Har, har, har.

If nothing else, you can’t say that gaming culture doesn’t maintain a riotous sense of humour. Year by year, from the publications to the pedestrian,  it seems that we in the business of of horsing around are always fated to fall victim to far-fetched farce in an industry where the ludicrous is often certifiable. Who would have believed the Hot Coffee mod in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was legit? But it was. More recently, when the out-of-the-blue trailer for Halo 4 launched, so too did fans remain reluctant to what also turned out to be a genuine newsflash. The fact is, the nature of gaming media is all too often explosive and reactionary, so gamers tend to get taken for a ride every April 1st when a respectable online source confirms the Holy Grail of bulletins. There are tons of great memorable moments of mockery to pick from, but after much deliberation, the following ten are our top 10 April Fools’ gaming pranks.

10.  The Wii Helm

Lethargy was lifted to another level the day Think Geek posted the announcement for this couch potato cornerstone. What exactly was this faux device, you ask? Put bluntly, the player strapped Nintendo’s Wiimote to a specially-fitted helmet and… presto, now you could keep playing while you ate your dinner – talk about working obesity overtime. Question: wouldn’t the co-ordination required to move your head and keep the food aligned with your mouth be more effort than just taking five minutes and finishing your meal?

9.  Sonic & Tails in Melee

Reportedly, Electronic Gaming Monthly held that by taking out 20 wire frame enemies in Super Smash Bros. Melee’s Cruel Melee mode, the Sega speedster and his fox friend Mr. Miles Tails Prower would become unlocked as playable characters. Now, mind you, this was 2002.  Sega’s 90’s glory days may have been behind them, but the company was still riding the first-party push of the Dreamcast, not yet resorted to third-party development, and so were still in the console war with Nintendo. I only make note of this because it was about as likely to see Sonic on a Nintendo system as it would be to see Master Chief on a PlayStation, or Link on a PC. It’s crazy to think that six years later, the fantasy would become fact and the blue ball would make it to the brawl after all.

8.  Premature Duke Nukem Forever Review

A 15-year development hell made Duke Nukem Forever infamous as the game that would never see the light of day, and indeed, until September 2010, another decade in the Duke dustbin as vaporware seemed all but certain. In that time, there were plenty of hoaxes confirming the return of the hyper-hormoned macho maverick, notably one April Fool’s review of the game by GameTrailers, which praised the title as one of the greatest games ever to be released… {scoffs and snickers}. If only we knew then the destined result of our longing lust for the lewd and crude.

7.  The Terra-tron

StarCraft fans shat their pants when Blizzard announced the Terra-tron unit, a parody of a Transformer-slash-Power Ranger megamorph, that fused together from your entire base! The virtually invincible mech even came equipped with buzz-saws for arms, and cannons that could launch reaper units. The Terra-tron is not necessarily a prank, as it did become available in the Galaxy Map Editor, and it’s not particularly hilarious, but it makes the list because of its inventiveness, and the fact that it’s pure, unadulterated awesomeness.

6. Legend of Zelda Movie Trailer

If ever you had prayed for a Legend of Zelda movie adaptation, IGN’s fake trailer was bitter-sweet. It was produced just well enough so to make it believable, but half-assed enough that even if it was real, you knew the movie was going to be sh*t. Two minutes of trailer cliches were topped with a hilariously silly portrayal of Ganon. Some have argued that we’ve reached the point where game-to-movie translations have become a redundant afterthought, with advanced graphics and storytelling making games like Mass Effect as cinematic as they’re going to be. It’s joke trailers like this that make you hope that contention is true.

5.  Oblivion’s Horse Armour

Ah, back in the day, gaming was a simpler sport. Before the pervasive onslaught of online downloadables, you had a cartridge, you pop it in your machine, and you play… simple. In 2006, DLC was still a new thing, and no one wanted to be the guinnea pig, charging people for additional content. Quite frankly, they didn’t know what to charge for it.

That’s where Bethesda came in, slapping a 200 Microsoft point price tag onto a bit of flashy plating for your virtual steed in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Yep, roughly 5 bucks for some shiny armour. Even Bethesda knew they eff-ed up, in retrospect anyway, because come April 1st, they announced that all of their Oblivion DLC had been reduced to half price, except the horse armor, which they doubled in a chuckling nod to the naysayers. The greatest part of the prank: the sale was real, so if you were stupid enough to pay 10 dollars for some useless e-gear, you were free to.

