Do Bad Endings Ruin Otherwise Great Games?

  • I’m waiting to get some repairs done and I was listening to someone talk about how they didn’t like Persona 5 as much as 4 for a variety or reasons, but primarily because they disliked the final act and ending of the game. It got me to thinking about how endings affect my feelings on games.

    Right after I finish a game, a bad ending or final act will generally color my opinion of that game in a negative way, but after a bit of time has passed that tends to fade. All of my favorite games have endings that I dislike I realized. Every game in my favorite series has endings that I think are bad. Persona 1, awful. The Persona 2 Games, absolute garbage endings. Persona 3, dumpster fire of an ending. Persona 4, not terrible but I still dislike it. Persona 5, left a really bad taste in my mouth with how it ended. And yet, these games are still some of my favorites ever made. And in P3’s case, my all time favorite game, despite the fact that I really hate its final act and ending.

    So, where do you fall on endings? Do bad ones ruin or negatively impact your opinions on games in any significant way?

  • For that to happen it needs to be a very bad ending, and by that I mean worse than the original Mass Effect 3 endings, which sucked but didn't ruin the game itself for me. I'm okay with the endings of most games I play.

  • This one is a little tough, as many games I like have, at the very least, serviceable endings. However, as far as DISAPPOINTING goes....

    Mass Effect 3 (of course), but believe it or not, I don't have the visceral, undying hatred many have for it. I get it, but it wasn't the most abysmal thing to ever happen to gaming.

    God of War III: Having cliffhangers in games is fine, but the way this one ended felt... wrong. Kratos is done. The Greek pantheon is gone, all of them (well, except for one...). So the fact the last scene, post credits, has always bothered me. But there's a new game, so maybe it'll retcon that personal issue.

    Batman: Arkham Knight: This on the other hand, really irks me. The "first" ending is fine, I guess, but in order to get the "True" ending, you need to do EVERYTHING involving the Riddler (Trophies, Riddles, Challenges, Rooms, Fights, etc.) and that scene muddles what seems like a definitive end.

    There are others that jump to mind, but they are more of a "Meh to disappointing games" in their own right, not just the endings, so I'll refrain from those. But the above three are the ones that jump out, to me.

  • For me, it depends on the type of game and how much i care about the story. If games like Uncharted or The Last Guardian has a bad ending then i will certainly not love it as much as i do now. On the other hand, on games like Doom, Crash Bandicoot, or Bloodborne, the ending would have a much smaller impact on my opinion of the game, since the game either puts story on the side or i personally don't care about the story (or both).

  • Mass Effect 3 ruined my life. Since 2012, food hasn't tasted the same, flowers don't smell good anymore and the sun never shines. When they said the world was ending in 2012, I know what they meant now.

    Just, fuckin' kidding. I'm not actually making fun of how hard people whined, It really was the worst thing ever to go so well and then end THAT poorly. That said, I played all three games around 10 times or so, despite the fact that I basically hate Mass Effect 3 in a lot of ways.

    I think the worst thing it has done to me is that I don't trust storytelling anymore. I'm going through Xenoblade Chronicles 2 now and really enjoy the story, but every so often I get the nagging feeling that "what if it just drops the ball near the end?" because you never know, really. That said, Mass Effect 3 had multiple signs of shittyness throughout that made me groan and know I hated it when I loved the other two games, but it was still great at times and the ending in particular still plummeted in quality. Everything starts feeling rushed after the middle-act of the story and you can tell they were running out of time and burdget, and then the ending itself is just this landslide or a bunch of trains that intersect and crash. it's just really fucking terrible and I've never seen anyone succesfully defend its qualities without coming with excuses or admitting that half of what happens is indeed bad.

    However I SHOULD add, I don't think the sour taste comes exclusively from the ending when we're on THAT subject, it was also the inept way EA/BioWare addressed it, 100% politically and PR, might I add and just like with LOST, the TV Show they NEVER admitted to ANY fault in the endings publically; they just could not lose face when it was abundantly obvious that they had screwed up and people were pointing at very specific inconsistencies they just wouldn't admit to, and even worse, the entire journalism scene picked the developer's side for no other reason than to spite all the disappointed gamers and because they probably already had drinks with the staff at BioWare or otherwise exclusivity deals and scoops. Only several months after, when fans had created very elaborate threads and criticisms did some journalists stealth-insert an article where they lowkey argued why "perhaps the ending wasn't good".

