Even an intro to this post would be spoilery, so I’ll have to put that behind the cut! If you haven’t completed BioShock Infinite, DO NOT CONTINUE. This article contains huge spoilers for all three games in the BioShock series!
NO, REALLY, DO NOT CONTINUE READING IF YOU HAVE NOT PLAYED THROUGH TO THE END OF BioShock Infinite. This is your final warning!
Near the end of BioShock Infinite, it is revealed that there are an infinite number of universes, all of which are made up of constants and variables. Elizabeth explains, “There’s always a lighthouse, there’s always a man, there’s always a city.” At this point in my playthrough, it became very clear to me that BioShock Infinite is essentially the same story as the first two BioShock games, with the differences between them being the variables. One bit of evidence to support this theory is the fact that Booker is able to operate the Rapture Bathysphere, which has been locked down to only respond to Andrew Ryan or his kin. This implies that Booker is an alternate version of Jack.
But these three things — the lighthouse, the man, and the city — are hardly the only parallels we can draw between the games. There are many more, some of which are constant between all three games, and others which show up in at least one of the Rapture-universe stories and BioShock Infinite. A few of these are pretty obvious as you play through BioShock Infinite, though without the context revealed by the game’s ending, they seem more like homages to the original game.
Partly to keep it all straight in my own head and partly for the benefit of my fellow gamers, I decided to make a list of all the parallels I could think of!
As our hero (Jack in BioShock; Booker DeWitt in BioShock Infinite) nears his initial destination, he opens a box containing items relating to his quest: mysterious instructions and a gun.
BioShock and BioShock Infinite both start with our hero entering a strange city by way of a lighthouse. As we find out in BioShock Infinite, there are an infinite number of lighthouses, each a portal to a different dimension. Interestingly, in BioShock, Jack travels to his lighthouse, which leads to an underwater city, by air; in BioShock Infinite, Booker travels to his lighthouse, which leads to a city in the air, by water.
From the lighthouse, the man must take a shuttle of sorts into the actual city: a Bathysphere in BioShock and a rocket-like capsule in BioShock Infinite. Our first view of each city is through the window of this shuttle.
Rapture and Columbia are both isolated cities in impossible locations, founded with the intention of escaping the ills of society (to which each city’s residents see themselves as vastly superior).
As the Man exits his shuttle, he enters the city through a sort of “welcome area” featuring huge statues of each city’s founder and proclamations about the city’s purpose. Visually, these areas bear striking resemblance to one another, but the words on each banner contrast about as sharply as they possibly could.
In BioShock, we play as Jack; in BioShock 2, Subject Delta; and in BioShock Infinite, Booker DeWitt. Each of these is “The Man” referred to by Elizabeth. Because Subject Delta is already in Rapture when we begin the game, his story does not include the preceding few parallels, but for most of the rest of the game his role is consistent with Jack and Booker’s.
There is always a girl who is imprisoned in some way, yet who wields special powers. In BioShock and BioShock 2, the Little Sisters vary in appearance, but they are frequently shown (as in the concept art above) to have dark hair and blue eyes. Eleanor Lamb, in BioShock 2, and Elizabeth, in BioShock Infinite, share this coloring. There is also a very clear similarity between Elizabeth’s outfit and that of the Little Sisters — and, of course, there’s the fact that Eleanor’s last name is Lamb and Elizabeth is known in Columbia as The Lamb.
The hero’s main rival (at least ostensibly) in each game is an egomaniacal, corrupt leader. In BioShock, it’s Andrew Ryan, the founder of Rapture. In BioShock 2, it’s Sofia Lamb, a psychologist who brainwashes her patients into cult worship. And in BioShock Infinite, it’s Zachary Comstock, the founder of Columbia. Ryan, an atheist, eschews religion, but both Lamb and Comstock whip their followers into a religious fervor, painting themselves as spiritual figures in addition to political or economic ones. Another interesting parallel between these three is that each is the parent of one of our main protagonists. Andrew Ryan is Jack’s father, Sofia Lamb is Eleanor’s mother, and Comstock, while not technically Elizabeth’s father, is a version of him, and claims her as his heir.
There is always a Protector assigned to the Girl. In BioShock, the Big Daddies keep scavengers from harming the Little Sisters. They also do this in BioShock 2, but additionally there are Big Sisters who fill this role. Technically, the Big Sister is not a main protector for our BioShock 2 Girl, Eleanor, except that she is formerly a Little Sister and the Big Sisters are agents of Sofia Lamb. Eleanor actually becomes a Big Sister herself later in the game, at which point she essentially becomes her own protector. And in BioShock Infinite, Songbird is tasked with keeping Elizabeth imprisoned in her tower. Typically, as Columbia is a city in the sky, he is seen flying around, but I couldn’t resist using this image of his death in Rapture since it provides such clear symmetry with the other games.
