One man’s quest to find out what’s behind every video game waterfall

Nintendo EPD/Nintendo

When Tristan Cooper started keeping track of whether or not a given game would let you pet its digital dogs, folks wondered why he cared so much about such a small detail. When it comes to video games, Cooper explained, players tend to have certain expectations about what they can do as they come across specific things.

“If you see a car in a video game, you’ll want to drive in it,” Cooper told Polygon in an email. “If you see a pond, you want to jump in (or fish). If you see a dog, you want to pet it. And if you see a waterfall, well, you definitely want to see what’s behind that waterfall.”

Now there’s a Twitter account to go along with this latent desire: Is Something Behind the Waterfall?, a feed that Cooper now keeps alongside Can You Pet The Dog?

Cooper, whose favorite waterfall resides in Mario Kart 64’s beach track, isn’t sure where the phenomenon started. The earliest possible iteration of a video game secret hiding within a waterfall that he’s aware of is the Nintendo Entertainment System’s The Legend of Zelda, but it’s possible that it started before that in the days of text adventures. Video games, Cooper said, aren’t where the idea of hiding something behind a waterfall started, though.

“It’s preceded in literature by Lord of the Rings, Tintin and Beowulf,” Cooper explained.

Whatever sparked the trend, it’s become one of those video game motifs, like a crack in the wall or a glowing orbs, that is now impossible to ignore. Developers love to hide everything from collectibles to entire sex scenes behind watery onslaughts, intent on rewarding players for their curiosity and time. It’s common enough that some developers have policies against using the waterfall trope.

“The average person will almost never have a chance to walk behind a waterfall, much less find treasure or some other secret behind it,” Cooper mused. “There’s a certain satisfaction in discovering a waterfall and then walking through, it’s the sort of small adventure you can only have in a game.”

You can follow along with Cooper’s catalogue of video game waterfalls on Twitter — I have a feeling he’s going to have enough material to fill up the account for years.


I feel like TLC made it really clear that this was something not to do.

They just said not to chase them. If catch them it’s fine.

I just lost some of my 90’s credit because the initial thought in my head was "why would the learning channel care about hiding stuff behind waterfalls?"

I feel like the fact that you still associate TLC with learning let’s you keep some of your ’90s cred though.

I really hope that this comment section makes an impact and that the developers of Undertale put a 2,000lb woman behind a waterfall.

If anyone was going to…

Yes, it’s a heavily used trope, but its very disappointing to check behind a waterfall only to find a wall.

Link to the Past has gaming greatest waterfall.

My man. <3

I used the trope in one of the games for my dissertation, and while my actual research didn’t quite pan out, there was a STRONG correlation between "experienced gamer" and "looks behind waterfall".

All in all, I enjoy Rage 2. However, one aspect I did not enjoy was finding absolutely nothing behind one of the game’s waterfalls.

I love the wonder that video games spark in people.

I suppose; or it can be a great indicator of who is in dire need of some Ritalin.

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