For many gamers, the mark of a great video game comes at the tail end of the campaign, when the story wraps up in its final presentation. The ending of a game can make or break a title’s legacy, regardless of how good the gameplay, graphics, and storyline are to that point. One need only consider the ruin that became of Mass Effect 3 thanks to its awfully received ending.
In contrast to titles like Mass Effect 3, some games provide an ending that blows gamers away and are remembered years later. These games present endings that gamers can’t help but dwell on or discuss to great lengths. For these games, even if the journey leading to the end is mediocre, the ending itself can make it one of the best games every played.
To commemorate some of these great endings, here’s Game Rant’s list of the 10 Best Video Game Endings. Given the subject matter of this article, here’s a Spoiler Alert for those who have yet to complete the following games.
10 Red Dead Redemption
With Red Dead Redemption 2 on the horizon, it’s no surprise that gamers are excited for the highly anticipated title, considering how well Red Dead Redemption was received. Along with compelling characters, and immersive story, and engaging open world, the game’s climactic ending was one to remember.
After taking down the game’s antagonist, players are able to return home as John Marston looks to rebuild his family and his life. However, the hopes and joys of this new direction are thrown into turmoil in the game’s last moments when a group of traitorous lawmen show up and gun the Red Dead Redemption hero down. It’s a shocking, yet fully beautiful moment in gaming. It’s a perfectly executed ending to a wild west adventure that challenges gamers to consider their own mortality and life choices.
9 BioShock: Infinite
The BioShock franchise is beloved by many gamers for the immersive stories and wonderful twist endings. Much like its predecessors, BioShock: Infinite didn’t disappoint when it wrapped up its action-packed story. However, the ending is as much an enigma for many as the whole tearing-through-time-and-space aspect is that weaves through the story. Essentially, players learn that their character, Booker, becomes the evil prophet Comstock through baptism, and builds the great city Columbia. After numerous attempts to stop Booker in many timelines, the many timeline versions of Elizabeth are able to drown Booker, finally ending the cycle.
The ending is a bit of a shock and takes some time to process. Gamers are still discussing various theories and conspiracies around the BioShock: Infinite ending today. Hopefully the BioShock franchise isn’t done blowing gamers’ minds.
At first glance, Braid looks like a fun, Xbox version of Mario. It’s a platformer that tasks players with finding and rescuing a princess. Along the way, players, who take on the role of Tim, must assemble jigsaw puzzle pieces to make their way through the game and find the princess. However, once players reach the end, the real truth is laid out, and it’s startling.
It turns out the monster the princess has been running from the whole time is Tim. The traps and snares the princess has laid are for him, not some other frightening being. But the twists don’t stop there. Many gamers have considered the subject matter of the game and concluded that the princess is a representation of the atomic bomb, and that the puzzle pieces Tim puts together along the way are the various components of that bomb. It’s an interesting perception and one that certainly encourages a second or third play through for gamers to fully appreciate the game’s ending.
7 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Hideo Kojima is a masterful storyteller, and his work in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a prime example of his brilliance. After players make their way through the challenges of the game, they’re faced with a tough ending: they must kill their friend and mentor, The Boss, who was discovered to be a Soviet defector. In fact, players are forced to push the button that will pull the trigger, extinguishing The Boss’s life.
However, the real twist comes later, when players learn that The Boss wasn’t a Soviet defector, but had instead set up her own death in order to protect those she loved and the United States. The heartbreak in this ending is real.
6 Batman: Arkham City
The Batman and Joker rivalry is one of the great examples of good versus evil. The iconic battle between the two has sparked decades of movies, shows, video games, parodies, songs, and books. So it comes as a shock when that rivalry is ended in Batman: Arkham City.
To the surprise of anyone who’s played the game, Joker finally bites the dust in one of the epic ways in Batman canon. Naturally, when this was first discovered, gamers assumed it was a ploy by developer Rocksteady to enhance the excitement of the series, with plans to bring the Joker back. However, that was not to be the case. Rocksteady stuck to their guns and let the iconic conflict come to a sudden and dramatic end.
