Video games still haven't fully escaped the stigma of being mindless entertainment for young kids and dumb adults, especially in a decade where games about birds crashing into shit have been among the most played in the world. The fact is that a great portion of gamers don't give a crap about the stories. All they care about is which buttons to push and who to shoot ... and that makes it really, really easy for the developers to slip in disturbing details they know will go unnoticed.
But not by us, damn it! We've paid close enough attention to notice ...
(If you're up for some mindful entertainment, watch Cracked's new series Rom.com.)
#5. All Star Fox Pilots Have to Amputate Their Legs
Star Fox is Nintendo's second most popular franchise involving rolling barrels. In this series, you play a fox who travels through the stars (a Space Canine, if you will) and whose goal is to shoot things that are shooting him while ignoring the ramblings of a frog with debatable credentials. It seems like a fairly straightforward plot for a Japanese video game, but there's a darker element to this franchise, and it's hidden in the character design:
The choice to wear an ascot inside of a fighter jet is baffling, really.
Notice Fox McCloud's legs? Or, to be more exact, his lack of them? Yeah, it looks like Fox and friends all have metallic legs. It seems like a random detail they added to make the characters look cooler, but there's a disturbing explanation for it. In real life, fighter jet pilots and astronauts have to wear a G-suit -- tight clothing that prevents gravity from making blood rush into their legs. Without a G-suit, they'd just pass out, and studies have found that pilots are at least twice as bad at their jobs while unconscious.
However, the Star Fox games are set in a futuristic society populated by fashion-conscious anthropomorphic animals. The implication is clear: They had their legs amputated as a way to deal with intense G-forces that didn't involve sacrificing their precious open blazers.
The only question now is: Did "little fox" have to go, too?
And before you argue that the ships' G-diffusers take care of the gravity problem, let us pre-emptively outnerd you by pointing out that this feature wasn't introduced until Star Fox 64 (at which point Fox and pals probably felt kind of silly). And sure, Star Fox Adventures showed the characters wearing pants and boots, but that game wasn't developed by Nintendo, plus they could still have robot legs under there. Also, this would explain why Fox is so fast in the Super Smash Bros. games -- he's a freaking cyborg.
And we thought Jigglypuff's blatant steroid use was the biggest scandal in this tournament.
Nintendo has never confirmed this, so it remains a theory, but it's the sort of detail that a company that routinely puts nightmarish scenes in colorful games about jumping plumbers would be capable of coming up with. And so we leave you with the delightful thought that, somewhere in the Star Fox universe, there's someone whose job involves disposing of pilot legs.
#4. An Easter Egg in Uncharted 3 Means Everyone Dies
Sony Computer Entertainment
The Uncharted trilogy of games is about treasure hunters who go around exotic locales swinging on ropes and avoiding enemies -- it's Pitfall in 3D and with more shooting. Part of the charm of this series comes from its characters, like everyman adventurer Nathan Drake, action journalist Elena Fisher, and Nate's cigar-chomping mentor, Sully Sullivan. It's a well-rounded and charismatic bunch, and oh God, they're all going to die horrible deaths.
Seriously. In fact, according to a little Easter egg in Uncharted 3, they might already be dead.
Sony Computer Entertainment
Uncharted 4 will star Pitfall Harry and the dog from Duck Hunt.
The Easter egg is a simple eight-word phrase that almost wasn't included in the game. There's a bar fight early in Uncharted 3, and if you walk over to the counter after kicking everyone's ass, perhaps hoping for a refreshing post-brawl Fresca, you can see a stack of newspapers there. You can barely make out what the headline says, but this being the Internet, of course someone decided to zoom in on the image. This is what they found:
Sony Computer Entertainment
Wait, why do we love our pets? We must learn more about this mystery.
"Scientists are still struggling to understand deadly fungus." That doesn't sound very ominous, does it? Unless, that is, you've played The Last of Us (by Naughty Dog, the same studio as Uncharted), which is about a fungus-based pandemic that claimed about 60 percent of the world's population and threw everyone else into a frenzied, murderous panic. The Last of Us takes place in the year 2033, and the game informs you that this is 20 years after the initial outbreak. This means that we can pinpoint the year 2013 as the moment when everything went to shit and humanity entered into a hellish, mushroomy nightmare.
Sony Computer Entertainment
Don't worry, Ellen Page ripoff. It could be worse.
Uncharted 3 takes place in 2011 ... two years before the fall of humanity. What if fungal infections were simply in the developers' minds when they made these games (maybe one of them visited a brothel) and they didn't mean anything by it? Nope: Naughty Dog confirmed that the connection is intentional and that they actually meant to remove the newspaper, since Uncharted 3 came out before The Last of Us was formally announced, but just forgot about it. So, because someone neglected to erase one small item (or maybe forgot to change the headline to "Everything Is Fine, Don't Worry"), Nathan Drake and possibly everyone else you liked from the Uncharted series are currently dead, mindless zombies, or having a really shitty time.
Oh, and speaking of games set in depressing apocalyptic wastelands ...
#3. Pikmin Takes Place in an Empty Post-Apocalyptic Earth
Pikmin is an impossibly cute series about a tiny alien who uses a bunch of even tinier plant-like creatures (the titular Pikmins) to collect things and solve challenges. As you play these games, you never really pay much attention to your surroundings, since 1) everything happens on an incredibly small scale, 2) you always have like 12 Pikmins going around doing stuff, and 3) seriously, those things are just too goddamn cute, to the point of being distracting.
What were we talking about? Oh, yeah: Uncharted 3.
If you do look around, you might notice that even though the planet the alien protagonist is visiting looks a lot like ours, it's suspiciously quiet and empty-looking -- and that's because Pikmin takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth where everyone is dead. It never comes right out and tells you this, but the series is full of clues to bring players to this idea. For starters, a lot of the "treasures" that you collect are things used by humans and brands that we recognize, despite the fact that there are no people to be found carelessly chucking batteries into a lake.
If you dig long enough in the desert stage, you come across 20,000 ET Atari cartridges.
Things such as cans, bottle caps, and flip phones are collected and brought back to your ship to scrap for parts. And if you're thinking, "Well, maybe the humans are just hiding" -- no, they're not. In Pikmin 3, the geography of the planet that has been the setting of each game is finally revealed to us through an overworld map. The game never treats it like a big deal or specifically points it out in any way. It's simply known as PNF-404, and it looks like this:
"But our continents don't look like that!" No, you're right. They don't right now, but PNF-404 is almost an exact match for Pangea Ultima, the approximation that scientists of today use to determine what Earth's continents will look like in 250 million years. Here's a handy comparison:
So, not only are they saying that Pikmin takes place in a humanless future, but, considering that the relics you find 250 million years in the future are on par with our current technology (there are no holo-phones or Mr. Fusions laying around), it's implied that whatever caused the human extinction occurred around our current time. Happy Pikmin-ing!