Of all the developers putting out games today, Nintendo has possibly the best reputation for delivering rock-solid, glitch-free and glorious gaming experiences. The patented ‘Nintendo polish’ is something of a given when you fire up a first-party game - we expect an assuredly smooth, jank-less time where in games from 'lesser' developers you might expect the odd freeze or hard crash. Hey, that’s the Nintendo difference!
The thing is, though, Nintendo-published games have had their fair share of game-breaking (if not game-ending) bugs over the years. We’re not only talking about fun glitches people discover while poking around where they shouldn't, or hardcore speedrun exploits mined through many hours of work picking at the seams of the game world and actively trying to ‘break’ the game. There are also plenty of bugs that can cause the average player serious problems if they stumble into them.
In the grand scheme of the company’s entire library, the examples below are a drop in the ocean, and game-ending issues are much less of an issue nowadays when things can simply be patched up the wazoo even once they’re in the wild. In general Nintendo has the resources to plug a leak relatively rapidly once it’s been identified, so you’re rarely more than a few days from an update that will fix your issue.
We took a look at comical localisation errors many moons ago, but here we're concentrating (in the main) on technical hiccups that run the gamut from gleeful and fun to potentially game-ruining. Nintendo has done well to avoid the latter for the most part, but that’s not to say it has a spotless record.
Let’s take a look at some of the whoopsies that have slipped through Nintendo’s QA net over the years...
Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo) – ‘Minus World’
Let’s start off with one of the most famous. While you’re not likely to stumble on this, anyone can do it in most versions of Super Mario Bros. - even we managed it, as you can see below. Jumping while ducking and hitting the pipe just so at the end of World 1-2 will see you clip through the wall to the ‘secret’ warp pipe area you normally access by jumping on top of the ceiling a bit earlier on. Heading through the pipe will take you to a whole new world (cue the Aladdin music):
Labelled ‘World -1’, it’s actually World 7-2 except with one significant difference: the pipe at the end returns you to the beginning of the stage without resetting the timer. Thus, you are trapped and forced to endure an inevitable, watery end.
Hardly a game-ender, it’s an obscure glitch very early in the game that you’ve really got to seek out. We include it here for posterity and as a nod to the multitude of glitches the original Super Mario Bros. threw up. Even the best ’uns are riddled, you know.
Metroid (Nintendo) – 'ENGAGE RIDLEY...'
Klaxon! Fruity language alert!
The western versions of Metroid featured a passcode system rather than the save slots in the Japanese original. Upon dying the game spits out a code which you can use to return to the same area with all the gear you've collected to that point. Using it these days brings to mind the horror we still endure when entering Friend Codes on Nintendo systems, and it’s no wonder gamers started playing around with the words they input.
Each code consists of four sets of six-character spaces and there are a variety of famous examples. At some point – probably through sheer boredom – some gamer input the code ‘ENGAGE RIDLEY MOTHER F****R’ and, thanks to the way the pass codes are generated, this created a state with over 300 years on the clock and a variety of game-breaking outcomes. Entering it on the Switch Online version of the game results in an error message, as seen below:
This would seem harmless enough, although the 3DS Virtual Console version caused a system crash. Reports of damage to original hardware are unsubstantiated, although the idea of Ridley reading your filthy code and raising an eyebrow before short circuiting your NES amuses us. Ridley is nothing if not a refined pterodactyl-dragon thing and he refuses to countenance foul language. Quite right, too.
Pokémon Red & Blue (Game Freak) – ‘MISSINGNO’
Another legendary glitch (well, famous enough to have its own Wikipedia entry), the exact reason for its existence is far less interesting than the wonder it stirred in Pokétrainers the world over when it was discovered. A secret Pokémon? One that can cause glitches and – as Nintendo warned – even had the power to wipe your game save?
The genius of MISSINGNO (short for ‘Missing Number’) is how a glitch created by the way the game’s random battle system works fed into the mystery of the game itself. You had Mew as the enigmatic 151st monster, so fans rationalised that a ‘number 0’ could also exist. For fanatical kids in the playground, the hearsay this created was electric. Missingno’s state in the Pokémon canon remains uncertain, but it represents the mystery of the series beautifully.
