Every video game has an ending. Here are 13 of the worst video game endings of all time.
Every video game has an ending. Most have wonderful, memorable conclusions. When the game finally ends, you expect there to be some closure. You hope to see the heroes succeed. You want to learn where they end up, how the world has changed, and what your efforts have done to shape the course of history. If the ending has done its job right, there’s an emptiness left in your heart. A void. You might even shed a tear or two. It’s over, and you’re left to ponder what happens next.
Sadly, some games don’t end so well. They leave questions unanswered. Worse still, they have abrupt conclusions that don’t shed any light on the events you’ve grown to care about. That is, if you cared about them at all. They gloss over character arcs, forget key moments, and simply do not care about whether the ending even makes sense, let alone tying up loose ends. Some, like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II- The Sith Lords, simply ran out of time. Others, like Borderlands, left out major plot elements, and left many unanswered questions lingering.
In this article, I chose the 13 game endings that left plot points disappointingly unresolved, felt anticlimactic, or just left me utterly disappointed. Games that leave you wondering- what the heck happened? These games totally disregard the narrative, and instead of rewarding you for all the hours of game play, they spit in your face with loose threads, vague answers, and random revelations.
The pipes, the warping, the fireball madness! There was no end to the last castle. It was just trial and error, and without the internet to guide you through? You just had to memorize the pipes, and hope you made it though before a pit, flaming blades, hammer brothers, squid, pipe plants, spitting lava, or a psychotic Bowser with machine gun hammers, took your last life. Unless, of course you were a pro at the infinite lives turtle trick. And after, “your princess is in another castle,” you come to the end at last. Bowser is defeated and Princess Toadstool is safe. You curb stomped all of Bowser’s henchman into oblivion, and you’re presented with a new quest? Did anyone else feel used?
It literally took me years to finish The Legend of Zelda. After saved games mysteriously vanished from my wonderful golden cartridge, I eventually waged through a save that didn’t corrupt! Aided by the trusty Nintendo Power fold-out-map, I shoved a silver arrow into Ganon’s face! Whew, cue the heroic theme music, I did it! In her excitement, Zelda praises, “Thanks Link, you’re the hero of Hyrule.” Wait, what? Thanks? Just thanks, after all the Moblins, and secret waterfalls, and rupee hunting hell I went through? I felt very unappreciated.
This game made me want to throw my controller in rage! Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! was the first game that made my hands start to hurt from button mashing. I have never in my life made it to Tyson without cheating with a code. And when I finally did? He hit me once and I was down!
I had to use an emulator, with cheats, to beat him! Pathetic, I know. I’ve heard people have made it to him legitimately, but those have always been a friend of a friend, of a cousin, who knew a guy. Never met anyone who actually played all the way through.
After a game that tormented me through every loss, I witnessed the ending. Mike offers his congratulations, and you’re given a montage of all the people who beat the crap out of you. I like being congratulated, but I don’t get a title belt? Fanfare? Paparazzi flooding the ring to ask Mac how he tore down Goliath? Oh. Okay.
Shenmue 2 was a groundbreaking game. It had an immersive world, a powerful narrative, and it was one of the first games that had you initiate button commands to dodge during fast paced encounters, a mechanic still used today in games like God of War and Resident Evil (now widely know as Quick Time Events, or QTEs). There was even a world outside of the main game that you could explore. You needed to make money, worked a job, and you could play arcade games. Lucky Hit! I swear that game was rigged. Oh, and collecting the Toy Capsules? Gotta collect em’ all!
Okay, first reason why Shenmue 2 has one of the worst video game endings is that you never confront Lan Di! The story revolves around revenge on this one guy, and you never settle the score? Then, you finally find the dream girl, and it ends. That’s it. Oh, right, that all must have been saved for the sequel. Cool, no issue then. Right? Shemue’s final act was never created. And to this day, it’s left an empty feeling in the heart of every Shenmue fan.
By the end of Devil May Cry 4, I really wanted to know Nero’s connection to Vergil. After the the events of Devil May Cry 3, Vergil becomes Nelo Angelo, you defeat him in Devil May Cry 1, and that’s all we know. Now, there’s some kid named Nero (Nelo?) with a blue coat, who wields the Yamato, and apparently has some kind of demonic blood running in his veins. Hey, that’s really important, let’s never touch on that in the end. Not even an explanation about the Devil Arm?
I honestly didn’t care about the Order or saving Kyrie. I wanted to know more about Nero, and his past. Instead we’re treated to a god awful exchange that falls flat and means nothing. “Nero, you’re you. And it’s you I want to be with…I don’t know anyone who is as human as you are.” Holy crap. I was hoping all this would be addressed in the next Devil May Cry installment. Sadly, no. They decided to reboot the series. Sigh.
