1. The tradition of Link's hat comes from an odd place

 
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Nintendo
  

Given enough time, just about anything can become iconic through the weight of years. Nintendo's classic characters have a particular advantage in this regard, since they've stuck around -- and remained relevant -- for longer than most. Meanwhile, attempts to resurrect Pitfall Harry have mercifully disappeared from the collective unconscious.

And Link, despite ostensibly being like 30 different people, is probably second only to one Italian stereotype in terms of instant recognizability. A shirt. A sword. Maybe a shield, if one of those Michelin Man-shaped shits doesn't eat it. But the literal cap on the whole ensemble is the Hero of Time's big, floppy hat.

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The Wind Waker did some of the work explaining just why this particular outfit survives so many generations (not to mention multiple timelines). Different kids wear it in deference to past champions. So it's self-perpetuating. It's also a little strange, as far as ways to celebrate past saviors of the world go, but not that unbelievable.

Which must not have been good enough for one third-party developer, Capcom, since the company added one extra ridiculous layer to the fashion mythos two years later. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap came out in 2004 to mighty fine reviews. That wasn't all Capcom brought, however. The company also introduced us to the origins of Link's hat, which center on a size-changing gnome wizard that had been transmogrified into a talking piece of duck-shaped headgear.

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Nintendo
  

The "cap" was named was Ezlo and he wasn't thrilled about his predicament. So the wizard --cursed by his prodigal pupil, Vaati -- teamed up with Link to take down the pair's mutual nemesis in one of the few Zelda plots that doesn't revolve around Ganon. The quest took them on a tour of both an early version of Hyrule and the titular Minish race's miniature world. The whole thing was appropriately adventurous and dramatic.

Yet all strange things must come to an end. And this particular journey closed with Ezlo rewarding Link... by way of recreating a hat in the cured magician's own image.

Nintendo
  

It actually seems like a pretty pretentious gift, in retrospect. Maybe that's why Nintendo didn't take the tale into account during 2011's Skyward Sword, in which a past incarnation of Link anachronistically retains his iconic cap. Or maybe the developers just didn't care about this fun, but silly, tidbit of lore.


2. Bionic Commando's trademark arm answers a question no one asked

 
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Capcom
  

In contrast to The Legend of Zelda's recurring protagonist, you could be forgiven for completely forgetting about defunct developer Grin's Bionic Commando reboot/sequel. It was another Capcom funded joint. It was also very, very mediocre.

That was a serious shame at the time. Spider-Man 2's incredible third-person swinging mechanics were still somewhat fresh in the public's mind. The idea that a game might bring something similar to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, with the series' classic bionic swingin' arm, was mighty enticing. Grin had a proven track record with the franchise, too. The company's direct remake of the original 2D game, Bionic Command Rearmed, was excellent (and featured one of gaming's all-time top kickass theme songs).

Nearly everything else about the reboot should have raised red flags. It sported a raspy Mike Patton as the self-serious voice of a re-imagined Nathan "Rad" Spencer -- the titular Bionic Commando. The once-goofy hero's redesign gave the very white man a set of not-so-rad dreadlocks. Rearmed's over-the-top goofiness was waylaid by late 2000s grime and grittiness. It was, in a word, charmless.

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Capcom
  

The plot involves cyborgs being persecuted for having awesome robot parts and techno-terrorists with doomsday machines. Nate gets betrayed a lot. Super Joe, protagonist of Capcom arcade game "Commando," is there.

None of it makes much sense. That goes double for the eventual late-game plot twist. See, apparently bionic enhancements don't just function on their own in the Bionic Commando universe. They require an emotional connection to their users. And in one of the most ludicrously unnecessary plot twists in video game history, it's revealed that Nathan's radical robot arm is powered... by his possibly dead wife.

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Capcom
   

How this works, exactly, is never explained in-game. It likely never will be. Bionic Commando's poor sales contributed to Grin eventually shutting down. And it's seriously unlikely Capcom will take the failed project as canon in any future reboots, sequels, prequels, re-imaginings, or whatever else the publisher decides to do with this particular property. But we'll always be able to look back on that time a silly, beloved NES character got the gritty reboot treatment so hard it turned his wife into a glorified grappling hook.

 

3. Assassin's Creed explains a weird tidbit about the Hidden Blade

 
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Ubisoft
    

Assassin's Creed has had its ups and downs over the years. Good or bad, the Assassin's Creed games have always made solid use of its quintessential "hidden blade." As well it should! The stealthy weapon looks cool, sounds better, and allows for some slick aerial murder-stunts. It's the perfect fit for a game about secret hit-people.

The battle between assassins and templars has started back on the upswing thanks to Assassin's Creed: Origins. The game takes place ages before the franchise's first, as its name implies, and brought about some much-needed adjustments to a stagnant formula. It also explained a tiny detail so silly and meaningless that publisher Ubisoft wrote it out of the series near the start of the second game.

Yet the first (not very good) game in the series coupled the hidden blade with a pretty absurd catch: using it meant the wielder needed to cut off their own finger. Otherwise it wouldn't, uh... cut good?

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Ubisoft
   

Why anyone would design a wrist-mounted blade that had to maim its owner's hand -- a pretty important instrument in the business of killing -- was never clarified. Why a secret society would intentionally and permanently mark its members like that was likewise went disclosed.

