A Question for the Readers #10: Something Bugging You?

Glitches, bugs, programming mistakes – whatever you call them, they are present in nearly every game imaginable. Even big-budget AAA titles have glitches to be found if you know where to look. Sometimes, they’re harmless, amusing errors. In other cases, they break the game’s difficulty in ways the programmers didn’t intend. Then there are those glitches that break the game in the worst way imaginable.

And in worst case scenarios, the entire game can be said to be a glitch.

They’re not always bad, though; in fact, it’s these imperfections that contribute to making the medium so endearing. In fact, certain glitches even get embraced by the creators wholeheartedly, and are subsequently turned into features. Though I can’t say I’ve ever encountered a glitch severe enough to irreparably damage my cartridge, like other enthusiasts, I have stumbled upon quite a few odd ones over the years.

Part of the reason I could attest to the game-breaking glitch in Super Mario Bros. 3 when I reviewed it last Sunday was because that happened when my brother and I played it back in the nineties. We made it all the way to World 5 only for the airship to relocate itself to the unreachable spot seen in the above screenshot. Needless to say, we were extremely frustrated that we had to shut down the game.  The reason this one is notable for me personally is because it was the first time I recognized a game could be imperfect. I was so used to games doing the exact same thing each time in response to your actions that it never occurred to me that programming errors could exist in a finished product.

The first generation of Pokémon is probably the most universally beloved in the franchise. It has also aged rather poorly due to its terrible balance and rather dubious programming. To be fair, the latter of which is understandable given the hardware they were working with and the ambitious scope of the project. Even so, it’s actually kind of amazing in hindsight that people managed to get through those games without encountering a glitch at all.

I’m not one of those people, for as a kid, I got the bright idea to see if I could hold more than 99 of a single item. I quickly found out the answer is a resounding no. Weirdly, the game doesn’t prevent you from trying; I withdrew items after having 99 of them in my inventory. What happened next could only be described as the complete and utter collapse of the game world. Eventually, my character couldn’t move. Because I was brimming with excellent ideas, I decided to save in that position and see if resetting would restore order. Again, the answer was no. From there, I had to restart the game. The only silver lining is that it was back when I didn’t mind replaying games I really liked.

King’s Quest II is the game that introduced me to adventure games. In hindsight, it’s not particularly good, being a classic example of an adventure game made difficult due to its unduly cryptic nature. Even so, there is a particularly amusing glitch present in the pictured screen. The lake in the bottom-right corner of the screen is poisonous. Whether Graham attempts to swim in or take a drink from it, the result is the same: death. Drinking the water results in a unique death animation, but there’s one problem: the developers forgot to freeze Graham in place when it plays out. This means if you type “drink water” while moving and are close enough to the water, the death animation will play while Graham continues to move in that direction. Normally, this wouldn’t save him, but if you position him close to the edge of the screen, he will move to the next area before the death animation can complete itself, producing this bizarre result.

Graham is now floating on the poisoned lake while the death animation loops endlessly. As long as he’s in this state, he cannot actually die from the poison he ingested, and you can continue to move him around as though nothing is wrong – most commands still work in this state. The only downside is that attempting to proceed with the game will likely result in it crashing due to understandably having no idea what to do in this bizarre situation. Fortunately, you can take advantage of Graham’s newfound ability to float on water by making your way to the castle situated on the island of the poisoned lake without the ferryman’s assistance. The only downside is that if you haven’t made enough progress, you will have trapped yourself in a terrible situation because while the ferryman appears one screen south of the castle regardless of the game state, getting to him without immunity from the poisoned brambles is incredibly frustrating.

King’s Quest III is notable for casting an entirely different protagonist in the lead role. Gwydion is a slave to an evil wizard named Mannannan. His goal is to escape captivity and find out who he really is. Among the wizard’s possessions is a magic map, which teleports Gwydion to any screen of the overworld he has visited. Normally, usage of the map is disabled under certain circumstances. For example, you cannot use it to escape fatal situation such as falling off the edge of a cliff. However, there is one curious exception to this rule.

