Back in the late 1980s, video games were primarily score-based and storyless. It was tough to pack information into small cartridges and computer memory banks. As time went on, video games blossomed into interactive art, spanning across massive worlds and featuring beautifully written story arcs. The modern age still sees some score-driven or purely "Arcade" releases, but developers are now free to tell tales and build lore-rich universes.
This artistic freedom, while wonderful, has caused some debate. Some developers leave out key story elements, while others simply leave the story open to interpretation. Whatever the case, theorists are sprouting up all over to help connect the dot on some of gaming's biggest mysteries. The lore-based gaming world is a beautiful and community driven machine.
Some theories are funny, while others are heartwarming. Then there are those who hope to elicit fear. Some game theories are so dark and morbid that they can downright ruin your perception of a particular release. This list is dedicated to 15 of the spookiest, strangest, and, in some instances, interesting, classic video game theories. It's a wild ride filled with character deaths, real-world deaths, and one very morbid depiction of abortion
Which theory creeps you out the most? Let us know!
15 I'm Not Dead!
Let's start out with something completely depressing. Those of you who've played Final Fantasy VII know of the heart-wrenching scene in which Cloud must say goodbye to Aeris (Aerith). It's a heartfelt and tear-jerking moment that watches our spikey-haired hero cast his beloved back into the lifestream. You'd have to possess a mighty resolve to protect yourself from bawling your eyes out at the image of Aeris' body floating peacefully into the abyss.
If you want to cry even harder, read the morbid fan theory about her "not so sudden" death. According to some fans, Aeris didn't actually die when Sephiroth thrust his sword through her back, instead, she became completely paralyzed. Theorists point out the absence of blood during the assassination attempt, hinting that Sephiroth's blade may have struck along Aeris' spine, leaving her trapped within her body but very much alive. It's much more likely that developers simply didn't animate any blood. Still, it's downright depressing to think that Cloud ended up taking Aeris' life when he sent her paralyzed form to a watery grave.
14 Super Thespian Bros.
Let's move on to something that isn't exactly horrifying. A popular Mario-themed fan theory suggests that Mushroom Kingdom's beloved cast of characters are nothing more than actors. This is meant to explain how these colorful characters keep popping up in a variety of mediums (with a variety of skills and occupations). This obviously isn't going to keep you up at night, but it's disheartening to think that our favorite red-hatted plumber is nothing more than an overpaid Hollywood impersonator.
Super Mario Bros. 3 is perhaps the greatest evidence of this proposed theory. If you've ever played the classic koopa-stomping adventure, then you've probably noticed that the game world looks rather different compared to other Super Mario Bros. releases. All of the backgrounds look like "set pieces," filled with screws and wires. Even the title screen is an homage to the theater, with the "opening of a red curtain," which Miyamoto has even confirmed to be the case.
13 One Big Wide World
If the Super Mario Bros. are just a troupe of actors, then what does that mean for the rest of the Nintendo universe? It's possible that all of our childhood memories and beloved characters are nothing more than overworked entertainers who stop for a quick smoke break between "levels." If the Super Mario Bros. theory is possible, then all bets are off. After all, some theorists even believe that Nintendo characters all inhabit the same world.
The Nintendo Universe Theory suggests that all of Nintendo's games and characters exist within the same world, similar to Pixar movies. The theory is mostly easter eggs and speculation, but it unravels a unique timeline that suggests how the universe was created and in what order events (games) happened. Would you believe that Super Mario Bros. came far after the rise and fall of the Pokémon world, the space epic Star Fox, and the coming of Demise? Some believe so and it might explain why the Mushroom Kingdom looks so darn wacky.
12 This Theory Is Bananas
It's not rare to see a video game mired in political influence or controversy. We've seen plenty of politically-themed rhetoric and "touchy subjects" play out in modern day military shooters and action games. What we don't see a lot of are banana-hungry monkies and greedy crocodiles serving as anti-American propaganda.
That's just what some theorists see in the world of Donkey Kong Country. That's right, DK and his beloved necktie hate the United States of America. This theory seems incredibly far-fetched, but it actually provides some very interesting points. Donkey Kong Country is said to represent the struggle between the United States, Central America, and the Carribean, during a period known as the Banana Wars.
