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14 Hidden Backstories You Never Knew About Your Favorite Games

Updated October 16, 2020 2.3k votes 525 voters 35.7k views14 items

List RulesVote up the games with the most surprising backstories.

CAUTION: This list contains plot spoilers for various video games. 

Video games are arguably the most diverse type of media and while lots of titles avoid storytelling, there are plenty of games that incorporate compelling storylines. While most backstories are associated with the RPG genre, a surprising amount of different games also boast rich narratives. Sure, not every type of genre needs an interesting or intriguing plot to make it fun to play, but providing a narrative solidifies the purpose for why a player is going out on their adventure and justifies the events that are taking place.

Although most games that want to include a story will do so in a rather obvious way, such as straightforward objectives issued by an NPC in a single-player campaign, there are some titles that hide an elaborate backstory. The narrative is purposefully difficult to uncover, with bits of information spread out here and there like a delectable bread crumb trail. Other times, the story is just hidden due to technical limitations preventing a studio from including everything they want in the game. In some cases, publishers opt to sell extra content to fans in the form of DLCs.

Whatever the case, it's clear that the most popular games in the world have hidden backstories that are as bizarre as they are interesting. Check out the list below for crazy storylines behind familiar games and vote up the ones that shocked you. 

  • The Backstory In Super Mario Bros. Reveals You Are Killing Innocent Civilians
    Photo: Nintendo

    Almost every Mario game in existence follows the same basic premise: Bowser steals away with Princess Peach and it’s up to the Italian plumber to rescue her. However, Super Mario Bros. (1985) was slightly more gruesome. As it turns out, everyone in the Mushroom Kingdom had been turned into bricks and stones, so you were actually murdering innocent citizens when you ran through each level smashing blocks to collect coins and power-ups.

    The instruction manual for the original game confirms this, saying: “One day the kingdom of the peaceful mushroom people was invaded by the Koopa, a tribe of turtles famous for their black magic. The quiet, peace-loving Mushroom People were turned into mere stones, bricks and even field horsehair plants, and the Mushroom Kingdom fell into ruin.”

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  • Mario Wasn't The Good Guy In The Original Donkey Kong
    Photo: Nintendo

    Mario is arguably the most famous video game character in the world and is universally seen as a heroic protagonist. However, that was not always the case. The backstory for the original arcade version of Donkey Kong reveals that Mario was not exactly the most likeable person in his younger days. While the game establishes that Mario is attempting to rescue his girlfriend Pauline from the ape who has kidnapped her, extra material for the title explains why Donkey Kong stole her away in the first place. It turns out that the gorilla was actually Mario’s pet and that he had been cruelly mistreated at the hands of his owner, prompting his act of revenge.

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  • Centipede Is About A Magic Elf Battling An Evil Wizard
    Photo: Atari

    When Centipede was first released in 1980 by Atari, many people assumed that the top-down shooter was about a spaceship fighting giant alien insects. After all, many other arcade games of this type featured science fiction scenarios and the limited graphics of the time meant it was difficult to render detailed sprites. However, future games and an entire comic series revealed that the backstory to the game was entirely different. The main character is in fact an elf named Oliver who is battling an army of forest creatures that have been turned against him by an evil wizard. 

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  • Valve games are often teeming with complex and intriguing backstories, though in most cases, such rich details are presented in the form of hidden extras or additional media (like DLCs or comics). That's the case in Portal concerning Aperture Science, the fictional science organization credited with birthing GLaDOS. According to official sources, Aperture Science started life as a developer of shower curtains, with the portal technology created to assist in the production of shower curtain technology.

    The company founder began to lose his mind as he became ill and set about creating a three-step R&D plan including the Heimlich Counter-Maneuver (a technique to counter the Heimlich Maneuver) and the Take-A-Wish Foundation (to take wishes away from terminally ill children and give them to healthy adults). As for the third, he stated, "Some kind of rip in the fabric of space… that would… well, it’d be like, I don’t know, something that would help with the shower curtains I guess." 

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