The 90s saw to a meteoric change in media across the board—Nirvana showcased that Rock can be melancholic while still blowing out your speakers, and The Simpsons turned television on its head with its witty satire and clever jabs at sitcom stereotypes. But throughout the decade of Fresh Princes and Forrest Gumps, it was the underdog in video games that perhaps broke the most ground.
Video games finally felt like more than just, well, games—they carried emotional weight in titles like Metal Gear Solid and they featured fully fleshed out stories that could challenge the best of writers in games like Ocarina of Time. Even just thinking about the sheer amount of great games that came out in this period alone is enough to deem this the most influential decade for gaming ever.
We got Super Mario 64, Ocarina, Half-Life, Resident Evil, Final Fantasy VII, Doom, Chrono Trigger, Pokémon, and so many other timeless classics that we could fill this article with them alone. The 90s became the decade where the blueprints for the future of gaming were being laid out and we couldn’t possibly begin to understand how big the impact would be.
Sure, Ocarina was a great game to me as a kid, but the fact that the game still tops “Best Games of All-Time” lists as we enter into 2019 is something special, and in a way, it quantifies the magic of this decade. So in celebration of 90s games, let's countdown all the best endings to some of our favorite 90s classics. But it won’t all be positive, as we’re going to look at 15 endings from the 90s that maybe fell a little flat when compared to the rest of the game.
32 Disappointing: Super Mario 64 (1996)
I truly meant it when I said we didn’t want to hurt any feelings with this list. That being said… here’s a bombshell for you Mario 64 fans, one that I do, in fact, believe. It’s not that the Mario 64 ending is bad by any means—that final boss fight alone gives me goosebumps to this day.
What really burns me about this ending is the cutscene that follows-suit—all that fighting, all that turmoil for a kiss on the nose, and a cake… Revolutionary for the time, but the game has been crushed by its sequels since.
31 Best: Half-Life (1998)
We’ll leave the memes at home for this entry, though it goes without saying… CAN WE PLEASE GET HALF-LIFE 3 ALREADY!? Okay, I guess it doesn’t really go without saying, but the reason this meme even has so much traction is due to its phenomenal story.
And it all started with the first one, a game that broke so much ground with its gameplay and narrative. Not to mention the ending, or multiple endings that make stories like The Matrix dull in comparison. It’s so bleak, it’s so jarring, and it’s one you have to experience for yourself.
30 Disappointing: Grand Theft Auto (1997)
Granted, this game is kind of mediocre in general, but it’s still the one that kickstarted Rockstar’s prodigious and extremely lucrative franchise, so it still deserves a place on this list.
This entry in the Grand Theft Auto series is perhaps the least played, and for good reasons, as it’s much more stripped back than its successors, especially when it comes to storytelling. The ending leaves your main character leaving Liberty City to get away from the corruption and crime in what feels extremely anti-climatic.
29 Best: Pokémon Red And Blue (1996)
While Pokémon games have gotten more complex over the years, especially when it comes to the story, they all still follow the blueprint laid out by the first, which sees you fight the Elite Four and the Pokémon Champion.
And you can only imagine the anxiety, and surprise after you finally beat the Elite Four only to find out someone did it before you… your rival Gary! It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, one that has without a doubt stood the test of time as Pokémon enters its 8th Gen soon.
28 Disappointing: GoldenEye 007 (1997)
GoldenEye 007 isn’t so much known for its story so much as it's known for its revolutionary and insanely addicting multiplayer that surely entertained you for nights on end. And like many on this side, the story isn’t bad but ridiculously cheesy.
James Bond once again saves the day, gets the girl… please stop me if you’ve heard this one before. This ending just hasn’t held up really at all but even so, GoldenEye still delivers a heck of a good time when played by a group of friends.
27 Best: I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream (1995)
Yup, it’s a game you’ve likely never heard of, yet it’s one of the best on this list, and one you owe to yourself to play especially if you’re into shows like Black Mirror and other depictions of dark science fiction.
100 years after World War III, a massive supercomputer simply named “AM” takes control of the world, leaving five humans left which it physically and mentally harms daily. Your character is tasked with trying to release the last human survivors, and we’ll leave it at that because it’s so dang good.
