The Mass Effect 2 endings represent a culmination of the choices you've made and your ability to band together a cohesive crew, when your long battles against the Reapers arrive at the Collector Base, so naturally you want to make the right decisions to secure the best possible outcome. This holds particularly true if you're working your way through the Mass Effect Legendary Edition in chronological order, because the choices you instigate during this finale will carry over to the third instalment of the trilogy and have a potentially large bearing on how that in turn concludes for you.
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To achieve the best Mass Effect 2 ending available there are a number of essential assignments you need to complete, and these have to be done in a specific order otherwise you can potentially lock yourself into a suboptimal conclusion once that countdown clock starts ticking. Sometimes it can be hard to see how some of these decisions will affect the future outcome, but no matter how you want things to turn out, we've got all of the details covering every possible Mass Effect 2 ending you can get.
How to get the best Mass Effect 2 ending
To earn the best Mass Effect 2 ending you're going to need to put in plenty of groundwork first, because it's crucial that your squad is adequately prepared before you head into the Suicide Mission finale. Ensure that you complete the following steps:
- Buy all defensive and offensive upgrades.
- Before you start the Act 2 Reaper IFF mission, recruit all crew members except Legion and complete their Mass Effect 2 loyalty missions.
- Recruit Legion in the Act 2 Reaper IFF mission, then complete their loyalty mission immediately.
- Resolve the confrontations between Jack and Miranda, and Tali and Legion, with the Paragon or Renegade option to retain all of their loyalties.
- Once the crew of the Normandy have been kidnapped and you've completed Legion's loyalty mission, immediately travel through the Omega 4 relay and don't initiate any of the other missions.
- During the Act 3 Collector Base: Infiltration mission, choose Kasumi, Legion, or Tali as the Tech Specialist to open the doors, and Miranda, Garrus, or Jacob to lead the second squad.
- During the Act 3 Collector Base: The Long Walk mission, choose Jack or Samara/Morinth to create the biotic field, and Miranda, Garrus, or Jacob to lead the second squad. Select a non-soldier such as Mordin or Tali to escort the surviving crew back to the Normandy.
- When preparing your squad for the final battle, make sure you leave at least one strong defender such as Garrus, Grunt, or Zaeed behind to protect the remaining crew. If available, you should take a couple out of Jack, Kasumi, Mordin, and Tali with you in your squad, as they are weak defenders.
Should you destroy the Collector Base or use the radiation pulse instead
Once you reach the core and begin prepping it for destruction, you'll receive an incoming transmission from the Elusive Man who makes another proposal for how to proceed. He suggests using a timed radiation pulse instead, which will eliminate the Collectors but leave the base intact, so it can be used by humanity in the future against the Reapers. You then have to make a choice, which can have a knock-on effect for the Mass Effect 3 endings:
- Destroying the Collector Base is a Paragon action, which will add the Reaper Heart to your War Assets in Mass Effect 3 and works towards the Destroy ending for ME3.
- Saving the Collector Base is a Renegade action, which will add the Reaper Brain to your War Assets in Mass Effect 3 and slightly improves your chances of a better outcome with the Control ending for ME3.
Whichever choice you make, you'll go on to the final confrontation then escape in the Normandy, followed by a meeting with the Illusive Man. If you destroyed the Collector Base then the Illusive Man will be incensed and the star behind him will be blue, whereas if you saved the base then he'll praise your decision and the star will be red, representing the Paragon or Renegade action. A final scene on the Normandy comes next, and if all of your crew survived then you'll get the best Mass Effect 2 ending with everyone greeting or acknowledging you as you walk through the ship. If any of the crew died during the Suicide Mission, then you'll instead see Shepard mourning over one or more caskets.
Once the credits have rolled, you have the option to start a fresh playthrough on New Game+ or go back and continue the game. Continuing the game allows you to finish any outstanding missions, and speak to your crew members to hear their opinions about the decision you made regarding the Collector Base. Starting a New Game+ will carry over your upgraded powers, along with your level, Mass Effect 2 weapons, armor, and equipment, however your Paragon and Renegade bars will be emptied. This choice is not exclusive, so you can switch between New Game+ and continuing your previous playthrough at any point.
How to get the worst Mass Effect 2 ending
Of course, getting the best Mass Effect 2 ending is a noble intention, but what if you just want to watch the world burn and get the worse ending instead? If that's your bag, then follow these steps:
- Don't buy any defensive or offensive upgrades.
- Don't recruit Zaeed, leave Grunt in the stasis pod, and recruit the bare minimum crew to initiate the Act 2 Collector Ship mission.
- Immediately follow that up with the Act 2 Reaper IFF mission, and don't recruit Legion when you find them.
- Once the crew of the Normandy have been kidnapped, complete four or more other missions before travelling through the Omega 4 relay. This will leave Doctor Chakwas as the only survivor.
- During the Act 3 Collector Base: Infiltration mission, choose disloyal or unskilled squad members to open the doors and lead the second squad.
- During the Act 3 Collector Base: The Long Walk mission, choose disloyal or unskilled squad members to create the biotic field and to lead the second squad. Don't escort the surviving crew back to the Normandy.
This time, after the final confrontation when you attempt to escape in the Normandy, Joker will try to catch you but fail and you'll fall to your death. Afterwards you'll see Joker meeting with the Illusive Man instead of Shepard, then Joker mourns over all the caskets of the dead crew, including Shepard's with an N7 insignia. Note that if Shepard dies, you naturally won't be able to continue the game afterwards.