"It was all a dream" is almost lazier writing than actually falling asleep on your keyboard. It's the ultimate admission that the writer had no idea how to end his own story, or to put it another way, he was outwitted by his own one-dimensional characters. It's also been used in more "Wizard of Oz" sitcom episodes than Toto, and has therefore measurably does more damage to scripts than an open flame.
TV isn't the only offender though – some surprisingly large videogame series have pulled the dream card too.
1. Super Mario Bros 2
Usually the big dream reveal is a last-minute surprise, but there's nothing in Super Mario Bros 2 that doesn't look like it was designed by an unconscious person. The massive change in style, the way it doesn't makes sense, and how familiar faces accept the most insane circumstances – in this game Princess Peach isn’t even kidnapped, and everyone acts like that’s perfectly normal.
It’s also a classic nightmare: for boring real people the scary dream is an exam you haven't studied for. With Mario it's being the ultimate jumpmeister, and finding out the skill you really needed was gardening.
So while we already knew that something must be terribly off, the ending reveals that the whole thing was a dream...
...but the sequels use many of the same enemies. Or to translate into Hollywood-ese: it was all a dream... or was it? Some fans have tried to justify the world of “SubCon” is canon, despite it being actually named after your subconscious. When you’re trying to justify the dreamworld of a renamed videogame intended only to exploit your childhood you’re probably better off unconscious.
2. Zelda: Link's Awakening
If you're surprised that "Link's Awakening" was a dream, you'll be astonished when you find out this sentence ends with a FULL STOP. But if you could tell that it was the dream of a giant whale sleeping in an egg up a mountain, why would you even lie about that you asshole? Apparently un-tipped off by the fact his mission is “wake up a giant whale sleeping in an egg up a mountain,” Link proceeds through increasingly crazy tasks to do so… like becoming a one-man band.
Above: One-man band and a juggler – all he has to do is mime and we’ll hate him forever
Being in a dream is one thing, but arriving in someone else's dream is more Inception than dreaming of Leonardo DiCaprio's mother's womb 36 years ago. It's also terrifying: Is your sub-conscious being out-sourced? Are you going to have a nightmare about answering endless tech-support calls? Or are you a giant whale’s idea of a wet dream, in which case is it possible to commit suicide inside someone else’s subconscious before they find and violate your body?
Oh, and there’s the small issue of Link’s psychotic genocide of Koholint Island: waking the Wind Fish destroys the island and everything on it, including entire villages of people with clear hopes and dreams of their own, and Link murders them all at the instruction of a talking owl he knows to be a figment of the imagination of a sleeping whale up a mountain. You try that defense after wiping out a few villages. And after sentencing, tell the Joker we said hi!
3. Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter
Also known as "Santa's Dead and It's Your Fault: The Game." Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter features an ensemble of ultra-cute creature characters helping you on your quest to annihilate them all. The player wakes up to find out that everyone’s gone except for the girl, who turns out to be your horrifically scarred sister. Horrifically scarred in the car crash which killed your parents, and put you in the coma you've been stuck in the entire game. A WINNER IS YOU!
4. Silent Hill: Homecoming
The first clue that Homecoming is all a dream is how it starts off with a dream. An unusual and horrifying nightmare trapped in a monstrous hospital, aka "Silent Hill cliche #2," and the second is every other Silent Hilly thing in it (everything). The third, and most convincing, is how "hero" Alex Shepard goes through the game like Glass Joe: he's knocked out by everything from monsters to strangers to – in one case – a watch. This guy falls unconscious like other people breathe, to the point where anyone who believes he's ever awake is betting against the odds. At one point he loses a battle of reality against a doll: every other Silent Hiller was drowned in curses of blood, but this guy could be transported to a dream world of nightmare horror by a Segway.
Which is probably why he was never a soldier and spent the entire game in a mental hospital.
The most believable layer reveals that you've been in the mental hospital all this time - it turns out they don't let narcoleptic fratricidal maniacs with delusions of military service go wandering around small villages! It also explains why every clock in the game is set to 2:06 - 206 being Alex's hospital room number - and also why not one thing in Silent Hill ever has ever made a lick of sense.
There's also the horrifying idea that someone would want to play through a Silent Hill multiple times just to see a different 30 second clip (freely available on YouTube.) It's true that if anyone is actually doing it, it's better than them walking around loose, but when they eventually do start serial killing they're going to have a lot more ideas.
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