Generally speaking, when you play a game, especially a narrative-driven one, you become invested enough to want to reach the end and see how everything wraps up. And when a game has multiple endings you’re often driven to get the best ending no matter how hard it is to obtain. What makes an ending better than another is subjective, but it usually involves as many of the characters still being alive as possible, as happy as possible and the world being in a better state than it was over the course of the game.
Every once in a while, usually through a sequel, developers will tell you that even if you did get the good ending that wasn’t the real ending they intended for the game. All the time spent gathering collectibles or beating secret super bosses might have been enjoyable but the ending you achieved through them wasn’t the true conclusion to the narrative.
Contains Major Spoilers For Game Endings
8 Far Cry 5
It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say Far Cry 5 has a good ending at all. The ending with debatably the best outcome is one where you don’t do anything at all, ending the game within the first ten minutes. It might be expedient, but it’s certainly bad from a gameplay perspective. The ending where you refuse to fight Joseph Seed at the end doesn’t give a clear answer, but the radio playing the music Seed uses throughout the game to brainwash people as the screen fades out doesn’t suggest things end well for you.
The canonical ending, where you fight Seed, ends with nuclear warheads being detonated, and you become trapped in a bunker with Seed monologuing how he was right all along. As bleak an ending as this is, it did lead to the sequel Far Cry New Dawn, which is something of a consolation.
7 Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain
The Legacy of Kain series is better known for Soul Reaver and Soul Reaver 2, but it all began with Blood Omen in 1996. An action-adventure game where you take on the role of freshly turned vampire Kain, who struggles with his new, bloodthirsty nature and seeks to restore balance to the world. The caveat to that is that saving the world requires Kain to sacrifice his own life at the end of his journey.
You do have the option to not throw yourself on your sword, with Kain choosing to let the world fall into ruin under his tyrannical boot as a vampire king. This is the ending the sequels treat as canon, or at least canon until multiple characters start time traveling and altering past events. Keeping track of the timeline in Legacy of Kain isn’t an easy task but the majority of the events in the series hinge on Kain making the selfish choice at the end of Blood Omen.
Drakengard, an action-roleplaying game, comes with five separate endings and is unusual in that more than one of them are canon. One ending leads as you might expect to a direct sequel, Drakengard 2. The last ending, labeled Ending E is a little different. Ending E isn’t technically considered a bad ending so much as a gag ending, it was included last minute by the developers mainly as a joke.
The final boss of the game, the Queen-beast, is transported from the games folklore inspired fantasy setting to 2003 Tokyo. There she is defeated by main character Caim and dragon Angelus is an odd musical confrontation, only for Caim and Angelus to be unceremoniously killed by fighter jets. While this doesn’t like it could possibly be canon, it is, just not for Drakengard. This is the ending the Nier series jumps off of, one with multiple endings of its own, showing that even developer easter eggs can lead to greatness.
5 Metro 2033
Set in Moscow during the titular year, Metro 2033 takes place in a future where a global nuclear holocaust has already taken place. First created by Dmitry Glukhovsky who is not shy of making a statement it should come as no surprise that the game sets out to do the same thing. In the games good ending, dubbed the Enlightened ending, you have the option to prevent a missile strike from eradicating the peace seeking Dark Ones.
In the book the game is based off of, that isn’t what happens though, and the sequel games treat the book ending as canon. In Metro 2033 this is the Ranger ending, where the missiles hit their intended target and protagonist Artyom is left to struggle with the ramifications of his actions.
4 Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The ending you reach in any Fire Emblem game is partly determined not only by which game you’re playing, but how you use each character. Units can grow close bonds and have their endings tied to each other, getting married and even having children. For the most part though the conclusion to the main story has a clear canon.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses offers you a choice of four distinct routes, with no clear indication of which one is canon. Whichever ending you decide is canon for you is invariably the worst ending for someone else, and there is no route available that doesn’t involve the death of multiple fan favorite characters.
There’s a case to be made for Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes providing you with a more unequivocally possible ending to the story, but a spinoff game with multiple routes of its own doesn’t change the fact that Three Houses doesn’t truly have a good ending, meaning all of them are bad by definition.
3 Shadow Hearts
An underrated JRPG for the Playstation 2, Shadow Hearts is itself predicated on the bad ending of its prequel Koudelka. The chain continues as the third game, Shadow Hearts: Covenant treats the bad ending of Shadow Hearts as canon, with the best ending of Covenant providing the opportunity to undo the bad ending of Shadow Hearts.
It’s a little complicated. Alice, the leading lady of Shadow Hearts, sacrifices herself for the sake of main character Yuri’s life in the games bad ending. In the good ending she and Yuri discover a way to prevent this, but that isn’t considered canon until after you get the ending in Shadow Hearts: Covenant that allows Yuri to travel back in time to the beginning of the previous game, equipped with the knowledge to ensure the bad ending never comes to pass. Maybe time travel was the bad ending all along, it always makes things confusing.
2 Dragon Quest
Dragon Quest could easily be considered the series that defines the entire JRPG genre. The original game, released all the way back in 1986 in Japan, had both a good and a bad ending, not something that was especially common for the time. In the good ending, the tyrannical Dragon Lord asks you to join him in ruling the world. It’s a typically villainous move to try and tempt the hero to the dark side, and one which the hero canonically refuses, ultimately leading to the events of Dragon Quest 2.
It is also a choice that the hero canonically accepts. Dragon Quest Builders, released an entire 30 years later, is set in a version of the world where the bad ending took place. The world lies in ruin, overrun by monsters, and so it falls to you to rebuild and return the world to its former glory.
One of the best tactical game series of all time, XCOM is known for being a challenge even to the most strategically minded player. So challenging in fact that when it came to make the sequel, developers Firaxis took note that a remarkably low number of players had managed to push through to the ending.
Deciding to build on this they opted to set the sequel in a timeline where you, the player, loses the war against alien invaders. Not only did you lose, you lost decisively and early in your defense attempts. This is for the best though, fighting as an insurgent force against alien overlords is a fantastic setting and part of what makes XCOM 2 such a tactical treat.
Next: Games With The Hardest ‘Best Endings’ To Obtain