Video game endings and (probably) the last of what I have to say about Mass Effect 3

Well, there you have it. That ending. It was something…else…? I mean that thing…whoa, right? And then I was all like what the eff…??? But that was after the whole ordeal with those guys and the stuff… It was like, um…yeah it was!

Really? Hmm.

(First of two, that’s right, two **spoiler** warnings)

I recently, finally finished ME3, and I took a little time to fully digest the ending. And since the whole thing is finally down, I really don’t want to regurgitate everything that happened, so here’s the super-kinka-maya-maya-quicky version.  Shepard made it to the Reaper beam after nearly being killed in the London siege. (I really thought she was going to die during it and someone else from the team was going to take over, but no). The ship, the dead bodies, Anderson, Shepard’s slow (OMG SLOOOOOW) stagger to that infinite room, the Illusive Man, the shot, the “elevator” ride, the ghost boy “catalyst,” the big, big choice — control or destroy the Reapers. I listened, a little unsure about the whole thing, and then I made my choice: destroy. Big cut scene, Shepard may or may not be dead, Normandy narrowly escapes and ends up on a virtual Garden of Eden planet. Credits roll.

There there now; none of this was your fau…wait, actually…ALL of it was your fault. Just sit. (source)

And that was that.  I was still a little confused and underwhelmed, but ME3’s ending didn’t make me want to go on a rampage and burn down the internets. I didn’t hate the ending but I didn’t like it either. I did finally read a bunch of posts on the matter, such as this one and this one, the “indoctrination theory,” the DLC that supposedly fixes everything (I’ve downloaded it but not yet played). It’s all very interesting and proof that video gaming is a true passion for most players. And that’s a great thing. Me, I’m still not sure what to think except that I think I could use a big break from Mass Effect.

But ME3’s ending did get me thinking about video game endings in general. Endings are tough to create. I imagine that ME’s writers, at some point, had a tough time figuring out how to end the series, for better or for worse. If you’ve ever written anything – a book, a song, an essay, a term paper, a play, hell, an email to your boss – you know that the ending can be the best and/or worst part. Best because it’s over; worst because is it really over? I’ve played a few games here and there; some have had bad endings and some have had great endings, and I don’t think ME3 had the worst one. So here’s my short and opinionated list of games I’ve played with endings that I liked less than Mass Effect 3.

(Second of two **spoiler** warnings, with spoiler-y links to YouTube.)

Portal
Portal is, without a doubt, one of my most favorite games of the past 10 years. It masterfully combined the best elements of a puzzler with the best parts of a first-person action/adventure game. I was absolutely captivated by the initial levels and GLaDOS. The second half of the game – the escape – was equally riveting. Then…there was the boss fight, in which you met GLaDOS face-to…er…eye, ball? I found it to be one of the most annoying and tiring boss battles in recent memory. I died, a lot, but I kept at it, only to be rewarded with an explosive, and not in a great way, trip out of the facility. The whole thing was rather gooey, fuzzy, not very interesting.  Of course, I enjoyed the crap out of “Still Alive,” and the cake reveal was something, but not an OMG moment.

Fable 3 (Video for the “good” ending)
This was a hard call because I really disliked the endings of all three Fable games. But it was the end of Fable 3 that drew my ire. The whole business with the Crawlers and the final boss was just dumb.  Dumb throughout the whole game, and even dumber at the end.  But really, the second “half” of the game that was little more than a couple extra hours of game play, the whole build-your-army-and-treasury section to the final credits was simply unsatisfying after such a great first half.  Now, I actually liked the idea of maintaining my kingdom’s finances, but it amounted to little more then making a few “good” or “bad” choices, none of which really affected the outcome. (And I played through as both good and bad heroes.) In the end, you went to the last battle with whatever you had – maybe most of the population survived and maybe most of it didn’t. Maybe you chose to build some things and eliminate other things. Sure the towns looked a little different afterwards, and people either liked or hated you, but there was nothing all that special about it.

Uncharted 3
Ugh. I’ve already stated my feelings on this one, so I’ll make this short. Uncharted 3 was a fine game by any 3rd person action/adventure standards, and it had its moments of greatness, but the whole end game just made me sad. Sad and uninspired. And pretty angry since a better, similar ending had already been done in Uncharted 2.  From finding the lost city Iram of the Pillars to Drake, Elena, and Sully riding off into the damn sunset, it was all sorts of not good.

