Growing up, I didn’t really have much money, and to be honest, not much has really changed into my early 20s. But being broke as a kid usually meant only having one console in the household at a time, and for the most part, it was an Xbox.
Who could forget the days of firing up that OG Xbox to play with people around the world in games like Halo, Star Wars Battlefront 2, and a myriad of other classics? And I can still remember the time when my dad and I picked up an Xbox 360 a few months after launch from a Craigslist dealer, using the cash we both scrapped together to get our hands on a console we just had to have.
My love-love relationship with Xbox started to fizzle out around this newest generation of consoles, but you can probably already tell the kind of impact that Xbox has had on me as a gamer.
That being said, Xbox has always been far from perfect, even with their best consoles and game releases, but today we’re willing to ignore that and put on our rose-tinted glasses to remember the good times.
Today, we’re going to look at the 15 best endings that we’ve seen in Microsoft exclusive games and hopefully turn you on to a few gems that you might’ve missed in Xbox’s game library. But with good always comes a little bad, so we’ll also talk about 15 game endings that hurt already incredible games; let’s hope none of your favorites end up on the latter.
30 Best: Cuphead
Let’s start off this list with a recent release, and one that will probably go down as one of Microsoft’s best and most creative. Cuphead blew gamers away when its trailer dropped for E3 2013.
The game offered a visual style that had people drooling, and really, that’s all the game needed to have us hooked.
Visuals aside, though, this game is well worth the hype. The story is minimal but packs a punch anyways, and the ending offers a boss fight that will surely go down in the history books.
29 Disappointing: Titanfall
Both the original and sequel to Titanfall are games that I’d like to believe are the most underrated shooters. Even with the second one virtually improving upon everything from the first, it still didn’t see the success that it feels like it deserves.
Let’s talk about the first, which still delivers some seriously addicting multiplayer... but don’t even get me started on that sorry campaign.
For most of the campaign, you won’t have a clue what’s going on as it feels more like a glorified tutorial. And by the end, you’re obviously supposed to feel emotional about something, but nobody really knows what.
28 Best: Halo 4
With Halo being Xbox’s poster child for the entire life cycles of the original Xbox and 360, expect to see a lot more Halo on both sides of this list. But here we’re going to talk about Halo 4, which in truth is a pretty underrated game.
The graphics were a step up, the multiplayer was better than ever, and the campaign offered a pretty compelling story.
Master Chief and Cortana’s relationship was the main focus of the game, and the end sees one of these characters make a sacrifice that is sure to bring a few tears to your eyes.
27 Disappointing: Forza Horizon 2
Here’s a game that most would be shocked to find out it even had an ending at all, but it does, a really sucky one at that. To be fair, no one, even fans of the game care about its end; Forza Horizon 2 is a game that focuses more on the racing experience rather than the story it’s trying to tell.
But this is a list about great and terrible endings no matter the game, so on we go! For Forza Horizon 2’s ending, you get to do one last race around the entire map, and after you’re awarded a wristband and a dinky-looking trophy, enjoy!
26 Best: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow
Whatever happened to Splinter Cell games? Seriously!? These games were decades ahead of their time featuring an innovative stealth-combat system that at the time, was only present in Metal Gear games.
Now the game receives no love or attention, making us almost want to shed a tear for the lost but never forgotten protagonist, Sam Fisher.
And Pandora Tomorrow might’ve been Fisher at his best; with an amazing story that features an ending that would still send shivers down spines today. Come on Ubisoft, bring this franchise back!
25 Disappointing: Viva Piñata
Viva Piñata is a really strange game, and kind of like Cuphead, it’s one of the few times we see a creative game release exclusively for the Xbox. That’s why it pains me to put Viva Piñata in this section, because it’s maybe one of the most underrated games on the Xbox.
It offers a therapeutic experience you don’t get in many games.
The object is to grow an amazing garden that attracts more and more Piñatas, and the ending occurs when you attract a dragon-styled Piñata; kind of weak if you ask me.
24 Best: Gears Of War
Gears of War seemed to mark the glory days for Microsoft; it was a time when they were firing on all cylinders giving us games likes Halo 3, Project Gotham Racing, and Xbox Live Arcade. But Gears of War was different, and in the best way possible.
Not only did it show us crazy stuff, but also gave us an amazing story.
The first Gears of War, in particular, probably has my favorite ending where you fight waves of enemies on a train only to go face to face with General Raam, a boss that I’ll never forget.
23 Disappointing: Recore
Recore... ever heard of it? Probably not, as it’s probably one of the most forgettable Xbox One exclusives and it only released two years ago. That being said, it isn’t as bad as critics might make you believe, just really generic. Oh, and did we say forgettable?
The game always felt like a discount Horizon Zero Dawn, and Recore is especially weak when it comes to story. The ending features a pretty cool boss fight, but then you’re forced to endure some cringey dialogue and a cliffhanger that no one cares about.
22 Best: Sunset Overdrive
If you own an Xbox One and haven’t played Sunset Overdrive, then you’re seriously not getting your money's worth. That Spider-Man game that everyone is practically drooling over, well, they’re the ones behind Sunset Overdrive.
