Esoteric Happy Ending

"All yet seems well..."
The King of France, at the end of All's Well That Ends Well

Bob writes a film and gives it what he thinks is the most wonderful, uplifting Happy Ending imaginable. Surely everyone will enjoy it as much as he — wait...why is the audience cringing? Why are the critics hammering the hell out of it? Why does it already have several TV Tropes mentions under Nightmare Fuel?

Well, it turns out the vast majority of the viewers disagree with Bob about what makes a happy ending. At the same time, there can certainly be disagreements about what particular endings properly classify as such, or at least to what specific extent they do, but the constant is that some of the viewers don't buy the perceived happiness of the finale. Sometimes this is just a result of changing values.

When the ending comes with a half-baked "moral" attached, see Glurge. Fridge Logic, Fridge Horror, Unfortunate Implications, and Inferred Holocaust are all corollaries of this.

Compare Inferred Holocaust and Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending. Not to be confused with a Bittersweet Ending, in which the darker or less pleasant elements are acknowledged, although it can also frequently be caused when those same darker elements out-weigh the pleasant ones in the minds of some viewers.

As an Ending Trope there will be unmarked spoilers!


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  • A few Segata Sanshiro ads if you think about it. Some of them involve the title character beating up innocent people just for not playing a Sega Saturn (even children in some cases).

    Anime and Manga 
  • The director claims that the ending of 5 Centimeters per Second is supposed to be uplifting, because Takaki smiles as he walks away in the last scene, indicating that he has moved on. But most viewers see it as a Downer Ending because he Did Not Get the Girl. Voices of a Distant Star has the opposite issue; it's easy to miss the subtle implication that Mikako and Noboru will eventually be reunited, especially in poorly translated versions (though the manga adaptation is more explicit on said implication).
  • After School Nightmare. The entire series was taking place in the minds of the unborn babies in a maternity ward. The babies are all born safely, but they grow up knowing nothing about anything that occurred in the series. A scene at the very end shows Mashiro and Sou running into each other and having no idea who the other is, pointlessly teasing readers about possibilities that will never be.
  • DNA2 has Mori's elaborate plan of using DNA Manipulation and Time Travel to create his personal, mind controlled and telekinetically strong army to declare war on the entire world thwarted. Mori is dead. But this comes at the cost of Junta overcoming the Mega Playboy DNA within him, meaning the playboy never awakened, so his descendants that had the playboy's DNA all cease to exist. Which also included the son Junta and Karin were going to have. And ultimately, Karin shoots Junta with a DMC one final time to fully remove the playboy DNA aspects, and the memories of her and the entire adventure, from him and returns to the future. There is the one bright hopespot that Junta and Ami will get together.
  • Koi Zora ends with Hiro succumbing to his cancer and dies, causing Mika to suffer and once again try to kill herself. She's stopped by her friends who show her Hiro's diary notes, which gives Mika the courage to live on and she learns that she is pregnant with Hiro's child. But the questionable happiness comes from the fact that Mika is not properly established as having a stable homelife, job and her emotional instability, which has caused her to attempt suicide twice over the course of the seris, is also a big issue. It makes one wonder whether she would be able to take care of the child, especially on her own.
  • The ending of Angel Beats! is about as esoteric as they come. Everyone except Otonashi eventually moves on and leaves the afterlife, which seems like a vaguely happy Bittersweet Ending, but only if you share the characters' faith that they'll be reincarnated and meet again in the next life. If you think passing on means Cessation of Existence, or that (as some characters theorized) they'll be reincarnated as water fleas or some other lower life form, the ending becomes super depressing. Even worse, in the last scene Kanade and Otonashi finally confess their love for each other, which makes Kanade disappear, causing Otonashi to understandably flip out. But that extreme Downer Ending is maybe undone by The Stinger, in which they appear to find each other again in some future life...but many people think this last scene is a dream. In short: plot resolved with ambiguous Fridge Horror, last scene is happy but may not be real, so...who knows?
  • Aquarion Evol aimed for an ending that, in Kawamori's words, wouldn't leave a bad taste in the mouth. But in the viewers' eyes, it looks rather upsetting. After Fudo was revealed to be Apollonius all along, it makes it very clear that he's responsible for everything that has happened in the show, and that he has been manipulating everyone to solve the problems he himself started, and in the end he gets free from punishment, shoving all the responsibility on Mykage instead. Nobody, except Crea, knows about this. The love triangle also seems to end on a rather troublesome note: Kagura's character was completely changed at the last minute to give up Mikono and start caring about Zessica instead, and Zessica is shown to be completely broken at the end. Mikono wasn't even allowed to choose who he liked more, since Kagura decided he actually supported Amata's love. And Zessica can't ever hope to be with Amata, not even in a future reincarnation, since she wasn't even allowed to make a 12,000 years promise. They're all smiling in the end, but the viewers can't say the same...
  • At the end of the Area 88 manga, Soria, Rishar, and King Zak are left to transition Asran from a monarchy to a modern republic. While Asran's civil war is over and the people are jubilant, Asran's future is far from secure. First, the country's infrastructure and finances have been devastated by years of war. Second, the civil war has probably left Asran's people with deep resentment toward each other. Finally, the whole mess has been inherited by a conservative monarch, a Wide-Eyed Idealist, and an amnesiac who spent the previous two decades in cryogenic suspension. Suddenly, Asran's future doesn't look so bright ...
    • Also at the end of the manga, Ryoko reunites with Shin. Shin suffers from amnesia due to head trauma and does not remember his time at Area 88. On the surface, this appears to be a happy romantic reunion, until you realize that Ryoko will need to explain to Shin why he's in Asran and why years of his memory are missing. To boot, Shin will undoubtedly suffer from unconscious war trauma, even if he can't remember Area 88. Finally, Shin broke Ryoko's heart several times throughout the manga, suggesting that he has cold tendencies. In short, Ryoko has chosen to marry a traumatized, amnesiac jerk, raising questions about what their life together will be life.
  • Subverted in Birdy the Mighty: Decode. At the end of season 1, the Roppongi area of Tokyo gets completely trashed by a combination of the ryunka and the sanctum sanctorum Killsat used to attack it. However, season 2 is mostly about how these events affected people, including the survivors.
  • Blood-C: The Last Dark ends with Saya finally getting her revenge after all the crap that she experienced in the TV series. But what's the worth of it when she found out that Fumito, the man who tormented her emotionally and psychologically, killed many people in the TV series and turned Mana's dad into an Elder Bairn, happens to be obsessively in love with her and all that he did is for her own survival and to fulfill her desire to feed on humans which he already failed? And considering that one of the people who helped her get to Fumito happens to be in league with him all along, Saya would probably experience more trust issues and never touch a coffee mug again. She can't even go back to Mana after she found out that she killed her dad at the beginning of the movie. Her Walking the Earth at the end of the movie just shows that Saya would end up alone because she might not ever trust people again and end up hurting them if she does.
  • Blue Gender. A few humans have survived Gaia's Vengeance, and they can all live in harmony with mother nature, free at last of technology! Then the Fridge Logic sets in - the only survivors will be physically strong people. If you're a person who is crippled, blind, deaf, has a curable terminal disease, etc. then you're hosed. Mother Nature hates you and you have no right to live.
  • Bokurano. The Earth survives the ordeal in one piece and humanity is relatively safe, which when compared to what happened in Narutaru is a positive cause for celebration. All the main characters died, thousands of Japanese died, some 33 thousand other universes and Earths were destroyed, and the game goes on with a new set of victims players as if nothing has happened... Yay?
    • One example of the backlash was the anime's director. The Gecko Ending went on to brighten things slightly: While most of the above still happens, one of the main characters survives and the last pilot breaks the game and makes sure it cannot be repeated elsewhere. Some fans think this change was a welcome improvement over the manga, while others disagree.
    • The concept gets discussed in the manga, when Kirie wonders why people would consider a movie in which many people die but the main characters get what they want as having a happy ending.
