Once upon a time, a popular, yet entirely untrue rumor popped up concerning Blizzard Entertainment's seminal hack-n-slash RPG, Diablo. Specifically, that there was a super-secret level players could only reach by doing something to the harmless cows in the town of Tristram. Some said players had to open a scroll of town portal, some said that players had to poke them (to initiate dialogue) hundreds of times, there were multiple variations on the theme.
The "Secret Cow Level" as it was referred to, was said to have the most powerful weapons in the game and super-powerful adversaries to use them on. Eventually the name got mixed up in the myth itself, and people said that the Cow Level contained cattle-themed versions of all the game's enemies, such as acid spitters which sprayed milk on the player, or Goatmen who were actually Bullmen, all led by the Cow King, an ultra-powerful boss said to be stronger than Diablo himself.
In Diablo II the cow level is at last a reality; accessible only by combining Wirt's Leg, the peg leg of Wirt (a resident of Tristram in Diablo) and a Tome of Town Portal in the Horadric Cube. This will open a red portal in the Act I Rogue Encampment, which will teleport the player to the Secret Cow Level. This level is accessible in both the standard game and the expansion, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, but only once Diablo has been defeated. The level is relatively small, a repeating wilderness area full of "Hell Bovines", cows that stand on their hind legs and wield large polearms or battle-axes while mooing angrily at the player.
The Cow King made manifest
In every instance of the Cow Level there is one unique Hell Bovine named "The Cow King" who drops some rare loot. While he still lives, the player can leave and come back as many times as he'd like, but after killing the Cow King, the portal to the Cowl Level will close the next time he returns to the Rogue Encampment, and the player will be unable to create any more portals to the Secret Cow Level on that difficulty.
In Diablo III there is, once again, no Cow Level. However, in the spirit of the Cow Level, there is a secret level called "Whimsyshire", a magical, colorful world of good cheer, which is occupied by unicorns, animated teddy bears, and happy flower creatures, all of which are psychotically murderous.
Treasures are hidden inside birthday presents, pots o' gold, smiley clouds and pinatas. Although commonly mistaken for a reference to the then-popular fandom of the children's cartoon "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic", Whimsyshire is in fact a reference to the negative reception the announcement trailer for Diablo IIIreceived because of what some gamers perceived as a lighter, more colorful art style than previous Diablo games, with much hate specifically focusing on a waterfall seen in the trailer which had a rainbow over it.
- In StarCraft one of the cheat codes was "There is no cow level" which would instantly win the current mission.
- Since the introduction of the 1.20 patch for Starcraft 2 clicking on the Battle.net logo at the top of the screen 11 times sends a player to the "Cow Level Chatroom".
- In World of Warcraft, players can acquire both the "Cow King's Hide" and "Wirt's Third Leg", a leather chest piece and mace, respectively.
- Blizzard still officially denies the existence of a Secret Cow Level, even in Diablo II.
Light Crusader on the SEGA Genesis could be considered the "proto secret-cow" game. This action-RPG contained numerous cows, and while there was not any single specific secret cow level, there were secret areas containing cows. It's not known whether Light Crusader was an influence on the later Blizzard action-RPG Diablo II,