3. Sheng Long in Street Fighter
Before the internet, the only widespread way of getting solid videogame information was magazines. When rumors were flying that there was a secret character in Street Fighter 2 (due to a translation mistake for the US release), EGM came forward to confirm the existence and detail how to get the character of Sheng Long to appear, in their April 1992 issue (part of their notorious series of April Fools jokes). However, for young, impressionable, naive gamers everywhere, the April Fools part of the reveal was completely lost on them. Many went through the arduous process detailed by EGM to get to the character involving playing the whole game as Ryu without taking any damage, then fighting M. Bison without giving or receiving any damage, only to get nothing. EGM didn't even reveal the joke until December of that year, giving some players 8 months of misery and confusion.
They did it again in 1997, for the release of Street Fighter III. This time, people were more skeptical, but the bottomless fountain of hope amongst Street Fighter fans to finally encounter Sheng Long overcame the skepticism for many, only to be burned again.
The final, cruel straw came when Capcom itself hinted that Sheng Long would be playable in Street Fighter IV. These are sad times when a new character is a joke, and DLC costume colors are a reality.
2. 24th Cheat in Goldeneye 64
Goldeneye is actually party to a few major hoaxes/urban legends: the secret base across the bay in Dam (which does exist and is visible through the sniper scope, but unable to be traveled to since the method of getting there was cut from the final release), the mysterious Spyder gun (named in the instruction manual, but renamed "Klobb"), and the fabled 24th cheat.
The 24th cheat is essentially this: there are 23 cheats available for Goldeneye 64 built into the game, split into two rows. Because of the format of the cheats, it looks like there's one missing (since the slot is open) once you've obtained all 23 cheats. Even if no one had told you about the rumors of what the 24th cheat was, you would assume you were still one away from completing the cheatlist.
There were two theories of what the 24th cheat was, Line Mode and All Bonds Mode. What gave credence to the All Bonds Mode (which would allow you to play as previous incarnations of James Bond in multiplayer) was an early screenshot that actually showed the iconic Sean Connery-in-a-white-tuxedo version of Bond. And to add fuel to the fire, EGM Magazine made it their April Fools rumor in 1998. Again the rumors were all fake, and no such 24th cheat existed. Although we can always hold out hope there's a No Oddjob code out there somewhere, just waiting to be found
1. Pokemon Black
No, not that Pokemon Black. This was before the release or even the announcement of Black & White. This was something sinister.
Legend had it there was a specially modded version of Pokemon Red/Blue, called Pokemon Black and it's creepy as hell. The game begins very much as Red/Blue did, with one exception in addition to your chosen starter Pokemon, you have another Pokemon, caled "Ghost" and you cannot remove it from your party. It's represented by the unidentified Ghost sprite you see before obtaining the Silph Scope, and it knows one move, called "Curse" (although not the same "Curse" move present in later generations of Pokemon). And when you use Curse on wild Pokemon, the screen will simply go to black and you would hear a low-pitched cry. When the battle screen came back, the opposing Pokemon was gone. When used against a trainer's Pokemon, they would be left with one less Pokeball.
What was happening was you were actually killing Pokemon. And it gets worse.
If you used Curse once all the trainer's Pokemon were gone, the overworld trainer sprite would be gone, replaced with a tombstone. Yikes.
There's more to the game (eventually, the game flashes forward to decades in the future everyone in the world is dead but you, now an old man. Then Ghost reappears and curses you), but that's not the point of this. The point is it's not even real. But the incredibly detailed and fascinating story drew in a lot of people. You can still find copies of Pokemon Black (Creepy As Hell Edition) floating around on eBay, and they never are what the legend promises they are.
The beauty of this hoax is that it taps into some of our deepest fears Pokemon is a series about terrifying violence and fighting in a world absent of consequences for your actions. No one is ever permanently hurt or dies (well, maybe your Rival's Raticate ), and this game promised a true change to the status quo.
Of course, it was fake. The good ones are always fake.
At least we don't have to ever wonder whether it's worth trying to slog through 100 matches unharmed in Mortal Kombat just to get some dumb nude code. Nowadays we can just download a nude mod.