Hello Master Malstrom
Now that I think of it, there weren’t that many game secrets because most games had arcade roots. You either had the eye hand coordination and memorization to finish the game or you didn’t.
I found out about all the secrets of Super Mario Brothers from someone telling me about it. But the game had been out for a while when I bought it.
I bought Super Mario Brothers 3 when it was released. I did discover two of the warp whistles on my own. One warp whistle was removing a rock on the map screen in World 2. Another was the whistle in the fortress in World 1. In the Wizard, everyone remarks how the kid could find the whistle (I saw the Wizard on a TV repeat after Mario 3 came out, certainly didn’t see it in a theater). After Super Mario Brothers, everyone was trying to walk on every ceiling you could. This was easier with flying. In the first fortress, you could walk on the ceiling but you got stuck part of the way. That was odd. So you try to jump. But still nothing. So you start pushing buttons. And one of those buttons is ‘up’ and you entered the room with the Warp Whistle.
Games cost money back then too. If you bought a game, you played the hell out of it. If you got stuck somewhere, you kept trying to get past it. There was much persistence back then.
Games back then were not ‘grindy’. They did not grind away your time in order to finish the game. The only games that did that were Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy where you walked around in circles, killing monsters all day, to level your characters. All other video games were either based on information (Lolo, Shadowgate) or memorization-of-patterns (platformers, shmups). Games did not require a minimal *time* in order to beat.
It is curious you think it was ‘wasting time’ looking for a secret such as a hidden world. It was the magic of the game. You would find something and be floored by it. Once you knew you could go down a pipe in Super Mario Brothers, you tried to go into ALL the pipes.
I feel sorry for gamers today. They waste so much time doing repetitive tasks. Games were far more intense back then. Gamers were so focused concentrating, and the games could be extremely frustrating. Today, I find games don’t require much concentration and certainly aren’t frustrating. Gamers, today, seem more passive. As if they are closer to watching TV than playing a game.
In terms of my experience, the one that stands out to me most is Shadowgate. I remember being unable to pass a room and have to ask friends about what to do next. Much of the time they didn’t remember well so the answers I got were hazy.
Why don’t you give it a try yourself? Get an emulator and play Shadowgate NES. Do not look up walkthroughs or anything on the Internet. See how far you go.
Above: How far can the emailer go? This excellent review shows off how fun Shadowgate was.