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The earliest pioneers of the video game medium did not give a shit about storytelling. Your character moved from point A to point B, occasionally murdering enemies for no reason -- there, that's your entire plot. But as the medium evolved, the developers began telling more and more complex stories, which posed a problem: How do you reconcile the mindless insanity of your franchise's early chapters with the sophisticated plots of today?

The answer is: not very well. Sometimes, the more they try to make sense of a video game's story, the more it becomes a convoluted mess only a complete maniac could understand. That's how we end up with continuities (if you can call them that) like ...

5
Metroid -- Samus Has Killed The "Last" Metroid Like Three Times

Nintendo

The premise of Nintendo's Metroid is basically Ridley Scott's Alien as filtered by Japan: You're a kick-ass lady in robot armor trapped in a space labyrinth full of aliens, most of which look like sentient hors d'oeuvres. Couldn't be simpler, right? Unfortunately, the Metroid series' continuity is about as convoluted and hard to navigate as these games' maps.

Metroid Recon
Why can't Metroid make sense?

All told, Nintendo has released nearly a dozen titles in the Metroid series, spanning 25 years.

Of course, that's in real-world time. In Metroid time, only about two weeks has apparently passed between all the games, because the protagonist, Samus, looks exactly the same age in all of them. This is in contrast to series like Half-Life (Eli and Kleiner noticeably age between HL1 and HL2) and Metal Gear (the craziest plot they could do next would be Solid Snake maintaining an erection). The seemingly short time span covered by the series is contradicted by the fact that "Samus kills the last Metroid" is an event that happens three separate times, in addition to murdering enemies like Ridley and Kraid several times each.

Nintendo
The anxiety of coming back to life so often makes poor Kraid overeat.

We might have a better idea of how much time passes if the series' canon wasn't a Gordian Knot of discontinuity. The original 1986 Metroid (and 2004's Metroid: Zero Mission, which is just a tarted-up version of that game) comes first in the chronology, but after that, it quickly devolves into chaos. The Metroid Prime trilogy (2002-2007) allegedly takes place between Metroid and Metroid 2 (1991) -- except that, no, that can't be right, because in Metroid Prime there are log entries that refer to the destruction of the planet Zebes, and that doesn't happen until Metroid 2's direct sequel, Super Metroid (1994). This same bit of information about Zebes is reiterated in the official Metroid Prime comic, where Samus is also surprised to find a live Metroid ... even though she doesn't kill all the Metroids for the first time until Super Metroid.

Nintendo
How can we enjoy Metroid Prime Pinball unless we know where it stands in the canon?!

It's a tangled mess, to say the least. One blogger painstakingly laid out the events of each game in chronological order, and the best thing he could say about it is that it's simpler than Zelda. Which brings us to ...

4
Legend Of Zelda -- Nintendo Is Clearly Fucking With Us At This Point

Nintendo

While the Zelda series has always been second fiddle to Mario, Zelda makes up for it by having a continuity that was probably the topic of Stephen Hawking's doctoral thesis. The exact timeline of the Zelda games has been causing schoolyard arguments since the beginning, but there was a time when it was possible to make sense of it all without a PhD in nerdiness: You had The Legend Of Zelda (the original), The Adventure Of Link (the sequel), A Link To The Past (prequel, duh), and Link's Awakening (sequel to the prequel). See? Pretty straightforward.

Nintendo
And don't forget the ... you know what, do forget them.

It was only when Ocarina Of Time (prequel to the prequel) and Majora's Mask (sequel to the prequel to the prequel) arrived, with their fancy 3D graphics and enticing polygon boobs, that we started wondering how one person -- or elf or whatever the hell Link is supposed to be -- could fit all those adventures into one lifetime. Nintendo's answer is that he didn't; it was different guys with the same name and same predilection for Robin Hood fashion and night caps.

