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Games you didn't know take place in the same universe

Comic book fans have been familiar with shared universes for a long time, but video games are less commonly thought of as places with cosmos in common. You may be surprised to learn that plenty of developers and publishers have sneakily hidden clues that prove otherwise. Sometimes, the relationships between realms end up making a lot of sense. Other times, not so much. Let's take a closer look at some video game universes with startling connections.

Red Dead Redemption heads west to LA Noire

Rockstar Games' Western action-adventure Red Dead Redemption takes place in 1911. Rockstar Games' neo-noir action-adventure LA Noire takes place 36 years later — and you can bet your bottom dollar they share a universe.

During LA Noire's murder case titled "The Silk Stocking Murder," careful detecting uncovers what appears to be a remnant from the dying days of Rockstar's old west — John Marston's hat. How it got from New Austin to the city of angels is a mystery not even Cole Phelps can unravel, but the details of the hat are unmistakable.

But that's not the only apparent connection. Just as seeing Jesus in toast is a normal occurrence in our universe, seeing a Marston on toast is far from uncommon in Rockstar's Los Angeles. The breakfast miracle can be found not once but twice in "The Black Caesar" case's first crime scene.

Naughty Dog's amazing universe

The Uncharted and The Last of Us series are two of PlayStation's biggest and best first-party exclusives. But did you know that one is actually (kind of) a sequel to the other?

In Uncharted 3, there's a newspaper with a headline reading: "Scientists are still struggling to understand deadly fungus" — an intentional reference to The Last of Us. At the time of Uncharted 3's release, however, The Last of Us had yet to be formally announced, and that newspaper wasn't actually supposed to remain in the game. "We just completely forgot about it," Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann candidly told Kotaku. "We screwed up." Fortunately for them, they ended up getting away with it without spoiling their then-upcoming announcement. Most fans apparently assumed it was an Easter egg for an upcoming Guerilla Games or Sony Santa Monica project.

Gone Home has a game from the BioShock universe

While discussing shared universes with Blendo Games co-founder Brendon Chung, The Fullbright Company co-founder Steve Gaynor explained how Gone Home and BioShock 2: Minerva's Den actually take place in the same universe.

In BioShock 2's DLC, you can find and play a fictional, vector graphics Asteroids-esque title called Spitfire. Some 50 years later in Gone Home, you can uncover various faux Super Nintendo cartridges in Sam's room. One such cartridge is a fictional Star Fox clone called Super Spitfire. Far from just a coincidence, closer inspection of the cart also reveals the name of the game's publisher, CMP Interactive, which actually stands for Minerva's Den protagonist Charles Milton Porter. According to Gaynor, Porter probably started the company when he got back to the surface before eventually licensing the Spitfire IP to a different Japanese company, who made a new game out of it.

Gaynor also mentioned some other connections. "The airline that Katie takes to go to Europe, we never named the airline," he said, "but their logo is an '80s brand update to the airline that Jack's plane crashes into Rapture."

Would you kindly accept this shared universe?

The assassin universe of Hitman and Kane & Lynch

Although it's not the most far-fetched connection, given that both series take place in a real-world setting, the Hitman and Kane & Lynch series share the same violent universe.

In Hitman: Blood Money, Kane and Lynch appear in the game's newspapers twice. Referencing the events of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, the newspaper reports on the dangerous duo's escape from prison transportation, and later reports that the police are calling it quits on the manhunt.

Kane & Lynch's titular duo actually make a personal appearance in Hitman: Absolution — and, if you want, you can even kill them both. Kane can be found chilling at the trucker and biker bar, while Lynch is popping caps at the shooting range.

The many worlds of id Software

The Blazkowicz family has quite the storied history of violence. It all starts with the Nazi-massacring Wolfenstein protagonist William J. Blazkowicz, who eventually settles down with Julia Marie Peterson. The pair have a son named Arthur Kenneth Blazkowicz. On the road to growing up and becoming a television personality, Arthur changes his surname to "Blaze." Arthur Blaze marries Susan Elizabeth McMichaels, and the two gift their son with his grandfather's name, William Joseph Blazkowicz II. Going by "Billy Blaze," the young helmet-sporting Blazkowicz stars in Commander Keen.

