“Player choice” is a cool phrase that developers love to throw around, but never quite deliver on in modern gaming. Sure, you can choose to have Commander Shepard slap a news reporter on the Citadel, but you are playing a single story that must be wrapped up somehow. All roads will eventually lead to a predetermined end. Developers use multiple endings to show gamers that their choices matter somewhat. The second a game boasts multiple endings, you know gamers are going to be trying to figure out how to get them all. However, a game with multiple endings doesn’t mean that those endings are any good or even make sense.
Not every story needs a good, a bad, or a weird ending, especially if there is a sequel already in the works. If the main character is still a good guy in the next game, what’s the point of creating a bad guy ending for the first game? On the other hand, there are endings that have no bearing whatsoever on the game’s universe whatsoever. They appear to be just window dressing or an extra cutscene to watch. There are even endings that undo the entire fabric of an entire universe. The developers just put it in there to have another option, but they only create chaos and confusion.
Multiple endings may give the gamer the incentive to replay the game multiple times, but delivering on a satisfying end repeatedly just by tweaking some choices is a tall order, even for experienced developers. A lot of scripted endings fall short of even making a lasting impression on gamers, so making a game with lackluster alternatives just make it worse.
15 Hunted: The Demon’s Forge
Hunted might have slipped under a few gamer’s radars, but this dungeon crawler did have a few lackluster endings. Elara, the huntress, and Caddoc, the warrior, are sent on a mission to recover an artifact for a mysterious sorceress named Seraphine. Along the way, they encounter a magical substance called Sledge that acts just like Star Power in Mario Kart, but evil.
The idea behind the game is to play with a friend or switch between Caddoc and Elara to accomplish tasks and dispense enemies. If one character drinks too much Sledge, you get an evil ending where your character kills the other. Once you do it the first time, there is no reason to go back. Unless you like spending several hours to see one different cutscene. There isn’t much else that happens after the evil ending, except for one character’s death. It’s just evil for the sake of being evil.
14 Resident Evil
Multiple endings should give the gamer a different feeling about the characters and story, depending on what they chose. Resident Evil’s endings are solely dependent on what characters you save. If you save everyone, you get the “happiest” ending, where three S.T.A.R.S. members exhale profusely as you ride off into the sunset. The other “happy” endings just rearrange who is and isn’t on the helicopter.
Do you want to see Jill sitting in a helicopter by herself or how about Chris? How about them together? Would it make it better if you throw Barry in there? There is no narrative payoff for saving each character. Instead the gamer is just treated to a few extra seconds with the good guys flying home.
Resident Evil was an industry leader in building and maintaining a unique horror atmosphere. To give the gamer a few more seconds with the heroes, sweating on a helicopter, doesn’t do the game justice or the characters for that matter.
After building to one of the biggest twists in gaming history, the final cutscene options nearly sunk the first BioShock. You have two choices throughout BioShock, to harvest the little sisters or to save them. Obviously if you save them, you get the “everything is wonderful” ending. If you harvest them, you get the bad ending. But you can harvest some and still get the bad ending, even if you save most. This is a bizarre choice by the developers.
There is no difference between harvesting one little sister or harvesting them all. You are still treated to a depressing and evil ending, where you use the power of Adam for your own gain. This third option is pointless except to punish a gamer who was experimenting with the game’s mechanics. Who wouldn’t harvest a little sister just to see what happens? The game doesn’t offer a true alternative ending in which the gamer did make some bad choices, but they made way more good choices.
At the end of Half-Life, you can refuse the G-Man’s offer by simply standing still, but doing so would undo Half-life 2. That is an alternate universe I don’t want to live in. Valve didn’t know for sure that they were going to make a sequel to their new FPS at the time, but looking at it now, the choice is an illusion.
Gordon Freeman has no free will. He can choose to be stuck in Xen or choose to be stuck in whatever hell the G-Man cooks up next. Those aren’t very different and they certainly don’t offer any closure to Gordon’s journey. This alternative ending doesn’t succeed in branching the story out in a new direction or show new character development.
Refusing the G-Man only creates all kinds of problems getting Gordon out of Xen and into Half-Life 2. This option serves one purpose, for the gamer to think Gordon died at the end of the game like a cheap cliffhanger. Who wants that?
