The best free games hidden in other games

Zork's opening screen, with white text on a black background.

Screenshot: Activision / MobyGames

Activision had a long time to get as terrible as it is today. It was created in 1979, over four decades old, and along the way horribly absorbed all kinds of other developers and publishers. One of those acquisitions was Infocom, the early masters of text-based adventure, which Activision bought in 1986. (And then closed in 1989, because it still was.) By purchasing it, Activision has obtained the rights to the classic. Zork series of adventure games and has kept them ever since.

So if you play either call of Duty Black Ops Where Black Ops Cold War, and using the computer terminal at the CIA hideout in East Berlin, you can type “zork” in its text prompt and play the entire 1980 game.

Zork was first created at MIT in 1977, played on the DEC PDP-10 mainframe, its four programmers then founded Infocom in ’79. It was first released in 1980 and then ported to various personal computers throughout the 1980s, along with its sequels, each showcasing a blend of the era’s booming dungeon mastery with a healthy dose of humor via its absurd FrobozzCo products.

But above all, it’s fun to imagine a die-hard Cod gamer stumbling over it and completely losing himself in his fantasy text-based world.

Oh, and I should probably add that the further you get into the game, the more other old Activision games appear on the arcade in one place. Over there you have Pitfall !, Pitfall 2, Barnstorming, Boxe, Chopper Commando, Enduro, Fishing Derby, Grand Prix, Kaboom !, and River raid.

So yeah, these are my favorite secret games in games. Are there any missing here who are near and dear to your heart?

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