    Anyway, a bad ending would be disappointing of course, like, a bad ending to what I was subjectively expecting however the end of ME3 was OBJECTIVELY bad. It was broken for so many reasons. Plot holes, choices not having the impact that was very blatantly promised and encouraged, but most importantly it just fucked the canon all the way back to ME1 retroactively and dropped the ball on some of the most effective elements of overarching plot; the Reapers themselves. They introduced new things in the last 10 minutes that recontextualizes the entire plot in a way that is incompatible with the arc of both ME3's exclusive plot for Shepard and the galaxy itself and also as a continuation of ME1 and ME2. Unlike The Last Jedi those inconsistencies didn't even come in an entertaining way where you could excuse it for "coolness".

    Anyway, here's why it's broken if you want the details in a very articulate, concise and well-formed argument: MrBTongue: Tasteful Understated Nerdrage

  • They certainly hurt them.

  • I've always been more about the journey than the destination so it takes something really bad to make an ending enough to ruin a good thing for me. The only examples I can think of are two shows (neither of which I'll even name for the sake of spoilers) but even then I just treat the ruinous moments as if they never happened since while they're just THAT bad you can enjoy the rest of their series without it affecting them.

  • An ending can add greater siginficance to a game's narrative as well as end in an climactic manner in terms of gameplay. I think that's exactly what Persona 5 did. I love its final arc and think it puts the rest of the game into fascinating context.

    What I hate about endings is when they take you back to an early area of the game, slide rose-tinted goggles on you, and prompt 'isn't this normal environment so iconic and cool' without actually expanding or developing its significance. Examples of games that do this would be Final Fantasy XV, Skyward Sword, and Journey, though there are plenty more I can't think of right now.

  • @linkenski

    Choices do affect the ending, through Effective Military Strength, it's not particularly inspired, but it is there, if you do the bare minimum you will get the worst ending.

    Also, I find it a bit unfair to say that they never acknowledged the problems people had with the ending. They announced an Extended Cut a month after release that would be free to download for all.

  • Bioshock is a masterpiece despite having one of the worst endings I've seen in games, so if that didn't ruin it for me I don't really know what it would take.

    As a side note, I've never really seen anything really bad for the endings of the Persona games

  • Global Moderator

    For me, endings are just once piece of a whole. However, I feel that an ending can lift up a whole game or even film to a higher level, if it sums up and brings everything back around it can leave you with a good satisfying feeling in your gut as the credits roll by.

    To answer the question I can't say that a bad one ruins it for me. If we take one of the controversial experiences (ME 3) it did disappoint me, but I still felt that the whole journey there was worth it. A bit like the trip is the journey or how the saying goes. I was happy with my adventures and hours spent until then, after it I was more "oh well, still got 3 great games".

  • Banned

    To be honest I find games unique in their ability to be considered great despite often having very unsatisfying endings. Being one of the more actively engaging forms of media, the focus is more upon the journey instead of the destination. Your actions are what brought you to the destination, and you can look back on that experience and find satisfaction there, as opposed to the ending being the reward.

    Books, film and television are different. While they can be engaging, it is somebody else's work, and so if the conclusion of the journey is unsatisfying, it can sour the whole experience. I'm STILL pissed at Netflix's The OA for being so fucking incredible up until the last half hour of the series, and then just COMPLETELY shitting the bed and invalidating everything before it. Not only was it a bad ending, but it ends with a cliffhanger, and the creators said "Well if we get a season two we'll answer all your questions!".
    No. Fuck you. Fuck you right in the ear you big dumb assholes.

  • A lot of video games have bad endings. Not just in a narrative sense, so many games don't bother pulling together all their mechanical ambitions into something satisfying for their endings either. How many games with really unique mechanics and gameplay decisions actually use those to their utmost potential right at the end? Not too many, weirdly enough.

    Game endings are in a weird limbo, I think. Like people in this thread have mentioned, 'it's more of a journey' is a way to look at it. But on the other hand, 'beating' a game---reaching the end, has been thought of as a reward in its own right for a really long time. I think the common thread here is that both of these yield to player satisfaction, which is probably the right choice most of the time.