The studio, Insomniac Games, normally only works with Sony, but worked with Microsoft to bring this exclusive to the Xbox One.
The story is funny, the gameplay is slick, and the ending is one of my favorites in recent years. In a very Deadpool-styled move, your character rewrites the entire story during the credits and gets a few good jokes in along the way.
21 Disappointing: Banjo-Kazooie Nuts And Bolts
Rare Limited, the company that many (if not everyone) will argue was much better when they were working with Nintendo, released the last Banjo-Kazooie game as a Microsoft exclusive. Now this game gets a lot of hate, especially from Rare diehards, but I always thought it was passable (at best).
Many could argue about this game for years to come (Check out the JonTron vid), but I just don’t have the energy for it this time around. What I will complain about is the abysmal ending; I mean, was that a JOKE? The boss fight is so laughably easy that it gives so much clout to haters of the game.
20 Best: Crackdown 2
Crackdown 2 is just a ton of fun, it’s like Saints Row but dialed up to 10. The game is criminally underrated, and I’m happy that gamers are excited for the third entry into the series.
When it comes to Crackdown 2’s ending, the cutscene that rolls is the real reason we love this game’s ending. Your character looks to have sacrificed himself for the mission, as we see his hand after he falls into a helicopter. But after the credits roll, we see that same hand in a medical ward floating in water, giving us hope.
19 Disappointing: Halo 2
It kind of sucks to put Halo 2 in this section on this list, because the game is just so good. As I’ve gotten older, it’s easily become my favorite in the Halo franchise, but a lot of people had a problem with this game's ending.
Halo 2 ends on a cliffhanger that involves putting all of our characters in a state of peril that we’re not sure how they’ll overcome.
Gamers hated the cliffhanger ending at the time, but now with the hindsight that Halo 3 provides, I’m sure most of them are willing to forgive Halo 2.
18 Best: Castle Crashers
Okay, so before you start yelling at your screen, Castle Crashers initially released as an Xbox exclusive, and since we don’t have many games to work with we’re gonna count it. With that out of the way, let's talk about the game that dominated the Xbox Live Arcade.
Castle Crashers brought old-school side-scrolling combat into the modern age for a new generation of gamers to enjoy.
Personally, the game hasn’t held up as much as I’d like as the hack-and-slash combat gets tedious after a while, but the story still puts a smile on my face to this day.
17 Disappointing: Forza Horizon 3
This is more or less going to be a rehash of the Forza Horizon 2 entry we already saw on this list, so feel inclined to skip this one if you want. Don’t worry about me leaving me here, I’ll only feel slightly offended.
Either way, just like with Forza Horizon 2, the third entry in the franchise focuses more on gameplay rather story.
The ending is maybe even more subpar here, as the game “ends” when you upgrade your festival hub all the way, then that’s it, back to racing!
16 Best: Gears Of War 2
Sometimes the sequel is just so good that it’s better than the first; we’ve seen it with Star Wars, the original Spider-Man series, and it continues with Gears of War. Overall, this is easily my favorite game as it offers some of my favorite moments from any game.
Especially that scene with Dom’s wife... man, they could’ve ended the game there and I would’ve stood up and clapped with tears in my eyes.
The actual ending is perhaps the weakest parts of the game, as you’re in a mech for most of it, but the cutscenes after are enough to put it in this section of this list.
15 Disappointing: Fable 3
I have a weird relationship with Fable 3, as it was my entry point into the series so I probably see it a lot differently than most fans. I liked the game as a kid, but as I tried other games in the franchise that opinion started to change.
I still think Fable 3 is a pretty good game, just maybe not a good game to seemingly close out the franchise.
Fable 3 was good at offering you choices that mattered, and they came into play at the end, but unfortunately, the stakes just didn’t feel as high as the game made them out to be.
14 Best: Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic
The fact that you could even play this game on the original Xbox is a testament to just how innovative Microsoft exclusives were back in the day. There’s a reason why people love this game so much, it’s story is just unrivaled, even today.
The fact that multiple endings existed back in 2003 makes me want to replay this game right after I’m done with this article (and I think I actually will).
The light side ending will surely tap into your inner nostalgia, and if you choose the dark side, you’ll see just how much fun it is to be the villain.
13 Disappointing: Halo Wars 2
Not really being a fan of Halo Wars 2 in the first place, I may or may not have let a little bias leak into this one, but we’re just gonna let that slide…
The game is fun if you like real-time strategy games, and coincidentally, Halo lore, but I always felt that the market was way too niche to have two games made. The cutscenes were breathtaking throughout as was the final one, but the game decided to make a tie-in to Halo 6, and after 6 (really 8) games I’m just checked out and found myself not caring about this twist.
12 Best: Ori And The Blind Forest
I’m glad that this game finally received the attention it deserves because, to be honest, it might be the best Xbox One exclusive. I put off the game until it went to PC, but I’m glad I finally got to it because it was phenomenal.
Story aside, the gameplay and the graphics here are some of the best any Microsoft console has ever seen. And if we bring the story in, then it’s easy to throw around the word “masterpiece” when talking about this game. I refuse to spoil it, just get your hands on this game pronto.