Up until the end, I loved everything about Fallout 3: the freedom, the choices, the morality meter, the perks, open world exploration! The battle leading to the end was epic. My heart raced, things were exploding, people were dying. It was a final confrontation with the Enclave, and it was brilliant. I was the Savior of The Wastes! Then I decided to sacrifice myself…
And we cut to narration and still pictures? Instead of allowing me to see how my actions made a difference, instead of allowing me to experience the praise and the new world I’d helped to create, or at least see it (since I’m dead), I’m told by a disembodied voice. A voice, that had no meaning to me, just made the entire game, leading up to that moment, mean nothing. There was no celebration, no emotional ending. It just ended. I sat there staring at the screen. I felt nothing. Maybe if it was Three Dog, or someone I cared about narrating my end, it would have mattered a little.
The most disappointing thing about the ending to Dragon Age 2 was that it never answered any questions. Every event just sort of happened, DA: Origins characters were shamelessly shoehorned into scenes for no over arching purpose, and then the most important story ideas were never addressed. What did that Lyrium Idol even do, and how was it causing everyone to go insane? What happened to Flemeth, and what kind of relationship did she have with the elves? Seriously, what is up with Sandal? There was never any sense of closure.
After all the powers you obtain and all the stat building hours you spend raising your character in Bioshock, you’re still helpless in the end. You don’t go down as a hero. The battle is taken out of your hands. You watch, frozen on the floor in defeat, as the Little Sisters rally to your aide, and stab the brute to death. The cut scenes that follow don’t give you any sense of closure, no satisfying end for your epic journey. Instead of focusing on your character, you learn about the fate of the Little Sisters?
Most will agree that Bioshock should have ended with Andrew Ryan. “Would you kindly?”
The story revolved around you being a wound in the force, with the ability to control the wills of those around you. Awesome! And there was a Sith Lord that could feel the force and kill people from a galaxy away. Epic. “If he joins us on the path to darkness, those who fight alongside him will follow! But if he takes the path of a Jedi, those who join him will feel the vengeance of the dark side.”
This never takes shape throughout the course of the game. Your companions turn to the dark or light side depending on your character, but it doesn’t matter in the end, because your alignment doesn’t change how the events of the game play out. Then it just ends abruptly. You never get to see what becomes of your followers, or witness the consequences of your actions. Instead, Kreia tells you the fate of all your companions in a mystical, vague bit of dialogue. You also never get to see Revan, which is a huge disappointment, or learn of his fate, or see the true Sith. The player is left with no clear conclusion until the release of The Old Republic.
The problem with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s ending was that there was no reason to care about what was going on. Nothing you did changed the course of the story. You were told that you were the only one with the power to change the world, but you never did. After Alduin was dead, or you joined the Storm Cloaks, or saved Dragons Reach, or slayed every dragon you came across…it never had any bearing on the plot.
Also, the final battle with Alduin just wasn’t that epic. It was too easy, just slightly harder than a normal dragon battle. I thought Adluin was going to be a mid boss to an even greater threat! But no. There was nothing satisfying about the ending, and nothing ever happened to make me care about what was going on.
Now, if Paarthurnax had decided that the Dovahkiin was the last threat to dragonkind, or if it ended up he was secretly the final boss, and all the dragons in the end jumped you, all at the same time? That would have been epic!
My mission to find the vault in Borderlands was an amazing one. I tore through Pandora. I was going to engrave my name in history! The legendary vault and all the riches were mine. Then you actually find the vault, and it’s a prison for a huge, galactic space monster? Okay. Good twist. I didn’t see that coming. But no explanation of the vault, or why the squidy was in there? Nothing led to these events, or were even hinted at through the rest of the game. There was absolutely no closure of any kind.
And after the battle, what do you get? You get to explore a Pandora that has not changed. You don’t get anything worth noting from the vault, which was one of the biggest disappointments. You get a pat on the back, and life goes on.
Sephiroth is defeated, Holy is no match for the comet, and Meteor continues to fall! The planet crumbles. Cloud and company watch helplessly as their world is savagely torn apart. You experience the chaos, the struggle, and witness the hopelessness as Meteor tears through Midgar. It was a very emotional moment!
Then, you get to witness Midgar 500 years in the future. This one scene ruined everything. Yes, the world was free to blossom and flourish, but everyone is dead. Why do I care about that? Show me where the characters ended up, how our actions made a difference to the planet. Not 500 years later.
To remedy this, Square created an entire franchise to make up for that one scene. At the time, when I first witnessed the ending, Final Fantasy VII was a standalone game. There was no further explanation, no Advent Children, no Crisis Core.
When the credits finally roll? They turn the dagger by playing Aerith’s theme. It was heartbreaking! And when the credits finally end, the buttons don’t do anything? You’re forced to shut the system down manually, or initiate a forced reset through the controller. That’s just cruel.
One of the hardest games in existence. You wage through the bowls of hell and face the end boss, only to be greeted with the words: “This room is an illusion and a trap devised by Satan! Go ahead dauntlessly. Make rapid progress.” Seriously?!
Then, you have to play through the game a second time, and your reward for reliving this nightmare? “The Story is Happy End. Being the wise and courageous knight that you are, you feel strongth welling in your body. Return to starting point. Challenge again!”
Wow. The fact that you need to play through the game a second time is why this game ranks #1 on my list. That’s just cruel and unforgivable!