In the struggle that is developers getting you to play their game - and their game only - every single day, knowing there are secret locations to seek out is one of the best reasons going.
With completion rates at an all-time low, game lengths an all-time high and general world size reaching into the hundreds of square kilometres and beyond, if you're going to wander off the beaten path, it needs to be for something special. Times have changed since the cheat codes and plug-in cartridge days of the 90s and early 2000s, and many devs have started hiding their levels out of bounds entirely.
Now, we actually did a version of this list in August 2018, but that only opened the floodgates as to all the tucked-away areas across gaming, that you guys have found.
From iconic English cities to out of bounds areas where you can fall forever, there are TONS of secret areas worth digging out your old games to revisit.
9. Secret Training Level - Tomb Raider: Angel Of Darkness
Lars Croft's debut on PS2 hardware was a complete nightmare on the developer side. Production deadlines, creative differences, staff burnout thanks to releasing so many consecutive games year after year beforehand - it's no surprise what we got was filled with unfinished assets.
One that sticks out though - and thanks to Marcus: MST for highlighting the area - is an still-in-progress training zone.
Besides being fully rendered, filled with dialogue, enemies and even keys to access the full space, this was apparently abandoned before the code was locked for the PS2 release.
Though more easily available on PC, on PS2 you'll have to get creative when it comes to tricking the game into loading the area.
To do so, "go through the game until you get to the Serpent Rouge [level], then as you exit the building at the end, [go] onto the balcony [and] crawl along to the left."
Get the angle right and you'll be booted into Lara's training level, free to explore to your heart's content.
Sadly though, because of how this area is accessed; stopping the game loading the end of level cutscene, once you're in... you can't get out.
8. A Demo That Doubles As The Full Game - The Getaway
Something many younger gamers will simply never experience, many old-school game demos could easily be broken to offer up way more of their finished versions than was intended.
The Getaway was such a title, as even the demo came with a fully-rendered London environment for you to explore. The catch - and the thing that made this a trial - was supposed to be a time limit.
Of course it didn't take long for wannabe hackers to free things up, as shadowgandalf points out.
"We discovered if you reach the destination at the end of the car chase - but not so close that you stop the time limit - then wait and roll towards the objective as the timer hits 0, the game over screen will then trigger. When you respawn at the start of the chase, the enemy car will stop immediately", leaving you "free to explore the entire map with no time limit."
Gandalf does note that because "there’s no on screen timer" when it comes to doing this precise method, your timing has to be extra precise, being based on sound effects only.
Still, if you wanted a free version of digital London to run amok in, it's right here.
7. The Ultra Captain - Destiny
Okay, this is so cool, I wish more developers did it intentionally.
The "Ultra Captain" in Destiny refers to one of the many Captains you face in the game's DLC, but this particular Captain was also cut from the base game... only to be left out of bounds in the world itself.
To access - and thanks to Tomas Fernandes for this one - you'll need to head to Earth and patrol the Cosmodrome, as here you can reach a specific locked door.
Though it's clearly just part of the wall texture, summoning a Sparrow vehicle will warp you straight through the wall and into no man's land.
Existing like Matthew McCaughney in Interstellar's finale, you're free to leap around the various area meshes that make up the level you're supposed to be on, until you drop back into a more fully-formed room.
Here you'll come across the "Ultra Captain", surrounded by many of his subordinates.
Though not a massively hard fight, the method of locating him makes the duel extra special. Just imagine a ton of MMO or action game bosses that required this level of ingenuity to track down.
6. The Buzzard Fortress - Mad Max
Destined to forever be one of the shiniest hidden gems of the 8th generation for the rest of time, Mad Max releasing on the exact same day as Metal Gear Solid 5 completely obliterated its reach.
Thankfully, the game is stellar, combat is meaty and satisfying, and the open world is filled with jaw-dropping storms for you to get caught up in. All of this creates a sense of sheer exploration, and before long you'll be testing the limits of what lies beyond the walls of the map itself.
Well, as The Triggered Cracker suggests - and was documented by Dan Allen Gaming, there's one prominent location that exists in the brown smush that is the eastern portion of the world map.
Journey here and you'll find what looks like a gang hideout. It's hard to access, but get inside the wreckage and you can actually descend into what's become known as the Buzzard Fortress - the HQ of the gang in question.
There are goons to pummel, crafting components to hoover up, and even a unique car you can drive - but not store - afterwards.
Maybe at one point Avalanche were going to do something story-related with this area, but left it off the beaten path for us Road Warriors to find instead?
