Reaching the end of a video game can be exciting. After spending many hours with a story and characters, going on a journey and getting to know the characters until they start feeling like good friends, the end can feel bittersweet but hard earned to finally see how it all ends. As the anticipation builds toward the end, something happens in the game that pulls the rug from right under you. Maybe the end credits roll but you’re left flabbergasted, thinking, “That can’t be how it ends?!” or a chapter labeled as “Final” actually opens up a few more subchapters that eventually get you to the real ending of the game.
This has been my recent experience with two video games in particular—Control and Neo: The World Ends With You. Fair warning, there are some light spoilers for both of these games.
The first time I encountered the fake ending was when I was playing the main campaign of Remedy Entertainment’s Control. Jesse Faden has been on a mission to reunite with her brother Dylan, but he may not be the same brother she remembered.
As the game progresses you find out Dylan has been possessed by the Hiss and is behind some of the sinister things going on at the Oldest House. Naturally, Jesse is the only one who can stop her brother and the Hiss from taking over the Oldest House and potentially escaping into the outside world.
There is a point in the game where Jesse seems to have failed in stopping her brother, and the Hiss manages to take over Jesse instead. The look of despair as Jesse’s body is possessed by the Hiss is palpable, and suddenly—BAM! End credits roll.
I sat in disbelief, open mouthed, watching the credits play on my screen. I couldn’t believe that was the end. Maybe I got a bad ending? Maybe I needed to do something that I missed to get the good ending? It was entirely possible as some games were designed to have multiple endings you can unlock. As I kept watching the credits, the screen started getting distorted until the game transitioned into Jesse being in an office at the Oldest House and needing to get herself out of it to TRULY take on her brother. Once I got through that section, the real ending played out where Jesse triumphs to become the new director of the Federal Bureau of Control with the real end credits playing afterwards.
The way the fake ending was done in Control was clever and not something I expected would happen as I played it. It was a “Gotcha!” moment that was really memorable in its execution and the immediate gut response you get.
Should have known the developers wouldn’t end Control like that, especially when all you want is for your heroine to succeed. But the way Neo: The World Ends With You is approaching their endgame? It’s starting to feel more tedious and drawn out.
As of the writing of this post I’m still working through the Week 3, Final Day chapters of Neo. I say chapters plural because there are new sections that seem to keep opening up with what I thought would be the end of the game. Plot twists and developments abound in Neo and I have mixed feelings with how this was done.
Final bosses that aren’t really the final boss. Final showdowns that aren’t exactly the final showdown. Getting to the “end” of Neo started feeling like you’re pulling back layers of an onion. The ending is so close but still far out of reach.
As much as I have enjoyed playing Neo overall, it feels like the developers behind the sequel to The World Ends With You is extending the story and game much longer than they should have. Some of the boss fights have been frustrating, and all this back and forth that happens in between, as Rindo uses his time travel power to change the choices made previously in order to succeed at stopping the inevitable destruction of Shibuya, is starting to become more of a nuisance to finish Neo. At this point I’m thinking, “End the damn game already!”
When I played the original TWEWY there wasn’t any of this fake ending stuff. You reached the final day of Week 3, there was an ultimate boss fight, and the story came to a close. There were no subchapters for something clearly labeled as “Final Day”.
I’ll have further thoughts on Neo once I truly beat the game, but for now, the “ending” is already souring on me a bit.
I personally don’t mind the fake ending if done right. Control approached it with a deft hand to make the game an entirely enjoyable experience from start to finish. For Neo, what begins as a fun game starts to get exhausting in its final hours when the ending is littered with too many twists and turns for it to be fun anymore. Or almost worth it to finish the game.
What do you think of fake endings in video games? Have you encountered any that were well done or just plain aggravating?