The Blazkowicz line is also repeatedly haunted by one particularly nasty demon. First appearing in Wolfenstein RPG as the Axis army-summoned Harbinger of Doom, the big baddie gets his right arm and left leg maimed by B.J. the badass. Upon his defeat, the Harbinger of Doom vows to torment B.J.'s descendants — and he keeps his word. He shows up in various Doom titles as the formidable "Cyberdemon," hobbling on one robotic leg and swinging one robotic arm. Therefore, it's safe to assume that "Doomguy" is actually himself a Blazkowicz, thus tying together all three of id Software's famous familial franchises.

Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X/X-2 share more than just the name

The theory that Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X/X-2 share the same universe doesn't sit well with everyone, but there's certainly enough evidence to make a case for it.

On the surface, these two games couldn't appear more different. The world of Final Fantasy VII is largely dominated by the Shinra Electric Power Company, which uses the planet's own life force — The Lifestream — to create an energy source called Mako. The world of Final Fantasy X...well...isn't. However, near the end of the game, players can activate a cutscene by talking to an Al Bhed boy, who claims to be researching the planet's life force, which he hopes to someday harness and fuel cities with. And guess what the Al Bhed boy's name is? That's right — Shinra.

While it's true that many Final Fantasy games contain cameos from previous chapters, this particular instance stands out from the crowd like a Jumbo Cactuar in a blitzball arena.

We're all living in Hideo Kojima's universe

Japanese video game designer Hideo Kojima likes to fill his games with Easter eggs. And that's why his graphic adventure game Policenauts offers plenty of clues that that it shares a universe with Snatcher and Metal Gear Solid.

Policenauts has tons of Snatcher references. In addition to a few direct cameos from the cyberpunk adventure game, there's a Snatcher calendar in Jun Ishida's office, and Victor Jurgens uses the same brand of sunscreen found in both games. There's also a Snatcher target in the police station's shooting range that plays a remixed version of the game's "Pressure of Tension" when its hit.

In Metal Gear Solid, you can find two promotional posters for Policenauts in the Nuclear Warhead Storage Building, with a third popping up in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Drebin 893 drinks a soda called Narc, which is named after the addictive drug in Policenauts, and there's even a bar named after Solid Snake in Policenauts' Old L.A. And that's just scratching the surface of the cosmic clues — happy hunting!

The universe of big mammals

Though we rarely see them together, the characters from Rare's Donkey Kong Country, Banjo-Kazooie, and Conker franchises all inhabit the same universe.

In Banjo-Kazooie's sinister game show "Grunty's Furnace Fun," host Gruntilda provides "Cranky Kong" as a wrong answer to one of her questions, thus proving her knowledge of the character. Furthermore, in Banjo-Tooie, Bottles' daughter, Goggles, can be seen playing with a Donkey Kong toy.

Cementing the three franchises' shared universe is Diddy Kong Racing, in which the titular character recruits the help of both Banjo the bear and Conker the squirrel to defeat an evil intergalactic wizard pig — appropriately named Wizpig. Unlike the Super Smash Brothers series, which features Nintendo's superstar lineup of characters duking it out as toys, Diddy Kong Racing explicitly implies that Conker, Banjo and the Kongs not only share the same universe, but actually live in fairly close proximity to one another.

A universe of pure bullet hell

First released on Xbox Live Arcade on Feb. 16, 2011, Hard Corps: Uprising is a Konami-published run-and-gun video game developed by Arc System Works that feels a lot like Contra. Because it is.

You may not have realized that Hard Corps: Uprising is actually the 13th installment in the Contra series and takes place 20 years before the events of the original Contra. Though there's not a lot to officially tie the games together, the binding link comes in the form of Bahamut, the primary antagonist from Contra: Hard Corps, who also appears — at least in name — in Hard Corps: Uprising.

"The game is really inspired by Contra: Hard Corps," producer Kenji Yamamoto told Siliconera in 2010. "Many Contra fans realize Contra: Hard Corps is a little bit far from the regular Contra franchise. Since we're going to link it to Contra: Hard Corps we could make this into a brand new franchise." Unfortunately, that has yet to happen.

Bomberman and Lode Runner form a very early crossover universe

Although you wouldn't know it from any of their recent installments, Lode Runner and Bomberman actually stem from the same universe. In fact, Lode Runner is Bomberman.

