so Core employees dove into a phone book and settled on the name “Croft.”
A famous game developer is named after Final Fantasy VII
Chinese video game creator Xinghan Chen’s name may not ring any bells, but you are likely familiar with his design work on the games Journey and Flower. Xinghan works under the name Jenova Chen. He was inspired by Final Fantasy VII, and took the name of the character Jenova when he started working in games.
The first video game in space
The Game Boy version of Tetris was the first game played in space. In 1993, Tetris traveled aboard a Soyuz TM-17 rocket to the MIR Space Station, where it was played by Russian cosmonaut Aleksandr A. Serebrov. The game was later sold at an auction for $1,220.
Prince of Persia: Assassin’s Creed
Ubisoft’s long-running and highly successful Assassin’s Creed series was originally going to be a Prince of Persia spinoff. The game was called Prince of Persia: Assassins, and it told the story of a female assassin tasked with protecting a prince in Jerusalem. After roughly a year of development, Ubisoft rejected the idea as it didn’t focus on the prince enough. The game was reworked to the Assassin’s Creed we know today.
Barack Obama campaigned in 18 games
During the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama purchased ad space in 18 games that ran in 10 states. The “Vote for Change” billboards were in Burnout Paradise, Skate, Madden, and more that targeted the demographic of ages 18 to 34.
Left 4 Dead in The Cabin in the Woods
Toward the end of the movie The Cabin in the Woods, a gallery of monsters is shown for a few seconds. Along with other iconic film monsters, two of those creatures are from the video game series Left 4 Dead. Eagle-eyed gamers can clearly see a Boomer and Witch.
Rigged against the Bulls
NBA Jam creator Mark Turmell is such a huge Detroit Pistons fan that he rigged his game so the Pistons would have a better shot at beating the then-rival Chicago Bulls. “If there was a close game and anyone on the Bulls took a last-second shot, we wrote special code in the game so they would average out to be bricks,” Turmell told ESPN the Magazine.
Nintendo’s drug is the banana
In the Game Boy title Final Fantasy Legend II, the player encountered a group of opium smugglers, but Nintendo’s censorship guidelines wouldn’t allow that to fly in the U.S. version. Instead of selling opium, the drug dealers were forced to peddle bananas in the back alleys of this world.
Deleting James Bond
In the Nintendo 64 game GoldenEye 007, Rare originally intended to include Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Sean Connery as playable characters in multiplayer. That plan was scrapped prior to release, but the character models for these famed actors were still on the cartridge. In 2005, a group called The Rare Witch Project cracked the game’s code and found them.
The U.S. Air Force loves PlayStation 3
In 2010, the U.S. Air Force created the Condor Cluster, a heterogeneous supercomputer built using off-the-shelf commercial components, including over 1,700 PlayStation 3s. This particular system is about half a petaflop, or capable of about 500 trillion calculations per second," said Mark Barnell, the director of high-performance computing at the Air Force Research Laboratory. "In the current time that we can measure it, it's about the 35th- or 36th-fastest computer in the world. The Condor Cluster cost $2 million to build.
Sonic the Hedgehog is inside all of us
A gene and protein that separates your right brain from the left, and determines you have two eyes is called sonic hedgehog. The gene’s symbol is SHH. The name wasn’t inspired directly by the game, but a comic-book series. A British post-doc named Robert Riddle drew inspiration from a Sonic comic his 6-year-old daughter was reading. The gene appropriately has a spikey appearance.
Lengthy Smash Bros. fan fiction
With 4,061,129 words spread across 220 chapters, a Smash Bros. fan-fiction story called The Subspace Emissary’s Worlds Conquest is one of the longest works of literature in the English language. The book is written by someone named Christian, who writes under the name AuraChannlerChris. The longest published novel is Jules Romains’ Men of Goodwill at 2,070,000 words and 8,000 pages.
Xbox was almost the DirectX Box
In 1999, Microsoft’s Ed Fries met with the DirectX team to discuss a new idea called the DirectX Box, a PC with a hidden Windows OS that would be marketed like a console machine. The first mockup of the DirectX Box was a silver X with a PC board inside. As the project moved through development, Windows was dropped, the console look changed, and it was eventually renamed Xbox.
Final Fantasy VII was a Nintendo exclusive
Numbered Final Fantasy games were Nintendo exclusives until Square Soft realized the Nintendo 64 wasn’t capable of achieving its vision for the next installment in the series. That game was Final Fantasy VII. Due to the storage limitations of cartridges, Square created Final Fantasy VII exclusively for PlayStation. An ad for the game mocked Nintendo’s medium, saying “Someone get the guys who make cartridge games a cigarette and a blindfold. Possibly the greatest game ever made is available only on PlayStation. Good thing, if it were available on cartridge, it’d retail for around $1,200.”
Gandhi, the aggressor
In the first Civilization game, Gandhi’s aggression rating was the lowest score of one, meaning he didn’t want to make war. However, if a player chose democracy, his aggression dropped two points. Instead of falling to negative one, the number looped around to 255, the highest aggression rating possible. Democracy turned Gandhi into a nuke-firing titan.
People are blocks
Ever wonder where all of the people in the Mushroom Kingdom are? In the manual for Super Mario Bros. on NES, a short story summary says the Koopas turned all of the land’s people into blocks, stones, and field horse-hair plants. Think of that the next time you make Mario jump into a block.
The smells of soccer and racing
The U.K. versions of FIFA 2001 and Gran Turismo 2 shipped with the peculiar idea of “scratch and sniff” discs. If you scratched FIFA’s disc, you would “smell the pitch.” Rubbing Gran Turismo 2’s disc would deliver an “authentic pit-stop smell.”
The many names of Soda Popinski
The wonderfully named Soda Popinski from Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out originally boxed under the guise Vodka Drunkenski in the arcade game Super Punch-Out. In an unlicensed port to Commodore 64 called Frank Bruno’s Boxing, his name was changed to Andra Puncharedov.
A little-known Halo 4 cameo
Comedians Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter visited 343 Industries for a spoof skit in an episode of Conan, in which they recorded audio for dockworkers aboard a spaceship. This audio made it into Halo 4 in a level called Shutdown. You’ll need to stand next to two specific dockworkers for a couple of minutes to trigger their dialogue.