Kill the Past is the collective term for a number of related video games directed by SUDA51. Not only are these games often thematically similar, but they also feature a number of recurring trademarks, for instance: severed heads (sometimes in paper bags), the death and resurrection of playable characters (as well as the meaninglessness of death in general), the Moon, assassins, the medium of television, and occasionally even recurring characters. The main theme in "Kill the Past" titles is the necessity for their protagonists to destroy relics of their past that burden and prevent them from moving forward. Oftentimes, characters find themselves at odds with previous events in their lives that must be confronted head-on for them to be at ease.
Although each game in the series can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story, if taken as a whole, "Kill the Past" builds an overarching plot that does not end so much as it carries on where the last title left off. Characters seem to be expendable and serve only to advance the plot; once they have lived out their purpose, it is common to see them killed or simply dissipated from the story.
The literary trend and style known as postmodernism features heavily in "Kill the Past". The nature of the work as a game is not only brought up for comedic value, but also to support the underlying themes, some of which have to do with video games themselves. It is a recurring theme for the protagonist to mirror the player in some way.
The earliest games essentially considered to be a part of the "Kill the Past" collection are Human Entertainment's first three Towairaito Shindoromu titles, which SUDA51 helmed early in his game director career. However, some sources choose not to include these games in their interpretation of the "Kill the Past" line, despite their concise connections to related games published in later years, particularly The Silver Case. This is largely because the events of "Kill the Past" are not considered canon to the Towairaito Shindoromu, which continued even after SUDA51's departure from Human. "Kill the Past" titles are frequently interpreted as a trilogy, usually Grasshopper Manufacture's The Silver Case, Flower, Sun, and Rain and killer7; others excise killer7 and insert Moonlight Syndrome at the beginning.
At the time of release, SUDA51 reported that the No More Heroes franchise was a body of work separate from the "Kill the Past" titles. Despite this, the Lovikov Balls sidequest and other minor elements such as ISZK seem to suggest a connection; later on, references to Santa Destroy and Lospass Island in Diabolical Pitch retroactively reinforced the connection. Killer Is Dead has some visual and thematic resemblance with "Kill the Past" however it was not connected on a narrative level until Travis Touchdown met Mondo Zappa in 2019's Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. killer7 was also linked concretely to Travis Strikes Again, despite some plot holes arising from the connection.
On a larger scale, SUDA51 has claimed that he sees all of his games as existing in one world, which likely explains some of the more minor connections.
- Towairaito Shindoromu: Tansaku-hen (1996) and Towairaito Shindoromu: Kyūmei-hen (1996)
- Moonlight Syndrome (1997)
- The Silver Case (1999), the first chapter containing an epilogue to Moonlight Syndrome
- Flower, Sun, and Rain (2001), which shares characters with The Silver Case, evolving into a sequel as the game goes on
- killer7 (2005), which includes characters, themes and concepts from past games; however, killer7 seems to take place in an alternate history as its timeline is (seemingly deliberately) incompatible with the premises of The Silver Case and Flower, Sun, and Rain
- The 25th Ward: The Silver Case (2005), a direct sequel to The Silver Case
- No More Heroes (2007) and by proxy No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (2010) and Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes (2019), mostly thematically but with some vague plot connections, particularly in the first game.
- Killer Is Dead (2013), thematically similar but isolated from the rest of the narrative until its hero crossed paths with Travis Touchdown in Travis Strikes Again.
Other connected games
Although not Kill the Past games in style or format, these games include minor plot elements from the main Kill the Past games, seemingly placing them within the same continuity.
- Michigan: Report from Hell (2004) introduces the recurring company ISZK
- Shadows of the DAMNED (2011) is a video game that receives a sequel, Serious Moonlight on Death Drive Mk II in Travis Strikes Again.
- Diabolical Pitch (2012) stars baseball pitchers from Santa Destroy and Lospass Island and its protagonist is mentioned briefly in Travis Strikes Again
- LET IT DIE (2016) introduces the Death Drive console series
Killers of the past
The titular element of these stories is protagonists first having a past that has been "killed" through repressing memories or ignoring it, but then having to properly acknowledge and confront it in order to truly "kill" it and move on.
- In The Silver Case, Sumio Kodai and the other Mikumo Boys were disabled as children due to riots provoked by the actions of the Yukimura Group. In case#3:parade, Sumio and the other boys finally have their revenge.
- Both Akira and Tokio Morishima discover that they originally grew up in the Shelters, although it is unclear if they are satisfied with learning this or properly confront it, especially as Tokio goes on to continue investigating in future games.
