Merging the Branches

A specific form of Cutting Off the Branches where events from several story branches or endings are declared canon by a later installment, even though it is impossible for all these events to occur in the same playthrough of the previous game.

Overlaps with Third-Option Adaptation (which is about Taking A Third Option when adapting interactive works to non-interactive media). See also Broad Strokes.

Has nothing to do with branch merging in software development.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Fighting Game 
  • Street Fighter Alpha 3 not only assumes most if not all of the endings from the second game to be canon, but most of it's own as well. M. Bison/Vega had a really bad day. Same to Charlie/Nash, since it's his SFA 2 ending (where he's betrayed and killed) that is used as a basis for his return in Street Fighter V.

    Platform Game 
  • Punch Quest: Punchzerker, the default player character, occupies the focus of the action. Alternatively, the player character Smashkyrie can be selected. In the intro story, both are entering the fortress at the same time, implying both are present.
  • In the Last Story mode of Shadow the Hedgehog the plot appears to consider a number of events canon, such as the President being evacuated to the GUN Fortress, Eggman claiming Shadow to be an Android, and the majority of the cast travelling to the Black Comet. These are all plot points that cannot happen in a single playthrough of regular Story Mode's branching paths, implying that regular story mode is always just "what if" scenarios that merely represent Shadow's real journey, regardless of your chosen path.
  • Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse has three potential partners for Trevor Belmont (Grant, Sypha, and Alucard). You can only have one partner at a time, and it's impossible to meet both Sypha and Alucard on the same playthrough. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night establishes that canonically, all four of them fought Dracula together.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • Installments of the Dawn of War series set after Winter Assault imply that the latter's true ending contains elements of both Ork and Eldar campaigns (Taldeer survives the Orks, Chaos and Necrons on Lorn V but is taken out by the Blood Ravens on Kronus in Dark Crusade), while Crull is defeated and his skull taken by Gorgutz 'Ead'unter (the Chaos faction takes it back from him in Dark Crusade).
    • Although the Orks didn't win in Dark Crusade, some fans refer to him with the full list of titles he gives himself for beating the six other factions (that is, Gorgutz 'Ead'unter Daemonkilla Deffkilla Bloodspilla Gunsmasha Ragescreama Ghostkilla).
    • Fanon holds that Retribution's ending contains elements of some of the others, mostly because they aren't directly contradicted by each ending: The Space Marines win and Gabriel becomes the new Chapter Master, the Imperial Guard showed up to help the Space Marines, the Eldar get Taldeer's soulstone back, the Orks make off with the Judgement of Carrion to replace their downed Krooza, and Eliphas killed a bunch of things and managed to become a Daemon Prince (or at least survive the game). The only one that doesn't get included is the Tyranids, probably because they would have eaten everything in the sector.
  • The Warcraft series did this for everything up to Warcraft 3. The second game took the first's Orc campaign as canon but with several Human story missions as still having happened instead of their Orc variants. The second game was treated the same way but with the sides reversed by its expansion. The second game's expansion is later treated as two sides of the same story, with the canon result of the final battle combining the endings.