Again though, Avalanche's Mad Max is supremely polished, gorgeously rendered open-world game with light survival elements and brutally impactful combat. It might skew towards genericism overall, but there's so much out there to track down, it's well worth visiting this particular wasteland.
5. Hidden Basement Room - Borderlands
Of all the games with all the loot caves and places to farm XP, Borderlands is one of the finest.
And while Borderlands 2 is the best of the bunch and 3 was a kinetic shooter with awesome mobility options and vehicles, it's the original that put the franchise on the map in the first place.
Case in point then, is Back Alley Night Cat highlighting the surprisingly detailed "hidden basement room".
Only possible during the mission "Another Piece of the Puzzle", once you're inside, you'll find a room housing an assortment of enemies, a silver and red chest, and a couple of references to the movie, "A Christmas Story".
First up is a Borderlands-spin on the iconic "leg lamp" from the movie, and next to the Christmas tree is a unique weapon called the Rider. Read the accompanying text and it notes you should be "careful" [because] you might put someone's eye out".
This is another reference to when character Ralphie receives his BB gun in the movie, where he's also cautioned in the same way.
4. Blue Hell - Grand Theft Auto
The original trilogy of 3D GTAs were revolutionary, and although I've been everywhere from Hyrule to the many quintillion planets of No Man's Sky, fewer titles made it feel like you could get genuinely lost in a WORLD on the other side of the screen.
Even better than exploring where the developers intended was what's become known as the "blue hell" - or the "abyss/underworld".
Mentioned by Panchunath Adhikary, it's a total freak accident on the part of the game, and these terms refer to the world that exists "below". Yes, maybe Jordan Peele was a huge fan before writing Us, but this space is accessible in every GTA including 5, through very specific methods.
Piloting a car or boat into specific parts of the game world, walking through parts that don't mesh together - many in San Andreas often use the jetpack to fly under the world, as falling too far will reset you on land again.
Brilliantly, this "abyss" does have some rules, and will change colour from blue to grey and back again, depending on the time of day.
3. Newcastle-Upon-Tyne - Driver
One of the best secret levels of all time - mainly because WhatCulture HQ is based around here - Driver on PS1's features a secret model of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
Based on the iconic North-East city - and props to LostMyGate for suggesting this - you could only access "the Toon" by using cheat codes on PC, or a GameShark/Xploder cheat cartridge, on console.
Once you were in though, Reflections had modelled a fair bit of the city, complete with what's known as the Tyne Bridge, parts of the waterfront Quayside, the red swing bridge, and even a "City of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne" sign.
Driver 3 pretty much killed this series stone dead, but if it ever came back, how about developer Reflections - now owned by Ubisoft - do us a solid and render what's known as the "friendliest city in the UK", in full?
2. Mexico - Red Dead Redemption 2
Centre of so many discussions around the idea of Red Dead Redemption being re-released using Red Dead 2's more advanced tech, you'll likely already know the entirety of the first game's map is sitting to the south-west of the second game.
However, whilst it's cool to visit this place, find the ghostly easter eggs and rekindle all those 2010 memories, you might want to go one further and hop into Mexico as well.
Whilst it doesn't come with that awesome Jose Gonzalez track, Far Away, commenter RareLibra points out you can still get to Mexico, and super easily.
First you have to have finished the game to unlock the bottom-left of the map, then all you need to do is take a horse directly over the San Luis river.
Now, you must leave leave from a VERY specific spot to the West of New Austin, right where the "Sea of Coronado" text is on the map. Here you'll be able to cross the river without drowning or getting turned back, but once you're across... that's you free to explore for as long as you like.
Red Dead 2's Mexico is pretty empty, but you can eventually make it to El Presidio - cite of many a gunfight in the original game, and thankfully rendered anew in the new engine.
1. Minus World - Super Mario
Lastly, one of the oldest boundary breaking secret levels in all of gaming - "Minus World", from the original Super Mario.
Mentioned by Nick Salerno, to access, you need to employ a very specific set of crouches and jumps while going through some pipes at the end of level 1-2. Literally, I'm talking pixel-precise placement. One pixel off and it won't happen.
If done correctly though, you'll appear underwater in what the game calls "World -1". Apparently it's supposed to be "World 36-1", but even that glitches out, so fans have lovingly referred to this as "Minus World" ever since.
Sadly there's not much to do, as besides the enemy and obstacle placement being the same as World 7-2, the glitch you invoked to get here de-spawns the pipe at the end, leaving you stuck forever.