  • Code Geass ends with an uplifting ending showing all the surviving characters smiling, despite the bittersweet nature of the preceding events and Lelouch's death, which is enough to make certain fans consider the whole thing a tragedy. The ending also leaves open what will happen to the world during the subsequent reconstruction phase. It is possible for viewers to speculate about how all the resulting death and destruction would have affected the social and economic structures of Japan, which may paint a rather pessimistic picture of this fictional world's future when all is said and done.
    • The main culprit of this seems to be Okouchi and Taniguchi letting some of the staff throw out suggestions which caused a few of the visuals to be a little too happy, with one specific scene being borderline Tastes Like Diabetes (the wedding photo) while the narration points out how there is still a lot of rebuilding to be done which we never actually see.
      • Another aspect that is open to debate is how Lelouch first had to reach the Despair Event Horizon following the Black Knights' mutiny and Nunnally's supposed demise. For Want of a Nail, Lelouch may well have gone with a less destructive and suicidal method. In addition, a few of the Britannian survivors had committed murderous acts in the series while the two specific people responsible for aforementioned hasty betrayal also got a Happy Ending. Lelouch himself admittedly saw beyond such concerns and recognized that everyone had to move toward the future together regardless of the past, but some viewers found the methods and results at least partially self-contradicting.
  • Death Note appears to end with the villain (and his fanboy successor) dying and the world returning to normal. Until that final scene revealing that a happy-go-lucky shinigami was the sponsor for the fake Kira three years later, he liked the experiment, and he has an arsenal of death notes just waiting for new owners. How did he get them? He bought them from the king, who has no problem with selling each death note for 7 apples, and has not made any laws against this tourist trend. Which now means that Ryuk and hundreds of shinigami will be sponsoring hundreds of nonviolent sniping killers, each with their own ideals and agendas, all of whom will inevitably duel and war with each other unless something goes horribly wrong. This is considered a fitting end to this dark series.
    • Though its also mentioned that Light was an unusual case and most humans simply cannot in good conscience kill other people nonchalantly. Most will either go crazy, or simply get rid of the note after only one kill. Even the fake Kira killed himself in horror after only a few killings.
  • The anime of Elfen Lied ends rather positively, because it adds a new ending before the manga crosses the Despair Event Horizon. If you know the background information that is revealed later in the manga, the anime ending isn't happy at all.
    • For that matter, the manga's ending is iffy - the Diclonii will be completely eliminated within a generation. Their powers are arguably too dangerous to allow them to continue to exist, but they're not all bad people, and their extermination is at best a necessary evil.
  • Eureka Seven AO tries to play its ending off as a happy one, but just a little bit of thinking reveals that its anything but. To clarify: The now written-out-of-history Scub Corals were Evil All Along, rendering the whole point of the first series meaningless. High-density Trapars are apparently fatal to Human/Coralian hybrids, meaning Ao can never return to his real home or see his parents again (his ultimate goal was to reunite with his mother). To top it off, his messing with space-time may well have written him out of the memories of everyone he knew or cared about. Yet the ending wants us to believe he's perfectly fine with all this. Sure he is...
  • FLCL implies that Naota moves on with his life, but Amarao's entire story is foreshadowing: he fell in love with Haruko at a young age and she eventually abandoned him. Amarao tries to warn Naota but Naota ultimately chooses Haruko, who then predictably abandons him. Naota's subsequent reaction to Ninamori ordering the carbonated drink shows that he hasn't changed or matured as a character; the emphasis on Haruko's guitar in his room reinforces this fact. Naota is going to spend the rest of his life pining for The One That Got Away just like Amarao.
  • This trope is the main reason why the concluding movie to Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) was so controversial. The bad guys are dead and the Elric brothers are finally reunited and their bodies restored... but in order to prevent an invasion of Amestris by the Nazis, the brothers are forced to permanently seal the Gate of Alchemy from Earth's side, trapping them there, alone, for the rest of their lives. Like End of Evangelion, this seems to be an attempt at bittersweet that went too far into the "bitter" ballpark for much of the fanbase's liking.
  • In Guardian Fairy Michel, the Black Hammers lost all the fairies they captured and the Tree of Life is saved...but Michel dies in order to rejuvenate the tree, and Kim leaves the island. While Michel will be reborn later, the bad guys still have the floating castle, and without Michel or Kim around to protect them, the fairies could easily get captured again.
  • Many people were dissatisfied with the ending of the Hot Gimmick manga. While it was obvious that Hatsumi was going to end up with Ryoki, some readers held on to the hope that there would at least be enough Character Development to give Hatsumi a backbone or make Ryoki less of a Jerkass, but the general consensus is that there was little if any sign of any of that ever coming to pass. It didn't help that Azusa's Character Development was negated at the end thanks to Aesop Amnesia and that Shinogu, arguably the most preferable match for Hatsumi, suffered from a blatant case of Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends. In fact, about the only thing most readers liked about the ending were the Subaru/Akane bits.
  • The anime of Kare Kano. Hinting that the official couple will break up sooner or later, and that it's OK, is a "happy ending" for Hideki Anno. Thankfully averted in the manga.
  • Macross Frontier mostly ends on a happy note.
    • The Big Bad is defeated, Everyone Lives (barring a bazillion Redshirts), and they definitely Earned Their Happy Ending, so what makes it so esoteric? Though the action and overall plot all concluded neatly, the Love Triangle that composed the greater part of the series was left unresolved to avoid upsetting the fans of either girl, which just upset both Shipping factions. Some though preferred it this way. Nevertheless, the debates wage on.
    • Returns with the movies with the ending being a Tear Jerker. It leaves off with Alto apparently dead and Sheryl in a coma right after Alto confessed to Sheryl. The fandom's going theory was that this was how they ended up, and that Sheryl's earrings, which being made of fold quartz ignore the normal laws of time and space, kept their hearts together, for at the end one was worn by Sheryl and one was worn by Alto, making it a very Bittersweet Ending a la Together in Death. Among other theories. An interview with Kawamori later had him wondering how anyone got this idea and Jossed it by declaring that Alto survived and Sheryl woke up.
  • The End Of Evangelion is definitely meant to be horrifying, but has a spark of optimism at the very end. It sees every human put through a death of the ego and their bodies dissolved, but Shinji gives them the chance to live again if they have the will (on a world wrecked by at least two disasters on a planetary scale). Ultimately, Shinji learns to accept himself and search for happiness, yet understanding that suffering is unavoidable in life; while some find this reassurance of hope even in the face of the apocalypse uplifting, others inevitably find it difficult to accept. Likewise, he and his red-head Love Interest spent the whole series being unable to realize each other's blatantly obvious feelings, and the final scene hints that Shinji and Asuka at last have made a connection and may start to open up to each other.
  • Now and Then, Here and There. Even setting aside the whole Good Girls Avoid Abortion thing, the script seems to entirely forget that Sara's parents are now never going to see her again and she's very likely going to be killed by the Earth's still supernova-ing sun. Shu's optimism seems just a little misplaced.
  • As another work that features reality warping and a "face reality" Aesop, Princess Tutu encounters the same issues as Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Sure, everyone's free of Drosselmeyer's control, and Mytho's tragedy will no longer repeat, but Duck and Fakir are no longer the same species, and romance is now impossible between them. Then again, Fakir still has Drosselmeyer's power, so this may not be a permanent problem if you reject the story's Aesop (which many, many fanfic writers have done.)
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica debatably has one. On the one hand, Madoka was able to stop magical girls from becoming witches. On the other hand, her solution is basically to make them disappear from the world forever. And she gets erased from exsistence to boot. The ending is still hopeful and opitimistic, but it implies that the remaining magical girls won't last long in the new world, and Homura will only be reunited with Madoka in the afterlife.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion inverts the trope. The ending's tone is depressing and pessimistic, what with Homura's Face–Heel Turn. Except...she returns Madoka and Sayaka to the world of the living. Madoka gets to be reunited with her family. Sayaka gets to be reunited with her friends. Even Mami gets a new friend in Nagisa. Really, the only ones who seem to be suffering are Homura and Kyubey.
