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20 of the most disappointing game endings

Monday, 30 June 2014 10:27 GMT By Dave Cook

Game endings. They can make or break the player’s experience, but sometimes developers hit us with a finale so weak that it makes us sick in our mouths a little. Dave Cook has a look at 20 particularly heinous game endings.

mass_effect_3_femshep

Spoilers, obviously.

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

Thanks Theendingman.

So abrupt you can’t help but feel you’re being had as part of some cruel joke, the hat-drop ending in Kane & Lynch 2 felt like developer IO Interactive was throwing up its arms and shouting ‘We’re done.’ Seriously, after lots of shooting, getting stripped naked and cut up (a lot), and more PG-13 antics, our despicable anti-heroes simply board a plane and leave.

That’s it? What about about the battalion of cops surely waiting for them at the next airport? No, we’ll just ignore the numerous felonies involved with taking live firearms onto a passenger jet shall we? Fine, moving on.

Borderlands

Thanks THEJEMS42′s channel

This is a long game, so you’d expect there to be some mind-blowing conclusion lying at the end of all that loot and death. Nope, what you get is a boss fight against an ancient vault beast and some lines of dialogue explaining that you had to be there when the chamber opened to stop it. You then get a short scene of Claptrap turning evil for the first DLC expansion and then you’re thrown back into the endgame. The lack of consequence and context is remarkable.

Aliens Colonial Marines

Thanks MrGlennDK.

Picking holes in this game is like kicking a toddler while it’s down, but all of Aliens: Colonial Marines’ final boss fight and following cut-scene are simply woeful, a real kick in the teeth after seeing the buggy campaign through to the end. Your final showdown with the alien queen is less of a boss fight and more of a weak stealth section, as you attempt to hurl the beast out into the recesses of space. It’s poorly designed and lacking in tension.

Then, you come face to face with Weyland who we all know by this point is another android and not a real man. It makes the reveal fall flat on its face, knocking all of its teeth out in the process. Hicks – who we still can’t accept is alive after having his face burned off by acid in the film – and your pals hack into the android imposter through Bishop. He then says that he managed to download “everything.” What is everything? We’re told nothing. Game over, man.

Batman Arkham Ayslum

Thanks pocketfudgy.

Oh Rocksteady, your 3D Metroidvania take on Batman was almost the definitive comic book love-letter until mutant Joker showed up. Batters is a tough guy, so it makes sense for him to fight a formidable foe at the end of his quest, but what we got was Joker tripping balls on Titan formula. He looks ridiculous and presents players with little challenge thanks to his predictable attack patterns, not to mention all of the medical questions raised throughout.

Does he just shrink down to size without any serious medical ramifications? We know from Batman: Arkham City that Joker’s a bit poorly, but he just sort of deflates back to normal after the fight. The only saving grace is the sight of Killer Croc’s claw swiping more Titan at the end, but that doesn’t come to pass in the sequel. It just felt a bit, well, rushed.

Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy

Thanks MythicalFlop.

Oh man, the acting in this makes Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Commando look like high art, but that’s besides the point. We see hero Nick Scryer suddenly proclaiming to remember “everything,” whatever that is and then using some mad mind power to fell a group of choppers. What happens next? We don’t know because the screen cuts out with a ‘To be continued’ message and the sequel never got made. Brilliant, cheers guys.

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43 Comments

  1. Legendaryboss

    Up next: 20 of the best openings. I can’t put my finger on it but i feel as if you left something out.

    #1 10 months ago
  2. The_Red

    Nice list and write-ups. The Fallout 3 was especially INSULTING because:
    1. Fallout 1-2 had the most comprehensive set of finales along with unique / varied explanation for EVERYTHING that was affected by our actions.
    2. The asshole Howard at Bethesda PROMISED more than 100 endings and then made only one.

    Also, loved the Crackdown description.

