Traditionally a game’s ending is what you most look forward to. It is your hard earned reward for all those bosses you’ve fought, all them people you have saved and for generally being awesome enough to complete the game. Of course occasionally there are games that dash all your hopes and dreams and leave you with an ending you would have been better off not seeing. Here we present ten endings that left us with a sour taste in our mouth as we tried to figure out ‘WTF, are you serious?’
Spoiler warning: This is about game endings. There will be spoilorz. And in other news the Pope was recently revealed to be Catholic.
#10 Mike Tyson’s Punch Out
If you are old enough to remember the days when Mike Tyson was cool, you’re old enough to remember when game fights were a grueling do or die test of your skills that could potentially leave your hands crippled from the button mashing. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out certainly left us cradling our poor disfigured hands as your foes moved away from being difficult and became more along the lines of unbeatable. Many a gamer was left resorting to cheat codes to even face the man himself; Mike Tyson who could K.O you with a single punch.
Fewer games have had a final boss round of such spectacle. Facing off against Tyson is not a fun way to end a game, it is punishing. You will get knocked out more times than you land a punch and each time you survive a round you sit there staring at your mangled fingers in awe wondering just how long you might ride this wave of uncommon good fortune. In the event that you do beat Tyson however, and it’s a pretty slim chance, surely the ending will recognise this achievement? Surely the fans will invade the ring and hoist you to their shoulders proclaiming your newfound Godhood, because that’s certainly how you feel it should end!
But no. Mike Tyson congratulates your finger speed…oh thanks a lot Mike. Yeah you beat me IN THE GAME, IN THE REAL WORLD I COULD KICK YOUR ASS. Way to spoil our fun there Mr Tyson. Then it simply culminates with a ‘look at all the guys you beat, because you might have forgotten from all that concussion you sustained in the process’. You don’t even get a title belt.
#9 Silent Hill: Bad Ending
It might be a bit of a cop out to wtf over an ending which introduces itself as the ‘Bad’ ending, but seriously bad is something of an understatement. Silent Hill sees you play as superdad Harry Mason determined to rescue his seven year old daughter, Cheryl, from the clutches of evil cultists’ intent on using her to raise their demonic God. It really is no surprise that the tourist trade in Silent Hill is on the downturn.
The bad ending occurs if you fail to save any of the optional characters during the game. When it comes to the big face off with the demonic entity possessing your daughter, you defeat her using good old fashioned firepower and Cheryl appears to you! Huzzah you think, I have saved the day. Or not, as Cheryl imparts the following words of wisdom, ‘Thank you daddy, goodbye,’ and disappears, leaving Harry (and presumably the gamer) banging the floor screaming, ‘you can’t just leave like this!’ That’s not counting the addendum that actually you died at the start of the game and none of it happened in the first place.
Of course this is your just desserts for not saving anybody you heartless dick. Or is it? Because in the Bad+ ending (a reassuring title for an ending if ever there was one) the same thing happens but this time you have Cybil, whom you saved from a monster making parasite, present. So surely something better will occur? Not really. Cheryl disappears still, except this time Cybil walks over to Harry and slaps him, saying simply, “Go.” Assumedly she’s not going with him for some reason even though the room you are in is collapsing around you in a fiery mess.
That said, the Good+ ending is not a whole lot better. Although Cheryl reappears it’s as a baby, leaving you to basically bring her up all over again. And even though you saved both Cybil and Dr. Kaufmann during the game, in the ending you pick up baby and run without a backwards glance. This is fine for Cybil who regains consciousness in time to follow you out, not so fine for Kaufmann who is dragged to a gruesome death by dissatisfied colleague and now zombified; Lisa Garland. While you just run and don’t look back until you’re out of the town, presumably at which point you wonder ‘hang on what happened to those guys I saved…?’
#8 Devil May Cry 4
Call us old fashioned but when a game ends we expect closure. It’s the end of the game, what better time to draw together the outstanding plot points than here? It’s not like matters can be resolved after it’s finished. But Devil May Cry 4 took a rather different route and decided not to resolve anything.