26 Disappointing: Mario Kart 64 (1996)
Okay, hear me out—so there isn’t much of a narrative in Mario Kart, but there definitely is an ending when you complete all the cups to which you earn a credit sequence. And yes, it is pretty hard to mess up a credit sequence, but coming from Super Mario Kart’s fantastic ending sequence, this is definitely a downgrade.
I mean, just look at Super Mario Kart’s ending: it’s cute, it’s entertaining, and best of all, it’s short. I especially grin when the characters all jump at the end, so call it a nerdy pick but I’m sticking with it.
25 Best: System Shock 2 (1999)
You’ve probably heard the hype for this game, especially if you’re a fan of games like BioShock and BioShock Infinite, and in a lot of rights, this game can compete with those titans despite being far older.
Yet another fantastic depiction of bleak science fiction, System Shock 2 is one game that feels Stanley Kubrick-esque. System Shock 2 feels like 2001: A Space Odyssey and BioShock combined. To top it off, its ending simply and beautifully features the protagonist rejecting the main villain’s (SHODAN’s) proposal to join her with a “Nah.”
24 Disappointing: Doom 64 (1997)
Doom 64 is a pretty polarizing Doom game, to say the least, but most fans can at least agree that its ending was on the weaker side of Doom games. For starters, the final boss is poorly designed, even compared to earlier Doom games.
And it’s honestly a breeze of a final boss even on harder difficulties, I can still remember my astonishment from realizing the game was over. Oh, and that’s not to mention that Doomguy just decides to stay down with the demons afterward in what is a pretty poor life choice.
23 Best: Metal Gear Solid (1998)
Metal Gear is an overall fantastic game, and its film-like ending still deserves tremendous praise. This was probably one of the first games that transcended pixels and polygons and actually felt like more than just a video game.
“Until today I’ve lived only for myself, survival has been the only thing I’ve cared about in my life… Maybe it’s time I live for someone else.” -Snake
It may sound a bit cheesy, but this was definitely not a message I expected in a game like Metal Gear, and in the context of the ending it’s absolutely a masterpiece.
22 Disappointing: Resident Evil 2 (1998)
Another ending that definitely has its moments, and with the new remastered version of the game coming out it pains me to throw this game in this section—yet this ending is just too corny not to be a tad disappointing.
Resident Evil 2’s ending is another one that feels film-like, but it gets bogged down with its tremendous amount of cheese. The part that always gets me to burst out in laughter is Leon’s last line where instead of just celebrating their near-fatal encounter he immediately states in a cheesy cool guy voice: “It’s up to us to stop Umbrella.”
21 Best: Silent Hill (1999)
Granted, it ain’t as good as the ending or, really, just the overall game that was delivered in the 2000s with Silent Hill 2. That being said, however, the first entry to the Silent Hill franchise still stands triumphantly on its own and is often overlooked by fans.
Unlike other Silent Hill games, this entry offers some hope with you actually escaping the dreaded land known as Silent Hill. Even the good ending is filled with some downright creepy imagery so you get the best of both worlds being a happy yet spooky ending.
20 Disappointing: Sonic The Hedgehog (1991)
Oh, Sonic the Hedgehog, what an overrated mess of a platformer you are. I guess you can say Sonic never really clicked with me growing up. Sure, the character was cool and the mechanics interesting, but it was only ever enough to keep me interested for about one or two levels.
Then one day I traversed through the entire game and was met with an ending that felt on par with Sonic 06 (okay, I won’t go that far). So you beat Eggman and rescue the animals in what feels ridiculously lame. Well, don’t call me a hater just yet…
19 Best: Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (1992)
...Now, Sonic 2, on the other hand, that’s the stuff that great platformers are made of. The level design, the boss fights, and oh my goodness, the MUSIC were vastly improved here, giving us what I consider the best game in the series by far.
Plus, the ending is bumped up tenfold with Sonic skydiving off Eggman's space station only to be rescued by Tails via his plane. It’s still rather short, but I’d be lying if it didn’t give me a smile every time I see it... plus, they play the best songs throughout the credits.
