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The Best Endings in RPG History

AXE OF THE BLOOD GOD | Kat and Nadia delve into the art of creating a great ending in an RPG.

Article by Kat Bailey, .

Axe of the Blood God is our weekly RPG podcast hosted by Kat Bailey and Nadia Oxford. You can find the previous episodes here.

Following on from our discussion of meaningful decisions in RPGs, Nadia and I delve still further into the art of making a good RPG ending. Do we want a happy ending? A bittersweet one? How important is it to tie up all the loose threads? We discuss all that and more while highlighting the endings of Final Fantasy X, Planescape Torment, Mass Effect, Fallout, and other classic RPGs in the latest episode of Axe of the Blood God [download link here].

But that's not all! As Kingdom Come: Deliverance's sales continue apace, Nadia and I debate what its success means for historical RPGs in general. Plus, we add a termite to our party in Cosmic Star Heroine.

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Show Description

Kat and Nadia dive into the best RPG endings and why they work [20:00], with the discussion touching on Final Fantasy X, Fallout, Planescape Torment, the Mass Effect games, Breath of Fire, Chrono Trigger, and Valkyrie Profile. Plus, Kat and Nadia debate what Kingdom Come's success means for medieval RPGs, and the pair add a termite to their party in the Cosmic Star Heroine Report.

Music from Axe of the Blood God is courtesy of Lena Chappelle, who has also contributed the themes to Active Time Babble and Roleplayers' Realm. I also use music from the RPG Music Pack over at rpgmaker.net. Check it out!

This article may contain links to online retail stores. If you click on one and buy the product we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments 19

  • Avatar for GreatLordAbsu #1 GreatLordAbsu 2 months ago
    I'm still laughing at that amazing segue: "sewage death, yeah!".
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #2 Flipsider99 2 months ago
    The game that comes to mind immediately is Persona 2 Innocent Sin, which maybe has the best ending in the whole Persona series.

    And if you're gonna count MGS3 as an RPG (and hey, RPG just means "game" these days so why not) that game would have to have the single best ending I've ever experienced in a game.
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #3 The-Challenger 2 months ago
    The ending to Radiant Historia still lingers in my memory. I really hate the whole "scarifical lamb" endings.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #4 yuberus 2 months ago
    I actually dug the Mass Effect 3 ending, reminding me as it did of the open, fill-in-your-own-blanks old-timey science fiction tales from the 60s and 70s. If that's not your bag then I can see why one didn't like it. But like Kat these days I'm really into more positive endings, and as of late my favorite for that has been Persona 5.
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  • Avatar for nimzy #5 nimzy 2 months ago
    I think the ending for Final Fantasy Tactics was what made the game for me. The framing device was that you were reading a secret historical account written by a man who was burned at the stake for heresy. By the end you've probably figured out why he would be executed and his writings concealed -- the only question is, how reliable of a narrator is he? How reliable is the person reporting his work and making it the story of the game? It's like the Usual Suspects, as written by Shakespeare.
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  • Avatar for Maxbeedo #6 Maxbeedo 2 months ago
    As Kat said, the "Good" ending to FFX-2 does kinda undercut the ending to FFX, though the "Perfect" ending dials it back a bit by saying Tidus is still just a summon of the Fayth and is only being given a limited time (how much he doesn't know).

    Especially with RPGs, I tend to like thorough endings that touch on everything. FF6 was the first I remember doing this extremely well. Dragon Age: Origins has an awesome ending that lets you reflect every choice you made with your characters and the major quests. My most recent favorite ending comes from Yakuza 0 (which is only partially an RPG), and is definitely bittersweet. Yakuza 0 and FF9 are 2 games where the ending dramatically improved my opinion of one of the protagonists, from "this guy's pretty good" to "this motherfrickin' baller's badass" (for FF9 it's Zidane's reveal during the play).
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #7 riderkicker 2 months ago
    I start of a lot of games, and rarely do I finish them. I have said in an earlier installment that I found Final Fantasy XV's ending very similar to Persona's 3, but if I had to choose between them, it would be XV's because I spent sooo much time bonding with my comrades compared to P3's. By the end of XV, Noctis went from the kid of the party to the dad, and I wept. Sure in P3 you get social links with half the cast, but I felt I had more meaningful connections with the people I met around town and Bebe. And the last Social Link tree involved just climbing that f-ing tower.

    Oh geez. I just realized there aren't many endings to games I actually remember or resonated with me that much.

    I did finish Final Fantasy Tactics, and was bitter that Delita got all the glory even though I whomped the final bosses with my OP party. Tactics Advance was cute but trite.

    Final Fantasy VII, okay that was good, f- off hyumahns.

    FFVIII- Oh crap I forgot! Is it about a time loop?

    Devil Survivor- Welp that's always so bleak.

