Cohesive storytelling is a new thing in video games. The standard for nearly 30 years was to just fill the screen with whatever nonsensical lunacy lured the most quarters or sold the most copies, and even today it's hard for games to break away from that formula. So fans fill in the narrative blanks with their own theories, adding layers of meaning and symbolism the creators almost certainly didn't intend.
But occasionally, these crazy fan theories make a sobering amount of sense, sometimes more so than the actual games they're derived from.
#6. Donkey Kong Country Is Anti-American Propaganda
On the surface, Donkey Kong Country documents the journey of a well-dressed gorilla across 40 epic levels as he seeks to reclaim a hoard of bananas stolen from his family by a crocodile monarch who saw fit to leave them strewn across an entire island continent rather than keep them in a single giant fruit basket.
"No no, just throw all the bananas down a mine shaft. It's more fun that way."
The Crazy Fan Theory:
As explained in this video from the Game Theorists, Donkey Kong Country is secretly a piece of anti-American propaganda about the Banana Wars of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As that is one of the most baffling sentences in history, it requires a bit of explaining.
You see, after the Spanish-American War, the United States gained control of Cuba and Puerto Rico, giving the U.S. military a foothold in the Caribbean that it used to freely police several Caribbean states, such as Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Haiti. It frequently intervened on behalf of the United Fruit Company (now known as Chiquita Brands International), who illegally overthrew local businesses in those states to gain virtual domination of the banana trade (this is where the term "banana republic" comes from, which would later be used to unironically sell expensive clothes to yuppies).
Michael Gray, Via Wikimedia
We prefer our khakis with a generous helping of disenfranchised South Americans.
The theory goes that Donkey Kong Country is supposed to symbolize one of those Caribbean states (probably Nicaragua or Honduras), and all of its bananas are being stolen by an invading military force. Check this out: King K. Rool, the leader of the evil crocodiles, doesn't even like bananas, so that would suggest he's stealing them for some economically strategic reason rather than joyous gluttony. Same thing with the United States -- Americans don't love bananas so much as they love trade monopolies. And the president at the time of the Banana Wars was Teddy Roosevelt, a man often compared to a king, who had absolutely no problem beating the juggling Jesus out of any country that stood in the way of American imperialism, particularly those in the Caribbean. Roosevelt is King K. Rool -- even their names look similar when you put them side by side like that.
The game eventually has you fighting King K. Rool on a pirate ship, which seems odd (since he isn't a pirate) until you realize that the United Fruit Company and the U.S. military had a habit of enforcing their will with fleets of naval vessels. You're actually doing battle with Teddy Roosevelt aboard a U.S. Navy frigate.
Come to think of it, Roosevelt did have a cape like that.
Certain enemies in the game more clearly represent the U.S. military:
A later level reveals that the crocodiles are turning large portions of Donkey Kong Country into desolate oil fields, which is such a thinly veiled reference to American foreign policy that the final boss might as well be a giant neon cowboy in a huge pickup truck.
Yep. Two endangered species in a fight for their life against a flaming barrel of crude.
In actuality, the boss is a giant oil drum amid mountains of stolen bananas. So, pretty much the same thing.
#5. Mario and His Friends Are Just Actors
Mario and his pals have been in just about every type of video game there is -- platformer games, racing games, sports games, fighting games, role playing games, even Mike Tyson's goddamned Punch-Out, which is a racist boxing game:
Originally titled Super Foreigner Assault Sim.
The Mario gang is unique in the sense that they don't seem out of place in any particular genre, because we accept them in pretty much any role.
The Crazy Fan Theory:
According to a popular fan theory that's been floating around the Internet, Mario and his crew are just a group of actors playing whatever parts the various games require them to.
There's no way Toad is union.
We've already talked about the idea that Super Mario Bros. 3 is actually a stage play, but it goes beyond just that one game. Think about all of the games the Mario characters appear in: Sometimes the characters are bitter, face-pissing rivals (even Mario and Luigi are at each other's throats in Mario Party and Mario Kart), and sometimes they're working together (Bowser is one of the good guys in Super Mario RPG).
There he is in the back, waiting for his moment to shine.
There's no explanation for the lack of overarching continuity other than that the characters are simply performers. In fact, the levels in both Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine are called "episodes" and presented just like episodes of an extremely Japanese television series.
This picture is one bleach dye away from being Dragon Ball Z.
And let's not forget Super Mario Bros. 2, the game that famously has nothing to do with anything, as if David Lynch briefly grabbed the reins of the series and steered it into a peyote-soaked night terror.
Come to think of it, wasn't that thing on the bottom of the baby from Eraserhead?
You can even see a flying camera crew in several Mario games (like Mario 64 and every iteration of Mario Kart), filming the action while sitting in artificial clouds like the goddamned Truman Show.
Although Mario gives a slightly more believable performance than Jim Carrey.
#4. Animal Crossing Is Actually About a Child-Abducting Cult
Animal Crossing is about a kid who moves into a village full of talking animals and does chores for them, because Japanese video games tend to be completely insane. There are no missions or overall objectives -- you just sort of exist in the village, planting shit and talking to cats.
It's a wacky adventure of terrifying backrooms and harshly lit cat monsters!
The Crazy Fan Theory:
According to Games Radar's Brett Elston, Animal Crossing is all about a child being abducted and indoctrinated into a cult.
Animal Crossing begins with your character being forced to live in a village by a bizarre duck-turtle creature named Kapp'n, who is based on a kappa, a mythological Japanese creature that kidnaps children. In some games you just wake up in the backseat of Kapp'n's car on the way to the village, as if he drugged your juice box or hit you over the head with a blackjack, at which point he launches into the rapiest bit of pirate dialogue in video game history.
Seen here sparking an Amb-ARRRR Alert.
Once you reach the village, there is already a house set up and waiting for you, as if the whole village knew you were coming. But it's a crappy little hut with a stone floor, and your cruel animal neighbors immediately put you to work to pay it off, despite the fact that you could sleep outside in God's wilderness with the exact same level of comfort.
So now you're stuck in a village beneath a mountain of debt you didn't have any say in accruing, and you can't leave. If you try, you're turned away at the gates. You're now reliant on your captors for everything, and they never stop watching you. It's like The Wind in the Willows meets The People Under the Stairs.
This is the last warning before you wake up next to a horse head.
Even if you earn enough to pay off your home, the animals just upgrade it for you and bill you the difference, keeping you in constant debt (you have the option to say no, but they just ignore you and fix up the house anyway). The animals grind you into submission by making you repeat the same tasks over and over again while blocking your escape and acting like it's the most normal thing in the world. They're like a bunch of Stepford Wives in Disney's House of Mouse, and you're given no choice but to succumb and join them.