The proof comes in the original version of Bomberman on the Nintendo Famicom. According to the English manual for the NES version, Bomberman is basically a robotic slave in a bomb-manufacturing factory. One day, he catches wind of a rumor that any robot who escapes to the surface can become human and decides to take his chances against the factory's defense forces. "Will he ever make it up to the surface," the manual asks, and "once there, will he really become human?"

Spoiler alert! He does, but he doesn't become just any human. He becomes the Lode Runner himself, as explicitly witnessed in the ending of the Famicom version. Therefore, the original Bomberman is technically the prequel to the original Lode Runner, which itself features a whole slew of Bomberman sprites. Since then, the two series have gone their separate ways, but they'll forever be linked by a long-forgotten metamorphosis.

Red Faction is the future of the Saints Row universe

The Red Faction series from Volition and THQ tells the story of the titular faction's resistance against the oppressive reign of the nefarious Ultor Corporation, set amidst a sci-fi future of dystopian proportions. Meanwhile, the Saints Row series from Volition and THQ (along with latter day publisher Deep Silver) chronicles the story of the Third Street Saints, a street gang turned global crime organization who face rival criminals and corrupt law enforcement during their ongoing slapstick quest for domination. As luck (and the cheeky developers of Volition) would have it, the events of the Red Faction series actually take place in the future of the Saints Row universe, and the nefarious Ultor Corporation is the link.

In case you missed it, the episodic expansion packs Ultor Exposed and Corporate Warfare for Saints Row 2 are probably the most overt references to Red Faction's big bad adversaries in the Saints series. The first of these two DLC packs lays the groundwork for exposing the megacorp's seedy operations, while the second installment offers players a chance "to put a permanent end to Ultor's corruption" head on. The result: one of the craziest canonical crossovers in video game history.

Galactic Civilizations was the secret origin of the Elemental universe

At first glance, Galactic Civilizations and Elemental: Fallen Enchantress from Stardock Entertainment have little more in common than their genre and creator. Galactic Civilizations is a turn-based strategy title from 2003 that tells the story of humanity's future amidst galactic conflict with alien lifeforms, while 2012's Elemental: Fallen Enchantress (another turn-based strategy offering) chronicles the tale of a world of high magic contested by powerful factions. But astute fans might very well discover the ties that bind these two disparate titles and the distinct (yet mysterious) lineage their worlds share.

According to the official Galactic Civilization databanks, people of the spiritually inclined Altarian civilization look nearly identical to humans. Indeed, "DNA tests showed that they were essentially the same species, with only a few hundred thousand years of genetic drift." Fallen Enchantress would reveal the origin/future of these Altarians to be none other than the Elemental kingdom of Altar — ruled by Relias, the bold adventurer who investigated the fearful Eastern prophecies of the Empire of Sorcery. Furthermore, Tandis (the last Arnorian of Galactic Civ fame) managed to travel through time and space to aid Elemental's great Sorcerers in their historic battle against the Titans.

Ghosts 'n Goblins, Gargoyle's Quest / Demon's Quest, and Maximo: Ghosts to Glory

Retro game enthusiasts know all about Capcom's 1985 quarter-munching Ghosts 'n Goblins, an action-platformer simultaneously cheered and jeered for its notorious difficulty. The sequels Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins and so on are likewise both feared and revered in the annals of game history. But this legendary franchise of medieval fantasy had wings to fly, and two distinct spinoffs in the same universe were the eventual result.

Gargoyle's Quest for Nintendo's Game Boy was a lesser-known successor of the Ghosts 'n Goblins legacy that pushed one of its forerunner's minor enemies — the flame-spewing gargoyle Firebrand — to the forefront as the protagonist of a platformer-sandbox experience. Gargoyle's Quest 2 and the fan-favorite Demon's Crest would eventually follow, but the worldbuilding wouldn't stop there.

Yet another entry in the Ghosts 'n Goblins universe, Maximo: Ghosts to Glory was Capcom's deliberate attempt to infuse their classic horror setting with the stylish fantasy of artist Susumu Matsushita — resulting in a quite different (yet familiar) take on Sir Arthur & Co.'s ghoulish realms that languishes in obscurity to this very day.

