The Guinness Book Of World Records revealed their choice for the best ever videogame endings last week, which was apparently canvassed from over 13,000 gamers. And we weren't happy about it. Numerous bizarre decisions prove that democracy sometimes doesn't work, so to combat this travesty, we've exhaustively argued, debated and thrashed out a list of our very own.
Gameplay and story are both equally important here, but they pale in comparison to one deciding factor: emotional impact. This can be anything from the exhilaration you'll feel after besting a massive boss or hectic final encounter, the joy of a happy ending, heartbreaking revelations or the satisfaction of seeing plot threads sewn tightly together. We hope you approve - and want to hear from you regardless.
Honourable Mentions (no particular order): Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, Modern Warfare, Golden Axe, Final Fight, Kingdom Hearts II, System Shock 2, Halo: Combat Evolved, Uncharted 2, Silent Hill 2, Conker's Bad Fur Day, Hitman: Blood Money, Black Ops, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Marathon Infinity, Heavy Rain, Half Life 2: Episode 2, Braid
Note that this list is full of unavoidable spoilers. You have been warned.
10: Deus Ex
Deus Ex' Area 51 level adeptly demonstrates how to balance non-linearity with focus and drive. Its three endings challenge players to approach the final chapter in their own way; furthering the story through gameplay rather than rigid cutscenes and traditional narrative contrivances.
We went with Helios, for the record. Every single time.
9: The Secret Of Monkey Island
This one's here by popular demand, and we reckon that it's a solid choice. Guybrush ends up being punched around several familiar locations from the titular island, cheekily tricking players to try and work out puzzle solutions in each one before they're booted onto the next. This reunion tour ends with a fittingly surreal (and hilarious) puzzle followed by a truly unconventional firework display; a worthy end to a classic adventure.
8: Mass Effect
Wait? This is a gate to the Citadel?!!
Mass Effect's final countdown starts in spectacular style as the Mako smashes through the portal and catapults you into the final battle against Sovereign and Saren. Though Mass Effect's combat is a bit on the limp side, the urgency of the final level and the unbelievable scope of the decisions you can make (did you save the council? Did you?) guarantee it a place in this list as well as in our eternal memories.
7: Shadow Of The Colossus
SOTC's ending is brilliant for so many reasons. Not only is the final Colossus an unforgettable, perfectly-staged and challenging experience accompanied by haunting orchestral wonderment, but the deep revelations reveal that Ueda's masterpiece is in fact a prequel to Ico. And what are those horns? Why are those horns? Fans still fiercely debate the ending to this day.
Metroid concludes with a suitably thrilling boss battle against Mother Brain, but this is only part of the reason why we rate this timeless action-platformer. The revelation that Samus is female was truly shocking back in the day when male protagonists were the be-all and end-all of character design, and it set up the bounty hunter as an unconventionally complex heroine who's defined by her job and actions... not her gender.
5: Final Fantasy VII
The Final Fantasy series offers any number of satisfying and heartbreaking endings, notably from IV, VI, IX and X. But there was only ever going to be one game from the franchise to enter this list... and it has to be VII. Sephiroth had to die (for oh so many reasons), and the slight lack of character closure is due to the fact that all of the cast fully mature throughout the story itself. A thoroughly classic ending, and Safer Sephiroth is thoroughly tough to boot.
4: The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
Ocarina Of Time needs no introduction. So... there?
Facetiousness aside, Ocarina's ending is the mechanically tight, exciting and undeniably perfect climax to one of the best games ever made.
3: Red Dead Redemption
No-one saw this coming. After a well-deserved return home, Marston actually regains the family life he's been battling for. Rockstar builds up the ex-outlaw into a relateable, likeable family man over the course of some gentle and tender exposition. You'll teach your son how to hunt. Collect corn. Do chores. It's not the payoff we were expecting, but it was the payoff we all secretly wanted.
And then everything goes to hell... followed by an brutal endgame sequence that allows us to get the closure we so desperately desire. Red Dead Redemption's ending is as magnificent as it is unexpected.
2: Chrono Trigger
For our money, Chrono Trigger delivers arguably the best story ever told regardless of medium, but everything can come crushing down if you rush straight into the final battle with Lavos the world-ender. Instead, you'll spend hours engaging in plentiful optional quests throughout history, power up your characters and change the future to finally descend into the belly of the beast and end its menace once and for all.
Powerful, heartfelt, moving and desperate - and a worthy second place.
1: Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid's endgame begins with the realisation that you've been played for a fool. Your old mentor is dead, murdered by your sadistic clone brother, who's duped you into powering up Metal Gear Rex for him. The feeling of helplessness and embarassment is almost too difficult to bear... but quickly overshadowed by an enormous boss fight against the titanic mech, a tense fist fight atop its smouldering wreckage and a desperate flight out of Shadow Moses' exploding carcass as it collapses around you.
But it's the emotional impact that elevates Kojima's masterpiece to the top of this list. Snake can't bring himself to fire the stinger missile to destroy Metal Gear Rex, even as Grey Fox regains enough humanity to sacrifice himself for his best friend. You have to deal with the consequences of leaving either Otacon or Meryl to burn in Shadow Moses. Snake discovers that he's a dead man walking, sacrificed on the altar of one woman's sisterly revenge, and you discover that he actually has inferior genes to Liquid. There's so much to take in, yet enough satisfying resolution to ensure that MGS could have survived on its own as a standalone game had Kojima not forged forward with the increasingly-convoluted series.
And, of course, the post-credits sequence leaves us with the one of the most simple yet devastatingly effective cliffhangers ever implemented... Mister President.
Of course, a top ten list just isn't big enough to do justice to decades of gaming excellence. Let us know what you made of it... and tell us your own pick for the best videogame endings of all time!