One of the most important parts of a story is the ending: the capstone of everything that’s happened so far. In video games, the culmination of everything you’ve spent hours exploring, grinding, and fighting powerful enemies to achieve. As games have advanced, multiple endings have become popular, from binary “good” and “evil” endings to multiple possible outcomes based on the player’s choices. But just as common are non-canonical alternate endings, surprise shortcuts, and secret endings that make it look like you’ve found a shortcut to beating the game and usually come complete with the end credits.
Usually these shortcut or secret endings let you complete the game in a fraction of the usual time, either by taking the path of least resistance, making a morally wrong choice, walking away from your character’s mission, outright siding with an antagonist, defeating a final boss early, or completing a ridiculously complicated series of tasks. Developers frequently hide alternate endings throughout video games as Easter Eggs or as rewards for the dedicated players who dump dozens or even hundreds of hours into their favorite games. Sometimes even loyal fans can miss secret endings, but luckily for us we live in the age of internet where they’re usually online within a few weeks after release.
Here are 20 of the most surprising shortcut endings to games that you didn’t even know existed. Please be warned that by definition there will be major spoilers for the games on this list.
20. Fallout: New Vegas – Dead Money
In Fallout: New Vegas‘ Dead Money DLC, the player finds themselves drugged with knockout gas, kidnapped by a former Elder of the Brotherhood of Steel, fitted with an explosive collar and forced to go into the Sierra Madre, a pre-war casino covered in a toxic blood-red cloud and guarded by killer holograms and terrifying Ghost People.
At the end of Dead Money, you finally come face-to-face with your tormentor, Father Elijah. You can either kill him in single combat, bury him alive by locking him in the casino vault forever, or…join him. Yes, the Courier can join Elijah’s quest to conquer the Wasteland with deadly holograms and biological terrorism. During the dialogue with Elijah, if you fulfill the conditions and speech checks, he will give you chance to join him. If you do, the game ends, with the final slideshow talking of the cloud killing everyone. Joy!
19. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
The secret ending of Metal Gear Solid V is crazy hard to unlock. It’s almost a miracle it was leaked to YouTube shortly after the game’s release; otherwise it might still be secret. What makes this ending, frequently called the “Disarmament Ending,” nearly impossible to get is that it requires no nukes to be in your possession or in development, and more than that, for every single player on your platform (PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, or Steam) would also need to decommission their nukes, so that the total is 0.
To make things even more challenging, there’s another requirement that needs to be met on your game’s server that Kojima and Konami are keeping a secret. Given the fallout between them, who knows what that could be? Thankfully for impatient gamers, the Disarmament Ending was leaked to the internet.
18. Star Trek: Klingon
Star Trek: Klingon is a point-and-click adventure game based on the warrior culture of the Klingons from Star Trek. Your character on this holodeck adventure is a young Klingon named Pok, who sets off with Gowron to avenge your father’s assassination. The game is played entirely through a series of cutscenes with points where you must click to make a decision (or do nothing). However, in the first act, you get the chance to outright refuse your right of vengeance.
After Gowron swears a blood oath to avenge your father, he says he needs a family member to go with him. Do you join him? Or stay behind with your mother? People who aren’t up on their Klingon lore might click Gowron’s left hand, which ends the holodeck program and the game with Gowron yelling at you (rightly) for being such a coward.
17. The Stanley Parable
The Stanley Parable is an indie adventure game about choice and predestination, with no less than nineteen achievable endings that depend on the player’s choices. Of these, the “Coward Ending” is the quickest and easiest ending and the one that requires the least amount of effort. You get this ending when you close the door to Stanley’s office at the very beginning of the game. You must still be inside the office for the ending to occur.
Instead of exploring the hastily abandoned office building, Stanley will decide to sit in his office no matter what happens and will sit in front of his computer to wait for more commands. The Narrator will comment on his cowardice and inability to make decisions. After some more dialogue, the game will restart.
16. Batman: Arkham City
Everyone who’s a fan of the adventures of Gotham’s Caped Crusader knows he and Catwoman have an on-again, off-again relationship and sometimes rivalry. This is also true of Batman: Arkham City, and shows how their different worldviews clash in a secret non-canonical ending for the Catwoman DLC. At one point in the story, Catwoman is fulfilling her role as cat burglar by helping herself to suitcases full of jewels, when Dr. Hugo Strange traps Batman under rubble.
Your choice is clear: you’re supposed to drop everything, fight your way through hordes of generic thugs, and rescue the Dark Knight from his peril. Or you could leave with your ill-gotten loot, leaving Batman to his fate. If you choose the latter, it’s game over, The Joker wins, and Wayne Manor falls. The game even rewinds to get you to reconsider.
15. Dying Light: The Following
A hidden ending can be unlocked in The Following expansion for Dying Light. It all starts when you get the Military Keycard. In order to unlock this hidden ending, you must go and get a number of quest items, which can be acquired in any order. Namely, you have to collect the nuclear activation codes, the military access code, the Military Transport Key, and the Military Activation Card.
