Video games have long been subject to rumors about secret levels and alternate worlds hidden just out of the player's view. Urban legend states you can access these secretive grottos by entering the right code or performing acrobatic feats in-game.
There's a kernel of truth to the legend known as "The Minus World" in the original Super Mario Bros. This forbidden, watery world is indeed hidden well out of sight, but it's not a fully-programmed level Nintendo included for daring players to find. It's simply a glitch, which is why "World -1" traps you in a loop instead of letting you exit and proceed to World -2. The precise workings of the Minus World glitch are a bit technical, and people much smarter than me already explained it in-depth.
It seems Super Mario Bros isn't the only NES game with a Minus World, though. YouTuber SKELUX recently unlocked a kind of Minus World for The Legend of Zelda by fooling around with the game's hexadecimal values.
"In hexadecimal, a byte above 127, or '7F,' can be read as a negative value. Nintendo used this as a means to cut [Zelda's] map size in half and make sure the player doesn't walk out of bounds," SKELUX explains. "That means everything [south of the game's starting cave] is quite literally the 'Minus World.'"
If you attempt to access The Legend of Zelda's Minus World by using a cheat code to walk out of bounds, you're simply teleported to the starting area. SKELUX bypassed the lock-out to show off a bizarre, mixed-up world filled with glitched-out sprites, misplaced enemies (Zoras in the desert, y'all), and vicious NPCs. There are areas of this Brave New Minus World where palette-swapped Merchants take the place of Moblins and Octorocks. There are also graves everywhere, which adds to the glitch's "Creepy Mirror Hyrule" vibe.
SKELUX's exploration of The Legend of Zelda's Minus World is unsettling, but it doesn't become downright terrifying until he visits a merchant and grabs the Water of Life (which grants a limited-use life top-up) instead of the permanent Heart upgrade. No! Nooooo!
Future videos on SKELUX's channel will show off "Minus Worlds" in other Nintendo games, so if you love watching childhood favorites get cracked wide open, keep an eye out for additional treks into uncharted digital lands.
The Legend of Zelda is an older game—over 30 years old, actually—and it's clearly still alive and well in people's hearts and minds. This newfound Minus World demonstrates how people still mine the adventure for secrets, while players looking for a more conventional (if extreme) challenge opt to perform "No Sword Runs" that involve getting to the end of the game without gathering up the sword offered by the old man in the starting cave. It's no wonder The Legend of Zelda earned a place in the Top 10 of USgamer's official Zelda game rankings.