This is when the games abandoned any pretense of adhering to continuity in any recognizable manner (i.e., a series of events that progresses in a way that makes any goddamn sense). We got two games that happened at the same time and acted as prequels to the sequel to the original's prequel, followed by a further sequel/prequel that didn't seem to fit anywhere on the timeline. It wasn't until 2011, 25 years after the first Zelda game, that Nintendo even released that timeline, which finally helped clear everything up. Wait, no, it just confused the fuck out of everyone.

Nintendo
The "Adult Era" is a lot less exciting than it sounds.

It turns out that the events of Ocarina Of Time split the Zelda series into three timelines: The first assumes that Link got defeated in Ocarina, leading to the "Era Of Decline," meaning that if you got to the Water Temple and said, "Fuck it, I'd rather play Duke Nukem," the destruction of Hyrule is exclusively your fault. In the second timeline Link won at the end of Ocarina and got sent back to his childhood, explaining why, in some games, we meet a prepubescent Link with disturbingly well-developed combat skills. The third timeline has Link defeat Ganon but continue on as an adult, because there were still some adult-Link games that needed to be explained away, we guess. If you're still confused, then we completely forgive you, princess, because this shit makes no sense. Here, maybe this video will help:


It's convoluted to go alone! Take this.

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3
Street Fighter -- Ryu Is 51 Years Old By Now

Capcom

If there's one type of game that doesn't require any kind of canon, it's fighting games. How many of you really knew there was a story behind Mortal Kombat, and how many just saw somebody's spine get ripped out and said, "I want to try that"?

But in spite of that, the creators of the Street Fighter series have been doing their damnedest to shoehorn the series into a continuity that nobody asked for. Street Fighter games mostly follow the adventures of Ryu as he attempts to avenge his father's death by, uh, punching the ring of power into ... erm ... listen, we didn't really follow the story; we just know this is the good guy:

Capcom
He should probably get that giant mole on his hand looked at.

And, according to his bio, Ryu was born in 1964, which would make him 23 at the time of the first Street Fighter. Street Fighter II and III, released in 1991 and 1997 respectively, acknowledge this passage of time by giving him steroids and nothing else:

Capcom
"He's more bicep now than man. Twisted and evil."

Today, Ryu would be 51 and more likely to be found drinking Metamucil and making mildly racist comments at the TV rather than engaged in constant battles to the death, as seen in the trailer for Street Fighter V (PRO TIP: If you're trying to be the best fighter in the world and you haven't made it by 51, you should probably give up). You might be tempted to say that maybe all the games take place within a relatively short time frame, but fans have already shot down that idea by pointing out anachronisms that don't support the slow timeline theory. To name one example, the cars Ryu smashes in SF4 are way more modern than the ones in SF2. And let's never, ever forget that Zangief danced with "President" Gorbachev.

Capcom
This isn't a bonus stage; old Ryu just got confused and thought that was Sagat.

If you're absolutely determined to make sense of the Street Fighter series, there's this: Some fans managed to string together what is more or less the official timeline. Then again, if you demand strict story progression from your fighting games, might we suggest Killer Instinct, whose 2013 release unflinchingly retained the birth dates that were set in the original game in 1994, resulting in a 47-year-old man who is somehow still trying to get to the bottom of his brother's death by participating in deathmatches, 21 years later. Putting on face paint and punching people to death is cool when you're in your 20s, but by your 40s it's just sad.

2
Resident Evil -- The Continuity Is Almost As Insane As The Fans

Capcom

Zombies seem like a safe bet, right? There's no goofy time-traveling, anti-aging nonsense. You start with zombies, and then there are either more of them or fewer of them as time goes on. Simple as pie! Unless you're Resident Evil, of course -- the series that ends every game with everything going up in a giant explosion, and yet still keeps going.

Den of Geek
When did this go from Evil Dead to Sgt. Pepper?

