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A debug menu is a section of a game that game developers use for testing a game and that can usually allow one to do actions unavailable in the actual game. Debug menus that have been left on a game's data are normally only able to be found using hacking devices such as the Action Replay or GameShark, but some may be found through glitches in the game or through cheat codes. Super Smash Bros. Melee, a popular game for the GameCube, has one of the more well-known debug menus. Some of the most popular debug menus are the ones found in many of the Sonic the Hedgehog games.
Many games have simple debug menus or debugging options built in that can only be activated by hacking. Developers, however, typically remove most of the debugging options from the final version. Versions which haven't had these options removed are called debug or developer versions. Usually these are not released to the public, but they are occasionally leaked. These versions generally contain extensive amounts of debug features, most of which are accessible from menus or simple button combinations. They may also contain additional unused content that is not present in the final version, such as test levels, and may use different data storage methods such as not compressing their files. These differences make these versions highly sought after by hackers, who can take advantage of the features and changes to easily locate and reverse-engineer the game data.
Types of Debug Menus
There are different types of debug menus. Each one of them has different feature.
A crash debugger is a type of debug menu that it is only accessible by crashing the game while doing a button combo. These debug menus shows stats of the game that tell you which level you're on, which character are you, how many lives you have and more. A crash debugger also tells the info on the game such as the version of the game you have and the date of the version of the game was made. Examples of crash debuggers include The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Super Mario 64 DS.
Gameplay Debug Menu/Debugging Console
These debug menus test the gameplay such as increasing or decreasing the gravity, adjusting the health of the character, changing the character, choose the level, adding the character, and more. This can be done before the level starts or during the level. Examples include Super Smash Bros.'s Combat Debug, Super Smash Bros. Melee and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Master Quest.
System Debug Menu
These debug menus make changes to the game. System Debug Menus include all the cutscenes, all the sound effects, animation test, and what version the game is and when the version of the game is made. Examples include Super Smash Bros. and Earthbound.