Again, it’s not a game-ender, but it is arguably top of the ‘it’s not a bug, it’s a feature’ category. It would seem even Nintendo’s bugs are charming.
Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo) – ‘Shortcuts’
One of the proudest gaming memories from our youth is doing that shortcut over the brick wall on Mario Raceway in Mario Kart 64 on each of the three laps – an achievement we’ve still got saved in ghost form on a Memory Pak somewhere.
Of all the shortcuts in the game, though, that was one of the more ‘honest’, if you will. It simply meant you skipped a tricky turn; other 'shortcuts involved completely gaming the course geometry or falling out of the level to skip entire laps. If you attempted and pulled off the Mario Raceway skip during a multiplayer race, fair play, son. If, however, you were the irritating individual who ruined races by reversing immediately on Frappe Snowland, we’ve got no time for you and your unsportsmanlike behaviour.
‘Oh, but it’s legit if the game allows it!’ Yeah, whatever numbnuts; you stay home and play it on your own if you love doing it so much - we’re here to race! You can check out a good selection of the shortcuts in the video above (and feel free to discuss in the comments section which ones are legitimate and which would get you ejected from your local 4-player session). Game-breaking? This broke relationships.
Donkey Kong 64 (Rare) – A costly bug you never actually saw
This is a bug that no-one in the game-playing public ever encountered in the wild, although it caused Rare and Nintendo quite the headache. If you recall, Donkey Kong 64 required the Expansion Pak, a sexy little peripheral which doubled the Nintendo 64’s RAM to an almost-unimaginable 8 megabytes. While it generally offered an optional visual boost to compatible titles, other later games wouldn’t work without it.
Donkey Kong 64 was supposed to be an example of the former, but a persistent game-breaking bug cropped up which only occurred while playing with the console’s standard 4MB of RAM. The developers at Rare were unable to squash this bug before release, therefore forcing Nintendo to bundle the peripheral with the game. As pointed out by Chris Seavor, this ended up benefitting Perfect Dark which released the following year and only ran a limited form of its multiplayer mode (and no campaign whatsoever) without the Expansion Pak.
We can’t imagine Nintendo top brass were too pleased at the time, though. Reports that this was the primary reason why Nintendo allowed Microsoft to take Rare off its hands are entirely unfounded and utterly spurious. Still, we wouldn’t have wanted to be the ones to deliver the news to President Yamauchi at Nintendo headquarters. That man was fiery.
I know a metroid password
it puts you next to ridley
Zelda's got tons more glitches. Like the one in Link to the Past (that's still unfixed even in the NSO release) that lets you beat the entire game in about 3 minutes.
I remember getting wacked with the Skyward Sword one. Thank God Nintendo figured out how to use the internet in some capacity.
@SmaMan the one they mentioned in this very article.
Oh drat. I missed that. Durr!
I’m playing NES Final Fantasy now, and a whole host of spells are worthless (at least in the Western release) due to being bugged out. And a couple actually get way better (I’m thinking of a heal spell that works far better than it was intended to). None of these are gamebreaking at all — I actually find it kind of endearing that the first entry in such a seminal series was released in the West as almost a beta prototype (a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point).
I remember when I felt really clever finding a glitch in Mario 64 after running around the circular section of the castle exterior's central spire and then jump-lunging into the front wall. Jumped through the wall and fell to the other side of the door, which I could run around in, and if you went through the door from this side, you'd end up with the interior of the castle, but on the outside of the door. You could jump through the wall from there and resume normal gameplay.
Not a Nintendo Published game But I lost a 127 hours save in The Elders Scrolls V do to a bug. From that day on i learned to always create a backup save.
I heard a long time ago about a glitch in the Original Metroid. If you glitched through a specific wall that didn’t have a room on the other side of it, it would randomly generate a room. Then it would keep randomly generating rooms as you kept going through doors. Because of the way the NES was programmed, every single game would randomly generate it in the exact same way every time. Gamers originally thought it was a secret super hard labyrinth put in by the developers only for super players, but eventually word got back to the developers and they figured out that it was just a weird glitch.
I haven’t found any detailed information about this story online, so I’m not sure if it’s true or not.
I love Error. Just that one line alone makes him one of the best Zelda NPCs.
