In a world full of constant video game releases, it is easy for a lot of games to go unrecognised and slip through the cracks. Some games have good endings and some have bad endings, and some games are just forgotten about completely. While a lot of the more unrecognised endings do tend to come from indie games, some even come from AAA games. And these games deserve to be recognised that little bit more.
Mass Effect 3
While Mass Effect is one of the most widely regarded franchises of the last few generations, it also has its share of underrated moments. Of course, if you were to talk about the best endings to Video Games, Mass Effect 2 is an almost guaranteed entry in that list, and deservedly so. However, that’s just one of the reasons why the ending to Mass Effect 3 gets overshadowed. As with any franchise ending experience, Mass Effect 3 was met with certain expectations, which some people could argue were not met.
A lot of consumers were annoyed with the relative lack of choice in terms of which ending you get. But it can be also argued that there is a lot more nuance going on beneath the surface than what a lot of people realise.
From the wave-based fight to finally getting one over on the Illusive Man, Mass Effect 3’s final mission on Earth is perfect. While a lot of people could say it did not reach their expectations, Mass Effect 3 realized the potential of the gritty game through a narrative that is akin to a war movie.
Not to mention the endings you get to choose from. Throughout the trilogy, the storyline heavily consists of the reapers needing to be destroyed, which, in turn, destroys all synthetics in the galaxy. An alternate ending allows you to control the reapers or even deny the Starchild entirely and choose to let the cycle start anew for future civilizations.
If you take into consideration the notion that the collectors were trying to create a human reaper or just the fact that Shepard themselves as of Mass Effect 2 is an amalgamation of organic and synthetic material, the seeds are definitely there.
Star Wars Battlefront II (2017)
At launch, Star Wars Battlefront II suffered huge controversy surrounding the abysmal handling of the loot boxes. Thankfully, it has since been refined and transformed into a working system, which gives you a sense of actually wanting to grind to unlock further character customization.
It is unfortunate the controversy Star Wars Battlefront II received buried the game’s great story mode. While it did get the resurrection update, it does not get recognised nearly as much as the more recent games, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Star Wars: Squadrons.
The story bridges the gap between the movies: Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, while including pivotal information like how the First Order was able to build an army of Stormtroopers.
Star Wars Battlefront II suffers the same backlash which fell upon The Last Jedi, sacrificing a character in the face of adversity. The ending scene though is perhaps the most underrated part of the game, offering a glimmer of hope to the dying resistance.
Ordered to the Outer Rim to gather allies, Zay, as well as the player leave the game with a sense of hope for what is to come. They know they will finally be able to beat the First Order. This sense of hope does eventually get realised within the franchise too, but Battlefront II is sadly not recognised for the part it plays in securing that for The Resistance.
Braid is a special indie game which got a lot of recognition for its gameplay and its unique use of time manipulation as a way of solving the many puzzles. But is not usually lauded for its subversive ending.
Throughout the game, we spend our time with Tim, a man on a mission to rescue a princess. With each book we read in-game we are led to believe throughout each world we are on an altruistic mission. Just wanting to save the princess and achieve a sense of pride in being a hero, or perhaps maybe more.
It is, however, in the final mission that the game completely turns the narrative on its head. This is one of the most undervalued endings due to how shocking it is. People usually talk about Braid as a whole experience rather than what the ending actually means.
While we as the player experience time as linear, the final level of the game has time running backwards as we go forwards. As the environment begins to fix itself due to the time manipulation and as we head towards rescuing the princess from her kidnapper, you begin to notice something is wrong. The princess is indeed scared and in a state of panic. But not because of her supposed kidnapper, instead she is scared of Tim. Tim is in fact the kidnapper, and who we were led to believe did kidnap her is instead the hero rescuing her. We were actually playing as the villain of the story the whole time.
The beautiful subversive aspect of this twist shows the player that instead of being a supposedly altruistic person and just rescuing the princess out of a sense of duty, it teaches us that we cannot always get what we want. Instead of continuing to chase what we want, perhaps what we already have is exactly what we need.
It is unfortunate then that when talking about Braid, people see and talk about the experience as a whole. Talking about rescuing a princess and solving time-bending puzzles instead of how beautifully realised and dark the ending actually is.
Life is Strange
Life certainly is strange in this game. Being another game centred around time manipulation, we play as a student photographer, Max Caulfield. She has the ability to trigger a butterfly effect by rewinding time.
Taking a lot of inspiration from the Telltale Games’ style in terms of narrative exploration, developer DontNod manages to tell a story about sacrifice and the exploration of the human condition. By giving a true sense of freedom in terms of how the story plays out, you can talk to the NPC’s and choose where the narrative goes in each episode.
The fascinating thing about Life is Strange is the nature of the choices. As games within this genre go, we are always given a number of choices as to how we want our personal narrative to play out. These choices are not always black and white, and when we make choices we may perceive to be a ‘good’ one, they could prove to be fatal down the line.
The ending though is a perfect way to tie off the unique season as a whole. Life is Strange tries to do a number of things, from a murder mystery, in finding out what happened to Rachel Amber, to a rescue story, in trying to save the town. However, the final choice proves why Life is Strange has one of the most underrated endings.
Throughout the entire game, we play as Chloe, growing to like her and, depending on your choices, form a relationship with her. But in the end, we are forced to make what a lot of players saw as the hardest choice in the game. The entire game we have been trying to prevent the town being destroyed by a tornado but in order for the town to be saved, Chloe has to die.
While the famous Star Trek phrase “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” comes to mind, many chose to save Chloe instead of the town. That in itself is a testament to what the developer managed to achieve. Instead of writing a narrative which the player perceives to be about intrigue and rescue, we have a narrative that teaches us about love and sacrifice.
No matter which choice you make though, to choose love or be a hero and save the town, both are choices that further the point of the game, exploring the human condition. This leads into an ending that, for all the faults the game may have, doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, due to the focus on other parts of the game.