That is until Origins demonstrated that the ritualistic boo-boo started as, well, an unintentional boo-boo. It's a bit of a retcon, but the prequel explained that the finger lopping was never strictly necessary at all. Origins primary protagonist, Bayek, just wasn't very practiced with the deadly thing during his first assassination. He accidentally lopped off his own finger in the process. Although he still got his man in the end.

Ubisoft
    

Way to muscle through, Bayek!

So what about Assassin's Creed 2? That game sports a scene in which resident gadget-man Leonardo da Vinci improves the hidden blade to no longer require a sacrificial digit. The best explanation seems to be that Leo made the knife safer. That way amateurs who just stumble onto the highly dangerous piece of equipment, which seems to be nearly all of the Assassin's Creed assassins, won't make the same mistake Bayek did. After all, gangrene and blood loss are pretty big handicaps for a contract killer mid-mission.

 

4. The entire Mushroom Kingdom is all a lie

 
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Nintendo/Mario Wiki
 

Ah, Super Mario Bros. The Legend of Zelda is all well and good, but in terms of sheer brand viability, basically nothing can compete with grand-pappy of Nintendo's home console blitz. Just look at Mario himself! He's both colorful and completely devoid of any recognizable personality traits that would muddy his brand synergy with literally any product on Earth.

Cartoons and cereal? You bet. Novelty socks and piggy banks? Of course. He's like a Dreamworks minion with a mustache: an indomitable, interchangeable marketing opportunity that will continue to turn long after anyone reading this is dead in the cold, hungry dirt. What better mascot for the most identifiable video game character ever?

But he's not alone. Piranha plants, coin blocks, chain chomps, koopas, and even Luigis are probably equally universal at this point. Which makes sense. You more-or-less can't have one without the other. Mario exists to jump, gather coins, and perpetuate damsel in distress cliches. Likewise these items exist to be gathered and destroyed by the blithely right-facing plumber.

So its a little strange that, at least in the first Super Mario Bros., all those objects are sentient. "The quiet, peace-loving Mushroom People were turned into mere stones, bricks and even field horse-hair plants" via the "black magic" of the Bowser and his tribe. So says the game's English instruction manual.

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Nintendo
 

Some so-called fans take serious umbrage with this idea -- not that the Mushroom Kingdom was transmogrified, but that Mario is actually consuming and erasing the cursed citizens from existence. "Maybe the Mushroomers were turned into some other blocks and coins," they might say. This makes even less sense than the psychedelic instruction manual's description. If it's not an explanation for the obstacle courses Mario finds himself racing through, then why draw attention to it at all? No. One wouldn't put such a horrible idea into the minds of prospective players unless it was true.

Likewise, basically anything that happens in official Mario canon is both true and untrue at the same time. Series creator Shigeru Miyamoto says so. That's because he views the cast of Mario games as "a troupe of actors" performing various plays for our amusement. Remember how Mario 3 opens with a curtain?

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So the Mario "character" has committed unspeakable crimes against innocent civilians untold times, but the Mario character is as squeaky clean as his sponsors would have you believe. Let's all just agree it makes perfect sense and move on.

 

5. How Pokeballs are secretly eco-friendly

 
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Nintendo/Game Freak
   

Poké Balls combine all the fun of hand grenades and kidnapping into one safe, portable package. It's no wonder they're so popular with children. However, these devices that capture and house their famous pocket monsters pose a "serious" dilemma for the Pokémon world. Who cleans up all the damn things after you throw them?

If you've somehow gone your entire life without tossing colored spheres at a Rattata or Pidgey, here's how it works. Pokémon are captured using high-tech devices called Poké Balls. The weaker the creature, and the stronger the ball, the higher the odds are that the creature won't break free. If they don't break out, you get to keep them forever. If they do break out, the ball is lost.


Nintendo/Niantic
 

But what does "lost" mean in this context? Surely the discarded duds don't just evaporate. In fact, we know that they don't, thanks to one mind-blowing NPC in the recent Pokémon Sun and Moon games. A small child -- a Pokémon trainer in training, as it were -- posits the vital question about the technology. Clearly they've seen the balls left behind before, but know nothing of any publicly funded clean-up crew.

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Nintendo/Game Freak
   

There really isn't a complete answer to this one yet. Hence the child's canonical bewilderment. But we do know at least part of the story. Sometime several hundred years before the first Pokémon games ancient trainers eventually got tired of getting maimed and killed by their charges. So they sought a safer method of containing and transporting Pokémon.

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Nintendo/Game Freak
   

They turned to "apricorns." These fruit-like protrusions literally grew on trees, but were apparently tough enough to act as miniature prisons. So Pokémon masters started fitting them with capture devices similar to the ones we know today. Yet the Poké Balls' basic structure--the apricorns--were as organic as the tree meat they grew from. So it stands to reason that the devices were mostly biodegradable. Clean-up problem (mostly) solved!

We also know from Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal that some people still use basic apricorn balls in modern Pokémon fiction. So it's possible the modern, mass produced machines still use organic parts, as well. There's would appear to be no reason not to. Until we hear otherwise from the developers, it seems like the most plausible answer to this completely irrelevant question driving at least one fictional schoolkid up the wall...