If Gwydion falls off the edge of a platform and survives, he will enter a dazed state for a few seconds. This is one of the situations for which the magic map is disabled, but the programmers didn’t account for every instance. In some screens, you can still bring up the magic map.

If you close the map rather than opt to teleport anywhere, Gwydion’s dazed animation continues to play endlessly. Like the above case with Graham getting poisoned, you can amusingly move him around normally, though the animation has a noticeably larger hitbox, precluding him from reaching certain areas. Unlike the above case, there is no practical reason to do this. Luckily, it’s simple enough to fix; simply use the map to teleport to a different screen and you’re good to go. On the other hand, you can glitch the game even further by attempting to climb the staircase in the final area, which will cause Gwydion to fall endlessly. Though amusing, this disables both the text parser and the map, rendering the game unwinnable.

So now it’s your turn.

What are some of the strangest glitches you’ve ever stumbled upon playing games? Bonus points if they’re not extensively documented.

36 thoughts on “A Question for the Readers #10: Something Bugging You?

  1. For some reason this one from my childhood in Sonic the Hedgehog on Game Gear (and SMS) jumped to mind and I managed to find a youtube video of it. Kind of a mild mannered glitch. When I was a kid I thought it was an intentional part of the game, some kind of “Super Fast Sonic Mode”. On Green Hill one pick up the power boots, then go back and roll down the ramp. The combined speed boost of the boots and the ramp propel Sonic faster than the screen can scroll so he ends up disappearing and then the level kind of “autoplays” until you catch up with him at the end of the stage. I’m guessing that as the level ahead of the screen isn’t loaded in then Sonic can just keep moving with that speed uninterrupted by hazards until he hits the hard limit at the end of the stage.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think I heard that in the Genesis version, you can lose a life doing that because the game thinks Sonic fell off the bottom of the screen. I’m not sure if it’s in the original Game Gear version, but I remember playing the emulated version on the remake of Sonic Adventure only for the game to randomly reset in the Labyrinth zone. It’s possible that I accidently somehow induced a soft reset, but it only ever seemed to happen in that particular stage.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sadly, I can’t think of too many glitches that I have encountered that I think would be considered glitches. The major one is the one you mentioned from Super Mario Bros 3, and I only remember one of my friends getting that one while I watched one day.

    There are two that I can actually remember. One was back in Lufia 2 on the SNES with an optional boss called the Egg Dragon that was supposed to be super hard to kill. Due to its HP being at the maximum for the SNES’ register or something like that, if you used a healing item on it before attacking, the HP would wrap back around (resulting in an HP of, like, 20) and you could kill it in one attack.

    The other was in Zombies Ate My Neighbors where when you destroy a certain vending machine in one of the levels, you can use the ‘remains’ as a trampoline to bounce to another part of the level despite no trampoline actually being there.

    Those aside, though, most glitches I run into involve MMOs or something where an item doesn’t appear and the game needs to be reloaded so it will. Nothing too special. I agree with you, though, that sometimes the glitches are a charming part of the game design- even if sometimes they’re also a pain that makes you have to play an entire game over again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can assure you that as bad as it was to watch it happen, it is even more frustrating experiencing it firsthand.

      That is exactly what happens in that fight; the Egg Dragon has the maximum amount of HP and there’s nothing stopping it from wrapping around if you cast a healing spell on it. There was a worse glitch in the North American version in which an entire area is glitched beyond recognition. It’s easy enough to circumvent, but it really is a case of “How on Earth did this get past playtesting?”

      Never heard of that one from Zombies Ate My Neighbors, but it sounds like something speedrunners could take advantage of.

      With “massive” being in the genre’s name, I’d say glitches are inevitable. It always seems as though the more open a game is, the more glitches you’ll find. It was especially noticeable when Metal Gear Solid 4, a linear game, didn’t have that many to speak of whereas Metal Gear Solid V had quite a lot of them. I think my favorite glitches are the ones that developers end up enjoying only to incorporate them into their work; I think that’s how we got the combo system in the Street Fighter series.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I remember that glitched area, too! Never saw it myself, but I caught it in part of my research into glitches one time.