11 Amnesia: The Dark Descent
This ground-breaking survival horror game may have had gamers jumping out of their skin, but the optional ending choices left something to be desired. You can let Alexander finish the portal, stop him, or use Agrippa’s head to stop him. If Daniel stops him, he makes it out of the castle, but if you pick the other two, Daniel dies. Either way, you need to look at the big picture; the damage was done a long time ago by Daniel and Alexander. They tortured and killed innocent people to make this ritual happen. They did it in grotesque ways, keeping their victims alive longer, even feeding them Amnesia potion to forget what was about to happen to them.
Daniel came to Alexander looking for help to get rid of the shadow that followed him, but in turn became a monster serving it. Whether Daniel stops Alexander or not, it doesn’t make up for what the two of them did. It doesn’t matter how many endings you put on this game, they all don’t change what happened.
10 Heavy Rain
Heavy Rain has so many endings because there are so many characters to wrap up in so many ways. Each character can live or die based on several decisions in the final act. Having this many possible endings is exhausting and detracts from the story and characters.
The game becomes about what ending cutscene you can get and less about solving the case of The Origami Killer. This dilution of the narrative creates an end game experience that could have used some serious editing.
Whether Ethan, Madison, Norman, Shaun, and Scott live is important to a crime story like Heavy Rain. The developers could have played with the idea of justice being served by the different outcomes. But what is not important is the varying degrees each outcome plays off each other in execution. There are seventeen possibilities total across four characters. Having that many possibilities makes endings collectables to unlock and not loose ends to tie up.
9 Indigo Prophecy
Before Heavy Rain, the developer Quantic Dream made Indigo Prophecy. There may have been less playable characters than Heavy Rain, but the multiple endings were just as irrelevant.
If you fail to win the fight against the Oracle, nothing happens. You go back to your life, start a family, and no evil plot to enslave the world unfolds. Maybe sometime in the future the world will be in peril, but that's for some other idiot to worry about.
If you beat the Oracle, but not the AI, the humans live underground and their enemies wait to strike at those not dying from the cold. But you still fathered the next Indigo child just like in the other endings. And if you beat everyone, all factions go back to their lives, including the bad guys.
So, in summation, regardless of how you complete the game you will be treated to a similar voiceover where Carla is expecting the factions of bad guys to inflict more damage on humanity and your child will have powers like you. What’s was the point of having all these endings, again?
8 Metal Gear Solid
There is another ending to the original Metal Gear Solid game, but it doesn’t help the story or the characters. It might help the gamer by unlocking a better item, stealth camo. When Snake and Meryl are trapped in the torture chamber with Ocelot, you can fail at the mashing Circle. If you do so, Snake will find Meryl dead at the end of the game. Putting aside the paradox that this creates later in the series, this death and ending has little to no bearing on what happens at the end of the game.
Snake still escapes and the ending cinematics play out the same, only with Otacon in Meryl’s place. Including this ending in the game was for the sole purpose of creating drama. It had no real consequence on the story because the ending did not change. By not altering the ending to accommodate for Meryl’s death shows how little she really meant to Snake and the story. Yes, there is a big dramatic “Merrrylll!” But gamers who get either ending experience the same end to the story.
7 Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2 has endings that simply exist just for a laugh, but they’re just weird. The franchise is built on some of the most iconic horror moments in gaming history. To have endings with a wink and smile detract greatly from the game.
There is an unlockable ending where James enters a hotel room to see a dog at a control desk, implying that the dog was in control the whole time. Another ending has a UFO abducting James and flying away. There are serious endings to the game where the main characters either live or die, but those endings are cheapened by these joke endings. The developers really missed an opportunity to show more of Silent Hill or even more of Pyramid Head. Horror should have come first when adding endings to really build on the story and atmosphere. These are just more multiple endings that are in a game for the sake of being in a game.
6 Fable 2
The choice you are faced with at the end of Fable 2 is empty and predictable. You may choose to resurrect all that died in the building of the Spire, resurrect your family, or cash in your big pay day as the hero of Albion. It’s not really a choice at all if you follow your hero’s journey. Resurrecting your family is the only option that makes sense for the story.