    #2 10 months ago
  3. Dave Cook

    @The_Red Thanks :D Crackdown’s was just a bit like, ‘oh…’ But yeah Fallout 3 left me feeling a bit cold after all those hours.

    #3 10 months ago
  4. Dog4life

    You forgot Last of us.

    Such epic and emotional game…. the ending was just utterly boring.

    #4 10 months ago
  5. Dave Cook

    @Dog4life I liked TLOU’s ending. It was purposely muted after all of that mayhem.

    #5 10 months ago
  6. Blackened Halo

    i remember that terrible Ghostbusters ending …lol awful game, awful ending

    #6 10 months ago
  7. Dave Cook

    @Blackened Halo Terrible eh? To make matters worse I had the Spectrum version. Weak.

    #7 10 months ago
  8. jos3moreira

    @Dave Cook Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, i loved that game so much. And yeah, the ending was terrible.

    Bringing those memories back, Cold Fear just came up as a bitter ending as well. Always wanted a sequel. For sure was one of the best survival horror games i ever played.

    #8 10 months ago
  9. Dave Cook

    @jos3moreira Was Cold Fear worth checking out? I always fancied it.

    #9 10 months ago
  10. Dave Cook

    @jos3moreira Was Cold Fear worth checking out? I always fancied it.

    #10 10 months ago
  11. Luciferous

    I go in to a blind rage whenever I see ME3 in these lists.

    The entire game was the ending, it spends 35 hours wrapping up story thread after heartbreaking story thread, all of your decisions come back across the entirety of the ending. Yes the last ten minutes were a bit botched, yes the directors cut DLC ironed out those creases, but for the love of all things good stop it, just stop.

    Imagine if instead of everything being wrapped up over the course of the game it was done in the last fifteen minutes, the Geth-Quarian conflict, curing the Genophage, TIM losing his gods damned mind, retaking Earth and answering the Reaper question… all of that in a traditional ending would have been the worst thing ever, worse than the final decision.

    That final decision that so many people cried foul about?

    Who is Shepard?

    Was she out for control (blue), did she desire true peace between organic and machine intelligence (green), or was she out for bloody revenge to destroy the reapers erasing the countless cycles of history they represented (red)

    Nothing else mattered as the curtain was being drawn closed, nothing but to decide once and for all who was your Shepard, something we had been asking the entire length of the trilogy.

    #11 10 months ago
  12. RandomTiger

    “Let’s be clear on this; Dead Rising is not an easy game. It requires lots of trial and error, restarting, anger and stress to reach that ultimate 72-hour mode ending. You need to do everything correctly and ensure that you miss very little to achieve this finale, and all that happens in the end is that Frank’s rescue chopper crashes. He slumps back on the mall roof as zombies approach. Thanks for nothing, Capcom.”

    I loved that ending, it was brutal and I was really there with frank as he crashed to the floor.
    That’s not the final ending though…..

    #12 10 months ago
  13. Llewelyn_MT

    @Luciferous
    “I go in to a blind rage whenever I see ME3 in these lists.

    The entire game was the ending, it spends 35 hours wrapping up story thread after heartbreaking story thread, all of your decisions come back across the entirety of the ending.”
    Well, you’re right about that, except however you want to see it, the ending ME3 was didn’t conclude any of the major stories in a meaningful way, except for Mordin. All others were bleak or nonsensical and most of them ignored your choices from previous installments. This is not how you end a saga, no matter how you define it. The A/B/C choice at the end just adds insult to injury.

    ME3 is my personal No 1 finale letdown. By a mile.

    #13 10 months ago
  14. Dave Cook

    @RandomTiger No, but it is a bit of a cock-block ending :D

    #14 10 months ago
  15. Dave Cook

    @Llewelyn_MT I agree, the entire game was the ending. I was one of the people who liked ME3′s finale, but I understand why many didn’t.

    #15 10 months ago
  16. Arnvidr

    Come on Dave, FOUR pages?