4.  All Bonds Cheat

Electronic Gaming Monthly has abused April Fool’s like no other print source can ponder. They’re legendary for laughs, and consequently more than one of their pranks has made its way onto this list, so let’s move on to another piece of lying lore that later turned out to be true – though, unlike Duke Nukem Forever, which turned out to be a flaming pile of penis puns, this is awesome. Okay, so, GoldenEye. No doubt you’ve heard of the 1997 FPS that revolutionised the genre and paved the way for your Halo’s and COD’s of today? Well, in one April issue, EGM noted that you could unlock every predecessing 007 in what was the All Bonds Cheat (not including Daniel Craig of course). Turns out that despite the jest on the magazine’s part, using a Game Shark could indeed unlock said likenesses and have you kicking Brosnan-ass as Connery. Shocking.

3.  DOA Xtreme Beach Nude

Japanese digital perverts, we salute your creepy appetite for voyeurism. Tecmo is notorious for giving their babes breasts bigger than their damn heads, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Let’s be honest, did anyone picking up Xtreme Beach Volleyball actually care about the horrendously boring gameplay. No, we just wanted to see hot women feed each other strawberries and bounce around in bikinis… that’s it. Another EGM ploy, in 2003 the magazine claimed that playing the game in less time than was actually possible would let you play with the girls topless. Those brilliant bastards took advantage of our fap-fap-fapping fantasies. Well played, EGM, well played.

2. Luigi 64

Aside from occasionally sitting my toddler ass down to play Toy Bizarre on my parents’ old Commodore, the first game that really introduced me to the medium, and definitely my first 3D console experience, was Super Mario 64. No triple jump can master the limits of that platformer’s impact. Not only did it help to stabilise what was otherwise to be a dominated and technologically outdated Nintendo 64 (sad to say it, but the PlayStation was handing it to the nearly-obsolete machine), but it single-handedly defined the essential experience of this new future in 3D gaming. To spare the jargon, it remains one of the most important games ever made, if not the one of the greatest, which is why the Luigi 64 rumour, fueled by Nintendo and IGN, stirred  up a surly hive.

The gossip claimed that Yoshi wasn’t the only cameo easter egg hidden around Peach’s castle; Luigi himself was rumoured to be playable! In the courtyard, gamers read the pixel-problematic plaque on the star statue as ‘L is Real’, which, in fact, shoddily reads out ‘Eternal Star’. It was a clever manoeuvre by Nintendo to peak people’s interest in the game. Despite the skepticism, to this day Goomba geeks worldwide try their best to expose the unlikely, and that’s a time-honoured testament to how awesome that game is.

To date, there has only been one bit of April Fool’s folklore more steeped in legend, and his name… is Sheng Long.

1. Sheng Long

Devised out of a mistranslation, no character in the history of video games has achieved more mainstream attention and fame, who doesn’t actually exist. Confused? Sheng Long was conjured, without official endorsement, out of speculation in 1992 by none other than – surprise, surprise – Electronic Gaming Monthly, those sneaky S.O.B’s. Taking advantage of the arcade Street Fighter’s wrongfully decoded in-game text, which implies that Sheng Long is a person, rather than one of Ryu’s special moves, EGM’s legendary sham of an article wrote that Sheng Long was in fact Ryu’s master, and that he could only be encountered and engaged via the impossible.

The player had to advance Ryu through the entire game without taking a single hit, and once you got to M. Bison, you had to provoke a stalemate by neither dealing any damage to Bison, nor taking any yourself… for 10 tiresome rounds! Only then would Sheng Long step in and initiate the ultimate easter egg of death-matches. Now, who in their right mind would even attempt that?! All the same, many have tried, and if you did somehow accomplish the incredible task, you would be dreadfully disappointed.

Due to a lot of careless journalism that ripped off EGM’s alleged unlock without bothering to authenticate it, the simple joke went from modest to mythic, spurning inspired characters like Gouken and Akuma in later Street Fighter games. The gag even made a return in the magazine’s 1997 edition, in the wake of Street Fighter III. For all the subtle hints of its counterfeit, Sheng Long was the Orson Welles radio broadcast for our industry. It fooled us all, and thus earns its spot on the top of our list as the greatest pun and prank in the history of video game publication.

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