  • Romeo X Juliet ends with most of the cast living happily ever after...all because Romeo and Juliet were horribly killed and sacrificed to a tree which had previously kept the city they live in afloat in the sky. What's worse, the show makes it very clear that none of this was Juliet's choice, but that every single woman born to the Capulet line had been sacrificed to this very same tree, meaning that she could have never reclaimed her throne (something the series had been building up to since the beginning) or ruled Neo Verona even if she wanted to.
  • Done deliberately with Saikano, which sees the main character and his girlfriend as the last living beings from Earth, drifting through space, said girlfriend now completely inhuman with no hope of ever turning back. This is played as being as happy as they can wish for given the situation. The author's notes at the end of the manga even admit that all hope is gone, "but there are memories, and maybe a future".
  • Space Runaway Ideon has this with Be Invoked. Yep, the universe is destroyed, but the spirits of the dead are preparing to celebrate its rebirth again as the Messiah takes the souls to a new planet. It took Super Robot Wars to create a proper Downer Ending as Keisar Ephes corrupts the Messiah, allowing him to take control of the universe properly this time around.
  • Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle ends with a happy note as while Syaoran is cursed to travel endlessly across dimensions he believes he will see his love Sakura again. However, the fact that time flows differently in other worlds means that if it takes him a year to return to Clow Country, Sakura could already be dead when he returns. Furthermore, the villain who cursed Syaoran, Fei Wang Reed, was revealed to an artificial being before his death. Despite dying, it has been stated that artificial beings can be reconstructed so it is possible that he will be back.
  • An in-universe example with Yakitate!! Japan during the Yakitate 25 arc, where Azuma starts declaring every victory for Pantasia a happy ending, apparently ignoring the fact that their opponents (who most of the time aren't particularly bad people) have been transformed by Pantasia's bread with no sign of changing back any time soon, or the two occasions where the match ended with Ken becoming a Yakuza leader against his will or Kuroyanagi suffering from serious internal bleeding. Kawachi is usually quick to point this out.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam AGE has an ending where the 100-year conflict between two races suddenly ends with one remark from a Heel–Face Turn good guy and a vaguely defined compensation. The narrative paints this as an ultimate happy ending, but in reality, almost every important character dies, sympathetic characters don't get what they want, and a few villains are saved because Kio Asuno would care less about his teammates and would focus more on reforming the enemies.
  • The ending to Jewelpet Sunshine has the human Love Interest permanently turn into a Jewelpet so he can be with the Jewelpet protagonist forever. Meanwhile, the plot neglects to address the feelings of his parents and sister on such a decision, not to mention he disappears for 5 years without telling anyone so he can turn into a Jewelpet.
  • In-universe example in Kill Me Baby: Yasuna has a dream where Sonya is the eponymous protagonist of Killtaro, who is out to slay an oni. Upon reaching the island of her destination, she takes a peach from a tree, and is called out by the villagers, who then chant "Ogre! Ogre!" We then have a discretion shot where she supposedly kills them, and then the narrator says "Such a happy ending..." Sonya then retorts "That wasn't happy at all!".
  • The ending of Strawberry 100% was meant by the author to be a way to happily resolve the Love Triangle and leave all parties happy. However, it ended up as a massive Broken Aesop and caused a gigantic Broken Base, as Tsukasa's "loved him before he knew me" revelation was retconned in very late in the story with no hint that it ever existed beforehand, and Aya's own Framing Device of her story being about a peasant girl vs a princess for the love of the prince was seen by many as an obvious foreshadowing of her inevitable triumph for Junpei's affections. Instead of being an example of an underdog winning through compatible personalities and friendship as a base for romance, the ending simply reaffirmed the real-life Crapsack World-view of "pretty, popular girls win over girl-next-doors".
  • Naruto
    • Sakura Haruno's ending sees her married to her longtime crush Sasuke Uchiha with a daughter, Sarada. Great! Except for the fact that in the intervening years Sasuke had pulled a Face–Heel Turn, abused Sakura both physically and psychologically on several occasions, tried to murder her friends, and even after turning Face again and marrying her he abandoned her while she was pregnant with a rather flimsy justification and has never even met Sarada. Many fans felt this plot point came uncomfortably close to an endorsement of Domestic Abuse, especially after a Word of God statement said that if Sakura had gotten over her crush on Sasuke even after all he'd done, she would be the one at fault.
    • Many fans were also unsatisfied with the fates of the villains. Of the Big Bad Ensemble members, only Danzo, Kaguya and Zetsu receive severe punishments; the rest are either forgiven in death (Nagato, Obito, Madara), get a slap on the wrist (Orochimaru, the aforementioned Sasuke), or just plain aren't punished at all (Kabuto).

    Comic Books 
  • Happens very often with Jack Chick tracts. There are too many examples to list specific ones, but they tend to fall into a few distinct categories.
    1. The main character converts to Christianity, dies an untimely (and usually also cruel or painful) death and goes to heaven. For example, in "The Little Princess," while Heidi gets herself and her family saved before dying, one has to wonder what it's like for her parents and brother to lose her.
    2. The main characters, following the death of someone close to them, convert to Christianity. The unsaved loved ones are promptly forgotten about, and the saved people will never see them again. This is especially jarring in "Happy Halloween," in which the boy killed in the traffic accident is forgotten about.
    3. The main characters convert to Christianity after suffering terrible traumas with no indication of any long-term problems, and with those responsible being Easily Forgiven or becoming outright Karma Houdinis. For example, in "Lisa", the girl may have gotten saved and may no longer be suffering abuse, but she also has herpes now and no shortage of trauma associated with this.
    4. Truly despicable people do terrible things all their lives, convert after one minute of Easy Evangelism, and go to Heaven, facing no consequences for their actions ever, while people who did nothing wrong except not instantly choose to devote their lives to God, needing more than simply having John 3:16 read to them once in order to believe, have freak accidents kill them the next day and go to Hell. In Chick's theology (which is not shared by the vast majority of Christians, to say the least), this is because all humans are equally evil, and therefore all repentances are equally good.
    5. The ultimate fate of Earth. God will triumph over the Devil, but not before ages of suffering for the people of Earth followed by the majority of humankind being sent to Hell.
  • JLA: Act of God has the story attempting to tell us that a new generation of heroes is about, the problems with this are that there were likely millions of innocents killed due to people losing their powers, few Superheroes getting over their problems, and Kyle Rayner, ultimately, ends up killed due to psychotic obsession. This isn't getting into the fact that many tech-based supervillains keep their powers and abilities, and one new, superpowered being doesn't make the world better.
    • As tough as the tech-based heroes are, they simply do not and indeed can not compare to the combined force of Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, the Flash and the Martian Manhunter. The next time Darkseid invades he is going to steamroller the Earth with trivial ease.
  • Joe Quesada has stated that when looking back at One More Day, he sees Aunt May saved through the Parkers' Heroic Sacrifice of their marriage. Most fans see the Official Couple being forced apart and the villain getting what he wants. Many fans also have a problem that the solution to the arc was the HERO making a deal with the devil without ever being held accountable, thus making deals with the devil without consequences a valid mean to happy endings.
  • Astérix has some in the Uderzo era.
    • Asterix and Son ends with Brutus getting punished, the Gaulish village he destroyed getting rebuilt, Caesar hosting a banquet for the Gauls and he and Cleopatra reunited with their adorable baby son, Caesarion. The narration notes that Caesarion will become the last pharaoh. Those who know anything about classics (most of the readership...) will realise that all of this will end up in a horrible, murderous disaster. Caesarion certainly would have had a happier and longer life if he'd continued with Asterix and Obelix as his guardians, terrible parents as they are.
