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Hidden Golf game built into the Nintendo Switch pays tribute to late Nintendo President


Not every piece of tech news is based on new products. Sometimes some new discoveries crop up in things you might already own, such as when hackers this past weekend discovered a hidden game built into every Nintendo Switch that can be unlocked in a peculiar, yet touching way.

Kind of like that weird Snail Maze game that you could play on the Sega Master System by starting the system up without a cartridge and inputting a secret code, the Nintendo Switch was recently found to hold its very own hidden game. The secret game was uncovered in July after hackers dumped a list of system files from the console. One of the files was called “flog,” and it turned out to be an NES emulator meant to run digital versions of old Nintendo games. “Flog,” as it turns out, is “Golf” backwards, and, sure enough, this emulator was packaged with a special version of the 1984 NES game Golf. 

Many assumed that this emulator was a hint of Nintendo’s plans to eventually re-release their older titles on the Switch, much like their Virtual Console service on past systems. This version of Golf even seemed to support motion controls using the Switch’s Joycon controllers, a feature that has never been implemented with Nintendo’s Virtual Console library of games in the past.

The secret Golf game was initially thought to be inaccessible by conventional means, which sparked a brief obsession within the Switch hacking community to find a way to officially unlock the hidden gem. Outlandish theories included reaching specific levels of battery power in the controllers to purposefully overheating the system. Eventually, hackers narrowed down the method to setting the system’s clock to a specific date and executing a specific motion command with the Joycon controllers. Hackers began to wildly test different motions, with some joking that the testing was forcing them to get their daily exercise in.

The actual method for unlocking Golf was eventually discovered this past week. The Switch console must be set to July 11th, and, in most circumstances, that date must be reached naturally. If you go into the settings and change the date yourself, the console will know that you changed it, locking you out of Golf. The only way to cheat in this manner would start with a fresh Switch console that has never been connected to the Internet to check for the real date and time. You then must take a Joycon controller in each hand, bring them up to the sides of your face, and slowly move them forward. These seemingly arbitrary actions will then grant access to the hidden Golf game. However, there are few hints out there that the unlocking conditions are anything but arbitrary. It’s actually kind of heartwarming if a bit somber.

July 11th, 2015 is the day that former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata passed away. The man was celebrated for not only his contributions to Nintendo but the incredible mark he left on the entire video game industry. He was always a key figure at Nintendo, even when he started as a simple programmer for the company. In fact, Mr. Iwata was the original programmer for the NES Golf. The elusive hand motion used to unlock the secret Golf game seems to match up with Iwata’s signature “Direct” gesture that the late Nintendo president would often use in his “Nintendo Direct” video presentations. He would raise his hands in front of his face, palms facing each other, and then gently thrust them forward, “directly” at the viewer.

Many have already come to the conclusion that this secret game is a tribute to Satoru Iwata, a way for every Switch console to carry on the man’s legacy. Be it a deliberate work of the Switch’s development team or the secret actions of a single respectful Nintendo engineer, it’s a suitable tribute to Mr. Iwata. And, hey, I bet it’s a fun game to play, too.

Watch the clip below to see for yourself!

Read more from Alfredo, our Technology Contributor.