The "finish Super Mario 3 in three seconds" glitch (performed by TASBOT) is my favourite glitch.
I never ever encountered the Glitch in Skyward Sword because I didn't know that you could go to any part of the Song you want. I always do Faron, Eldin, & Lanayru in that order.
@ALinkttPresent NES Zelda has a row of screens that are accessable through a burning bush glitch due to the number of vertical and horizontal screens needing to fit a specific ratio. Sounds similar.
"feel free to discuss in the comments section which ones are legitimate and which would get you ejected from your local 4-player session). Game-breaking? This broke relationships."
I simply love Nintendolife! Thank you guys for all the giggles!
@SockJones Yeah that does sound like a similar concept. I had never heard of the Zelda glitch before.
@ALinkttPresent https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/03/zelda-has-a-minus-world/amp/ it’s a relatively recently discovered glitch. I saw several articles on it when it was discovered since it’s so rare to find a big glitch in a 30 year old game.
I see the thumbnail and I came exclusively to say that Error was not a glitch since another NPC specifically tells you to talk to Error to get something. Luckily I read the article first because I learned something new. Bagu was supposed to be named Bug as a joke but they made a mistake? That's actually pretty funny!
Does anyone remember that glitch from M&L Dream Team that prevented some people from finishing Mt. Pajamaja? Nintendo had to patch it so the puzzle was finishable for those who messed up.
Ganon’s forces have slain most of the Hylians. One stalwart warrior stood against them defiant, refusing to move an inch.
“I AM ERROR” He stated.
The Metroid password one is great! Haha!
I don't think it's fair to say Bagu was a mistake, it sounds more like a name, perhaps they just went with it for that reason
Thoroughly enjoyed the article and even the caption, great job Gavin! ^^
A more technical reason for SMB's "Minus World" is that the warp zone 3 pipe set is actually one in-game object. It is one object, used 3 times in the game, 1-2, 4-2 above ground, 4-2 below ground. Before the values reset, once the warp zone properly loads, the 1-2 warp leads to the same areas as the 4-2 below ground; this is why the middle pipe leads to World 5-1.
I'm surprised they didn't go with Justin Bailey.
Ridley's awesome lol. And I thought Samuel L. Jackson say what again in pulp fiction was intimidating.
“Nintendo games are consistently polished!”
Me: Glances at Mario and Luigi paper jam
No mention of the Master Hand glitch from Melee?
Ahhhh... Missingno... How many times did i catch it on Pokémon Blue on my Game Boy to get l.100 pokémon hehehe😁I remember going to my friend's house to play Pokémon Stadium on his N64 and Missingno then popped up as a Starmie but with incredibly weak defence! 🤣
I remember borrowing Super Paper Mario from a friend and getting stuck due to a glitch that crashed the entire console on level 2-2.
@CurryPowderKeg79 back when I bought it on the PS3 Skyrim is the main reason why I relentlessly save every game so often nowadays.
I think it was Mario Kart on the 3DS that had the worst exploit on one of the Wuhu Island maps, where falling off the edge at just the right spot early in the race would reset your kart just feet from the finish line.
@ALinkttPresent Thank you! – The NES Metroid door jump into the “Secret Worlds” glitch! (that is the keyword to search for your questions btw). This was not only a glitch, it was a chance to explore and report to the then budding online gaming community with a sense of a tiny-frontier. There were advanced tech tips to door jump down, etc. it all seems so quaint by today’s internet standards.
Yes, only a few interesting areas were ever found. Sure, it was mostly the idea of finding something that was fun; not filling in graph paper or being unable to see the sprite in most of the secret areas (or even worse only getting stuck inconclusively in a wall). Yet, as one of those who purchased the cartridge specifically for this added adventure, the glitches give games a bit of fun we miss when every single problem is updated away.
Imagine Metroid without the door jump glitch at all. Oh my!
My favourite was the original gameboy zelda, where if you pressed the menu button just as you moved from one screen to another, it would warp you to the other side of the screen, often to parts of the map that you were never supposed to be able to go in. I spent hours experimenting with this, discovering wierd 'behind the scenes' rooms and things.
I always assumed his name was Errol and he was introducing himself, and it was a typo.
Lol at that Ridley one! Oh, and Error finally explained.
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