What does collecting all these do for you? Why, the ability to set off a nuclear warhead, of course! You use the access code to get inside the truck, insert the access card to use the terminal, and interact with the terminal to input the detonation codes and begin the countdown. In this ending, you are consumed by blinding white light, ending your story with a bang. Well, that’s one way to get rid of the zombies.
14. Persona 3
2006’s Persona 3 is another reminder why you probably don’t want to go to a High School in Japan, as you’ll probably end up fighting demons, or zombies, or in this case being told about a being known as the Nyx which will bring about the end of the world and the extermination of all life if allowed to manifest.
On December 31st, you get the chance to take the easy way out: the player can kill Ryoji so he can’t be the avatar of the Nyx. If you do it, the game cuts to Graduation Day, the group’s memories will be erased, and the Nyx will be postponed…until summer, that is. This ending is a non-canonical “bad” one, since while the protagonists get to live in blissful ignorance, they only delay the inevitable doom of all humanity instead of facing it.
13. Silent Hill 2
Before the “doge” meme exploded on the internet, the most famous shiba inu dog in the world was the one from the joke “Dog Ending” of Silent Hill 2. After the player beats all three original endings, this secret non-canonical ending is unlocked after obtaining the Dog Key item from the dog house west of Rosewater Park. Then, James must watch the video tape in room 312 of the Nightmare Lakeview Hotel, and use the key to enter the Observation Room on the third floor.
James walks into the Observation Room and finds a dog named Mira pulling levers and pushing buttons in front of a control panel while listening to music on headphones. As it turns out, Mira was controlling and directing all of the events of Silent Hill 2, and James falls to his knees and the dog licks his face. Roll credits.
In the Fallout series, the Bloody Mess perk has little effect on actual gameplay, but violent death animations in which your opponent is reduced to a bloody mass of giblets play more often. However, the trait does have an affect on the ending of the first Fallout game. After returning to your home of Vault 13 having found them a water chip and saved the world from the mutant armies of the Master, the Overseer that originally sent you on your quest informs you that you can never return home because you’ve changed so much and hero worship of you will encourage others to leave.
If you have the Bloody Mess perk or if you have bad Karma by the end of the game, you will shoot the Overseer as he walks away in a rather violent animation, complete with gooshy sounds. Your character still wanders off into the sunset regardless, but at least you got your revenge on the man responsible for your banishment, right?
11. Sam & Max: Hit The Road
The main antagonist in Sam & Max: Hit the Road is country singer Conroy Bumpus. At one point, the titular characters find themselves snooping around his estate of Bumpusville, decorated with tasteless statues and paintings of its owner, as well as trophies (even paintings of trophies), and a wishing well that actually works.
That’s right: if you use money on the wishing well, Sam will wish for his greatest desire: namely, for the game to be over. The screen fades to black and the words “The End” appear almost immediately. Though Sam soon tells the game to hold it and the screen returns to normal, you could also take the easy way out and shut Hit the Road off right there, making it your canonical ending.
10. NieR: Automata
NieR: Automata has a ton of hidden endings. In fact, it seems to delight in them. There are no less than 21 “bad” endings hidden throughout the game, most of which you have do something terribly wrong to get. Endings are designated with letters of the alphabet: A-E are intuitive and require replay, while F-Z are “bad” non-canonical endings.
Whether it’s from murdering an important character, failing an important battle, running away, walking away and refusing to do a certain mission, letting the time run out, slaughtering innocents, or allowing 2B to die, there’s no shortage of depressing shortcut endings. There are even achievements for finding them all. For the icing on the cake, at any time during the game you can even pull out your own OS chip, instantly dropping dead.
9. The Secret Of Monkey Island
What sets the chains of events going in 1990’s The Secret of Monkey Island is when youth Guybrush Threepwood finally arrives on the island itself. Once there, your first instinct will likely be to explore. Early on, there’s a mountain where you can throw a large rock at your own ship floating off the coast of the island, sinking it.
From here, you mostly play the game as you would normally, except the events play out differently. Should you not sink your own ship, your mutinous crew will appear after LeChuck sails for Melee Island, and you will take your own boat. If you sink it, you end up leaving the island with Herman Toothrot and there will be an alternate ending for your crew. The real surprise? Sinking the ship is the canon ending for Monkey Island.
8. Far Cry 4
At the beginning of Far Cry 4, you are introduced to Pagan Min, the eccentric, fast-talking, snazzy suit-wearing stab enthusiast and dictator of the fictional Himalayan country of Kyrat. After showing himself to obviously be the antagonist of the game, he proceeds to take your character back to his mansion. Min asks you to wait at his dinner table and usually the player leaves and escapes with the help of Golden Path rebels, thus beginning the main storyline.
Or…you can do as Min asks and just wait at the table for about fifteen real-time minutes. Instead of getting involved with the rebels, you can end the game by waiting for Min to return. He will treat you as a friend and allow you to scatter your mother’s ashes, after which he takes you for a helicopter ride. Roll credits. Well, that was easier, wasn’t it?
