It is exceptionally difficult to make a satisfying ending to a video game. There are often such personal affairs where a player’s own actions so heavily affect their experience, that it’s tough to please everybody with a game’s conclusion. However, when a game does stick the landing with its ending, it often elevates a work from great to genre-defining. Likewise, when an otherwise good game botches its ending, it leaves players with the sense that they may have wasted dozens of hours of their time.
While a title’s ending is incredibly important in every genre of games, it is more important in Role Playing Games than any other genre. RPGs can span dozens or even hundreds of hours, with story elements of various importance popping up around every corner. With gamers demanding that new RPGs be bigger and filled with more content than ever before, endings in this genre of games are trickier than ever. Between this desire for more content and financial incentives, it’s no wonder that a lot of game developers are starting to forgo endings entirely in RPGs and instead make them an ongoing piece of media that’s constantly updated or told over multiple games in a continuous narrative.
For better or worse, though, each of these games have some kind of ending. These conclusions either bring a game to almost unparalleled heights or worsen what is otherwise a terrific experience. No ending is perfect, but these 30 games make it clear that some endings are a whole lot better than others.
27 Hurt: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
There is no questioning that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of the best and most successful video games in recent memory. However, its expansive and rich world came with the price of an unsatisfying conclusion. While there is a lot to do in Skyrim, the main storyline is painfully short and the final battle against Alduin is perhaps one of the least memorable features of the game. None of the endings to Skyrim’s various storylines are particularly great, and most players stop playing the game once they’re sick of it, instead of when they feel like they’ve beaten it.
26 Best: Final Fantasy VII
Even with a couple of spinoffs that take place after the main game, there’s no question that the ending to Final Fantasy VII is one of the best in gaming. After duking it out with the morbid Jenova and a monstrous version of Sephiroth, the final battle begins against his warped angelic form as the iconic ‘One Winged Angel’ plays. After this encounter, a scripted fight plays where Cloud finally defeats the last remnants of Sephiroth and frees himself from the madman’s influence. Cutting quickly to a restored planet, this ambiguous ending is one of the best in gaming.
25 Hurt: Fallout 4
There are four possible ways to end Fallout 4’s major plotline, and none of them feel particularly satisfying. You can either destroy the institute by siding with any of the other three factions in the game or you can join the institute and help control humanity by replacing parts of it with robotic doubles. Each of these endings is supposed to reflect different philosophies and outlooks on life, but instead, they all fall flat and these ideas feel mostly unexplored. Like most of Fallout 4, these endings are some fun flash with little substance.
24 Best: Chrono Trigger
There are multiple possible endings to Chrono Trigger, and they are all excellent. Depending on how much of the game you complete before you finally defeat the planet-devouring Lavos, a different ending will play. These endings are usually fun and quirky, but can also shine some interesting insights into the various characters who appeared throughout the game. With how likable each character is and how fun it is to explore this world, these endings feel like an appropriate reward for those who scoured every part of this groundbreaking game.
23 Hurt: Nier: Automata
In the incredible year of games that was 2017, Nier: Automata still managed to stand above most other new titles. With its addicting gameplay and bone-deep examination of humanities best and worst features, it’s a better and more thought-provoking game than most others. The final ending, however, leaves little to be desired. While requiring players to give up their save file to reach the final ending is a bold choice that hammers how important self-sacrifice and bonds are to the human condition, there’s not enough character resolution for it to be a satisfying finish.
22 Best: Bloodborne
There are a few different endings in the terrific and totally unique game Bloodborne, and they’re all spectacular. The hidden, and perhaps true, ending of the game is when the player destroys the diving being behind their existence in the game, ensuring that they themselves become an eldritch creature. As with most FromSofware games, this ending is ambiguous. Although it seems to imply that in defeating the Moon Presence and gaining the true knowledge of how this world fell to ruin, the player is now as powerful as the creatures that shaped it.
21 Hurt: Undertale
Undertale is a fantastic indie game and nothing short of one of the most creative and original video games ever made. However, the quality of its writing and the themes it built up in its previous storylines take a severe nosedive during its most villainous run. Here, the game resembles a creepypasta more than anything else and the themes of forgiveness and acceptance that permeated the game disappear in favor of shock value and a heavy-handed anti-violence message. It's unfortunate that a player must to harm the terrific characters in Undertale to experience all of its story.