    • Asterix and the Secret Weapon ends with both the village's men and women compromising in a way that could be read as a call for a focus on understanding and collaboration to solve social injustice, or just being outrageously sexist, depending on interpretation. Either way, it's very difficult to side with the story after it specifies that women are allowed at the final feast (as they do not attend feasts usually), but they remain absent from all feasts afterwards.
  • The ending of Night of the Living Deadpool is a likely intentional example. Every character in the story dies except Deadpool, and humanity is likely wiped out, but Deadpool gets a happy ending through a bizarre twist ending. Deadpool takes a massive dose of the regernation serum that caused the zombie outbreak and is eaten by the zombies, causing his consciousness to evolve into a sapient zombie virus that spreads to all of the zombies and brings them all under his control as a massive deadpool hive mind. Deadpool's last words in the comic are "Omnipotence won't be all that bad."
  • The Avengers issue 200 was intended to be the last-ever Ms. Marvel story, and features Carol walking off to live Happily Ever After... with her rapist. It didn't take, and the next time Carol is seen she lets the rest of the team have it for letting her leave with that creep. There's a reason both professionals and fans often consider this issue the single worst done-in-one story ever published by Marvel.

     Fairy Tales  
  • Perrault’s tale "The Fairies" also known as "Diamonds and Toads". A Fairy tests the politness of two sisters. She rewards the polite youngest sister with having either a jewel, a diamond or a pretty flower fall from her mouth whenever she spoke and curses the rude eldest sister with having either a Toad or a snake fall from her mouth whenever she spoke. The mother then drives both out of the house. The good sister meets and and marries a prince while the bad sister is rejected by everyone and starves in the woods. One may argue that maybe the eldest sister may not deserve such horrible fate or point out that the mother gets away with the mistreatment of both her daughters. Not that clear with the youngest sister - some will say that the only reason the prince loves her is the gems, but the story only says that the prince fell in love with her after she told him her story, so optimists can believe that he loves her for herself, and merely views the gems as a way to avoid Parental Marriage Veto. The problems with constant gemstone production, however, are indisputable.

    Fan Fiction 
  • This is common in the darker side of fanfiction (Especially in Fetish fics). A good example of this can be found in The Plushtopia Chronicles Lugia II. For those who don't want to read that, here's the cliff notes version: Guy picks up a plushie that is alive. Turns out the plushie is a Yandere. It asks him nicely if he wants to turn into a plushie too. He refuses; it violently and painfully kills him and then rebirths him as a plushie. Now they'll be together forever - and it's treated as a good thing.
    • Funnily enough, this is exactly what happens in an episode of Growing Up Creepie. It turns out that not everyone agrees with Creepie that "everyone gets turned into giant mutant moths" (or, more generally, bugs) is a happy ending.
  • The Rose Potter series is an interesting example. Because the author slavishly copies as much of the Harry Potter canon as he can, each story ends on a happy note if and when the canon books do. Because the author tries to make things Darker and Edgier however, it just opens up a whole mess of Fridge Logic, plot holes, and generally makes the Ministry's arguments that Rose is psychotic look rational. One fine example would be Rose discovering the "Golden Patronus", which essentially lets her destroy the hundreds of Dementors in the third story. This is treated as a beautiful thing, with the "released souls" thanking her as they return to their bodies. Thing is, Dementors were used to carry out the wizarding equivalent of the death sentence, which means that Rose also released the souls of a number of dangerous criminals.
  • Frequently discussed in the Fanficrants community on Live Journal. Apparently far too many fic writers do not understand how sexual consent and/or absence thereof works, and balk when informed that what they've written is effectively rape fic and really should be labeled as such.
  • One particular Pirates of the Caribbean fanfiction had a Mary Sue protagonist determined to save the seas and bring back freedom to the pirates. She accomplishes this by killing Calypso. Who, in the movie, was one of the few mystical beings remaining in the sea, especially after the Kraken was destroyed by Beckett, and one of the few things left keeping the world from "getting smaller". Oops... Everyone treats her as a hero for this. Also, you know, making the world a better place for pirates is making it a worse place for everyone who likes to keep their belongings and not get raped.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic The Conversion Bureau. The premise: Things aren't going well for humanity or Earth, so the ponies offer to let some of the humans into Equestria. Awesome, right? But then the Fantastic Racism kicks in: anybody going in has to first be transformed irreversibly into a pony. This might not be so terrible if it wasn't repeatedly and explicitly stated that someone who's transformed into a pony has their personality fundamentally altered. In other words, faced with a troubled species, the pony solution is, well... While it's a Dead Fic and thus never properly ended, the author implies this is meant to be a Just Before the End scenario.
    • Gets worse in the Expanded Universe stories. All of humanity being forcibly converted into ponies with no resemblance to who they once were, or if they refuse, murdered outright? Authors other than the original love to present this as being the best thing that could possibly happen to the world. There's a reason this setting has a massive Hatedom.
  • Happens within the titular game of the Katawa Shoujo fanfic Broken Dolls, where the "best end" still involves the Ill Girl dying.
  • In The Stalking Zuko Series, the author and Zuko see the ending to the tale of Oma and Shu as this. Oma ends a war and establishes a city, but loses her lover in the process, which is why those in the Fire Nation see it as a tragedy. Zuko, in particular, having seen his cousin Lu Ten's girlfriend take his death quite badly, understands how painful it can be to lose a lover.
  • In general, many a badly-written romance fic will feature the protagonist hooking up with a totally unsuitable partner, which is treated as okay because at least they're hot.

    Films — Animated 
  • Anastasia by Golden Films has one. When Anastasia begins recovering her memories about her family, there is a happy atmosphere and a quick jump to the credits song, which is the same song Anastasia sung in her birthday, and is a happy song. However, all her family were shot, ergo she will never see them again.
  • One of the reasons A Troll in Central Park is considered Don Bluth's worst-ever film is its infamous ending, which features the title character using his Green Thumb powers to make the vegetation of Central Park overrun New York City, a scene eerily similar to the original Downer Ending of Little Shop of Horrors. The film portrays this as the ultimate triumph of nature over technology, but one gets the distinct impression that many of New York's eight million residents would likely disagree.
  • Ratatouille ends with Linguini, Remy and Colette opening their own private restaurant with the reformed Anton Ego being their top customer. However, while the tone is undeniably happy, consider the facts. The whole reason Linguini and Colette have to open a new restaurant is because Gusteau's ancestral restaurant was closed down after its "rat infestation" was exposed, meaning that the legacy of Gusteau is over and the once world famous chef has been reduced to a disgraced joke. Skinner is still obsessed with capturing Remy for his own use, and there's nothing stopping him from pursuing new schemes (however ineffectual they may be). Finally, there's an entire former restaurant staff out there that could, if they wanted to, come forth with believable evidence that Linguini is mentally unwell due to believing in talking, cooking rats, and considering that Linguini's "madness" ruined their careers, they'll likely have a grudge against him and his new restaurant.
  • It's been rumored that the elaborate end-title sequence in WALL•E, showing the humans and the robots successfully rebuilding Earth over many generations, was added with the intent of averting this trope, after the initial test audiences thought all the humans died due to the polluted planet, though this is debatable since the ending of the movie shows that Wall-E's plant was just one of many, it was just the only one he had found in the city.
  • At the end of Snoopy, Come Home, the Peanuts gang is initially overjoyed to see Snoopy returning and sing his praises. Then, Snoopy types letters to Linus demanding the return of his croquet set and chess set and to Schroeder for the return of his record collection. Lucy then tells Charlie Brown, "That does it, Charlie Brown! He's your dog, and you're welcome to him!" Yeah, it seems everyone's really happy to have Snoopy back after that.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Graduate basically writes this into the film. The two lovers are reunited and flee their families in a school bus... only for their happy smiles to drift into uncertainty as the realities of their situation begin to dawn on them.
