We all have works of fiction that hit us hard when we were kids. Sure, some games have unforgettable moments in them. But when those moments happen at the end of a long journey, you can’t help but turn off the console and have to be alone for a while. These were the endings that moved us. That affected us in a way that you can’t help but give someone a weird stare when they tell you video games aren’t art.
Just a bit of a reminder: This is my personal list. So, while there may be games out there with “better” endings, these are the ones that got me. And if you don’t want any of these games spoiled for you, skip the entry!
5. Super Mario Bros 2
When I was a kid, there weren’t the blockbusters we had today. That said, it wasn’t Samus Aran taking off their space suit that kept me up at night. It was the fact that Mario had dreamt up the entire game I just beat.
My friends and I played the NES like crazy. We died again and again trying to get better. So, when it turns out that the whole adventure of Mario 2 was just a dream, my little mind blew up.
4. Prince of Persia Sands of Time
Fast forwarding time to when I was in high school, I loved any story involving time travel. Stories where the hero only succeeds because of something the future version of himself did, excites me to no end.
If you are familiar with the series, then you may ask, why didn’t I put Warrior Within? What I described sounded more like that than Sands of Time! Ah, but this is a list of endings. The actual ending of Sands of Time was the part of the game that left me with my mouth agape.
As the Prince, I went through this long and grueling adventure. My love is dead and I must stick the dagger in the hourglass. This sends me back in time to warn the Princess of the Vizier’s betrayal. I defeat the Vizier with ease, but Princess Farah has no memory of me. I then proceed to tell her the story of the game that I just played!
This was huge because every time I died in the game, the Prince as the narrator would say “No, no. That’s not how it happened.” You assume he’s just telling you. No one else!
But the final gut punch of this ending, is that she doesn’t believe him. So, he tells her a secret password that no one else knows. And the Prince acrobats his way into the night as Farah gasps.
3. Star Fox 64
I remember getting in trouble for this one. The ending was so long and my mom wanted my brother and I to come to dinner.
You are a pilot who takes after his dead father who disappeared on the planet you have the last mission on. Planet Venom. The whole place is exploding and all hope seems lost, when your father starts guiding your ship out.
Is he alive? Is it a ghost? Or have you just gone crazy? At the time, we had no answer for this. And my brother and I had both experienced the biggest shocker of an ending of our lives at that point. It was simply amazing.
2. Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3
From here on, the spoiled endings may ruin the actual experience for you, as these are story-based games. I believe that Prince of Persia and Star Fox are wonderful experiences without the endings. But if you continue, do so at your own discretion.
Tied for the number two spot, MGS2’s ending was trippy and weird, and I loved it. MGS3 on the other hand, made me feel just as betrayed as Snake.
Which do you prefer? Would you prefer Raiden tossing away your control of him after realizing he’s been used to become the next Solid Snake? Would you rather have your heart broken after realizing that your traitor of a mentor was no traitor, but by playing the bad guy, prevented another World War.
One is trippy. The other tugs at your heart strings. Both are excellent endings.
1. Final Fantasy 9
I am biased, I know. We all are when it comes to our favorites. But Final Fantasy 9 worked my emotions. Experience it for yourself and come back. And with the re-release’s extra features, you can’t complain that the game is too slow. It now has optional fast forward and safe travel options.
Anyway, I think the reason why FF9’s ending got me was because of persistence. You stop all of existence from ending at the hands of a giant metaphor for the inevitability of death. And you go back after escaping to rescue your brother. Doing so ends both of your lives. You fail. The rest of your party moves on with their lives in a long epilogue where they talk about everything that you did for them.
Now, I know a lot of people didn’t fall for this. But it was just how long the ending was taking that primed me for the emotional payoff. They go on and on about how much you meant to them to the point, my mind went: “He’s not dead. He’s not dead, is he? Holy *expletive*! I think he’s dead!”
But at the last moment, you reveal yourself to the world by taking off the costume previously worn on stage by another character during a play. A wonderful tear-jerking ending ensues where the princess, now the queen, throws away the crown for love, as the two embrace. Roll credits. Two pieces of music from the game with the same motif are then combined, to make the love theme of the game.
This ending wrecked me. I didn’t cry, but man. That ending was emotional.
But what are your favorite video game endings? What one’s wrecked you when you were younger? Let us know in the comments below!
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I’ve been writing almost as long as I’ve been playing video games. I also do standup and improv. The game that made me realize that video games could be more than just a toy, was Metal Gear Solid 2.