Picture this for a moment: you’re going at it at a steady yet enjoyable pace, and when you’re finally reaching that heightened state of euphoria it all just kind of stops unceremoniously. The anticlimax.
If I had a nickel for every time that — ahem but I digress. Great game endings serve as the perfect cap on a wondrous journey. No matter what kind of emotions the developer is trying to get out of you, a good game ending has to make you feel accomplished in some way. It doesn’t necessarily have to tie loose ends or answer all of the questions, but it shouldn’t feel half-assed.
An anticlimactic game ending is a usual sign that all the momentum that a developer had in the beginning and middle of the creation of the game had been lost towards completion, be it due to burn-out, harsh deadlines, ridiculous crunch or all of the above.
So take a moment to read over our most anti-climactic experiences with games, and be sure to share your own in the comments section below. We could use that one comment that goes “U FORGOT HALO 2!”
And in case you haven’t guessed it, there are spoilers past this point.
Chrono Cross had the most anti-climactic ending.
Chrono Chross was Squaresoft’s sequel to beloved classic Chrono Trigger, colloquially cited as one of the best games of all time. Though Chrono Chross was more of a spiritual sequel than a direct link (or so it would at first appear) the game delivered breathtaking graphics, an astounding soundtrack and intriguing gameplay quite different than its predecessor. Indeed, it feels like a classic…
…Until the ending. And here’s where Chrono Cross fails in every aspect. For most of the game, we are given small plot fragments that tie into a larger story. And while there is some frequent wavering and a loose sense of an overall objective, we know at least that the characters are going somewhere. Eventually, the main villain is deposed by several draconian embodiments of nature that wish to purge the world of humanity. Fair enough; Square has always been famous for its Nesting Doll Villainy, a bigger bad guy behind an already bigger bad guy.
Only this time, you kill what is presumably the penultimate boss (one form only? Come on, Square!) only to discover that there is a nebulous….something more you need to do to set time and space straight again. The final fight, it turns out, is against the final boss of the Chrono Trigger. This time around he’s smaller and now has a young woman trapped inside his crystalline shell. Now you would think this boss fight would go on with a few challenging rounds resulting in different forms. But no. Killing Lavos (here called Time Devourer) results in the BAD ending.
In order to get the “right” ending, you must rely on an esoteric hint from two hours ago in the last dungeon to initiate a series of spells against Time Devourer. This spell-chain results in the release of the previously mentioned girl in crystal bubble….and then the game ends. That’s it. Not even a real fight, just a list of attacks you’re supposed to enter.
You don’t even get one of those mind-blowing, ten-minute FMVs that Square was once famous for. You’re treated to a fairly pretty song that plays over some cryptic photography of a sad girl in a Japanese classroom…and some clocks. And then the game ends. Chrono Cross literally runs out of story to tell.
So what’s the point of the final battle? The girl, it turns out, was a semi-important but relatively minor character in Chrono Trigger whose fate was never really answered. But why tie up the loose end in a final battle that bears no relevance to the plot of Chrono Cross? Why are you even fighting Lavos again? Aside from a tenuous connection to the main female protagonist of the game, literally NONE of this is related to the previous 48 hours of story. It all seems fairly arbitrary and fanservicey and results in a seriously disappointing and anti-climactic ending to an otherwise great game.
- Maxwell Coviello
Quest 64 had the most anti-climactic ending.
As an N64 kid who cherished his SNES RPGs, I was hungering for them on Nintendo’s RPG-deprived console. So when Quest 64 promised to be the console’s first big RPG hit, you bet your bottom dollar that I’d be on top of that.
My resulting experience with Quest 64 from beginning to end was a melting pot of exploratory wonder and frustration. I may have had to use a Gameshark for the last half of the game, but I just wanted protagonist Brian to reunite with his missing father. And you do reunite with him. For a few seconds.
