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Finales and Endings in Good Games that Futzed Everything Up

Imagine, if you will, that you are a child once more. You spend hours upon hours building up towering structures with LEGO blocks, Duplo bricks, Linkin Logs, what have you, and you're just about to enthrone your work with the centerpiece that puts it all together... and you accidentally bump your elbow into it and the whole thing comes crashing down as you weep uncontrollably that all your hard work was for naught.

Now imagine that, except replace the blocks with a virtual medium of entertainment coded in C++. So many games out there do a stupendous job with building up the climax of their intense, captivating stories and then they just throw all common sense and decency out the window in the final stretch. Whether it has to do with story lines that never go anywhere, effortlessly-easy final boss fights, or some other mind-boggling skulduggery, a lot of developers could learn from these Finales and Endings in Good Games that Futzed Everything Up.

I shouldn't have to say this, considering you may have noticed the words 'finale' and 'ending' in the title of this list, but THIS LIST CONTAINS SPOILERS. IF YOU WISH TO LEAVE THIS WEBPAGE UNSCATHED FROM THE TERRORS OF FINDING OUT THE REVOLUTION TO A THRILLING PLOT BEFORE YOU WERE MEANT TO, TURN BACK NOW.

Now that I think about it, there really isn't a way to tell whether or not you'll find a spoiler pertaining to a game that you haven't played, so I'll try and help you out... I'll post a brief description of the game beforehand to warn you, followed by a space between the description of the game's ending. Same goes if it's just a crappy boss fight or something.

Also, it's an opinionated list. Try not to throttle me with hate if you don't agree with something posted here. I'll try not to be critical on the games themselves as a whole, but I ask that you show the same restraint with my critiques. This also means I'm only putting games I've finished on here - i.e. I've never played Mass Effect 3, so don't even bother asking why its ending is not on here, even if it seems like the perfect candidate.

List items

  • The Game: One of the most ambitious open-world sandbox games on the market, the story sees our three protagonists Michael, Trevor, and Franklin living their lives in the sprawling landmass that is Los Santos. When the three meet up, they cause massive amounts of chaos to appease mob bosses, do agency work, and eventually take scores for themselves. It's one of the most versatile games of the modern era in terms of player freedom and experience, and has earned many well-deserved Game of the Year awards from numerous news outlets.


    The Ending: Devin Weston marches up to Franklin's new pad in Vinewood Hills and basically tells you to off your friend Michael. Meanwhile, you're pressured to pursue and kill your other friend, Trevor, by the government. You can choose to pick either one, and both endings, while very emotionally tearing in their own right, are completely futile and meaningless in light of there being a third option. What is this third option, you ask?

    You kill off all the game's remaining major antagonists in the span of about 5 minutes, including the idiot above. That's it. What could have easily been at least a few more hours worth of story missions is relegated to a disappointing and hurried wrap-up. Worse still, the game gives you the three options, making you think that the last one will result in Franklin's death somehow, which may fool some players into having to choose between which protagonist should bite it, only to accidentally be suckered into the golden ending. While the standoff at the factory against waves of militia is pretty damn cool in its own right, the rest of the ending feels more rushed than the A-Team reboot.

  • The Game: A take on the zombie apocalypse genre - well, I shouldn't say 'zombie,' it's more like 'mutant fungus husk' - but regardless, it won a buttload of Game of the Year awards and was praised for its stellar writing and character development despite being immediately forgotten about 2 years later for being the umpteenth zombie story in pop culture starring a gruff, middle-aged man and his adolescent escort... Yeah, I have a love-hate relationship with this game. I didn't see what all the fuss was about it, and its ending didn't help.


    The Ending: You make it to the Fireflies' hideout at last, only to realize that the surgery required to remove the cure to the fungus apocalypse will kill your child cohort. Instead of the game ending on a tragic note and having exactly that happen, you then proceed to take control of Joel as he kills off everyone in the hospital and steals her away, leaving humanity doomed forever all because he couldn't stand to see her die. Some people think it's an interesting subversion to the player's expectations. I say it's stupid, and it completely ruins any emotional damage this finale could have done.

  • The Game: Speaking of gruff, middle-aged men with adolescent escorts, The Walking Dead!

    In all honesty, though, I really don't know how to write a synopsis for this game without giving away any details about the first season, so I'll give it a try. You're a lone girl trying to survive the zombie apocalypse who encounters all kinds of vicious villains and unsavory folk. Anything more and I'd be dipping my hands into hot water.

