One of the more fun aspects of fiction is fan speculation. Not all questions can be answered, and this sometimes leads to surprisingly detailed and fascinating theories meant to explore the more unknown aspects of a story.
Video games are certainly not new to this, especially because of the way their visual nature can suggest even more than words. Since its early years, we’ve seen theories about video games arise from the depths of people’s curiosity, spiraling into a large number of ideas. Super Mario 3 is a stage play, Earthbound ends with an abortion analog, Squall is dead throughout Final Fantasy 8, and Majora’s Mask is meant to represent the 5 stages of grief are some of the most popular, but the list doesn’t stop there. Here are some theories from relatively recent games that suggest there’s more to the story than perhaps the main questline lets on. Be sure to share any theories you have in the Chatty!
Fallout and Skyrim Share a Universe
There’s one small easter egg in Fallout 4 that, if correct, could signify a massive connection between both Fallout and The Elder Scrolls.
Aboard the Brotherhood of Steel’s airship, you’ll find a hydroponics room containing a nondescript “experimental plant.” After reading the logs about the plant on a nearby computer, you’ll learn a handful of facts about it, including the fact it only grows by the water, makes an odd singing noise, is capable of healing, and has addictive properties. This also serves to describe Nirnroot, another plant from Skyrim with similar attributes.
The leading theory here is that even this small connection could prove to link the worlds of Fallout and Skyrim. But even more interesting is the theory’s most important detail: Fallout is, in fact, set in the past, while Skyrim is the future that has arisen from centuries of decay and radioactivity.
Limbo Never Ends
The indie darling Limbo is fostering secrets of its own. Once you’ve guided the boy through its noir grayscale world filled with all manner of horrors, you’ll reach the end, where you find the boy’s sister quietly playing in the grass.
But the end is in the same location as the beginning, with two distinct differences: in the beginning start screen of the game, we see the same scene, only this time the ladder in the right-hand side of the screen has rotted away significantly, and two clouds of flies have taken the places where the boy and the girl reside at the ending.
One theory posits the boy killed his sister and is meant to walk in this realm, re-living his horror on repeat for all eternity, while another instead suggests they both died simultaneously. Either way, this poor kid will be running away from a horrible spider for a long, long time.
Portal’s Chell is the Daughter of Cave and Carolyn
This theory references that the dialog of Portal 2 reveals a lot about a key handful of characters, including Aperture Science’s Cave Johnson and his assistant Carolyn, from whom GLaDOS inherited her personality.
The dialog shared between the two suggests their relationship developed into a romantic one, which may have envetually led to the birth of Chell, the silent protagonist in the Portal series. Poor Chell was eventually trapped in what remained of Aperture, now the toy in the hands of a malevolent AI obsessed with testing.
BioShock Infinite’s Booker DeWitt is Both Comstock and Andrew Ryan
BioShock Infinite’s ending is a somewhat confusing dump of info surrounding parallel universes, but one of the key things we learn there is that Booker DeWitt is also Comstock, the creator and ruler of Columbia. How? Within parallel universes, we can take many forms, whether we know it or not.
This theory is actually extremely credible. During BioShock Infinite, Elizabeth warps both herself and Booker to Rapture, the condemned underwater Utopia run by #1 Ayn Rand fan Andrew Ryan. In order to escape, Booker uses a Bathysphere, a mode of underwater transportation that can only be used by Andrew Ryan and anyone who shares a similar DNA code to his--like his son, Jack. If Booker was able to pull that off, it’s possible he also was preaching about the sweat of his own brow in another universe.
Mass Effect’s Shepard is a Reaper Pawn
Mass Effect 3 had a controversial ending. We know, we know. But this theory is so much larger than that.
The Indoctrination theory suggests everything Shepard does is completely out of their control, dictated by the very Reapers the galaxy worked together to banish.
One school of thought suggests this all began when Shepard was first exposed to the Prothean beacon on Eden Prime, which caused the Reaper’s influence to infect their mind. When finally faced with the final, fate-of-the-galaxy decision at the end of 3, you’re given three options, two of which are destroy the reapers or spare them. Oddly, the destroy option is colored red, while sparing them is marked in blue.
This seems like it should be a small, inconsequential thing, but red and blue have some significance in the Mass Effect universe. Paragon and Renegade morality options are labeled as such: blue for more valiant actions, red for rebellious, often violent. The fact that the reapers’ sparing is marked in blue, some argue, could suggest the Reapers have wormed their way into the mind of Shepard in an attempt to guarantee their success and survival.
Pokemon Takes Place in the Aftermath of a Great War
Ever noticed how there’s barely any middle-aged adults around in the Pokemon games? Especially men, who often show up as either very young or very old. And why is it there are so many single parents? Why are kids allowed to wander the world freely, without worry of school? And what, exactly, is Professor Oak studying?
There’s a theory here that explains everything. And although it’s barely mentioned in the game, it actually seems fairly possible.
This theory is built on the electric gym leader Lt. Surge’s comments about his Pokemon protecting him during the war. The thought is that a war between pokemon and humans (who also may just be more evolved pokemon themselves) took place in the not-so-distant past, explaining the high number of single parents and rarity of middle-aged adults, hospitals and training centers in every town, and why kids are able to roam freely and not attend school. Society is rebuilding in the aftermath of a great war, and Professor Oak is using children as tools to help him research which Pokemon survived the war.
Donkey Kong Country is a Commentary on American Imperialism
Bear with me on this one. Back toward the turn of the century, America engaged in what is known as The Banana Wars, named after America’s occupation, intervention, and attempts to control the formation and distribution of...bananas. It was one of the earliest examples of American imperialism, a land grab used for economic gain.
During this time, the United Fruit Company became one of the greatest offenders in the Banana Wars, leading to all manner of armed conflicts and spurring corruption in the name of bananas. No, I’m not joking.
Now, look at Donkey Kong Country, a game about a crocodile king stealing bananas from an unsuspecting family of apes. Why would a crocodile want bananas when they’re carnivores? Especially when King K. Rool eventually admits to hating the taste of them? Probably for his own economic gain, says this theory.
There’s further evidence to prove this is a game condemning America's actions in central America, including the gradual build to industrial levels in the game (industrial visuals are normally associated with American expansion), enemies wearing army fatigues, the King living on a pirate ship (there were gun boats often used during this time), and even the mine cart levels with broken railways (the American companies present during this time held a monopoly on transportation, including railways. When these railways were abandoned, they were always first destroyed so as not to be used again). Nintendo is never one to make a statement on politics, instead choosing a more one-size-fits-all stance of neutrality with their products. Still, the evidence that Donkey Kong Country is a playable political cartoon is pretty convincing.