11 Disappointing: Quantum Break
To put it simply, this game is awesome. Even being a huge Alan Wake fan, I came into this game with zero expectations yet I was completely blown away.
Just imagine Inception meets Terminator meets John Wick and you have Quantum Break; yup, it’s that good.
My only problem with the game is the ending. Throughout, we see live cutscenes that do a good way of explaining the story but throughout the final act, they’re completely missing. I think if the cutscenes were there I would’ve spent a whole lot less time scratching my head.
10 Best: Alan Wake
Well, if you didn’t know, Remedy games was the studio behind Quantum Break, but their breakout exclusive came out on the 360 and was known as Alan Wake. This game spooked me as a kid and it was only rated “T for Teens,” so my parents thought I’d be alright playing it... NOPE.
The game starts off as a suspense-building horror game and turns into a mind-bending thriller that easily holds up today.
The ending takes you on so many twists and turns that you’ll probably come out confused but somehow amazed at the same time.
9 Disappointing: Crimson Dragon
Crimson Dragon basically sums up my thoughts with the Xbox One in general: just meh. The game is kind of fun at first, as there aren’t many opportunities to enjoy a rail-shooter on a console. But once that aesthetic runs thin, there’s not much good to say about this game.
Most of the combat gets really tedious, the sound feels borderline broken, and the ending solidifies this as an underwhelming game. If you’re looking for a rail-shooter fix then I still don’t think I would recommend this one.
8 Best: Gears Of War 3
You basically can’t make a list like this without including all three Gears of War games that released on the Xbox 360. And for a while, I even wanted to include Gears of War 4 in this section of the list, but I barely had to squeeze it out.
The ending to Gears of War 3 wrapped a bow so tight on this franchise that I didn’t want a fourth entry no matter how good it looked.
We got a great boss fight, a great ending cutscene, and despite the overabundance of violence I still had tears in my eye. “That’s from Dom…”
7 Disappointing: State Of Decay
Man, I just never got the hype for this game at all. My friend and I picked it up when the game started blowing up on the Xbox Live Arcade, but I couldn’t get into this game no matter how hard I tried.
It just felt like a generic zombie game, and trust me, we have more than enough of those. I had to look up the ending but it looked like it encapsulated everything I felt about the game; extremely generic and just not a lot of fun.
6 Best: Mass Effect
Before you go and grab those pitchforks again, believe it or not, Mass Effect was actually released as an exclusive to the Xbox 360, only to have a wider release that was handled by a separate studio. I was actually pretty surprised myself thinking just how crazy it would’ve been to have Mass Effect solely on Xbox.
But I’m stalling because there isn’t much to say about this game that hasn’t already been said. It may be one of the weaker games in the series, but it was insanely ahead of its time and marks a great start to one of gaming’s best franchises.
5 Disappointing: Halo 3 ODST
Halo 3: ODST is one of the best in the franchise, and I’m fully prepared to defend that to my grave. The atmosphere is just so rich in this game as you explore the empty, dark streets of what I believe is South Africa.
And there’s a sense of raw emotion not present in other Halo games, that I also felt got carried through to future entries. The ending is a little forgettable though, as it acts as a true prequel to Halo 3 and tries to bridge a gap that we really didn’t need bridged.
4 Best: Fable
I wish I played the first Fable on the original Xbox, because it’s a game that I really want to have the privilege of saying “I grew up with it.” Unfortunately, that isn’t the reality we live in; at the very least, I can recommend it in the hopes that someone one day “grows up” with this game.
The original Fable looks a bit dated, but thankfully there’s a remastered version that looks simply gorgeous. Fable is another game that offers multiple endings and you’ll find that each of them is satisfying in their own way.
3 Disappointing: Bomberman Act Zero
This game is easily going to win the award for worst game on this list. And I know what you’re thinking, “Well, isn’t this supposed to be a list of incredible games with BAD endings?” While that may be true, we’re going to cheat with this entry.
Don’t blame me, blame Microsoft for having so few console exclusives. Bomberman Act Zero is maybe one of the worst games, period, as it pitifully represents its lore. The ending is trash, the gameplay is trash, and the graphics might’ve permanently damaged my eyes.
2 Best: Halo Reach
Now I may have lied in this list because I said Halo 2 is probably my favorite Halo… but it isn’t, it’s Halo Reach. Halo 2’s multiplayer might be my favorite, but when it comes to story, I find that Halo Reach just barely edges it out.
Throughout the campaign, all of your companions get picked off one by one in scenes that only get more emotional as the game goes on. By the time you hit the end, you’re the last one standing and you have to take on waves of enemies until you join your fallen comrades.
1 Disappointing: Halo 5
This is it, this is the Halo that just made me not care about the story anymore. This game was HYPED as being this crazy conflict between this new spartan and Master Chief. What was the truth? Who was the hero? Who… wait... what? None of that matters and the campaign is only 8 hours long?
The multiplayer and the graphics were once again amazing, but the story was lacking. Sometimes you have something and it just goes on for too dang long. It’s happening to Star Wars and it happened to Halo; let’s just follow the Breaking Bad formula and leave it at five, MAX!