20 Best: Persona 5
Even with a couple of dips throughout its 80 or so hour long storyline, Persona 5 is a terrific game that finishes on a high note. After destroying a tyrannical god with the power of the fallen angel Satanael, people learn that they don’t have to fall back on the various institutions of society to be happy or successful. Following this climactic battle is a much more relaxed stretch of gameplay where the player essentially says goodbye to the many lovable characters in Persona 5. This ending is equal parts heart wrenching and adrenaline pumping.
19 Hurt: Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy X is a sad game with a sad ending. The world of Spira is plagued by a monstrous being known as Sin that destroys anything it comes across and is reborn from the body of whoever manages to defeat it. This devastating cycle is eventually broken by the protagonist Tidus, but in doing so his temporary existence comes to an end. There’s no way for any character in Final Fantasy X to find enduring happiness, and this game’s ending is a pyrrhic one.
18 Best: Pokémon Gold And Silver
The first of the Pokémon games end with the player becoming the best Pokémon trainer in the world. The protagonist of the second set of games has the same goal, and the only way to do this is to defeat the player character from the first games. Beyond being a surprise reveal and a challenging encounter, this ending makes a player feel like they’ve grown more than any other title in gaming. In this battle, a player proves that they are better than when they were when they played the original Pokémon games.
17 Hurt: The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece in almost every regard. However, its ending leaves a bit to be desired. After an impressive battle against Calamity Ganon, the player must destroy him once and for all in his Dark Beast form. This fight is quite a bit more simplistic than the first and not nearly as challenging. Even if the ending of Link and Zelda venturing off into the horizon is a sweet ending, such an impressive game deserved a more impressive finale.
16 Best: Earthbound
Earthbound is a strange, wacky, and surprisingly dark game that pushes all of its ideas to the very limit in its finale. As the games heroes possess robot bodies, they confront the cosmic destructive being known as Giygas. The only way to win this battle is to use the obscure ‘Pray’ ability and, even then it's a fierce challenge. This final stretch Earthbound is one of the game’s best, and the very last scene's hint to future adventures is just icing on the cake.
15 Hurt: Fire Emblem Awakening
Fire Emblem Awakening is a great game that thrives off the strength of its character writing. It’s the main story, though, is more than a bit cliche and its ending isn’t anything new. The evil dragon is defeated, the protagonist is able to meet back up with their comrades, and friendship is able to conquer any obstacle. For a game where it’s so much fun to see characters engage with each other, it’s really a shame that it’s no more entertaining to see them interact with the main plot.
14 Best: Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy VI is perhaps the best of the 2D Final Fantasy games and features one of the best endings in video game history. After the world is nearly brought to ruin by the evil Kefka, the player travels around the world and recruits party members again before taking on the mad clown. Reuniting with these characters again now that they’ve built up new lives really makes them feel all the more fleshed out, and makes the final victory against Kefka all the more satisfying.
13 Hurt: Destiny
Destiny’s ending isn’t all that great, because it doesn’t really have one. Sure there are long-running narratives and story elements that build and wrap up with each new expansion, but it never really felt like there was a definitive conclusion to Destiny. Instead, Destiny 2 launched and shook up the status quo with new characters and settings. There were a lot of really interesting ideas in Destiny that could have used more exploration, but sadly instead Destiny ends with a whimper so that Destiny 2 can roll out and start the cycle all over again.
12 Best: The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one of the best games ever made, let alone one of the best RPGs of all time. On top of its exceptional gameplay and story, the ending also adds to the greatness of this exceptional title. After fighting through Ganondorf's evil castle and defeating him in a match of dead man’s volley, Link and Zelda have to escape from the collapsing building and then defeat him as the monstrous Ganon. Every game to release since Ocarina of Time has tried to match this final, incredible moment.
11 Hurt: Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 is a fun, if somewhat problematic game, that fumbles in its third act. After the secondary antagonist Vaas becomes incapacitated, the players spend the remainder of the game fighting against the much less charismatic and memorable Hoyt Volker. Considering how much of the marketing for this game centered on Vaas, it’s bizarre that he would be written out of it before the ending. Between the loss of the game’s best character and the ultimately nihilistic tone of both of its endings, there just isn’t much to love.
