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All The References You Missed In Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 is more than just a Western. Heck, it's more than just a video game. It's one giant, sprawling, gushing love letter to practically every piece of pop culture that came before it. It doesn't matter if you're a film aficionado, a TV junkie, a history buff, a gamer, a hip-hop-head, or just a dedicated fan of Rockstar itself. If you like it, you'll probably find a reference to it somewhere in Red Dead Redemption 2's wide-open plains, thick forests, and rolling hills.

But Red Dead Redemption 2 is a huge, huge game, and it's practically impossible for a single person to discover everything it has to see, hear, and do. That's why we're here to help. We guarantee that there are at least a couple that you haven't found. If you want to try to find 'em yourself, be wary. If you don't mind spoilers, venture on. Chances are, you'll be glad that you did.

From saloons to the schoolyard

Grand Theft Auto might be Rockstar's flagship franchise (although Red Dead Redemption is giving ol' GTA a run for its money — quite literally), but the company makes more than crime stories and Westerns. In 2006, Rockstar took its signature tongue-in-cheek spin on open-world depravity to class with Bully, an charming little game set in a private prep school. As Bullworth Academy's most delinquent juvenile, players must go to class (or skip, if they've got better things to do), play pranks on their classmates, and cause all kinds of teenage mayhem.

Over a decade later, Bully remains one of Rockstar's best games. The company must think so, too, because it hid a very subtle reference to the game in one of Red Dead Redemption 2's sidequests. In "The Noblest of Men, and a Woman," Arthur Morgan must track down four retired gunslingers in order to gather information about Jim "Boy" Calloway, a legendary duelist. At the end, he ends up with Calloway's revolver. It's not an ordinary weapon, though. Look carefully, and you'll see "Canis Canem Edit" engraved on the barrel.

That's Latin for "Dog Eat Dog." It's also what Bully is called in Europe, likely after the original title caused a minor controversy and was accused of promoting real-life bullying. As a title, Canis Canem Edit is a little cumbersome. As a catchphrase for an old gunslinger, though? It's darn near perfect.

Big Smoke knows just what you need to do

Bully isn't the only Rockstar game that gets some love in Read Dead Redemption 2. There are some big references to Grand Theft Auto hidden in there, too. For one, many of Red Dead Redemption 2's major Easter eggs — the UFO, the serial killer, Bigfoot, and so on — echo ones that pop up in Grand Theft Auto 5. That's not all, though. There's one mission in the game that's going to give long-suffering Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas fans some nasty flashbacks. Proceed at your own risk.

We're talking, of course, about "Wrong Side of the Tracks," the mission in which San Andreas' hero, CJ, must hop on a motorcycle, chase after a train, and kill the gang members on board, dodging obstacles the whole time. It's not an easy mission, and every time that you fail, CJ's buddy Big Smoke scolds him: "All we had to do was follow the damn train, CJ!" It's a line that many San Andreas players heard again, and again, and again. In fact, it's one of the most famous pieces of dialogue in any GTA game, and not for good reasons.

So, 14 years later, what did Rockstar drop into Red Dead Redemption 2? A mission in which Arthur Morgan must also follow the damn train. Things unfold a little differently this time around — fewer motorcycles and assault rifles and more horses, mainly — but if you're an experienced San Andreas vet, the similarities are probably enough to give you chills.

You can't tell Arthur Morgan nothing

Unlike many other open-world games, Red Dead Redemption 2 is populated by real characters. You can stop to make Arthur talk to (or insult) anyone you meet, and many of the game's NPCs seem to have lives of their own. As you wander through camp, or Valentine, or Red Dead Redemption 2's sprawling plains, you'll often find characters talking to each other, or themselves, or passing the time by singing a jaunty little tune.

At least one of those songs sounds awfully familiar, too. As it turns out, Kanye West's discography transcends time and space. If you listen carefully, you might hear one of Red Dead Redemption 2's besotted pedestrians murmuring "La la la... get my... money right." That is, of course, the refrain from Kanye's "Can't Tell Me Nothing" (more or less — there are a few words missing). Fortunately for Rockstar's legal team, the anonymous Red Dead Redemption 2 character in question can't carry a tune, rendering any copyright infringement claims null and void. Whew!