7. Shadow Complex
The plot of Shadow Complex gets started when Jason Fleming’s girlfriend Claire is kidnapped by members of a mysterious paramilitaries and carried off in a helicopter in a backpacking trip gone horribly wrong. Normally, you’re supposed to try to save her, which catapults you into the compelling story of a government conspiracy and necessitates you fighting and shooting your way through hordes of enemies.
Of course, you can also decide that’s just too much trouble and run as far to the left as you possibly can just after Claire’s kidnapping. There you’ll have the option to press B and hop back in the jeep, activating the secret ending. Jason will drive off, commenting that he can get another girlfriend by saying there are “plenty more fish in the sea” before the credits. I guess not everybody’s cut out for the hero business.
6. Metal Saga
This curious post-apocalyptic open-world RPG for the PlayStation 2 is noted for the profound degree of freedom it gives the player, from choosing which of the playable characters you want to be your hero, to choosing to never realize your dream of being a hero at all and working as a mechanic instead. Yeah.
Within minutes of starting the game, just after you choose your character name, you are presented with the option to become a super cool adventuring Hunter (hero) like your dad, or choose to train as a mechanic and never go adventuring in the first place. After a brief scene showing you living the quiet life of a grease monkey, the game simply ends by saying you never faced any danger your whole life. But hey, at least you made a decent wage. That’s more than most people get these days.
5. The Evil Within
This particular ending is very similar to the Time Paradox ending in Metal Gear Solid 3 if you kill Ocelot or Eva; namely, in the fact that a narrator will chastise you for creating a time paradox and changing the future. To get the secret ending of The Evil Within, you have to make it to Chapter 4 – A Ghost is Born in the Kidman DLC. You come across Ruvik’s brain in the S.T.E.M. machine at the top of Beacon Mental Hospital, revealing the entirety of The Evil Within is actually a giant mind game played by Ruvik.
This Easter Egg ending happens when you shoot the brain in the center of the room, instantly ending the game and unlocking the achievement/trophy “Stick to the Script.” The credits fade in, showing a photo of Sebastian, Joseph and Kidman with the caption, “Congratulations! You did it!”
4. Cave Story
Unlike most of the games on this list, it’s possible to get all three endings of Cave Story without starting a new game each time. Aside from the “Normal” ending and the “Best” ending, there’s also one where protagonist Quote simply flies away from the island with Kazuma after the Doctor begins his attack. The option coming in the destroyed Egg Corridor when Kazuma appears, asking if Quote wants to escape with him, to which the player is given a “Yes/No” choice.
If you say yes, it will initiate the first possible ending in Cave Story. Quote and Kazuma will ride the Sky Dragon away from the Outer Wall, leaving the other characters behind to their fate. A text box appears saying they escaped the island, though the Doctor soon attacks Earth and they live the rest of their lives in the mountains.
3. Persona 5
Persona 5 has multiple non-canon “bad” endings. Aside from failing to steal a treasure from a Palace before the deadline, there are several key points in the game that determine which ending the player gets: perhaps the most notable one is when you’re given a chance to sell out your friends. After finishing the Niijima Palace, the protagonist will have a conversation with Sae Niijima in an interrogation room, during which she will ask you to reveal the identities of your fellow Phantom Thieves.
To get the “Sell Out” ending, you just have to choose the bottom conversation option in which you give up your friends to the enemy, becoming a snitch to save your own skin. Sae is satisfied and leaves the room, and a bad ending follows.
2. Saints Row IV
It should come as no surprise that a game as anachronistic as Saints Row IV, a game about super-powered gangsters who run the world and then try to protect it from an alien invasion, would have equally bizarre endings. The main one comes during the mission where you’re trying to rescue hacker Matt Miller. Eventually, the alien warlord Zinyak presents you with two options: if you walk through the blue door, Zinyak claims that you can continue, but that humanity will end up extinct. If you walk through the red door, you sacrifice yourself, but he claims he will give humanity amnesty.
No surprise: Zinyak is lying. The blue door continues with the story, while the red door skips to the credits and you fail the mission, unlocking an achievement called “You Chose…Poorly.” You are then transported back to the doors once again.
1. Tales Of Zestiria
During the course of Tales of Zestiria, you’re working your way up to face the final boss, Heldalf, the Lord of Calamity himself. How the story is supposed to go is that you complete all four main trials (fire, water, earth, and wind) until you can move through high-level areas without status ailments and without being stomped by powerful enemies. Then you find Heldalf and defeat him. The end.
Unless you randomly encounter Heldalf before the end of the game and somehow, against all odds, manage to win against him. Then you unlock a special downer ending where defeating Heldalf causes Maotelus to awaken, since the members of the party know nothing about him at this point in the story. The malevolent being then becomes too powerful to be stopped and the world is doomed. To make it even worse, there’s not even an achievement!
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