Video game endings are a tricky thing. After all, how can you possibly pay off a game that people have poured dozens--sometimes hundreds--of hours into in a way that satisfies everyone? Well, you can't, at least not with a single ending.
Multiple endings not only give developers a chance to try to make as many different kinds of gamers as happy as possible, but it also gives people who love to explore every nook and cranny of a title that much more to do in order to truly "100%" a game. Sometimes multiple endings are pretty cut and dry - there is the "good ending" and the "bad ending." But that isn't always the case, and some games have a whole variety of different endings depending on various parameters that players meet over the course of their adventure, and that result in good endings, bad endings, neutral endings, silly endings, and more.
As soon as multiple endings were conceived of, so too were endings that were particularly difficult to get. While the hardest ending to get in a game is most commonly the best or "true" ending, this isn't always the case, as sometimes there is some kind of offbeat secret ending that requires the most work to get. Even more interesting, there are cases where a game's literal worst ending is actually the trickiest to get!
It should go without saying, but this list is obviously going to contain spoilers--though we'll try to tiptoe around them when we can.
20 Mona To The Max -- Max Payne 2
Like the film noire protagonists that serve as the character's inspiration, Max Payne just can't ever seem to catch a break and endures one crushing tragedy after another. In fact, the entire series kicks off with him avenging his late wife and baby, who didn't meet their end via natural causes.
Max Payne 2 sees the character actually seem to find love again, only to have it ripped away from the poor sap.
At least, that's what happens if you only beat the game under anything but the toughest difficulty. Finishing Max Payne 2 on the hardest level, which cruelly limits your number of saves, results in the only ending of the game where new flame Mona Sax is still alive at the end.
19 It Was All A Dream (Team) - Chrono Trigger
It's tough to nail down exactly how many different endings there are to all-time classic Chrono Trigger, since some main endings have a few different variations among them, but there are at least a dozen different sequences of events you can see at the end of the game.
There is one ending, however, that has nothing to do with the game's story. Called the "Dream Project" ending after the development team being (rightfully) referred to as a dream team, you can actually see and talk to in-game versions of many of the legendary people who worked on the game. To do this, "all" you need to do is beat Lavos the first time you ever encounter him. No problem, right?
18 Victory Lap - Diddy Kong Racing
One of the reasons that a lot of people preferred Diddy Kong Racing to Mario Kart 64--and some would say, all Mario Kart games--is that it actually had a real story mode, rather than racing against the CPU being the only "solo mode." And as such, it also had multiple endings, with only one being the "real" finale.
To see this, you had to have all four pieces of both the Wizpig Amulet and the TT Amulet, four hidden keys, 47 balloons, and gold trophies in all four Trophy Races. Then, of course, you had to beat final boss Wizpig in the first race. What's a Rare game without having to collect tons of trinkets and doodads, after all?
17 The Outfit That Inspired Speedrunning - Metroid
For as long as video games continue to exist, it's going to be tough to top the twist ending of the original Metroid for those that experienced it truly untainted. We're referring, of course, to the discovery that supposedly male bounty hunter Samus Aran is actually a woman.
Variations on Metroid's ending reveal different degrees of Samus' skin depending on certain conditions that must be met. To get the grand reveal of Samus in a tiny two-piece bathing suit, you have to beat the entire game in under an hour. Not only is this difficult in and of itself, but with no in-game timer to speak of, it's up to you and your own stopwatch to ensure your time is tracking properly.
16 Buy Me To The Moon - Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land
Mario's greedy, gassy doppleganger has an insatiable thirst for material goods, and he has spent his entire video game career amassing money and property. But he has never gotten a prize quite like the one he acquired in his first-ever solo adventure.
In Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land, getting all of the treasures is obviously the ideal end result for Wario. But as usual, that's not good enough--he wants more. And if you manage to get an astounding 99,999 coins, Wario will be able to literally buy the moon in the game's secret, most final ending. Who is Wario actually buying the moon from, you ask? If that's the point in Wario Land where the logic falls apart for you, you weren't paying attention.
15 108% Completion - Suikoden 2
The two Suikoden games for PS1 might not have the name recognition or blockbuster sales of Final Fantasy, but that doesn't mean they aren't just as good. And one of the big selling points is that you can find and recruit over 100 characters to join you on your quest.