The first game starts pleasantly enough, with a pair of cops/soldiers being terrorized by unimaginable horrors in a haunted mansion. The sequel expands on that by inflicting the infections and mutations on the entirety of Raccoon City (not a neighbor city to Duckburg, sadly). Next is Resident Evil 3, which takes place 24 hours before RE2, because why the fuck not, and ends after it, with the whole city going up in a nuclear explosion. And that's when the series quickly descends into insanity. Ten games were released between RE3 and RE4, during which all sorts of goofy shit happens, including the initiation of one of the two alternate timelines.

efrajoey1/DeviantArt
Not pictured: Resident Evil: Los Angeles, Resident Evil: SVU,
and Resident Evil: Hawaiian Wedding.

As is wont to happen in these situations, fans immediately began cataloging and piecing together the different plots like video game anthropologists, which is like a regular anthropologist, only with better job prospects. A couple of them basically created The Hitchhiker's Guide to Resident Evil Chronology in their 400-page plot analysis document (spoilers!). That's 400 pages on just the games -- no comics, movies, or fan fiction. Incidentally, the guy who wrote most of the document deemed it necessary to include this clarification:

ResidentEvilFan.com
Again, this is someone who wrote 400 pages about Resident Evil.

If you want something shorter, the good people over at Resident Evil Recollections tirelessly collected and ordered each event in the RE mythos, from the 1800s to the present, and tagged them with the game that they occur in. And if you don't want to read like some kind of nerd, don't worry: There's also a timeline video available that clocks in at a mere 96 minutes. That's a whole four minutes less than the actual Resident Evil movie, with the advantage that you don't have Milla Jovovich's mug to distract you from the story. Phew.

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1
Kingdom Hearts -- Every Freaking Disney Film Is Connected

Square Enix

Kingdom Hearts is what you'd get if The Rescuers Down Under and Final Fantasy hooked up one night and broke a condom. It combines characters from across Disney's endless IP with the familiar JRPG androgynous sword-swinging. It also has a plot structure that makes Zelda look like ... well, a Disney cartoon.

MoarPowah.com
This is unreadable, and we're not talking about the font size.

You see, Kingdom Hearts takes place in a universe where Disney characters live in a parallel dimension to people, and the protagonist, Sora, travels with Donald Duck and Goofy between different Disney "worlds." You go to Agrabah and meet Aladdin, travel to Pride Rock and meet Simba, awkwardly avoid Song Of The South, etc. To avoid all the complications this would create in Disney movies if the worlds coexisted, the developers simply state that most characters are not aware of other worlds (i.e., Belle doesn't know about Mulan's world), thus solving the problem of nitpicking fan-based continuity.

Just kidding! The fans insisted on making everything cohesive and constructed this monstrosity that looks like something you'd find on a 9/11 truther's bulletin board:

Josh Butler
Yes, but how does Goof Troop fit in?

According to what we will loosely refer to as a "chart," all the worlds are connected, despite the developers insistence that they aren't. This also implies that Walt Disney had designs on a vast video game universe a full 44 years before the invention of Pong. Look, we totally get it, we've had some pretty crazy theories ourselves, but there needs to be a line, and that line is about eight miles back.

But the Grand Unified Disney Field Theory isn't even the craziest interpretation of these games' continuity. There's also the "Wreck-It Ralph Theory," where it's explained that Disney universes are supposed to be inherently evil-less -- the bad guys aren't truly bad, meaning that there's a support group somewhere attended by powerful despots, crazed gods, and some random French jackass. The implication of this #NotAllDisneyVillains angle is that there needs to be a balance of light and dark, which explains why we keep seeing the same basic plot over and over in these disparate universes. It also means that when the villain of Kingdom Hearts tells Mickey that he's trying to end the "tyranny of light," he's kind of got a point. The bad guys are a critical element to the stability of the universe, and by trying to destroy them permanently, Mickey is not only being a ruthless tyrant, he's possibly throwing all of reality into jeopardy.

Admit it, though: If there was one Disney character you thought would bring about the end of days, it's Mickey.

Square Enix
"Your mother sucks cocks in hell, huh-hah!"

Also check out The 6 Coolest Ways to Lose Popular Video Games and The 6 Biggest Dick Moves in the History of Video Game Design.

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