Red Dead Redemption 2's official soundtrack is actually full of other references, too, although they're a little more thematically appropriate than Kanye's wary commentary on the nature of modern celebrity. In addition to score snippets written by Bill Elm and Woody Jackson, the track list is full of cuts from old Spaghetti Westerns, including a number of pieces by The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly maestro Ennio Morricone.

Where he's going, he won't need roads

In Back to the Future, Marty McFly visits the '50s. In Back to the Future Part 2, Marty and Doc Brown visit the far-off future of 2015. In the third and final film, the duo take their souped-up DeLorean all the way back to 1885 for a Wild West adventure that ends with the good doctor married and cruising around on a time-traveling locomotive.

In 1899, when Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place, it seems that Doc Brown is still alive and well. At the very least, it sounds like he's still around. When you head to the post office to pay off your various bounties, you can hear a voice mutter Doc Brown's catchphrase, "Great Scott!" While that could be a coincidence, we're guessing otherwise. Not only does the actor who delivers the line sound like they're doing their best Christopher Lloyd impression, but fans have been clamoring for a Back to the Future Easter egg for years. It seems that Rockstar finally gave them one.

It may not be the only Back to the Future reference in the game, either. As many people have pointed out, there's a derailed train in Red Dead Redemption 2 that looks an awful lot like the one from Back to the Future Part 3's action-packed climax. Don't believe us? Head on over to Granite Ravine and check it out for yourself.

A super cereal threat

You never know what you're going to find in Red Dead Redemption 2's abandoned buildings. Sometimes, there's nothing. Sometimes, you'll discover a cache of sweet, sweet loot. And sometimes — every once in a while — you'll find an unspeakable horror, like the research lab a little west of Van Horn's trading post that contains a beast that's part bear, part man, and part pig.

If that seems familiar, well, there's a good reason. Back in 2006, before the impending climate change apocalypse was completely unfunny, South Park aired "ManBearPig." In the episode, Al Gore (who had, in real life, recently released his Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which warned about the dangers of climate change) arrives in South Park to warn residents about a mysterious creature called the ManBearPig, a "super cereal" issue that everyone was ignoring. Everyone except for Al Gore, that is.

Well, as it turns out, Gore was right, at least in the Red Dead Redemption universe. Now, the odd creature that Arthur Morgan stumbles across isn't an exact replica of South Park's mythical beast. It's got some extra paws, as well as a set of wings. Still, it's mostly bear and pig, and it certainly looks like a man. Until we hear otherwise, that's good enough for us.

The crunchiest gun in the west

Shortly before Red Dead Redemption 2's debut, Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser bragged that the Red Dead Redemption team worked 100-hour weeks to make sure that the game shipped on time. After his claims were met with considerable backlash, Houser issued a clarification, claiming that only senior writers put in those hours.

Former Rockstar employees disagreed. As Kotaku reports, many ex-Rockstar employees claim that they were forced to work extremely long hours, including on weekends, without receiving any overtime pay, sacrificing their health and personal relationships in the process. The practice is known as "crunch," and it isn't unique to Rockstar. Many studios, including Electronic Arts and the ill-fated Telltale Games, have similarly abusive corporate cultures. It wasn't official company policy, either. Still, the former Rockstars claim that if they didn't crunch they received bad performance reviews, lost out on promotions, and were scorned by their peers and superiors.

Crunch is a huge problem, and it's one of the main reasons why organizations like Game Workers Unite are trying to unionize the games industry. It's also the source of a pretty subtle dig at Rockstar itself in Red Dead Redemption 2. If you read the description for the Cattleman Revolver, you'll find that "it is made by skilled laborers who work tireless hours each week and on the weekends for little pay." Sound familiar? Now, maybe this is all a coincidence. Still it seems pretty likely that someone at Rockstar is having fun at their employer's expense. Hey, when you're working that much, you've got to do something to relax.