It's said that King K. Rool is modeled after Teddy Roosevelt, and it explains why some of the crocodile enemies are dressed in military garb. There are also many oil references (including an Oil Drum boss) that point to the United States lust for oil refining.
11 The Polybius Incident
Sometimes video game theories aren't focused on what happens within the game, but rather, what is happening with the game itself. This is the case with Polybius, a notorious arcade game that serves as the subject for a creepy video game urban legend. In 1998, the internet was graced with the terrifying description of government-owned arcade cabinets that were sweeping the Portland, Oregon area.
It's said that lines were formed around each Polybius machine, filled to the brim with quarter-toting teens begging for a chance to experience the "latest and greatest" in video game technology. Unfortunately, players were met with nausea, headaches, and, in some unfortunate instances, vivid night terrors. The theory goes that the government was using this game for testing purposes, perhaps towards the creation of a neurological weapon. There was even talk about mysterious men in black that would come on a weekly basis to collect information from the machines. This legend gained so much fame that it even saw a cameo in an episode of The Simpsons.
10 World Of Witchcraft
World of Warcraft has been around for ages now, cranking out an impressive array of expansions and maintaining a solid subscription base along the way. Throughout the years, players have come across interesting easter eggs and hidden content, but one particularly creepy event stands out among the crowd.
The Mystery of the Goldshire Children theorizes that a rogue developer at Blizzard placed some subtle Satan worship into the popular MMO. In the human starting zone of Goldshire, you can find some rather eerie kids "playing" in a house on the edge of Crystal Lake. If you follow these children, you'll notice they sometimes stand in a Pentagram formation.
The creepiest part of this morbid easter egg is the way the music changes once you enter the room. Some players have claimed that if you stand around long enough, you can hear a prominent WoW figure whisper the words, "you will die."
9 The Madden Curse
Have you ever jokingly said something about a future event and then been shocked when your haphazard premonition came true? This is the idea behind The Madden Curse, a once funny theory that has blown into a full-blown voodoo-style hex. The theory suggests that any NFL star who serves as a cover model for a Madden game will contract some serious bad luck.
This originally started as a joke, but the laughter quickly stopped when players suffered real life injuries after appearing as the box art star for post-2000 Madden releases. Since its "discovery," The Madden Curse has seen some rather spooky coincidences throughout the NFL. American Football is an inherently violent sport on its own (injuries are expected), but that hasn't stopped some fans and players from working the reverse mojo in an attempt to stop the curse from spreading.
8 Hyrule Folklore
It's intermission, time for a palate cleanse! This theory isn't spooky, but it is rather interesting. The Legend of Zelda is rife with fan theories. With so many lore-rich titles to choose from, it's no wonder theorists are lining up to take a crack at Hyrule's history. Some visionaries are going above and beyond each individual release, looking at the franchise as a whole.
One theory to stem from this grouping pertains to the story of Link. It's possible that each title within the Legend of Zelda universe is simply a re-telling of Link's original epic quest. Much like a massive game of telephone, some of the details and heroics become a bit jumbled. It's not hard to imagine a group of people sitting around a campfire, embellishing some of Link's journey to their own tastes, with each subsequent telling.
7 Squall's Well That Ends Well
Final Fantasy VIII isn't a short journey. The original PlayStation release spans four separate discs and you can expect 40+ hours of gameplay. What you may not know, is that Squall isn't really alive for most of the adventure. Well, at least, that's what theorists think. The Squall is Dead theory suggests that our main protagonist is living a dream, during the moments in which he is taking his final breath.
At the end of disc one, Squall gets an icicle to the chest, during a battle with the title's main antagonist, Sorceress Edea. Some believe that this icicle actually kills our hero and that all of the events that take place on the remaining discs are part of a dream brought on by the dying process. There is actually quite a bit of evidence pointing to the validity of this theory, including spooky imagery, wacky cutscenes, ominous dialogues, and a very cryptic ending.
6 A Massive Effect
The Mass Effect franchise is filled to the brim with fan theories, but one particular speculation stands out. The Indoctrination Theory suggests that Commander Shepard has been in a constant state of indoctrination, during his journey to protect the universe. Theorists developed this idea after Mass Effect 3 released. The ending missed the mark with a lot of players, but those seeking a hidden meaning believe it sheds light on Shepard's unfortunate journey.
