Sometimes you have to replay part of a game multiple times to get the ‘true’ ending, like in the Nier or Zero Escape series. But other games have endings you can easily miss because of a decision you made 20 hours back, or because you didn’t earn enough magic war points, or because you earned too many magic chaos points. When that happens do you go back for a do-over, or is your first playthrough an unalterable canon even—if you missed out on the golden secret true ending?
Do you replay games if you don’t get the ‘best’ ending?
Here are our answers, plus some from our forum.
Robin Valentine: Thankfully this style of design seems to have largely faded away these days, because it’s one of my least favourite things in games. I find it so hugely dispiriting to find out I’ve crossed some point of no return that means that the last moments of the game will be the equivalent of the developers wagging a finger at me for not doing things properly. I’m far more likely to react by just quitting in frustration right before the finish line and never returning than I am to start all over again. If I get an inclining that a game has a set-up like that, I’ll usually look up some pointers beforehand to make sure I don’t make any ending-ruining blunders—though that usually means having a bunch of stuff spoiled for me, messing up the experience either way.
The way Persona 4 and 5 handle this really wound me up. I love those games, and actually one of the things I like about them is the way they encourage you to not perfectly micro-manage your experience—their structure, which limits how much you can do in a day while giving you an overwhelming amount of choices, pushes you to just go with your gut and roll with your mistakes. What could be more appropriate than that for a series about teenage life? But then they always have some nonsense at the end where if you didn’t do this, this, and this, then you don’t get to see the true ending, and if you don’t do that right you won’t get to see the super secret even truer ending. To add insult to injury, this always seems to mean having to play another 20 hours of super hard bullshit dungeon crawl. It’s like eating your vegetables so you can have dessert, only to find out the real treats are behind a 30-foot wall of cold cabbage.
Christopher Livingston: Once upon a time I’d probably spend the extra time to see multiple endings. Today, I’ll most likely just fire up YouTube and watch someone else who’s done all the hard work to unlock and record various endings. I’m always curious about roads not taken, but not enough to experience them myself.
Plus I find there’s something more enjoyable about playing a game once, sticking with the decisions I made, good or bad, and walking away with just a single timeline in my head instead of multiple versions of what happened.
Wes Fenlon: I don’t think I’ve ever replayed a story-focused game expressly because I didn’t get the full ending. Who has the time for that? Like Robin says, it’s frustrating to play a really long game like Persona 4 only to discover you didn’t do X thing 20 hours ago and thus are locked out of the complete story. Sierra adventure games pulled the same bullshit in the ’80s and ’90s and it sucked then, too! There are definitely games like Mass Effect and BioShock and even the first season of The Walking Dead that I’ve replayed and made different decisions in, but getting the “best” ending wasn’t really the goal.
I have done this with older games like Contra 3, which doesn’t let you play through the final level or so if you’re on easy difficulty. I’m terrible at Contra so I don’t think I actually made it to the end on normal, but I did try! Even if the real ending is just a static screen saying “Good job,” it’s an achievement to shoot for.
Richard Stanton: In my younger days I had the time to play through games multiple times: not now. I dislike a lot of multiple-choice game endings because, although there are honrable exceptions like Disco Elysium, too often they veer between wild extremes of good and bad. In Bioshock you ended up either a hero hippy raising orphans, or a power-crazed flesh-eater about to declare war on the world. Come on. I finished Dishonored and the game gave me a bad ending for killing too many people: a game where you play a character who is basically murder Batman. I hate it when games build these awesome shiv-em-up systems, give you powers like being able to summon rats to eat foes alive, then you do it all and the damn thing turns around and goes ‘tut tut tut Richard, why did you kill all those people?’ Because you are designed to make it feel good, videogame! You gave me the rats and now you turn on me!
Tyler Wilde: Whichever ending I get is the best ending so long as I don’t know there are other endings, so I just try not to know anything about what I’m playing.
Andy Chalk: Nah, it’s not worth the hassle. Sometimes I’ll take steps to ensure I get the ending I want in “big” games—I used a guide for the Mass Effect 2 suicide mission; for Witcher 3, I used console commands to check out all three endings—but I don’t have enough time to play all the games I want even once, much less replay them to get different endings. If there’s a save right near the final choice at the end of a game I’ll sometimes go back and try different options to see what happens (I just did that with Strangeland, in fact), but that’s as far as I’m willing to go with it.
Phil Savage: Realistically, I’m never going to replay a game with multiple endings. As such, if I get the merest hint that I’m playing something with a canonically good ending, I’ll usually search for a guide—spoiler-free if possible—that lists the main choices needed to nudge myself in that direction. If game endings were consistently better—if the choices made felt like a satisfying conclusion to the character arc the player had forged for themselves—I’d be happier to go with the flow. Too often, though, they feel almost character-agnostic, wrapping up the main story beats with a bit of added “welp, you sure did fuck this up” if you failed to activate the hidden series of flags needed to actually do well. That’s not the satisfying conclusion I’m looking for after spending 30+ hours with a game.