  • Knowing. Almost everybody is killed as the entire planet is incinerated, but some 30-odd kids survived and went to a wonderful Garden of Eden-esque place! And they're gonna repopulate the human race! Plus, since the aliens only saved a handful of prepubescent children and refused to rescue even one of the most highly-educated adults on the planet, their concern is clearly preserving human DNA, not human culture or civilization. Why? Are they breeding slaves? Cattle?
  • Teen Beach 2: Lela takes Mack's advice to change the movie and make it what she wants it to be for when she and Tanner get back. As a result, the fear that Brady and Mack each have of having never met comes true. Wet Side Story becomes Lela, Queen of the Beach and it becomes Mack's all time favorite movie, not Brady's. Mack's personality is very likely changed as a result of the movie's transformation too. Brady and Mack still meet and fall for each other, but it's under similar but different circumstances at the Save the Beach event. Fate had to intervene to eradicate them of their problems rather than let them figure it out for themselves and because of it, they've lost all the time that they had together before. It's nice that they're meant to be together no matter what, but it makes it that what happened in the first movie and this one no longer exist as well as form a paradox where Wet Side Story should have never changed at all if Brady and Mack were never there.
  • Time Bandits. The boy's house is a smoking ruin and his parents are dead... but his parents were neglectful bastards to start with, and Agamemnon is now a firefighter, implying that he has a good future ahead of him. According to director Terry Gilliam (on the Criterion DVD commentary), parents in the test audiences were upset with this ending, but their children liked it!
  • This may or may not be the point of Let the Right One In. There are two possible outcomes of the ending: one is that Oskar takes on the role of The Renfield for Eli and procures blood for her for the rest of his life, the other (endorsed by Word Of God) is that she turns him into a vampire, forcing him to kill for survival as well.
  • The Incredible Shrinking Man: While Scott may have come to terms with the fact of what's happening to him as he shrinks to nothing (he states in the voiceover that "To God there is no zero"), this is at best bittersweet. He faces almost certain death; plus, his wife and his brother are convinced that he died a horrible death: being torn apart and eaten by THE CAREYS' OWN CAT.
  • The indie drama Sleepwalking tries to make its ending seem like a happy and uplifting one: The mother finally returns realizing that she does love her daughter and her brother has realized how he is not enjoying life and decides to take charge, ending with the optimistic line "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." Well OK except for the fact that the mother is still unemployed, now homeless along with her daughter, and is probably going to get charged with abandonment and not be allowed to keep custody of her daughter who'll be forced back to her hated foster care and probably won't end up well. Meanwhile her brother will have to spend the rest of his life as a fugitive for the murder of his father. Not all that uplifting after all.
  • Seven Pounds which tries to make Tim's obsessive self-flagellation and ultimate suicide a morally uplifting Heroic Sacrifice. Also, his preferred method of suicide is box jellyfish. Which has a natural neurotoxin and will render the organs he wants to donate useless.
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: If you have even a partial understanding of genetics then you already know that two whales are not enough to restart the entire species. And even if we are gracious and say that the Federation will step in with all of its 23rd century technology and save them (which there is no evidence that they have the capability to do so incidentally), the rather tragic fact is that animals that have been raised in captivity and then released simply do not live for very long as they lack the skills and experience to survive, meaning that George and Gracie might be swimming happily over the horizon to go off and die. The solution to all of this of course is to put these previously captive animals back into captivity...
  • Star Trek: Insurrection ends with the Bak'u welcoming the Son'a (who are banished Bak'u) into their society and allowing them to keep their planet and its fountain-of-youth powers. Except that it was pointed out that it will take ten years for the planet's rejuvenating effects to really affect the Son'a, and many will not make it that long. Plus, the Bak'u will maintain a monopoly on rejuvenating powers which would certainly benefit billions across the galaxy.
  • Rocky V. Rocky kicks Tommy's ass in a street fight, but he's still broke, and Tommy is still the champion. No wonder Stallone declared it Canon Discontinuity, though Rocky Balboa still opens with Rocky back in his old neighborhood, though thankfully no longer broke as he now runs his own restaurant.
  • Source Code: Colter finally creates an Alternate Universe where the train disaster is averted and he gets to live Happily Ever After with his new girlfriend... in the body of her old boyfriend Sean, who is now essentially dead since his consciousness has been overwritten. Colter will now have to adjust to living a life that is not his, with a family and career which are utterly unknown to him. He also has to try and very carefully pick the right time to tell his new girlfriend that he met her that day and has almost no idea who she is. Oh, and this reality also has a version of his brain in a box, so it's not like his suffering has actually ended at all. And apparently there's one alternate reality where Sean's friend remembers his last actions as irrationally attacking a random guy because he looks Middle Eastern, before falling onto a railroad track.
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) ends with Klaatu agreeing to spare the Earth and humanity, but only after he generates an EMP so powerful that it stops all technology on Earth. Assuming that it really is an EMP, and that the technology that is currently in existence is affected, then millions will die initially and then we will swiftly reconstruct the technology we had already designed. We will likely achieve world peace, which was his aim in the original, but we only be at peace with each other in order to better prepare to wreak vengeance on the aliens that caused this cataclysm. We may become more concerned with the environment, or simply not care about it anymore, in our rush to achieve sustainable civilisation outside of Earth's atmosphere. If it was something more than an EMP and that isn't possible, billions will die and human civilization will collapse into a bloody age of barbarism. But at least Jacob finally called Helen "Mom", right?
  • According to Word of God, the idea for Brazil came from the director wondering whether or not an ending where the main character goes insane could be happy. On one hand, the lead character is tortured into insanity, on the other, well, he's no longer aware of it.
  • Word of God describes Oldboy (2003) as having a happy ending that's sad or a sad ending that's happy. Either way, the implication is that the protagonist continues to carry on an incestful relationship with his own unwitting daughter, and that he may or may not know himself.
  • The Player is a deliberate example that deconstructs the Focus Group Ending: the obligatory happy ending simply doesn't work when the hero not only gets away with murder, but steals everything his victim had.
  • The Lassie film, The Painted Hills: Shep (Lassie) managed to avenge the death of her owner by driving his killer, Taylor, off a cliff. And rather than simply give up and die, she decides to live on with Tommy, the son of Johnathan's late partner. But Taylor had killed Johnathan in order to steal their gold claim for himself. The site of Johnathan's claim died with the two of them, and Taylor had hid the gold dust he and Johnathan had already gathered. A fortune lost to Tommy and his mother.
  • Elysium: Yes, all the people on Earth are now considered to be "citizens" and now they have free healthcare. It still doesn't solve the original problem that led to this situation in the first place (overpopulation) and there might not be enough medpods for everyone.
  • The Blues Brothers: The Blues Brothers pay the taxes for the orphanage, but, they wind up in jail. Also, after they get out The orphanage closes down anyways.
  • R.I.P.D.: Who knows how many people were killed in the massive destruction caused by those vortexes opening up?
  • The Ledge: The director states that the ending was meant to be a Bittersweet Ending as even though Gavin dies at the end, Hollis at least has reconciled with his family, Shana has outgrown the silly superstitions of religion and the dangerous maniac Joe is now in jail where he belongs. But Shana herself is now emotionally broken and all alone in the world, with her marriage destroyed, her husband in jail and her lover Gavin dead. It will be a damn miracle if she doesn't end up going back to her previous life of prostitution and drug abuse.
  • At the end of Edge of Tomorrow, thanks to the final action of the "Groundhog Day" Loop energy, the Omega is destroyed back when the movie started, with Cage being the only one who remembers any of it. Thanks to their prior experience, Sgt. Rita Vrataski and Dr. Carter know that the time-loop effect is real, but no-one else will ever believe Cage's recollections of the Suicide Mission during which they and J Squad defeated the invasion. As far as everyone else is concerned, Cage is just a PR hack (and probably a coward, although not a deserter), Dr. Carter is a former-scientist-turned-crank, J Squad is a load of misfits, and the Mimics just ... randomly died.