Bloodborne invades the Déraciné universe

Kotaku's Patrick Klepeck declared, "It's uncommon to finish a game and still have so many burning questions about what's left to be discovered, but that's the kind of game Bloodborne is." No doubt, FromSoftware's nightmare-fueled action-RPG is a modern masterpiece of horror storytelling, with a collection of lore that is both staggeringly complex and devilishly simple. A huge portion of that lore emanates from the Hunter's Dream and its caretaker, an animate porcelain doll who guides the player towards their inevitable confrontation with the Old Ones (alien entities of colossal eldritch power that offer mind-bending revelations about the infinite fabric of reality). In fact, Bloodborne's hunter protagonist can "Make Contact" with these cosmic beings using a peculiar ceremonial gesture.

Interestingly enough, a similar doll appears in FromSoftware's mysterious VR experience for PS4 known as Déraciné. And as fan speculation mounted, FromSoftware found themselves squelching expectations for a Bloodborne sequel. Yet, while director Miyazaki & Co. regret the decision to include the Fiona Doll in Déracinédescribing its tongue-in-cheek inclusion as "overboard" — the oneiric, elliptical nature of Bloodborne's Lovecraftian narrative and the doll's specific use of the "Make Contact" gesture suggest otherwise.

Sleeping Dogs has a cameo in Just Cause 2

The Malaysia-inpsired island of Panau is the setting of Just Cause 2, the 2010 open world action-adventure game from Avalanche Studios and Eidos Interactive. It tells the continuing story of chaotic hero Rico Rodriguez and his battle against some of the world's craziest militant dictators. Interestingly enough, Panau also makes a subtle appearance in Sleeping Dogs, the Hong Kong-based action adventure from United Front Games and Eidos parent publisher Square Enix.

One Easter egg from Sleeping Dogs definitively places these two games in the same universe. If your timing and radio station are correct, you'll hear a fun little advertisement that shouts out the familiar setting of Just Cause 2: "For a relaxing getaway, visit the island of Panau, an exotic location where beauty and luxury are an everyday pleasure. Sunbathe on long, golden beaches, win big at Panau Falls Casino, or enjoy five-star service at Three Kings Hotel. Come to Panau for a holiday you'll never forget."

The universe of Ubisoft

French video game publisher Ubisoft made its reputation by developing some of the most immersive open world games on the market — games that emphasize exploration and branching narratives over linear storytelling and guided adventures. It's no surprise, then, that Ubisoft would decide to set a few of their fan-favorite franchises in a shared universe; but the clues aren't always up front.

Fortunately for us, the modern-day sequences of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag offer some clarity. Set in the offices of a video game development studio known as Abstergo Entertainment (a not-so-subtle front for Abstergo Industries, aka the Templar Order, the Assassins' rival faction), these sequences provide several distinct references to Ubisoft's Watch Dogs and Far Cry 3.

For instance, the "Security Systems Presentation" offers a blatant reference to the primary city-wide hacking mechanic of Watch Dogs: "Nowhere is our expertise more apparent than in our flagship product, 'ctOS' – a ground-breaking proprietary security-software operating system." Meanwhile, the Abstergo Entertainment database entry for "Ocelot" obliquely suggests that Far Cry 3 (the video game itself) could actually be yet another virtual construct of the Animus (cue the Blood Dragon flashbacks).

Who knew that Drakengard and NieR: Automata were the same universe?

The science-fiction stylings of NieR: Automata from PlatinumGames and publisher Square Enix seem like a far cry from the medieval fantasy of Drakengard from Cavia Inc. and Macrospace Ltd. — but these two action-RPGs are separated by a lengthy span of sequels and studio changeovers, so they actually exist squarely in the same universe.

The description of NieR: Automata on the game's official website tells us its story takes place in "the distant future." That future is, in fact, a far-flung time period following the events of Drakengard, which chronicles the dark fantasy story of the deposed prince Caim and his efforts to stop the malevolent Watchers from destroying the world. Game scholars understand the "E" ending of Drakengard — in which Caim and Angelus travel across a dimensional boundary to fight the Queen Grotesquerie — to be the canonical ending that leads into the 2010 hack-and-slash RPG Nier (itself a direct forerunner of NieR: Automata).

