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I'm cheating this year, GOTY is going to be a little late so I can play more games.

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Hunter's Favorite Video Game Endings

With an endless deluge of sequels in franchises that seemingly refuse to end, cliffhangers are the order of the day. Few games offer us closure on their story, and so I'm making this list to honor the special few that do. Story is the criteria by which the games will be judged, and so awesome last levels and bosses are irrelevant unless they compliment the narrative in an interesting way (such as in entry number 12.) Spoilers obviously, though they will be contained to each individual entry.

List items

  • When Wander walks into the temple at the beginning of this game there is only one thing he wants, and he will do whatever it takes to make it happen. He kills these beautiful creatures one by one to fuel this dark desire. Every single breath of narrative in this game is building up to its grim conclusion. Having a singular wish as the entire premise for the story really got me wrapped up in it, and I wanted to see that wish fulfilled. To have all of that ripped away from me and Wander was heart wrenching. If only I could have held onto the steps for a second longer...

  • I know the story in this game is admittedly a tad immature, but the characters motivations and relationships were developed enough that Kingdom Hearts convinced me to care about Kairi, Riku, and Sora despite what I expected from this game. So when the game ended and I found that all of the main characters were stuck separated from each other after working the whole game to be reunited, I felt pretty terrible for them. But this ending wasn’t just dreary for the sake of depressing you, while it could be viewed as a cliffhanger because they knew they were sitting on something pretty special with this franchise, they still managed to put a ton of heart into the final moments of this game. Kairi finding Sora’s drawing on the wall only to start crying before she can finish it is a really touching scene, and seeing it for the first time is one of my favorite video game memories.

  • What do you expect would happen if the entire world learned that the apocalypse was coming on the next full moon and it was inevitable? Anarchy? Fellowship? What if everyone simply decided to embrace it, to look forward to it? The ending of this game is about the people who refuse to take it lying down. This whole game is about relationships, and in the final moments of the world when the main character realizes that all of the people who he built these relationships with are spending their last moments with thoughts of him, he refuses to let the world end. And so it does not. Normally I hate endings where everything works out for no reason, but after all is said and done and the protagonist spends his final moments on the rooftop after keeping his promise I found there is no better way this story could have ended. This is my all time favorite ending.

  • You know it's pretty obvious that Rockstar wrote themselves into a pickle with this one. Most of the major plot threads in Red Dead wrap up a few hours before the actual end of the game. They know where their story is going to go after that, and any rule of writing dictates that it should happen as soon as possible. However they know that it won't mean as much to you unless they convince you to care about his family. But they can't include them earlier in the game because that diminishes the player and Marston's motivation... So instead of rushing the ending, they give you some pretty menial missions towards the end to help his wife and kid grow on you. And even though he's a little snot, and she's pretty obnoxious, by the time those missions were over, I DID care about them. Which makes the government's betrayal of Marston all that much more effective, which makes his son's quest for vengeance that much more motivated, which makes his lawless turn that much more tragic. Each of these elements working in unison with each other builds up to a very satisfying end to the tale, and for that I forgive its unconventional final act.

  • I know that it’s pretty easy to award a games ending when it basically lets you have it however you want, but there are few games that delivered an ending that gave me such an emotional reaction. When my warden made the ultimate sacrifice, it tied together all of the threads of the narrative in a perfect cohesive way that it’s hard to believe this wasn’t a linear narrative. And then it delved into the consequences of each and every decision I made, no matter how inconsequential they seemed at the time, and explored in detail just how I left my mark on the world throughout my adventure. It doesn’t matter to me how badly the series gets mistreated after this game, or how the studios games have decreased in quality since the release of this game, because I know I will always have my wardens story to thank them for.

  • Through most of the game Infamous' story was hit or miss for me. It had its high points, but other times it just felt trivial to the experience. Between that, and the comic book style cut scenes that (while slick) obviously didn't require much budget or effort, I was ready to write this off as a really great action game with an underwhelming story. However when Kessler reveals that he and Cole are one in the same my mind was blown. It tied together all of the events very nicely in a way that not only gave me new found respect for all of the fiction I’d just experienced, but also got me super excited for the prospect of a sequel. In that way, it made for the perfect ending to the first game in a franchise.