10 Best: Super Mario RPG
The basic ending to Super Mario RPG features a solid battle against the transforming Smithy. However, following this encounter, a post-game final battle allows a player to fight against Culex. This fight and ultimate finale to Super Mario RPG is incredible because it basically pits Mario and his friends against a melodramatic Final Fantasy villain. Beyond the battle's difficulty, the sheer sight of the cutesy Mario battling against a world-ending entity is simply terrific and one of the best endings in gaming.
9 Hurt: Kingdom Hearts II
The Kingdom Hearts games are terrifically fun and execute surprisingly well on their Disney crossed with Final Fantasy premise, but the story is nonsensical at best. Kingdom Hearts II’s ending hurts the game overall because so many questions are left unanswered. Yes, it’s satisfying to watch these deeply likable characters go on a journey of growth and self-discovery, but this is overshadowed by the overwhelming desire to know what exactly was going on. Kingdom Hearts II is fluffy and fun, but only brings disappointment when you try digging into its ending.
8 Best: Fallout: New Vegas
The multiple endings to Fallout: New Vegas all force a player to question what kind of society is best for humanity to prosper, or what prospering even looks like. Beyond confronting players with these deep, philosophical questions, the game even has the events of each ending unfold differently based on how a player interacted with the game. New Vegas’ ending both masterfully incorporates gameplay elements and makes a player question their beliefs about the world around them.
7 Hurt: Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy IV, also known as Final Fantasy II, when it first reached western shores, is a great JRPG that’s unfortunately bogged down by its ending. After hours of combating the villain Golbez and finally defeating him, the player learns that he was being mind controlled by Zemus, the true villain of the game. While this is supposed to be a narrative twist, it comes off as more confusing than anything else. Instead of building tension for an incoming and more powerful villain, it only undercuts the personal grudges the characters feel towards Golbez.
6 Hurt: Fire Emblem Fates
Fire Emblem Fates corrected one criticism lobbied at its predecessor, Fire Emblem Awakening, by making the games much more difficult. However, the story also become much more contrived. Told across three games, based on which kingdom the protagonist sides with, the endings of the Birthright and Conquest don’t feel satisfying enough because the player knows it isn’t the true ending. Likewise, Revelation’s ending isn’t great either, because at this point a player would have had to slog through two entire games to reach a predictable conclusion.
5 Best: Persona 4 Golden
Enticing story and complex battles aside, Persona 4 is a great game because of its collection of charming and complex characters. While the ending to the original Persona 4 is great, the true ending to Persona 4 Golden will resonate with anyone who has parted ways with friends. This ending features the protagonist returning to back to Inaba and, although all of his friends have grown and changed, the bond between them is as strong as ever.
4 Hurt: Mega Man Battle Network
The Mega Man Battle Network series of games are surprisingly solid and feature a brilliant battle system with great RPG mechanics. The first game definitely starts this series on a high note, but its ending brings it down. After defeating Dr. Wiley, the player can explore the most hidden corners of the net and face off against the super-boss Bass. However, instead of being a grand event, it’s instead a random encounter that voids it of a lot of potential tension and impact.
3 Best: Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy Of Goku II
Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku II is possibly one of the best licensed games ever made, taking players on a journey through Dragon Ball Z’s Android Saga. It manages to adapt the weight and intensity of Gohan’s showdown against Perfect Cell surprisingly well and bathed it in a soundtrack that pushed the GameBoy Advance to its very limits. Even if it didn’t look as good as the anime, this ending made the player feel as though they were the ones barely managing to defeat Cell in a desperate struggle.
2 Hurt: Pokémon Ruby And Sapphire
As the sequel games to Pokémon Gold and Silver, Ruby and Sapphire had a lot to live up to and fell short. There was no major reveal after defeating the Elite Four, and you could not explore a whole new region. Instead, the player could just capture a few legendary Pokémon and take on the underwhelming battle tower. The ending to these games is a disappointment because they failed to live up to the high bar set by its predecessors.
1 Hurt: Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV is a game of highs and lows. While the interactions between its main cast members are some of the most relatable in the entire franchise, it doesn’t make up for the game’s weak and daunting ending. After failing to stop the efforts of the evil Ardyn, the gang finds themselves in a ruined world. Not only is a player unable to really explore this dystopian environment, beating the game means that the main characters are no longer able to spend time with each other. It’s a sad ending for characters that deserved better.