        That’s really interesting that you say that about the Street Fighter series. I might have to look into that further, but I’m not totally sure I understand the connection on my own.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Not many are springing to mind, but I’ve recently had one in Spider-Man in which the spidey sense indicator is stuck on. It’s pretty annoying, but maybe it’s an observation that deep down Peter Parker constantly feels under threat.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Speaking of Spider-Man, I was clearing a base in the game and somehow ended up in a closed shipping container unable to get out. It was funny because the shipping container was modeled on the inside, which I found strange… I mean who is going to see the inside of a closed container.

        A friend of mine also somehow fell through the floor of the world. His video of it was hysterical, it was like he was under ice as he could see the city up above him but he couldn’t get back up to it. He could keep swinging but that was it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • A lot of developers go the extra mile when it comes to crafting their works. In one of the Fire Emblem games, there are conversations that are inaccessible because they involve characters conversing on the battlefield, but the circumstances make it impossible for them to occupy adjacent tiles.

          Uh-oh! Looks like your friend got Daggerfall’d! Funny how that glitch seems to pop up in various games. Did he happen to post the video?

          Something tells me that a lot of those glitches will end up getting patched out by the time I finally get around to playing it.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, glitches… The most recent ones I’ve come across that were entertaining were in the PS3 version of Dragon Age: Inquisition. My inquisitor almost fell off a short wall, but I tried to stop the fall and jerked the joystick backwards. She was then stuck in this ragdoll-scarecrow like pose, and move around the area by floating a few inches off the ground. Eventually, actually falling off something was able to reset the animation.

    The other one was later, in the Velance temple, after Leliana finds the box the Divine had left for her. I was sick, and I paused the game and took a nap that went on longer than expected. The console shut down, and when I came back, the Inquisitor was sealed in the secret room in the temple, which has no way out and a door that only opens by interacting with a series of objects on the other side of the room. Apparently no one cared about the Inquisitor and left her there to die, but opening the map and “fast traveling” managed to save the day.


    • Too bad you didn’t record that; it sounds like it would’ve made for an entertaining watch.

      I do like it when one can exploit the fast traveling option. I’m pretty sure you can teleport in midair in Breath of the Wild, for example.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think I have a cell phone video of the scarecrow one… I’ll have to check if I took a picture of being trapped in the room.. This was on the PS3 and was pre-recording set-up so screenshots were not something I was able to get easily. But yeah. It was entertaining once it was over and I realized it wouldn’t destroy my save file haha.


  5. I know Mass Effect: Andromeda is a bad, glitchy game. I know that. But honestly, if the game hadn’t had those glitches, I would have ended up hating it instead of loving it. Those laughable glitches made me adore how derpy the game was.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t played Mass Effect: Andromeda, so I don’t know much about it. Nonetheless, I have indeed heard it is something of a mess. I can also see where you’re coming from; earlier this year, I ended up playing through Ride to Hell: Retribution. While it does indeed deserve its status as one of the worst games of the 2010s, it is a far cry from the worst game I’ve ever played (that would be the NES Dragon’s Lair) entirely because watching how broken it was got a few laughs out of me. Though I awarded it a 1/10, I highly doubt it will be in my bottom ten in the grand scheme of things.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was playing The Witcher 3 and making by way through Crookback Bog off-road. As I trudged through the swamp, Geralt stepped into a small pit that brought the water up to his chest. I walked in circles for minutes on end, trying in vain to find some sort of escape from this shallow, watery prison, but to no avail. I lost over an hour of progress. Maybe it wasn’t a glitch in the traditional sense, but it hurt nonetheless.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’m not entirely sure if this is a form if glitch, or just a developer shortcut that was never removed from the game. In Stardew Valley, almost every item has an index number, shown as a three digit number in square brackets (e.g. [123]). Should these indexes appear in character dialogue in the game, the allocated item to the index number is placed in your inventory. This can easily be abused by purchasing an animal and naming it with the item that you want to obtain. Following the transaction the index number will be read and you gain the items. Simply rinse and repeat and you can easily earn a lot of money in no time.
    Knowing this certainly makes it easier to obtain specific achievements if you don’t want to invest the time regularly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, that does sound like a developer shortcut. I usually don’t mind finding that one combination that breaks the game’s difficulty, but that sounds a bit ridiculous. It reminds me of the glitches present in Gen I Pokémon; there was a lot of exploits to be found when using index numbers and naming characters a certain way.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve fallen through walls and got stuck in environments in many a game, let me tell you. Also glitches where I can’t interact with needed quest items in the environment are annoying… Happened to me in Dragon Age Origins and Inquisition. Thankfully it wasn’t for mandatory quests so not game breaking.

