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8 games that were all a dream

"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.

28 comments

  • RedOutlive10 - January 3, 2011 3:19 a.m.

    Those endings are the worst thing ever. "Hey you know everything you have done? It was nothing. You suck".
  • Sho - May 31, 2013 8:25 p.m.

    But in Drawn to Life, it was actually for a purpose. To wake Mike up.
  • sotcninja - December 30, 2010 2:17 a.m.

    I think trying to justify anything Mario is a wasted trip. Great games and game series, but the story is...well weird...to say the least. Better off to just let it be lol.
  • BallSalad - December 29, 2010 2:47 p.m.

    I'm probably the only one, but I loved Bart's Nightmare. I remember playing that instead of working on a science project in 6th grade. Ahhh..memories!1
  • JADENkOTOR - December 28, 2010 9:59 p.m.

    Tom Cruise is dreamy... He takes my breath away
  • wharcraff - December 27, 2010 1:30 p.m.

    Nice post.I know you guys were trying here but,technically.. FFX wasn't all a dream unless Yuna and the rest of the people of Spira were somehow not real(which isn't exactly fair to call Tidus a dream if he actually existed in a long distant past). Is it right to call a dream made manifest of a person who existed in reality, with the exact same idiosyncracies, just a dream. Know I'm spouting crazy talk here. Just needed to say it.
  • AQrippin - December 26, 2010 9:20 p.m.

    Oh my God. Out of all the articles you could have posted, you had to post this one RIGHT AS I FINISHED WATCHING INCEPTION!!! I thought to myself "Okay now that I finished a movie involving dreams, I can go to read an article on Gamesradar that has nothing to do with dreams!" BUT NOOOOOO
  • Clovin64 - December 26, 2010 5:41 p.m.

    Am I the only one who likes Tidus? C'mon, he's a fun character to be around!
  • boxmeizter - December 26, 2010 1:31 p.m.

    was The Darkness just a dream too? never fully understood the ending...
  • Eevee10001 - December 24, 2010 3:38 p.m.

    Yeah, Drawn to life's game ending sucked ;u; I didn't want all those Raposa die, they were too cute to! But anyways, Mike officially needs to stay asleep in my opinion.
  • Sho - May 31, 2013 8:32 p.m.

    It was such a sad ending I know omg. That's terrible that they have us do that >< It's either he stays asleep or the Raposa's die D:
  • philipshaw - December 24, 2010 1:35 p.m.

    Good article, I do remember some of these
  • NightCrawler_358 - December 24, 2010 12:56 p.m.

    I loved FFX's storyline, and the most of the characters were well developed in my eyes, but the dream thing was confusing. It makes more sense when you play thorugh the game though.
  • jmcgrotty - December 24, 2010 8:18 a.m.

    Re: Super Mario Bros 2 "the ending reveals that the whole thing was a dream..." Maybe it is just how I read this, but you found out it was a dream AFTER you played? The damn manual starts out saying "One evening Mario had a strange dream," 3 sentences before the SubCon reference you mentioned. Heh. Maybe I'm just in a bad mood.
  • mEgAzD - December 24, 2010 5:57 a.m.

    Sorry for the double post but I meant game for the last one.
  • mEgAzD - December 24, 2010 5:54 a.m.

    For DTL, that's a horrendously sad of an ending for a child's ga
  • Genericide - December 24, 2010 4:40 a.m.

    I admit: I only read this article because I saw a picture of FFX on the cover and it is perhaps the only game for which I am an unabashed fanboy. So that may skew this a little, but I thought that the fact that FFX was so weird actually made its story better, because it was far less predictable than the trite fantasy setups that litter the rest of the JRPG genre. Also, that demotivational poster of Auron is basically exactly what impressionable 12 year old me thought when I first played through the game. So badass. :D
  • Robusken - December 24, 2010 12:07 a.m.

    Christ thats one creepy ending to DTL 2
  • sgloomy - December 23, 2010 11:35 p.m.

    I never knew about ace combat, it was an awesome game and i probably finished it way more than five times but never understood a single word of it which is why i played it so much, wanted all the planes, didn't know how to get them
  • MrSuitMan - December 23, 2010 10:45 p.m.

    I think this article deserves an Inception BBBBWWWWAAAAAAAPPPPP!!!!

Showing 1-20 of 28 comments

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