It's a simple formula: Beginning. Middle. End. Each part of the whole should complement the other well, providing quality engagement from the beginning that carries through to the end. As it is with movies, books and other mediums, so it is for video games.
Unfortunately, not all game endings are created equal. Numerous titles, even some of the very best, have provided finales that were utterly disappointing. How would gamers feel if they were left hanging at the end of a lengthy, challenging journey? What happens when a game is undone when it was “all a dream”? Then there are all those confusing, ambiguous conclusions that leave gamers feeling shortchanged after investing innumerable hours of their lives in the story.
There may be nothing worth for a gamer than investing all their time and passion into a newly loved game, only to witness an ending that completely fails to deliver in any meaningful way. An experience like this can ultimately destroy a game's reputation, and the last thing a company wants is to leave a bad lasting impression.
The following are the 11 worst offenders, the most disappointing finales ever to unfold in video game history. Be warned, spoilers ahead.
11 Final Fantasy X
What’s worse than a bad ending after putting in countless hours of gameplay? No ending.
To say that Final Fantasy X’s non-ending was unclear and ambiguous is an understatement.
The game saw a group of guardians, including the main character Tidus, lead the chosen summoner on her pilgrimage to stop a raging monster known as Sin. The summoner, Yuna, fulfills her quest and the budding romance between herself and Tidus can finally blossom. That is, until Tidus mysteriously disappears in the game’s conclusion... What?
Final Fantasy storylines have always been convoluted, but never like this: apparently Tidus may or may not have been a dream, and killing the big baddie led to his disappearance. Was he dead? Was he in another world? This “ending” was so frustrating that the game actually got a sequel, a first for the Final Fantasy series, to rectify the confusing mess.
Like many games on the list, this ending could have been fantastic. Instead, the gamer is left with an awkward void and a wildly unsatisfying end.
10 Psi Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy sees the player take control of Nick Scryer, a “Psi-Operative” who has lost his memory and is capable of psychic abilities such as telekinesis and mind control. Tasked to bring down a terrorist organization, the gamer fights off armies of soldiers as well as other Psi-Operatives in epic battles.
The story was shaping up to be epic, but it failed miserably with the game’s ending. After regaining your memory, beating your former general and recovering powerful artifacts capable of mass destruction, helicopter gunships come at you in order to claim said artifacts. What a great set-up!
Too bad the screen then fades to black, with the words “TO BE CONTINUED” making the gamer cringe.
And no, the story won’t be continued because the game's developer, Midway, has shut down. The company was also sued for stealing the idea for the game, making this a disappointment on many levels.
9 Ghosts ‘N Goblins
This finale hurts twice as much because of the insane difficulty presented in Ghosts ‘N Goblins. Taking on the role of the knight Sir Arthur, the gamer must defeat all kinds of ghoulies and monsters in order to rescue Princess Prin Prin from the hands of Satan himself.
Sure, it’s plenty fun, but the player can only take two hits before losing a life and starting the level over - an incredibly frustrating and repetitive task. Once Sir Arthur makes it to the final boss and defeats him, the game drops a bomb that’s so perverse and so inhumane, hundreds of controllers were chucked at television sets..
The final fight was an illusion, and the game must be played in its entirety again from the beginning – and it's even harder the second time round! That’s the only way the player can witness the “real” ending. Infinitely cruel and so very disappointing.
Another game with a disappointing non-ending, Borderlands is a phenomenal first-person shooter with RPG elements and a myriad of customizable weapons at your disposal. The gamer takes on the role of a Vault Hunter, a mercenary whose goal is to find the hidden Vault on the planet Pandora. The Vault, the gamer is led to presume, holds many treasures and alien technology that can lead to immeasurable growth.
After many hours of killing enemies and completing quests, the gamer finally reaches the Vault. But what does he find there? Nothing, other than a massive final boss. That’s right: you've been lied to. Staggering disappointment flooded gamers everywhere.
The disappointing finale doesn't really change the high opinion gamers have of Borderlands, but it does dampen an adventure that promised so much.
7 Shenmue 2
No matter which way you spin it, leaving the player hanging after putting countless hours into the game sucks. Sure, it can generate massive anticipation for the sequel but what happens when a sequel is never developed? Such was the case for Shenmue 2, a great game with a lame, cliffhanger ending.
In Shenmue 2, Ryo Hazuki embarks on a vengeful mission to track down his father’s murderer. The game’s world was immersive, filled with interesting gameplay and great characters. After hours of working odd jobs to pay for your living quarters mixed in with the occasional fights, Shenmue 2 fizzles out in its conclusion with Ryo finding a cryptic note and inadvertently setting off a bizarre device.
That’s it. There’s no encounter with his dad’s killer and no resolution to the story. Eleven years later and fans are still waiting for the next installment which will probably never come. Anti-climactic and so very disappointing.
6 Batman: Arkham Asylum
Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum was a phenomenal game, giving gamers the Batman game they rightfully deserved. The player took control of the Dark Knight, using his gadgets, stealth, and his cowl for gliding, balancing the action with fun detective work.