In the first game, getting the 108 "stars" was all that was needed to see the true ending. But Konami decided that wasn't enough work, so for Suikoden 2, you had get all 108 characters and fight some tricky bosses and complete some timed challenges. Oof. Unfortunately, the Suikoden series took a nosedive in quality after part 2, so you're better off working towards this ending than playing subsequent games in the series.
14 All Together Now - Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
As it stands, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will be the last entry in the acclaimed series as we had known it. All we can do that future post-Kojima entries are more Metal Gear Rising and less Metal Gear Survive.
MGSV's Nuclear Disarmament ending is especially difficult because it requires the cooperation of, well, everyone who plays the game.
To see the very obscure ending, you not only have to have no nuclear weapons completed or even in progress in your own game by the end, but nobody else playing the game for that platform can, either. So for instance, everyone playing the PS3 version of the game has to have a nuke-free save file in order for anyone to see the ending.
13 Sorry Not Sorry - Spec Ops: The Line
Near the end of shooter Spec Ops: The Line, the player finds out that an old friend they thought they were communicating with through the entire game isn't quite what he seemed, and the player finds out they have been unknowingly committing some pretty terrible deeds.
While the game's main ending only seems to play out one way, the player is faced with a choice after the credits: To surrender to the soldiers he encounters or decide to take them all on. At this point in the game, the protagonist is all messed up which makes his chances of taking out this entire squad difficult, but if he does, the player gets a secret epilogue in which he forgoes his chance at atonement.
12 A Literal Game Over - Nier
There is no other way to put it: Nier is a weird, weird game. And it stands to reason that such a bizarre game would have one of the strangest endings in video game history.
Few game endings break the fourth wall quite like Nier's secret ending.
First, you have to beat the game three separate times. Then, at the end of your fourth playthrough, you're faced with the choice of taking out your friends or sacrificing yourself instead, which undoes all of the tragic events that your existence has caused in the world. Should you choose the self-sacrifice route, the game's world erases all traces of you ever having existed, which is represented by the game literally deleting your save file!
11 Always Suspect The Dog - Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2 remains one of the most acclaimed horror games in history. You can't really say it's the most "beloved," because that doesn't feel like the right word for such a heavy, depressing experience.
The fact that there's such a goofy ending to such a serious game would be like having Requiem For A Dream end with a fun dance number.
Sure enough, SH2 has an ending where you find out that a headset-wearing dog at a control panel is the source of all the terrible things in the game. To get this ending, you have to first get the game's four normal endings, then find a dog house, get the key, and use it in the Observation Room of Lakeview Hotel.
10 Pure And Not So Simple - Warhammer 40K: Dawn Of War 2
A lot of games have some version of a good path and a bad path that you can take, and to that point, there is usually an ending dependent on which side you end up on by the finale. However, you typically have at least a little wiggle room to waver a bit during the course of a game so long as you're firmly on a given "side" by the end.
Dawn of War 2 gives you zero room for error in remaining pure for the best ending.
In order to get the game's "pure" ending, you and your party have to spend the entire game 100% free of any corruption whatsoever. What makes this particularly challenging is that many of the best items up your corruption levels.
9 Glutton For Punishment - Painkiller
It stands to reason that a game with such a title will put you through the ringer to get any sort of ending whatsoever, and that is definitely the case here. Moreover, you can also rest assured that to get the best ending, your skills are going to be pushed to their absolute limits.
In order to get Painkiller's best ending, you first need to not only finish the game on the brutal "Nightmare" difficulty but do so while satisfying every level's card condition. But wait, you aren't done yet. Next, you have to beat the game once more, this time on the absolutely punishing "Trauma" difficulty level, and only then can you see the game's full, true ending. Ouch indeed.
8 What Just Happened!? - Drakengard
We mentioned before how weird Nier is. Well, that game and its sequel, Nier: Automata, are actually a spin-off series of another franchise called Drakengard--and as a matter of fact, they are spun off from the first Drakengard entry's most bonkers ending.
It would be impossible to put into words just what the heck is happening in Drakengard's wackadoodle fifth ending, so we aren't even going to try.
What we will do, however, is tell you how to get "Ending E," which requires that you first get the other four endings, and then obtain all 65 of the game's weapons. And voila: What should've just been a throwaway joke ending is actually the canonical introduction to a whole new game franchise.
