Every Part Of Geek Culture Referenced In Stranger Things Season 4

"Stranger Things" is always overflowing with two things: Upside Down weirdness and geek culture goodness. And season 4 doesn't disappoint.

We first met Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Will (Noah Schnapp) during a 10-hour Dungeons and Dragons campaign, and it was our first clue these boys aren't sitting at the cool table in the school cafeteria. They'd rather build ham radios with staggering range, have the top score on a video game, or binge-watch slashers than play sports, but they're the guys you need when a real life demogorgon tears its way into your reality.

The latest season takes place in 1986, in which the gang faces two new foes, a dark wizard, and high school cliques. In a pop culture world full of Marvel superheroes, it's refreshing to watch misfits save the day, especially when they use some pop culture knowledge to do it.

So, let's look at the geek culture references in season 4 of "Stranger Things," but be aware there are spoilers ahead.

Dungeons & Dragons

One of the most obvious elements of geek culture in "Stranger Things” is, and has always been, Dungeons and Dragons. In season 1, before the boys know of Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and her ability to access alternate dimensions, D & D is their only exposure to the strange and unusual.

After Will's kidnapped by a monster and taken to an alternate dimension, Eleven uses the group's knowledge of the game to explain what happened. She flips the D & D board upside down to show the alternate reality, and places a demogorgon on top as a stand-in for the monster that is holding Will there. They continue to use D&D to understand creatures from The Upside Down — dubbing the next baddie in season 2 a Mind Flayer after it develops a psychic connection with Will — but their interest in the game fades in season 3.

When puberty sets in, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas leave D&D behind for the world of dating. Several times throughout the season, Will tries to organize a game night, but the other boys prefer to focus on their relationships. This causes a brief rift between Will and his friends until they have to team up to defeat the Mind Flayer.

In Season 4, things get a lot more complicated when D&D is linked to the satanic panic of the '80s. As high school students, Dustin and Mike have joined a D&D group, The Hellfire Club, and become friends with its leader, Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn). The popular kids accuse the group of making a pact with the devil and blame Munson when a girl turns up dead in his uncle's trailer.

A childhood game turns into a target for angry jocks and scared parents, and puts them in the path of a dark wizard named Vecna.  


"Stranger Things 4" is packed full of references to slasher films. Some are glaringly obvious, while others are more subtle.

When Nancy (Natalia Dyer) interviews Munson's uncle about the dead girl in his trailer, he tells her the story of Victor Creel (Robert Englund), who is accused of murdering his whole family. He calls him "the real Boogeyman" and draws a direct comparison to Michael Myers:

"They locked [Creel] away in Pennhurst Asylum ... as far as I know, he's still there. That is, unless he broke out. Like that, what's his name, the white mask who killed the babysitters?"

The reference is about as subtle as a knife to the gut, but Michael Myers isn't the only one supplying the nightmare fuel for "Stranger Things 4."

The most obvious nod to '80s slashers is the fact that Robert Englund, Freddy Krueger himself, plays a vital role in the story. This time, he's on the other side of the claws that resemble those of his famed character. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" was a massive influence for this season, and if Englund's appearance isn't enough of a clue, Dustin straight-up references Krueger's boiler room when discussing Vecna's alternate dimension. Nancy even describes the dark wizard's attacks as "waking nightmares." The only way to make the references more obvious would have been for Englund to speak in puns while wearing a red and green sweater.

I'm not opposed to references that knock me over the head, but my favorite one of the season is incredibly subtle. In episode 3, at the 38:20 mark, you can hear the three-note synth sound from "Halloween." If you missed it the first time around, circle back and listen closely. I promise it's there.

Nintendo & video games

Keeping with the subtlety for now, season 4 takes place in '86, which is the year the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) became popular. We never see any of the character's play the revolutionary console, but there are a few subtle nods to it throughout the season.

The very first scene of the season is a kid riding his bike down a suburban street, flinging newspapers onto doorsteps. An old memory clicked in my brain as soon as I saw it. There's an old NES game called "Paperboy," where you ride around on a bike and launch newspapers into mailboxes, a game I'd forgotten about until I saw this scene.

Later in the series, a more direct reference to the NES is made by Lucas' sister, Erica (Priah Ferguson). When her brother disappears from home for two days, Erica vents her frustration about it in radical '80s fashion:

"If and when you do find Lucas, please tell him I've been covering for his a** for two days now. Each day of covering cost 10 bucks with a DPR, that's a daily percentage rate, of 7.9%. Another week of this, and he's buying me a god**** Nintendo with 'Duck Hunt.'"

It doesn't seem like much now when compared to "Grand Theft Auto" or "Red Dead Redemption," but back then, "Duck Hunt" was pretty cool.

The last reference happens when the group lies to Dustin's girlfriend, Suzie (Gabriella Pizzolo), to get her to hack into a computer for an address that will lead them to Eleven. She's told the computer connects to a location where a new 16-bit video game console is being created. The group's new stoner friend, Argyle (Eduardo Franco), claims it's called "Americantendo." Man, they really wanted to make sure no one missed that one.


Unlike Nintendo, D&D, and slashers, the film's main anime references are more obscure. The creators of the series, The Duffer Brothers, both admitted "Elfen Lied" heavily influenced "Stranger Things." The early 2000s anime series centers on Lucy, a girl with telekinetic superpowers, who escapes a research facility and befriends two college kids. She suffers a head injury during her escape and develops multiple personalities. A childlike facade hides the violent killer she really is underneath. Does any of this sound familiar? It should because back in 2016, Matt Duffer explained its influence on "Stranger Things," saying:

"That's an older [series], it's very, very violent though, so in that way it's very different ... It reminded me when I watched it of a very violent, anime-ish E.T.. So, that DNA is in it."

In the latest episodes, we're introduced to Eleven's darker side and her history of violence, which she's been hiding under a childlike facade until now. As the series continues, it becomes more like the violent anime that inspired it.

Another large influence for The Duffers was "Akira," an anime from 1988 about a guy who develops severe headaches and hallucinations after a motorcycle accident. He's taken to a government facility, where he develops powerful telekinetic abilities, which he promptly uses to kill anyone who gets in his way.

It seems Eleven is growing into her influences, and becoming more uncontrolled and brutal as the show goes on. Just how closely Eleven will come to mirror her anime influences remains to be seen. 

With such rampant references to freaky D&D monsters, gory slasher flicks, and savage anime, it's no surprise that this season is more violent and brutal than the previous three. 

"Stranger Things 4" is currently available to stream on Netflix, and two final episodes will be released on July 1, 2022.