Best video games Easter eggs: A 2014 roundup

Wandering the empty streets in the wake of Christmas, it becomes clear that the 27th December is the perfect time to pretend there has been a nuclear apocalypse that's destroyed everything except Tesco Express. The unique combination of crippling hangovers and the revelation that one can now perfectly balance a Terry's Chocolate Orange on one's turkey-stuffed stomach pins the population to its sofa with nothing but a TV and the feeling it should be buying cut-price oak furniture somewhere.

The brave that venture outdoors, however, will find at that solitary supermarket an unpleasantly premature discovery. With a sticky pop, this post-Christmas period sets in motion the sugar-encrusted wheels of the confectionery industry that, scratching its nose and letting out a disgruntled belch, takes the opportunity to spawn its first Easter egg - four months early.

But whilst we scoff and roll our eyes in disdain, it's worth remembering that the likes of Cadbury and Thornton's are not the only corporations with a monopoly on chocolatey springtime ova.

For years, video games have been busy scattering their own virtual "Easter eggs" all over the industry with absolutely no regard for whether it's a four day bank holiday or not. Tucked away in the dark corners of some of our favourite titles, these gems are not hidden by benevolent bunnies, but by bored developers armed with sharpened senses of humour and far too much time on their hands.

So without any ado to further and in no particular order, here are five of the best video game Easter eggs ITProPortal unearthed in its hunt.

The Last of Us

The Last of Us is widely recognised as one of the best games of 2013. An effusive ode to everything that seventh generation consoles achieved, it is a masterpiece of mature, gameplay driven narrative, stunningly well-realised architecture and uncompromising but intelligent design. The narrative follows Joel, a dark and grizzled survivor of a pathogenic apocalypse as he travels across America trying to keep his plucky but vulnerable ward, Ellie, alive.

You may think that the plot shares some similarities with Cormac McCarthy's melancholically dystopian novel, The Road, and it seems the developers at Naughty Dog thought so too. At the very beginning of the game you walk Joel down an alleyway in a communal compound. Scrawled on the wall is "SEEK THE FIRE", a reference to the fact the Father in The Road constantly tells his son to "carry the fire," a metaphor for keeping their humanity in the face of so much corruption.

Grand Theft Auto IV

It's hard not to have heard of GTA, the controversial series that revolutionised the open world genre and gave anxious parents the world over minor aneurysms. Gratuitous violence and nudity aside, however, every GTA game for the last few years has been riddled with eater eggs, and Grand Theft Auto IV was no exception.

Using a helicopter, players can fly up to a set of doors on the Statue of Happiness (a towering effigy with a striking likeness to New York's Statue of Liberty.) Inside through a door that wryly reads "no hidden content this way," you will find a giant beating heart suspended by chains, eerily suggestion that the statue is in fact alive.

Beyond: Two Souls

A lot of developers enjoy alluding to other titles they have made in the current games they're working on. QuanticDreams, the studio behind the cinematic, interactive adventure game Heavy Rain is no exception.

Beyond: Two Souls, for example, is the story of a young woman named Jodie (Elaine Page) as she tries to come to terms with her connection to Aiden, a ghostly figure that she's been linked to since birth. In one chapter she finds herself homeless and begging for money on the streets (it's not a colourful Candy Crush Saga kind of game), and walks past a man reading a newspaper on a bench. If the player takes control of Aiden and zooms in on the story the man is reading, the headline reads "Origami killer: Seven victims and still no lead" – a direct reference to the psychotic mass murderer of Heavy Rain infamy.

Half-Life 2

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single player in possession of Half-Life 2 must be in want of new underwear. Developed by Valve, the lip-bitingly tense game is populated by "zombies," or people who have been forcibly attached to Headcrabs that burrow in to a victim's cranium and take over their nervous system. These creatures are terrifying, but are usually heard before they're seen thanks to their blood-curdling cries and shambling gaits.

It is a truth less known, however, that if you play these awful howling moans backwards, they are a reverse version of a human voice saying "Help God, help me please" over and over. It seems that through everything, the victim may be completely aware of their zombified state. Indeed, if you look closely at the corpse of an old host once a headcrab has been removed, the person's head is bent abnormally upwards, matted with blood, whilst their pale face has its eyes shut and mouth open in a frozen scream. As easter eggs go, this is probably one that won't be wrapped up in cheerfully bright foil this Spring.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

This particular easter egg was intended as a viral marketing ad for the next title in the Batman series, Arkham City. By blowing through a completely unmarked wall in the Warden's Office using explosive gel, players were treated to detailed blueprints of the whole of Gotham City, blueprints that screamed "we're working on a new game" as party poppers exploded and sequel sirens wailed.

The slight flaw in the developers' cunning plan, unfortunately, was that the room was so hard to find no player managed to discover it even six months after the game's release. After 182 days of fretfully biting their nails, waiting for Internet rumour mill to churn into action, the studio let out an almighty huff and ended up letting the bat out of the bag, lest all their hard work went unnoticed.

What easter egg is your favourite? Is there one you love that we've missed out? Let us know in the comment section below or give us a nudge @ITProPortal.