A lot of classic arcade games have straight-forward, logical plots that drive them: Turtle dragon stole your woman, stomp mushrooms until he gives her back. That's cool; we're on board with that. But some of these other classic, seemingly self-evident games actually hid madness and dementia behind their fun, childish veneers.
What we thought was going on:
We all know the story of Donkey Kong, right? It's just the plot of King Kong, Japanified: Giant ape escapes, kidnaps a woman, runs to the top of someplace high, is put in its ape-place by a plumber who isn't entirely clear on his job description.
"Well, there's your problem."
The WTF Backstory:
Except that Mario is the villain in Donkey Kong.
According to the game's manual, Donkey Kong was actually Mario's pet ape. Without even venturing into the shaky moral and legal issues of primate ownership, it gets way worse from there: The reason Donkey Kong escaped in the first place was only because Mario was abusing him. That's not our accusation; the manual spells that out, plain as day: "[Donkey Kong] is actually [Mario's] pet who was mistreated." The manual doesn't get really specific as to exactly how DK was being abused -- presumably because even jaded 1980s game designers figured that was some heavy shit to lay on a kid -- but it's not hard to fill in the blanks: Here's a screengrab of Mario sticking Donkey Kong in a cage, chaining him up, and what's that in his hand? A whip?
Isn't this basically how the Planet of the Apes got started?
The poor beast suffered years of physical abuse and neglect, can you blame him for reacting poorly when he finally got his shot at freedom? We don't blame the abused dog if it bites the mailman, can we blame DK for grabbing Mario's girlfriend, Pauline (safe to assume also an animal abuser, if only by proxy) and simply running away? He didn't even hurt anybody, he just ran. And we all know what happens next: Mario, possessed by the invincibility of rage, hurdles every obstacle in the pursuit of his frightened pet -- barrels will not stop him, fireballs will not stop him, ramshackle construction sites will not stop him, nothing will stop him, not even death (he's got extra lives) -- until he slowly but surely chases down the cornered, abused, terrified monkey, and drops him from the top of a skyscraper.
Teaching children around the world a valuable lesson about pet care.
We should probably tell you that the Donkey Kong of today -- the one seen happy and healthy in all the current Nintendo games? Rare made a very specific point of mentioning that he's not the original DK; that's his son. Now, they're not outright saying what happened to the original Donkey Kong, but it's best not to look too closely between the lines.
Because you'll probably find Mario there, covered in ape-blood, screaming in unearthly fury.
"When they talk to you, you just fell down the stairs, right?"
4Super Street Fighter II
What we thought was going on:
A bunch of characters fighting one another in a martial arts tournament. That's a wholly encapsulated backstory right there: Here are some dudes (and dudettes). They are in a tournament. They would like to win said tournament, and plan on doing so via the liberal application of punching. It's like Bloodsport, but with fireballs. We're done here, right?
Although we wouldn't mind learning the backstory behind that one-piece.
The WTF Backstory:
You get hints of crazy throughout the game (especially if you were the kind of lonely child who played fighting games single player and actually saw the endings) but the depth and complexity of Street Fighter's completely needless backstory still might surprise you. To find it, you need to grab the character bios from the obscure Street Fighter role playing game. Here's a glance to give you a hint of the scope of M. Bison's backstory, for example:
We always assumed his backstory began and ended with "steroids".
M.Bison, the man holding the tournament, who you thought was just kind of a dickhead -- maybe a dickhead with some kind of military background -- actually has a larger agenda: He's only hosting the matches in the first place so he can corrupt the street fighters with his psychic abilities.
All that crazy shit he can do in the game, like flying horizontally, bursting into flame, or wearing absurd power-lesbian shoulderpads? It's all the result of psychic abilities that he's developed ever since he found a meteor in a cave and started sleeping above it.
Step 1: Sleep on a rock. Step 2: Burn half-naked women with your thoughts.
Bison also heads an evil organization known as Shadoloo, which he took over with the help of his power-meteor, and the whole point of his plan to psychically corrupt martial artists is to eventually recruit them into said organization. How does this weirdness affect the actual gameplay? Well, let's look at Cammy:
Ok, that's long enough -- she's a cartoon, you sick freak.
If you're the kind of person who worries about spoilers for a twenty year old fighting game, you should probably click away now (we suggest visiting whatswrongwithmypriorities.com).
If you beat the game with Cammy, she's revealed to be a double-double agent -- that is to say, she thought she was working for the British Special Forces as an undercover agent in the competition, but that's only because she has amnesia. In reality, before she lost her memory, she actually was a member of Shadaloo, as well as M. Bison's brainwashed lover.
Above: The least appropriate use of a cheering crowd in video game history.
When Street Fighter takes place, Cammy is 19. According to her backstory up there, she suffered her bout of amnesia -- the one that made her forget her torrid love affair with Bison -- starting at age 18. Which means that fun little fighting game round you just played? Where you thought the story was "beat that guy because you're supposed to beat that guy"? Yeah, that was actually the brutal revenge of a psychologically traumatized amnesiac with sexual identity issues (punching dudes while wearing a thong falls a little outside of even Great Britain's freaky sexual norms) against the psychic pedophile that hypnotized and molested her as a child.
Wasn't that fun? Put another quarter in, kids!