Is this really the end?
Stories need conflict: the central struggle of any tale is the very thing that drives it forward. This fact becomes even more important for games, which often try to juggle storytelling with goal-oriented progression. However, barring endless MMOs, games also need resolution. It can be as simple as collecting a star or as complicated as a 20 minute, multi-part cutscene, but something has to happen to make everything worthwhile.
Of course, like two speeding trains, conflict and resolution dont like to occupy the same space, so when a gaming sequel comes along things tend to get shaken up. Sadly, happy endings are the first things to get trashed. These 10 happy endings were ruined by sequels, and some of these franchises never really recover. I hope you dont like the way those originals turned out, because if you did, Im afraid Ive got some bad news for you...
Final Fantasy XIII-2
Considering the gloom that fills Final Fantasy XIII as Lightning and company struggle to save themselves without destroying the world, their journey ends much better than expected. The big bad is defeated, his evil plan goes up in flames, and everyone is reunited with their once-lost loved ones. (Except Hope, but eh, whatever.) Things are looking good, especially for reunited sisters Lightning and Serah, but once a sequel starts to loom that blissful finale gets utterly nuked.
It's not bad enough that, right on the heels of their reunion, Serah finds her sister gone and everyone thinks she's crazy for believing Lightning is alive. XIII's positive conclusion apparently warranted a heaping helping of angst, so Lightning ends up locked in an endless battle for the worlds salvation while Serah struggles desperately to find her. Then, just when you think a new happy ending is on the horizon, the world is overrun by time-stopping chaos and the Farron sisters succumb to tragic fates leading into Lightning Returns. No cheesy pop song in the world could turn that one around.
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time leaves us with something to hope for. The Prince saves the day and thwarts the evil Vizier by reversing the flow of time, and though Farah no longer remembers him, their final exchange hints that things aren't over for the intrepid pair yet. Heck, we'll probably see them together again in the sequel! Except no, that doesn't happen, and it just gets worse from there.
Coming from the bright and promising conclusion of Sands of Time, Warrior Within looks like someone vacuumed the color out of the world and replaced it with grimy alleys and half-naked demon women. When the story starts to fold out of the monochrome, it turns out that the Prince created a paradox that prevented his death by rewinding the events of the first game, and a guardian of time has been pursuing him ever since to finish the job. Seven years later the Prince has become a resentful and violent jerk weighed down by the knowledge of his own impending doom. Move over Batman, theres a new broody kid in town.
Alice: Madness Returns
Things turn out almost surprisingly well for the title character in American McGee's Alice: after confronting her own twisted psyche and restoring Wonderland, the mentally shattered girl from the opening is nowhere to be found when the credits roll, and she walks out of the asylum healthy and free. In that moment it seems like Alice is going to live a sane, happy lifebut that's not very interesting, is it? Thats why the crazy comes back full-force for the aptly named Alice: Madness Returns.
To establish exactly what the player is walking into, Madness Returns starts off with an idyllic dream of Wonderland that turns into a nightmarish bloodbath in under a minute. Succumbing once again to madness despite the efforts of her (totally benevolent) psychologist, Alice returns to a version of Wonderland even more twisted than before. Murder and mayhem ensue as she again meets the twisted abominations that used to be her friends, with healthy doses of gore, mutilation, abuse and pedophilia thrown in for good measure. Yeesh, no tea time for this Alice, she's got stabbin' to do.
The end of Chell's journey in Portal is about as happy as it gets in Valve-land, with Chell overcoming the psychological manipulations of GLaDOS to destroy the AI and escape Aperture. Sure, she ends up passing out in the parking lot, but that's pretty good after almost being roasted alive, and once she wakes up she can waltz onward to freedom, right? Yeah, about that . . .
While an updated ending to the original establishes that Chell was dragged back into the facility minutes after escaping, it's Portal 2 that really makes things dark. The game opens on a rapidly decaying Aperture, strongly implying that Chell is the only test subject left alive while showing too many crumbling subject cells for comfort. It turns out Chell's valiant efforts to defeat GLaDOS made things way, way worse. Things only go downhill when GLaDOS is reactivated, and take a real nosedive (think disaster of nuclear proportions) when Chell and Wheatley try to take GLaDOS down again. I think the lesson here is not to trust any happy ending Valve gives youit will only bring you pain.
The difference between the ending of Jak and Daxter and the beginning of Jak 2 is a couple of days and a nasty case of mood whiplash. Fresh off saving the world from biological warfare, the heroes discover a mysterious door created by a precursor race and open it with great anticipation as the game comes to a close. Jak II starts with an army of nasty critters surging out of that same door before Jak and Daxter go through, ending up in a dystopian future where Jak is kidnapped and subjected to horrible experiments. Whoa, um, okay then.
