The Minecraft Easter egg in Borderlands 2.

What are Easter Eggs in Video Games?

Gamers have long been obsessed with Easter egg hunting in their favorite titles. What's the deal?

Written by:
Avatar photo
Carley is a professional JP-EN translator and writer currently based in Des Moines, Iowa. She has written hundreds of articles for popular sites such as Siliconera, Gameranx, and Otaquest, and has been playing games nonstop since 1996.

Reviewed by:
Avatar photo
Marshall is a seasoned writer and gaming enthusiast based in Tokyo. He's a prolific wordsmith with hundreds of articles featured on top-tier sites like Business Insider, How-To Geek, PCWorld, and Zapier. His writing has reached a massive audience with over 70 million readers!

Key Takeaway

An Easter egg is a piece of content hidden by developers in a game for players to uncover. These could be things like messages, images, songs, or other forms of content that reference other games, pop culture, current events, and more. Easter eggs don’t grant any buffs or bonuses to gameplay.

Easter eggs in games have nothing to do with bunnies and wearing your Sunday best. A huge part of gaming culture, they’ve existed since the early days of the medium. What are Easter eggs and how can you find them?

Table Of Contents

    What Are Easter Eggs in Video Games?

    Easter eggs may immediately trigger a memory of an Easter egg hunt, in which kids search high and low for painted eggs and other treats each year during the spring holiday.

    In video games, an Easter egg refers to in-game content hidden by developers for players to uncover. This could be a message, a feature, an image, a song, or some other form of content. Typically, these hidden tidbits pay homage to other games, pop culture, modern events, or even the developers themselves.

    Players enjoy searching for Easter eggs for the sheer fun of it. Finding them won’t grant you any special buffs or impact gameplay in any meaningful way.

    The History of Video Game Easter Eggs

    Easter eggs in video games have been around for nearly 50 years. The first known inclusion of one of these hidden tidbits was in the 1973 title Moonlander. As the title implies, players would attempt to land their spaceship on the moon successfully. However, if a player managed to fly horizontally in a specific way, they would suddenly find a McDonald’s.

    However, while Moonlander included the first of these hidden gems, the phrase ‘Easter egg’ is attributed to the 1980 game Adventure for the Atari 2600.

    Credits weren’t included with Atari games at the time in order to prevent developers from being poached by competitors. However, an employee managed to include the phrase “Created by Warren Robinett” in the game. This would only appear if players miraculously managed to move their avatar over one tiny pixel during one specific part of the game.

    Atari didn’t discover this Easter egg until years later. While they initially wanted to remove it, some in upper management realized that including these hidden messages could provide extra fun for players. Steve Wright, Atari’s software development director, noted that it would be like “hunting for Easter eggs,” and the rest is history.

    Today, developers including Easter eggs in games is somewhat of a given.

    Examples of Easter Eggs

    From small indie releases to legendary AAA games, Easter eggs have appeared in thousands of titles and come in all shapes and sizes.

    A Minecraft Easter Egg in the FPS title Borderlands 2.

    Gearbox Software’s 2012 first-person shooter Borderlands 2 was full of witty one-liners and enough pop culture references to make your head spin. Not every bit of humor still holds up a decade later, but one Easter egg is still a fan favorite.

    Towards the end of the game, players can access a hidden area within the Caustic Caverns. Inside, you’ll find a ton of blocks barring a doorway. Strangely, the blocks look rather out of place–almost like they’re from another game entirely.

    Smashing them will not only grant players some sweet loot but will also signal the entrance to a Minecraft-inspired zone complete with Creepers!

    A screenshot from Stray in which an NPC is making a reference to Skyrim.

    In July, the adventure game Stray took the internet by storm. Annapurna Interactive’s title follows a stray cat in a futuristic walled city attempting to escape to the surface. The robot NPCs often have plenty to say, and for those with a keen eye, some of their dialogue might look familiar.

    Sojiro, an NPC found in Midtown, laments the closing of his business. “I used to own a bar,” he says. “It was the coziest place. Until I took a screwdriver in the knee, and it’s closed now.” This is a reference to the classic “arrow in the knee” line from Skyrim.

    This wasn’t the only Skyrim reference in the game. A robot named Jenkins, found gardening in the Antvillage section, quotes Belethor, an NPC found in Whiterun in the fifth Elder Scrolls entry.

    Hideo Kojima included as an NPC in Cyberpunk 2077.

    Easter eggs can even include well-known figures as NPCs, from celebrities to developers. During a mission titled The Heist in Cyberpunk 2077, players will be able to explore a fancy hotel before reporting to Jackie for a mission. By heading to the hotel bar, you can find Hideo Kojima himself. Unsurprisingly, he’s busy chatting with a group of people about his exciting ideas and inventions.

    Go back and check out your favorite games one more time. They might still be hiding some neat secrets.