    A recent cool one for me was in Mass Effect Andromeda. I somehow glitched my Ryder through a cliff I was climbing, and the “Jumped over 30 meters” PlayStation trophy was awarded to me for some reason. Whatever! I’ll take it even if I didn’t really earn it, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now that you mention it, I do remember falling through the ground in Oblivion. Then again, given the immense number of bugs in the average Bethesda title, it’s to be expected.

      Apparently, there are quite a few bugs in Andromeda, though I haven’t played it myself.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I have played SMB3 hundreds of times, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that glitch. I had to google it, since I didn’t understand what was going on. I guess its surprisingly common.

    As for glitches, my favorite is easily MissingNO from the original Pokemon. As a pokemon, its not very useful in your team, and it causes annoying glitches in other parts of the game, but the idea of this forbidden pokemon that just sort of accidentally evolved out of the game’s code without the developers knowledge creates a certain mystique to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can see people going entire playthroughs without seeing it occur; I personally have only witnessed it once – and that was on the original NES version.

      MissingNO is a classic. I never risked my save file to see it happen, but one of my favorite LPs on the Let’s Play Archive is one that sees the LPer show off various glitches in the Blue version – all without using a GameShark or other cheating device. There is something intriguing about a character who exists in the game code, yet cannot exist in gameplay – almost a Schrödinger’s Cat situation.


  10. Nowadays I rarelly encounter glitches in the games I play, granted I never buy AAA games on launch when they have the most bugs, but my experience with glitches and such has been mostly fun.

    As a kid I was taught a trick you could do in the Game Boy Pokemon games that allow you to clone Items, Naturally I went on to clone a bunch of Master Balls and Rare Candies, in retrospect, cloning Rare Candies was more tedious and probably more time consuming than plain old grinding.

    There Is also an useful bug in Mario Sunshine where you can keep a fruit in midair by dismounting Yoshi before he eats it, when he uses the tongue whip again it teleports to his mouth and eats it. Quite convenient for that infamous boat jumping sequence in Delfino Plaza or that mission in Rico Harbour.

    These are my favourites, in Smash Bros Melee you can keep an oponent floating helpess in midair for an indefinite amount of time by using a special grab sequence with the Ice Climbers making a sure victory move (It is banned in competitive obviously). The other much funnier one is with the character Ness which can make a hitbox remain active constantly, esentially making ness a walking explosive force that hurts you with mere contact, that’s only half of it, you can blast an oponent immediately from the other side of the stage, or litter the battleground with hazards. There is also a very rare glitch where a character falls through the floor of the Pokemon Stadium stage, It happened recently at the top 8 finals of an competitive event and it was a riot.


    • Getting AAA releases on launch day is indeed a gamble. Then again, that’s technically always been true if my point on Super Mario Bros. 3 is anything to go by. If anything, it was worse back then because these issues couldn’t be patched out. It may stink to be an unpaid beta tester, but at least the companies can release patches.

      Being able to clone items in Pokémon is a classic trick, and I think I’ve heard of that Super Mario Sunshine one.

      I would be so mad if that glitch cost me a victory; on the other hand, I would be astounded if I was the one who benefited from it.


