Finales, Endings, and Last Bosses

Something I'm really, really invested in, in terms of the narrative flow as well as emotional structure of games, is the finale or endings (the last boss being a meaningful aspect of this, naturally). Maybe this comes from having a background in music, but I think a game can be made or broken by how well its ending functions, both from a gameplay and a narrative sense. How well all of its loose threads are tied up, how well the game builds up tension beforehand, and how well it all blows up at the end.

I gotta say, I am more often than not let down by these sorts of things. Maybe it is just a really difficult thing to do in an interactive medium where one's experience is often segmented, and not every game is quite as good as signaling that you are about to go into the ending and thus endings can feel rushed or anticlimactic, simply because you don't even know it's coming and then it's there and you're not really ready to experience it. But maybe it's just not something game people think about enough either.

List and discuss your favourite (or least favourite, or most interesting, or most disappointing, or most sloppy but still endearing somehow, or whatever) endings, finales, and last bosses.

### Since we're going to be talking about a topic that is as Spoilerific as it gets, but it would obviously be quite a boring discussion if we were too coy about that, please try your best to talk about one game, one paragraph at a time, and open the paragraph by identifying the game the paragraph is about. Read this thread at your own risk.

To use spoiler tags, use a border of two pipes on both sides for each paragraph, pipes being the long vertical thing ||

### **Also, keep in mind using the Quote function does _not_ preserve spoiler tags. So, don't use it!**

Metal Gear Solid 3

||I thought about making this thread after being sent [this arrangement]( of the main theme by a friend last night, and finding out that listening to the main theme of this game, even after all of these years, still gave me goosebumps. It makes me thinking that MGS3 just might be my gold standard when it comes to grand finales and last bosses. It does a fantastic job of making you feel like things are popping off, for one, by making you infiltrate Groznyj Grad but then get thrown out of and need to return there too. At this point, MGS already has what seems like 2 major antagonists--Volgin and Metal Gear and the Shagohod. The fight with Volgin feels significant, but you know it's not a climax. The motorcycle stuff is just unrelenting cinematic spectacle, culminating in blowing up the Shagohod. And it's exhausting and overstimulating on its own, but then, after the climax in the game's action has already been built up to a fever pitch and exploded all over the place, comes the emotional climax of the story. Easily one of the greatest last bosses ever, The Boss stands in your way.||

||I think a big reason why the ending of MGS3 works so well is because you get the big Hollywood flashy lights power trip, where the difficulty feels trivial in a good way in the sense that it keeps the action moving at a hectic pace. Gameplay wise, it is Easy, and that's largely on purpose, cause you want to beat Volgin down and blow up the nuclear weapon and save the day, and it would interrupt that bombastic finale if you just kept dying too often. It is a power fantasy. But putting The Boss here is genius because she is surely probably one of if not easily the hardest fight in the game, because you're basically fighting the person who taught Snake everything he knows. But it's also at a point in the gameplay structure where, I think, even if you have to come back to it on a different play session, you'll be more likely to be in the mood to pick up emotionally where you left off. Because, in a sense, the game's action climax is already definitively over, and there's no real way to recapture all of that tension again. The Boss, however, looms large over the entire game and is a terrifying obstacle to the real winding down of the story. She is like an honor guard to the denouement of the story. And from an emotional standpoint, she makes a case for why you don't _want_ to kill her. It's all brilliant. I mean, all the stuff after is good too, you gotta love the goofy Ocelot stuff (you do actually gotta. It is a requirement). Plus, come on, the music swelling up in the middle of the fight is an incredible bit of drama.||

God of War (2018)

||I kind of think this is a bit of a flawed ending, but also, overall pretty worth it, and I think some of its less impressive aspects are for a reason. This was a game that I really, really enjoyed, I thought it was mostly really well paced, and I will admit I may have thought the ending came too soon because I didn't want the game to end (also I mean, doesn't Baldur kind of get the jump on you?). Maybe, though, Baldur as a last boss would have been more thrilling had he had just a bit more of a presence in the game as a major antagonist (I kinda felt he was a little too absent to feel impactful as the big final showdown) or if he was more than just a little scrawny guy. If you know your Norse mythology, which I didn't, the secret of the way to break his invulnerability spell is a hoot, and him reanimating the Giant is great, I think it would have been cooler if you'd fought the reanimated Giant more or something. So, Baldur isn't a phenomenal last boss, but far from bad.||