    Still, I do like it when a game has the balls to end in a really audacious way because it asks its player to put their experience aside or recontextualize their own act of play, and consider what is the game was trying to say for itself.

  • I think an ending can ruin the whole game when the game had little to offer in the first place. I mean ruin is very heavy. I recently watched some baloney top 10 clickbait video about boss battles so hard they ruin the game, and I disagreed with everything they listed that I'd played. Nothing was ruined.

    You mentioned Persona 4, that ending was so unmemorable that I can't even tell you what happened. Like I actually don't remember what even happened because it was so strange and bland. And like you said, it didn't ruin it for me. I have fond memories playing the game.

    I think to ruin the game, it needs to be a henius ending that disrespects you as a player, your level of intelligence, the work you put into completing the game. Something completely tonedeaf and tasteless would likely ruin the whole game for me.

    Prime example - Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

    This game started to get very boring and bland at the 4 or 5 hour mark but for whatever reason, I kept playing this awful game to see the ending through. I reached the end battle where I defeated the "army" in under 60 seconds and without swinging my sword one time. My team just did all of the work for me. I then fought a QTE final boss which triggered a cutscene that had a cliff hanger and no resolution.

    It was insulting because:

    • The gameplay was atrocious where I didn't have to do anything at the very end.
    • The looooong story buildup to a extremely weak and boring fight made me question how such an "army" could possibly create any of the conflict described and shown throughout this game. They were harmless.
    • There were no resolutions. You fight some bad guys and it ends.

    Shadow of Mordor's ending ruined the whole game for me. If reaching the ending was a chore, then the ending has absolutely no return and insults your progress and intelligence then the game is ruined. Persona 4 comes NOWHERE close to that.

  • @Ringedwithtile said in Do Bad Endings Ruin Otherwise Great Games?:

    A lot of video games have bad endings. Not just in a narrative sense, so many games don't bother pulling together all their mechanical ambitions into something satisfying for their endings either. How many games with really unique mechanics and gameplay decisions actually use those to their utmost potential right at the end? Not too many, weirdly enough.

    This is the absolute truth when it comes to bad endings. It isn't just story related, but it's also whether it does anything interesting when mixing gameplay with story or whether it has run it's gameplay mechanics out and overstayed their welcome by the endgame.

    Right off the bat I think of The Evil Within 1. The game introduced a decent array of weapons throughout the game. It then took those weapons and made it interesting with a variety of enemy types. Some a very very scary, and some are brought back later in the game through a less scary but still fun context. This is because you're placed in a level with a good design for enemy attack patterns and your access to ammo affects this gameplay.

    Later, the game runs out of ideas and in the last level you are within a sort of bland gauntlet room where you face every enemy type throughout the entire game in waves. You defeat this mindless part of the level, then move onto a recycled boss but 5 of them this time and within a tiny room filled with traps. You beat this, then move onto an on-the-rails turret and RPG section in which you finally beat the game.

    This didn't ruin it for me, but it could have if the game went any longer recycling old ideas. Basically, if the game drags and drags (The Evil Within 1 didn't, but it did run out of ideas at the end) and the gameplay stays stagnant for more than 2 hours, then this bad ending affects me more than bad plot buildup resolutions.

  • I think the final boss of FF9 is terrible, but I still think that game is one of the Greats. I think it depends on if the ending somehow nullifies what came before it (e.g. with some weird narrative twist), though games have the benefit of being an interactive medium, with key qualities derived from aspects beyond story/writing. I ultimately think it's too case-by-case to make an overarching blanket statement about the effect of a bad ending on a game.

  • Well considering the fact that Mass Effect 3 is my favourite game, and I don't really like that ending...

    I think it varies.
    For ME3 the rest of the game hits for me, with a fun story and game and great characters, that the ending doesn't ruin the like 20+ hours that came before. Not to mention I really consider that trilogy as one game, so there's too much to love versus what I hate.
    Then you have Batman Arkham Knight which left a bad taste in my mouth by not even giving me the true ending. I like those games enough, but the story in that one was bad, it treated Catwoman and Oracle terribly, and it had the atrocious tank levels, so I didn't have enough to like to forgive the ending.