    #16 10 months ago
  17. Revolting

    Endings are a bit of a sore point for me. They’re almost never any good. As illustrated by the list in the article, this is not simply a case of bad games not doing endings well; even most of the greatest, most beloved games completely drop the ball when it comes to their closing moments. I’m genuinely struggling to think of a single game that left me satisfied as the credits rolled since Full Throttle, and that was 19 years ago. Both Portals did a decent job, I guess. But there really aren’t many examples of good endings.

    Maybe it’s because I enjoy games too much; when a good game comes to a close, I always approach the ending mission with a begrudging, sense of finality. I don’t want good games to end. I want them to go on forever so that I can keep enjoying them. Perhaps this is why I like open world games so much, because in most cases the game doesn’t end when you finally bump off the big bad; does Skyrim ever truly end? No, it keeps going until you don’t want to play it any more.

    But simply not having an ending is not a solution to bad endings, it’s just avoiding the problem.

    I’m not sure why it’s such an issue. Story telling in other forms doesn’t struggle like this. A good book will leave you satisfied when you close it for the last time, as will a good film when you walk out of the cinema.

    But there is a key difference, I guess; certainly not all, but many books and films have epilogue scenes, which allow you to unwind from the good times you’ve had and put the characters and events you’ve witnessed to rest. Not all books or films do this, but when they do, they are generally accepted. (Return of the King’s 24 endings notwithstanding.) Yet when a game tries to do this, they are usually ridiculed by many gamers (Hello Hideo Kojimo); most gamers simply don’t want 20 minutes of conclusive downtime throwing more narrative at them after they’ve already finished saving the world. Gamers typically seem to have neither the patience nor interest for that.

    We’re a contradictory bunch. As stated in this very article, Kane & Lynch 2′s sudden ending was too abrupt and inconclusive, but MGS2′s was too long and indugent. So what do we actually want? Finding a satisfactory middle ground is always going to be difficult if not impossible for any developer when we don’t know ourselves what we actually want.

    Of course, all this is entirely subjective. It’s storytelling. Different authors do it differently, and different audiences react to it differently. There is no true right answer, because it’s different for all of us. Personally, I’m more likely to prefer (as long as it’s well written and skillfully delivered) a thoughtful unwind rather than a abrupt halt, but the opposite is likely true of many if not most gamers.

    @Luciferous I totally agree. Don’t get me wrong, I dislike the original out of the box RGB choice and lack of resolution for so many threads as much as the next person, but it seems so overly harsh to me that so many gamers write off the entire third game and by extension the franchise as a whole because of that last ten minutes. The last ten minutes of screentime was certainly awkward, but the other 99% of the game was absolutely superb. And as you say, truly, the entire third game is the ending to the overall trilogy. And in that context, it’s great.

    That said it, did annoy me that while some threads were wrapped up, others were completely cast aside. And the whole retconning of the Reapers from individual hyper intelligent autonomous beings to mindless drones, which was particularly grating given that it came so soon after the foreboding Harbinger DLC for ME2 which supposedly set the stage for 3.

    So, yeah… mixed feelings. Which was always going to be the case, with a long-running story like this. However they ended it, it was always going to be bittersweet.

    #17 10 months ago
  18. bradk825

    Proved the justice of our culture? LOL. Thanks Ghostbusters.

    At the end of Halo 2 I didn’t catch on I was watching an ending. I picked up the controller when he said “Finishing this fight” and was ready to get started with the ass-kicking, then the credits rolled.

    #18 10 months ago
  19. Revolting

    @Revolting *Kojima. Lack of edit button strikes again.

    #19 10 months ago
  20. BrahManDude

    The Mass Effect 3 ending was good until the last last part with the kid

    #20 10 months ago
  21. Legendaryboss

    @Arnvidr Could be worse, although nothing comes to mind.