Jody Macgregor: I guess I’m the weirdo who does this. I’m partway through replaying Pathfinder: Kingmaker, which took like 90 hours the first time, in an attempt to get the secret ending by jumping through some ridiculous hoops. Sometimes I’ll go back to a save from before the divergence point and just replay the back half, which is how I got the Good+ ending of SIlent Hill, but if I really love a game I know I’ll play it again some day, so I might as well engineer the best possible finale to Planescape: Torment or whatever.
Still, even I just YouTubed the full ending of Arkham Knight instead of doing all the Riddler challenges. Fuck that noise.
XoRn: Yep. I know I don’t have to but it feels like the game is judging me, even if the thing that causes the ending I don’t want is practically arbitrary in how it was assigned.
For example, the original Bioshock has a “good”, “mixed” and “bad” ending. You get the good ending by rescuing all of the Little Sisters, and you get the bad ending by harvesting all of them. Any mix of doing both will result in the mixed ending, which is basically the bad ending again, but with different talking going on over it. Point is, if you want the good ending you have to save every little sister.
Mechanically, the rewards are basically the same. You get less ADAM (skill currency) for saving the Little Sisters but they make up for it by leaving you goodie baskets once in a while so functionally the decision to do one or the other ONLY affects the ending in the long run. At the time of my first play though, this wasn’t obvious, and I harvested the second little sister I found to test the reward.
This of course locked me into the bad ending (or near enough in my mind) so that when I beat the game and looked up the other endings and realized I didn’t get the good one I had to play the whole damn thing again. Thankfully, it’s a game that plays well the second time around, and you better believe I was ready to club that sneaky f!@#$%^ doctor right in the face this time. (You know the one I’m talking about!)
Ryzengang: Sometimes I will, yeah. I haven’t done so yet, but I’m definitely going to replay Metro: Exodus because I got the “bad” ending. No problem with replaying, especially since the Enhanced Edition came out and I have a 3080 to run it. Although it’s a whole different tangent, the karma system in Exodus is honestly pretty stupid and I don’t think it should affect the ending at all frankly, but that is a separate discussion.
Pifanjr: I have (painfully) gone through all endings of Mass Effect 3, reloading the safe each time and going through the motions to see each colour. That’s probably as close as I’ve gotten, since it’s rare for me to complete games in the first place, let alone replay an entire game start to finish.
DXCHASE: This is one of those “depends on the game” questions for me. Most of the time…no, I’m usually done with it because I don’t have the time, unless I can save right before making 1 or 2 decisions that will take me in 2 different directions.
Colif: Normally I play games that have no ending except… Journey. it only lasts 90 minutes but I played it endlessly for months, not because there is a best ending but because everyone was different. Its all to do with the way it matched you to other people, and how they reacted. The game itself was always mostly the same but the play wasn’t. I met people in that game I cannot understand outside of the game. Many from Japan, they were the most fun games.
I hope it still has people playing it on PC. Its not the same alone.
McStabStab: No, I usually just youtube the other endings. One life to live, can’t spend it grinding multiple playthroughs of every forked plot game out there!
Krud: Sometimes, but it depends on the game. It’s one of the reasons why I keep a ton of savepoints in games, especially at what seem to be crucial decisions. But if the different ending is only slight, and the reason for it is largely due to something I did several dozen hours ago, then I’ll probably live with my decisions. If it’s a Bioware or similar game where the choices were largely in the final act, I’ll almost definitely go back to see what happens if I made another choice, regardless of whether I’d already gotten the “best” ending or not.
Sarafan: I have a tendency to replay games even if I get the best ending. But yes, it happens. Usually I satisfy myself by reverting the game only to the point where there was a crucial decision which impacted the ending. The most notable example is The Witcher 3. During my first playthrough I got the worst case scenario and I just couldn’t continue playing the DLCs with it in mind. I decided to replay a big part of the game just to get the best finish.
There are games however where I don’t care which ending I get. I just try to maximize fun by playing them how I want to. For example, I didn’t care which ending I’ll get in Metro: Last Light. I just focused on having fun. The ending was of course bad, but the requirements for getting the good one would strip the game from a lot of fun. Not to mention that it’s a lot harder to get it.
JCgames: Mass Effect spoilers ahead!
What is the best ending? If you mean while romancing Tali I sided with legion destroying her race and she still loved me, while living happily ever after with benevolent reapers making everyone’s lives better, then No, I got that my first try. It took me two to loose the galaxy as an angry Shep with the only clue to my existence and my girl aria becoming a beacon. At least I know she made it that long.
tragadaw: Of course. When I play AC and play the main quest, if not I will repeat it until it’s perfect. And repetition for not just because of the mission, but fun while playing it.