Urban legends and conspiracy theories exist in all walks of life, and the world of video games that's certainly no different. Some of these myths surround games that most likely never existed, whereas others are generated by fans looking to fill in gaps in the narrative or expand the universe of their favourite game.
The internet and message boards have helped people piece stories together and, often, invent their own tall tales. These stories to develop and spread, to the point where many of them have become as well know as the games themselves. In the slideshow below you'll see ten of the biggest.
Is there a particular gaming myth or conspiracy theory that has stood out for you? Let us know in the comments.
ARCADE MACHINE HYPNOSIS? Polybius was a space shooter game that appeared at a few games arcades in Portland, Oregon during the early 1980s, and proved very popular despite causing those who played it to suffer side effects including amnesia, sickness, insomnia and various other traumas. To make things more sinister, shadowy men in black were regularly seen visiting the cabinets to collect records of how the game was played, with no interest in retrieving the money that was building up, before the machines suddenly disappeared a month or so later. Despite stories about it being abundant online no hard evidence for Polybius's existence has ever been located, and it's possible this urban legend grew from genuine tales about an early version of Tempest that caused motion sickness and problems for those with photosensitive epilepsy.
ZELDA'S DUNGEON SWASTIKA? For this first instalment in the Legend of Zelda series, players had to guide Link through nine dungeons, each of which was constructed from screens joined together to form a recognisable shape. The third of these catacombs caused some controversy, especially among Western players, as the map of the level appeared to represent the swastika symbol used by the National Socialist party in Germany. However, far from being a subversive nod to Adolf Hitler or Nazism, the level actually represents the Japanese manji symbol, which is a traditional mark that stands for luck or well-being, meaning the developers were simply wishing good fortune on adventurers as they explored the maze.
THE KILLSWITCH CURSE In 1989 the Karvina Corporation released Killswitch, an eerie adventure game set in a haunted house which has only been played by a select few people. Only 5,000 copies of the game were produced, and upon completion each game automatically deleted itself, meaning it couldn't be replayed or experienced as both characters. Finding a usable copy is now believed to be impossible, but in 2005 a Tokyo resident by the name Yamamoto Ryuichi apparently paid 3,000 to play what was believed to be the last workable copy. Ryuichi said he would record his playthrough and broadcast online around the world, but when he did finally post the footage, it was of him rocking in a chair, staring at the character selection screen, and crying...
SHENG LONG EXISTS! During the localisation of Street Fighter II from Japanese to English, the name of Ryu's flying uppercut move was mistranslated, turning the original phrase "If you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch, you cannot win!" to "You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance." This suggested to players that Sheng Long was actually another fighter, a fact that Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine ran with in the tips section their April 1992 issue. They "revealed" a convoluted method, involving reaching the final stage with M. Bison without taking any damage then avoiding all contact with him until the time limit expired ten rounds in a row, at which point Sheng Long would appear. This advice was reprinted in other magazines across the globe and players spent weeks trying to unlock the mystery character, until EGM eventually revealed in their December issue that the whole thing was an April Fool's joke.
LARA CROFT - NUDE RAIDER Tomb Raider broke the mould for adventure gaming, shunning the previously male-centric conventions to feature a strong female lead. Lara Croft proved incredibly popular, finding a level of celebrity outside the world of video games and appearing on magazine covers, adverts, comics and more. Perhaps unsurprisingly, soon after the release of Tomb Raider rumours of a secret "nude" cheat code began circulating, which could disrobe Lara from her trademark shirt and shorts. Although no such code actually existed, in the early days of the internet many fake "nude" cheats were circulated. This became so prevalent that, when Tomb Raider II was released, developers at Core Design leaked their own cheat code which, rather than provide pixelised nudity, actually caused all of Lara's limbs to fly off and explode instead.
LUIGI IN SUPER MARIO 64 Unusually for a Super Mario game, the Italian plumber's twin brother Luigi was absent from this N64 outing, and when players discovered that collecting all 120 stars meant they could blast onto the roof of Peach's castle and meet Yoshi they began to wonder what other secrets could be unlocked in the game. This was further bolstered by a plaque found on a star statue in the castle courtyard, which appeared to have "L is real 2041" engraved on it - surely a cryptic clue to confirm Luigi's inclusion? Many methods were suggested for unlocking Luigi, including collecting every star without dying or grabbing them all in a short period of time, but all of them proved either impossible to complete or fruitless. Sadly, now we have the technology to examine the code of the N64 ROM, the truth of the matter is that Luigi simply doesn't exist in it, although he does appear as a playable character in the DS re-release of the game.
THE LOST POKEMON WAR The premise of the original Pokémon games seemed innocent enough, as you ran around catching the elusive creatures to complete your Pokédex, but was there a much darker past hiding behind the smiles of the Kanto inhabitants? Your character had no father, with your mother accepting you as the man of the house, and your main rival was an orphan. All of the males you encountered were either children or very old, except for those involved with organised crime syndicates or the military, and everywhere you went there were gyms and medical centres. Then there's Lt. Surge, a Gym Leader who tells you "Hey, kid! What do you think you're doing here? You won't live long in combat! That's for sure! I tell you kid, electric Pokémon saved me during the war!" Do all these factors combined suggest a great war took place in Kanto, leaving you as the first generation to live in peacetime?
THE PS2 IRAQ INCIDENT After launching the PlayStation 2, various delays meant that Sony's new console was in short supply during the run up to Christmas 2000, which was further compounded by reports from US customs and the FBI that some 4,000 PS2 units had been shipped out to Baghdad. Allegedly this was done so Saddam Hussein could bypass import embargoes placed on Iraq, then link the machines together and harness their powerful 32-bit CPUs to control unmanned aerial vehicles, work out ballistic data for long-range missiles and even calculate the potential yield for nuclear weapons. Although this was technically possible, no evidence has been found to suggest Saddam tried to convert consoles into weapon systems, and it took the National Centre for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois until 2003 to create a supercomputer from 70 networked PS2s.
BIGFOOT IN SAN ANDREAS Due to the expansive size of its map and the sheer volume of activities that took place within it, the world of GTA: San Andreas was rife with myths, and none became more prevalent than the legend of Bigfoot. Many players claimed to have seen an ape-like creature lurking in the wooded areas of Flint County and Whetstone in the shadow of Mount Chiliad, with some saying it would flee when they approached it while others asserted that it actually attacked them. Plenty of (mainly blurry) photos and videos were produced to "prove" the existence of Bigfoot in San Andreas, but all of these were either fakes or created using modified PC game code. This myth may have originated from the mention of the artist "Bigfoot" in the credits section of the game's manual, but in a 2005 interview with Rockstar CEO Terry Donovan he stated "there is no Bigfoot, just like in real life."
ENCRYPTED MESSAGES IN FALLOUT 3 Fallout 3 players were all aware of the in-game Galaxy News Radio station, but rumours suggested that its broadcasts could change to an altogether more sinister output. By killing host DJ Three Dog then skipping missions ahead to destroy Raven Rock, Galaxy News Radio would occasionally become a numbers station, broadcasting a string of numbers and Morse code which could only be heard at specific locations. This sounded plausible as there are genuine Morse code transmissions within the game, however when these numbers station messages were decoded they supposedly predicted real events with unerring accuracy, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and the death of actor Gary Coleman. A number of these 'predictions' have been posted online, but as you'd need to record them in order to decipher them and no-one has been able to produce any such recordings, or find them within the game's sound files, this surely is a hoax.