The history of video games and "baring it all" is a fascinating one. Almost as soon as home video game consoles were introduced, people started making "adult" video games. However, for the most part, these games were on the fringes of the video game business. In general, video games quickly became synonymous with "kid friendly" and as result, showing anything even remotely scandalous was off limits for games. Therefore, programmers just started to be creative in hiding their more salacious ideas in their video games.
Many of these are examples of bored programmers trying to amuse themselves, but some of them actually tie into the themes of the game. This list spotlights times when more adult themes and images were hidden in old school video games, by which we mostly mean pre-2000s. Saying that, there's one example of "hidden skin" that happened a few years after that cut off, but it was just so (in)famous that we figured we had to feature it. See if these cases of pixelated naughtiness brings back any memories!
15 THE SMURFS
In the early 1980s, video games were going through a boom period when it came to licensed properties. Coleco released a well-received game based on The Smurfs cartoon series in 1982 called The Smurfs: Rescue in Gargamel's Castle. The concept of the game was that you had to travel to Gargamel's castle to rescue a kidnapped Smurfette. It involved a lot of jumps that you had to time just right.
The game was filled with Easter Eggs, but one of the more controversial ones came at the end of the game where, if you crouch down right when you win, Smurfette's white dress disappears and she appears nude. It's unclear if it was intentional or not, but the fact that there were a bunch of other Easter Eggs in the game suggests that it was on purpose.
14 PLUMBERS DON'T WEAR TIES
Plumbers Don't Wear Ties is a choose your own adventure video game that has become infamous for how poorly put together it actually was. It tried to make it look like it was a full motion video game while actually just being a series of slide shows. The idea is that a young man, John (a plumber) and a young woman named Jane are being pressured into getting married. The goal of the game is to get them together as a couple.
The graphics are hilariously bad -- some of the photos are just blurry, it's almost endearing in how bad it is. In any event, there are some scenes of Jane in the shower that are censored. If you enter a special code before the game begins, those scenes are no longer censored (it's not full-frontal, really, but it's close).
13 LINK'S AWAKENING
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was a 1993 release for Gameboy Color. In one of the sequences in the United States version of the game, Link enters a house in the Animal Village where a anthropomorphic hippo woman yells at him and tells him to go away. In the U.S. version of the game, the scene really doesn't make any sense.
This is because in the original Japanese version of the game, the woman is posing nude for artist Schule Donavitch and naturally, she is pissed when Link walks in on her while she is nude. The American version removes the towel that she wraps around her body and turns her into sort of a blob to hide the nudity. Can't have young American children scarred by hippo breasts!
12 STRIKERS 1945
Strikers 1945 was an arcade game where you play as pilots during World War II, only this is not the standard WII. This is an alternate universe where aliens have invaded Earth, so your pilots have to take on a bunch of bad guys with advanced alien technology. Throughout the game, as you progress through each level, the game is grading you as you go on how well you do.
At the end, if you have a really good game, the pilots of the plane you've been playing show themselves to you and they're almost all female. If you do especially well, they'll all take off their clothes for you. That's only in the arcade version of the game, as it was removed for the home version.
11 SECRETS OF MANA
Secrets of Mana was a 1993 action role-playing game that was released on the Super Nintendo system. It was a triumph for Square, as it was a complex world that you could play cooperatively with multiple players, but with the freedom to have the other players leave the game if they wanted.
Anyhow, one common "enemy" in the game were these magical spell books that would flutter in the sky, land and then attack you with the spell that they landed on. The thing was that every once in a while, they would accidentally land on a centerfold instead! The book then actually shakes out of embarrassment and quickly flips to the correct page! Hilarious! It must have happened infrequently enough that Nintendo never noticed.
Rampage was one of the most popular video games of the 1980s. The concept of the game is that you're playing as one of three monsters who are trying to destroy buildings (as monsters are wont to do). Your goal is to destroy as many buildings as you can before the military takes you down. In the original game, whenever the monsters are defeated, they revert to their human form.
These humans-cum-monsters were not initially in the buff, but were rather covered up. When the game got a sequel over a decade later in Rampage: World Tour, the human forms of the monsters have some brief bouts of skin-showing. This was in the high resolution versions of the game -- obviously you couldn't see anything in the Game Boy version.
9 DEAD OR ALIVE
Dead or Alive 2 is a fighting game that follows in the Dead or Alive series. It came out in the late 1990s. One of the plot lines in the game is that the bad guys are cloning Kasumi, who was the main character of the first two installments of the Dead or Alive franchise. That plot line led to the first bout of being in the buff. In the Japanese version of the game, you see a clone of Kasumi that appears to be completely sans clothes.
The more interesting hidden piece is just taking advantage of a hidden element of the game that came about while they were developing it. They had, in effect, a blank version of Kasumi that they used to develop the character. If you're sneaky (and have the right codes), you can access that blank version, which is basically a completely all-natural Kasumi.