  • Both versions of the The Butterfly Effect end with Evan managing to avert all the repercussions of his time-traveling shenanigans by changing the past so that he never meets the love of his life, accepting that any kind of relationship with her (romantic or otherwise) is doomed to end in tragedy. This is treated as a magic fix-all...even though it doesn't change the fact that Kayleigh's father is still an abusive pedophile, and her older brother is still a sadistic psychopath. The Director's Cut version is even wore: Evan uses his powers to commit suicide in his mother's womb, accepting that he's the sole cause of all of his friends' misery, and that the world would genuinely be a better place if he'd never been born.
    • Somewhat averted in the original cut, as it's known that Kayleigh's brother was only sadistic because of the abuse suffered a child at the hands of his father, who was only a part of his childrens lives because Kayleigh decided to stay with him to stay near Ethan.
  • In The Apple, the music-megacorp BIM pretty much takes over the world, with only a small hippie commune being the last refuge of truth and individuality. At very end God/Mr. Topps comes and raptures all the good guys, but the bad guys and the rest of humanity are just left alone. So essentially God took away the last chance for the freedom of Earth. And since it's implied BIM's CEO is the Devil himself, it pretty much means God let Satan win.
  • Pan's Labyrinth has an Alternate Ending Interpretation that the final scene of Ofelia in the Underworld is just her dying, blood-loss induced fantasy. In addition, Vidal may be dead, but there are other Falangists (Spanish Fascists) out there. No doubt, looking for the surviving rebels in retaliation.
  • The Fight Club movie is supposed to have a Bittersweet Ending: The unnamed protagonist has eliminated Tyler Durden and has earned Marla's respect and love, but Tyler's Project Mayhem succeeds in destroying the headquarters of several large companies and banks. For some anti-establishment viewers, however, they see it as a complete happy ending, as they actually like what Project Mayhem intended to do and are glad that it accomplished a global financial crash.
  • Avatar ends with the Na'vi triumphant over the evil corporation, Pandora's natural resources saved, Quaritch taking an arrow to the heart, and Jake transferring his mind permanently into his Avatar body, enabling him to walk again. However, the humans are forced to depart back to Earth, which is apparently now a Death World, under threat of violence (even worse, according to the supplemental materials the reason they were after Pandora's resources in the first place was in an attempt to save Earth), Max and Norm decide to stay on Pandora, putting them at the mercy of however much oxygen the base has left, Jake is happily giving up almost everything he knows and loves, and Eytukan, Grace, Tsu'tey and Trudy are all still dead.
  • House on Haunted Hill (1999): The movie ends with the final two survivors escaping the evil ghosts of the house by climbing the tower and leaving through a window. Cue the sunshine and "we're alive!" hugs. They're still both stranded on top of a haunted house which is itself alive and will devour them the moment they go back inside, with no way down except a 200 foot drop off a cliff and no one coming to their rescue. How are they getting out of there again?

  • Harlan Ellison claims that the ending of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is intended to be happy. Sure, the narrator ends by saying the title line in utter despair, after mercy-killing every other remaining human in the world, but he's so unreliable he hasn't realized that his actions represent the final triumph of the human spirit. The game makes it into more a Bittersweet Ending, with the humans finally taking down AM and settling into the duty of being a watchdog for the AIs as they await the reawakening of the humans on the moon.
  • By all accounts, Hans Christian Andersen was a very depressed man. Out of all his fairy tales, there are only a few with unambiguously happy endings.
  • Discworld:
    • It's explored in Witches Abroad where Lilith gives what is usually considered to be a happy ending to people whether they want it or not. This includes convincing a wolf it's human so that it nearly starves to death and goes insane, since it can't live as either human or wolf now, so that it would eat a grandmother and dress up like her a la Little Red Riding Hood.
    • Intentionally played in Eric which ends by saying that three wishes provided a happy ending for most of the people they've affected and giving as examples the Tezumen, who continue to slaughter people but no longer do so because of religion so they don't need to get up so early; the Tsorteans and Ephebians, whose war is over, allowing them to prepare for the next one; the demons and damned souls, who get back to inflicting/experiencing material punishment on immaterial spirit in the knowledge that at least it's not Astfgl's psychological torture; and Astfgl himself, who as Life President of Hell gets to spend his time writing policy statements entirely unaware that the rest of the demonic lowerarchy is completely ignoring him. What happened to our actual protagonists, we don't get told beyond "It could be worse". Lampshaded by the last two lines "And this too was happiness. Of a sort."
  • Robert Silverberg's stories fall into this occasionally because his personal philosophy is so different from how most people (or at least most modern Western readers) view life and humanity. A particularly jarring example is The Face Upon The Waters—the main character spends most of the story trying to maintain his cultural identity after the destruction of Earth and the scattering of its people, but ultimately concludes that people should adapt to whatever culture they live amongst... and joins up with The Corruption/Instrumentality, which has a stated goal of assimilating everyone it can and killing everyone it can't.
  • A Girl Called Blue is about girls growing up in a strict home for children in 1960s Ireland (run by Sadist Nuns). The book ends with Blue rejoicing that she's finally found a family of her own. Except the "family" is two people she's met twice and they're not allowed to adopt her so she has to wait three years before she's old enough to leave the school with them only allowed to visit her twice a year. Also three of her best friends have now left, one being drowned, another going back to live with her father and the last being sent to another school and she has been forced to sleep alone in a cramped room, and will likely still have to endure plenty more abuse from the nuns for the next three years. Oh and she never finds out who her real mother is either and the nuns will keep abusing children for many years in Ireland.
  • The ending of C. S. Lewis's final Narnia book, The Last Battle, qualified as this for many young readers. Narnia ends, and everyone except Susan dies. Some minor characters are tormented and destroyed by a horrific many-armed God of Evil, while others who are judged unworthy and vanish forever into Aslan's shadow. But the important people don't care about that because they all go to the "real" Narnia (a stand-in for heaven) as the Christian subtext becomes text. It can be uplifting or inspire nightmares, depending on which scenes stick with you. (Neil Gaiman brilliantly deconstructed this in his short story "The Problem of Susan," in which he shows what happened to Susan after her siblings died in a train crash and she had to identify their corpses.)
  • Roald Dahl's The Witches. The protagonist learns that he's stuck as a mouse and that mice don't live very long, but he's happy because he'll probably die near the same time as his elderly grandmother and doesn't care about living if he's not with her; they will live out their lives tracking down and destroying other witches together. The two also ponder Bruno's fate. One states that his mouse-hating mother probably drowned him in a bucket, but nobody seems very disturbed by this possibility. The movie has an unabashed happy ending where the last witch, who had undergone a Heel–Face Turn, undoes the mouse spell on the protagonist and is implied to do the same to Bruno. While many were appreciative of this happier ending, Roald Dahl was infamously not.
  • Coupled with Values Dissonance for A Little Princess. The book ends with Sara being restored to her wealth while Becky becomes her personal attendant. Oh and Miss Minchin gets away with treating them like prisoners. However, if one takes into context the period the story is set in (Victorian London) then Becky going from little better than a slave to a powerful position in the household (with a kind and generous mistress too) where she would get a roof over her head and financial security, it's a happy ending for Becky indeed. And while Miss Minchin doesn't get an over-the-top instant comeuppance (save in the film adaptations, which pretty much need one) it's worth remembering that not only has she irrevocably lost her chance at a pupil who could've single-handedly ensured her school's success and her own financial comfort for life; once Sara's story becomes common knowledge in her social circle—as it inevitably will—Minchin's reputation will be in tatters and her school likely ruined. There's also a What Happened to the Mouse? for Melchisedec the rat and his family; one hopes kindhearted Sara will remember them and send Ram Dass over there with bread crumbs.
