Good Games, Good Endings


#1

As the Good Games, Bad Endings thread says “A great ending to a game is an elusive thing.” This is the thread for the rarity of game’s doing it right. Off the top of my head Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has one of those so well executed endings that the sequels mar a story that had been satisfactorily wrapped up. With the exception of a disappointing final boss that only can be defeated by repeatedly threading the needle of the game’s unforgivingly precise counter system, the ending is not just agreeably logical to the rules of the universe but cleverly thematically consistent and with just a bit of saccharine charm fitting the game’s lightness that the other darker and edgier entries in the series seemed so driven to avoid.

That all said, I think Journey actually has the best ending of any video game and I shouldn’t have to explain why.

What do you think are some other examples of games that against the odds manage to nail their endings? What do you think it is about these endings that puts them above the rest? And just cause I accidentally brought it up: how do you feel when a game you thought had a satisfactory ending gets a sequel slapped on?


#2

I just finished streaming Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time recently, and I feel like the conclusion was thematically appropriate, but entirely outstays it welcome? Between the awful, uninspired final boss fight you mentioned (for real, if you’re gonna have a magic-user clone themselves and your game is about fighting multiple enemies, give me multiple clones to deal with?) and the gross I’m-gonna-force-a-kiss-on-you-and-then-rewind-time-to-not-do-the-gross-thing-based-on-your-response, I’d have loved that game to cut off a little earlier!

I’m thinking about the endings I’ve most enjoyed, and I’m coming up entirely with games that left me upset for a while afterwards? I’m thinking about Firewatch, and how the awkward silence of making my way to that final watchtower in the wind and ash gave me time to reflect on how we sometimes do ridiculous things to give ourselves time to prepare for dealing with something.

Another one I finished playing recently was Invisible, Inc. and gosh, I love the ending to that game? To think that you spend three frantic days trying to rehouse your spy agency’s AI, only to find out they leaked your info in the first place, just to force you to try and survive long enough to connect them to an international data network and orbital laser platform? Aaaaaaa!

I remember reading a while back that endings often see the least amount of love in development cycles, because players often don’t play all the way through a game? I feel like that shapes a lot of our experiences with lacklustre conclusions, but when a game dedicates itself to subverting the expectation it’s been leading towards, or really making good on the things it’s been setting up for hours, I’m always delighted :blush:


#3

For the most part, LucasArts adventure games did endings pretty well, with a few exceptions.

Monkey Island 2 definitely had the weirdest ending of any of them and it blew my little 11 year old mind to go through it for the first time. It was the first time that I realised that a game ending could be more interesting than the bad guy is defeated and the guy gets the girl.

Continuing on that theme, there’s Full Throttle’s ending, which was recently remastered so I’ll spoiler tag this. There’s just something very authentic about how that all wraps up, especially Ben and Maureen’s relationship, and the moment in the car where they realise that they like each other, but their lives are going in different directions. Nobody’s to blame Mo is good in her new job and Ben’s always going to be on the road, and it’s just perfectly, subtly done. She takes a phone call and the camera switches to her, then the sound of a car door, and she glances over just very briefly before carrying on her conversation, just a brief acknowledgement and resigned acceptance that it happened before she continues with her call. It’s just tonally perfect.

Other endings that have recently really affected me include:

The Last Guardian. we all knew it would play with our emotions with that catbirddog, but in the end it was both more and less painful than the ‘that thing is definitely going to die’ during development implied

NieR: Automata is certainly one of the most meta endings I’ve experienced in a game, but manages to be very effective with it. I’ve been through Ending E twice now and watched people do it a few more times, and I’ve felt different things each time. It’s rare that an ending will hit me in so many different ways.


#4

Inside has one of my favorite endings in recent memory. A bold, shocking, and deeply disturbing 10 minute segment which completely flips all the game’s rules upside-down in a way that I’d never really experienced in any other game. Walked away from my PC shaken by the experience.


#5

Undertale. The bit between the neutral and good endings sags a bit but the full on ending is just so great. It’s so fun and joyous after the dour decline most of the game has been on, it’s the perfect capper.


#6

I’d say that Final Fantasy XV’s ending manages to salvage one of the weakest third acts that a game has had and brings it to a satisfying conclusion. Narrowing the grand story down to being a one-on-one fight down your familial lineage that closes on being in the afterlife with Lunafreya and sitting around the campfire together is a smart choice, it just makes one want everything after it goes linear to be better.

It isn’t a perfect ending (there’s some specific lines in the third spoiler that could be a lot better), but it stuck with me for a while.