Everything about this game clicked on all cylinders, from the voice acting and the story to the gameplay and design. The ending, however, did not do justice to the rest of the game. After numerous hours of challenges, puzzles and butt-kicking, the final boss battle against the Joker was bizarre and underwhelming.
In the Batman mythos, the Joker is the conniving, psychologically-disturbed character who plays mind games with Batman - not a physical threat juiced-up on the Titan drug. Fans agreed it just didn't work.
The fight could have perhaps been fun, but even it was poorly executed: the Clown Prince of Crime sends his minions after you, with the game failing to even make the most of a juiced-up Joker. The ending was boring and anti-climactic, completely undeserving of the praise that the game as a whole garnered.
5 Halo 2
The Halo franchise redefined the first-person shooter. Halo 2 was arguably the best in the series, with beautiful graphics, amazing combat gameplay and an online mode that still ranks among the best video game experiences of all time.
The problem was it was the second part of a larger story. This all but guaranteed that its ending would disappoint leading up to the final chapter. No one could have predicted, though, just how badly it would be handled.
Master Chief is heading towards the final mission, ready to “finish this fight”, and then… nothing? Really? The gamer was being set up for this epic confrontation and it abruptly ends just like that?
Devoid of emotion and lacking any punch, millions of devoted Halo fans groaned at this mess of an ending. It was a tease for the third instalment, plain and simple. Inexcusable.
4 Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
The sequel to the awesome Knights of the Old Republic is a fantastic game in its own right, filled with great battles and an intriguing storyline. What it fails to do, like all the other entries on this list, is to provide a good ending worthy of the game that came before it.
Epic in its scope and successful in its execution, The Sith Lords sees the player travel all over the galaxy, gathering weapons and items and more importantly, forging alliances and developing relationships with other supporting characters that gamers truly care about.
Instead of seeing the fruits of your labor and a nice little wrap-up of everyone’s storyline, the gamer is treated to a conversation with the incredibly dull secondary character Kreia. There are no grandiose cinematics, no other boss battle or level to complete, just hypothetical nonsense on what may or may not have happened to some characters provided through boring dialogue.
The game developers rushed the ending, leaving too many loose ends and going out with a whimper.
3 Mass Effect 3
The Mass Effect series defined the last generation of gaming, with its masterful gameplay, its attention to detail, its high-standards of presentation and its overall awesomeness. People were beyond excited to see how this epic series which spanned 3 phenomenal games would conclude. Choices that were made in each game would supposedly affect the outcome of the finale. Supposedly.
When players reached the end of Mass Effect 3, the game offered three different scenarios ignoring all personal choices that had been made in the games prior. In addition, this hundred-hour journey ended with a cut-scene that barely answered any questions and left the fates of the gamer’s crew completely up in the air.
To say that fans were furious with that ending is an understatement. How disappointing was the ending? Bioware, the game’s developer, released a new ending to appease the outcry from its fanbase. They did it to “clarify events”, which was basically a nice way of saying they screwed up. It’s not the worst ending to a video game, but it’s definitely one of the most disappointing considering the journey that came before it.
2 Resistance 2
There’s just something about middle entries in video game series that just can’t pull off a satisfying ending. The same can be said of Resistance 2, the second installment in this sci-fi horror first-person shooter series.
Nathan Hale, fresh off battling the invading Chimera in Europe, travels to the US in order to once again fend off the alien attack. This time around he’s infected with the Chimeran virus but keeps it under control for most of the game, until the very end when he seems to lose his humanity and is unceremoniously killed off by the last surviving member of his squad, Corporal Joseph Capelli.
Killing off the main character two thirds of the way through the series wasn’t even the mistake. If done right, it could have left a lasting impression. No, it’s how they killed him off: Capelli just shoots him in the head in a 20 second cut-scene. Credits roll. No attempt at trying to save him or restrain him. No emotion. No closure. Simply no good.
1 The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
The Legend of Zelda series can do no wrong when it comes to gameplay and design. Even the stories, which are usually pretty standard fantasy fare, are always solid. There’s always a Hero of Time named Link, there’s a mystical Triforce to retrieve and a Princess Zelda to save in the land of Hyrule.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, the first handheld title in the series, foregoes Hyrule, Zelda and the Triforce, instead taking the stranded Link to Koholint Island, a place ruled by the sleeping Wind Fish. Link must gather eight musical instruments hidden in dungeons and use them together to wake the Wind Fish, which would allow the hero to escape from the island.
So far, so good. After playing the “Ballad of the Wind Fish”, the egg that carries the magical creature breaks open, revealing the final boss of the game, an evil shapeshifting entity known as Nightmare. Once defeated, the Wind Fish makes his grand entrance and proclaims the unthinkable: it was all a dream.
It was all... A dream.
No video game (or anything for that matter!) should ever end like that. Instead of saving the world and vanquishing evil, all that effort goes to waste, leaving the gamer with a hollow feeling. Link's Awakening is an amazing game whose ending will go down in history as one of the most disappointing ever.