Everyone knew that the Death Stranding title was as mysterious as it was nonsensical, but few actually expected it to become relevant to Hideo Kojima's newest game in a big way. Death Stranding has been in development since 2015 and it felt like what was once a placeholder project name had become too popular to ignore until 2019, when Kojima finally began unveiling more of the title's secrets and hinted at a deeper meaning.
Death Stranding follows the adventures of the United Cities of America's most overworked deliveryman, Sam Porter Bridges, as he hooks up to a Bridge Baby and makes his way across a land ravaged by an apocalyptic event. Just what happened isn't made abundantly clear in the game's opening minutes but becomes clear quickly, and soon enough, players are facing the game's title spelled out in big letters on their screen while grappling with the first few cutscenes of an already bizarre and compelling narrative.
But just what does the Death Stranding title mean, and more importantly, how does that meaning change over the course of the game? Surprisingly, the Death Stranding title actually means multiple things at different points in the story. For one, the Death Stranding title refers not only to the apocalyptic event itself but also multiple events in Earth's history.
The Death Stranding Is What Destroyed America
The Death Stranding title, first and foremost, refers to the event that rocks the United States of America prior to the game's story, wiping out most of humanity and bringing with it the BTs that litter the post-apocalyptic landscape. The Death Stranding took place in America during surgery, and triggered what's understood to be the first Voidout - something that happens when a human dies, which then summons a BT from the realm of death and creates all kinds of problems for humans unlucky enough to be in the vicinity. It also leaves a massive crater surrounding where the Voidout took place, leaving ruins behind.
The Death Stranding created an environment where BTs could interact with humans, and is directly responsible for the setup for Death Stranding. All in all, it makes sense for the Death Stranding title to reflect the past, as one of the game's thematic concerns comes out of learning from the past to understand the future. Just how far in the past, however, might surprise some fans.
The Death Stranding Has Happened Five Times Before
Later in the game, players uncover information that proves the current Death Stranding that afflicts the Earth isn't the first one that's occurred. In fact, the Death Stranding is responsible for each Extinction Event that Earth has ever experienced - five, as told by the game, including the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. The Death Stranding isn't just one thing, but it's a reoccurring reset button, one that is a direct result of the Big Bang that created matter - humans - and anti-matter, BTs, and more broadly, perhaps death itself.
Essentially, Death Strandings are events orchestrated by an evolved variant of the dominant species on Earth at the time that is connected to the realm of the dead and wipes out life.
Death Stranding Has A Lot To Say About Being Alone
Finally, Death Stranding is extremely interested in examining humanity and what it means to be connected - or, once separated, what it means to be stranded. The Death Stranding title reflects this in multiple ways, referring to the ways in which the dead are stranded in the world of the living, and the way the living are stranded away from each other as a result. Connection is important, yes, but so is the isolation, a loneliness that drives Sam Bridges forward even when he's lost hope himself.