The option to resurrect everyone, but your family or to take the gold appear to be added to tempt the gamer into thinking either for themselves or for some greater good, respectively. The story is about your family from the very beginning. Now after all the fighting, you have a chance to be with them. The other two options aren’t real possibilities when it comes bringing an end to the story that was started. These other two endings belong to another narrative and don’t take the story in a new direction.
5 Fallout 3
You may have not seen all the possible endings for Fallout 3, but it doesn’t mean you missed out on anything. The game will recap your triumphs or exploits in a grainy slideshow. What doesn’t matter is what happens after you solve the water crisis of the Capital Wastelands, however you do it.
You can choose to sacrifice yourself, have another do it, or even poison the water to kill all the mutants and ghouls. All the endings lead to the same sentiment, a boring drab voiceover about how what you do will not change things. Things may look hopeful because everyone has clean water, but don’t count on things getting much better. The game does take place during the nuclear apocalypse, but having every ending wrap up with the same speech just belittles all the choices made by the gamer.
4 Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
It is rare that a game comes along that has an ending that undoes decades of canon, but Force Unleashed manages to do just that by killing Darth Vader. This game takes place before the original trilogy. Let that sink in. There is an ending to a video game where you kill Darth Vader before he meets a grown-up Luke Skywalker. But that’s not why the multiple endings accomplish absolutely nothing.
Even without the universe shattering ‘Dark Side’ ending, the result of the game is the same. Starkiller dies because we can’t have Starkiller running around since he isn’t in the movies. The game exists in a closed loop, where whatever happens must end in Starkiller’s death. Adding Darth Vader’s death just adds to the shear ridiculousness. Having multiple endings should not create more havoc in a game nor should they result in similar outcomes. What is the points shaking up the cannon other than to shock and confuse?
3 Star Wars: Force Unleashed II
In the sequel to the game that unintentionally and completely rewrote the Star Wars franchise, you play as Starkiller’s clone. Once again, you have two endings, both Light Side and Dark Side, that don’t do anything. If you forget, Starkiller can’t exist outside of this game franchise because the Star Wars movies dictate major characters. The idea of cloning characters that must die by the end of the game is a messy premise.
One ending has you capturing Darth Vader and, just as you pull away, you see Boba Fett following behind, ready to free Vader. The other ending, again, throws the Star Wars Universe into a pickle. The clone of Starkiller you play as was killed by another clone of Starkiller. Which begs the question, why doesn’t Darth Vader keep creating clones to wipe these rebels out? A New Hope would have been very different.
While one ending is thrown away almost immediately, the other creates endless questions and paradoxes that is just as bad as killing Darth Vader.
2 The Binding of Isaac
Holy multiple endings, Batman. The Binding of Isaac is now up to nineteen endings with its latest DLC. To reach all the endings, gamers must play through multiple times dumping an endless number of hours for very little pay off.
All the ending cutscenes have Isaac opening the chest and either seeing something different or interacting with a new object. Not a major payoff. While each ending may have some sort of symbolism that the developers wanted to show, the endings don’t add anything for gamers. In fact, after viewing each ending a new unlockable becomes available.
The endings quite literally are collectables in The Binding of Isaac. Gamers are meant to go through all the endings to fully complete the game. They stop being endings and become challenges gamers either pass or fail. It gives the game a disjointed feel. This idea could have succeeded if there was a definitive end after unlocking everything. But the developer focused on collecting endings rather than bringing closure to the story.
1 Mass Effect 3
We saved the best for last, or the worst depending on how you look at it. The groundbreaking space opera that reached gamers from RPG fans to shooter fans ended with a dud so monumental that having multiple endings just poured salt all over the wound.
There are three options that the small child gives you: destruction, control or synthesis. All of them result in the destruction pf the relays. The added option that the DLC provided isn’t any better. Gamers were surprised that there wasn’t an option to kill the Reapers, return to earth, and commence the massive victory party.
The endings accomplish nothing if you look at the rich story the developers created from the beginning. Shepard and his crew were fighting a fixed game all along, which cheapens their sacrifice. There is no victory without a massive cataclysmic event that will cripple civilization for thousands of years. That is not a victory, that’s doing the Reaper’s job for them.