  11. To this day I’m still not sure if it was a glitch, scripted or me seeing things. I looked online and couldn’t find an answer to which but I think it was a glitch.

    In the horror game Condemned you eventually meet up with a character called Rosa. She then tells you to follow her and so, that I started to do. Now at this point in the game, its psychological elements and trickery were in full swing so this is what made me think it was scripted at the time.

    As I was walking behind her I was doing that thing we all do when bored following an NPC which is mess about. Running round her and zipping from shoulder to shoulder while she talked. I then started walking closely behind her right shoulder. That’s when it happened.

    She looked over her right shoulder at my character but her head was further than it should have been. Her head looked like it was clipping a bit. She then smiled this creepy smirk and then her head returned back to normal.

    To this day I’m unsure if that was a psychological effect, except I can’t find it online. Or whether my random movements caused her to bug out at the worst possible time. Maybe she wasn’t smirking, maybe my mind saw that when she almost did an exorcist on me. Whatever it was as soon as it happened my heart plummeted and I just stopped playing for a few seconds. Best jump scare of the game!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the weirdest thing about some of these glitches – a lot of them aren’t extensively documented. I tried seeing if anyone else discovered those King’s Quest glitches, and it doesn’t appear as though anyone did.

      Ah, you see, psychological horror games are a prime genre with which you could implement glitches on purpose. We’re so used to games having predictable functions that when they begin doing their own thing, it can be very unsettling – almost like an Uncanny Valley effect. I’ve never played Condemned myself, though I heard it’s something of an underrated gem. Either way, I doubt you imagined it.

      I remember playing The Last of Us only for character animations to load improperly. It wasn’t scary at all though; it just made me think “Whoops! Don’t think that was supposed to happen!” A similar thing happened when I played the HD version of Uncharted; I remember one time in which I had Nathan jump down a short drop only for his character model to float in the air. When he hit the ground, it counted as a death because that time floating was being measured as drop distance.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. In Fallout: New Vegas, I ran into a glitch where one of my companions lost the ability to run. Anywhere he went, he would just walk. In battle, plodding between his spots. This applied to fast travel, too. If I fast traveled to a place, I’d then have to sit there and wait for 8 to 10 hours of in-game time to get him to actually show up. It actually ended up choosing my direction in one of the game’s biggest moral choice points, because that was the only way to get another scene with that character that would have broken him out of his insistence on walking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmm, I wonder what caused that to happen. I’ve had characters not go through their animations properly, but nothing like that. It’s pretty annoying that the glitch would have more of an impact on that decision than any actual in-universe variables. For that matter, it kind of breaks the immersion. Granted, it’s a Bethesda game; it’s as though every single sidequest of every single game they’ve ever made has at least a few glitches. I’m fairly certain my character fell through the ground at one point when I was playing Oblivion.


  13. The oldest glitch I remember hearing about was in the original Pac-Man. I was too young at the time to play it, but my brother had all of the ghosts chasing him and when he went through the edge of the screen they all got stuck lol.

    The only glitches I can personally recall are all helpful ones from Final Fantasy. The Vanish-Doom trick from FFVI and the W-Item glitch from FFVII where you can get infinite items. There’s a similar one in FFIV, too where you can equip a weapon from the battle screen then escape and you’ll have two of that weapon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That reminds me of one video I saw of somebody playing Pac-Man. They somehow manipulated the ghosts in a way that prevented them from leaving the pen. For that matter, I am positive that when I played the game as a kid, I actually managed to phase through the ghosts a number of times, though that glitch is more well-known.

      That Vanish/Doom trick completely destroys the game’s difficulty, doesn’t it? I never heard of that FFIV glitch, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It really does. The only thing I’ve noticed it doesn’t work on is the Intangir on that little triangular island in the World of Balance. They always hit you with Meteo when they die so unless you have over 1000 HP or it misses, you’re screwed.

        Yup! I remember I saw it on one of the walk-throughs I was using. You can pretty much duplicate anything so pick your most expensive selling weapon and make a fortune or have a shit ton of things for Edge to throw!

        Liked by 1 person

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