That Halo 2 ending!!!! Everytime I think of that game I'm taken back to 16 year old me sitting in my bedroom, getting ready for an awesome battle on Earth, then credits. So frustrating at the time, it was even worse when I realized Halo 3 was going to be a next gen game.
To Be Continued: Six Cliffhangers That Left Us Floored
Typically, cliffhangers can be one of two things: satisfyingly brilliant in their ability to keep you actively engaged in the story long after the credits roll, or viciously painful, cutting to black before the story reaches its fullest potential. They’re cruel, they’re cunning, and when handled just right, they can make for some pretty great sequel setups. This list is in no way definitive, but here are six cliffhanger endings (some resolved, some still leaving us hanging) that left players floored in the wake of their epic conclusions.
HALF LIFE 2: EPISODE TWO
Of course this one is on here. It’s the quintessential cliffhanger ending, the conclusion that has spawned years of painful speculation and outright demands of a satisfying end. And rightly so; after all, it gives us so much, then practically tears the controller out of your hands at its sharp ending. We find out more about Black Mesa, learn of the connection to Apeture Science Labs, discover that Eli has a mutual friend with Gordon in the G-Man, prepare to launch for the Borealis, and then BOOM! Eli’s killed, and all we see before a fade to black is Alyx crying over her father’s body. If ever there was a story that needed finality, it’s that of Half Life 2: Episode Two. Come on, Valve…don’t let us down.
Halo 2‘s cliffhanger is a great example of how a strong phrase can be a punch-to-the-gut cliffhanger ending. In the scenes that precede it, the he ring is activated by Tartarus, Keyes removes the index, and everything seems to have reached a dangerous high point when we hear Master Chief’s dulcet tones deliver one of the most iconic lines in the Halo franchise. When asked what he’s doing, Chief answers with a definitive “Sir…finishing this fight.” Cut to black, end with epic music. Fantastic. Of course, this ending was picked up by the following sequels that came after, but as it stands, Halo 2‘s cliffhanger ending is one we won’t soon forget.
BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Unearthing an alien conspiracy is pretty awesome in its own right, but it was the post-credit sequence that took place in Beyond Good & Evil that has had us itching for a conclusion ever since. Things get resolved and look to be on the up and up, when we see Jade’s infamous sidekick Pey’j standing alone, acting worried. It’s only a few seconds before we see the cause for Pey’j's concern, as it appears he’s been infected by an alien spore. We see it appear on his hand, black and evil. THE END. Rumors about a Beyond Good & Evil 2 have circulated ever since, but as time goes on we’re starting to lose hope that we’ll ever learn what happens to our swine friend.
It’s thanks to a patch released prior to Portal 2 that we received one of my personal favorite cliffhangers to date. At the end of Portal, once GLaDOS has been destroyed, Chell finds herself lying alongside the remains of GLaDOS’ robotic body, unmoving as the world seemingly burns. Suddenly, a robotic voice speaks incoherently, and we see the world suddenly shift as Chell’s body is dragged away. Fade to black, then re-open with a Black Forest Cake sitting on a table in front of a bunch of empty personality cores. A robotic hand descends, extinguishes the flame on the cake’s candle, and then we hear GLaDOS singing “Still Alive.” This chilling cliffhanger ending still stands as one of my all-time favorites, simply because it manages to be both foreboding and charming in its own right.
MASS EFFECT 2
Mass Effect 2 is a perfect example of how to bookend a fantastic game with an equally fantastic opening and ending. The beginning started off with Shepard performing his (or her) own re-enactment of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, drifting in space to his death while we listened to nothing but labored breathing. The ending comes on the heels of a battle held with a massive human Reaper. Lives were lost over the course of the suicide mission, the Illusive Man reveals his true colors, and what’s left of the team reconvenes on the Normandy in one of the best “This time…it’s personal” moments in video game history as they resolve to set out and destroy the Reapers once and for all. Say what you will about the ending of Mass Effect 3...2‘s is still by far one of the best we’ve seen in years.
Few endings are able to reach next-level amounts of absurdity in the same way Conduit 2 did. The game’s story is interesting enough, weaving together alien conspiracies and Washington D.C. in a way I’ve never seen a game do before. But it’s when the conduit in Agartha opens and we see Abraham Lincoln and George Washington walk out in heavy battle armor that I all but lost it. It’s so dumb…in all the right ways. Vampire hunter? Forget about it. Honest Abe is at his best when he looks like a terrible Gears of War cosplayer.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (Suggested by other writers on this site):
Metal Gear Solid 2
Dragon Age 2
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
The Walking Dead: Season One
Tex Murphy: Overseer
Have any other cliffhangers you love? Tell us in the comments below!
Two of my favorites are Alan Wake (Alan finding himself in that magic room where anything he writes will be reality, and it's unclear if he's good or evil; kind of a depressing one too since they've never really resolved it), and God of War 2 (Kratos and the Titans advance on Olympus to wage full on war on the gods; it's even got that "The End Begins..." cliffhanger note).