    In any case, the Season 1 finale? Without spoiling it, absolutely gut-wrenching. Season 2's, on the other hand? I have some words about it...


    The Ending: Everyone you've met at the cabin in the woods is dead - Luke, Nick, Rebecca, Sarah, Carlos, Alvin, Pete, all of them, which really sucks because some of them had boundless development potential and a couple were killed OFFSCREEN - and the only remaining survivors are Kenny, Mike, Bonnie and Jane. After some altercations with two of your group members and your Russian prisoner - who promptly shoots you in the chest, knocking you unconscious - you get stranded with Kenny and Jane in the middle of the freezing wasteland at a rest stop.

    Let's just go over the situation here - Kenny, whom you have been acquainted with since Season 1, has gone completely bonkers from having seen so many people he loved die right in front of him, including his wife and child, to the point where he has become a dictating lunatic. Jane, on the other hand, is a stoic, manipulative thief who is content with FAKING A BABY'S DEATH in order to prove her point. Neither party is in the right here, and they're at each others' throats. At least one of them has to die before the game ends.

    Doesn't sound so bad, right? But my problem with this ending is this - we've built up this story starting with many new faces - ones with so much potential for character development like Sarah, Nick, Luke, etc. - and they're unceremoniously offed. Meanwhile, the finale consists of a character who has been in the series since the very goddamn beginning and whose story arc has literally not changed a single bit, and a new face who barely gets two scenes of exposition before the climax and is much more uninteresting than the rest of the season's cast. I don't know if this makes much sense to anyone, I'm just really tired of how fascinated Telltale is with killing off all the interesting characters in their own franchise only to be stuck with the tired concepts. I mean, for Christ's sake, the goddamn TV show and comics it's based on kill off characters like it's going out of style, but even THEY show some restraint! What's the point of continuing this series if we know everyone is going to die at the end and we're going to be stuck with characters essentially devoid of anything redeeming at this point?

    There is no point, that's what. Much like half the stuff you say along the way that supposedly affects the game's story line. Worse still, there are a grand total of five different possible endings, and they have announced that Season 3 is scheduled to release next year, which means either they have to do some SERIOUS writing and coding to account for which ending you picked, or they have to declare one of the endings canon and eschew the rest, which kind of ruins the effect the player has on the game in the first place.

  • The Game: The only direct sequel to a 3D mission-based Mario platformer to date, this iteration introduced a couple new mechanics, such as being able to ride on Mario's trusty dinosaur steed Yoshi and being able to don the Cloud Suit and poof cloud platforms into existence at will. It was just as well-received as the first Galaxy game, if not even moreso due to the slight difficulty adjustments and innovative level designs.

    The final boss fight, though?


    The Final Boss: Easily the weakest iteration of Bowser out there. If you know what you're doing - and you will by now, this is the same variation of Bowser you've been fighting against the whole game, with maybe a couple more shockwaves - the fight lasts all but two lousy minutes, and those two lousy minutes consist of Bowser using incredibly telegraphed punches and showers of rock chunks that you butt-blast back at him. The ONLY part of this fight that serves any difficulty is Bowser's chasing fire breath attack, which is also easily dodged.

    This could have been an epic, Shadow of the Colossus-esque boss fight ending with a climb on Bowser himself, but apparently that's too hard for the kids to deal with these days.

  • The Game: Obsidian's take on the Fallout universe sets the player as an unnamed courier in the Nevada desert, who gets his head blown open in the intro. The rest of the game attempts to justify why. I personally enjoyed this game more for allowing the player to do more activities and for its massive environment than the main quest line, and there's a good reason for that.


    The Finale/Final Boss: The last stretch of the game is an all-out assault on the Hoover Dam between the NCR, the Legion, and whichever other allies you came across in the Mojave. It all culminates once you reach the other side of the dam - you encounter Legate Lanius, the closest thing this game has to a Final Boss. You have two options - 1. Attempt to fight this guy, and I say 'attempt' because he has an absolutely absurd amount of hit points which only the toughest of late-game weapons can make a dent in, or 2. Grind the everloving shit out of your speech skill (or tear through your stat-boosting magazines like you're Colin Firth in The King's Speech) and convince him to stand down, in which case he does absolutely nothing and you've essentially won the game at that point, assuming you can still talk down the NCR officers. Who knew all it took to take over a wasteland was to have some guile and charisma to you.