Throughout the game it is made pretty obvious that all new protagonist Nero and previous hero Dante are related in some way. As if the unmistakable resemblance between the two is not enough, there’s Nero’s demonic blood, the fact that the primary antagonist refers to his descent from Sparda and when Dante gifts him his twin’s sword, Yamato, he says he wants to ‘keep it in the family’. Right at the end Nero refers to Sparda’s ability to love a human suggesting that he has some experience of this, but as he is half the age of Dante he couldn’t be a son of Sparda. Assumedly he is the son of Vergil, but regardless of what the relation is, there is the problem of why Dante doesn’t seem to give a crap. If there is one thing established in the series (save DMC2, we don’t talk about DMC2) it’s that family is pretty important to Dante. It is one of his very few redeeming qualities and adds a depth to his character which, let’s be honest, is otherwise about as deep as a puddle in the Sahara. Here, however, Nero defeats the final boss and Dante just shrugs and walks off, assuring him that he could keep Yamato, which if you’ve played DMC3, you’ll know is a pretty big deal!
So Dante leaves without resolving just why he’s helping you out or why he has shown at least vague concern for your welfare. Nero is left with the girl he has spent the game trying to rescue discussing how they are going to rebuild the cult Nero doesn’t care about, following a faith Nero doesn’t believe in. Just as he leans in to finally kiss her, demons attack. Wait…what? Why are there still demons running around? Surely that makes Dante a piss poor demon hunter if he sods off before actually finishing the job? Still it’s not like the game then cuts to Dante back at home in his shop accepting another job, finishing on the cheesiest line in the series. Oh…oh wait.
#7 Darksiders 2
It was always going to be a tough ask to follow the ending of Darksiders. While simplistic, War’s closing lines had us ‘ooh rah’-ing at the top of our voice, grabbing the nearest object to hand and hoping that the apocalypse spontaneously occurred. Darksiders 2 did not deliver. Don’t worry Darksiders 2, if you can’t deliver awesome we’ll settle for good. Oh…wait…we didn’t get that either.
The first problem with the ending of Darksiders 2 is that it doesn’t actually follow the rest of the game. It sort of feels like the writers got bored just before the final boss and buggered off home, and if the plot is anything to go by, they weren’t that invested in a coherent storyline before they fecked off. Darksiders 2 sees you play as Death, who in a bid to absolve his brother War from the crime of pre emptively kicking off the apocalypse, is trying to resurrect humanity who were destroyed during the event in question. Apparently if he resurrects the race that was destroyed during Armageddon War might be let off for causing it in the first place. But the game instantly throws a spanner in the works with a host of characters who tell you that you could resurrect humanity or you could resurrect your fallen brethren; the Nephilim who you wiped out in order to become Death in the first place.
Throughout the game this dilemma is hammered home to you setting you up for a final choice; ultimately you can save one of your brethren which one will it be? You’d be forgiven for thinking then that the end of the game would present you with some sort of choice. But it doesn’t. You are asked who it is you will save and Death immediately replies, ‘War, obviously’ as if he hasn’t spent the entire game telling anyone who would listen that he really, really regrets killing all those Nephilim. So off he toddles, sacrificing his own life (assuming Death is even alive) to restore humanity. Except this is a prequel to a game in which you play as War trying to prove his innocence on the deserted wasteland that is Earth, with no humans in sight. So what exactly has Death accomplished here? We know he doesn’t bring back humanity because we’ve played the first game and humanity is not in it. They are quite dead. Further, the writer’s throw in a bigger cop out by re running the ending to the first game with the addendum, ‘when the apocalypse actually occurs, Death is resurrected and will ride again.’ So not only have you killed yourself for no reason but you might as well not have bothered because you know you’re coming back as soon as the cosmos requires it. Possibly one of the most pointless endeavours ever.
#6 Fallout 3
On the subject of pointless endeavours; Fallout 3!
Fallout 3 requires a considerable time investment from the gamer and sure you could ignore the optional side quests but as they make up the majority of the game you’d really just be cheating yourself out of the experience. Unfortunately considering how much time and effort you put into the game there is the problem of how to end it without leaving you feeling cheated. Well Fallout 3 doesn’t achieve this.