Was Shepard under the process of Indoctrination prior to the "choices" presented in the Mass Effect 3 finale? It's entirely possible, as after all, the Reapers could have essentially wiped out Shepard whenever they felt like it. Instead, they allowed him to live, most likely so they could bend his will to suit their own agenda. Some players believe that the appearance of Captain Anderson and The Illusive Man represent Shepard's inner struggle.
5 Like A Ghost
Way back in 1989, the Karvina Corporation released a side-scrolling game called Killswitch. Chances are, you haven't heard much about this release, and for good reason. Anyone who managed to complete the title would soon find all traces of Killswitch missing from their computer. Apparently, the game would "delete itself" after the ending was reached.
The premise of Killswitch was to navigate a coal mine, choosing either a young female or an invisible demon as your playable character. Rooted in the survival horror genre, this release featured a point-and-click interface with puzzles and logic challenges.
An "unopened" and intact copy of the game showed up on eBay, where it was purchased by Yamamoto Ryuichi for the astonishing sum of $733,000. The buyer had planned to playthrough the game and showcase his session on YouTube. Unfortunately, the only thing Ryuichi ever managed to post was a video of himself staring at his computer screen and quietly weeping.
4 Stuck In Limbo
Since its release back in 2010, Limbo has been the subject of much debate. The quest itself isn't exactly straightforward, and it's clear that developers left the ending open enough to spark discussion among the community. This is the type of game that breeds fan theories, thanks to its lack of dialogue and open-ended story. We know that the main character is intent on finding and rescuing his sister, but where are the two and why does everything look so bleak?
The answer lies in the game's title, Limbo. In some theology, Limbo is viewed as Purgatory or a place of neutrality that exists within the planes of the afterlife. The main title screen shows a treehouse, which is where the adventure makes its eventual end. If you pay close attention, you'll notice an unsettling similarity between the ending scene and the title screen. Gone are the children and in their place are two swarms of flies. Perhaps the kids took a fatal fall from their treehouse.
3 A Disturbing Ending
The world of Earthbound is about as creepy as a newborn baby deer, or an adorably fluffy duckling. Much of this colorful RPG revolves around four children, battling against evil robots, bugs, and even taxi cabs. It's hard to imagine this happy-go-lucky world possessing any sinister secrets.
The last hour or so of Earthbound see the sunshine and happiness fade away. We witness a moment in which the children have their souls ripped out and placed into robots, and then we come face to face with a final boss mechanic that is truly disturbing. The battle against the evil alien Giygas takes place in a "cervix-like" arena. The boss himself looks like nothing more than an odd red smear, but his "second phase" clearly looks like the outline of a fetus.
Fan theory speculates that the only way the children could defeat Giygas was at his weakest, when he was a fetus, still in the womb of his mother.
2 A Killer Arcade Game
1980 saw the release of Berzerk, a Stern Electronics arcade game that would later pop up on the Atari 2600. It's idolized as a prime example of early Maze Shooters, classified as games in which a player must navigate an arena while shooting enemies. It's also the first video game to ever coincide with the death of a player.
In 1981, Jeff Dailey posted a high score of 16,660 before suddenly dying from a heart attack. A year later, at Friar Tuck's Game Room in Calumet City, Illinois, another gamer met a mysterious fate. Peter Burkowski managed to crack the Berzerk top-ten list, twice in a 15 minute period. Shortly after, he collapsed, succumbing to a heart attack.
Some theorists believe that Satan had a hand in the demise of the two players, noting that 666 (often referred to as the Mark of the Beast) was visible in Dailey's score.
1 Lavender Town Syndrome
In terms of creepy classic video game theories, Lavender Town Syndrome takes the cake. This urban legend supposedly happened shortly after Pokémon Red and Green were released in Japan. Authorities saw an uptick in child suicide rates, speculating that over 100 children had taken their own lives, in various (horribly morbid) ways. The few children that were saved showcased erratic behaviour.
A connection was made between the horrible incidents and Pokémon Red and Green. Apparently, these children had all suffered from the same ailment after reaching Lavender Town. It was speculated that the town song featured incredibly high tones that were aggravating to young ears. Some theorists believe that developers purposely placed specialized lines of code within the game, in an attempt to influence young minds.