Life is a constant learning experience. Passion can draw that learning out anywhere from a background hobby to staying up until the wee hours with bloodshot eyes and a song in your heart. It's safe to say that video games are and have been that for many people, a constantly evolving world full of details and a secret stockpile of the billions of hours people have spent playing.
Even the most obssessive among us can't catch every detail the first time. So many secrets are buried inside our favorite games from the past and future that can either enrich your next playthrough or elicit a chuckle about how close we were to getting a worse version of Crash Bandicoot. I found some of these gems that surprised me and hopefully they'll surprise you too, too.
Everyone knows that Mario wasn't originally a plumber and that Donkey Kong may have actually turned out to be the hero of the titular game, but their relationship might've been even deeper than we realized. The plot of the game casts Donkey Kong as the pet gorilla of "Jumpman" (Mario, of course) who goes mad and kidnaps Princess Toadstool. This might seem a little lightweight, but this and Mario hitting Yoshi's head to make his tongue come out makes you wonder why anyone trusts Mario with animals at all.
I always felt like the person who decided to turn "soccer...but with rocket cars!" into a full fledged game was a genius. Apparently, the idea is quite a bit older than I realized. The idea of Rocket League was born from a mod of Unreal Tournament 2003 for a game mode called Onslaught. Dave Hagewood, the creator of the mod, split off and founded developer Psyonix, which began development on Battle-Cars, the idea that eventually became Rocket League in 2015. Now I know who we owe the bicycle kick to.
To this day, Super Smash Bros. is a college dorm room staple and has fueled basement shouting matches the world over. The idea of Nintendo character beating the snot out of each other started off much more simply, that is with no Nintendo characters at all. Director Masahiro Sakurai created the idea of a four player beat-em-up with generic base characters and called the game Dragon King: The Fighting Game, but decided to risk including Mario, Donkey Kong, Fox McCloud, and Samus as an original idea. Almost 20 years later, the series has sold nearly 40 million units across five platforms and bent many more thumbs out of shape.
DOOM is a game more people recognize for its gunplay and gore than its music, but that doesn't mean there isn't some interesting things buried in the notes. Much of the original game's score, composed by Robert Prince, was either inspired by or skirted on the edge of ripping off songs from hard rock and heavy metal luminaries the likes of Metallica, Slayer, Panthera, Alice In Chains, AC/DC, and more. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and there's nothing more heavy metal than killing demons with a BFG's worth of hellfire.
Dark Souls is about as hard and maudlin as video games come these days. The countless deaths and mountains of flavor text were all inspired by happier things like director Hidetaka Miyazaki's love for Harry Potter. The moving staircases of Duke's Archives were inspired by Hogwarts' infamous shifters and the character of Sieglinde was even modeled after Hermione Granger. There's magic int he air for sure, but it's much more deadly around here.
Overwatch is the kind of game that keeps adding (free) characters and maps and modes to hold fans over, but have you ever imagined if certain character powers were swapped? We almost lived in a world where wraith Reaper had the ability to see characters through walls, much like hacker Sombra has now, according to developer Jeff Kaplan. But where Sombra can see characters who have low health, Reaper would've been able to see characters if he had low health, which would've made all those pivots to wraith form even more nail-biting.
Super Mario World is full of strange creatures and bouncable objects, but few are as cute as the fire-breathing triceratops called Reznors. These little devils are named after Nine Inch Nails singer Trent Reznor, which is about the closest any of the Mario games come to acknowledging that Mario and Luigi really might just be plumber brothers from Brooklyn.
Back before gritty modern shooters saturated the market, Medal Of Honor was the one to beat for influence. The series hit a lull and tried to come back with the customary self-titled reboot in 2012, and while it hardly found an audience, it did prove to be useful somehow. Canadian researchers at McMaster University led by Daphne Maueur took six patients with eye problems and had them play 40 hours of the 2012 Medal of Honor, five days a week for a mx of two hours a day. And their sight actually improved. Why aren't more people trying this?
By now, we're all familiar with the painstaking animation that turned Cuphead into a million-plus seller on Steam, but that level of detail doesn't come easy. On top of being extremely tedious, creators/lead developers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer actually remortgaged their houses in order to be able to afford a team big enough to finish the game. It doesn't get much more dire than that, but the payoff is still sweet as soda bubbles (bullets?) popping against your cartoon brain.
Rockstar Games saw great success when they added piles of grit to its classic Grand Theft Auto series, so they did more or less the exact same thing with their Western-based Red Dead series, too. While more people have played the sequel Redemption, the original game in the series Revolver was originally a much sillier game. Developed by Angel Studios and planned to be published by Capcom, Red Dead: Revolver was originally an arcade-style shooter with over-the-top action and even superpowers like flight. Once Angel Studios split with Capcom and were bought by Rockstar, the changes eventually turned it into the grittier series we know and love (and will hopefully still love once Redemption 2 comes out later this year) today.
Naughty Dog's former mascot has had a crazy history, ending for now with a beautiful remaster of his first three games, but those first three games almost starred a completely different animal. The creators of the game had settled on Crash Bandicoot instead of Willy The Wombat, but were approached by Universal Studios with two other ideas: Wuzzle The Wombat or Ozzie The Otsel. The team threatened to quit the game if Crash Bandicoot wasn't used. Gotta trust a developer's gut.