Paper Mario
Mario games aren’t really famed for their wonderful, in-depth endings (let alone their stories, in general), but I think Paper Mario might have the worst of the lot. It pains me to ponder this fantastic game in conjunction with an ending that’s summed up in two words: unending fireworks. Yep. After saving Peach from Bowser, after saving all the worlds in the game and meeting a bunch of new cohorts, after watching the ubiquitous stream of characters along with the credits, you get Mario and Peach watching fireworks. Fireworks that literally go on and on and on until you physically end the game. But what’s even worse is that there’s no option to continue your game after that. If you go back to play, you end up at the same save point before meeting Bowser. Unless your willing to trudge all the way back through the levels to get to the unfinished stuff (I tried once and just didn’t have the patience, shame on me maybe), your unfinished quests remain that way FOREVER. So sucky after such a wonderful game.

DOOM
For me, DOOM really knocks the notion of a bad ending out of the park. After having a great and terrifying time shooting your way out of Hell, text was thrown on the screen telling you that a did a fantastic  job with all the killing and stuff. But it also inferred that your hellish fight might not be over yet. All that was kinda lame. Then the screen melted to reveal a serene field with a little bunny.  Hmmm…interesting?  But a quick pan to the left revealed the seething, fiery gate to Hell and a bloody bunny head on a stick. Just yuck. I mean, c’mon, how could a bunny pose any threat to hellspawn? In one moment, he’s enjoying clover, in the next, BAM!, he’s decapitated, head on a stick. I understand that everything set up the means for a sequel, but after the adrenaline rush of the game, the ending was an unimpressive let-down.

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If you’ve played ME3, does it top your least-enjoyed endings list, or do other games come to mind?

7 thoughts on “Video game endings and (probably) the last of what I have to say about Mass Effect 3”

  1. I had the same reaction with the ME3 ending. I didn’t love it or hate it. I was more disappointed than anything else. I think the extended cut helped improve the ending somewhat, at least in terms of character closure, but that’s it really. Do I wish the developers did a better job with the ending? Absolutely. But as you said, endings are difficult to write. Everyone is going to have a different idea of how they see their favorite game, book, or show ends. You aren’t going to please everyone.

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    1. Very true. No matter how the writers had ended ME, it would have upset someone. I’ve read that the extended cut isn’t perfect, but I still look forward to playing through it.

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  2. Yaaaay! Congratulations on finishing! Thanks for the link back to my post 🙂

    The sad thing about my Little Sister Gaming venture was that I admitted to the public that I have truly finished so few games, I don’t know how qualified I am to compare. The only thing coming to mind right now is when I beat the New Super Mario Bros Wii after dying about a million times against Bowser on the night of my 21st birthday, alone in my apartment. It sounds depressing but because I finally won, it was a raucous party of 1 afterwards, HA.

    Which, new thought that crosses my mind: maybe we’re willing to let ending quality slip as players if they are truly gratifying. If ME3 had ended right after I made it to the launch computer terminal, running for dear life through like 5 banshees and a swarm of husks and the Krogan-husk things, I probably would’ve just wept and been like “I MADE IT AHAHAHA BEST GAME EVER” but then I had to walk (SO SLOW) for like 20 minutes after that it and my lengthy battle seemed to lose meaning.

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    1. Thanks and you’re welcome! Ending ME3 with the London siege would have been fine with me as well. After the Reaper got hit with the missiles and was destroyed, in my mind, a large piece of shrapnel shot down from the sky killing Shepard. Maybe there was a final gasp as he/she met his/her paramour, but that was it. The world rejoiced and there was a lovely memorial…maybe even a statue made. But none of that happened, so the ending was what it was. The many hours of play before that were no less fun and intense.

      By the way, I just started New Super Mario Bros. Wii — it’s a blast so far! I hate coming to the end of a Mario game because (1) I always have a hard time beating Bowser and (2) I expect that it won’t be all that great. In this case, having great gameplay does sorta make up for a bad ending. Oh but how I do wish Paper Mario had given players a chance to continue their games!

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  3. My personal favorite ending on Mass Effect 3 (after the extended cut) was the control ending. It was so something my Shepard would have done and I felt so good about it. Plus I didn’t screw everyone over, so I was happy. 🙂

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    1. For some reason the red and blue choices didn’t register in my mind as renegade and paragon (must’ve been all that Reaper tech fogging up the works, haha), so I guess my paragon went rogue. I just didn’t follow the whole setup very well. I still feel ambivalent about the ending I got, and I plan to play through again to see the other ones.

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      1. Yea they explain them a little strangely because it seems like the red one is paragon and the blue is renegade. I played through all three and the green one is pretty decent but the blue was the best for a paragon. i felt the red was the worst.

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