As video games continue to evolve, featuring ever-greater visuals and mechanics, their storytelling generally improves too.
Some of today’s titles give us characters we care about, exciting plot points, and compelling concepts – just look at games like The Last of Us, Mass Effect, Red Dead Redemption, the Tomb Raider reboot, and the Fallout series.
During these games, you feel a strong connection to the virtual world and its leading characters, helping you to really invest in the action unfolding right in front of you. With the massive play-times many titles offer (some open-world games providing more than 50 or even 70 hours of gameplay), you can invest months and months into an experience.
After all this time, you want to enjoy a well-made, exciting, rewarding finale that makes your efforts feel worth it.
Often, video games feature strong endings; sometimes, though, we have to sit through poor conclusions that leave us scratching our heads. The journey to the ending is what counts, though, so let’s not pretend a bad finale negates the fun you’ve had … but that doesn’t mean we have to suffer in silence!
Let’s take a look at 7 games with disappointing endings.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
The Legend of Zelda series definitely has its fans (millions of them, to be more precise), but even the biggest Link-lover would struggle to defend the ending to Link’s Awakening.
Taking Link to a place known as Koholint Island (under the rule of the snoozing Wind Fish), this does away with the already-established elements like Zelda and Hyrule. This quest asks players to liberate eight musical instruments from various dungeons, with an overall goal to waking the Wind Fish and, ultimately, allowing Link to leave the island.
However, when the Wind Fish does wake from its slumber, it reveals that the entire game was all a dream. Nothing you did matters. Nothing happened outside of Link’s head.
This is the kind of twist a first-time writer might toss in at the end of a short story assigned as homework – not what players expect from a Zelda game, dammit!
When the Xbox first entered the gaming arena, Halo came with it to kick butt and took names. In the years since, there have been plenty of sequels and spin-offs, helping to establish Halo as one of the best first-person shooter franchises ever.
Still, that doesn’t mean the games are without flaws – and none more so than Halo 2.
Don’t know what we mean? It’s that ending. That abrupt, cruel, slap-across-the-face of an ending.
Master Chief is prepped for a final mission, amped-up to (in his own words) “finish this fight”. By this point, fans are frothing at the mouth, ready to climb into the screen and waste enemies alongside Master Chief himself.
And then the game ends, with no chance to experience that final confrontation … until the third game, of course. While this was an obvious business move to build anticipation for the next instalment, fans felt robbed of a proper ending after investing all that time into the game.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Arkham Asylum is a classic, bringing fans of the Dark Knight the game we’ve always wanted to play. Gone was the basic platforming and basic combat of previous adaptations (though some of them still definitely have their place), replaced by an intelligent, action-packed adventure that remains staggeringly true to the character and his world.
Still, the ending is something of a let-down.
After being taunted by the Joker throughout the game, a confrontation is inevitable. However, while the Joker’s definitely a powerful figure, he’s no physical match for Batman. Rocksteady decided to even the odds a little by having him become a hulking monster after injecting himself with Titan.
The showdown between Bats and the Clown Prince of Crime is fun to play, but transforming Joker into a muscular beast feels a tad out of sync with the source material. And, to make it worse, the cut-scene following it is way too short, leaving players with little to chew on.
Take a helping of Mad Max-like post-apocalytpic imagery, toss in some bizarre characters, add a sprinkle of exciting first-person blasting, and voilà! You have Borderlands.
After ploughing through the game in your quest to find a hidden Vault, you’re led to believe that a horde of treasures lie at the end of your journey.
Sadly, when you finally reach the Vault, there’s nothing inside but a huge end-of-game boss.
You fight it. You realise there’s no wealth ahead of you. The end.
Again, this doesn’t diminish the quality of the game itself, but to work towards a goal only to find it’s something far less interesting and rewarding is a bit of a kick in the crotch to gamers.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Without doubt, Metal Gear Solid 2 was something of a disappointment in some respects. While the gameplay has a lot of great points, and offers up plenty of exciting moments, the plot really does go right off the rails. Even people who played the preceding game dozens of times would still feel a little bamboozled by the game’s story come the finale.
As before, much of the game’s conclusion involves setting the joypad on the floor and watching endless conversations unfold on your screen, wondering what the heck everyone’s babbling about.
Tomb Raider (1996)
As anyone who played Lara’s first adventure (way back in a magical time known as the mid-1990s) will know, the game is really pretty hard. Not as difficult as, say, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES, but it’s still no walk in a dew-coated meadow.
You spend hours and hours reaching the end: exploring one tomb after another; fighting all manner of mutant freaks, gun-toting bad guys, and (sadly) endangered exotic animals; solving countless infuriating puzzles.
What do you get as a reward? A sixty-second FMV cut-scene of Lara running from an exploding pyramid, before swimming to her fancy yacht and sailing into the sunset.
So, we’ll just make do with our pride, then.
Mass Effect 3
Okay, we know this is an obvious choice, but it’s hard to leave this off a list of disappointing game endings.
The Mass Effect series is fantastic. Whether you’re a science-fiction fan, a lover of great games, or both, you’ll become so deeply immersed in the universe of Shepard, Tali, Ashley, Joker et al, the idea of a weak ending doesn’t even enter your mind.
Unfortunately, BioWare really dropped the ball with said ending, leaving players with very little to go on. After asking Shepard to make a final choice, the game ends abruptly, and actually makes some of the previous instalments’ events feel, well, a tad meaningless.
Luckily (or not, depending on your point of view), BioWare took the fans’ complaints on board, and released a patch for a more elaborate, expansive ending that helped to stop gamers feeling cheated. We’ve got a new Mass Effect game coming soon enough, with all new characters, so hopefully that will build towards a better, stronger ending from the start.
Well, that brings our look at 7 video games with disappointing endings to a close! What do you think of our choices? Which games have left you feeling cheated? Let us know!