As if the lead up to the ending wasn’t bad enough (see our top 10 wtf moments) the ending might as well appear as the dictionary definition of ‘pointless’. Although the game has an incredible range of people and places that your moral decisions impact upon, at no point during the ending does it relate any lasting implications of your actions. Instead a very brief narrative recounts what you did during the game and what you action you chose during the final level. Because apparently you need to be reminded, just in case you forgot what it was you did, literally, two minutes before. The ending of Fallout 3 could be repackaged as the shortest choose your own adventure novel written for nursery children;
You left the vault and were good/bad. Then you saved/damned the wasteland. And everyone lived happily ever after/died.
#5 Bioshock Infinite
A game that tries to deal with infinite universes is ambitious to say the least but the ending of Bioshock: Infinite proves to be too ambitious and it doesn’t quite pay off. For a start even though there are apparently infinite universes Booker Dewitt’s life is reduced to a single choice: Become baptised – change name to Comstock – wreak suffering on the world. Alternatively you can refuse the baptism – remain Booker Dewitt – sell your daughter to pay off your gambling debts.
Your companion Elizabeth, who can perceive multiple universes, assures you that this is the only choice. Indeed, when you die in game it is heavily suggested that instead of respawning you are in fact a different Booker undertaking the same mission with the same motivation. So we’re dealing with less infinite universes here and more binary. There isn’t a universe where Comstock thinks that perhaps the Bible isn’t calling him to megalomania nor does Booker come to terms with his wartime activities and become a decent family man.
And it just gets more problematic from there. Elizabeth says to stop Comstock’s reign of terror they have to nip him in the bud, which Booker takes to mean smother him in a crib as a baby, a task which he takes to with gusto. At this point we can simply stop relating to him as a protagonist because he intends to suffocate a baby. All moralising about ‘wouldn’t you go back in time to kill Hitler?’ aside, the protagonist, who is your link to the game decides that he is going to kill a baby to apologise for selling his own baby. Well that’s just peachy. Thankfully it doesn’t come to that, instead with the revelation that Comstock is in fact just Booker with added Christian zeal, Elizabeth drowns him to restore whatever mess they’ve wreaked on the timelines. This action returns you to your initial timeline assumedly before the events of the game took place. You appear in your dingy flat though it is not revealed if your daughter is restored along with you. You know that baby you sold because you’re an alcoholic and a gambler. Boy is that some timeline you’ll enjoy.
#4 Vagrant Story
Square’s Playstation RPG Vagrant Story sees you take on the role of Ashley Riot, part of an elite mercenary unit; ‘The Riskbreakers’. After watching his family butchered by criminals Ashley joins up and becomes the best agent, determined to right wrongs wherever he finds them as a way of atoning for not defending his loved ones. As events unfold, it is revealed to you, by almost every single character you meet, that you never actually had a family. You were an assassin who mistook an innocent family for your target. When your resulting crisis of conscience threatened your sanity (and more importantly your ability to kill without question) your employers brainwashed you into thinking you were the wronged party; channeling your anger into making you a better agent.
As the game progresses Ashley comes to terms with his past actions…and then his dead ‘wife’ shows up and tells him not to be misled by the words of others, or the hefty evidence they’ve got to support them, because she was happy to be his wife. Is she being serious? Who can say? Either way a dead woman who apparently didn’t exist in the first place appears and tells you to ignore your very real companions, who are mostly concerned that you have been brainwashed and don’t know the truth.
This is never resolved and because the game has a lot of story to draw together it is unclear what effect this actually has on Ashley, if any. After the events he becomes something of a rogue agent, but we are left unsure as to how much of this is because the organisation he worked for made him believe he had lost his wife and son, compared to the many other reasons suggested that your particular brand of ‘peacekeepers’ are somewhat unsavoury. Apparently we, the audience, need to make our mind up for ourselves but to be honest this in itself is unclear seeing as the impact of her appearance is immediately lost in the rest of the story that needs to be resolved. It has no bearing except to momentarily confuse us, and it’s not the easiest story in the world to follow in the first place.
#3 Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
We at WASD UK could bore you to tears with how achingly beautiful this game is. And it is gratifying to see how many other game writers agree with us as Enslaved is often found on lists of games you should play before you die, games you might have missed out on etc. The story follows unlikely pair Monkey and Trip in an escort mission of incredible complexity. You, as Monkey, must protect Trip at all costs, but the important thing to note is that you don’t actually want to do this. You have no choice in the matter, as she’s modified a slave crown to kill you if anything happens to her or you move too far away from her.
