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The Truth About The Cow Level Legend In Diablo

Somewhere out in the world is a lapsed gamer whose knowledge of video games starts and ends with "StarCraft," who still believes that "there is no Cow Level." Those very words function as a cheat code that allows players to instantly skip any mission in the "StarCraft" campaign, and at the time of that game's release, that statement was true: The term "Cow Level" simply referred to an area (just full of cows) that fans theorized was accessible in the original "Diablo" by clicking on an in-game cow a number of times. The Cow Level, however, was as real as Sheng Long in "Street Fighter 2" — in other words, not real at all.


In "Diablo 2," the Cow Level did, in fact, become a reality. The method for opening a portal to the Cow Level is somewhat obtuse, but unsurprisingly, that didn't prevent players from figuring it out for long. With that, the hunt for the mythical Cow King was on. It was almost impossible for players to believe that Blizzard took a goofy fan legend and made it into a playable part of the game. That said, the Cow Level mythos extends beyond these three classic Blizzard titles, as well as beyond the confines of Blizzard's catalogue and into other franchises entirely, making it one of the most far-reaching inside jokes in gaming.

From fan fiction to fact

While the idea of a Cow Level was first a rumor (or a joke), and not rooted in anything actually present in "Diablo," that rumor caught the attention of some Blizzard employees, who found it amusing. An early acknowledgement of the Cow Level legend came in the Sierra-developed expansion called "Diablo: Hellfire." A quest called "Jersey's Jersey," only accessible by adding a file to the game's directory outside of the game proper, included a character in a cow suit. Then came the "StarCraft" cheat code, which was the first time Blizzard openly referenced the Cow Level urban legend. 


The first look at the actual Cow Level included in "Diablo 2" was posted, suitably, on April Fool's Day in 1999, leading fans to question whether or not it would be a real feature of the game. Instructions detailing how to access the Cow Level were first shared on July 4, 2000, just four days after Diablo 2's June 30 release date.

Let there be cows

Once Blizzard made the references to the Cow Level legend into a recurring inside joke, most Blizzard games thereafter started to include varying degrees of Cow Level content. "Diablo 3" featured a Cow King-centric quest that led players to a new unicorn-themed level called Whimsyshire, which was designed to troll fans. Subsequent patches added a proper Cow Level, confusingly/appropriately called "Not the Cow Level."


"Hearthstone" eventually added its own sort of Cow Level, in which players competed against a Cow King Hero. "StarCraft 2," meanwhile, includes a secret Cow Level chat room that adds a "moo" to the end of messages. "Warcraft 3," "World of Warcraft" and "Hellgate: London" (made by ex-Blizzard developers) all included references to Wirt's Leg, one of the ingredients needed to open the portal to the original Cow Level in "Diablo 2." "World of Warcraft" eventually implemented its own version of a Cow Level, as well. Since then, even games outside of Blizzard franchises, including "Goat Simulator," "Minecraft Dungeons," and "Marvel Heroes" all worked in unexpected Cow Level references. However, Blizzard itself seemingly broke the tradition with the release of "Diablo Immortal."


Diablo Immortal is cow-less

When "Diablo Immortal" launched in 2022, one of the first questions gamers had about it — besides "will it be pay-to-win?" — was whether or not the devs would find a way to work a Cow Level into the mobile title. More than a year after the release of the game, players continued to wonder if a Cow Level might still be in the game, particularly since Blizzard still included some fun jokes about the urban legend. 


Most notably, a common loading screen passed on including the usual tips and hints for gameplay, and instead told players straight up, "There is no cow level." Naturally, this outright denial only made players more certain that a Cow Level was either hidden in "Diablo Immortal," or else would eventually be added in an update. This has not yet come to pass, however. Thankfully for longtime "Diablo" fans, Blizzard has hinted that the Cow Level may return in another game.

There is no cow level.
u/omgthediaz in

Cows slayers in Diablo 4 hold out hope

"Diablo 4" was released in June 2023, at which point players almost immediately began looking for a Cow Level. It took until Season 2 of the game launched for players to start seeing their first real hints towards the return of this urban-legend-turned-playable-tradition. Upon killing 666 cows in the game, players earn the hilariously-named Items of Great Significance, which can be turned into a special key.


IGN asked production director Tiffany Wat and associate game director Joe Piepiora about these mysterious items and the cows that it took to earn them. Though the outlet only received some cryptic and amusing responses from the "Diablo 4" team, the chat certainly added more fuel to the Cow Level fire. After joking about the fact that players are just going around killing cows in the hopes of triggering a special event, Wat said, "if people have picked up any items from their cow campaign... cow slay-age campaign... they should hang on to them."

Though nothing has been confirmed just yet, players continue to hold out hope that the Cow Level will become accessible in "Diablo 4" in the near future. It may be a bit of a wait, though, as the game's "Vessel of Hatred" expansion won't be arriving until the later part of 2024.