RetroVision – The Mystery of Missingno

Pokémon Red, Green and Blue held many secrets, such as the legendary 151st Pokemon Mew, and the hard to get Tauros.  Yet none were more rare the “Pokémon” that was never meant to be there in the first place, the infamous Pokédex #0 Pokémon, Missingno.  That’s because rather than being a Pokémon, Missingno is actually a glitch within the game that Game Freak and Satoshi Tajiri never intended to appear.  In fact Missingno has gone on to become one of the best known glitches gaming history.

Due to its nature as a glitch, Missingno doesn’t actually have a true appearance, instead having various appearances.  Most people who know of this elusive quasi-Pokémon will know it as the backwards L-shaped scrambled code.  Oddly this version actually holds the traits of being a dual normal / flying Pokémon, similar to Pidgey and many other Pokémon.

Missingno
The most commonly known version of Missingno

So I suppose you’re wondering how you cause this infamous glitch to appear?  Well it’s not something that you would happen to just come across by accident, well not unless you are extremely unlucky, or lucky depending on how you view it.  This is because the sequence of events that are required for the glitch to occur, are so precise and random that most players wouldn’t do this, let alone even think of it.  Yet this is vitally important to why Missingno has become so famous, because every single player can make the elusive glitched Pokémon appear, by simply completing these actions.

Firstly players must head head to the northern part of Viridian City and talk to an old man now commonly known as “Old Glitch Man”.  Let him teach you how to catch Pokémon, and then immediately fly to Cinnabar Island.  Once on Cinnabar Island you’ll need to head to the eastern side of the island and surf along the shore.  Importantly, you can’t leave the shore and enter the sea properly.  If all this is done correctly, one of the Pokémon that appears whilst surfing along the shore may quite possibly be the elusive Missingno.

Surf Cinnibar
Surfing along the shore on the eastern side of Cinnabar Island

Now as I said earlier, what most may not realise is that Missingno can also appear in variety of other forms, with this depending largely on the player’s in-game name.  These alternative forms include a scrambled square in Pokemon Yellow, the ghost from the Pokémon Tower in Lavender town, and even taking the form of the fossil Pokémon, Kabutops and Aerodactyl.  Missingno can also appear at any level, even well over the cap of Lv 100.

Even the name is something that wasn’t planned, with Missingno actually being a misnomer for “missing number”.  You see this is because without going into the deep programming of the game, Missingno is in essence a randomly programmed Pokémon that is thrown at the player when the game’s core programming doesn’t know what Pokémon it’s meant to create.  What’s more, again due to what’s going on in the background, this small area next to Cinnabar Island is the only location where this extremely rare occurrence can happen.  And this can only happen after speaking with the old man in Viridian City, due to complications in the way that the character’s name is stored.  Hence why Missingno’s appearance can alter based on your name.

Missingno Forms
MIssingno’s Various Forms

Despite being somewhat convoluted and extremely rare, you may be questioning what all the fuss is about.  Well obviously Missingno’s rarity is the primary reason why many have gone searching for the glitch, alongside the fact that it can surpass the level limits of every other Pokémon.  However, on top of this, when caught Missingno will cause the sixth item in the bag to be multiplied, thus people would regularly use this glitch to repeatedly clone powerful items such as the Master Ball and Rare Candies.  Furthermore, the glitch can also allow the player to manipulate which Pokémon will appear, and at what level.

This all sounds to good to be true though doesn’t it?  Well that’s because it is.  Just like most things that seem to be too good to be true, Missingno does come with some nasty side effects, side effects I have seen for myself first hand as a child.  Missingno can cause the game to completely glitch out displaying scrambled graphics (something I experienced until I released the Pokémon), can corrupt the Hall of Fame data, and in the worst case scenario corrupt the player’s save data.  Nintendo were so concerned at one point they even released the following statement on the matter:

MissingNO is a programming quirk, and not a real part of the game. When you get this, your game can perform strangely, and the graphics will often become scrambled. The MissingNO Pokémon is most often found after you perform the Fight Safari Zone Pokémon trick.

To fix the scrambled graphics, try releasing the MissingNo Pokémon. If the problem persists, the only solution is to re-start your game. This means erasing your current game and starting a brand new one.

Though it could be argued that they were just trying to scare people away from cheating.

Nevertheless, Missingno has become a part of Pokémon lore, with many fans not only considering the Pokémon to be an established part of the Pokémon Universe, but even going as far as to give it a ‘true form’ linked to its usual dual normal / flying type.  On top of this, many fans have come up with theories surrounding it’s appearance.  These include linking Missingno to the ghost in Lavender Town, and suggesting that Missingno actually represents Pokémon that didn’t make the final 151 cut.  With the latter being suggested due to the unique cries that it can have, combined with the fact that the term ‘Missingno’ represents invalid Pokémon that were programmed without an index number.  Either way, Missingno may ultimately have never been planned, but ever since its first appearance its really been here to stay.

Misingno Fan Image
One fan’s vision for what Missingno’s true form could be

Simon Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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