  • At the end of Atlas Shrugged, Galt's Gulch is the only non-Crapsack place left in the whole world. Which is great, because all of the looters and moochers are gone and the good people can rebuild the world, right? Then you remember the millions of innocent children who were left to starve... (Then again, by the book's morality, this is the looters' and moochers' fault rather than anything to blame on the protagonists...)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Shu, Wei and Wu are united into one at last and peace throughout the entire country of China can finally begin. Unfortunately the victors are a splinter group of Wei who usurped the throne, conquered Wu and Shu who at the time were being ruled by Liu Shan (a truly incompetent ruler who defiles everything Shu originally stood for) and Sun Hao (a tyrant almost as bad as Dong Zhuo). The kicker? When these two surrendered they were given lucrative positions and the readers were told they lived out their remaining lives in luxury. To be fair though this novel closely follows the real life events in history and not a lot could be changed. And historically, the hard-fought reunification of China ended a decade or two later with a new barbarian invasion. Also, the war to unify China was itself one of the bloodiest in human history, killing (by highest estimates) 74% of China's population, more people than the Second World War. The victors ruled dust and ashes.
  • Back when The Iron Giant was a book instead of a movie, it ended with an encounter with a dragon-like alien that sang in a hypnotic manner. It sang loud enough that the entire world heard it, and everyone in the world spent the rest of their lives alternately taking care of necessities and listening to the song. It's specified that all war was completely eliminated, and the implication would be that art and culture vanished too. If the wording is to be taken literally, people didn't even converse with each other. Now, does this sound Utopian, or more like a nightmare?
  • The final book of the Twilight series gave Jacob, who had been suffering from unrequited love for Bella, his own happy romantic ending by having him imprint on Bella's newly born daughter Nessie. Oh, don't worry; Nessie grows really fast, so she'll be 17 years old in 7 years and ready to start a relationship with her "Uncle Jacob" then! Also, there's apparently no good way to get rid of the Volturi or vampires like them. Given that the Volturi are growing more and more afraid of human technology, and more and more inclined to lash out at humanity, this is a very bad thing. Das-Sporking's MST, when it gets to the end of Breaking Dawn, points out that their "victory" at the end really isn't one, as while the Volturi are gone for now, they have been given all the information needed to defeat the Cullens should they come around again.
  • Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov ends with the protagonist arrested by his nation's totalitarian government, and his young son horrifically killed by a crowd of mental patients—on film!—due to a clerical error. But then Nabokov reaches through the layers of reality and gives his main character the gift of insanity to make him forget all his pain. The novel ends with Adam Krug, as a result of his insanity, rushing the dictator and being shot to death. Nabokov, however, refuses to write this conclusion (after implying its inevitability) and instead describes his room and decides to go mothing. It's a strange case of being incapable of giving Krug a happy ending (even the insanity so benevolently bestowed upon him results directly in his being killed), and so at least giving him the consolation prize of not writing it at all, and therefore not allowing it to happen. It's about as esoteric as a 'happy ending' can get.
  • Left Behind gets this a lot for its ending where not only are all non-Christians sent to Fire and Brimstone Hell, but the paradise where all the protagonists end up is depicted as a faintly creepy commune where you can no longer eat meat or form relationships with anyone you want, and nobody experiences any strong emotions other than love of God. The writers treat this as a utopia.
  • Nearly all of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's books have one of these. Save the Green-Sky Trilogy, and only because she was deluged with mail, realized she made a big goof, and authorized a sequel in the form of a video game, possibly the first video game to be acknowledged as Canon for something written in another medium.
  • H.P. Lovecraft's short story "Celephais," which ends with the main character finally returning to the wondrous dream-city that he created in his youth where he is appointed the chief god of all of the regions of Dream; and all he had to do was fall off a cliff and let the tides cast his corpse upon the rocks. Lovecraft lampshades this later in "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" when that story's protagonist meets this exact character who's since come to regret his decision but obviously can never go back.
  • Mindswap by Robert Sheckley. The protagonist is in the corrupted world but believes he has succeeded in his mission and has returned home.
  • Hush, Hush has a great happy ending, if you ignore the fact that part of Nora's house was burned down, there's a Clingy Jealous Girl of a fallen angel after her, and that she is blissfully dating the guy who spent the book stalking her, sexually harassing her, and outright attempting to murder her.
  • At the end of The Goddess Test, Kate's beloved mother is actually the goddess Demeter, so she and her mother can be together for eternity. Sounds great, huh? Except if you think back to the prologue, where we hear Demeter outright telling Hades that she's going to have her second daughter to take the goddess test and be his wife, even though eleven girls have already died in the attempt and Hades says he wants to just give up rather than see anyone else die for him. There's also the fact that the last girl who was manipulated into an arranged marriage with Hades later begged for death. Throughout the story there is a lot of emphasis on the fact that being there is Kate's choice. However the reason she made the deal with Henry in the first place was to save Ava and then the reason she kept the deal was so that he could keep her mother alive and she could spend time with her before she died. Except you find out that both Ava and Diana are Goddesses and were never in any real danger. So that means that while it was technically Kate's choice, her entire choice was based on a lie. Plus the ending reveals that Diana put her daughter through four years of emotional turmoil by making her think that her mother was on the verge of death for years and forcing Kate to take care of her for no reason other than to set her up for the test.
  • The "Susannah in New York" epilogue of The Dark Tower series has Susannah going into an alternate reality version of New York where Eddie and Jake are still alive and in fact are brothers. She appears in Central Park at Christmas time, alternate-Eddie greets her with a cup of hot chocolate, and it's clearly supposed to be her happy ending... Except many readers feel that Susannah abandoned the quest and is now trapped in a world that isn't her own with a couple of Replacement Goldfish who aren't really the people she loved.
  • The end of The Dark Is Rising sequence is unsatisfying in several ways. The forces of the Dark have been beaten back; all the main characters are OK and have forged a close bond; Bran has grown up normal, decided to stay with his foster-father, and has realised he's attracted to Jane. But not only do five of the Six have to forget that magic exists and never see their beloved Merriman again, the lovely magic of the Light is going to withdraw from the world altogether. And poor John Rowland is going to believe that his wife has suddenly died (which is presented as better than knowing she was an agent of the Dark). Will gets to remember everything because he's an Old One, but he'll have nobody to talk to about it for most of the time.
  • Chris Adrian's The Childrens Hospital ends with every single adult left on Earth dying, as the global flooding secedes and the children leave the eponymous hospital to inherit their new Earth. The final image is the main character screaming as her newborn child is taken away and she dissolves into ash. Lampshaded throughout the book by the narrator who, as an angel who was once human, is supposed to wholeheartedly accept the end of the world as righteous, but can't quite do so.
  • Whatever Evelyn Waugh may say about God's love and the power for redemption in Brideshead Revisited, the facts remain as such: Sebastian's a hopeless alcoholic, Julia and Charles, having gone through with their respective divorces, decide never to see each other again, and the entire world is going to be inherited by the likes of Mottram and Hooper.
  • The Soldier Son. After almost three books of stressing how bad it is for Nevare's soul to be split, he is finally reunited with Soldier's Boy and absorbed by an ancestor tree, together with his beloved Lisana. Is this the end? No, he is split again. Admittedly, that half gets back together with Amzil, marries her and inherits the Nevare estate, but wasn't it bad to have one's personality split? Other issues concern the discovery of gold that draw the Gernians away from the Speck lands: how long before they'll return? And finally, Nevare completely destroys the source of the Plainspeople's magic in the process, sealing their fate. This is given almost no attention.
  • Some of the "good" endings in the Choose Your Own Adventure books merely consists in the main character surviving, stopping the Big Bad temporarily, or implying that perhaps you will have success in the future, leaving many plot points unsolved.
  • The final book of The Demon's Lexicon has the surviving magicians pulling a mass Heel–Face Turn and joining the Goblin Market. Except we're given no reason to believe that it's genuine with all or even any of them, and they're probably just planning to destroy the Market from within.