  • Okay it's pretty obvious for a story about time travel to end with the main character traveling back to before the time travely stuff began to fix everything, but that's fine. This story is so simple, and that's what’s genius about it, it plays to a ton of familiar tropes and that gives the story a very timeless, story book feel. It ends with everything back to normal, except the main character is wiser for his journey, because he learned from his mistakes. A simple tale that leaves you feeling satisfied with the adventure you’ve had.

  • I was surprised during the final hours of 13-2 when I found myself caring about Noel, Caius, and Yeul. They jam pack the latter parts of this game with a ton of interesting revelations which manage to justify a seemingly unjustifiable villain, and answer almost all of the lingering questions I’d had dangled in front of me throughout the whole game. I didn’t like the story very much leading up to the climax, and as it seemed everything was going to work out for the best (even negating what little sacrifice was made at the end of 13) I felt satisfied with that neat conclusion. And then shit goes south real fast. Serah drops fucking dead, and the world is seemingly destroyed, and it is All. Your. Fault. With the announcement of a third game in the universe it seems this was simply a cliff hanger designed to drum up excitement for the sequel, but I still feel like having the rug pulled out from under me and seeing the world that I’d just finally begun to care about destroyed before my eyes was about as satisfying an ending as Fabula Nova Crystallis could have possibly delivered. Like a big middle finger from Square sent personally to me. I felt so special.

  • To me everything after the last boss in this game just oozes charm. Most endings have trouble leaving you wanting more without including some obvious cliffhanger. Other games have trouble giving you closure without going all out, such as with the death of a character, or the happiest possible scenario. Uncharted manages to feel like a complete contained story, by perfectly wrapping up all the loose threads, but giving you just enough information to ponder the future adventures of Drake, Elena and Sully, as they sail away into the sunset with smiles on their faces.

  • The crazy, occasionally nonsensical, often badass, usually hilarious endings to each fighters arcade mode in this franchise deserve some recognition. They use endings like a reward to propel you through the game, and even if you had to put up with using a fighter you aren’t particularly fond of, it’s usually worth it. I could dissect any of a dozen ending videos throughout the franchise and tell you all of the reasons why I think it’s amazing, but instead I think I will just leave you with this:

  • Every single aspect of this ending is so awesome that it’s hard to know where to even begin. Wheatley's frustration gradually ratchets up to insane levels as his inept attempts to stop you fly in his face repeatedly only furthering the players desire to take him down. Yet at the same time the game manages to make me sympathize with him, because he was created to be so stupid that I can't possibly blame him for any of the evil he's done. There's something endearing about the fact that up until the very last second, he still believes he can fix everything and make it all right. I even feel bad for laughing when I failed to catch him. That's not even mentioning Glados' character evolution, and then devolution, the full powers of the Portal Gun coming to light, Chell finally being allowed to escape, and the final glimpse of the scorched companion cube as you are released into an idyllic wonderland. It closes up every thread you could possibly want it to for every character in the game, and so it’s hard to imagine how they’ll even make a Portal 3.

  • It’s sort of hard to praise anything about the story of any Pokemon game, because generally they are far too shallow to get you invested in any of the characters or events taking place. However having the main character fight the same gym leaders, defeat the same organization, and challenge the savage Elite Four just as the protagonist of the previous game did, really got me invested in the final confrontation of this game. While there may not be any words spoken, or any flashy cinematics, there didn’t need to be because they imbued the battle with a lot of meaning by using our experiences throughout the game as fuel to ignite passion in the player for the confrontation. It tells a story through gameplay, with an underdog tackling Pokemon that should be far too powerful for him to overcome. It’s simple, but poignant, and far more than Pokemon has ever delivered before or since.