The game’s characters, plot and world were so under-developed that even the central focus for Brian’s journey was briefly touched upon. You stumble upon your wounded father in a room with Shannon, a recurring NPC who reveals herself to be a puppet for the game’s final boss. She threatens to dispose of Brian’s father unless he goes and kills King Beigis. After doing so, Brian enters a trippy dream world where he eventually fights Mammon, the game’s final boss and the real one pulling the strings.
After making short work of him, Shannon thanks Brian for his work, and then a boring static image displays along with scrolling text of an equally boring nature. Brian’s father isn’t mentioned even once during this ending, making the whole motivation for the quest feel pointless. I recall how disappointed I was by this ending, confused as to why such an important plot point wasn’t taken into account at the end.
I was the victim of an underdeveloped ending to an underdeveloped RPG. Poor me.
- Patrick Kulikowski
Super Mario Bros. 2 had the most anti-climactic ending.
This game had the biggest anti-climactic ending that I had ever experienced growing up. While the original Super Mario Bros. had a simple “save the princess” story, the North American version of Super Mario Bros. 2 weaved in something a bit more interesting, featuring Mario and crew wandering into another dimension known as Subcon.
That is, you thought it was a new and interesting take until you reached the ending.
You could only imagine the disappointment I felt when I reached the final stage and defeated Wart only to find out that the entire game was just one of Mario’s dreams. That one scene retroactively removed any plot relevance within the game. Knowing now that Mario’s entire adventure was just a dream, it kind of made the player’s efforts to get past all those tough enemies and obstacles feel like fabrications formed from a night of too many spicy fire flowers.
- Spencer Nozell
Borderlands had the most anti-climactic ending.
Borderlands may have been an entertaining time of treasure-looting and bandit-killing, but the ending was so disappointingly bad that even Gearbox made fun of it in its sequel. I guess there’s just something about breaking a big promise of vast treasure that gamers don’t like. Who would’ve guessed?
From the start, you are led on to believe that Pandora’s vault is filled with treasure. No one knows exactly what treasure is in there, but it is your job as a vault hunter to set out and claim it for yourself.
After hours of adventuring and after thousands of dead bandits, you finally reach the vault, only to fight a petty “destroyer of world.” The simple final boss of the game isn’t too bad on its own, but what makes it very fist-clenching is the fact that upon finally opening the vault, there are no actual treasures inside. With that, it closes for another 200 years. And that’s that.
- Allain Richard
Final Fantasy X had the most anti-climactic ending.
Yet that is exactly how I felt after the ending of Final Fantasy X, a game that has both torn my heart asunder with a deluge of emotions and wracked my brain with uncertainty.
Throughout the entire game I developed a profound connection with the characters and their plights. Whether it’s a martyr complex or racism, I found that each character had a meaningful backstory that really helped develop their personalities. Sin, the game’s primary protagonist, also had a heart wrenching backstory and prolific and metaphoric symbolism. However, at the end of the game all this development is thrown out the window with a few choice decisions.
First, Sin is turned from his symbolic representation of the evils of humanity into a gimpy, anemic-looking parasite called Yu Yevon with a couple of crumbly pillars for support. All of the verve and intimidation it possessed as Sin and even Jecht’s version of the final aeon was completely removed and replaced with the generic final boss trope of the weak-looking mastermind. What was worse was that my Kimahri managed to one-hit-KO Yu Yevon, thereby proving that the closest thing that counted for God in this world was destroyed with a single swipe of a spear from an anthropomorphic tiger.
The final straw was Tidus’ departure from this mortal coil. Sure, he was a dream of the Fayth, fighting to come to terms with his own existence, but his response to Yuna’s love really upset me. Granted, it’s a situation unique to the English version, it upset me nonetheless. When Yuna confesses her love, Tidus decides the best course of action is not to say those magic three words back to her, rather that he should run off an airship, thereby avoiding responsibility, and high-fiving his Dad right after.
Way to be responsible with a girl’s feelings, Tidus. After all the build-up during the game, I felt like I was cheated out of a happy ending. While it may be more profound this way, I felt that some loopholes were arbitrarily filled in order to keep the plot together.