7 Regis Rage Quits - Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
Before it was just a syndicated game show with a revolving door of hosts that you probably only watch now when it's on in a restaurant or the waiting room at the doctor's office, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? was briefly a major pop culture phenomenon that the entire country was watching and talking about. And of course, it spawned a video game adaptation.
If you play the original PC version of Millionaire, you'd better be on your game, because host Regis Philbin isn't here for your dilly-dallying. If you take too long entering your name, choosing the number of players, or choosing a Fastest Finger question, Regis will get so angry that he'll chastise you before literally closing out the entire game.
6 Farming Fail - Harvest Moon
Before Stardew Valley, even before Animal Crossing, there was Harvest Moon. And while there is some debate as to which is the best installment, a lot of people still default back to the original as the superior entry in the series.
One of the coolest things about the first HM is that there are a whopping 20 endings, with finales focusing on everything from who you marry to which crops you did best with. But there is one ending, known as the "Complete Failure" ending, that you can basically only get by doing absolutely nothing other than getting out of and going back to bed every day for an entire in-game year. Doing so will get you kicked off the farm--and rightfully so.
5 Eleven Times Too Many - Shadow The Hedgehog
For as much grief as the Sonic games have gotten over the last, oh, twenty years or so, there is a spin-off game starring one of his side characters that is even worse than any of his outings (except for Sonic '06, of course).
"Kids like Sonic, kids like GTA...so let's combine them!" said the world's most clueless marketing executive.
To play even one level of Shadow the Hedgehog to completion takes either a super-hardcore fan or a complete masochist. To play the 326 (!) total paths through the game that it would take to get the initial ten endings and then the 11th "true" ending would take someone losing a bet and then never again speaking to the person they made the bet with.
4 So The Wedding Is Off, Then? - House Of The Dead
Sega's House of the Dead was a groundbreaking game for a number of reasons, but one of its least-touted accomplishments was that it was an arcade game that actually had multiple endings.
Sure, you could "win" by beating the end boss, saving the day, and getting the credits like most arcade games. Or, you could somehow finish the game with less than 62,000 points, which requires you to play very carefully and basically only finish off the enemies that are required to advance a scene. Oh, and also not continue at all. Your "reward" for that hard work is to see the game's bad ending, where your fiance, Sophie, turns into a zombie. Stuff like this is what YouTube is for...
3 Trailers Should Be Earned - Kingdom Hearts 2
If you can sum up the convoluted narrative of the Kingdom Hearts series in less than 5,000 words and still actually have it make sense, you deserve the Pulitizer Prize. And that's just the official canon--going down the rabbit hole of the various alternate endings in a given KH game is a whole other matter entirely.
Never before, or since, has so much work been required just to watch a glorified trailer.
That's right: KH2's "secret ending" is little more than a sneak peek at the then-upcoming PSP sequel Birth By Sleep. Which wouldn't be so bad, except that to unlock it, you had to finish Jiminy's Journal, unlock all worlds, level all summons to 7, and finish the Hadex Paradox with 15,000 points!
2 We Are The World - Ogre Battle: The March Of The Black Queen
We mentioned in the introduction that sometimes that hardest-to-unlock ending to a game is the only canonical ending. One such example of this is SNES classic Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen, with its "World Ending" being both the only true ending and also the ending that requires the most effort.
For starters, you have to have all 12 Stones collected and have a Reputation meter, which is obvious enough. But then things get obtuse when you are required to have Rauny and Tristan recruited but not Gaif. To make things even tougher, each character has their own unique send-off screen in the ending, and everyone has to be recruited and alive at the end to see them all.
1 Dark Hero Days, Indeed - Disgaea 2
People who want games they can really sink their teeth into and play them for months--if not years--would do well with the Disgaea series. And this is especially true for people who are interested in seeing all of the endings to a Disgaea game.
Disgaea 2 has a bad ending that not only requires the usual hundreds of hours that all Disgaea games do but also some other difficult feats. To see this ending, you need to off 99 of your allies (including the main heroine), commit 99 felonies, and defeat a boss that is level 2,000. Yes, that's two thousand. Our content guidelines prohibit us from fully explaining what happens in this ending, but let's just say Hannibal Lecter would enjoy it.