The best bad endings (that you really have to work for)

Learning from failure is an important part of life and, consequently, video games. Getting killed by a tricky boss teaches you how to recognize patterns and to respond with correct timing. Losing all of your troops gives you a valuable lesson on prudence and strategy. With a lot of time, effort, and perhaps a little help from your friends (or a strategy guide), you can finally overcome a game's most arduous challenges and earn yourself the bleakest, most depressing ending ever. Wait, what?

Most of the time, failure is the result of an inability to complete certain objectives, not having enough supplies, or poor decision-making skills. But sometimes it nets you unseen rewards, such as giving you a completely different ending to the one you imagined. However, if you want to fail in these next few games, you really need to work for it, fighting absurdly difficult bosses or making wildly counter-intuitive choices, all so you can watch the world burn. Caution: There's going to be a lot of spoilers here. You've been warned. Now that's out of the way, check out the video below or click through to find the best of a bad bunch...

Spec Ops: The Line

If you've played Spec Ops: The Line, you know exactly how meta its ending already is. Commander Konrad, the man you were sent to rescue, has been dead for weeks, and your brain has been messing with your perception of reality to rationalise the atrocities you've committed to complete your mission. By confronting and 'killing' the projection of Konrad, you give yourself a chance to atone for your actions. Or... you can take the hard way out.

After the credits, you're confronted by a squad of US soldiers. You can drop your weapon and go with them, thus giving yourself a chance at redemption, or you can open fire on them and attempt to take them all out. I say 'attempt', because this is actually much harder than it sounds, considering you're one shell-shocked mess of a human going up against an entire platoon. If you're able to kill everyone, you grab the walkie-talkie off the nearest dead body, and utter to your superiors the same words 'Konrad' said to you when you first arrived: "Gentlemen, welcome to Dubai." So much for atonement.


Like Drakengard before it, spin-off Nier's endings start off bittersweet and get progressively more bleak as you unlock them. In order to earn the final (and most depressing) ending of the bunch, you'll have to go through several rounds of New Game+, then commit the most eternal of video game acts: deleting your save file.

Once you beat the game the first time, you can use your save file to continue playing, starting over from the midpoint of Nier's story. Completing it a second time will unlock a different ending, providing a little more context to the story, but still not really resolving anything. Completing the game a third time will finally give you a chance to choose one of two final endings: do you kill one of your friends and then live the rest of your days waiting to die from a plague known as the Black Scrawl, or do you sacrifice your entire being to save her? If you pick the second option, all memory of your existence is erased from everyone you've ever interacted with - and all of your save files disappear along with it. It's actually kind of poetic. Still doesn't make playing through a game three times any less of a time sink.

Harvest Moon (SNES)

Harvest Moon certainly isn't an easy game by any means. There are so many different tasks to juggle as you tend to your farm, like milking cows, rotating crops, and wooing one of the locals. But even if you flail about with no plan or routine in mind, you're still bound to get something done. But in order to get Harvest Moon's bad ending, you're not allowed to do anything for an entire in-game year.

In order to get Harvest Moon's bad ending, you have to make sure that your farm is barren by the end of the year. This means no planting or selling crops or buying any animals. Heck, it's probably best if you just don't talk to any one at all, lest someone actually form an opinion about you. After twiddling your thumbs and resisting the urge to do something, anything, other than waking up and going to bed for an entire year, you get kicked off the farm, leaving your whimpering dog behind on the front steps as you run as far away from this hick town as fast as your legs can carry you.

Mass Effect 2

Bioware made a big deal out of how Commander Shepard could die during the final suicide mission in Mass Effect 2. What they didn't mention was how difficult it was to actually make that happen. How hard is it? Let's just say that Emmet from The Lego Movie could have stumbled his way to victory with more grace.

If you want Shepard to bite the bullet (along with everyone else in your squad), you have to completely forgo completing any of your companions' loyalty missions. This not only puts your squad at a disadvantage (because they won't be able to access their best upgrades without completing them), but it also means abandoning some of the best content Mass Effect 2 has to offer. Then, simply ignore your squad's suggestions during the final mission and assign the worst possible soldiers to complete the required tasks (Jacob for hacking, Miranda to handle the biotic shield, etc.) Pull off all of that, bring two disloyal team members with you for the final battle, and voila, Seth Green is officially the only surviving member of the Normandy. Congratulations?

Heavy Rain

Like Mass Effect 2's ending, you have to be very deliberate with your choices if you want to see the Origami Killer get away scot-free. It also helps to know who the Origami Killer is, a fact that you probably won't realize until you've seen the plot hole-laden twist near the end of the game. But once you know who the Killer is (spoilers: it's the private detective Scott Shelby), you can then put all the pieces in place and help him get away with murder.

Essentially, you need to make sure that all of the people Scott meets during his investigation (parents of previous victims and potential witnesses) end up dying. That guy in the convenience store? If you rescue him during the stick-up, you're actually hurting yourself, so just don't do anything and the situation will resolve itself. Also, playable characters Madison and Jayden have to die, but in very specific points in the story. You know what? Just read this convoluted list of instructions, because there's no way you'd be able to get this without obsessing over a corkboard covered in pictures and bits of string.

House of the Dead

Because of its arcade roots, House of the Dead was designed to suck as many quarters out of your pocket as possible. It's a difficult game, and enemies are relentlessly gnashing and clawing away at you in an attempt to take a bite of your tasty brainmeats. But if you want to see the game's bad ending, you need to be flawless in your execution; good enough to beat the game without using a continue, but not so good that you score over 62,000 points.

House of the Dead's good ending is surprisingly easy to get in comparison. All you really have to do is play the game with a modicum of skill, and you'll easily score over 62,000 points by the end of it. But if you want to see lead hero Thomas' fiance turned into a zombie, you're have to be much more judicious, only offing the demons that will either progress the scene forward or are about to kill you. And you can't just refrain from killing anything; the number of continues used has to end in a zero, so you're better off not dying at all in order to guarantee that you see the bad ending.

Disgaea 2

The Disgaea series is known for ridiculous difficulty spikes and for turning level grinding into an artform, and hey, if that's your jam, these turn-based RPGs will eat up hundreds of hours of your time. But even the most ardent Disgaea die-hard has to admit that trying to earn the bad ending in Disgaea 2 is borderline Kafkaesque.

You need to accomplish two things before going into the final boss: you need to have over 99 ally kills (and one of them has to be main heroine Rozalin), and you need to have earned over 99 felonies (which are granted by fulfilling certain requirements in the Item World). Oh, and you need to make sure you're powerful enough to beat the level 2000 boss (which replaces the level 90 boss you'd normally fight to watch the good ending). After dozens upon dozens of hours of grinding just to stand a fighting chance, you're finally rewarded with an incredibly dark ending in which the hero kills and (quite possibly) eats his friends. Yaaaay...

David Roberts
David Roberts lives in Everett, WA with his wife and two kids. He once had to sell his full copy of EarthBound (complete with box and guide) to some dude in Austria for rent money. And no, he doesn't have an amiibo 'problem', thank you very much.