8 RINGS OF POWER
Naughty Dog launched in the 1980s and is still around to this day, as a subsidiary of Sony Computer Entertainment. Their big break through for Sony was when they came up with the Crash Bandicoot series of games in the mid-1990s. However, they had been producing successful games for years before that.
One of their series was a Lord of the Rings-inspired series called Rings of Power (where you're a young sorcerer who has to collect 10 rings of power). At the introduction of the game, the Naughty Dog logo would show, like how most company's logo would show up. However, they had a cheat code you could use that would cause the bikini-clad model to drop her suit and show herself in all of her "pixelated glory."
7 SPICE WORLD
In the late 1990s, the Spice Girls were practically everywhere. Novelty acts tend to realize that the time to make your money is right away, so the Spice Girls did every sort of licensed product that they could do, with the most famous one being their big budget movie that came out in 1997 called Spice World.
A year later, Sony put out a video game called Spice World where you have to get the Spice Girls (or rather, Chibi-style animated versions of the Spice Girls) ready for a live performance (you practice their dance moves, singing, things like that). There is a cheat code where you can restart the game and see the Spice Girls naked... sitting behind chairs that still block their naughtiest bits, of course.
6 WILD WOODY
Wild Woody was ostensibly a kids game for the Sega CD, but it is worth noting that it was always considered odd that a kids game would have such a sexually suggestive title like "Wild Woody." All the reviews of the era pointed out how odd it was. In any event, Woody was a anthropomorphic pencil who could defeat bad guys by using his eraser. He could also draw things and make them come to life for offense.
At one point in the game, during a level involving pirate treasure, there is an Easter Egg where if you collect treasure in a very specific order, you will be "rewarded" with a topless mermaid who certainly appears as though she was meant to evoke Ariel from A Little Mermaid.
5 MYSTIC DEFENDER
One of the interesting things about games being adapted from the Japanese market to the American/International market is that you could sometimes take the sequel to one game and just make it basically its own new game, especially if the gameplay is different enough from the original. This is what happened with Mystic Defender, which was Kujakuo 2. The first Kujakuo became Spellcaster in the States.
The hero of Kujakuo 2 was originally a monk, but when the series was revamped into Mystic Defender, the hero was now a warrior, with an outfit to boot (armor instead of monk's robes). At the end of the original game, you have to save the damsel in distress, but she's also the main villain in the last round (she's possessed). When you free her, she was originally wearing zero clothes. They quickly fixed that for later editions of the International version.
4 KIRBY'S DREAM LAND
One of the most bizarre examples of hidden nudity in video games is clearly the "nude lady" level in Kirby's Dream Land 2, which was developed for Game Boy in the 1990s. You see, the level scrolls down and it seems like pretty much every other level, but there are unique attributes that make it stand out.
First off, you see ledges that make it look like it is shaped like a smile. Then further down, you have the featured image here, which is clearly meant to evoke a woman's chest. Later, there is a Y shaped ledge with a furry creature right in the middle of the Y. The whole thing was made evident when one of those "guides to the game" things were made and the whole level was visible. It became abundantly clear that the whole level was a naked woman.
Stormlord was a video game where you set out to free a bunch of fairies that had been imprisoned by an evil queen. It's a pretty straightforward late 1980s fantasy game... except the fairies. You see, the game had lots of topless fairies in it. That wouldn't normally be that big of a deal, but then people started to notice the topless fairies and they started giving Sega (who released the game to home consoles in the United States) a real hard time over it.
So, Sega pulled the game and redeveloped it to remove the "offensive" material. The developers of the game later claimed that they did it voluntarily rather than Sega forcing them to do it, but we imagine it was roughly the same thing -- they pull your game, even if they don't specifically tell you to fix the nudity, you're going to fix it.
2 THE APPRENTICE
In the early 1990s, Phillips tried to enter the video game console business with the Philips CD-i. It did not go over well at all and ended up being one of the costliest failures in the history of video game consoles. One of the biggest problems was that the games designed for it, which starred major Nintendo characters like Mario and Link, were terrible.
One of the better games was The Apprentice, about a young wizard apprentice who has to go on a number of different missions for his master. It's a cute game with a lot of interesting game play. However, it also came with some cheat codes that would result in a lot of skin being shown, including "nudality" celebrations when you passed a level and the main character magically making a young woman's clothes disappear.
1 GTA: SAN ANDREAS
By 2006 or so, video games had long moved past being seen as "just for kids" and nudity became commonplace. This is why it is so shocking to see just how big of a deal it was when the "Hot Coffee" scandal broke in 2004 with the release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
At one point in the game, your character takes his girlfriend back to her place. She invites him in for some "coffee" and the game cuts to the outside of the house and you hear moaning. Originally, that was going to be a mini-game involving sex. They removed access to it without fully removing it, but a video game modder from the Netherlands found a way to patch it back in and it became a sensation of outrage from politicians looking to get an easy win against an immoral video game company.
Can you name other examples of hidden in old school video games? Let us know in the comments section!