18 Disappointing: Pilotwings 64 (1996)
Pilotwings is a game you probably only like if you’re into games like Train Simulator, or heaven forbid—PC Building Simulator! What we’re trying to get at is that Pilotwings is mellow, like, light-some-incense-and-do-some-yoga-while-you-play mellow.
So it seems rather harsh throwing the ending to such a game in this section, but it’s really here for how it didn’t live up to the first’s ending. Pilotwings (SNES) sees you rewarded with the highest medal of honor and being saluted by top officers as the credits roll. 64’s ending just segues to credits…
17 Best: Banjo-Kazooie (1998)
You can’t talk 90s without talking Rare and their eclectic series of games, and at the top of the Rare mountain was Banjo-Kazooie. Now in 2019, this franchise might be as nonexistent as a microtransaction in an EA game (wait that doesn’t sound right), but this shouldn’t hide the fact that Banjo is still one of the greats, with an awesome ending to boot. The ending sees you fight the dreaded witch Gruntilda in what feels like one of the best boss fights in any game. And the scenes shortly after show why Rare’s one of the greats.
16 Disappointing: Spyro The Dragon (1998)
Spyro is another phenomenal game from the 90s, and one that surely any 90s kid will remember fondly. That’s all for good reasons. The game still holds up as one of the most original and creative games to come out of the decade.
The ending, however, falls a little flat, with a boss fight that, for the most part, feels like a complete joke. It takes two hits to take him out, but the obstacles beforehand are the real struggle—I don’t know, it always felt kind of lame to me.
15 Best: Chrono Trigger (1995)
So, I try to stay away from games I’ve never played, but Chrono Trigger is a must if you’re talking 90s games, especially in regards to great endings. Chrono Trigger seemed like such a great game to me as a kid, but as I grew older, its contemporaries within the genre began to appeal more.
Regardless, the ending was something pretty groundbreaking for the time, feeling like an Undertale ending before any idea was ever fathomed by developers. It’s fun and doesn’t take itself too serious making for a really enjoyable end to a game.
14 Disappointing: Earthworm Jim (1994)
Earthworm Jim is one of the best platformers ever made, let alone one of the best platformers to come out of the 90s. It’s fast-paced, and its cartoony-styled gameplay is one that still distinguishes itself from the rest of the platforming pack.
And don’t get me wrong, the ending is pretty hilarious as it turns the old “rescue the princess” stereotype on its head. But it’s still a bit disappointing as it plays out in under a minute; hilarious, but just a bit disappointing as the ending doesn’t even change on harder difficulties.
13 Best: Street Fighter 2's Multiple Endings (1991)
“Street Fighter 2 is one of the best fighting games ever” is surely a statement you’ve come across, especially if you’re into the fighting game scene. But that’s for very good reason, as this game was so far ahead of its time that it could come out 20 years from now and pass as new.
The best part to me at least was the individual endings that each character had if you beat arcade mode. This gave you the incentive to try out all the characters to see their unique endings—Zangief’s will forever be my favorite.
12 Disappointing: Mortal Kombat
While Mortal Kombat is equal to the Street Fighter series (and in some ways better when comparing the new games) the old ones had no chance when up against classic Street Fighter games.
Just like Street Fighter 2, each fighter gets their own unique ending except they're laughably trite in Mortal Kombat. Finishing up arcade mode with a character gave you a description of how the character faired out afterward in what feels ridiculously bland when compared to Street Fighter 2’s arcade system.
11 Best: Resident Evil (1996)
Well here’s another that I didn’t technically finish as a kid (as it was just way too scary for me to even get past the first few hours), but thank goodness for having older and braver friends.
What’s to say about this game that hasn’t already been said? It pretty much scared the socks off of anyone brave enough to play it in the 90s, and featured scenes that changed horror games and gaming for years to come. The ending boss fight still spooks and the ending features real-life actors, blowing the minds of every 90s kid.
10 Disappointing: Monkey Island 2 (1991)
Another severely underrated franchise that any point-and-click fan should absolutely play. Both Monkey Island games are pretty much masterpieces and the “Overwhelmingly Positive” on Steam all but confirms that.
The ending ruins the games in a way, but makes sense when you realize the director of the series, Ron Gilbert was leaving the games behind. The whole adventure seems to be the your childlike imagination making everything feel far less dramatic, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re feuding with LucasArts.
