Binding of Isaac does not follow the normal format of a story. We are not given a clear narrative and the game has many endings which to the average player might seem completely random and confusing. However to get any sense of story, you have to put the pieces together yourself. Beware, there are spoilers in this analysis.
On the surface it may look like an average comedic indie game. Many of the elements in the game such as shooting poop for items, a boss that urinates himself and shooting tears as weapons are indeed hilarious as they are intended to be. But Binding of Isaac does have a serious side to the story past its black humor.
Right from the name you can tell the main themes of the game is religion. The Binding of Isaac is a biblical story in which God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as a test of faith. This ties into the game, as the narrator for the first portion of the game tells us how Isaac’s mother hears a “voice from God” to sacrifice her son in the same way. However we are shown later on when we beat the game the first time, that Isaac’s mother trying to kill him and being stopped by God is simply a story he made up in his drawings because in the next scene we see his mother still alive through his door.
So we are left on a cliffhanger, not knowing whether Isaac’s mom is actually going to kill him or not. But the story for the first part of the game shows that Isaac has a very low opinion of her. He dislikes, possibly even hates his mother and fears her.
So is this all there is to it? A game where you play as isaac and fight his mom in his imaginary world? Well we will get to that ahead.
Depression and Abuse 壓抑與欺侮
Isaac in many scenes often has a cheerful expression and often behaves in whacky or comedic ways. But we are shown constantly through the game Isaac curled up into a ball remembering traumatic moments from his life. Even one of his main weapons in the game is tears of sadness.
The image below shows isaac being rejected by a girl he likes:
The next image shows Isaac being Isaac excidedly opening a present only to find poop inside. Which might explain why in his imaginary world, Isaac uses his tears to destroy every poop he finds:
Lastly, the following image shows isaac being given a wig with girls hair by his mom, another reason why Isaac might dislike his mother and possibly hints that mom wanted isaac to be a girl when she gave birth to him, not a boy. This might explain why isaac is mistreated:
Not just the examples shown above, but many of the items in the game hint at traumatic moments in his life. The Belt, Cat-O-Nine-Tails and Tough Love are just a few examples which hint at Isaac being beaten up and abused by his mother. It is even explained at the beginning that his toys such as his gamekid, were taken away from him by his mother. Each of the items in the game is significant to isaac in some way, and give the player some backstory to what is going on outside of his imaginary world.
Isaac is constantly bullied and abused by both his classmates at school, his mother and has had nothing but misfortune in his life. The only escape he truly had in his life was his toys and games. But his mother takes them away from him, and what he is left with is his imagination and the game we are playing is the game he is imagining within his mind. It is his only way of escaping the abuse from his life. This leads us to the next section, The Chest.
The Chest 金箱子
The Chest is Isaac’s empty toybox. His mother took away all of his toys and games and has Isaac locked in his room away from the supposed “sin” of the outside world. Taking away the only enjoyment Isaac has in his life is literally driving him insane. To hide away from his mother and the world outside, Isaac climbs into his toybox and escapes into his imaginary world.
The box, while confusing to players at first, is very significant to isaac. The box is his world. Within it he can be whoever he wants to be. He can be the hero from the games which he used to enjoy before his mom took them away. Inside the box he can find interesting items to aid him in his imaginary quest. This is why in many of the endings you find isaac finding some rare item within the chest which you can use later on.
Some of the items you find in the game are video game related items, such as the gamekid, or the fetus jar. Others are disturbing items such as the belt or the knife. Isaac is afraid of these in the real world, but uses them in his imaginary world to turn his fears against the foes in the game world. In his imaginary world, he no longer has to be afraid of the abuse from the real world. And in his imaginary world he can find lots of interesting things.
One of the most disturbing and significant endings is when we find the Blue Baby in the chest:
Who is the Blue Baby in the chest and why is he dead? We’ll get to that later.
Before we move on lets look at one of The Womb bosses, It Lives.
It Lives is confirmed to be Isaac in the womb. To win, and get to the chest once more, Isaac must defeat himself in the womb. I believe this signifies Isaac hating himself. Wishing himself dead, that he never even existed and wanting to destroy himself in the womb.
So to elaborate. The chest is Isaacs empty toybox, where he he shuts himself in to escape reality. It is a happy place for him where he doesn’t need to worry about what is going on outside. But this lifestyle of shutting himself inside the box every day is not a healthy lifestyle for him mentally or physically. He is living in a state of constant denial of the outside world. Hating himself and everything in the real world. Some of the items even suggest that Isaac has suicidal tendecies.
Isaac vs Himself 以撒VS他自己
For the persistent player. You may have reached the Cathedral and has a complete wtf moment when you find that the final boss of the cathedral is non other than isaac himself.
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