#7

A few that haven’t been mentioned, but immediately come to mind.

  • Zero Escape - All three games of this series end in ridiculous fashion that make you look at the events of the game in a whole new light. They reveal just enough about the mystery for you to be satisfied (with the exception of the last game which withheld a lot), but, when you think its over, the games give you one or two last twists that make you just yell “WHAT THE FUCK” and leaves you just begging to know what happens next. And it never got old.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics - Despite this game going on for far, far too long, the tale of Ramza and Delita comes to a fantastic close both in a really memorable final boss fight and an ending to the story that still has me shaken over a decade later.
  • Ghost Trick - So around when this game came out, I was talking to my friend while he was playing through it at 2 am. I had just finished it myself while he was approaching the last mission. He sent me a message saying that, if he thought the game was going where he thinks its going, he was going to “PISS MYSELF”. 5 minutes later, he sent me a message that read, and I quote, “STRAIGHT UP URINE”.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials & Tribulations - The Phoenix Wright games in general have great endings, with the last case in each game being the highlight of every game, but Case 5 of Trials & Tribulations was not only the end of the game, but the end of the original trilogy. And it went out with a motherfucking BANG.
  • Mother 3 - Give me more endings like this that actually EARN endings like this.
  • Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky FC - It ends in a cliffhanger that made me foam at the mouth due to the next game in the trilogy’s localization being highly unlikely (spoilers: it was localized after 4 years of waiting), but with that uncertainty gone, it’s a lot easier to enjoy just how amazing the final dungeon, boss fights, twists, turns, and character moments really are.
  • Bayonetta - While I’m not a fan of a particular endgame plot point (the identity of the kid and the final boss), the absolutely insane escalation this game goes through to reach its climax left me in awe.
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance - Just how self-aware those last two hours are makes the whole game worth it, even if the whole game is fucking great.
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc - Given the revelations in the series afterwards, this ending seems fairly tame, but taken by its own and how it never reveals to you if everything that you just learned in the last hour of the game was a lie or not is so fucking good. I feel that if the series stopped here and just kept that ending, it would be a perfect ending.
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair - … And yet the thought of losing the second game and its ridiculous roller coaster ride that starts in Chapter 5 and goes full speed until the end of the game makes ruining that first game’s perfect ending much more acceptable.
  • Bastion - I set my sail. Fly, the wind it will take me…
  • Portal & Portal 2 - There’s not much I can say about them that hasn’t already been said.
  • Shadow of the Colossus - The Last Guardian was mentioned, but the melancholy around its spiritual prequel is unmatched.

#8

another vote for journey and portal/portal 2 from me! perfectly contained games imo. i love the end of the last of us, its perfectly bittersweet.


#9

The original Ratchet and Clank. I’ve seen complaints about how the titular characters spend so much of the game at odds with each other, but I feel like it makes their coming together at the end really satisfying.


#10

life is strange. bae>bay


#11

The Last of Us is probably my favourite ending. You understand Joel’s actions and Ellie’s doubt of them. It’s as close to perfect as you can get for me


#12

Earthbound can a surprisingly emotional game. Somehow, with its simple graphics and warbly music, it somehow manages to disarm you (or, at least, it disarmed me). The ending is a thing of beauty.

[spoiler]The final boss is this sort of shapeless, formless concept of evil. When you witness it, it almost looks like the game is glitching out, and it’s increasingly unsettling the longer you look at it. To even reach it, you have to shed your mortal bodies and transfer your consciousness in to robot shells. Though you can damage the evil, and it can damage you, it seems to be invincible. You can pour all of your resources in to killing it, but you cannot. The only option that remains is in your party member Paula. Earthbound is a game where psychic resonance is important and Paula’s appears to be the strongest of the group. She has a command unique to her – “Pray.” All throughout the game, Pray is mostly useless, as it simply causes a random effect to happen (if anything even happens at all), and sometimes those effects can harm your party as much as the enemy, so it’s never really something you can predict or rely on.

But eventually, against this horrible phantom of malice from beyond the stars, prayer is the only thing left for you to do. And so you pray, hoping something will happen in your favor.

Instead of unleashing the power of random nonsense, your prayers are heard. Characters that appeared throughout your adventures hear your cries for help and in return, pray themselves in order to give you strength. That strength manifests as intense psychic blasts that damage the monster. And the more you pray, the more people realize you are in danger, and the stronger the psychic energy gets.

The game eventually takes control away. No other commands matter except for Paula’s prayer, something she is now doing involuntarily. She’s praying for strength and though you’re receiving a lot, it’s not enough to defeat the evil.