9 Best: Doom (1993)
Trust me, you and anyone else who wasn't already in college by the time the original Doom dropped will never truly understand how fantastic a game it was. But even playing it today, you’ll still fall in love with the fast-paced combat that no other franchise can quite replicate.
Now the ending for the original Doom can easily be in the disappointing category as it’s just sequel-baiting the next game… but the next game is just as fantastic so we’ll have to give it a pass.
8 Disappointing: Twisted Metal 3 (1998)
“I am Calypso and I thank you for playing Twisted Metal!” Honestly, if Twisted Metal was more popular, this would’ve been memed like crazy by now.
For the unaware, Twisted Metal is a race/combat game—kind of like Mario Kart battle mode except replace all the lovable, classic characters with deranged clowns. As with most racing games, it was a heck of a lot more fun with friends, but was just an overall good time in general. The ending to Twisted Metal 3 however, is one of the funniest trolls in gaming history [check it out].
7 Best: Link To The Past (1991)
A Link To The Past is a fan favorite that still sits at the debate table for best Zelda game in the franchise, despite almost being 30 years old. I could talk about the brilliance of the game for hours on end, but the ending is the stuff childhood dreams are made of.
The ending pans through the entire world of Hyrule, directly showcasing how your actions have changed each place you’ve explored. It’s one of those bow-on-top happy endings that will even get the most cynical to smile (and maybe even cry).
6 Disappointing: Blood (1997)
Blood is a fantastic game, and one of the only Doom clones to receive critical praise while adopting a sizable cult following. It’s basically Doom except a bit more gross and a bit more creative, believe it or not. It features weapons such as a voodoo doll, pitchfork, and skull-headed wizard staff of some sorts.
The only drawback the game really has is its ending, which is another that still gives me a good laugh for how dated it is; at least that final boss battle was dope.
5 Best: Final Fantasy VII (1997)
A game that likely needs no introduction with the series still chugging on strong (well, except for that whole DLC debacle), but with Cloud’s inclusion in the recent Smash game it seems that Final Fantasy VII has been solidified as the series’ most popular game.
You take on one of the best baddies in any game, Sephiroth, in what is still one of the most incredible boss fights of all time. This is another that just transcended video games at the time and is well worth your time if you haven’t played it already.
4 Disappointing: Rogue Squadron (1998)
Easily one of the best Star Wars games to ever come out, and I’m sure many would have no problem pitting it up against the recent microtransaction-hungry Star Wars Battlefront games, but I digress.
Rogue Squadron delivered the best vehicular combat out of any Star Wars game and tasked you with going on movie-like missions throughout the galaxy. The ending falls flat to a degree though, seeing your squadron praised as you fly off into space was cool at the time, but this game desperately needs a remake for 2019 (please!).
3 Best: Super Metroid (1994)
While there are some pretty spooky boss battles on this list, none are as spooky as your final encounter with Mother Brain (I get shivers just thinking about it). Mother Brain initially is, well, just a brain, but transforms into a gross dinosaur-like creature and you and the big momma are duking it out in the tightest of rooms.
Plus, after you do defeat her, you have to run out of the base as the whole place starts to explode to some severe anxiety-inducing music, and boy do we love every bit of it.
2 Disappointing: Super Smash Bros. 64 (1999)
Granted, it was years, maybe even decades ahead of its time, with a blueprint for future of one of the most popular Nintendo games ever. But looking back on the original character endings, they feel really, really, old.
Playing the game almost feels like you're playing some ancient artifact that you found in the depths of the Smithsonian. I still love the idea of the Smash characters being toys (an idea that is sorely missed in Ultimate), but if you want that fix, just go play Melee.
1 Best: The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time (1998)
I’m sure most of you expected it, or maybe you just scrolled down here to see if I’d just put it in the "Disappointing" section just to stir up the pot. Well, as fun as that sounds, this ending (and really, just the overall game) is too incredible.
This ending is poetic in a lot of rights—our hero doesn’t get the girl and there's no end of the game celebration. Instead, he's sent back in time to live the life of a lonely and unrecognized hero… well, at least he’s got his horse, am I right?