||The emotional climax though, is absolutely positively choice. The tragic irony of the pile of long dead Giants, sure, but don't even TRY and tell me you didn't get emotional when Kratos gave Atreus Faye's ashes and they spread them together, I won't believe you. Don't give me that "it's just a dad game" bullshit!!||

||If this game's ending is significant for anything, though, it's that like a year later I am still shitting my pants with sequel hype over the last minute story revelations as well as the final secret cutscene. If there is any reason to forgive the somewhat less than bombastically climactic ending of God of War it's because they can't blow everything before God of War: Fimbulvetr and God of War: Ragnarok or whatever they're going to be called.||

I think the summary/denouement approach to endings can work well. I guess the blandest example of this would be in games live civilization or paradox games, when you get an info summary of what happened during your game. Timelines, graphs, events, dates, etc. I‘m trying to remember which civ games do this and which do not, recall being bummed at whichever entry didn’t provide this…

Also the original Fallout does something similar, but through a slideshow of narrative vignettes recounting what happens to the places and characters you've met during your playthrough. And or course Earthbound allows you to walk back through the world and revisit places+people

Suikoden II's ||escape|| endings are great. Even the “bad” one is interesting. Beats any hyper-genre satisfaction jrpg ending I can think of

Also really enjoyed how abrasive MGSV was, forcing the player to ||redo the opening 45 min of the game|| And I gotta say, I admire what I guess I'd call it artistic integrity to ||close the narrative loop on hastily contrived plot point involving an aerosol can + lighter in an MSX game from 1990 that most of the world has never played|| May be an eccentric point of view, but am glad the narrative kind of sputtered, fell apart, and receded into paranoia and obscurity. Way better than any conventional payoff the series may have had IMO

@yeso#27040 I've seen a good interpretation of the repeat of the hospital scene as being meant to contrast the scene in the sick bay where Venom has to gun down his own men. How Big Boss has no qualms about putting people The hospital staff / patients) in harms way for his goals while Venom does. And I like that interpretation, but it is presented far too subtly, and by the nature of the play too disjointedly to properly land.

I like denouements/epilogues as much as the next guy, games can really do some neat things with them as interactive mediums too. The tour of the game world after the game is done in Earthbound is also in a handful of Dragon Quest games, to great effect.

I think when I was pointing out a way of approaching a game ending that I find games lack in, often enough I feel it's a bit of a weakness in the medium, is nailing the climax, if we refer to that model of academic dramatic structure. The Big Damn Moment.

Also something interesting about how this works in games is the relationship between something making up the narrative climax, and containing the most difficult gameplay. Because, in lots of cases, those can create a lot of tension between them whether the narrative climax is very difficult or it isn't.

I think, sometimes, that the most effective narrative climaxes in games acknowledge that even if it isn't the most difficult gameplay section, it should *feel* like you're doing big goddamn gameplay stuff, but without being totally devoid of friction. It's a good time to instill you with a sense of mastery over the game mechanics, without actually requiring you to have actually done so.

But then on the other hand for certain games it makes sense for the final encounter to be the hardest or at least adjacent to it, because of the game's approach to difficulty. Can you imagine a Souls game with a flashy, but gimmicky boss? It would be a creative betrayal of the rest of the game.

Final Fantasy XV

||Let me begin by saying I don't think FFXV is particularly good at anything it does. I don't hate it—wasn't emotionally invested in it enough to have felt that strongly toward it (and that was the problem!!!)—but the towns felt hollow, the NPCs lifeless, the combat somehow too loose and too exacting, the story nonsensical, etc. etc. When you hear anything positive about this game it's usually centered on the feeling the game evokes (to varying degrees of success) of camping on the road with some buddies. In spite of everything else, I was able to enjoy that feeling. The game would have been better if the whole narrative had been built on the relationships between these guys—the fact that each party member leaves you for a period of time and the game barely addresses it was jarring, and a missed opportunity, and _no, I will not be buying those parts as DLC_—but the time I did get to spend watching all the characters banter while on the road from one place to the next was nice. I stopped every time they proposed getting out of the car to take a picture.||

