My Favourite Bad Endings in Video Games

Sorry to be a buzz kill.

Everyone loves it when the good guys triumph. Justice is done, the wicked are smote, everything turns out A-okay in the end. But what if it didn’t? What if the hero didn’t collect all 8 magic Crunkins? What if, god forbid, you pushed a button too late? What if, at the end of the day, you’re just a cold-hearted bastard who wants to see what happens when everything goes to shit? I have good (bad?) news for you- Your whims have been catered for, you sick freaks.

Below is a list of my personal favourite bad endings. The more misery the better. I want to see small animals crying, the planet irrevocably fucked, the protagonists life ruined forever. Here we go.

1. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-Bit)

He had so much to give.

The 8-bit version of Sonic 2 available on Master System and Game Gear had an atypical bad ending for Sonic. In other games, most of the time if you fail to collect all the Chaos Emeralds, Robotnik taunts you with them post-credits. Annoying, but it definitely motivates you to try again. Sonic 2 goes a bit further- If you fail to collect all the emeralds, Tails fucking dies. The game ends early before the final level, Sonic looks up at the night sky and sees Tails in the stars, Mufasa style. Granted, I imagine the developers intended this as more of a “Tails is still kidnapped because you didn’t try hard enough!” kind of thing, but the nocturnal apparition seems much more mournful to me. Rest in peace, Miles. I guess I was too slow.

2. Chrono Trigger

Hard to get much more irrevocably fucked up than this

This one is legendary. The plot of Chrono Trigger involves the party travelling through time in order to stop a giant creature named Lavos from destroying the world in the future. If you challenge Lavos and fail, you are shown- in excruciating detail- Lavos raining down fire on the entire planet. You see the globe from space, and as civilisation is extinguished, the world fades to black and white with the words “BUT… THE FUTURE REFUSED TO CHANGE.” as Lavos screams. Totally bleak. You really fucked up this time.

3. Banjo-Kazooie

“Despite Grunty’s juicy ass, you really should go touch some grass!”

Players will jokingly refer to the bad ending of Banjo-Kazooie as the “bad” ending since it leads to the creation of a smoking hot green chick. As such, I will henceforth refer to this as the “down bad ending”. Quitting the game or running out of lives results in the wicked Gruntilda successfully absorbing Banjo’s sister Tootie’s youthful energy, transforming Grunty into a stereotypical supermodel and leaving poor Tootie horrifically mutated into a lumbering monster. On the plus side, you are directly punished for being horny; Tootie threatens to have a “word” with the player. Hope you like getting torn apart by a giant mutant bear, you perverts.

4. Cuphead

Good guys gone bad

The tagline for Cuphead is “Don’t deal with the devil!” and this bad ending hammers that message home. Cuphead and his pal Mugman, they like to roll the dice, you see. Running afoul of the devil on a bad roll, they’re forced to collect the devil’s soul-debts. At the end of the game you get the choice to turn in the collected soul contracts or fight the devil himself, but turning them in and honoring the deal results in Cuphead and Mugman losing their souls too, becoming dastardly minions of Satan. Don’t gamble, kids.

5. Metal Gear Solid

Come on. They’re MADE for each other

I really like this one. Snake and his love interest Meryl are captured, and Snake is put through torture with only two options: Endure the agony, or submit and condemn Meryl to death. Players who choose to submit to the torture rather than sprain their thumbs on the circle button never see Meryl alive again- Snake is too late to save her and escapes with Otacon instead. This was thought to be the canon ending of the game for years until Meryl’s reappearance in Metal Gear Solid 4, which is a shame, as I thought it humanised the character of Snake no end, bringing the legendary solider down to Earth a bit and forcing him to confront his own failings and weaknesses. Forget that though! Canon says Snake saves Meryl and she goes on to marry Johnny Sasaki, a sexy man with IBS. Ok, Kojima.

6. Myst

Say hello to your home for the next thousand years

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true- you should definitely judge a book by its contents, especially if said contents are a couple of insane, evil prisoners. In Myst, you find a red book and a blue book, each containing a totally trustworthy dude who asks you collect their respective coloured pages scattered throughout the world in order to free them from their pagey prisons. Turns out, they were imprisoned with good reason. Fulfilling their request results in the player becoming trapped in their stead, left to watch helplessly as the newly freed dickhead of choice gleefully tears the pages back out of the book, condemning you to eternal bibliographic imprisonment. Oops!

7. Pikmin

At least he’s alive? Kinda?

This one really sucks. Captain Olimar crash lands on a strangely familiar alien planet, and is forced to work with the peculiar plant people Pikmin. The beleaguered captain must gather the scattered pieces of his spaceship within 30 days, at which point his life support will run out. Failure to repair the ship in time will result in Olimar attempting to leave anyway, with disastrous results; Olimar dies, either as a result of the crash or the poisonous oxygen, and the Pikmin carry his dead body to one of their onions in order to rebirth him as one of their own. Trapped on an alien planet as a freak of nature, never to see his homeworld or his family ever again. Jesus christ, Nintendo. Isn’t this game for kids?

8. Fallout

Pro-tip: Do not side with Super Mutants

Getting captured by Super Mutants rarely ends well, but doing so in Fallout leads to some truly horrifying consequences. If you choose to join your green, lumpy captors rather than fight them, you’re treated to a horrifying cinematic of your Vault Dweller getting dipped in a glowing vat of Forced Evolutionary Virus, after which you can only watch helplessly as your newly mutated player character leads a violent, bloody assault on their former home. When evil triumphs, it ain’t pretty.

9. Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee

Violent death for helpless character? Check.

We could pick any of the Oddworld games for this, but I think Munch’s Oddysee takes the cake. Failing to save the diminutive Munch from his capitalist pursuers will result in a truly horrifying cutscene where Munch has his lungs removed while he is still conscious. You know what’s worse? Abe, the player character, has his head mounted on the wall with the word “Loser” underneath. Now that’s brutal. I think I’d rather have my lungs removed.

10. Undertale

Reality getting one-shot

Just talking about this one is enough to label me a miserable sadist. Taking the “Genocide” route in Undertale involves slowly and deliberately murdering every single enemy in the game. For a story about friendship and pacifism, that takes a special kind of lowlife. Accruing that much XP (or “execution points”) results in your transformation from evil murderer child to dark god, and after a valiant effort by this worlds mightiest heroes to stop you, the evil spirit now inhabiting your body murders the universe. To make things worse, this cannot be undone. Replaying the game as a pacifist after doing a genocide run results in a tainted ending. You can never escape your dark impulses. Bravo, Toby Fox, Bravo.

Those are my favourites! Sometimes having the threat of a truly horrible fate looming over you is enough motivation to try for the good ending. I’m sure I must have left some glaring omissions. Can you think of any more? Let me know!

Author: Joebotnik

I am an interactive entertainment enthusiast.

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