Sometimes they make the game, other times they break it. In this article, we take a look at some of the best and worst examples of bonuses and unlockables within gaming, and what makes them each so special.
Why not start out on a positive note?
Hyper Sonic – Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles
The classic combination of Sonic 3 with the Sonic and Knuckles lock-on technology (WOW!). Not only did this combination double the number of levels up the originally envisioned count of 14 zones, but it also expanded upon the Super Sonic unlock found in Sonic 2 and 3.
This occurred when the player managed to successfully navigate through all special stages, performing perfectly and collecting all seven of the Chaos Emeralds. This would unlock the base form of Super Sonic. Following this, Sonic would have to go through an additional seven special stages gathering the Super Emeralds. Then, with all powers combined, Sonic could transform into his legendarily fabulous HYPER FORM™.
Flashing all the colors of the rainbow, earning a ridiculous directable jump dash, and retaining all the same invincibility traits as Super Sonic (as long as you avoid bottomless pits or crushing), Hyper Sonic was your reward for complete mastery. Knuckles even has his own version, though poor Tails maxed out at a mere super form.
Blood Code – Mortal Kombat
Another old-school entry here and one which heroically swooped in to save the day, then rip out its spine and present it to the audience. Mortal Kombat, from the earliest entry, was all about being as ridiculously bloody and gory as the systems would allow. This is what helped make it so popular in the arcades, and this is what would make fans salivate when it was announced for home consoles.
So, what did Nintendo and Sega force the removal of when it came to these home releases? Well, the blood and gore of course. While the SNES owners would, unfortunately, be stuck in disappointment with their more family-friendly machines, owners of the Genesis only needed to enter a code to change the grey ‘sweat’ back into its original red.
Not exactly sure why a spear through the chest would cause a person to suddenly lose a gallon of sweat anyway.
Foam Finger – Dead Space 2
So dumb. So very dumb. But, on the other hand, so very good.
Players with the fortitude to beat the amazing Dead Space 2 on the hardest difficulty should be expecting something for their trouble. After all, the game is tense enough on the normal difficulty, but add in tougher enemies and the stress is almost life-shortening.
The few who did manage to accomplish the feat were given the finger – an enormous foam finger to be exact. Not only did this weapon de-limb the monsters in the most efficient way possible, but it also came with unlimited ammo (ammo?), and repeated shots would cause protagonist Isaac Clark to yell out “bang bang bang”.
Horror games have a long history of hilariously tension-destroying unlocks, and this stands as our personal favorite.
Sometimes we have to wonder, are these bad on purpose?
Million Coin Reward – New Super Mario Bros. 2
The New Super Mario Bros. games are pretty fantastic in their own right. Modernizing a 2D Mario game with some of the better mechanics from more recent entries is what fans wanted for years and, unlike with Sonic the Hedgehog 4, the NSMB games were actually good.
The second of these had a definite goal in mind. Players were tasked with collecting a total a million coins throughout the game. Makes sense, the game itself was heavily based around the classic Mario collectibles, and it was nice for them to give you something more than just extra lives.
A million, though? A million better be worth it. How about a short congratulatory reward and a new title screen? No? Well, too bad.
What really lets us down is that unlike the first NSMB, there wasn’t even a minigame casino in this one which would have been a perfect opportunity in which these coins could be used and bonuses could have been given. After all, land-based casinos and websites like Oddschecker have been working with bonus offers for deposits for years, and you can’t make the most coin-happy Mario game ever a little more imaginative? Boo. Not, not that one.
All the Lives – Super Mario 64
Another fantastic Mario game, and another bonus which left us scratching our heads and wondering why. The original Super Mario 64 has a grand total of 120 stars to be collected throughout the game, unnecessary for completion but a fantastic bonus for enthusiasts and completionists both.
While many of these were simple, there were some levels (you can’t see it but I’m shaking my fist at Tick Tock Clock ) which stood as major tests of skill and patience. Back then a lot of us didn’t have the internet, and the reward for collecting all of these little fellas was spread by rumors, myth, and the very real information your friend had gotten from his uncle who worked at Nintendo.
Yoshi rideable! Luigi is real, it says so on the plaque!
Yeah, but no. Instead, those who gained all 120 stars would be gifted the utterly amazingly useless 100 extra lives. For a game you just 100%ed.
In hindsight, it should have made the NSMB 2 thing a little more predictable.
Diploma – Pokémon Red and Blue
Collecting all the Pokémon, even all the way back in the first generation, was not exactly a simple task. Aside from the pain of transferring over the three starters, players had to keep in mind the version differences, the fossils, and the two fighting Pokémon unlocked later in the game.
At least those who went through the effort should be given something worth their while, perhaps one incredibly difficult gauntlet, maybe a free Mew, or even the ability to use HMs without having them take up an important move-slot. Instead, players were simply given a little screen confirming what a special boy you were for completing the PokéDex.
Players could print this out with the Gameboy printer at least, but the potential was there for so much more. What makes this all the more frustrating is that years later hackers would discover in the code that there is a battle with Professor Oak which was at one point intended for inclusion, it’s just for some reason it was left out of the final game.
Players could still access this fight via a Gameshark cheat device or through a deliberate glitch, but it’s just not the same.
Concept Art – Almost all the Games with Unlockables
Now we aren’t saying that we can’t appreciate concept art from time to time, we can. It gives us an interesting look back into game development and in some cases, like with Concept Art World’s Yoshitaka Amano’s work Final Fantasy games, it gives us a chance to take a look at some truly breathtaking artwork in a completely different style.
What gets us though, is when we get concept art when incredibly obvious cheat unlockables are missing. The game really difficult? Let us unlock “god mode”. Give us unlimited ammo or an over-the-top joke weapon, there is so much to choose from.
Instead, we often get some pictures of a design of a background character who appeared for all of a minute. Some effort, guys, come on.
What About You?
So there we have it, some of our top picks for best and worst unlockables in gaming. Of course, this is just a few of the hundreds of examples so leave us a message below, which unlocks did you like the best, and which make you question why you wasted your time in the first place?