Video games aren't just an easy way to waste two hours of your life without exerting any physical energy. They have an amazing potential to offer rich and detailed stories that explore deep philosophical and psychological issues. These games, however, only offer one view of the frailty of human life: the end is a real downer.
Puzzle and fantasy game freaks gobbled up this early CD-ROM treat like a bulimic Pac-Man. It not only offered breathtaking views of a world that could only be seen in the imagination of a lonely D&D player, but it also offered a gaggle of complex and intriguing puzzles that could enthrall the most inspired minds (or set lesser ones on fire).
If players managed to break through the endless array of puzzles and avoid falling into several pitfalls that could cause players to punch a hole through their screens, they would reach the lair of Atrus, the author of the Myst books. Upon completing all the tasks and delivering the correct pages to him, the player is treated to a "Renaissance Faire" grade acting sequence in which Atrus thanks for the player for helping him and then rewards him by giving him free reign of the Myst island. It's roughly the equivalent of being rewarded for taking a trip to Branson, Missouri with an all-expenses paid trip to Branson, Missouri.
9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (original NES version)
Childhood is full of awkward frustration: little league baseball, high school chemistry, the impromptu gym class rope climb boner.
None of them, however, is equal to the mind-numbing frustration of trying to defeat this highly overrated childhood favorite. The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES plays like a mutated clone of the original cartoon series that someone left out in the sun way too long. The characters might be there, but its crude design and ridiculous level of extreme difficulty make it feel like it was designed by a group of adults pent on revenge against their kids for making them take out that second mortgage so they could fill their room with useless TMNT merchandise such as the Donatello "Head Poppin'" action figure that dispenses Beluga caviar and the gold plate Technodrome.
The ending doesn't even come close to rewarding the player's tireless efforts to defeat this nearly unbeatable 8-bit behemoth.
8. Dead Rising
This next-gen Capcom classic is one of the first games in most recent memory to play like an actual horror movie. It's scary, gory, and comes with an ending that will make you lose more faith in humanity, hope, and humankind than a Carlos Mencia comedy tour.
The initial "72-hour mode" has multiple endings, depending on the tasks you complete and storylines you uncover throughout the game. They range from Frank West getting out of the mall with a few survivors as the zombie virus continues to spread across the country to Frank's helicopter pilot getting attacked by a zombie in midflight and crashing just as he comes to Frank's rescue. Even the "overtime" endings just leave Frank for dead (literally) as he screams at the heavens in a desperate attempt for divine redemption. Every one of them has more downers than a bipolar schizophrenic's medicine cabinet.
7. Battletoads (original NES version)
Another major frustration of the Nintendo generation's childhood was spent trying to reach the apex of this K2 summit of awesome, only to be met at its peak with disappointment, despair, and heartache. So while it caused a large amount of our wasted youth, it also served as a perfect preparer for dating and marriage.
The adventures of Rash, Zitz, and Pimple come to a climatic end when they defeat the evil Dark Queen after a stunningly difficult challenge that most real world Navy Seals don't have to face. Then they simply just allow her to escape and our hero toads are invited to return to the ship to celebrate, a moment that is recreated by simply rewinding the opening sequence of the toads emerging from their spaceship.
6. Mike Tyson's Punch Out!!
No video game big boss is more loathed or feared than the 8-bit version of Mike Tyson. His awesome passcode (007 373 5963) is like an ancient Egyptian curse chant: many know it but few have the guts to recite it.
Plus, let's be honest, Iron Mike is one scary dude. He possesses a head that looks like it houses the face and brain of an innocent child with the body of a heavyweight boxer that could punch a hole through George Foreman if mounds of subcutaneous fat weren't there to absorb the blow.
So if you are one of the lucky few who happened to topple Tyson, logic would dictate that you should be treated to an ending that features the modern day Goliath threatening to eat your children or swearing at you with a lisp that would drown the front row of Madison Square Garden with anger spittle. Instead, you get this:
Source: 2K Games
Here's another complex, multi-ending game where the player's actions and choices either send them down either the path of righteousness or the path of evil. Either way, they suck.
If the player chooses to save all of the "Little Sisters" instead of killing them for their "ADAM," they are treated (and I use the word loosely) to a sweet scene of the little girls growing up and honoring your dying corpse on your deathbed. In the end, "family" is your reward.
Family? Have you seen people with families? They are constantly tired, overstressed, and frustrated. They look like the "reward bus" ran them over and then backed up over them just to make sure they got them.
If they choose to kill off just one or all of the girls for their large "ADAM" stockpile, they are treated to a FPS scene of an abusive man overpowering the innocent children for a greedy grab at self-fulfillment and power, even at the risk of sacrificing the lives of the innocent to build your throne. In other words, it's a Cliffs Notes version of The Dick Cheney Story, only much cheerier.
4. Halo 2
Lots of guys at the start and middle of the millennium sacrificed whole chunks of their personal and social life to beating the Halo games. And who can blame them? It's a rich and intense science fiction story about man's warring nature and the sacrifices that are made to ensure the sanctity of peace. Who cares if its long playtime and addictive nature caused a bigger outbreak of mental depression than Radiohead's last tour?
However, a game that requires such attention and actual sacrifice should have come with an ending that made up for such dedication. What they got instead was a thrown together, unexciting ending that basically served as a teaser trailer for Halo 3. The ending would've been an improvement if that same hand reached out of the TV and cockpunched you square in the balls.
3. Ghostbusters (original NES version)
A major contributor to a video game's success or failure is its difficulty. Easy games are obviously no fun and impossible games are known to cause high blood pressure, hair loss, and (in some extremely rare cases) eye herpes.
This lame attempt to capitalize on perhaps the most successful and iconic member of the pop culture universe not only failed miserably on just about every conceivable level, but it also came with an ending that can be blamed for most of my generation's low SAT scores on the writing section.
After enduring one of the most monotonous and unexplained tasks in a video game since the original E.T. you fight the evil Zuul or what appears to be a Christopher Walken caricature in a thong. When you defeat the evil thong of evil, you are treated to a "Conglaturation" (actual spelling) screen where you are applauded for "prooving (also actual spelling) the justice of our culture." The screen then cuts to a rolling set of credits filled with Japanese names that unintentionally explains why the final screen reads like it was translated by an electronic Japanese-to-English dictionary with dyslexia.
2. The Legend of Zelda
It's a great game, an epic among epics. Some might call it "legendary" (yes, I'm being paid to write these jokes).
The ending is about as epic as buying socks.
After defeating the giant evil and rescuing the final part of the Triforce, you are able to free the beautiful Princess Zelda from her underground prison and bring peace once again to the land of Hyrule. The credits roll. Then evil returns to the actual world.
1. Ghosts 'n Goblins
This game might be one of the hardest old schoolers of all time, but it's also one of the most fun. The huge learning curve and extreme difficulty made the simple challenge of beating it a sign of virility that separated the pixilated men from the boys when its menacing terror first hit store shelves across the nation.
The terror, mind you, didn't come from playing and accomplishing the game. It came from its epic tragic ending that caused kids to throw controllers into TV screens long before Nintendo product testers failed to adequately gauge the safety restrictions of the Wii controller.
In the game, Arthur defeats Satan after a long and epic battle that takes him through Hell and back and then, back again, only to save the fair maiden and be told that "This story is happy end" (sic) and they feel "strongth" (double sic) filling up their body, which will come in handy when they are told to play the whole game all over again. This is usually the part where you scream and wake up, but you don't wake up, so you just keep on screaming.