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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.

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Has nothing to do with branch merging in software development.


Examples:

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    Action-Adventure Game 
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask somehow manages to do this to itself. Completing every sidequest in the span of a single three-day cycle is prohibitively difficult, if not impossible, so once you'd gotten the reward for a given sidequest, there wasn't much incentive to repeat it on subsequent cycles. The game's ending implies that every sidequest you ever completed in the game was ultimately merged into the final timeline where Skull Kid and Majora's Mask were defeated.
    • Notably, it's outright impossible to complete every quest in a single 3 day cycle - at a minimum, Link can only help the bomb-shop Lady or reunite Kafei and Anju, but not both.

    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 goes for Charlie/Nash, since it's his Alpha 2 ending (where he's betrayed and killed) that is used as the 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 traveling 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. Nevertheless, the Word of God claims that the "True Hero" path is canon. Make of that what you will.
  • 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. The 2017 Netflix adaptation opted for Trevor to join up with Sypha and Alucard, while Grant got Adapted Out.
  • Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 starts either the Final Episode or Episode EX (depending on how you finished Episode 2 the first time) with Zangetsu's allies from Curse 1 appearing and treating him as a longtime friend, which implies that the "Nightmare's End" ending is canon, and yet Zangetsu is ALIVE and NOT trapped in the world of Azure Striker Gunvolt so it's clear that this trope is in play.
  • Mega Man X4 plays X and Zero's stories separately, and they don't interact with one another at any point except in X's ending animated cutscene. Either way, the player has to defeat both Colonel and General, the Repliforce leaders. Mega Man X5 confirms through the intro and dialogue from Spiral Pegasus (one of the eight Maverick Bosses) that canonically Zero was the one who fought and killed Colonel and thus in turn had to fight and kill Iris, while it's hinted that X fought General.
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    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, it is implied that Avitus was the traitor in Chaos Rising while Thaddeus and the Force Commander were sent on a penitence crusade for resorting to using tainted war gear while remaining loyal and that everyone else were still with the loyalist part of the Chapter, 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 (in which the campaigns happen sequentially). 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. 3's expansion also has sequential missions and sets up the stage for World of Warcraft.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: The Allied campaign was the canon ending, but in the expansion Commander's Challenge, Moskvin has a minor Freak Out on facing the Shogun Executioner (which only appears in the Rising Sun campaign).

    Role-Playing Game 
  • In The Elder Scrolls series: Daggerfall has seven mutually exclusive endings. However, later works starting with Morrowind, reveal that all of the endings, even one that was cut from the final version of the game, happened. This is explained In-Universe as a Cosmic Retcon/Time Crash known as the "Warp in the West". However, none occurred to the same extent they would have individually. For example, instead of one political power dominating the region, the dozens of city states merged into four with all still under the banner of the Empire. Mannimarco successfully ascended to godhood, but in a rather minor station,note  while also leaving a "mortal" version behind who leads the cult that worships the god version. Numidium doesn't go on a Tamriel-destroying rampage, but is rendered forever non-functional through unexplained meansnote . Nobody in the region actually has any idea how any of this happened; they all woke up one morning in the new status quo with no memory of the previous two days. The Warp itself happened due to the Numidium being a Mechanical Abomination built by the disappeared Dwemer to act as a refutation of the Gods, including the God of Time; just being active royally messes up the very idea of time in the area.
  • 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 (sidequest) chapters that required several playable characters to die to access them. In New Mystery of the Emblem, however, all returning gaiden characters except Nagi (who requires specifically Tiki to be dead in order to access her) 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.
  • Fire Emblem: Thracia 776:
    • In Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, Lachesis, like all other first-generation female characters that don't have a plot lover, has two children with whomever 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 Diarmuid's father, and Finn is canonically Nanna'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.
    • A case of this being averted in the finished product, but played straight in earlier development: Genealogy features "substitute" units, who only show up if a mother in the first generation died or got left unmarried, who replace the children of that mother are usually somewhat inferior to the characters they replace. In Thracia's story proper, the game seems to run with the idea that the substitutes don't exist; at the very least, the kids belonging to Erinys, Lachesis, Sylvia, and Brigid all appear or get referenced at some point, and none of the substitutes appear. However, there are several portraits, Dummied Out in the final product, that unmistakeably belong to several substitute characters—specifically, Asaello and Daisy (replace Brigid's son Febail and her daughter Patty), Femina (replaces Erinys's daughter Fee), and Jeanne (replaces Lachesis's daughter Nanna). This suggests that at some point, the intention was to have the substitutes exist in the same timeline as the other units.
  • Deus Ex:
    • Deus Ex: Invisible War uses a combination of the three possible but mutually exclusive endings of the first game. JC Denton merged with Helios, but this caused global communication to suffer a breakdown and the world descend into a period of war and economic depression known as "the Collapse", the Illuminati then used the resulting chaos during this time to consolidate their power.
    • Its prequel, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, inverts the trope by having all of the possible endings plausibly lead to the events of the first game, but then with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided following as though none of them happened.
  • 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.
  • 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 (despite the fact that Theodore can only be selected as an attendant if one plays as the female protagonist exclusive to Portable).
  • 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.
  • Divinity: Fallen Heroes is a follow-up to Divinity: Original Sin II and features all six of the Origin Characters and Malady alive, thus ignoring the fact that in OS2 any of the Origin characters you don't recruit will be killed.
  • Dark Souls II and Dark Souls III are predicated on both endings to Dark Souls happening - whether the Chosen Undead Linked the Fire or not, eventually someone would, and eventually someone wouldn't and it would need to be reignited. The Dark Lord ending was just another part of an endless cycle, and by the time of III, the world is actually becoming worn out from going through the periods of light and dark so many times.

    Simulation Game 
  • Ace Combat:
    • In Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, Cipher fights five out of eleven elite Belkan (well, only most of them are 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, meaning he almost single handedly wiped out NINE elite squadrons, not even including Gelb and Espada, who appear regardless of Karma Meter status.
    • 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.
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    Wide-Open Sandbox 

    Other 
  • Every ending of every game in the Henry Stickmin Series is canon. This includes Infiltrating the Airship and Fleeing the Complex, which have very drastically different endings depending on the choices done during those games.note  According to Word of God, if one ending were declared the "true ending" then it would undercut the series' Choose Your Own Adventure roots.

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