What Are Video Game Cheats and Cheat Codes?

Some games have special tricks to help you

Two men cheering with raised hands, sitting in front of computer
Colorblind Images/Getty Images

In the world of electronic video games, the possibilities are endless. Video games have evolved from the point of basic two-dimensional action to full 3D worlds which can be sculpted by the players. That just makes them harder, though, to get through and sometimes people need help. That's where game cheats, game cheat codes and Easter eggs come into play.

What Are Game Cheats and Cheat Codes?

A cheat code is a button combination or password which triggers an event or effect within a video game. Cheats can be as simplistic as adding ammunition to a gun, or increasing a character's health, or changing the character to a completely different character.

You can enter cheat codes using a controller or your PC keyboard.

What Are Easter Eggs?

An Easter egg is a surprise hidden within the game (the history of the very first Easter egg is unknown), but developers continue to add them to games and players seem to enjoy scouting around to find them.

Finding an Easter egg can be incredibly challenging and almost as much fun as the overall game. Some are silly, some are rude or disturbing, some help you further your gameplay and some are just funny to find.

Here's an example of a game Easter egg: In Grand Theft Auto IV, if you steal a chopper and flyer over a specific mountain location after 7 p.m., you'll see a strangely familiar vehicle driving over the edge of a cliff. Surprise! It's a reenactment of the ending in the movie Thelma and Louise, complete with the ladies and a gaggle of police cars. You won't find it anywhere else in the game or any other time.

What is a Cheat Device?

In addition to cheats that can be entered through a controller or keyboard, there are also cheat devices. These pieces of hardware or software are made exclusively to help gamers enter cheat codes, or otherwise modify the game's contents. Some popular examples are Game Shark, Code Breaker, and Action Replay.

Some gaming studios will ban players caught using cheat devices and even cheats in general. For instance, Bethesda Studios, the company behind Fallout 76, barred a group of players it claimed were using third-party modifications to cheat. The company is requiring that the gamers write essays to reclaim their accounts.

Are Cheat Codes Safe to Use?

Cheats and codes are used by millions of gamers worldwide, and in general are completely safe to the system and game they are using. Manually entering a cheat code while playing a game will simply enable a portion of the game's built-in code so the desired effect will be achieved (i.e., invincibility).

There are times however that you may want to use caution enabling a cheat code. Cheat codes that require the use of downloadable files are particularly risky because only the person that made the additional code knows exactly what is being done when you use the file. Of course, you don't hear many horror stories about a cheat messing someone's system up, so you're probably safe.

It is important to note that the use of any code, either by entering it or using a patch, may cause the game to become unstable. The most likely effect will be the inability to save your game properly. Whenever there is a risk involved, it's usually made clear to the gamer on the individual cheat pages.

What Systems have Cheat Codes?

Almost every video game system created can use a cheat code in one form or another. There's a wide range of systems and titles covering the most popular consoles and handhelds such as PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC plus older versions of each.