Bad video game endings don't normally happen in isolation. They're often the culmination of poor storytelling choices throughout the entire game. Unlikable characters, plot holes, or contrived writing that consistently build up until the ending can never be good. Often, bad endings follow bad games.
This isn't always the case, however. There are some excellent games that fall at the final hurdle. After an entire game of moving and compelling storytelling — and good gameplay — the writers drop the ball at the last moment. However they do it, some games create a sweet experience that leaves a bitter final taste.
Venom Snake, the body double of Big Boss from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is widely considered to have the best gameplay of any Metal Gear Solid game. Many consider it the most fun in the entire franchise. However, its storytelling has a more mixed response. This is in large part due to its unfinished status and its late-game reveal. The Phantom Pain is meant to be about Big Boss' descent into villainy.
The player sees Venom Snake fall further and further throughout the game. However, the game's last major revelation is that Venom Snake isn't Big Boss, but a double. Players watch a new character they have less of a relationship with go through the story they wanted to see the protagonist experience. Unfortunately, its final act is missing due to game development being cut short.
9/10 Life Is Strange Forces A Needlessly Cruel Choice
Max Caulfield and Chloe Price watching storm in Life is Strange's ending
Life is Strange is a game about choices and consequences. With protagonist Max Caulfield's ability to travel through time, players can try multiple approaches to any situation. However, the game's ending comes down to a binary choice. The player can either let Chloe Price die before the game even begins, or doom Arcadia Bay to destruction.
The choice even existing relies on poorly-explained time travel metaphysics. After spending all of Life is Strange growing closer to Chloe, many players feel that the choice is cruel for the sake of a sad ending. Furthermore, the potential for a romantic relationship between the two leads to some accusing the game of using the 'Bury Your Gays' trope.
8/10 Assassin's Creed III Leans Too Much On Its Present-Day Storyline
Desmond Miles sacrifices himself in Assassin's Creed III
The Assassin's Creed series has always had two storylines: the historical action of the game's bulk, and then its present-day framing device. The latter has always been contentious with fans. Many view it as a distraction from the more compelling historical stories. However, most games end on a very satisfying note in their main stories.
Not so in Assassin's Creed III. That game ends on an anticlimactic note for its Revolutionary War storyline. Instead, the game focuses its ending on the present day, with Desmond Miles sacrificing himself to save humanity. Most players simply don't care about Desmond enough to be moved by this scene. It falls completely flat for many.
7/10 Fallout 3's Ending Needs DLC To Fix It
The Lone Wanderer agrees to activate Project Purity at the cost of their own life in Fallout 3
Fallout 3 has an ending so infamous that it has DLC designed to overhaul it. At the end of the game, the Lone Wanderer fights their way into Project Purity.