There are some brilliant video game narratives around. Huge, ambitious, emotionally affecting tales of philosophy and existential exploration that stick with you long after the last whisp of smoke has left the last perforated enemy skull. But the flip-side of increasing storyline ambition is the pain that comes when one goes unfinished.
There are multiple reasons that can happen, but chief among them is Unrealised Sequel Syndrome. As games get more expensive and need to turn bigger profits in order to justify themselves, multi-game story arcs become riskier and riskier. Even with DLC around now plenty of promising epics remain undone, their tattered narrative ends flapping raggedly in the breeze of of an uncaring industry. So we’ve decided to help. We’ve decided to get you some closure by working out how nine of these unfortunately in-limbo tales should have ended. We’ve even done pictures to help you imagine. So click on and imagine…
The ending: XIII has been framed for the murder of the President. After a long journey of bloodshed, explosions and cell-shaded brains bursting out of cell-shaded skulls, he has identified all but the last of the conspirators responsible for his plight. In the last moments of the game he unmasks “Number 1″ as the President’s brother and the man aiding him throughout his entire quest. The game flashes up a brief “To be continued…” message. The game lies.
The ending we’d attach: Given that David Duchovny plays XIII in the game, we’d have to initiate a super-contrived X-Files ending. XIII unmasks Number 1, but then notices black goo oozing out of his eyes, so unmasks him again and discovers the Cigarette Smoking Man. Then he finds himself inexplicably convinced that the Cigarette Smoking Man is really his sister and unmasks him again. It turns out that he’s wrong and the Cigarette Smoking Man is really Scully. They make out, Or maybe they don’t. There’s a bee involved somewhere. Or maybe it’s all a government induced hallucination. Robert Patrick turns up to play him in the sequel.
Haven: Call of the King
The ending: Having trekked across a large part of the galaxy to save the King from a sinister conspiracy, Haven has failed, watched the King die, discovered that his friend is a traitor, and is now chained to a rock.
The ending we’d attach: We’d just leave him chained to the rock, and then eventually fade to his desiccated corpse, still slumped there 50 years later. The dread beacon would act a warning to overhyped, overconfident, overbudget action games forevermore.
Ghosts 'n' Goblins
The ending: Sir Arthur confronts Satan himself in the depths of Hell, defeats him, and is told that he hasn’t really completed his quest until he has finished every level in the game twice. He is sent back to the beginning, starts again, and should he win the last boss fight a second time actually gets to kiss the princess he’s been chasing after for the whole game. But he’s still in Hell.
The ending we’d attach: To keep true to the bastard-cruel spirit of Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, we’d save the real ending for the end of a third playthrough, this time requiring him to fight his way back out of Hell by completing the game backwards. And he’d have to protect the princess at the same time. She takes one hit and she dies, and Arthur has to start again. Again. The actual ending sees Arthur kicking the princess to the kerb after all the crap she’s put him through, swearing off women for life, and proceeding to simply sit around in the pants we’ve seen so many times across the course of the game. He then opens a beer and starts watching porn.
Clive Barker's Jericho
The Ending: After battling through every age of The Box, the extra-dimensional prison created to hold God’s first mistake, The Firstborn, the Jericho supernatural special forces team decide to kill the troublesome little bugger rather than simply seal the place as planned. They destroy The Firstborn, dive into an underwater tunnel to escape their collapsing surroundings, and emerge on the surface of a seemingly endless golden sea underneath an orange sky. Credits roll.
The ending we’d attach: The camera pulls back from the ocean to reveal it exists only on a monitor in Clive Barker’s office in Codemasters’ HQ. Clive sits back, lights up a giant cigar, and in his wonderfully gravelly voice proclaims, “Ah sod it, that’ll do”, as various Mercury Steam staff run around in the background screaming about final deadline. Which, realistically, is possibly what happened.
The ending: Having become trapped in “the Dark Place”, under Cauldron Lake by the irrational side of his personality, Alan has fought through two symbolic survival horror campaigns by way of the game’s two main DLCs, and upon accepting his own role in his imprisonment has begun to write a new reality in order to get himself home. He is though, still in the cabin under the lake. ie. exactly where he was at the end of the main game. The standalone American Nightmare DLC might tell the story of his return, but we don’t know that it does for definite. Given the multiple layers of reality in Alan Wake’s metaphysical storytelling, the story of his return could just be the story of his return, rather than an account of his actual return. It makes sense if you’ve played it.
