Ah, the concept of hidden levels — areas of a game that can only be discovered by meeting specific conditions. While they can sometimes be a pain to unlock, we have to admit that they can sometimes bring the experience to the next level - pun totally intended. The hidden levels effectively become rewards for the most dedicated players to uncover, as nobody can say they have truly mastered a game until all of its secrets have been found.
However, some hidden levels are so well concealed that it’s been literally decades and still most people haven’t found them, or never will. It's fair to say that a lot of hidden levels only became known due to the internet taking off in the mid-2000s, and the knowledge of these levels was finally disclosed to the public at large.
20 Prince Of Persia: Warrior Within – True Final Boss
In order to unlock the true ending, players needed to acquire all the life upgrades. Having done so, the Prince would gain possession of the legendary Water Sword. This sword allowed the Prince to finally harm the Dahaka. Due to this, the Prince realized he could save Kaileena and himself. A boss fight with the Dahaka ensued and the player would play out the real ending.
19 Crash Bandicoot Series – Tons Of Hidden Levels
There are just way too many secret levels in the Crash Bandicoot series to list them all here. Every Crash Bandicoot game has multiple secret levels waiting to be unlocked. This was, in fact, a popular feature in Crash Bandicoot games back when Naughty Dog was at the helm. Players would purchase the latest Crash Bandicoot game and search for the secret levels for days, weeks - even months.
18 Castlevania: Symphony Of Night – Second Castle
One of the greatest PlayStation games ever made also contains one of the best secrets in the console’s library. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’s Reverse Castle is still a wondrous hidden level, though labeling it as just a level isn't exactly right. The second castle was big enough to comprise half of the game you’d have just finished.
17 Wolfenstein: The New Order – Retro Level
Wolfenstein: The New Order received a reboot a few years back, complete with a secret level system that would bring players back where it all started. You can access one of these when finding a bed where the character can rest. An option to select a nightmare will be given to the player, choose this and you’ll find yourself trapped in the early 90s’ Wolfenstein 3D.
16 Doom (2016) – Retro Level
Doom (2016) is a reboot of the franchise - but with modern day gameplay and feel. However, the developers didn’t forget to pay homage to the original game. There are many secret levels scattered throughout the game, sending players back in time to the original Doom - complete with the same outdated graphics.
15 Tekken 3 – Highschool Stage
Tekken 3 was one of the PS1’s very best fighting games - acclaimed for its mechanics and character roster. It didn't offer much in the way of hidden stages, however, there is a bonus level in the form of Mishima Polytechnical High School. It is effectively an exclusive stage for Jin and Ling, as you need to select their school uniform outfits in order to fight here.
14 Spyro: Year Of The Dragon – Super Bonus World
To access the Super Bonus World, you have to collect all 149 Dragon Eggs from the other realms and all 15,000 gems. Then, head to the Midnight Mountain homeworld and enter the new realm, which tasks Spyro with several objectives before culminating in a second and final battle against the Sorceress. Defeating her unlocks the 150th Dragon Egg, a pair of twins named Yin and Yang.
13 Dark Souls 3 – Archdragon Peak
Dark Souls 3 also has a secret location is known as the Archdragon Peak and has an optional boss: The Nameless King. Fighting The Nameless King grants the player several rewards in the form of the Lightning Storm, Dragonslayer Swordspear, and Storm Curved Sword. The soul of the optional boss would be needed to craft these weapons.
12 Final Fantasy VI – Saving Shadow
If you’re a Final Fantasy VI fan, you’ll remember Shadow’s end. There was a 10-second countdown that had us all believing there was no saving him. With the dialogue box offering “wait” and “jump” options, everyone bailed. However, had you stuck around you’d have the opportunity to save Shadow and played through another story featuring a girl called Relm. Shadow would then join you in your journey.
11 Mortal Kombat II – Unlocking Reptile
New levels aren’t that common in fighting games. However, a new character can be just as satisfying. In Mortal Kombat II, Reptile will continually taunt you and give you lackluster clues such as “look to luna”. These cryptic clues culminate in a bizarre method of fighting in The Pit, where you’ll need to do a double flawless fatality just when something is passing by the moon.
10 Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 – Chopper Drop & Skate Heaven
In addition to Spider-Man as an unlockable skater and a wide array of cheat codes, THPS2 has a couple of hidden levels — Chopper Drop and Skate Heaven. The first is an alternative to the Hoffman Bike Factory found in the Nintendo 64 version of the game and unlocks after earning three gold medals with every character in career mode, while Skate Heaven requires attaining 100% with every character.
9 Shadow Of The Colossus – Secret Garden
Of all the areas explored in the game, this one was there just to gaze at through a cutscene - or so it seemed. There’s a way around the castle that will get you into the secret garden. It’s a long process, requiring sincere commitment. Just remember to not consume any of the fruit as it will drain Wander’s health and stamina.
8 Hitman: Blood Money – Agent 47's Survival
Hitman: Blood Money led the players to believe Agent 47 was deceased in the present day setting of the game. However, you most likely watched 47's end when you could’ve saved him. The end credits had the appearance of a cutscene of a funeral; in actuality, the player could trigger 47’s revival and initiate the final level. After the mission, the true ending of the game plays out.
7 Rayman 2: The Great Escape – Playable Prototype
With Rayman 2: The Great Escape the developers decided to scrap their 2D sidescroller in favor of a 3D adventure. However, while Rayman 2 remains one of the greatest 3D platformers ever made, evidence of the dev team’s original plans for the sequel remains in the final version. Collecting at least 90% of the Yellow Lums and then completing the Crow’s Nest level unlocks a single level from the canceled 2D Rayman 2.
6 God Of War (2018) – Different Realms
To unlock Muspelheim and Niflheim, you’ll need to find Ciphers that will allow you to gain access to these realms. Fortunately, you only need to find four such Ciphers for both realms. These can be located at various points during the story or separately in other realms. Once you’ve found them, Muspelheim - the realm of fire - and Niflheim -the realm of fog - can be entered.
5 Silent Hill: Shattered Memories – Different Scenarios
Those who played the game once and never went back have no idea what they’re missing. There are dozens of possible scenarios for players to enjoy, all you need to do to change the scenarios in the story is select different options in the personality test that the psychiatrist gives you at various points in the game. Based on these answers, each character and the endings will be different.
4 Saints Row 2 – Revelations
To activate the mission, you need to go to Saints Row Police Headquarters. Once inside, head over to the detective's branch. There, you’ll find three 3rd Street Saints mission markers; listen to all of them. After that, head over to Troy Bradshaw’s office nearby and a mission marker there will reveal a phone number to you. As soon as this number is dialed up, Revelations begin.
3 Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time – Retro Level Remastered
In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the developers discreetly inserted a remastered version of the classic game. It will have you run through the same pathway as in the 2D version - but now it’s 3D - until you end up in a hallway containing a large portrait of the entire team that worked on the game. Kind of pointless, but fun nonetheless.
2 Dark Souls – Painted World Of Ariamis
In order to enter this world, you need to return to the prison cell and pick the Peculiar Doll, and then touch a certain painting. An optional boss is available to those who feel up for a fight. Crossbreed Priscilla won’t attack unless provoked, but without fighting her the Priscilla Dagger won’t be yours.
1 Blood Omen: Legacy Of Cain – Pirate Ship
As far as we can tell, the Pirate ship wasn’t discovered until 2010 — 14 years after the game was first released. In Nosgoth, there’s a pub with a secret rear entrance containing a Time-Streaming Device. It takes Kain to a pirate ship filled with treasure as well as more explorable areas in the surrounding water and land. But be careful - the pirates will attack Kain with swords.