Of all the characters in the Borderlands universe, perhaps none is more recognizable and deserving of her own game than Tiny Tina. The 13-year-old ballistics expert, voiced by Ashly Burch, quickly became a fan favorite after her debut in Borderlands 2. But how did a 13-year-old explosion lover end up on Pandora, the main Borderlands world, in the first place? Better yet, why would someone so obsessed with revenge and blowing things up be so interested in inventing a world of their own within the fictional universe of Borderlands’ fictional D&D analogue Bunkers and Badasses?
Well, to answer that question before Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands launches, let’s dive into the weird, wacky, and wonderful origins of Tiny Tina herself, with a little help from her creators.
Spoilers for Borderlands 2 follow.
Players first encountered Tiny Tina way back in 2012’s Borderlands 2 in the mission “A Train to Catch,” and it’s a great introduction to Tiny Tina. We know a lot about her before we even meet her: Huge mines litter the landscape around the area you encounter her, and there’s no question that whoever is in control of this tract of land is someone with a deep and… borderline is frightening, obsession with explosives.
The promise of a bloody, violent, and maybe even hilarious death is just part of life on Pandora and something that shapes its inhabitants. According to Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands lead writer Sam Winkler, there’s a reason an orphaned 13-year-old has no trouble making it onto Pandora: she’s just the kind of person who can survive and thrive on a planet infested with murderous psychos and aliens Beasts, all under the eyes of a dictatorial megalomaniac whose corporate interests take precedence over human interests. When it comes to the residents of Pandora, Winkler said, “The fact that they’re alive or didn’t become a bandit means they did some REALLY screwed up to get there and stay alive.”
Among the “teacups and bunnies and muffins” is Tiny Tina, “deeply disturbed, capable of blowing bandits apart,” making the demure 13-year-old the scourge of the bandit hordes. The purpose of the side missions that Tiny Tina initially sends you on in Borderlands 2 revolves around taking revenge on a bandit named the Flesh Stick. We didn’t know much about Flesh Stick back then, but that’s okay. All we need to know is that he is responsible for the death of Tiny Tina’s parents and now Tiny Tina wants your help to exact her revenge. Explosive.
Tina Tina branches out
While playing a major role in Borderlands 2’s story, Tiny Tina helps you and the Crimson Raiders derail a Hyperion train known to carry a vault key and assists roles in Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage and Commander Lilith & the Fight for Sanctuary as a member of the Raiders’ B-Team. However, it is the Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep DLC that further fleshes out her characterization. It’s also our first introduction to the game within a game, Pandora’s own tabletop RPG Bunkers and Badasses, in which Tiny Tina plays the role of “Bunker Master”. It’s ridiculous and a massive departure from the main Borderlands story as all the action is technically made on the fly by Tiny Tina and the Bunker and Badasses rules.
The DLC offered a fun take on the Borderlands formula, and the references to fantasy tropes, existing tabletop RPGs, and the world of Pandora itself connected everything to the larger Vault Hunter story, but as the game unfolds, we’re not seeing it just the carefree romp in the world of high fantasy that we originally believed in. In fact, the main theme of Assault on Dragon Keep is Tina coming to terms with the death of Roland. Roland, the character of the “Solider” class from the original Borderlands, later led the Crimson Raiders, a type of militia originally made up of former members of the elite corporate military unit The Crimson Lance, who were abandoned after Atlas Corporation left Pandora would have .
Tiny Tina keeps a photograph of Roland in her room, and Roland credits Tiny Tina with saving his life on more occasions than he can remember. From these little drops of flavor it is clear that Tina and Roland were very close and Tina cannot accept the death of Roland who was killed during the events of Borderlands 2. Roland appears many times as an NPC in Tina’s B&B campaign, to the slight concern of the exterminators who played with her. Her inclusion of Roland as a character in her campaign, and the scenarios and dialogue she creates for him, are a clear sign of her refusal to accept his death. It is her connection to Roland that ties her to the other characters in Borderlands and Borderlands 2, and her relationship with the Crimson Raiders continues into Borderlands 3.
The fact that she continues to involve him in the Bunkers and Badasses game, even when the other players protest, shows how ingrained the denial is in her. Coming to terms with this great loss and her ultimate acceptance of Roland’s death is the overarching theme of this otherwise ludicrous adventure through a hybrid world of fantasy and space life.
The origins of Tiny Tina
As for Tiny Tina’s origins as a character, Winkler credits Ashly Burch with “the Gremlin that lives within him” for coloring much of Tiny Tina’s character. It was actually her brother Anthony Burch who directed the writing for Borderlands 2, but many of Tiny Tina’s characterizations and idiosyncrasies are drawn directly from Ashly Burch when she’s in the recording booth.
“She has that character. It’s just amazing,” Winkler said. “There’s something about her that just lets her tap into that energy.” The vocal explosions, the little touches of flair, it’s not necessarily in the script: those Tiny Tina isms come from Ashly Burch.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands doesn’t follow the same themes as Assault on Dragon Keep, but there’s more to the story than just Tina leading a new cast of B&B players through her Pandora-tinged carnage campaign. Wonderlands takes place long before the events of Borderlands 3, so Tina is still a kid living in a violent world full of murders and explosions. In other words, right where it should be. But Winkler said she’s grown as a person, she’s grown as a bunkermaster compared to the Assault on Dragon Keep DLC, but ultimately “she’s still only 13.”
As far as the Borderlands franchise’s timeline goes, you don’t need to have played Borderlands 3 to understand the motivations behind Tiny Tina in the upcoming Wonderlands. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is set shortly after the events of Borderlands 2, with a new cast of characters and a new story. All you really need to know is that Tiny Tina is still a kid, despite her fairly important role supporting the Crimson Raiders and the Vault Hunters in Borderlands 2. Sure, she’s a kid who loves murder and mayhem, but murder and mayhem is beautiful! The kind that plays off against those who really deserve a good kill.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands official screens
Still, she wants to keep herself busy with kids stuff, whether it’s painting rockets with adorable fluffy bunnies or playing role-playing games with friends. You don’t need to know the depths of Tiny Tina’s backstory to dive straight into Wonderlands, you just need to know that the game within the game, much like Tina herself, is a mix of different experiences and references that blend into something that everyone Is funny .
So don’t worry if you haven’t played Borderlands 3, where an older Tiny Tina has returned. If you want to delve into the character’s backstory instead, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep has since been released as standalone DLC, and will set you up with a great lesson on how Tiny likes to run her RPGs. But if you’ve never played before, don’t worry, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is meant to work as a sequel to this story, yes, but it will tell a brand new story with a new cast of characters led by Tiny Tina’s fantasy adventures.
Seth Macy is the Editor-in-Chief of IGN Commerce and he just wants to be your friend. You will find him hosting the Nintendo Voice Chat podcast.
https://www.ign.com/articles/tiny-tinas-wonderlands-the-origins-of-borderlands-tiny-tina Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands: The origins of Borderlands’ Tiny Tina