In most of the games we enjoy, the good guy wins in the end. It may not always be realistic, but happy endings tend to make people feel happy and satisfied. Some game developers choose to go a different route, sometimes giving you games with twist endings, other times they just make things go horribly wrong. The hero gets double-crossed. The villain comes out victorious.
Those are the games we’re interested in here. And because we’re discussing the endings of the games, be aware that spoilers abound.
1. Red Dead Redemption
The ending of this endearing title is a real kick in the gut. You play as John Marston, a former outlaw whose wife and child are kidnapped by federal agents. To get them back, you’re tasked with working as a bounty hunter for them.
After doing more than your share of crime-fighting deeds, you’re finally reunited with your family. But the game doesn’t end. You start a new life at your homestead, running a handful of missions nearby. Then one day the army comes onto your property, guns blazing. The government hasn’t kept its promise. They’re out for blood.
You send your wife and son off to safety, then turn to face the threat. John Marston, a man you’ve come to care about over many hours of adventures, dies in a hail of bullets.
The epilogue offers a speck of closure, but by then it’s too late.
2. Halo: Reach
If you’re familiar with the story of Halo, then you knew going into it that this one was going to end badly. Halo: Reach is a prequel to the entire series, depicting the events that occur before the start of 2001’s Halo: Combat Evolved.
Your team’s goal at the end of Reach is to launch the UNSC Pillar of Autumn. Once you succeed, setting in motion the events of the rest of the Halo series, your fate is sealed. You’re left behind, vastly outnumbered by Covenant enemies. You lose the battle, you lose your life, and humans lose the planet. Thanks for playing!
In Infamous, you play as an electricity-wielding superhero (or villain, thanks to the game’s morality system). Your enemy is Kessler, a mob boss who controls most of the city and who’s responsible for the death of your friend Trish. No matter whether you choose to play as a good guy or a bad guy, you end up fighting Kessler at the end.
Once you defeat him, however, you learn that he is actually you from the future. He traveled back in time to turn you into a super soldier capable of taking on an even bigger threat that has yet to arrive. Killing Trish was part of the plan, because in his timeline he ends up marrying Trish, and it’s his family that keeps him from addressing the threat. Although Kessler means well, he’s the villain of the game, and he succeeds in his twisted plan.
4. Shadow of the Colossus
The game world of Shadow of the Colossus is one filled with loneliness and desolation. To save your dead friend, you must wander through a barren landscape, seeking out 16 gigantic, awe-inspiring creatures that appear to be the only living things in the land. Your job? To kill them, removing all life from the world.
As if that’s not bad enough, a plot twist at the end reveals that the colossi were the only things holding back a great evil entity who ends up possessing the main character. At this point, a team of heroes tries to vanquish you and your evil host. They appear to succeed, until it’s revealed that the evil has been reborn, in the form of a horned infant. Cue the credits. Yikes.
5. Resistance 2
When it came out in 2008, Resistance 2 was one of the best shooters available on PlayStation 3. It still holds up all these years later. But one area where it doesn’t quite satisfy is the ending, which is as abrupt as it is brutal.
As in the first game, you play as Nathan Hale. This installment sees you leading a team of soldiers who have been exposed to an alien virus that makes them extra powerful. (What could possibly go wrong, right?) At the end of the game, with your squad all but demolished, you might expect to find a cure for the virus and live to fight another day.
Nope. Instead, in a quick cut scene, your character succumbs to the virus and turns evil. After you babble some alien propaganda, you squad mate unceremoniously shoots you in the head. That’s all she wrote, at least until Resistance 3.
6. Killzone 2
The second episode of a trilogy is often the darkest is possible for the good guys to come back from seemingly impossible odds in the final installment. Just think about the ending of The Empire Strikes Back. That’s how it goes in Killzone 2, the darkest chapter in the PlayStation 3 series.
The game is set during the ISA invasion of the evil Helghast’s capital city. You’re a member of the ISA on a mission to bring Helghast emperor Visari into custody. Before you can do that, Visari detonates a nuke, killing most of the ISA soldiers. You end up killing Visari, but when you go outside, you find a fleet of Helghast ships flying in to finish off the remnants of your army. It’s a bad scene, man.
7. The Last of Us
The ending of this game is famously controversial. If you played it, you probably remember exactly what happened: Joel and Ellie make their way to the the Firefly compound in Salt Lake City, only to learn that the method of extracting the vaccine from Ellie will kill her. With Ellie unconscious, Joel decides that’s not acceptable. After straight up murdering one of the relatively innocent doctors, he kills Firefly leader Marlene and escapes with Ellie.
Ellie wakes up as they drive away and asks what happened. Instead of telling the truth, Joel lies and says the Fireflies had found others who were immune to the infection and had been unable to produce a cure. It’s unclear whether she believes him or not, even after she asks him again, later.
If you think refusing to sacrifice one person for the possibility of saving many makes Joel a bad guy — as many do — then this game belongs on the list.