    Role-Playing Game 
  • The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall had seven mutually exclusive endings, but The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind revealed that all of them (except for one) took place at the same time due to a rare cosmic event called a Dragon Break (that particular one — which is the only one which historians agree on having happened — is usually called the Warp in the West, on account of happening in the west, and sometimes the Miracle of Peace, on account of having set up a stabler, more peaceful situation in the region). Further, none of the events happened to the same extent as they would have if they occurred individually.
  • In Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, you have eight possible party members but you can never recruit the one of the same class as yourself. Nevertheless, all eight are regarded the Companions of the Avatar in later installments.
  • In Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, several characters were only recruitable in gaiden chapters that required several playable characters to die to access them. In New Mystery of the Emblem, however, all returning gaiden characters except Nagi are treated as if they joined Marth's army despite the fact that every playable character from the previous game survived to see the sequel.
  • In Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, Lachesis, like all other first-generation females, has two children with whoever marries her. The Midquel, Thracia 776, features both her children as playable characters, but heavily implies they have different fathers, something not possible within the game mechanics of Genealogy. Namely, Beowulf is canonically Delmud's father, and Finn is canonically Nana's. Beowulf's lover conversation with Lachesis in Genealogy's Chapter 5 implies he leaves her so she can be with Finn, but gameplay-wise he'd still father both her children.
  • Deus Ex:
  • In Tales of Symphonia, the manga adaptation merges the Kratos, Zelos and Colette endings and has each of them give Lloyd the special item that he receives only from their ending in the game. This is also apparently the canonical ending according to the sequel. Overlaps a bit with Third-Option Adaptation in that another change, Yuan coming with them to the final battle, actually isn't possible in any of the endings.
  • Repeatedly used in the Diablo series: in the single-player, you must choose which character to complete the game with, but the respective next installment declares that all playable characters participated in the previous one's plot. This is possibly justified in that the Co-Op Multiplayer with all available classes represented is viewed as canon, even for offline play.
  • Star Wars Legends reference books establish that the Exile, the Player Character of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, is female but also had the Handmaiden on her team, which in-game is only possible for a male Exile. Had the game not been Christmas Rushed, recruiting Handmaiden would have depended on the player character's alignment rather than gender, much like with Mira (light siders) and Hanharr (dark siders), and with Visas Marr (who normally joins regardless of alignment or gender) being the dark side alternative; presumably, this would mean the Disciple, who is the alternative to Handmaiden for female characters, would have also joined regardless of gender or alignment in the finished game.
  • In the update to Devil Survivor 2, Record Breaker, the Triangulum arc follows a merger of the Kingmaker and Triumphant Restorer endings of the original narrative. In the original game and in the Septentrione arc of Record Breaker, it was impossible to have every character remain alive in any route, since at least one will die canonically in each one. In the recap of the Septentrione arc at the beginning of the Triangulum arc, it's revealed that everyone lives due to the merged endings.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona:
    • In Persona 2, you could meet most of the main cast of the first game, who imply that both the main quest and the Snow Queen quest happened, and also that the protagonist was there for both. Since you can't do both plotlines on the same save file, this is rather strange, though dialogue at the end of the Snow Queen quest implies that the cast are going to go and do the main quest afterwards, which still raises a lot of questions, since St. Hermelin is missing for the entire main quest...
    • In the PSP Updated Re-release of Persona 3, players could choose between either Elizabeth or Theodore as the Velvet Room assistant, so their appearances are mutually-exclusive. In Persona 4: Arena Ultimax, both Elizabeth and Theodore appear and have plot significance, and in Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, the two of them also appear, with the protagonist familiar with both of them, indicating that canonically both served as assistants.
  • In Pokémon Gold and Silver, Red fights with the original 3 starters (Charizard, Venusaur, Blastoise) and Pikachu, a team that is only possible without trades if the canonical game is Yellow. However, Blue's lineup is his team from Red and Blue minus his starter. Other issues of exactly what Pokémon Red got during his journey are sidestepped by filling out the rest of his team with required encounters (one of the Snorlaxes blocking the way to Fuchsia City) or gifts (an Espeon evolved from an Eevee found at Celadon Mansion in the originals, a Lapras given by a worker at Silph Co. during Team Rocket's takeover in the remakes).
  • Drakengard turned out to be a case of this. Initially, there were five endings in the original game. Ending A, the one where they stop the Big Bad and set everything back to normal, was the only one that could reasonably lead to Drakengard 2 (since all the others featured The End of the World as We Know It and/or the protagonist disappearing into a portal), but Ending E, the one where the protagonist and his dragon follow an Eldritch Abomination through the aforementioned portal into 2003 Tokyo, defeat it there, then get unceremoniously shot down by a Japanese fighter plane, is revealed to be the ending that leads to NieR. Background material released around the same time as Drakengard 3, however, reveals that the timeline of Drakengard is pretty similar to our own, just with a calamity called the "Great Apocalypse" happening around A.D. 856; after the time of the second game, around A.D. 1117, the Drakengard world starts going back down a path similar to the real world's again, with only minor changes such as "Black Friday" being "Black Thursday" instead. Up until 2003, when the sky opens up over Tokyo, spitting out a giant grotesque creature and a smaller red dragon intent on killing it...
    • Drakengard 3 itself is an example of this. Supplementary materials reveal that the timeline that leads directly into Drakengard is a combination of endings A and B; Zero forms a pact with the flower to save Mikhail from poisoning as in ending B, and then Zero kills One in a duel before being killed by a male clone of One as in ending A.

    Simulation Game 
  • Ace Combat:
    • In Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, Cipher fights five out of eleven elite Belkan squadrons in any given playthrough, with three of them changing per playthrough depending on your Karma Meter. However, the in-game Assault Records and later lore implies that at the branching points, Cipher faced all three respective squadrons at the same time.
    • Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War has a minor example with its more basic story branching. There are two points in the game where your answer to an otherwise-unimportant question asked by one of your wingmen determines which mission you go on afterwards, and to unlock the ADF-01 FALKEN superfighter, you have to play through the game at least twice and go through both branches. It's indicated that every mission happened anyway, even if the Wardog squadron didn't undertake them - the first branch starts with Wardog either defending an airstrip or dealing with a chemical attack at a civilian city, with mention of another squadron passing by to deal with the issue Wardog can't, and Aces at War: A History indicates that all five of the hangars the player needs to destroy to unlock the aforementioned superfighter were destroyed and raided by Osean forces, with them getting the full plans for the plane and having a completed example flown in an airshow a year after the events of the game.

    Survival Horror 
  • In Resident Evil, Barry doesn't appear in Chris' story after the opening scene, and Rebecca doesn't appear in Jill's game at all. According to the sequels, they all made it out of the mansion.

    Visual Novel 
  • Tsukihime:
    • Melty Blood declares a combination of two endings (Ciel's and Kohaku's) plus events that never actually happened in any canon route.
    • Tsukihime's other sequel, Kagetsu Tohya, justifies all the routes being canon at once by having the story take place in a dream, where real-world logic is of course out to lunch. Those parts of it that take place outside the dream seem to suggest either Ciel's or Arcueid's ending, however. It also includes a number of side stories that explicitly take place in some of the other endings.
  • Fate/hollow ataraxia, the direct sequel to Fate/stay night, has a bizarre conglomeration of events from mutually contradictory routes making up its backstory. This is actually a plot point though, and part of the story's progression is figuring out just what the hell is going on. Turns out it's a merged timeline that came about due to a mishap involving Rin's attempt to recreate the Jeweled Sword of Zelretch, which is capable of accessing alternate timelines.

    Wide-Open Sandbox 

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