How Marathon Connects To Halo

How Marathon Connects To Halo

During today’s PlayStation Showcase, Bungie announced its first new game since the release of Destiny 2. Marathon marks a return to the classic shooters of Bungie’s early days, but with what appears to be a much more modern look.

The announcement that Bungie was working on a new instalment in the Marathon series was, for me, perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire PlayStation Showcase. It’s an interesting title for PlayStation to retrieve from Bungie’s catalogue because of its influence on Halo, the studio’s most massive hit. (For clarity, Marathon is also making its way to Xbox, which would suggest Bungie had the game in the pipe well before its acquisition by PlayStation).

I’m old enough to remember when Bungie used the Marathon logo (a circle atop a vertical line contained within another circle) as the mark of the Reclaimer in the original Halo and the stir that caused. Though current custodians 343 Industries altered the symbol after Bungie’s departure, so it wasn’t the exact logo any longer, it is far from the only reference either game makes to the other.

Let’s take a look at some examples

There’s lots of crossover between the series, typified by sly self-referential IYKYK jokes that Bungie has always liked hiding in its games. Take, for instance, the existence of MJOLNIR Mark IV armour in both games. In Marathon, the MJOLNIR Mark IV are cyborgs. In Halo, it is the cybernetic armour worn by the Master Chief.

The AI character in Marathon, named Durandal, was named after a ceremonial sword called Curtana, sometimes also spelled Cortana. The real sword is used by the British monarchy in the coronation of kings and queens. Indeed, an inscription on the sword reads, “I am Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durandal”. Cortana, of course, was Master Chief’s longtime companion AI in Halo.

Many enemies found among the Covenant forces in Halo were also built to strongly resemble those from Marathon. The similarities go right down to individual lines of dialogue, like Halo‘s Grunt enemies yelling things like “They’re everywhere!” the same way Marathon‘s BOBs did.

There are many, many more references to the older game to be found in Halo, including Cortana’s eventual descent into rampancy, a pillar of Marathon‘s story.

You can read through many of these references on Halopedia.

Marathon and Halo

So what is the connection between the two games? Nothing official. It’s more of a tangential connection. Spiritual, maybe? For a long time, people wondered if Marathon and Halo were set in the same universe, but the canonical answer is no. Arguments for and against were complicated in the early 2000s by some eager Bungie employees promoting the game, claiming the connection was real and meaningful. Sadly, that was just hype and fireworks. It’s led to two decades of theorising by fans, drawing parallels and making YouTube videos with thumbnails full of red circles around the Marathon logo.

The official answer is They Are Set In Different Universes, But Are Very Similiar In Many Ways. They are video games that epitomise the phrase “same same, but different,” a Thai tourism tagline that Australians have adopted as a broader idiom.

Bungie was still very much in the mode of making the Marathon games by the time Halo came along, and, at the time, it was a game that seemed like an extension of the older series. Bungie was simply enjoying itself, sticking as many Marathon references into Halo as it liked because it wasn’t yet the Xbox megahit it was destined to become.

Anyway, it seems like Bungie’s ready to get back to its roots. With Destiny 2 winding up for its grand finale, an expansion called The Final Shape (which also got a trailer during this morning’s PlayStation Showcase), Bungie is clearly ready to move forward. It’s a different company now, one that’s been through an amicable separation from Microsoft, a less amicable separation from Activision, and what I’m sure was a very lucrative acquisition by PlayStation. Will the modern version of Bungie, once again beholden to a corporate master, continue this self-referential trend? Should we expect references to the original Halo scattered throughout? More likely, it will be references to Destiny 2 that make their way into the mix. Maybe a few surprises just for the Xbox crowd? Who knows.

All I know is this: After all these years, Marathon is back, and I still can’t quite believe it.

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