It feels like every game ships broken these days, but in the case of these landmark titles, “broken” turned out to be a good thing. Here are 10 examples of bugs, glitches, and behind-the-scenes mistakes that turned games into iconic pieces of pop culture.
1. Team Fortress’s Spy Class Was Originally a Bug
The Spy might be the Team Fortress series’ most unique class. With the power to disguise himself as a member of the enemy team, it’s the Spy’s job to infiltrate enemy positions, lying in wait for an opportune moment to strike. The idea for that feature came out of a bit of dumb luck.
Back when Team Fortress was a mod for the game Quake, a graphical bug would occasionally cause players to look like members of the enemy team, leading to some very surprising and memorable gameplay moments. The mod’s creators wondered what would happen if they allowed players to do this on purpose. What if there was a class whose entire role was to throw a wrench in the enemy team’s flow? They took that idea and ran with it, eventually creating what would arguably become Team Fortress and Team Fortress 2‘s most iconic class.
2. Silent Hill’s Fog Was There to Cover Up Hardware Issues
The look and feel of Silent Hill owes a lot to the fact that there’s fog everywhere. A dense blanket of it covers almost everything, to the point that in some areas, you can barely see a couple of feet in front of you. The atmosphere this creates, the idea that there could be anything lying in wait just out of sight, helped Silent Hill to become one of the most tense and immersive horror games of all time.
The story behind that design choice is a heck of a lot less compelling. Unable to get enough rendering power out of the original PlayStation console, Silent Hill‘s creators decided to just cover the entire screen with fog, in order to hide the fact that they couldn’t display the entire area around the player all at once. This proved to be such a popular feature with fans though, that subsequent Silent Hill games kept it in, even when consoles became powerful enough to make it unnecessary.
3. Fighting Game Combos Were a Total Accident
Fighting games and combos go together like peanut butter and more peanut butter. They’re basically the same thing is what I’m trying to say. Strangely enough though, the idea of using combo attacks happened entirely by accident in Street Fighter II.
During bug testing before the game was released, lead producer Noritaka Funamizu noticed that you could glitch the game and perform extra attacks. He decided to leave the bug alone though, as he thought that timing the attacks would be too difficult to reliably do. Turns out he was pretty wrong, and combos have been a staple of the genre ever since.
4. Space Invaders Was Almost Killed, Then Made Better, by a Lack of Powerful Computers
The iconic arcade game Space Invaders almost never happened due to technical issues. In the 1970s, microcomputers in Japan were not powerful enough to even program a game like Space Invaders, much less play one. So after coming up with the idea for the game, creator Tomohiro Nishikado had to spend an entire year building his own custom hardware to make it playable.
Unfortunately, despite all of this work, his final computer still wasn’t powerful enough to make the enemies move as fast as he wanted them to. In fact, they were downright sluggish. While trying to program a solution, Nishikado noticed that the enemies sped up as more of them were killed, as this was freeing up memory on the computer. Rather than try and fix this, he decided to leave it in, as it made the game more challenging as you went along.
The game went on to become a massive hit, and it’s hard to imagine it playing any other way.
5. The Konami Code Happened Because the Designer Sucked at Video Games
Pretty much anyone who grew up playing video games knows what the Konami Code is (Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A), and since its first appearance in the 1980s, it’s become one of the most common Easter Eggs in gaming. However, the fact that anyone outside of Konami knows it at all was entirely an accident.
While developing a home port of the arcade game Gradius, developer Kazuhisa Hashimoto found that he was unable to properly test the game because it was too hard for him to play. To make things easier for himself, he coded in a custom cheat code that gave him a full set of power-ups.
After finishing the game, Hashimoto forgot to remove the code, and some very observant players discovered it after the game’s release. Luckily, Konami had a good sense of humor about it, and it’s since gone on to appear in everything from the Metal Gear Solid series to the Opera internet browser.
6. Lara Croft’s Shapely Features Were Due to a Typing Error
Lara Croft has a very distinct look, one that has almost always included a very ample… upper body. This wasn’t how she was originally intended to look though, and it only came about when an artist attempted to adjust the 3D model’s breast size by 50%, and then accidentally typed 150%.
The developers liked the new look so much that they decided to keep it, instantly creating one of video gaming’s most recognizable (and lopsided) characters.
7. Metal Gear is a Stealth Game Because It Had to Run on a Crappy Computer
Despite being one of the pioneering games of the genre, Metal Gear wasn’t originally conceived as a stealth game. Instead, it was supposed to be an action shoot ’em up, until the developers realized that this would be impossible.
This is because the game was being designed for the MSX2, a Japanese home computer that was… well, not very good. The MSX2 was too slow to be able to render the number of bullets and enemies that the developers wanted to be on-screen at the same time.
So lead designer Hideo Kojima, in one of the first of many brilliant decisions in his game development career, decided to focus on this aspect, instead of working around it. Inspired by the movie The Great Escape, he reimagined the game to be about avoiding enemies, rather than shooting them. Seven games later, and the rest is history.
8. Grand Theft Auto Was Originally a Racing Game
Grand Theft Auto was originally titled Race’n’Chase, and if you’re thinking that sounds like a totally different game, you’d be right. Race’n’Chase was originally envisioned as a, “fun, addictive and fast multi-player car racing and crashing game.”
That is, until the developers accidentally discovered a bug that made the police cars hyper-aggressive, attempting to literally ram you off the road. That bug soon became way more fun to the devs than the actual game itself, and the design was retooled to focus on the criminals vs. police angle.
9. Mario’s Entire Look Was Designed to Save Time Animating
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that even in the company of guys like Pikachu, Sonic, and Master Chief, Mario is almost definitely the most recognizable video game character in the world. Considering how iconic that little plumber has become, you’d think he was the result of an endless string of meetings and redesigns, all attempting to create the perfect video game mascot.
Surprisingly though, the look of Mario is basically just a cobbled together collection of various things Shigeru Miyamoto needed to save time while developing the game. Mario wore a hat so that Miyamoto wouldn’t have to draw a forehead or eyebrows, or animate hair moving when the character jumped. His red overalls let him stand-out from the backgrounds Miyamoto was already using, and made it easier to animate the arms. And finally, Mario got a giant mustache and nose, so that Miyamoto didn’t have to animate a mouth or any facial expressions.
If you’re thinking that this sounds way too lazy to be true, keep in mind that Mario’s original name was “Mr. Video.” Shigeru Miyamoto is a fantastic game designer, but he’s also apparently pretty good at avoiding work.
10. Kirby Was a Placeholder Character
Speaking of finding design shortcuts, the round and bubble-like Kirby was never meant to be the star of his own game series. In fact, designer Masahiro Sakurai just dropped him into the development build as a placeholder, hence why he’s literally just a circle with arms and feet.
Sakurai intended to go back and replace the art with a “real” character, but probably realized he could be napping instead, drew a face on that blob, and called it a day.