||After the story goes totally off the rails (or, more appropriate to say after it is firmly set on rails), you wind up alone, separated from your party. You've been asleep for years, and you have to make your way back to that first gas station you stopped at at the beginning of the game, to reunite with your friends. Once you find them, you're supposed to make camp before you all set out for the capital city, where all the final boss stuff happens. Making camp is normal, you've done it a billion times by now, and this time it proceeds exactly as it has every other time, excepting the fact that your characters all have more stubble now.||

||The point I want to focus on here isn't that the ending of FFXV made up for the rest of the game or anything—it certainly did not. Talking about just the final area, I was hugely annoyed with what seemed to me a rash of overpowered monsters. I was able to cheese my way through every fight with the mountain of potions in my pockets, but man, that's no fun. The fight against Ifrit should have been cooler (lol), since a flash-forward to it serves as the game's cold open (lol), but it didn't end up bearing the kind of narrative significance you would expect such an event to have. Your friends then essentially sacrifice themselves so you can go fight the last boss by yourself. The last-minute story revelations from that boss fight would have likely left me feeling more alienated, though I had pretty much already disengaged with everything that was going on. I was beyond disinterested.||


||After all of that, after the big flashy cutscenes, after you go super-saiyan to fight with your evil twin thousand-year-old cousin or whatever (I love silly JRPG stuff but they didn't earn it here), yadda yadda, there's a credits sequence (the first of two) where we get to see all the pictures we took during the adventure, returning our focus back to the group of friends aspect to the story. Afterward, the game cuts back to that final campfire, just before you all set out for the end.||

||When you do these campfire scenes throughout the game, it always shows the party chatting amongst themselves without any sound—you know they're engaging in some friendly banter, you don't need to hear it. They're all smiling and they look like they're having fun. This was the case earlier, when you initiated this final camping scene, but now that we've returned here in a cutscene you can tell something's different. The guys are through with catching up, the sense of cheer has died down, this isn't a fun time anymore. They're all nervous and too afraid to bring up the fact that they're about to go and probably all die, but no one has to say it. You can read it on their faces (the animation is [very]( good). I guess my point in making this post is just to say I was moved by the performances (animation and voices, which were in Japanese, just for the record) and the writing, here, in this two-minute cutscene at the end of a game I was mostly disappointed in. Good cinematography/editing here, good animation, good blocking (though at one point the camera slowly tracks around and one of the Coleman-brand camping chairs takes up the whole frame for a second, which is... jarring, lol). But Noctis's face twitching as he's holding in this immense sadness... it's something to see.||

||At the end he stands up to say, roughly, "I love you guys." Cut to black. Credits.||

@captain#27176 I was THIS close to making a post about FFXV

Main difference in how I feel, though, is that ||I forgot about that bit with the campfire right at the end. And I didn't even know Ardyn was an antagonist of any kind until the very last fight. So... I'm not left with a whole lot of even vaguely positive thoughts for what could have been.||

||I mostly remember hearing the music swell to a big climax when Noctis is revealed to be with Luna (or whatever her name is) in Final Fantasy heaven, which, fucking sucks, and just feeling this crushing sadness and disappointment in the idea of seeing what was supposed to be the emotional climax in a game where like 60% of its story was missing. I just remember feeling so hollow, and sorry for everyone involved in the game.||

I think it‘ll come up around these parts sooner than later, so I’ll be the first to say Deadly Premonition really made a mark on me. Most endings for anything, I have to squint & think to recall, but this one sticks, & it‘s one of the key reasons why I think Deadly Premonition is a good game (not a "so-bad-it’s-good" game).

Without getting too specific, I love that you live in the ending, that you just waller in the denouement -- it's a good job of playing the theme instead of being shown a theme. It's especially resonant with the part of the story that is about ||York/Zach growing up, becoming a little bit more comfortable, finding a sense of self running parallel to that sort of sense of place & belonging that you stumble into. The simple mechanic of the player having to choose when _they're_ ready for the game to end instead of being shown a cutscene after a boss just killed me somehow, in this particular context. For a game that can get as ridiculous as DP, there's a genuine, complex sadness to the feeling of standing in your hotel room & knowing that the trip is over.||

Oh, & in Nitro Ball there's at least one ending where you just ||become the President|| & I love that.

