There's something so sweet about video game glitches. The transgressive thrill of breaking the rules, that tantalizing glimpse beyond the veil of what we were meant to see. The hilarious, trippy weirdness of familiar faces and environments that have become distorted and twisted.
Plenty of video games have freaky glitches that can be triggered during normal gameplay, but in the cartridge console era,hardcore glitchers could actually go one step further with a special, hands-on technique that could show you fantastic, otherwise impossible glitches—and also break your game.
Welcome To The Weird World Of Cartridge Tilting
Cartridge tilting can be done on any NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, Genesis or Game Boy console. Basically, it involves grabbing the game cartridge and wiggling it from side to side while the game is running.
Eventually you'd hit that sweet spot where the cartridge was only partially connected to the game console, blocking the transfer of information from the cartridge. This isn't something to be undertaken lightly—it could crash your game, corrupt or wipe your save games, and even break the console itself.
But if you were willing to risk it, hitting that sweet spot would bring glitches galore as the game flipped out, often resulting in weird animations and text corruptions. Here are some of the best.
'GoldenEye 007' Gets Down
GoldenEye 007 was a breakout hit on the Nintendo 64 that became wildly popular due to its slick multiplayer. But with cartridge tilting, you could turn this shooter into a crazy dance party, causing the guards to literally flip out and throw down some sick breakdancing moves.
This glitch was so popular that even 10 years after the game's releas, a video of the GoldenEye guards getting down to J-Pop became a hit meme.
Our favorite plucky plumber seems to be particularly susceptible to glitches in his games, and sometimes this is a good thing. But cartridge tilting can really mess with Mario, making the mushroom kingdom a little too shroomy.
In the above video, YouTuber willterminus plunges our platforming plumber into a world of torment. Mario loses his arms and legs and starts floating around helplessly as the game music distorts into the hideous cries of hell.
Even being made of paper can't protect Mario from cartridge-tilting players determined to shatter his reality. Not even his friends are safe.
Cartridge tilting in Yoshi's Story screws up the intro text into sinister-looking Cthulhu-speak. Thankfully, the game always crashes before any eldritch horror can be unleashed.
Cartridge tilting regular Pokémon games usually just crashes the game, but in some of the spin-off titles you can use it to turn your pocket monsters into pocket nightmares. Hey You, Pikachu for the N64 is particularly good for this, turning the titular Pokémon into an unholy faceless abomination.
See Emotional Hidden Messages In 'The Legend of Zelda'
I've written before about how developers like to hide secret messages in games, but cartridge tilting seems like a really extreme way to access them. Nonetheless, that's what some Legend of Zelda programmers did.
In Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, cartridge tilting enables the player to access a normally developer-only debug mode. Aside from displaying game information, you can see messages like 'Oh my God!', 'I love you!' and 'Congraturations' (sic).
Whether that's meant to be a secret declaration of romantic love or just an expression of thanks to the QA team, we're not sure.
Did You Ever Dare?
We've had fun distorting Nintendo's famous mascots, but even celebrity wrestlers aren't immune to being twisted through tilting. The N64 seems to be the console to try this on for best results, but even older models like the NES and Genesis can give you screwed up levels, distorted music and hidden lines of code.
Can't get enough of glitches? Check out our video of the coolest, trippiest video game glitches:
Do you ever risk it all to find video game secrets by using cartridge titling? Let us know in the comments!