And then… she prays directly to the player. In Earthbound, somewhere around the game’s halfway point, a character will ask the player what their name is. In a game as deliberately weird as Earthbound, it seems perfectly innocent. Now, armed with that knowledge, the game calls out your name, like it’s The Never Ending Story. It’s almost like a pact, in a way – by giving Earthbound your name, it knows it has you, and now it’s following through to blow your mind.

(That is, assuming you didn’t rename the protagonist after yourself, otherwise it just gets confusing.)

Your own prayers, combined with the prayers of everyone else in the world, provide enough psychic energy to vanquish the evil. It’s so powerful, it almost looks like it crashes the game. Did it work? Is the monster dead? Is the game dead? What happened to your robot bodies? Can you even come back from something like that?

And like a warm hug, Earthbound tells you that everything is fine. You all return to your real bodies to a world free of the evil that plagued it. But Earthbound has really only just begun its ending.

The real joy of Earthbound’s ending is how it lets you marinate in your victory. Most games will give you an ending cutscene, an impressive swell of music, but Earthbound makes you confront the aftermath personally. You must say goodbye to the friends that have accompanied you along your journey. It’s heartwarming and bitter sweet in all the right ways.

And then you walk back home. Back through the world you just saved. Technically, nothing about it has really changed, outside of the complete absence of monsters to fight. But it very clearly feels different. The people you talk to know things are different. You feel different. And when you get back to your house, where your family is waiting for you, where your mother gives you a warm welcome for a job well done… it’s an incredibly touching feeling that no other game has ever really matched, because it feels really, really good to be back home again.[/spoiler]


#13

Xenoblade Chronicles. I expected “everyone saves the day and lives happily ever after”, not “we explain the origin of the universe”.

I cried at the end of Kingdom Hearts, but I was about 10 at the time.


#14

I’m a big fan of how most SMT games culminate to “time to kick The Final God in the dick”


#15

Shoutout to E-102’s ending in Sonic Adventure for being the first ending to make me cry, aged like 7 or 8. And that entire arc for being the darkest shit in any Sonic game. Like, fuck, there are games out today that WISH they were as dark and philosophically loaded as “Malfunctioning Robot Gains Fractured Sentience Through Trauma And Kills All It’s Siblings To “Save” Them From Their Own Pain Before Sacrificing Itself To Free The Creature That Powers It”.

Recently Nier:Automata, as has been mentioned before and will doubtless be mentioned again here. And also Dark Souls 3 and It’s 2 DLCs are full of great endings. The Lord of Hollows ending is a great subversion of the traditional “evil” route by seemingly being the only ending to actually have hope for the future of the world, and the Secret Betreyal ending is brilliant in it’s creepy lack of detail. It’s an ending where you have no real idea what it could actually signify in any way, it’s so far removed from everything else. And the DLC ending gives closure to the entire world, while leaving some room for Fromsoft to return to the world later without REALLY doing so, so that the series can remain a trilogy. Plus it has some of the best characters in the series.


#16

The “real” DLC ending to Asura’s Wrath is so so good. The way that the game illustrates how clouded Asura is with rage by covering the screen in QTE prompts is a genius visual that few games have ever gotten close to.

Also, the climax/ending of Brothers: a Tale of Two Sons, which, while depressing, felt emotionally earned.


#17

Haven’t seen it mentioned so I’ll include Metal Gear Solid 2 for being this flawed, weird, campy, brilliant introduction to postmodernism that absolutely blew open the doors to my tiny ten-year-old mind. Every time I finish a story-driven game, I inevitably compare it to MGS2, whether it’s appropriate or not to do so.


#18

Uncharted 4’s ending felt satisfying for the end of the series.

I honestly expected Sam to die in the ship during the climax until Nathan got to the cannon. Surprisingly tense! The epilogue was great too, and the house was beautifully designed. I liked reading all the sticky notes on the fridge and the photobook.


#19

Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations has been mentioned, but I want to second it for being such a strong finale not just to that game, but to the whole Phoenix Wright trilogy. I kinda wish they had allowed the character’s story to end there, because it’s such a strong ending. Plus, I cried during the credit sequence.
The Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice also had a really good ending, in my opinion. The last case is great, and I have a great personal memory of almost looking up the solution to one of the last puzzles before I realized the answer on my own (said answer was really clever) and it made me feel pretty awesome.


#20

I think Uncharted 4’s ending was perfect.

It effectively closed off the possibility of future Uncharted games starring Nathan Drake through onscreen character development and a really touching epilogue, instead of a tragedy or sudden change in motivation. I really loved it.