Video game endings come in all sorts of different forms. Many stories end with the hero saving the day and everyone living happily ever after. While these conclusions are sound, they can be generic and lack impact.
On the other end of the spectrum, some endings are incredibly heartbreaking, usually due to the protagonist failing in their quest or the death of a sympathetic character. These are one-time resolutions, but they might seem a bit anticlimactic. That’s why sometimes a bittersweet conclusion is the best way to go. After all, they deliver a mix of happiness and sadness, which means you can get a real climax that leaves an impact. But you can only achieve this if you do it right, as the following games do.
5 life is strange
The first Life Is Strange is filled with many tough choices. None of them are more crafty than the one Max has to do at the end of the game. As a giant storm destroys the city, the protagonist realizes that it was her manipulation of the timeline that caused the disaster. Therefore, the only way to stop her is to go back to a time when she didn’t even use her rewind ability. Unfortunately, the first time she used it was to save her best friend, Chloe. So going back would mean confirming the death of the blue-haired girl.
Therefore, Max must choose between sacrificing Chloe or the whole town. Both endings are sad, but giving up on Chloe is the more bittersweet option. In this ending, Max must let Chloe die without interfering. And since the blue-haired wonder is arguably the best character in the entire series, it’s a heartbreaking thing to do. Yet, on the positive side, anyone can live.
4 The last of us
The final stages of the first Last Of Us game challenge Joel’s hero status. He discovers that fireflies can create a cure for the infection that wiped out many people and destroyed civilization. Yet to do so, they must operate on Ellie and remove the growth inside her, which will kill the young girl. Since he has already lost his biological daughter, he refuses to let what is essentially his adopted daughter die. Therefore, he kills all the fireflies and saves Ellie.
It never feels like a heroic rescue as you potentially doom humanity. On top of that, Joel lies to Ellie about the whole thing, which makes it even more morally questionable. Still, the sweet part of the ending is that Ellie remains among the living and the protagonist duo embark on a new adventure.
At the end of MGS3’s prologue, Naked Snake’s mentor, The Boss, betrays his country by defecting to the Soviet Union and joining forces with Colonel Volgin. In the process, the Colonel destroys a large research facility containing many of his comrades. To prove it wasn’t America’s fault, the CIA sends Snake on a mission to appease the leader of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev. The protagonist has several objectives to complete, including killing his former mentor.
He succeeds in his mission and is presented as a hero. But after The Boss leaves, Snake discovers that she never really defected. She intended to infiltrate Volgin’s forces on behalf of the US government. However, after the research center collapsed, the plan had to change. The boss was willing to give her life to prove America’s innocence and prevent a potential war from happening. This revelation is certainly bittersweet. For one thing, there was no war, and The Boss was the hero Snake had always believed she was. However, he killed said hero.
2 Batman: Arkham City
In the later stages of Arkham City, neither Batman nor the Joker are in perfect condition. It’s because they both have deadly toxins running through their veins. The Dark Knight has the cure, so he takes his share. Then, after preventing his nemesis from gaining eternal life, he wonders if he should save the villain by giving him the rest of said cure.
Before he can decide, the Joker attacks him and the vial containing the vital liquid crashes to the ground. As a result, the Clown Prince dies laughing that Batman would still have saved him despite everything he did. The protagonist’s desire to preserve human life means that the disappearance of the Joker does not make him happy. And it’s actually a dark moment when Batman hands over the villain’s corpse to the cops.
1 Red Dead Redemption 2
The incredible protagonist Arthur Morgan dies near the end of Red Dead 2 after a battle with Micah Bell. This kicks off a long epilogue where John Marston is the new main character. As he tries to move on with his life, a part of him still wants to avenge Arthur. After all, Morgan is the reason John and his family are safe. When he discovers Micah’s location, he and some friends go to confront the evil villain. It ends with John taking down the cruel man.
While it’s nice to get revenge on a rat like Micah, it’s not entirely satisfying because Arthur is still gone. Also, the revenge mission catches the attention of the Pinkertons, who eventually track down John and his family. And if you’ve played the first game – which takes place after this one – you know that the Pinkertons end up killing John. So in this case, revenge is bittersweet.
NEXT: Games That Have Multiple Endings
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