5 Portal 2
Portal and Portal 2 are considered some of the most impressive, immersive games available in the industry. The storyline is something every gamer should experience, and the characters deliver a compelling performance unlike any other game.
Those who played the first Portal were understandably skeptical of GLaDOS, the computer in charge of the Aperture Labratories facility. However, it’s discovered over time that GLaDOS is on the players’ side, though there’s still the potential for betrayal. However, rather than a twist ending similar to Portal, the developers deliver something else, something more human, and the twists presented are enough to make any gamer replay Portal 2 immediately.
4 The Walking Dead
Telltale Games has built up an empire of “choose-your-path” style games the provide a wholly unique experience in gaming. Much of the success the developer has experienced is due to its The Walking Dead series, and especially the ending of the first season.
Players take on the role of Lee, who’s made it his life’s mission to protect a girl named Clementine (who goes by “Clem”) and help her to safety. After players spend the entire game building a relationship with Clem, Lee is bitten by a zombie and will soon turn into the undead himself. Rather than let the moment play out, Telltale Games puts the situation into the hands of players and makes them decide: let Lee die and turn, or have Clem pull the trigger and kill Lee before he becomes a zombie. It’s one of the most emotional decisions in gaming.
Journey may only be a couple hours long, but it’s easily one of the most beautiful, spiritual, and powerful games in existence. And the ending is one that provides a moving experience without relying on twists, turns, betrayals, or gimmicks.
Rather, gamers play through the game with ease, enjoying the incredible musical score, vast environment, and pleasant movement. That all comes to a halt when players are frozen to death on their way to the summit of a large mountain. Just when all seems lost, the player is revived and ascends the mountain in one of the most impressive, visually astounding moments in gaming. It’s a breathtaking experience that any gamer, whether hardcore or casual, should experience at least once.
2 Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2 is considered a masterpiece of gaming from the era of the PlayStation 2. From the masterful storytelling, to the compelling and unique characters, there’s little to dislike about this game. But it’s the ending that really makes this one memorable, even 16 years after its release.
As players make their way through Silent Hill 2, they slowly discover that the main protagonists wife, Mary, didn’t die of an illness as was previously supposed. Rather, it’s revealed that the player, James, killed Mary. But where most games would wrap up the story with a simple ending (even with that impressive twist), Silent Hill 2 takes it a step farther and offers multiple endings, each of which is a reaction to the player’s reasons for killing Mary. If James killed Mary to ease her suffering, players get one ending. If James killed her to set himself free, then another ending is presented. It gives a more personal experience to the whole game, and invites players to go through multiple times for the many ending options.
1 The Last of Us
There’s no arguing with the fact that The Last of Us has one of the best, most surprising, and downright emotional endings in gaming. After a mysterious virus has killed off much of the world’s population, it’s up to one man, Joel, to escort a girl, Ellie, across the country in hopes of stopping the virus. It turns out, Ellie is immune and may hold the cure for the virus in her veins.
Unfortunately, it’s revealed at the end that in order for the cure to come about, Ellie must give her life. To this end, Ellie is kidnapped and taken to a secure location for the deed to take place. However, Joel has other ideas, and attacks the hospital where Ellie is located, killing all who mean her harm. Joel escapes with Ellie. However, the real twist is when Joel is stopped in the parking lot and delivered a simple choice: leave with Ellie and doom many thousands or millions of people, or let her die to save humanity. In the end Joel chooses Ellie, and in a final twist, tells Ellie that she wasn’t needed, but that the medical staff had many people to choose from for the cure. It’s an ending that pulls at the heart strings and encourages players to consider what decision they would make in that situation.
This is our list of the best video game endings. Have any you think should be included on this list? Share your favorite game endings in the comments.