When Daxter finds Jak again two years later, the poor guys taken a leaf out of the Prince's book and turned into a vicious jerk known as Dark Jak. While the change is temporary, Jak ends up using the blood-thirsty persona frequently in the dark Haven City as he and Daxter try to save it from the political manipulations of a corrupt baron. Curiosity killed the cat it seemsor got him tortured and injected with liquid evil. Yeah, that one.
The Darkness 2
The Darkness might seem like a weird series to have here, given that the first game ends with Jackie Estacado succumbing to the titular Darkness. However, it does offer a sliver of hope through Jenny Romano, who returns in the game's final moments to tell Jackie that she loves him and that there will always be a hint of light in the dark. The Darkness 2 represents an odd reversal, because while Jackie is able to control the Darkness so it doesn't take him over completely, it turns out Jenny is going through hell--like, actual Hell.
Apparently the Darkness didnt like Jennys commentary on light in the dark very much, and responds by holding her hostage in Hell so that it can properly manipulate Jackie. The evil force also constructs a bizarre pseudo-dream where Jackie's a patient in a mental ward to distort his reality, so he becomes a docile meat puppet whenever he doesnt have the strength to fight the Darkness back. Sorry Jenny, but it's hard to beat the power of developers upping the ante.
Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Apparently not even Nintendo is safe from the Sequel of Despair. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time ends with Link regaining his youth and being allowed to live the childhood he never got to have, which seems like a pretty solid happily ever after. That is, until Majora's Mask comes around, and it turns out that reclaimed youth maybe wasnt such a good idea.
Rather than setting his sword aside for a while and enjoying his youth, Link follows up on Ocarina by going on another quest, this time to find his departed friend Navi. However, Skullkid and his faerie friends show up to push Link around, steal his ocarina, and try to destroy the world by smashing the moon into it. (Bullies can be so cruel.) Using what look like extremely painful magical transformations to his advantage, Link battles against Skullkid and the evil Majora's Mask to protect a world that he's already saved once before. He then vanishes into the woods, never to be seen again, and in all likelihood never found Navi. Err, hooray?
Can you honestly expect a game like Diablo to end well? Still, things look surprisingly good at the end of the first installment when the hero defeats Diablo, takes the stone which contains the demon's power, and . . . drives it into his own head. Odd choice, but the game insists that the hero did the right thing, and hopefully he is strong enough to contain the demon and achieve salvation. Hope hangs in the air for the hero, who may find a way to overcome Diablo in a foreign land.
Just kidding. The next time we see the hero at the beginning of Diablo II, he has been taken over by the powerful demon and is causing unholy terror as the Dark Wanderer. It turns out the stone-to-brain approach was a bit of a bad idea, and the once-hero has become the villain for the main characters to defeat. The guy never even gets the benefit of a redemption, because eventually Diablo shakes off his body like some nasty skin coat and returns to its own form. Points for effort, I guess.
Fatal Frame III: the Tormented
Whether any of the possible endings for Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly can be considered happy depends on your perspective. Each has elements that make it both happy and sad, as Mio has to kill her sister for the residents of the haunted village to be put to rest. A later version of the game makes it possible for the girls to save the village and both survive, so theres that. While few of the endings are full of rainbows and butterfl--good feelings, theres at least something of an upside in each.
Then comes Fatal Frame III: the Tormented, which says that the kill-sister ending is the real one, and Mio is still torn up about it. Shes so upset that a ghost who haunts people with a strong connection to dead loved ones comes after her, and slowly destroys her soul through her dreams. She joins a ragtag bunch of people haunted by the same ghost, but as far as the normal conclusion is concerned, things dont really work out for Mio. No rest for the horror game protagonist, apparently.
Kingdom Hearts 2
Despite concluding less happily than most of its sugary-sweet source material, Kingdom Hearts ends in a good place. While the main trio is separated, many different worlds are saved from the incursion of dark forces, and hero Sora is hopeful that he will find his friends again. Then you fire up Kingdom Hearts 2, find Sora trapped in a giant glass egg, and figure his search didnt go all that well.
Apparently, the assertion that the Heartless were contained and the worlds restored was an exaggeration, as the Heartless are still ravaging those same worlds and have expanded their operations to new ones. Theyre not even the worst thing you have to deal with either, as the newly discovered Nobodies are much smarter and tougher opponents. Soras also a complete wreck with unraveled memories (and good luck understanding that if you didnt play the interquel Chain of Memories), Kairis kidnapped by the bad guys, and Riku has an unfortunate out-of-body experience that leaves him unwilling to even let his friends know hes alive. Maybe it wont be as bad if they express their woes in song?
Better luck next time
When all is said and done, some of these games benefit from having their happy endings torn to shreds. Maybe it allows a series to expand in creative ways, or the new struggle is even more interesting than the first. But what do you think? What ruined happy endings do you miss? Have you ever started a sequel game only to despair at how the last journey turned out? Tell us in the comments below, and beware: unless youre a Valve fan, its probably going to happen again.
And if you're looking for more, check out 9 characters that got screwed over in their sequels and our pick for 11 games that need sequels (and why you won't get them).