Millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of work are spent producing video games that are fun, entertaining, and satisfying. But sometimes, the ending of a game can leave you wanting more or just fail to close out the story in a meaningful way.
But there are also those rare gems that absolutely nail it, making the 60 hours of sleepless playing worth your while. If you didn’t already know, spoilers await you below.
10 Half Life 2
Half Life 2 was one of the greatest games released in the last 20 years as evidenced by its 39 Game of the Year wins and even a Game of The Decade win in 2012. The story was entertaining, and the final level did not leave fans wanting more—it was perfect.
Gordon reaches the administrator’s office and confronts Wallace Breen as well as the leaders of the Resistance. After Breen uses the Gravity Gun on Gordon, everyone is released.
Then it’s time to run to the highest levels of the citadel to stop Breen from starting the reactor and going into the Combine Overworld. As soon as you reach the top, you’ll find your ol’ trusty Gravity Gun, which definitely puts the odds back in Gordon’s favor.
The player then goes into the core to stop Breen. At this point, the story has reached a climactic point, which has really helped to instill a sense of foreboding.
Breen plays the classic Bond villain and begins to reveal his ultimate plan over a speaker system as the player has to fend off traps and henchmen. The level is challenging, and it allows the player to just go to town with the Gravity Gun, which is a lot of fun.
By the time you complete the final challenge, a twist comes and completely turns the story around. When it’s all said and done, your achievement of defeating Breen, who should have stuck to threatening to kill Mr. Bond instead of screwing around with Gordon, ends perfectly.
Now it’s time to grab the sequel and pop it in. What do you mean they never made a Half Life 3???
9 Kingdom Hearts
If you haven’t played a Kingdom Hearts game before, it’s basically what happens when Final Fantasy meets almost the entire library of Disney characters. The player gets to see how badass Donald Duck and Goofy (the dog?) really are as they battle through familiar locations to save the day.
That’s right—you get to bring Goofy along and a sailor who never wears pants. The ending of the game takes the player all the way back to the beginning, returning him to Traverse Town and then through Deep Jungle, Agrabah, Atlantica, Halloween Town, Never Land, and the 100 Acre Wood. Once you have cleared these areas, you finally come to the best part: the boss battle.
You know how in most games you meet the boss, it’s a challenge, but once you take them out, it’s kind of over and done with? Kingdom Hearts didn’t mess around with this trope. Instead, you first face the Chernabog, a nasty-looking demon from the film Fantasia.
This isn’t the end of the game, however, because now it’s time to descend into a volcano and face Ansem. He’s the actual bad guy who has caused all the trouble for you and your friends.
The big fight ensues, and just when you think you have beaten him, you haven’t, and then you really haven’t, and then . . . well, you get where we are going with this.
Once the final boss has finally been defeated for real, the player is treated to an amazing set of cutscenes, which really tie it all together in a satisfying way. This is one of those rare games that leaves the player feeling like all their work was worth the time they spent away from natural light and other people.
Bayonetta was another popular game with exceptional storytelling and incredible gameplay that certainly didn’t disappoint players. The final level is split into two main parts: “A Tower to Truth” and the inevitable boss battle.
“A Tower to Truth” begins by ramping up the difficulty exponentially. Everything kicks up at this point: the player’s difficulty progressing forward, the angst at what is going on in the story line, and just about everything else imaginable. When the first part concludes, the player reaches the final boss and some Vaderesque shenanigans get underway.
The boss battle of Bayonetta begins with a cutscene where you learn the identity of the mysterious voice who has been speaking to you throughout the game. It turns out to be Father Balder, the last of the Lumen Sages—oh, and your very own father to boot. Sound familiar?
The fight is extremely challenging and follows the typical rule of three for video games. You’re required to defeat the boss once, then again after he gets tougher, and finally, a third time. And to think Luke only had to fight his father twice.
So the whole “No, I am your father” trope Bayonetta tosses out at the end could be considered even more difficult than what ole Skywalker needed to do to close out Return of the Jedi.
7 BioShock Infinite
The final level of BioShock Infinite offered players a beautiful, M. Night Shyamalan–like twist to an amazing story. But many players may not have known what was truly going on if they didn’t bother to stick around for the final conclusion at the post-credits. Those who did enjoyed an amazing surprise and an incredible final level.
As the story unfolds for the player, it retroactively makes the entire gameplay up to that point even better. There are a few major reveals as to who the player actually is, what relationships exist that you were unaware of, and what the entire game was all about.
It’s rare that the ending of a story has the effect of completely changing everything that came before it, but that’s exactly what happens in this game. Essentially, a game that has played out like a movie thanks the player by slamming them with a reveal that could only be followed by someone laying down a controller and saying “WTF” at their TV, followed by the inevitable scanning through YouTube to figure out what just happened.
6 Mass Effect 2
The Mass Effect series has incredible gameplay and an engrossing story with a rich history. The universe is yours to explore, and each push forward is a revelation. The final level in Mass Effect 2 was the best of the series thus far, and it had an immaculate ending to boot.
Like the other games in the series, your choices determine how the game ends. So it won’t be the same for everyone, but it really doesn’t matter when you get right down to it. Whether you save everyone or not, you will be going on a wild ride.
Comparing the Mass Effect games to another franchise, this one sits at The Empire Strikes Back level of awesomeness. The ending of the third game . . . well, it’s not on this list, and if you’ve ever played it, you know why.
