Cheats codes are an integral part of retro gaming, from the inane to the useful. You can earn extra lives with them, unlock new characters, and even discover some pretty cool secrets just by utilizing a special sequence of controller inputs or performing certain actions in-game. The Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, was the home of so many of these cool little iniquities that you couldn’t just look up online, of course. You had to pick them up from your favorite magazine, friends in the know, or even special “cheat” hotlines.
That’s part of what makes them so special, but also the fact that they’re so cool. Some of them are pretty iconic as well, and even if you don’t quite remember what they do, you remember the games they came from. In the spirit of highlighting some of these fun little secrets, we’ve rounded up 10 clever cheats from the NES that you can use right now. Whether you’re rocking a classic NES or trying some of these out on your NES Mini, you’re in for a world of fun.
Metroid's "Justin Bailey" code
Metroid’s infamous “Justin Bailey” code is still a bit of an enigma. No one’s still quite sure where the name came from, but according to a mental_floss article, former Nintendo Power editor George Sinfield thinks it might be some random kid’s name. The origin doesn’t matter quite so much as what it does. Entering the password “Justin Bailey” with 12 blank spaces trailing it will let you play Metroid with heroine Samus Aran in a bright, colorful leotard and a full set of missiles. Samus rocks the leotard, and you rock enemies’ worlds. Awesome.
Super Mario Bros. warp zones
Not so much a cheat code as an easy way to get around in the original Super Mario Bros. on NES, these warp pipes let you travel throughout the game in a much easier manner than you could just by, well, playing the game. There are three different Warp Zones in the game, and you can find one in World 1-2 and two in World 4-2. From the first zone you can get to World 2, World 3, or World 4, and World 4-2’s pipe takes you only to World 5. You can get to World 6, 7, and 8, but you have to use a special Beanstalk to get there. They’ll always remain a staple “cheat” of childhood.
The Legend of Zelda name registration
Want to make some quick progress in The Legend of Zelda? Instead of chugging through the classic adventure RPG, just enter your name as the titular Princess Zelda herself when typing in your name at the Name Registration screen. From there, you can start on the second quest with no muss or fuss. Easy, right? This tribute to the princess is an oldie, but a goodie, and it's simple to pull off.
Final Fantasy "15" puzzle
Did you know there was a secret mini game in Final Fantasy’s original NES iteration? It’s called the “15 Puzzle,” and you can play it after obtaining the ship in-game. After doing so, you need to hold down the A button and press B a few times until you see a numbered grid. When you complete the sliding puzzle you’ll get some various rewards, up to 10,000 gil and an Antidote, Golden Needle, and Potion. It has appeared in every version of the original Final Fantasy since its inception.
The "Konami code" in Gradius
The Konami code may well be the most popular cheat code ever, and it doesn’t just work in the NES title Gradius. It’s up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, and Start in that order. You need to enter this at the title screen at Gradius and you’ll be awarded 30 lives. You can use this trick in a number of different games, even outside of the NES. It’s always worth trying out in random games to see if there’s a random Easter egg embedded within even newer games. You might be surprised at what you find.
Kid Icarus' "PAKING" code
Kid Icarus can be a pretty difficult game if you don’t know what you’re doing. Luckily, there’s a special level code you can input that’ll get you some amazing goodies instead of simply transporting you to a specific level. Just enter the following into the level code section: PAKING PAKING PAKING PAKING. You’ll start the game with everything. Literally everything. You’re welcome.
Invisible Tecmo Bowl players
Tecmo Bowl is always good for a rousing game of football, but what’s more fun than playing a game of football where the players are invisible? No, really. It’s awesome. To see all the football players turn invisible, known as the “Invisible Team” code, simply enter the password 3 9 7 B F F A 5, and voila! Your team’s totally gone. Talk about a hail Mary.
Punch-Out!! busy signal surprise
In Punch-Out!!, you can enter several password codes for varying effects. Some give you bonus fights, some heal your life force, and some let you simply view the game’s credits. But there’s one fun surprise in particular meant as a nod to Nintendo’s storied past. Enter the code 800-422-2602 and you’ll simply hear a busy signal. This is the old Nintendo customer service line. Get it?
Mega Man 2 all weapon unlock code
Everyone knows how potentially frustrating Mega Man can be, and honestly Mega Man 2 is no different. If you want to bolster your chances at survival, you can grab every weapon in the game and make short work of your enemies without even breaking a sweat. Just enter this password: A5, B2, B4, C1, C3, C5, D4, D5, E2. Then sit back, relax, and start gunning down those baddies. Be careful, though. You still have to take those platforming jumps on your own.
Super Mario Bros. 2 world-warping
While the original Super Mario Bros. had the Warp Zones, Super Mario Bros. 2 changed things up significantly. You could head to other worlds, but you had to go about it in a completely different way. For example, to warp to World 4, you’d have to go through the area in level 1-3 all the way near the brick house. Pick up a bunch of plants until you find a bottle, then carry the potion past the brick building. Look for a pot, throw the bottle on it, and head through the door that results. Go down into the pot, and you’ll find yourself in World 4. Say what, again? There are more world warps too, but these are some of the weirdest and most convoluted ways to travel between worlds.