Jack bears a chain tattoo on each of his wrists, Subject Delta’s glove is emblazoned with the Greek letter after which he is named, and Booker has branded his own hand with his daughter’s initials.
In Rapture, Plasmids are injected as a means of genetic enhancement, giving the user special powers like Electro Bolt, seen above. These powers are fueled by substance called EVE, which must be replenished in order to use the powers. In Columbia, instead of injection, people can drink Vigors which give them powers very similar to those of Plasmids — some almost identical, like the above-pictured Shock Jockey. Instead of EVE, Vigors are powered by salts, which can be ingested either through liquid found in vials or simply by eating salty foods. Both EVE hypos and salts vials are blue in color (to be fair, probably more a creative choice by the game developers than a story parallel, since both Plasmids and Vigors are forms of “magic” which, in many games, is fueled by typically blue mana).
The cornerstone of Rapture is its free-market capitalist economy, so it’s unsurprising that several businesses expanded to have their hands in many different industries. There are actually two that figure heavily into BioShock: Ryan Industries and Fontaine Futuristics. It’s Fontaine Futuristics, however, which funded the development of ADAM and the creation of Little Sisters and Big Daddies. BioShock 2 also features products made by Ryan Industries and Fontaine Futuristics, but introduces Sinclair Solutions, commissioned by Ryan to provide Plasmids and Gene Tonics to ordinary citizens as a method of product testing. Columbia does not promote the same capitalist values as Rapture (50% of all business profits must be sent directly to Comstock) and really has only one major industrial company, Fink Mfg. They produce and/or distribute practically everything in Columbia, from Vigors to vending machines to turrets.
In both Rapture and Columbia, there is a huge class divide, with the aforementioned corporations making use of poorer citizens as both workers and guinea pigs to increase their bottom line. Naturally, this breeds resentment and tension grows. In BioShock, the semi-mythical figure of Atlas leads the people to revolt against Ryan, and in BioShock Infinite, Daisy Fitzroy leads her Vox Populi group to do the same. In both cases, the Revolutionary appears to offer a better alternative than the status quo, but unfortunately it’s revealed to be an illusion (intentionally in Atlas’s — actually Fontaine’s — case, since his goal all along is upheaval; for Fitzroy, it seems more that she gives into allowing herself and her followers to be driven by vengeance rather than justice).
Both BioShock and BioShock Infinite have a catchphrase which repeats throughout the game. In BioShock, “Would You Kindly?” is a subliminal trigger phrase used to control Jack, and the player probably doesn’t even realize how many times it’s repeated until the plot twist toward the end of the game. In BioShock Infinite, the phrase “Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt” is supposedly Booker’s assignment from his client, and he repeats it to himself many times as he tries to accomplish his goal for his own selfish reasons. Much like “Would You Kindly”, though, it’s revealed to have a hidden meaning, as the phrase was actually used originally 20 years earlier, when Booker was offered a chance to sell his baby, Anna, to Comstock in exchange for paying off Booker’s gambling debts. Of course, it’s the same girl, but the context is completely different, and we see how Booker’s mind actually used the phrase to trick himself into making new memories when he was brought through the tear — much as Jack’s mind is manipulated by Fontaine with his catchphrase.
Assuming your choices led you to the “good” endings of BioShock and BioShock 2 (choices which, themselves, imply branching realities), each of these games ends with a group of the Girls surrounding a main character. In BioShock, if Jack frees the Little Sisters, they become his family on the surface and he watches them live happy lives. In BioShock 2, Subject Delta has a similar choice to save the Little Sisters. If he does, Eleanor leads them to the surface and, presumably, they also have a happy ending. In BioShock Infinite, Booker is confronted with many different versions of Elizabeth. In both comparison and contrast to the Little Sisters, Elizabeth’s fate is both happy and sad. She is erased, but baby Anna is allowed the opportunity to live out her life without interference from any other dimension.
Another parallel here is that The Man dies during each of these scenes. Jack seems to fare the best, as he lives to be an old man. Delta only just makes it to the surface before his injuries and broken bond with Eleanor do him in. And Booker is drowned by the Elizabeths to prevent him from becoming Comstock. The latter two are able to live on in a way, though — Eleanor extracts ADAM from Delta, storing his consciousness within herself, and Booker can live out his life normally in other universes, if not this one.
Along the same lines as the plane/boat comparison from the first entry in this article, BioShock and BioShock 2 end with the main character breaking the water’s surface to return to the air, while BioShock Infinite ends with Booker being submerged in water.
So — taking all this into consideration, does this mean that BioShock and BioShock 2 actually take place in two separate versions of Rapture?
Did I miss any parallels? Share any connections or comparisons you noticed in the comments below!