    #21 10 months ago
  22. Llewelyn_MT

    @BrahManDude
    No, it wasn’t. Almost every story in the saga had a default ending, usually strange at best, often contradictory to prior player decisions. Some major plot points from MW1/ME2 were given no attention at all in ME3. That’s not how you end a major story,

    #22 10 months ago
  23. polygem

    disappointing endings you say….?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybGOT4d2Hs8

    #23 10 months ago
  24. Tormenter

    @Luciferous
    That was ludicrous.

    ME3 is the single worst letdown for ANY finale EVAR…3 games to ‘tell a story’ that ends with pick your favourite colour?

    Bioware stated when they started the game that your choices would matter and the ending would reflect that.. it didn’t.

    After ME2 I was determined not to buy 3 on face value.. I waited.. ME2 was the last game I bought, or ever will buy, from Bioware.

    #24 10 months ago
  25. Dave Cook

    @Arnvidr Not my decision

    #25 10 months ago
  26. jon_

    Maybe they could update the list with more recent games such as Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 and Murdered Soul Suspect.

    #26 10 months ago
  27. OrbitMonkey

    What a depressing read. No wonder gamers are fast becoming whiney whingers, who take their toys far too seriously :(

    What about a list of great endings eh? Here’s my 5 :)

    Uncharted 2: loved the dialogue at the end of this.

    The Darkness 2: has 2 endings, though the secret *bad* ending has stayed with me the longest.

    Wolfenstein the New Order: “we’re clear…” manly tear shed.

    CoD4: That final shootout… more manly tears :’(

    Ocarina of Time: : Probably my favourite of all time :)

    #27 10 months ago
  28. Dave Cook

    @OrbitMonkey

    Shadow of the Colossus and Portal 1 & 2 has superb endings as well :)

    #28 10 months ago
  29. grizzlycake

    MGS3 endnig for best ending ever.

    KOJIMAAAAAAA

    #29 10 months ago
  30. ManuOtaku

    I would had added indigi prophecy for the 360 turn they made, and alan wake, to abruptly to my tastes, but both great games that i do love, and hope for more games like those.

    #30 10 months ago
  31. bradk825

    @ManuOtaku YEah, Indigo prophecy was a great game up until the end when it just got weird. They did quicktime events before quicktime events were cool, and then later not cool again.

    @26 you can’t publish the endings of brand new games, lol.

    #31 10 months ago
  32. Dr.Ghettoblaster

    As soon as I saw the article headline, I thought “RAGE” better be on the list……..and there it was…..well done author :) (LOVED the game, ending was a disgrace)

    #32 10 months ago
  33. TheWulf

    I was actually a huge fan of the original. One of the issues I have with extroverted gamers is that the expect to be told everything, and not in a scientific way, either, because they’re happy to not understand that. But within the narrative itself, there can be no mystery, no wonder, no tonal shifts, no paradigm shifts, et cetara.

    It’s been a literary device since the beginnings of literature to have a dramatic turn at one point, where new information is provided. Shakespeare loved to do this, it was popular among many of the old playwrights — yet it’s not popular amongst extroverts. It hurts ‘narrative cohesion,’ because to them, a tale is to be a linear path from point A to point B, with an ‘epic’ crescendo to top it off. Those are the stories and endings most popular with the extroverted mind. No mystery, no questions, just gratification. Gratification is a happy button for the extroverted mind.

    Dopamine et al. You know?

    It’s said that the introverted mind works more with acetylcholine than dopamine. It also means that the mind burns itself out quicker, because it’s so overworked, but on the other hand it means that you’re not an idiot until your later years. So, ultimately, the introvert becomes more like the extrovert after their brain has begun to burn itself out. These are very much the later years, though, and I will never live to see them! I’m actually quite certain of that. Quite certain. No one lives forever, and some of us have more limited time than others.