  • The Game: Bethesda's take on the Fallout universe. Using the same engine as the one they used to build Oblivion, Fallout 3 was praised and showered with Game of the Year awards for its massive open sandbox in D.C., the multitude of weapons, armor, perks and stats to amass and improve, a massive amount of sidequests and marked locations, and inventive character designs.

    However, this time around, it's not so much the finale that's shallow - that part's actually flippin' sweet. Moreover, it's the game's pathetic excuse for a final encounter.


    The Final Boss: Colonel Autumn, right hand man to the villain, and a few of his cronies, think they have you cornered in the purifier room. What they don't know is you're probably packing so much heat and power armor at this point, possibly being backed up by a freakishly-strong mutant cohort with a GATLING LASER GUN, that the 'fight' that ensues is almost guaranteed to last all but ten measly seconds as you rip Colonel Autumn a new asshole.

    Then you die saving the human population, assuming you didn't buy the Broken Steel DLC. Capitalism wins again!

  • The Game: The first FPS to brag about having an endless supply of guns, when in reality it's mostly similar guns with different stats a la Diablo's weapons. Regardless, its crazy arcade-y combat, interesting blend of humor and sadism, and multiplayer capabilities made it hugely successful in the market.

    It's so satisfying to grind for better weapons that it almost makes you forget how terrible and anticlimactic the final boss fight is.


    The Finale/Final Boss: You climb a mountain for a while, surrounded by elemental guardians and Crimson guardsmen from every angle, all of which are probably easily dispatched at this point. Then you get to the supposed 'Vault' you've literally been searching for the whole game - and you fight a giant space octopus crab vagina monster out of nowhere for no reason. I'm not making this up. And it's disappointingly easy to cheese and defeat by exploiting the architecture of the boss arena while popping away at its glaringly-obvious exposed weak point.

    Then you kill it and the game just ends. You never get to find out what that vault contained, if it was some kind of mythological City of Gold or just a barren hellhole, you're just dumped back into the wasteland to complete any side missions you may have missed along the way. Weak.

  • The Game: The tenth game in the franchise, hence the subtitle, Mortal Kombat X was the follow-up to the violent Mortal Kombat reboot from 2011. Despite many technical issues at launch with the PC port, it's widely regarded as an excellent game in its own right, in particular for introducing the first batch of new characters into the Mortal Kombat universe since Deception, reintroducing Brutalities, programming several different fighting styles for each fighter and, of course, providing some excruciating and ruthless finishing moves.


    The Ending: After being left with a horribly grim ending in the previous Mortal Kombat game that saw nearly every Earthrealm and Edenia protagonist killed off, you would think things would get even more dire in the sequel's ending.

    Nope. You fight Shinnok's ultimate form as Cassie Cage, destroy him for good, and all the good guys survive with their wits intact. Hell, even some of the characters who were killed off in the previous title came back to life no worse for wear! The only canon deaths in the story line that really mattered in the end were Mileena and Quan Chi's deaths, with Quan Chi's probably being the most shocking, as this means the process to bring Liu Kang and the rest of the possessed Netherrealm warriors is now essentially void... which loses its muster when you consider Kung Lao and Kung Jin's ladder endings, in which revenants can still be resurrected without him, albeit the process takes much longer.

    All I'm saying is, at least one good guy could have died or sacrificed himself to make it more dramatic. As it is, it has all the impact of the resolution to a Superman comic, or a John Cena match.

  • The Game: A radically different take on the Mario platforming formula, this title sees Mario and company travelling to the tropical islands of Isle Delfino for a vacation, which goes awry when a shadowy vigilante posing as Mario steals the Shine Sprites keeping the island lit up and making an absolute mess of the place. Framed for all of this, Mario is forced to clean up the graffiti and find out who the real perpetrator is that caused this mess.

    A very great if polarizing game in its own right, its finale and ultimate boss fight definitely were not up to snuff with the rest of the game.


    The Finale/Final Boss: The final level is Corona Mountain, which I won't go into scrupulous detail about, but if you've read my other list on masochistic levels in great games, you'd know that it is a nightmare to get through. Instant-kill hazards almost everywhere and wonky boat physics that don't work half the time to cross said instant-kill hazards? Count me in!