    I do have to finish things and start taking notes.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #8 riderkicker 2 months ago
    @Flipsider99 Real star crossed lovers. :(
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #9 NiceGuyNeon 2 months ago
    I really loved the true ending to Persona 4 because you get to see how everyone changed, which was so wonderful when you consider you spent about 100 hours getting to know them all and trying to solve this mystery.
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  • Avatar for Talraen #10 Talraen 2 months ago
    I've always been partial to the ending of FFXIII-2, just because it's so ballsy. They spend the whole game foreshadowing a fate for Serah which I thought they'd never actually go through with, then they do and your entire mission fails completely to boot. I wouldn't want that in every game, but once in a while it's pretty cool to see.

    It reeks of both recency bias and my personal Final Fantasy bias, but the ending to Final Fantasy XV really worked for me. The presentation was manipulative as hell, but it made me cry so props to them.
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  • Avatar for moochan #11 moochan 2 months ago
    Know non in game writing about games is easy to dismiss but if you never heard of it X-2 has kind of a sequel. Sorry spoilers but Kat had to open Pandora's box of Final Fantasy X plot. In the short story Yuna and Tidus fight. Tidus kicks a ball thinking it's a blitzball but it turns out to be a bomb and blows himself up. And in the end Sins comes back so nothing in FFX actually mattered! YAY!
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  • Avatar for Jeremiah-Jones #12 Jeremiah-Jones 2 months ago
    I was recently taken by the ending of the original Lufia on SNES. If you play the 2nd game first, without any idea of what is going to happen, surviving the crazy high encounter rate to get a happy ending in the original was quite the reward.

    Favorite overall ending: When I got killed off by Kid in Radical Dreamers. I chose the wrong dialog trees and got low on health. During a random encounter, instead of trying to stop the skeleton from throwing his skull at me, I dodged it. The skull hit Kid in the head, and she slapped me. I had lost so much health earlier, that it spelled death for me. I still laugh about it.

    You know, though, Legend of Mana wasn't a great ending. I still don't get it. What happened to the main character (you)? Was it one of those "fill in your own ending" endings? Who is going to take care of my Rabite now???

    Breath of Fire 4 had a great ending too.
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  • Avatar for soupbones #13 soupbones 2 months ago
    For me, it will always be the ending to Phantasy Star 2. Seeing my favorite villain reprise his role from PS1 was amazing and unexpected at the time... but it was the twist of who was behind Mother Brain that blew my mind.
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  • Avatar for StJudasOfSleep #14 StJudasOfSleep 2 months ago
    Interesting episode this week. I completely agree with Kat that history is still a surprisingly untapped resource for video games. There are some great games in the simulation genre (Europa Universalis IV comes to mind) and Assassins Creed has gotten increasingly more historical, but there is still so much untapped potential - especially for RPGs.

    That said, as a historian (teaching at a UK university) I have to say that I have zero interest in Kingdom Come. It's not just the relatively boring, Eurocentric source material, but also the vibe of vulgar historicism that the game gives off. It reminds me of the type of historical reeneactors who insist on accuracy for its own fetishistic sake, but nonetheless focus purely on the narrow aspects of history that conforms with their worldview.
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  • Avatar for danowar #15 danowar 2 months ago
    As I just found out you don't prefix the podcast article with AotBG anymore...please don't stop, or otherwise I won't find new episodes anymore.
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  • Avatar for arromdee #16 arromdee 2 months ago
    There is an RPG which takes place in the Crusades. It's Exile (and Exile II), for the TG-16 and Genesis. It was censored in the US but you can still tell (they didn't change the Middle Eastern maps, for instance).Edited 2 times. Last edited February 2018 by arromdee
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  • Avatar for Auraic #17 Auraic 2 months ago
    One RPG ending that has really stuck with me over the years is the ending for Wild Arms 4. There are spoilers below if you haven't played it. It was a surprise for me as the ending was a painful reminder of reality after a somewhat typical RPG journey of friendship. Flashing forward 10 years, the games reveals that after the journey, the characters parted ways and did not keep their promise to meet again. What follows is a run-down of what each character had been up to in that 10-year span. Interestingly enough, the main character and his love interest of sorts are almost glossed over during the ending. Both of their endings are brief and mundane. Jude spent his time taking care of the wild life of Filgaia while having little contact with humanity. His love interest Yulie goes back home and becomes a teacher. The other two characters Arnaud and Raquel have a more fleshed out and bittersweet end. You find out that they ended up getting married and having a daughter while trying to find a cure for Raquel, who spent the game struggling with an illness and searching for some beauty in the world. The birth of her daughter finally helped her find that beauty and then she died of the illness they were unable to cure. In the end, Arnaud was left running a restaurant with his daughter. The idea that after their journey to save the world, the party members would return to a mundane existence, separate from each other, is a surprisingly realistic view for an RPG to take. I remember disliking the ending at the time, but now I respect the harsh realism of it.
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  • Avatar for Jeremiah-Jones #18 Jeremiah-Jones 2 months ago
    Dragon Quest VIII had one of the most satisfying endings I've experienced in a long time. I love that game...
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  • Avatar for acrowatz #19 acrowatz 2 months ago
    It would be absolutely rad if someone made an RPG based on the Spanish conquista of the Americas. Specifically if it showed the brutal, cannibalistic ways of the Aztecs, and what probably is the most RPG moment in actual history: La Noche Triste
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