For a lot of players, the final battle is a suicide mission and it really depends on whether you can save enough of your comrades. Shepard’s decision—the player’s decision—determines the outcome.
Despite the choices made, the Reapers become fully aware of humanity and their place in the galaxy. This results in their awakening, setting the stage for the final game in the series. Of course, you could skip out on the third game since its ending isn’t as good as this one. But you would be doing yourself a disservice. Imagine if you had never bothered to watch Return of the Jedi. You can’t, can you?
5 The Last Of Us
Everything about The Last of Us revolves around a riveting story line the player essentially wades through during gameplay. When the player reaches the final level of the game, the story becomes intense, keeping you on the edge of your seat. As you play through the end of the game, the ending becomes somewhat ambiguous and open to interpretation.
Are you able to trust Joel and stay with him, or do you need to fend for yourself and leave him behind? By the conclusion, your relationship is somewhat vague. It leaves the player wanting more, which also leaves the door wide open for a sequel.
Given the overall intensity and angst the game conveyed as you spent the past three days slaughtering fungus-infected zombies, it all comes together in such a way that forgetting to pick up Junior from soccer practice so you could waste killer mushroom monsters ends up being a completely forgivable act. Junior will understand.
4 Fallout 3
The Fallout games returned as a third-person shooter with Fallout 3, and fans simply went nuts. Because the gameplay was so different than the previous titles in the series (which were overhead RPG-type games), gamers were pulled into this title like none that came before.
In a way, it changed gaming for years to come. The story is engrossing and contains a number of side missions that could get a player lost in them for months. If you decide to stick with the main story line and progress through the game to its ultimate conclusion, you get to do something really cool that we would all love to do one day: rebuild and activate a giant nuclear robot of doom.
That’s pretty much how the game comes to an end, and it’s pretty badass. You don’t get to control the robot, who lobs small nuclear warheads like he’s chucking footballs. But you do get to follow behind him and enjoy his nuclear antics while engaging with the enemy along the way. (We know what you’re thinking, but it is totally believable).
It’s a fun and satisfying conclusion to an amazing and immersive game. Of course, there really isn’t much you can say about a robot that chucks nukes at your enemies that would stop most gamers from playing this game. So it’s no wonder they keep pumping out sequels for the franchise.
3 The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was one of the first games to allow a player to have multiple endings, depending on the choices made throughout the game. Although it wasn’t the first by any means, it was one of the first to play out into an amazing story, making you want to go back and see what would happen if you tried something different.
It gave players a massive world to explore, which helped to inspire games like Fallout 3 decades later. In an RPG game, replayability can sometimes be an issue. But Ocarina of Time never suffered from this problem, and it was entirely due to the way it all came together in the end.
The ending of the game doesn’t just involve an immersive and challenging boss battle, it also fulfills the story in such a satisfying way that it works for everyone. Because you have altered time through your recent adventuring, you can end up with the Downfall, Child, or Adult timeline.
Each is vastly different, and playing through the game three times is certainly worth the final level’s revelations. It’s kind of like those old Choose Your Own Adventure books, but they coded it into a game. Seriously, when you think about it, who wouldn’t want to play that?
2 Final Fantasy
Each of the Final Fantasy games has a pretty amazing ending, and some people prefer one over the others. While that’s certainly fine for personal taste, the ending of Final Fantasy VI is objectively the greatest in the series. So there. Now that we have settled that, we can move on.
The gameplay leading up to the end of the game is intense and requires you to split up your party into three. You then have to make your way through a gigantic maze made entirely of garbage—all the while fighting literal goddesses, which are about as easy to defeat as you might think.
After climbing your way up the tower of trash and corpses, you finally reach Kefka, the big bad guy who decided to shed his mortal court jester self and become a god. Once you have finally defeated the big boss and ended the game, you are treated to gorgeous, animated cutscenes, bringing the game to its epic conclusion.
It’s a nice way to close out a game that just forced you to spend countless hours trekking through garbage and dead bodies just to reach the end, even if it did remind you to take out the trash.
1 The Legend Of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda became an addictive addition to the NES library when it introduced players to one of the first immersive RPGs that allowed you to save your progress.
Saving was a huge deal to kids who previously had to do one of two things. You could play until your thumbs bled, all the while screaming at your mom that you would do the dishes “in just a minute!!!” Or you could incorrectly write down the most complicated password the game could conceivably supply and never return to your last checkpoint, making all your efforts just a waste of your time.
The Legend of Zelda gave players a detailed world to explore with all sorts of traps, monsters, and secrets to find. The main world hid behind it nine separate dungeons, each with a boss of its own.
As the player advanced through each dungeon, he would increase his inventory and gain new abilities like lighting a candle. (Why couldn’t you light a candle at the beginning of the game?) While all the dungeons offered the player a fun experience, the final dungeon was certainly the best.
The last dungeon, which the player enters on his quest to free Zelda and complete the Triforce, is shaped like a human skull. The skull is basically a maze. Most doors are hidden until you bomb them open, the enemies are incredibly difficult, and it just takes a long, long time for a player (who doesn’t have the latest issue of Nintendo Power, that is) to plow his way through it all to meet Ganon for the ultimate fight.
There are few endings as satisfying as the end of The Legend of Zelda when Link finally hefts the completed Triforce and saves the day. That’s right, the character’s name is Link, not Zelda. She’s the princess you need to save. Why does everyone get that wrong?
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