    If you actually manage to surmount Corona Mountain, however, you find Bowser himself, inflated to absolutely gigantic proportions... and he's sitting in a hot tub of goop. This variation of him is perhaps even easier to defeat than Mario Galaxy 2's... at least then he makes a fraction of an effort to hurt you, but here, half of his 'attacks' are pathetic, Bowser Jr. mainly sits there doing nothing, and the only thing you need to do to defeat him is ground-pound the support platforms on the edges of the floating hot tub using rocket propulsion. It's a one-phase fight that barely lasts two minutes, and it apparently somehow wears out F.L.U.D.D. so much that he short-circuits and 'dies'... right before he gets repaired again by the resident island folk. Hooray for happy endings!

    Seriously, though, if you're going to be an epic boss battle, at least have the decency to step out of your bathtub.

  • The Game: Rockstar's masterpiece western Red Dead Redemption was an incredible experience the whole way through, with sleek controls, complete freedom to explore and participate in many activities, and an ending that had me in tears, something that 99% of games fail to do. So yeah, it's not on this list.

    What IS on this list, however, is its Living Dead adaptation Undead Nightmare. Honestly, while it didn't add much for me, it was still a unique take on the core game, but that all meant nothing once I completed it.


    The Ending: Turns out Abraham Reyes stole an ancient Atzec tablet from an underground tomb buried under a city you've already been to before in the base game, and that's what caused the apocalypse. You enter the tomb, kill his zombified corpse and the corpses of several other unnamed cowboys, and put it back, turning the world peaceful once more. There's no dramatic deaths, no deviating plotlines, no original writing or anything, it just ends.

    Then you play as Zombie John Marston, which Rockstar probably intended as a gag, but I found it hilarious for about 2 minutes before it made me remember how depressing and devastating the ending to the base game was. And you can't turn it off, neither - once you beat the game, you're stuck with Zombie Marston for as long as that save file exists.

  • The Game: Probably the most controversial of the Smash Bros games and definitely the most hit-or-miss for a lot of gamers, the third edition of Nintendo's mascot fighter introduced more characters and stages than ever before. Say what you will about its gameplay and its mechanics, but its single-player modes were more intense than ever, and unlockable content was in extreme abundance, making it a smash hit with critics, no pun intended.

    But the Subspace Emissary wasn't without its faults, and its biggest fault was its last main stage.


    The Final Level: Upfront, the final level is fucking ginormous. It will easily take you at least a couple of hours to traverse it completely, as it requires you to travel and defeat every character you've encountered in the story-line up to that point. That's over 30 EFFING FIGHTS to go through, and that's all on maybe 5 or 6 lives at the most. Even worse, it's entirely made up of stages YOU'VE ALREADY PLAYED. Yes, the final level of the Subspace Emissary is a repeat of essentially every level and boss fight you can recall. Talk about a cheap cop-out.

    Then you reach the final boss, Tabuu, who not only comes out of nowhere in the story but will kick the shit out of you if you seriously don't know what you're doing. The only caveat you get during this fight is that you finally get to play as Sonic the Hedgehog. Yes, Sonic's appearance in the Subspace Emissary is relegated to the final dwindling moments of the campaign. Well worth those negotiations to put him in, I bet!

  • The Game: It's everyone's favorite vigilante raccoon, traversing through space-time and enlisting the help of his ancient relatives to track down and battle the treacherous Le Paradox. Let's be real, though, the devs should probably do a little time-travelling themselves and fix the dreadful, incoherent second half of the game's story.


    The Climax(es) - There's one particular level towards the end of the game that features an absurd and horribly-justified betrayal by that of Penelope, Bentley's girlfriend from the third game. The weird thing is, I saw this one coming a mile away, and yet it STILL absolutely baffles me why Sanzaru decided to write it in, but it serves as prime evidence towards NEVER letting glorified fan companies take the helm on forwarding the plot of an established series. Her motivation for working with Le Paradox is one of the flimsiest and saddest excuses for a heel turn I've ever witnessed in any medium, and I watch professional wrestling on a weekly basis. I wouldn't be so vehement about it, but this is a character who felt very underdeveloped and unexplored when she was introduced, beyond her nerdy archetype. It's essentially the equivalent of C3PO from Star Wars turning out to be a Sith Lord.

