Updated: Mar 27, 2020
Everyone loves an April Fools' joke, right? Well, ok not everyone, but at Antstream Arcade we do! So to celebrate the imminent arrival of the 1st April, here are some of our favourite video game related April Fools' pranks of the last 30 years.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 Cheat, Electronic Gaming Monthly, 1991
American gaming mag Electronic Gaming Monthly has a long tradition of April Fools pranks, and it began here in 1991 with this ridiculous cheat code for the NES Turtles sequel. Gamers from this era will be familiar with the complicated button-pressing process that was often required to activate their cheats, yet this insanely convulted combination would have tested even the most ardent of fans. By performing the rigmarole of pressing reset on your NES five times followed by over 25 presses of various buttons across both controllers, you apparently got to play the game as Simon Belmont from the Castlevania series. It was all rubbish of course, yet caused quite a few indignant letters to the magazine from readers who failed to notice the name of the person who submitted the cheat: A. P. Rilphuuls.
The Legend Of Zelda: The Movie, 2008
Some still call it one of the cruellest videogame pranks of all time, such was, and still is, the anticipation for a movie based on Nintendo’s finest RPG series. Gaming website IGN capitalised on this excitement by producing a professional trailer for the fictional upcoming movie that was so authentic enough to persuade many fans that the film actually existed. Drawing on locations from different chapters of the Zelda series, The Legend Of Zelda trailer even incorporated segments of music from the games as well as several recognisable characters. Given the quality of videogame movie adaptations over the years, perhaps it’s best this one remains an April Fool joke, albeit a very persuasive one.
iCade iPad Arcade Cabinet, 2010
We could run a whole feature on the website ThinkGeek’s April Fools jokes, but we’ll make do with this one from 2010. Why the iCade? Simply because it was such a cool idea that, like many of ThinkGeek’s jolly japes, the joke actually became reality. Tapping into a burgeoning retrogaming culture, the iCade was a bespoke mini arcade cabinet that snugly encompassed an Apple iPad, turning it into a classic gaming beast. Such was the positive reaction to this April Fool that the unit swiftly went into production, and just as swiftly sold out. Fortunately today, alternatives are available, but it all started here, on April 1st, 2010.
Rock Band: The Board Game, 2012
The rhythm music genre was arguably at its peak in 2012 with the successful Rock Band franchise at its forefront. So when its creator, Harmonix, announced that it would be releasing a board game version of its famous property on the 1st April, it seemed on the surface, to be a logical extension to the series. “We know you’ve been on the edge of your yoga ball/standing desk to see what mind blowing game Harmonix is going to make next,” announced the developer on its YouTube channel as the incredibly cheesy advert played out. “Well friends, the wait is OVER! Feast your eyes and ears on this EXCLUSIVE commercial for our upcoming game!” Looking like a cheap version of Monopoly, it’s hard to imagine there was ever much of a market for Rock Band the board game, but then again the success of the whole rhythm genre of video games took many people by surprise.
Football Manager 1888, 2013
On the 1st April 2013, 125 years after the formation of the Football League in the UK, Football Manager developers Sports Interactive announced the imminent release of a celebratory 1888 edition of its popular football management game. Accompanied by sepia-infused screenshots to give it an authentic period sheen, the game boasted of real-life era management problems such as call-ups to the army and the non-existence of match substitutes. Sadly it was all a bit hoax, a big shame as it actually sounded quite fun.
Google Maps: Pokemon Challenge, 2014
Google has long incorporated April Fools jokes into its ubiquitious search engine and in 2014 it upped the ante together with Nintendo for the Pokemon Challenge. While in hindsight it looks suspiciously like some sort of training ground for Niantic’s Pokemon Go app, Google advertised the Challenge with a promotional video that showed smartphone users ‘hunting’ for Pokemon on a safari and fishing giant monsters from the sea. If the idea hadn’t already been devised upon the release of this Aprils Fools, it’s hard to imagine it took too long for some bright spark to realise a real-life Pokemon hunting game had huge potential.
PlayStation Flow, 2015
One of the biggest April Fools ever, Sony announced PlayStation Flow on its blog on the 01st April, 2015 with a convincing trailer and pitch for what appeared to be an actual real-life simulator for the underwater sections of PlayStation 4 games. Published by sub-division, PlayStation Wearable Entertainment Technology (or P-WET for short – geddit?) mock-up velcro arm and leg bands, plus some very realistic swimming goggles were created and worn by an actor, with the footage spliced into various PS4 games. It all looked rather…pointless, but cool at the same time, and even included a PlayStation Flow Body Dryer that ensured you’d be back at your PlayStation as soon as you were on land once more. In reality Sony was working on some exciting new technology – Project Morpheus, aka PlayStation VR.