@Krycek9mm Unfortunately I haven't yet had a chance to play Lords of Shadow. I'm hoping to find time to squeeze it in at some point. I look forward to finding out how it ends!
I finished Red Dead Redemption a while back, and was absolutely blown away by its conclusion. A game doesn't need to have a great ending to be great--games are generally more about the journey than the destination--but Red Dead's is so strong that I think it makes the whole game better. And as game stories become more sophisticated, how those stories wrap up is becoming a more important part of the memories we take away from the experience.
While their overall importance remains debatable, I've always cared about game endings quite a bit. I remember being insulted as a kid by tough-as-nails games that would reward all my hard work with nothing more than a screen that read "CONGRATURATION! THANK YOU FOR PLAYING!" I wasn't expecting much. Just some sort of artwork or maybe a little movie for my troubles. SOMETHING. A poorly translated text screen is a shameful acknowledgment of a hero's brave deeds. And just as a lousy ending can leave me feeling bitter toward a game I'd otherwise enjoyed, a great one can give that game lasting power in my memory. Truly great game endings are rare, but here are five endings that have stuck with me. I've tried to keep things spoiler-free here and just talk about them in general terms, though if you are planning on finishing Red Dead, I'd recommend not reading my comments on that ending until you've done so.
5. Grand Theft Auto IV: The events that lead up to the final moments are determined to some degree by choices you make, but no matter what you do, there can be no happy ending to Niko Bellic's pursuit of the American dream. And that is as it should be. The entire arc of Niko's journey occupies a moral gray area from which there can be no emerging into the light, and the way the ending acknowledges this is so satisfying in its refusal to satisfy.
4. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories: An ending that's every bit as revealing and rewarding as the ending for this year's standout dude-with-a-flashlight game, Alan Wake, is obfuscating. Shattered Memories hits you in its final moments with a big reveal that forces you to reconsider the events of the game in a new light, but it doesn't feel like an ending that exists solely for the purpose of a big plot twist. Its surprise is perfectly consistent with the game's world, and enhances the emotional impact of protagonist Harry Mason's search for his missing daughter.
3. Super Mario Galaxy: Given how little emphasis Super Mario Galaxy places on story, I wasn't expecting anything special from its ending. But the finale here is a stunning piece of visual storytelling that brilliantly takes Mario's age-old struggles to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser and suggests that they will repeat again and again forever, as the universe collapses upon itself and is reborn. Heady stuff, but perfectly in keeping with Galaxy's delightful cosmic aesthetic.
2. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge: The first game ending to knock my socks off. It's a bold and risky conclusion that I recall upset a lot of people at the time, though I always loved it, and still think it's a charming acknowledgment on the power of childhood imagination.
1. Red Dead Redemption: For me, the best game ending ever, but more than that, the conclusion to the game that established incontrovertibly in my mind that we have entered the era when games can tell stories with real meaning and with value that goes beyond just serving as the framework for gameplay.
Like Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption is in its own way about the American dream. John Marston has made some serious mistakes. His is a history of violence. So, too, are the histories of the fictionalized but vividly imagined United States and Mexico borderlands where this tale takes place.
Now, all he wants is to be left alone with his family on their little ranch to live an ordinary life. But such a life is no more available to him than it is to Niko Bellic. The story takes its time deliciously building up to its shattering conclusion. John Marston gets close, so painfully close to this simple life that you can taste it. And then, well...violence breeds violence, and John Marston's legacy is inescapable. The climactic moment belongs among the endings of the all-time great Westerns, but it doesn't try to be a movie rather than a game, and its use of the game's dead-eye mechanic makes it all the more tragic. What follows is a denouement that's clever, sad and satisfying, all at once. It's an unforgettable conclusion to a masterpiece of a game.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on game endings in general, or on those game endings that you particularly loved or hated. Can a bad ending ruin a game? Can a great ending redeem a game that's otherwise lacking?
Did you play Castlevania Lords of Shadow? What did you think of that game ending? I went from tolerating the story to being overjoyed. I've never had my opinion of a game completely change with the ending cutscene but suddenly the story and character progression made sense and it made me excited for the franchise.