Cool Story, Bro: Pop Culture References in Borderlands 2

written by JMatula on January 22, 2013 in Special Feature


Most great artists find some way to tip their hat to those that came before them and the things that inspired them along the way. Call it pop culture references or homage; it’s a great treat for those that catch it. For all those pop culture junkies, Borderlands 2 has more pop culture references tucked into it than a whole season of Family Guy. Some instances are subtler than others, and some are perhaps coincidence but we’d like to think they aren’t, because they bring us geeky glee. These are but a taste of all the clever nods that await you in the game. 

WARNING: These probably contain spoilers. If you don’t want anything ruined or want to the joy of discovery for yourself, don’t read any further.

Reading Finally Pays Off

Just kidding. Reading is reward in its own right and completely FUNdamental. It’s also a great way to spend your time when not looking at a screen. Now all that time spent comes to fruition with some great references:

  • Alice In Wonderland – A challenge in Sanctuary is called “Down the Rabbit Hole,” referencing Alice’s means of travel to Wonderland.
  • Beowulf – If you get the Captain Scarlett DLC, Sir Hammerlock gives you mission in which you kill a creature named Grendel.
  • DC Comics – There’s 2 skins for Zer0 that are references: “Blue Scarab” is a nod to the Blue Beetle and “Why So Serious” is based on Joker’s famous line from The Dark Knight.Blue_Scarab
  • Hamlet – There are several in the game, but probably the best is when a Psycho will recite the entire ‘Too Solid Flesh’ soliloquy.
  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – What would geeky references be without one from this? There are several references to the number 42 in the game, including 42 seconds being the base cooldown for Axton and Salvador’s action skills.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire – Game of Thrones fans, here’s something for you! Occasionally Crimson Riders in Sanctuary will say, “winter is coming.”
  • Twilight – It’s hard not to poke fun at the sparkly vampires of this series. Gaige has a skill called “Make It Sparkle” with text that reads, “Robots are like vampires: they sparkle when hit with incendiary rounds.”


The Other Glowing Boxes

There are tons of references to the glowing boxes we watch when we’re not playing games, namely television and film. Probably too many to even count, but here are some of the absolute best:

  • Adventure Time – Every now and then Tiny Tina will sing the “Baby Finn Song.”
  • Arrested Development – Gotta love this one. Sanctuary’s news man will sometimes say, “there’s always money in the news stand,” a variation on George Bluth Sr.’s famous line.
  • Chappelle’s Show – Taking what might be the one of the most famous lines from this show’s most famous skit, there’s a challenge in the game called “Eff Yo’ Couch.”
  • Doctor Who – There are tons of references to this iconic sci-fi show in the game. Random citizens of Pandora say they are missing a new episode of Constable What, Maya has a skin called “Rose Tailor,” and within minutes of meeting Claptrap he says Allons-y! The outhouse Claptrap uses also disappears and reappears much like The Doctor’s infamous TARDIS.
  • Reservoir Dogs – This cult classic Tarantino film gets a nod with Axton’s skin called “Mister Blonde.”
  • Star Wars – There are quite a few references to the galaxy far, far away in this game. The challenge “That’s Impossible, Even for a Computer” is a direct quote from  a pilot in A New Hope when Rebellion leaders are explaining the plan to blow up the Death Star, and Claptrap introduces himself in a manner eerily similar to C-3PO.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – In the side quest “Splinter Group” there are multiple references to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, including delivering a pizza to a sewer where four mutants with familiar names dwell. Killing them unleashes a boss called Flinter.

Gaming in Your Game

Gearbox heard you like games so they put some games in your game so you can think about games while you game. Check out these great gaming references:

  • BioShock – The Captain Scarlett DLC has two enemies named in honor of this game—Mr. Bubbles and Lil Sis.
  • Call of Duty – There’s a challenge called “Call of Booty” and Axton has a skill called “Duty Calls.”
  • DOOM – The E-tech rocket launchers in the game are called PBFG, in honor of the BFG weapon in this iconic game series.
  • Half-Life – Upon reading the objectives for the No Vacancy mission you’ll see “Find Steam Valve” and “Find Gearbox,” referencing the popular game platform as well as one of Gearbox’s first games, Half-Life : Opposing Force.
  • WarCraft – There’s a challenge titled “For the Hoard,” which is the battle cry of members of the Hoard from this RTS title.



Internet Memes

Yes, even these often-hilarious pieces of Internet culture have found their way into the game:

  • Cool Story, Bro – Three instances of this so far: after getting a kill Axton will sometimes say it, the woman outside of Moxxi’s will say it to the drunk, and the game gives you an achievement titled this when you kill Handsome Jack.
  • Double Rainbow – When trekking around Hyperion Bridge in The Highlands, search for a remote cliff with a tent. If you reach this area a double rainbow will appear and you will unlock the achievement “What Does It Mean?”
  • U MAD? – It’s quite obvious when you come across a challenge called “U (No)Mad Bro?”
  • Xzibit Yo Dawg – Probably one of my favorites, there’s a challenge called, “Yo Dawg, I heard you like challenges.”


Just remember, this only a very small fraction of all the references that await you in this game. There’s a tons more from every type of media you can think of including music, celebrities and businesses. See how many you can find.

What pop culture references have you noticed while playing? Which are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!