The ending we’d attach: There’s only one way to neatly deal with all of Alan Wake’s sprawling, wildly thrashing tentacles of plot. In true Primary School creative writing style, Alan wakes up and finds that it was all a dream. Then he vows never to eat cheese after 7pm again and gets on with his holiday. And maybe has a little cry in the shower while his wife is looking at tourist leaflets for ideas of what to do that day. But he’s fine after that.
Bionic Commando (2009)
The ending: Released from government custody to stop a terrorist group from accessing a super-weapon known as Project Vulture, titular robo-armed commando Nathan Spencer has discovered that his old war buddy Super Joe is the head of the terrorist faction. Also, THE BIONIC ARM IS HIS WIFE. Battling Joe in the skies above a wrecked city, he defeats his former comrade and plunges hundred of metres to the ground. We never see him land. An epilogue voiceover then reveals that “Phase Two” is prepared and orders the activation of something called Project Albatros [sic].
The ending we’d attach: Plunging towards certain death, Spencer is saved when his arm-wife activates her bionic grapple facility, complaining that he’s a lazy sod who never does anything for himself. After being with him through several hours of unnecessarily angsty current-gen reboot, she mentions that he’s “in one of those moods” again and that he used to be way more fun when they first met. They then spend several hours arguing over whether wanking is cheating if one’s arm is also one’s wife.
The ending: With her sister framed for murder as part of a totalitarian regime’s attempt to draw out and suppress the “Runners” responsible for free delivery of information around the city, Faith has taken on the whole damn regime and sort of won. We say “sort of”, because all she’s really done is stay alive and saved her sister. During the end credits we find out that the ruling faction’s resolve has only strengthened, further oppressing the populace and putting Faith and her sister in even greater danger.
The ending we’d attach: After a campaign typified by somewhat niggly trial and error gameplay and an aversion to gunplay (which was in itself rather sloppy and a bit crap), Faith gives up on faffing around now that the stakes are higher. Running off into the distance, she glances past a clock. We notice that the year is 2143. DICE’s other futuristic franchise is raging away on a battlefield (zing!) just outside of the city. Brassed off with the last few hours of evasive screwing around, she comes back with a mech and lays waste to the city. Two birds, one stone. Battlefield fans get the 2142 sequel they’ve always wanted and EA can stop teasing Mirror’s Edge fans with the eternal promise of a never-appearing sequel.
Mega Man Legends 2
The ending: An ancient global ‘cleansing’ mechanism is threatening to open up all over the Earth. Said system is a “Carbon Reinitialisation Program”, developed to wipe out all current human life on the planet before rebooting a past generation. Mega Man has flown to the planet Elysium to stop the system from activating. He’s defeated the last boss, but got himself stranded, and the CRP is going to start up regardless.
“Never mind”, says Mega Man. “This is bound to work itself out”
The credits roll and, given the thoroughly cancelled nature of the sequel, the series ends. Mega Man is still up there, waiting for a rescue.
The ending we’d attach: A definitive ‘bad ending’ to put Mega Man fans out of their misery. Roll gives up on rescuing Mega Man, Mega Man dies, Capcom gets an excuse to stop teasing the fans with vague promises of new sequels, and everyone can move on with their lives.
The ending: Lan Di gets away again, Ryo spends a few hours wandering in the woods with Ling Shenhua, and then he discovers a magic sword in a cave. The sword floats, magically. We get no explanation as to how magic is now happening in the resolutely realistic world of Shenmue, and moments later the series inadvertently ends.
The ending we’d attach: Shenmue II’s new ending would need to do two things. Firstly, it would need to resolve Ryo’s journey of revenge against Lan Di. Secondly, it would need to explain that bloody magic sword. The answer? Just throw all semblance of reality out of the window (like the game hasn’t already done that by this point) and go full-Dragonball. Ryo grabs the sword, does a loud, flashy henshin transformation, flies through the sky (ideally with speedlines) to wherever Lan Di is and skewers him from the clouds. “Thank God you found my magic sword”, he says to Ling (who for some reason is also there), “That would have taken ages otherwise”
“I know, seven discs already, right?” she replies And then they’d both laugh, and the image on screen still-frames as the credits roll. Tell us that wouldn’t have been better than the last 12 years of waiting.
So there’s our attempt to help the narratively traumatised gamer. But how about your suggestions? Do you have any other ideas of how you’d have liked these nine to be wrapped up? Or possibly any resolution suggestions for other games tragically devoid of an ending? Let us know.
And while you’re here, why not check out some of our related bits and bobs. In this instance we’d particularly recommend 12 videogame stories that jumped the shark and Lara Croft: Most real hero of current-gen.
By David Houghton
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