We’ve all been there when we’ve played a game to death. We replay it and replay it just to experience the fun and the boss stages again and again.
Back in the day, we’d try to manipulate the game with cheats and glitches that we will have found through magazines and cheat sites, just to see what else we could do with the game.
But throughout all this, there were a few tools that could either be plugged into a PlayStation console, or just as a disk, where you could swap between this and the game. You could have infinite health in Crash Bandicoot, a super jump in Sonic, or even swap movesets of Paul Phoenix in Tekken with someone else.
These were called ‘Action Replay’, or ‘GameGenie’, and ‘Xploder’ to name a few; here’s how they worked.
Breaking a Game Wide Open
These came into prominence when ‘GameGenie’ would land on the scene for the SEGA Mega Drive / Genesis console, where you could slot a cartridge in, and similar to Sonic and Knuckles, you could place a game on-top of this.
Once you’ve powered-on the console, you will be brought to a screen where you will be advised to enter a series of letters and numbers, and if they corresponded correctly, would change the game in a certain way.
This would work by essentially ‘patching’ the game. The codes would be inserted into the game itself, like adding a new fuse to a plug, or a different-colour of string to a white strand, and with these code, it would instruct the game to do something else.
A great example of this is Sonic 2. It’s a game that changed significantly during its development, and there’s a whole level that was cut close to its release. But by using a GameGenie code, you can load up what was going to be ‘Hidden Palace Zone’, with its original music and layout almost-intact, but no graphics.
Other peripherals throughout the console-generations would appear, such as a ‘GameShark’ cartridge for the Nintendo 64, or the ‘Xploder’ cartridge for the PS1 which would slot at the back of the console.
One to note was from the PS1-era. Even though there was a cartridge for the parallel port of the PlayStation, later revisions would get rid of this, causing manufacturers to use other methods, such as disk-swapping.
You would simply place the cheat-disk in the console, select a game which would have codes ready to be used, or a way of inputting one yourself. It would then prompt you to put the game in, and away you would go.
But this method actually signalled the death-knell of these methods. It was discovered that it was an ideal way of playing imported games on your console, and to make matters worse, other disks were found to enable pirated games to be played on any console.
Soon after they were mostly shunned in the early 2000’s, with availability severely limited, and by 2005 they were a distant memory. Oddly enough Xploder did return in 2017 with a method for the PlayStation 4, but that also seems to have disappeared soon after.
But they remain a unique way of extending a game; back when DLC and expansion packs simply weren’t possible for consoles, they opened up a door to see just what else was in the game that was previously inaccessible.
Games like Sonic 2 would show scrapped levels, while having an item in Metal Gear Solid, way before you were supposed to, opened up a new way of having fun in areas where you were previously limited to manipulating.
There’s still sites that are hosting codes for all your favourite games, so if you can find one on eBay or somewhere else, see just how you can play your favourite game in ways you didn’t think were possible before.
For more articles like this, take a look at our Retro page.