    But anyway, the introverted mind likes questions, and enjoys mysteries and puzzles. So the open-ended ending of Mass Effect 3, with all of its symbolism and vagueness, was very appealing to me. I loved Synthesis because, to me, it sounded like the Catalyst dumped information into the heads of everyone as to how each individual could choose to evolve. So, the geth could join with organics who upgrade themselves to become part of a galactic consensus, and learn of empathy through those who’re connected. It’s a pretty elegant solution.

    Of course, people who fail to understand that symbolism is a thing start screaming about ‘genetic rape,’ because they take everything at face value. I’m thinking that some of the greatest writers of our time, who deal heavily in symbolism, would quite frankly leave these people braindead, which is intriguing. Mass Effect 3 was very pleasing as it was, and a satisfying end.

    To me, the problem in Mass Effect was always a lack of empathy — too much sociopathy and psychopathy. An apex race would always rise and then manipulate, dominate, or destroy all others. The rachni, the protheans, the leviathans, the asari, and so on. And they would all be so sure of their dominance, so filled with hubris that they’d make stupid mistakes. They would build AIs that would see their injustices and fight for those who’ve been held enslaved to them.

    The Catalyst did the only thing it felt it could — preserve the races by uploading their minds and keeping their genetic materials on file, so that they could one day be restored from their reaper bodies, and in reaper form it could keep them enslaved to its will so that none would rise to the position of apex. Without the manipulative asari, the turians, or even the humans might have become the next apex predator species. It’s just an unfortunate truth of animals within the nature we know, and we are animals.

    The solution, of course, is empathy. To provide the greatest group with empathy so that they can work together to make a better future and protect each other, to work better as a unit so that they can’t be dominated. The machine races, such as the geth, can then help to protect them from anyone who’d seek to destroy or enslave them. And that’s great.

    When the Catalyst spoke of ‘a new DNA,’ it was speaking philosophically, because it knew that Shepard, all though socially brilliant, was challenged when it comes to technology. EDI has trolled Shepard so, so many times because Shep is so bad at technology. Even the supposed engineer Shep has a questionable, tenuous understanding of it according to the narrative.

    So, yeah, it was speaking philosophically. We’ve used ‘a new DNA’ ourselves to describe a paradigm shift, and that’s what the Catalyst was trying to convey. Except that people who don’t understand symbolism, or philosophy, threw their beers at the screen screaming about genetic rape. Of course. C’est la vie, I suppose. Or, at least, such is extroverted life.

    And it’s a shame. I think it’s a shame. Because the ideas behind it were really, really clever. They were clearly the ideas of a very idealistic introvert. But they were misunderstood by the masses who take everything literally and at face value, not even considering that something wasn’t meant to be thought of that way. It always depresses me that extroversion is becoming so much more common, so people are being pressured into writing overly obvious stories, where things can be taken at face value, because the audience doesn’t understand symbolism, philosophy, tonal shifts, paradigm shifts, or so many other literary tools which are used to make a good story.

    So, I’m a fan of ME3′s original ending. The new ending was okay, but it took away a lot of the wonder and mystery, and didn’t allow me to write my own any more. All to appease the extroverts. And, in that regard, I will agree with you Dave that it’s disappointing.

    #33 10 months ago
  34. Armitage Shanks

    ^ keep on beating that drum…

    #34 10 months ago
  35. Arnvidr

    @Dave Cook Whoever’s decision it is, any chance of making them see sense?

    #35 10 months ago
  36. fearmonkey

    Rage was the first ending I thought of when I saw the headline. It’s like they just needed to end it quickly and get it done. It was a real shame as I enjoyed the game up till the last part :(

    Mass effect 3 – pure disapointment, and the additional ending addon didnt really fix it for me.
    After everything we had been though, the choices were lame, and the results were too.

    #36 10 months ago
  37. salarta

    I fully agree with RAGE, it was a great game that I wish had continued on to provide more yet never did, but the ending was severely lacking. It’s a shame we’ll never see more of it, I liked the game’s characters.