    A couple levels later, you encounter Le Paradox himself and engage in a thoughtlessly-simply quick-time event battle to round out the game. For a series that gave us fantastic final encounters with Clockwerk and even Dr. M, this comes off as a huge letdown on its own. The actual ending is bizarrely inconclusive and depressing, too - the bad guy manages to get away (momentarily, anyways) and leaves Sly stranded on the burning blimp, presumed dead. Of course, he's not actually dead, as the post-credit scene shows us, but turns out he's stuck in ancient Egypt, with no foreseeable way to return to the present. Add to it that, apparently, the IP is stuck dormant in limbo with no work on a sequel being confirmed, and we may never find out where and when Sly's next excursions will happen. What a shame.

  • The Game: Bethesda's most recent take on the Fallout universe, and once again, the series continues the trend letting gamers down at the very end of the plot. I admire the amount of detail put into the game's environments, which look way more interesting than the dusty and queasy brown settings of 3 and New Vegas, and the gunplay got some much-needed overhauls as well, so for every step back, I feel like Bethesda took a step forward. In this vein, I enjoyed it just as much as the previous titles, but definitely not because of the jumbled mess of a story, which has a goofy and convoluted sequence of endings.


    The Ending: Not to knock the final sequences or anything, since once again, they are pretty kickass, but regardless of whether or not you decide to side with the Institute (which has a dumb twist in the vein that your son - the kid that the entire main plotline revolves around - now runs the place for some reason), all of the endings from each of the main factions are underwhelming, abrupt, and have little to no resolution at their conclusion. When you defeat the Brotherhood, for example, their blimp-based hideout simply and inexplicably goes up in flames. In some cases, like in the New Vegas example above, you can just negotiate your way out of murdering an entire faction with a simple skill check. The epic battles at the end, which are supposed to be the game's high point, are simply outclassed by other sidequests such as the siege of the Castle for the Minutemen faction, or the defense of the FRIGGIN' USS CONSTITUTION.

  • The Game: Having been marketed as Nathan Drake's last dance, Uncharted 4 brings the titular treasure hunter and historian to modern consoles, with breathtaking visual fidelity and superb set-pieces. Uncharted's charm has always been in its campy B-movie Indiana Jones-esque themes, with a myriad of puzzles and shootouts around every corner, and there are plenty to go around in the latest and likely final installment of the saga with the addition of the grappling hook and new characters such as Drake's long lost brother Samuel.


    The Ending: The series, however, has always struggled with its endings. If you ask me, Naughty Dog has the opposite problem of Telltale when it comes to writing - they aren't so much trigger-happy as they are reluctant to pull the trigger EVER, and any time they attempt to set up a situation where a significant character appears to get killed off, they IMMEDIATELY backpedal on it. This hearkens back to the very first game, where Sully appears to take a fatal gunshot wound to the chest early in the story, only to return not long afterwards because the villain SHOT FRANCIS DRAKE'S JOURNAL, which stopped the bullet. It isn't even always handwaved with bullshit explanations, either - the main love interest, Elena Fisher, literally gets caught RIGHT IN FRONT OF A GRENADE EXPLOSION in the second game, wearing no armor at all, and yet she heals right up in the span of a couple weeks, with no chronic effects on her physical capabilities for future installments.

    This frequent cold-shoulder attitude by Naughty Dog has a drastic side effect on the tension of the narrative. I never felt that any of the characters in this game were going to die - hell, they faked the death of Sam's brother TWICE. When both Nathan and Sam are stuck in Henry Avery's exploding pirate ship by the end of the game, Nathan literally pull a super hard ex machina by blowing the hull open with a cannonball while the ship is sinking. Instead of filling Nate and Sam with splinters, this drains water in the room, freeing his trapped brother, and they get away scot free, even snatching a bit of the treasure for themselves to boot. Worse still, the game's second major villain, Nadine Ross, up and leaves before the climax with no repercussions, severing her plot threads with a whimpering snip.

    In comparison to previous titles, which featured the discoveries of Shangri-La and Iram, the quaint village of Libertalia and the ruins of New Devon are very underwhelming as well. There aren't any mystical beings or powers to be seen anywhere, not even undead Nazis like the first game, just... explosive mummies? Ooh, how spooky. Naughty Dog sure can put together a fine romp of a game, but I still have yet to trust them with penning finales, and Uncharted 4 only perpetuates the issue further.