Indulge me for a moment, if you will. A lot has already been written about the upcoming game by Kojima Studios, but even now, ostensibly close to its release, Death Stranding is as cryptic as the day it was announced back in 2016. Virtually nothing is known about its gameplay or story.
Despite this it’s already something of an underground cultural phenomenon. Redditors talk about the game at lengths and Kojima himself has been prolific in releasing snippets of information on regular basis, prompting people to dive into a frenzy of speculating. I would like this document to serve as a comprehensive and distilled list of what we actually know about the game and showcae some of the sheer craziness and the emerging theories concerning it. This is going to be a wild ride of conspiracies, so stay sharp, hopefully I can impart on you some of the insanity I subjected myself to. Let’s dive.
On Hideo Kojima—the master of the ruse cruise himself.
In order to understand Death Stranding, you have to understand Hideo Kojima. I will not bore you with lengthy dissertation on his life, but it’s important to put the game into context of this man’s work. From this stand-point, it is important to look back to the series Kojima is most well-known for, one honored by the status of being the creator of stealth genre itself. I am of course talking about Metal Gear Solid. And don’t worry, this will be very important for later discussion.
So what is Metal Gear Solid? The series itself is legendary, you’ve obviously heard of it, even if you never played any of the early games, as they were exclusively console titles. The many memes and ideas it spawned permeate the industry itself. It is virtually impossible to go into game development without giving a nod to Metal Gear, much like it would be impossible to go through art studies without talking about, say, Van Gogh.
And best I can describe it—it’s a spy thriller in a video game format. The series tells a story of the Cold War era, fictionalized to include giant bipedal mechas capable of firing nuclear missiles, advanced technology, aliens, cloning, secret societies and a literal AI hivemind of US senators. It’s the kind of story that is designed specifically for a conspiracy nut-ball.
The larger point here isn’t to analyze the entirety of Metal Gear for clues, we do not have the time nor space for it. The point is to show several of the themes that Kojima frequently revisits, that being his love for quirky, powerful characters defining the fate of the world through their actions and personal morals, large-scale conflicts with the undertone of world-shattering, cataclysmic events behind them and world-spanning, secret conspiracies of groups of powerful individuals. All of these we can clearly see in Death Stranding.
The Death Stranding P.T connection.
Let’s go back a little. In 2014, a free downloadable video-game was released for PlayStation 4 store. Now in order to understand the sheer craziness of the whole thing you have to understand something—Hideo Kojima created an entirely fake video game studio to release the game, just so nobody would suspect it’s a Konami title and a fake studio director persona Kojima would dress up as, for a viral marketing campaign.
Next, he worked on the game with movie director Guillermo Del Toro, a fascinating personality in his own right. The psychological horror game P.T was cryptic, weird and terrifying. Famously, although it was specifically designed to be mind-bogglingly difficult, the internet managed to solve its mysteries in a day and the people were greeted with the Silent Hills announcement screen, staring who else but to-be protagonist of Death Stranding—Norman Reedus.
Fascinatingly enough, the trailer for P.T seen below also included a character… from Metal Gear V Phantom Pain. The child holding his own head with centipedes coming out of the mouth? That’s Chicko. A supporting cast member from MGS V. Also of note, Guillermo Del Toro stared in the second trailer to Death Stranding, shown at E3 last year. Are you starting to see how much of a rabbit hole this is?
The death of Silent Hills.
Now, the Silent Hills project would never see the light of day. In 2015 Kojima had a huge falling out with Konami and left with his crew to form what is now known as Kojima Productions, working closely with Sony. And yet despite the project ostensibly dying and Konami removing all traces of P.T, Norman Reedus and Del Toro immediately jumped on board Death Stranding. Like clockwork. Almost like it was planned.
To this day, many believe that Death Stranding IS Silent Hills. Not in a metaphorical sense, some actually claim that the big plot-twist of Death Stranding is that this is Sam’s (DS’s protagonist’s) journey through Silent Hill and it’s not difficult to see why, the connections are indeed there and the suspiciously short time-span between P.T, Del Toro and Reedus’s involvement, the cancelation of Silent Hills and the approaching release of Death Stranding makes it really hard to believe Kojima wasn’t working on the game long before all of this happened. But this isn’t even the big one yet.
Death Stranding Metal Gear connection.
This one is. Metal Gear V Phantom Pain was by all accounts a great game, mostly from a purely mechanical standpoint, but while it also had unmistakably Metal Gear story [HUGE SPOILER] with the protagonist being revealed to be a brainwashed clone of the character he thinks he is (yes, that’s Metal Gear) [END OF HUGE SPILER], a lot of the fans felt underwhelmed with the resolution to Big Boss’s story. The game also contained many, many weird things, like the unexplained supernatural elements, a dimensional rift opening, weird snippets of dialogue at camp Omega and more.
And in a truly fascinating twist, these were actually explained or at least expanded upon in Metal Gear Survive, yes the one Metal Gear universally panned for being such a departure from the series. MG Survive tells the story about soldiers from the Mother Base in MGS:V being transported to another dimension and trying to go home, while fighting mysterious, alien entities capable of possessing people. Alien creatures eerily reminiscent of Death Stranding’s mysterious primary antagonists. And the weird physical equations mentioned at Camp Omega make a return… On Norman Reedus’s dog tags.
The Big Boss of all conspiracies.
And again, it’s almost impossible to look at this and Death Stranding and not go “hold on a minute” because the references, the themes, the ideas just seem to interlock together. This has resulted in the most insane but also captivating theory of them all—that Death Stranding IS Metal Gear Solid: Zero, the ultimate prequel to the series, taking place before Metal Gear Solid 2. Two YouTubers in particular- PythonSelkan and TheTombPortable are well known for making videos explaining this crazy theory. I’ve linked them here if you want to find out more, and believe me, this conspiracy ride can easilly consume your entire day and next week.
The references are absolutely there, the newest trailer showed a picture of our Protagonist in the white house and the whole story of Metal Gear pretty much starts there with The Boss, a top agent of the FBI being sent on a mission to the moon while pregnant. When she returns her baby is taken away from her, leaving her with a scar and sense of loss. That C-section scar is exactly the same Reedus’s character Sam sports in one of the trailers. Which, you simply can’t hear this and not make immediate connections to what we’ve seen from Death Stranding.
Death Stranding Death Stranding connection.
So what does all of it mean, is Death Stranding secretly Metal Gear? Is it also Silent Hills? Is it all three? Has Kojima and Konami actually been working together all this time after staging a falling out as some would like to argue?
Well the answer is, sadly, no. While I don’t like to dash anyone’s hopes, there is a simpler explanation and look no further than at Hideo Kojima for it. Kojima stated on many times that the primary theme of Death Stranding is connections. Connecting people, connecting places. Connecting ideas.
He emphasized many times how in Death Stranding direct conflict is inadvisable, how he wants to break away from the common trope of games using violence and weapons as a gratification tool. If you think you’re starting to see patterns and connection instead of going for a simple, straight-forward solution, that’s EXACTLY the mindset Kojima wants you to be in.
The explosion that will be your last.
Ultimately I cannot tell you if Death Stranding is going to be “good”. Many gamers are afraid that it might devolve into a walking simulator- a boring slog through admittedly beautiful landscapes, with little actual gameplay. And I understand these concerns, I share them with all of you.
I can promise you though that the game will be weird. It’s going to be strange and off and possibly outside of the scope of anything we’ve see thus far. Whatever it ends up being, it has already achieved its meta-narrative goal—it made us search for connections.