Like strong first impressions, good endings are all-important.
While there are plenty of video games that encourage you to continue after the credits roll, the way a story wraps up is always a watershed moment – a culmination of hours of work and adventuring, so it obviously needs to have some kind of satisfying payoff.
In the cases of the following nine games, a satisfying payoff is not what you’ll find. Spoilers to follow, obviously.
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Shadow of Mordor is a fantastic game that’s entirely based around a thrilling and fluid combat system. I used to spend hours running from A to B hacking Uruk-hai apart without getting bored, because it felt great and looked damn cool.
The entire game is spent building up to a final confrontation with none other than Sauron himself, the fiend responsible for killing your wife and kid.
The idea of throwing down with one of the biggest, baddest bastards in fantasy with such an incredible combat system was tantalising.
What we get is a brief quick time event, followed by a cut scene explaining that we will in fact be fighting Sauron – but not till the next game. Great.
Super Mario Bros
I’m probably being a little harsh on this one, since Super Mario Bros didn’t really have a plot (the franchise still isn’t exactly known for it), but I can’t be the only kid who suffered a minor heart attack at Nintendo’s climatic troll.
Through eight worlds of increasing difficulty, we’re told by those little Toad bastards that the princess is in another castle, so on we go, hoping against hope that the next time we overcome Bowser we’ll get the girl.
When you finally beat world 8-4 (AKA the hardest fucking thing in the world for a nine year old kid), you’re told by what appears to be a lump of pixels in the shape of a woman that the princess is in yet another castle.
Your heart sinks, until the woman reveals that she is in fact the princess, and she’s just dicking around with you (not in those words).
What’s meant to be a moment of triumph is twisted into an opportunity for the game to make a knob of you one last time. Unforgivable, Nintendo.
Ah, DOOM 2 – great first person shooter, but awful ending. The game is all about making your way through a tense and action-packed labrynth of demons, death, and carnage.
What a shame then, that your final challenge – a truly evil Satanic mastermind – is actually nothing more than a wall. A wall with an evil demon face on it, yes, but still a wall. A wall which you shoot a bit until it dies.
Of course, the head of designer John Romero’s head is famously impaled on a stick behind the wall, but it’s impossible to see that Easter egg without cheats
Metal Gear Solid 2
The sequel to 1998’s genre-defining Metal Gear Solid is a brilliant game, with a cast of memorable and interesting characters, from Olga to Emma Emmerich.
After a cracking few hours sneaking around Big Shell and taking down bad guys, getting properly invested in the thrilling tale of political espionage, it’s a right pain in the arse to learn that, surprise, none of what you did actually mattered, because the whole thing was a simulation.
‘The entire plot turns out to have not happened’ is a cheap enough twist in most media, but in a video game where you’re an active participant in events, it’s unforgivable.
The majority of Half-Life is spent marvelling at the intelligently designed locations that are capable of conveying a gripping atmosphere and telling disturbing stories without a single world.
It’s a shame then, that when we get to Xen, that all goes downhill, swapping out great design for bland and frustrating platforming.
It feels bolted on, and if the rest of Half-Life wasn’t so genuinely great, Xen could easily have ruined the entire experience.
The team behind the excellent Black Mesa remake recently announced they plan to completely overhaul the Xen area, so let’s hope it gives this gem of a game the ending it deserves.
Mass Effect 3
The ending of Mass Effect 3 is perhaps the most controversial and reviled video game of all time, which is all the more disappointing when you realise this is how BioWare chose to cap off a great trilogy of games.
Mass Effect prided itself on carrying all your unique decisions across games to create an incredible immersive experience that felt tailor made for you.
It was, understandably, a gut punch for fans everywhere then, when the final moments of the game gave everyone the same choice, especially when those choices all amounted to pretty much the same thing.
Such a hastily put together conclusion was no way to round off the Mass Effect trilogy. A real shame.
Borderlands is a game that displays a very clear understanding of something all gamers love getting their hands on: lots and lots of loot.
We spend the entire game constantly on the lookout for bigger and badder weapons, cutting down anything that stands between us and a slightly better shotgun.
From the early stages of the game, we’re told we’re working towards cracking into a vault stuffed with treasure and legendary weapons – exciting, right?
What a shame then, that the defeat of the final boss ends with the very vault we were trying to get into closing for another 200 years. Awesome.
Assassin’s Creed 3
For my money, every Assassin’s Creed game before number three delivered an emotional – or at the very least satisfying – ending. Assassin’s Creed 3 decides to shake up the formula by… not doing that.
Without going into specifics (if only because the backstory is super convoluted), we’re presented with a genuinely tough choice – save the world but ensure humanity loses its free will, or doom the planet, knowing only a few will survive, but they’ll rebuild with their free will very much intact.
Now, as you might know, the AC games are all about you fighting for people who believe we should have free will, so it’s a bit of a shitter to discover that, not only do we not get to choose the outcome as the player, but our character opts for the former choice – a direct contradiction to the values of the game.
Why did Ubisoft do this? I couldn’t tell you, to be honest. Then again, I really don’t care that much to begin with, because Assassin’s Creed 3 is a bit wank.
No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky is a game that asks you to get stuck in and explore a massive universe – of course we all know now that the reality was running around similar looking planets till you got bored, but whatever.
One of the game’s more interesting aspects was the choice to follow a set path as we attempted to get closer to the centre of the universe. Along the way, we’d learn more about ancient alien races and would get cryptic statements about the cyclical nature of life.
The few players who did stick it out till the end and got the center were greeted by a choice. Either go on your way and continue exploring, or reset everything and start again.
That was literally it. We weren’t offered anything for our trouble, and weren’t even given any clear answers on anything. You might say ‘that’s life’, but I’d argue that No Man’s Sky is a fucking video game, and as such can offer a satisfying and rounded conclusion, unlike life.
There we have it then. I hope you’ve agreed with me throughout most of this, because I honestly, really, really can’t stand it when things just end without
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.