In NieR: Automata, "Mankind is driven from Earth and takes refuge on the Moon." Now, with the full history laid out before us, we finally understand that particular Earth to be the alternate-history Earth of Drakengard, known as Midgard.

The twisted Rockstar universe

With ample evidence of a UFO conspiracy that interlinks the background narratives of Grand Theft Auto 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2, it's safe to say that Rockstar Games are no strangers to shared game worlds. But did you know that Manhunt from Rockstar North was also set in the GTA universe? A variety of evidence suggests that it is: notably, the very location of the game's controversial narrative.

Manhunt takes place within the fictional setting of Carcer City, a ruthless lampoon of America's Rust Belt, where street gangs rule the night. GTA fans who paid enough attention will probably recognize Carcer City from one of its many subtle appearances in the series; it's been mentioned at least once in every Grand Theft Auto release since GTA 3, including the Stories spinoffs developed for handheld consoles.

And if there was any doubt, James Earl Cash — Manhunt's sociopathic protagonist — appears on wanted posters within the Grand Theft Auto universe, most notably in locations like the Las Venturas Police Department in San Andreas. Crime might not pay, but in Rockstar's shared worlds, it'll definitely make you famous.

Mirror's Edge is the next era of the Battlefield universe

With its focus on a single-player campaign, Battlefield: Bad Company from DICE was a bit of a departure from the tried and true formula of the fan-favorite FPS franchise in 2008. But the game's humorous narrative, along with its introduction of highly destructible environments, made it a smash hit. GameSpot called it "quite simply one of the most fun shooters released [that] year."

DICE were also responsible for Mirror's Edge: Catalyst, the 2016 sequel of their unique sci-fi action platformer, also from 2008. Catalyst expanded the story and gameplay of the original and took a few narrative liberties in its effort to round out the lore behind Faith Connors and her death-defying run through The City. DICE looked to their previous titles to establish a "real world" element for the dystopian future of Mirror's Edge by placing the boys from Bad Company directly into the expanded narrative of Catalyst. Just take a quick listen to Intel Recording "Omnistat Gold #01" for all the sordid details. Come for the cheevo points, stay for the classic Bad Company one-liners.

The Valve universe is still alive

Valve Corporation's legendary first-person shooter Half-Life changed the video game industry forever when it hit personal computers in 1998. IGN called the original installment of this hallowed franchise "a tour de force in game design, the definitive single player game in a first person shooter." It tells the heart-pounding story of theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman and his dimension-shattering discoveries at the Black Mesa Research Facility. And curiously enough, Black Mesa would prove to be part of the game's connective tissue to another Valve title, Portal, the award-winning 3D puzzle-platformer released in 2007.

Portal takes players on a wild ride through the Aperture Science laboratories as they try to unravel the enigmas of the artificial intelligence known as GLaDOS and learn for themselves that the cake is a lie. Astute gamers will recognize oblique clues in GLaDOS' dialogue that reference the events of Half-Life, along with a tongue-in-cheek PowerPoint presentation. Furthermore, Aperture founder Cave Johnson mentions his Black Mesa rivals by name during a scene in Portal 2. Whether or not industrial espionage is healthy for business, it certainly made for one sweet spinoff.

Alan Wake influenced the worlds of Quantum Break and Control

Remedy's 2010 game Alan Wake is a bizarre trip through alternate dimensions. As the title character searches for his missing wife, he begins to see elements of a story he wrote coming to life. The endings of Alan Wake and its follow-ups left its hero's fate unclear, which has tormented fans for years. But did you know references to Mr. Wake have shown up in Remedy's newer titles?

Quantum Break, released in 2016, features several callbacks to Alan Wake. For instance, a chalkboard in the game seems to describe events from Alan Wake. Players can also watch clips from Night Springs, a television show that Alan Wake worked on in his own narrative. Not only that, another Easter egg revealed live action footage of Alan Wake himself.

Then came 2019's Control. Through documents discovered during Control, players learn that the game's Federal Bureau of Control investigated the events of Alan Wake, but unfortunately didn't find much. Apparent footage of Alan can also be found in a hidden area of the game. Additionally, the connections between Alan Wake and Control are set to be explored in more depth in an upcoming Control expansion, which will celebrate Alan Wake's tenth anniversary.

Is the Remedy universe connected? It's starting to look that way.