    I disagree about Sons of Liberty, I found it to be an incredibly strong and meaningful ending that really stuck with me. I was always disappointed at how much hatred MGS2 got for “omg it’s not Snake, Raiden sucks,” and I think that derailed Kojima’s desire to try to do anything very profound or meaningful with his games until Peace Walker. He tried it with MGS2, people hated MGS2, so he lowered the bar for MGS3 and MGS4. Now that he’s older, he’s decided he doesn’t give a shit about said complaints as much, hence the material for Ground Zeroes and Phantom Pain.

    I’d say the Mass Effect 3 ending complaints were justified, and largely because of what the failure represented. The franchise was touted as something where your decisions actually had value, so people expected that decisions you made earlier in the franchise would culminate into a different endings since that’s what Bioware was hyping. Instead, you can select any ending you want, and nothing you did before the end of the game had any impact. It took those gamers’ hopes for the medium to do things other mediums can’t do and gave it a big slap to the face. Any game can have a “here’s a final choice, select a final choice to get a different ending” scenario, it’s been done countless times. Heck, Chrono Trigger provides more variety in its endings and how to get them.

    The Ghostbusters entry seems out of place because bad endings were commonplace in the NES era, and no other NES games are cited. All the games are at least Playstation 1 era or later, mostly later.

    #37 10 months ago
  38. salarta

    I just realized there should be an article on biggest game controversies, especially focused on treatment of female characters. I say this if for no other reason than the way, way too subdued controversy of what Squeenix did to Aya Brea with 3rd Birthday. It even had the director lying about the reason behind Aya’s clothes ripping away as she took damage (“for realism!”).

    #38 10 months ago
  39. ObsCureNinja

    I think the Dead Rising ending you put on the list is a little unfair, since that isn’t the ending to the game, but sure enough the actual ending isn’t so great either. I think all games in the DR series suffer from terrible endings.

    #39 10 months ago
  40. Clupula

    Put it back in your pants, Salarta. There are plenty of Tumblr places that’ll give you your spank material without forcing the rest of us to read an entire article on it.

    #40 10 months ago
  41. Clupula

    Interesting that you only point out the Killer Croc ending of Arkham Asylum, when there are actually multiple little cutscenes.

    Also, there’s NOTHING annoying about post-credits epilogues, especially in movies. I saw Amazing Spiderman 2 and one of my many complaints about that film was that it just ended when the credits came down. Just another in many ways that movie was a throwback to the shitty days of 90′s comic book movies.

    #41 10 months ago
  42. Cycovision

    Here’s just one big flaw and reason I flat out hate the endings for Mass Effect 3.
    I spent 3 games working out Geth-Quarian relations, I cleared Tali’s name, I solved the conflict between Tali and Legion, I rewrote the Geth, saved the Quarians from being destroyed and allowed Legion to give individuality to the Geth. I ENDED THE WAR, when that Reaper told me the war between the Geth and Quarians would end in bloodshed proving their points I CREATED MUTUAL PEACE. EDI came to terms with her individuality, she was in love with Jeff…and the GAUL of them to say “synthetics destroy organics and this always happens” FUCK YOU. I couldn’t even have a choice to say, “yeah but…I totally just proved you wrong”…To me that was the biggest slap in the face. That it was built on such a bullshit faulty premise. And the DLC was just Deus Ex Machina…a literal God from the Machine

    #42 10 months ago
  43. Cycovision

    @TheWulf Philosophy at the expense of logic is pointless. If you create a system, a flow of logic, if A then B, and then say NONE of that matters because we want some pseudointellectual ending completely sabotages any validity it had. Reminds me of a video game version of The Matrix. Not only that but the choices given completely destroy the philosophy the game HAD set up throughout the first 2 games and the majority of the 3rd. The only redeeming quality of the ending was the 4th ending via Extended DLC.

    #43 10 months ago

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