(also how the heck do you spoiler tag in this forum? I hope I kept it light enough about DP, but would love to tag just in case)

I‘m a sucker for finales where

A) The main theme of the game plays triumphantly over the fight


B) It seems for a moment like you’re about to lose, but then you're invigorated by all the friends you made on your journey cheering you on

So the _mathematical_ best final boss is Zeromus in Final Fantasy IV!

jk but it is the only one I can think of right off the top of my head that does both. For "A" I think my favorite instance in recent memory is Dragon Quest Builders 2. ||You're fighting the final boss, the ultimate incarnation of destruction, with your best buddy by your side. The Dragon Quest theme is playing, and you are so jazzed with the sheer power of creativity and your renewed friendship that you are building structures literally out of thin air, with zero materials. Something I love about great shonen anime is that the outcomes of fights are often driven by emotion rather than any real internal logic, so as long as those emotional beats land, you'll accept any deus ex machina bullshit they care to throw at you. There's a fight I love early on in My Hero Academia where All Might is getting his ass kicked by a monster created specifically to withstand him at 100% of his power, so he just thinks really hard about all the children counting on him to win and starts punching _harder than 100%_. It's complete nonsense, and yet it makes me tear up just thinking about it. After 80 hours investing in the protagonist and Malroth's friendship, I was more than ready to get there in DQB2's finale. The familiar Dragon Quest fanfare just took it even further!||

For "B", a game series that does this really well is the Ouendan/Elite Beat Agents series. If you've never played them before, look up the last mission in Ouendan 2 and you just might find out why Sekai wa Sore o Ai to Yobundaze by Sambomaster makes my eyes water!

@tokucowboy#27188 aw, shit, I meant to explain it in my first post but forgot!

You use a border of two pipes on both sides, pipes being the long vertical thing ||

@Gaagaagiins#27182 lol I forgot his name was Ardyn (goes to show how little that stuff connects). I can't blame you for not feeling anything positive toward the thing—what inspired my post was just how surprised I was that I managed to feel anything at all.

I am a Big Sucker and so fell hook line and sinker for ||that arrangement of the main Final Fantasy theme,|| but yes, agreed that the scene surrounding it felt hollow and cheap: ||from what little we see of her in-game, who even _is_ this Luna character, anyway??? Why does she care about Noctis? What is their relationship?? Who for that matter is Noctis???????!?!?!?||

@captain#27230 What do you mean you don‘t know story details about Final Fantasy XV, you didn’t watch the companion webseries of music videos, read the Japan only light novel, or visit the Official Final Fantasy™ Crystalis Scamulerum Novaterium™ interactive shadow puppet display which ran for a generous 3 weeks in a mall in Busan?

Sorry, correction, it ran for 2 weeks in Munich too, so, no excuse

@Gaagaagiins#27203 Thanks – edited those spoilers in

@Gaagaagiins#27233 lmao I honestly thought the movie, the anime series, and the character diary entries written on the bottoms of limited-run Coca-Cola bottle caps would have been enough!

bought Super Mario World ten or eleven years ago on the Wii, spent half a decade slowly making my way to Bowser's castle, though I could never beat Bowser for some reason, he was too tough. A couple days ago during what I knew would be a long phone call I booted it up with the TV on mute and beat it having not touched the game at all in five years or so.

Not wildly proud or anything but I nevertheless wanted to record this fact in the tablets of history (and revive this thread)

EDIT oh and the boss/ending itself was pretty boring.

@“captain”#p43291 The only thing I really like about that ending is the music during the parade at the end. It's a weak Bowser fight and climax in an otherwise pleasant jumpabout.

Thank you for reviving this thread, though! I'll have to get a big spoiler post typed up about a favorite or memorable ending of my own.

I remember really liking the final battle in Transistor. ||It turns from a Diablo-style kill-everything-in-sight game, to a one-on-one duel with a character who has more or less your exact same ability suite. It feels almost more like a fighting game, but without discarding all the knowledge you’ve built up over the course of the game which is usually the problem when something attempts this. By the end of MGS4 it doesn’t feel like you’re playing Metal Gear Solid anymore, whereas this felt like a smart way to make you face a serious threat using the systems you’ve been practicing the whole time.||