The story, therefore, is not your usual ‘unlikely situation breeds enduring friendship’ as any emotional development between the two is tempered by that slave crown on your head. Initially you “agree” to help Trip return home, but once there you find her entire village raided by slave traders and she wants revenge. And you’re going to help her. You might not want to help her, but again, you don’t have a choice, you have a ticking time bomb on your head and you will die if you don’t comply.
You would expect then the ending to have some kind of emotional resolution, but instead bam! The ending sequence reveals that the slavers you are chasing down is actually the Matrix. Wait…wait…what? Where did that come from? What has that got to do with anything? Why is this here?
Yes we understand the parallels between the agents’ slavers’ actions and Trip’s but ultimately there has been no build up to this whatsoever. As a result the ending, which deals with your reaction to a situation that you became aware of thirty seconds ago, ignores the rest of a highly emotional, extremely well developed game.
Anything would be better than this. No resolution at all would be better than ‘look guys we resolved this situation we created solely for this sequence’.
Oh good, for a moment there we were all worried.
#2 Metal Gear Solid 2
Where to begin?
You crash a massive weapon into the middle of New York, apparently causing minimal damage. The ex president of the United States is lying dead in a busy street but nobody seems to have noticed. You are standing beside said corpse dressed in an extremely conspicuous stealth suit talking to an equally conspicuous guy and the authorities simply cordon off the area around you. Your girlfriend has admitted to being a government plant made over to be your perfect woman and is pregnant with your child and you are apparently ok with this. (But it’s ok guys, all of this could be in your head which apparently makes things much better).
There is simply too much that happens in this train wreck of an ending to consider in any depth, suffice to say the sequence is interspersed with IRL shots of people in New York while Snake tells you that you choose what to pass on to the future in possibly one of the worst examples of breaking the fourth wall in gaming. What’s that Snake? We shape the next generation by selectively choosing what to pass on to our children? No shit!
A lot of the dialogue in the ending becomes a mess of pseudo-philosophical nonsense that is neither profound nor particularly noteworthy.
My biggest qualm with the ending, however, comes in the closing stages of the ending (and this is Hideo Kojima, that’s a lot of ending you have to sift through) when Snake and Otacon share a conversation about data pertaining to the evil mastermind group behind it all. Turns out the names for the group’s members refer to men who are already dead! *Gasp* A powerful shadow organisation that controls every facet of global modern life from politics to Christmas number ones using fake names?
Why are we supposed to be surprised? Surely we would be more surprised if the opposite happened and they were being honest about their identities? Why should it come as a shock to us that equivalent of the Illuminati perpetuated false information? Isn’t that sort of the point?
#1 Mass Effect 3
No list dealing with wtf game endings/bad game endings/controversial game endings could ever ignore Mass Effect 3. Fans of the series were left so disappointed by the final installment’s ending (or rather; lack of) that an entire movement; “Retake Mass Effect” developed which saw gamers unite to confront the developers with this rather large issue. And when the developers not only acknowledged the flaws but also released a DLC expansion to the ending it really demonstrated that the outrage was justified. The writers were obviously not so impressed with their own work that they were happy to defend it, at least Hideo Kojima responds to complaints with, ‘it’s your own fault for not understanding it properly.’
So what exactly was the problem with the ending? If we consider the problem with Fallout 3 being one of adequately delivering an ending that repays the investment of the gamer, imagine that multiplied by three. The Mass Effect series saw you make decisions that not only affected your immediate party or the people you were dealing with but the universe. No pressure then. The decisions you made in the first game impact on the second game which impact on the third and so on, so fans, naturally thought, ah! The ending will therefore draw together decisions I have made throughout the series not just this game in particular. Not to worry guys, Mass Effect 3 didn’t even draw together decisions you made in that game, let alone the series as a whole. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what actions you chose to do or ignore, which species you chose to save or destroy or even if you played a paragon or a complete and utter bastard, the ending dismissed all of these concerns in favour of a bland sequence that really sends everything to hell whether you chose to save the universe or not.
Perhaps the problem is best summed up by the group that lobbied BioWare by sending them four hundred cupcakes of three different colours. Of course the colours didn’t matter, they were all vanilla.