  • So I will readily admit that the end of Final Fantasy 8 is a little… confusing. As a tried and true Time Travel lunatic however, deciphering it posed no issue to me. To explain it as simply as possible: it involves contradicting the space time continuum so that it will fold in on itself, thus allowing the main party to reach the future and kill the insane sorceress who has been meddling in the past. After this mission is completed they need to use their relationships from the present as anchors to draw themselves back to their time. The trouble being that Squall, who has remained so distant throughout the game, gets lost in the nexus of time because he can’t clearly picture the face of the girl he loves. After some disturbing imagery replaying moments from throughout the game, Squall collapses only to have his lifeless body discovered by Rinoa. The ending is played coyly after this, leaving the fate of Squall ambiguous while it shows a touching moment with Laguna, leaving us waiting until the final moments after the credits to see Squall alive and well. From a company coming off the success of Final Fantasy VII they could’ve easily rode the wave and copied everything that was praised in that game, but at every turn Square fought to carve out a unique identity for Final Fantasy VIII, opting to give the story an ending that’s open ended, ripe for interpretation, and incredibly risky. For a lot of people, that risk didn’t pay off, and I can respect the things that they don’t enjoy about this ending, but to me the risk paid off, and I found an ending with a ton of nuance, that kept me thinking even after the credits were over.

  • Heavenly Sword strives to make you feel like you are controlling the main character in a super stylized and flashy kung fu epic. It tells a story about a young girl who feels like an outcast from her own clan, because she wasn’t born the male savior they were promised. Throughout the whole game Nariko’s actions are motivated by her desire to gain the acceptance of her people and more importantly her father. This is what leads to her taking up the burden of wielding the Heavenly Sword in the first place, despite knowing that it would consume her. And even though she knows she has little time left she does everything she can to help her people while she has the sword. And when the sword finally does destroy her she refuses to let herself fail, she does not allow the sword to take her when she is needed most, and through sheer force of will demands that it allow her to carry on so that she can become the savior that the clan needed, and finally gain their acceptance. It’s this final desperate selfless act to save her people that really cements the character as a great heroine. Her lifeless body drifting away as the ones closest to her mourn their loss is the most rewarding fulfillment of her arc that the player could ask for, and a perfect way to close this story.

  • There's a lot of really good endings in this game, the one where Ethan hangs himself in prison surrounded by origami papers is especially bleak and effective, but it’s not the content of the ending that grabs my attention in this game. In my ending Ethan passed every one of the Origami Killers tests so that he could save his son, Norman managed to put the evidence together to discover his identity and take him down, and Madison discovered the location of the warehouse to provide backup. It looked like everything was going to work out fine, but then I fucked up a motorcycle sequence because I never got the hang of tilting the sixaxis. Madison couldn’t warn Ethan that the cops were waiting outside, and the second he stepped out the door they shot him dead. A meaningless, pointless death leading to a macabre ending, where things seem to work out swimmingly for everybody except Ethan and Shaun. Maybe that isn’t the best way to close out a story, but damned if it doesn’t make me feel like my actions as a player have an effect on the world. In an era where the best story based games usually settle for imitating movies as best they can, it’s surprising that a game that many consider to be one of the biggest offenders of this trend actually gave me such an emotional response simply because I was responsible for everything that happened, which is something that only a game could do.

  • A lot of the endings on this list are very artful and poignant ways to conclude a story. This one is not. Gears of War has never been subtle, and it’s never been artful, it’s always been bombastic, and struck for the most epic notes it could manage. The final confrontation as they bring down the queen with the assistance of Fenix Sr is about as epic as any fan could have hoped for. Once all the dust clears, the music swells, and you find that Carmine and the rest of the crew are all safe it’s a very thrilling, if expected, moment. The trilogy winds down very tastefully with Marcus looking back on the adventure and examining what he’s lost, while Anya attempts to show him what they’ve won. It gave the story sweet closure, which so many video game stories opt not to do these days.

  • Like several other entries on the list Bastion’s ending is complemented by its use of choice. While the first decision, choosing to save or kill Zulf, is a fairly standard black/white choice (the good path far outweighing the bad in terms of emotional payoff), the second choice is unlike so many in today’s video games, because it allows you to choose the fate of the characters, without one being a reward for doing the right thing, neither feels like an obvious divergence from the intended narrative, and both feeling like rewarding payoffs to the adventure you’ve had. I’d say that carrying Zulf to safety while his people hatefully wail on you, until they realize how monstrous they’re being is a very emotional and rewarding scene which solidifies The Kid as a true hero. And then allowing the player to choose whether or not the characters should go back and try to fix the old corrupt world, or stay in the new one they’ve created with each other are both good endings, to a proper story.