The sad story of Bonnie MacFarlane's suitor

While you're poking around near Red Dead Redemption 2's riverbanks, you might run find a man washed up on the beach, near a boat, half-dead. Well, at first, he looks fully dead — there are even buzzards circling overhead — but if you loot his body, he'll sputter back to life and ask you to deliver a letter addressed to one Ms. Bonnie MacFarlane. The man wants to marry Bonnie, the note says, and has set out to make his fortune and prove his worth. Unfortunately, he never quite makes it. Once the man hands off the letter, he expires for good.

That's more than just a sad story. It's a reference to the first Red Dead Redemption. See, in case you've forgotten, Bonnie MacFarlane is the witty take-no-nonsense ranch hand who saves John Marston's life after his near-fatal showdown with Bill Williamson. She's the woman you save after Bill's gang tries to hang her, and she's the one who helps Marston and his wife, Abigail, get back on their feet once Dutch van der Linde's gang has been dealt with.

In fact, the letter to Bonnie is kind of a double reference. The unofficial Red Dead Redemption wiki claims that Bonnie is actually named after one of the developers' relatives. Rob Hanson, the wiki says, designed MacFarlane ranch and named its most prominent resident after his aunt shortly before leaving the company. If true, that's pretty sweet, although there's no source listed, so take that story with at least two grains of salt.

Totalisaurus isn't real, but the paleontologist is

As per open-world game tradition, Red Dead Redemption 2 is full of things to find, but it's coolest collectibles are its dinosaur bones. There are thirty different types dinosaur fossils scattered throughout Red Dead Redemption 2's map, and it's up to you to discover them and send them to Deborah MacGuiness, Red Dead Redemption 2's resident paleontologist.

You'll find Deborah fairly early in the game. She's working the Heartlands just east of your camp, and when you meet her, she gives you an earful. The people at the universities, she says, laugh at her. She has theories, you see, but they're not conventional. MacGuiness is convinced that there was a dinosaur out there who could do it all — walk, swim, and fly — that she calls Totalisaurus, and she needs Arthur's help to gather the evidence and prove her critics wrong.

Obviously, Deborah is mistaken, but her story seems remarkably similar to that of Mary Anning, a real-life amateur paleontologist who was active in the early 1800s. Like Deborah, Anning had no formal education. Like Deborah, Anning's male contemporaries were skeptical of her discoveries, which included creatures that lived on land, in the water, and in the air. Like Deborah, experts at the time refused to give Anning credit for her work, and she died with significant financial burdens. Red Dead Redemption 2 probably won't do much to restore Anning's legacy, but you know what? At this point, any little bit of recognition is better than nothing.

Arthur Morgan only pawn... in game of life

You think that The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is the best Western of all time? Think again. You say it's Unforgiven? You're wrong. What about Stagecoach, Shane, High Noon, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or The Searchers? No, no, and no. If you're looking for the very top Western — the standard by which the entire genre should be judged — look no further than Mel Brooks' iconic Blazing Saddles. The people at Rockstar know that, at least, which is why they've put one — maybe even two — references to the comedy classic into Arthur Morgan's big adventure.

One is pretty subtle. You know those packages of assorted biscuits that you can eat to recharge your cores? Well, they're made by the Hedley Baking Company, and if you know your Brooks, you know what that means. Blazing Saddles' big bad is none other than Hedley Lamarr (not to be confused with inventor and Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr), the corrupt district attorney who wants to run a railroad through Rock Ridge. Played to hilarious perfection by the late, great Harvey Korman, Lamarr is one of cinema's all-time greatest — or at least funniest — villains, and it's nice to see him get a nod in Rockstar's Western.

The other reference? In Red Dead Redemption 2, you can punch horses. If that isn't a Blazing Saddles reference, then we don't know what is. Just watch out: unlike Mongo's victims, Red Dead Redemption 2's horses fight back. You've been warned.