- In Flower, Sun, and Rain, Sumio Mondo has to confront his past as a clone of Sumio Kodai, and Kodai's history with the events of The Silver Case; on an even higher-level sense, Mondo confronts the fact that his game is a sequel.
- In killer7, Garcian Smith has to confront his past as Emir Parkreiner. The term of "ghosts of the past" also strongly come to mind; many remnant psyches remain on the living plane like ghosts and phantoms, and are the victims of Garcian when he was Emir, or are living people still addicted to the sense of power and prestige of the political positions they have now come to corrupt and abuse for their own gain, and are related in someway to the affairs and members of the Smith Synidcate. Some come to find rest as the truth comes to Garcian, while others must be dealt with personally and be rid of by force.
- In No More Heroes, Travis Touchdown has to remember his motivations for joining the United Assassins Association and his memories of his dead parents.
- Following into No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Travis has to finish what he has started and inadvertently instigated from his past UAA excursions before the consequences wildly get out of control; ultimately, Travis also has to remember his self made vow and drive to "find paradise", a place that Santa Destroy has adopted the facade of, but deep down in its streets, is not.
- In Killer Is Dead, it seems as though Mondo Zappa has to confront his history living on The Moon and about David being his brother, but it is never quite made clear how true the former is.
Although not exactly the defining core of Kill the Past, many of its themes are rooted in Buddhism, and Japanese Buddhism respectively. Kill the Past evokes topics of karma, finding the meaning of life, the aspects of struggle and suffering within the human condition, the fighting spirit and the need to drive to fight, how violence and confrontation is turned to immediately as the initial instinct for gaining power, the fleeting fancy and even meaningless farce of life's dilemmas made overblown and needlessly complicated, confronting one's ills and their causes, and the difference between escapism and fixing one's dilemma and facing the truth, beautiful or ugly, apparent or hidden, to finally confront and deal with the problem once and for all.
Television is among a more recent and artistic thematic object to utilize in artistic interpretation. Television and its use as a window to portray vistas and images not within one's current reality is not disimilar to the ideas of Indra's Net within Buddhism, the concept that existence is a myriad of worlds of their own yet share elements and reflect upon worlds adjacent and parallel all around to their own, that gods and enlightened beings are able to peer into different realms of existence with ease to witness for their own purposes, and those of the Deva Realm, whom are portrayed in Buddhist cosmology, are gods and godly beings who experience no sensation of material suffering and enjoy unlimited and unbridled pleasures, including entertainment of all sorts, to facsimile of humans who either experience positive indulgent emotions such as overt joy or are of the rich and influential who are indifferent in one way or another to the common people. As such, escapism is not a difficult comparison to these ideas and through television, which is a viable and standard common form of entertainment, can become detrimental to those who do not find it within themselves to face reality and languish their days living overtly wishing for a better life or not improving themselves and confronting their problems and shortcomings that admittedly all humans bear.
In Killer 7, television is used as the spiritual medium by which Garcian Smith is able to switch personalities and egos with the rest of the Smith Syndicate, and also power them up through the Mad Doctor. This is also evocative of the idea ghosts and spirits can also possess and appear in electronic media, including radios and televisions.
In No More Heroes, Travis Touchdown is an unashamed and unabashed self proclaimed otaku, who frequently watches anime, television, and movies in his downtime between his work schedule. Originally in the first No More Heroes, Travis decisively was inspired to engage in the assassin criminal underworld as bloodsport for fun and riches to help supply his hobby as he became too impatient to amass his money legally to buy the next volume of the anime he wanted. As depicted in the Rank 4 Extreme Battle Deathmatch Stage enroute to Harvey Moiseiwitsch Volodarrskii, Travis then relapses and takes a nap, dreaming about playing the video game of Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly, communicating that he is growing tired of the want to be the Rank 1 assassin and finding its extreme lifestyle rather taxing and an overbearing and dangerous chore than the exciting path he wanted in life. This all comes to climax by the Rank 1 battle, as his past is then immediately is revealed, and as destiny has it, he must put an end to a major factor that not only drives his hobby into more unwholesome means, but is responsible for destroying the peaceful life he once had, that being Jeane. Kill the Past in this sense comes to intermingle with No More Heroes's themes of punk and the use of the unreliable narrator narrative, as Travis's otaku lifestyle is decadent and somewhat degenerate, but the world outside does not exactly communicate anything much better than the shows, media, and video games he likes to consume, and that his life is his own to enjoy at his whim, and with personal affairs that he must deal with as his own human being.