  • Inverted with Edmond Hamilton's 1932 short story 'The Man Who Evolved', which is traditionally interpreted as having the soul-crushingly nihilistic ending of learning that the human race is doomed to devolve into primordial ooze, and there is nothing that anybody, not even a Sufficiently Advanced super-intelligence, can do to prevent it. However, Fridge Logic shows that there are two ways in which the ending can be interpreted more optimistically: either Pollard continues down the path of Hollywood Evolution, Ascending to a Higher Plane of Existence and becoming an Energy Being, while leaving his body behind as protoplasm, or the story can be interpreted as set in the same universe as Hamilton's later short story, "Devolution", in which microbes are the most advanced forms of life, which developed an interstellar civilization and only got stuck on Earth after they de-evolved into all other forms of life (in which case Pollard could conceivably have retained his augmented intelligence). Note that neither of these interpretations alleviate the horror of Pollard's steady Loss of Identity as he travels through the Evolutionary Levels, however.
  • The Revelation Space Series ends with humanity (with some help) defeating the Inhibitors, at the cost of fleeing the Milky Way as humanity's rogue Greenfly terraforming robots - now uncontained by the Inhibitors - overrun the galaxy, breaking apart worlds and anything artificial to turn into greenhouse habitats orbiting stars. Galactic North shows that the Greenfly has begun to expand outside the galaxy. The Shadows in Absolution Gap explain that their entire local cluster has been effectively overrun by the Greenfly. The author said that this ending was "actually quite optimistic"
  • In The Worm Ouroboros, the 'good guy' princes have lots of battles and perform heroic deeds to overcome the 'bad guys'. Having done so, they're bored. So the kindly gods recreate the bad guys so that the good guys can have fun beating them again. And so the world is condemned to an eternity of warfare because otherwise the princes would get bored. This was because the book is specifically inspired by Nordic myth and legend, retaining the original source morality.
  • Quest for the White Witch, the final novel in Tanith Lee’s Birthgrave trilogy, ends with Vazkor finally meeting his neglectful mother. And the two decide that they like each other enough to enter into an incestuous mother/son marriage. This is considered “all right” because they are both essentially deities.
  • Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is deliberately written to be this. Amy finally has someone who she can be herself with and Nick has the child he always wanted. They may eventually kill each other but, at heart, they're both sociopaths. This is averted in the film version, where Nick comes across more sympathetically.
  • Deltora Quest ends on a very happy note: the Shadow Lord's last plan has been foiled, the dragons have all been revived, trade with other nations is reoccurring, the king is happily married with several children... but, the Shadow Lord still exists and isn't going anywhere, he still has control of the Shadowlands, he can breed new Ak-Baba, he's sorted out the errors in the Conversion Project, he still has the Grade-3 Ols, and he is perfectly capable of learning from his mistakes. While Lief is a good king, all the Shadow Lord has to do is wait for a descendant he can manipulate... and this is the guy who, we are often told, considers a thousand years to be like the blink of an eye.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey is meant to have a happy ending, but many would argue that marrying and starting a family with a controlling abuser is NOT a happy ending.
  • Flannery O'Connor famously claimed that Wise Blood had a "very hopeful" ending. This is a real stretch, unless one considers O'Connor's Catholic sensibilities, and protagonist Hazel Motes's innermost struggles and priorities.
    • Most of O'Connor's works share this trait—but she herself insisted that she was a writer of comic stories, rightly regarded. Again and again, her protagonists (often ironically and grotesquely) lose everything they thought they wanted and valued—their possessions, their dignity, their self-image, even their lives. Burned down back to the foundations, they are left unarmored and open to the terrible incursion of God's grace.
  • The plays and stories of Anton Chekhov are ostensibly comedies, and they are still considered comedies in Russia. However, many other cultures tend to miss the unsentimental amusement Chekhov takes in his myopic characters and their future, and consider his works much darker, even tragic.
  • The Goosebumps books were famous for featuring Cruel Twist Endings, but The Cuckoo Clock of Doom has one that's played as happy and upbeat despite being utterly horrifying in implication: After repairing the titular clock and returning to the present, the protagonist discovers that he has inadvertently erased his Annoying Younger Sister from existence. This is played as a good thing for him because she ruined his birthday party and embarrassed him in front of the girl he likes. Disproportionate Retribution, much? And while he does say that there's probably a way to use the clock to revive her, and he'll probably do it someday, given that he himself was nearly erased the first time he used the clock, what guarantee is there he'll even survive trying, let alone actually succeed?
    • Saying what she did was a Felony Misdemeanor is understating things. The girl is portrayed as a real Enfant Terrible, to the fact that the vast majority of fans despise her. To them, the ending is a straight up Karmic Twist Ending that works out happily for the protagonist.
  • The Quantum Thief-trilogy ends with Mieli breaking the Planck Locks with the aid of the Kaminari Jewel and using her newfound power to create an entirely new universe to all the people on Saturn, including the uploaded minds of Earth's remaining population. Unfortunately this also means that the heartless Sobornost collective is left to rule the rest of the Solar System unchecked, now that their worst enemies are out of the picture, and it's only a matter of time before they consume all the remaining small civilisations of the System, including Mieli's own people, the Oortians. On the other hand, the story end with another copy of Jean le Flambeur being released, which could result in another wrench thrown in Sobornost's plans — maybe.
  • The Jungle: Jurgis has lost his wife, his father, both his children and an absurd amount of jobs all directly or indirectly as a result of the squalid conditions he lives in as an early-1900s immigrant. But it's okay because at least he's found Socialism!
  • The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince does this to the happy ending of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. The curse is broken, the Beast is human again, and he and Belle are together... except the novella adds a backstory for the Beast that involves dumping his first fiancee for being poor, horrifically abusing his second finacee and gleefully allowing her family to go to ruin, and ordering a hit on a painter because he didn't like that the painting being made reflected the curse on him. Belle never learns about any of this, which means she's unwittingly ending up with someone considerably worse than she thought, while the Beast himself forgot his past for reasons never fully explained, meaning there's no chance of him learning from his past or making amends. The ending is still treated as completely happy, but more than a few readers have expressed the wish for Belle to leave the Beast altogether.

     Live Action TV 
  • Dollhouse has a Bittersweet Ending at best, but some people are divided on the "Happy Ending" for Echo and Paul, in which Paul dies, but Alpha makes an imprint of Paul's personality for Echo to upload into herself. Fridge Logic questions whether it would be so great to share a body with your true love, if Paul would be more significant than the other hundred or so personalities inside Echo, and some just didn't like the pairing, which started out as Paul Loving a Shadow and The Dulcinea Effect and became serious offscreen during a three-month Time Skip.
  • Battlestar Galactica's finale is both very religious and very Ludd Was Right, pissing off most of the sci-fi fans who'd watched it (if only because without modern technology, most of the survivors would have greatly shortened life expectancies and greatly reduced quality of life). The fans were even more irritated that this development came completely out of the blue, without foreshadowing or any anti-technology message in previous episodes. Word of God is that no anvilicious message was intended, but that it was just a last-minute fix to explain the lack of remains of the Fleet.
  • Kamen Rider Decade does this in a couple of arcs due to forgetting What Happened to the Mouse?. Yaaay, the Grongi are defeated, and all the millions of people who have been turned into Grongi have ceased to exist when the main villain was destroyed! Aweso- wait, what? Using the secret weapon that's the last hope of the few surviving humans on the world where monsters and dark Riders rule, the Riders defeat a few enforcers before leaving forever, taking said device with them! New toy, yay— wait, what?
  • Seinfeld is an example for an esoteric nonplussing ending. Larry David likely only intended to write an episode that is absurdist Up to Eleven, and a setting to have a large number of characters Back for the Finale, and when talking about the finale, had never hinted at any intentions. However, the four main characters being sent to prison resulted in fans being unhappy, or stipulating that the show was intended to be about jerkasses.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Good god, How I Met Your Mother. Barney and Robin divorce and the Mother dies all so that Robin and Ted can get back together 20 years in the future. By the reaction of the kids - literally "Mom's been dead for 6 years, yay go bang Aunt Robin Dad!" - this is meant to be the ultimate happy ending of two long-lost lovers. You wonder if the writers realize that the blue french horn Ted holds up for Robin at the end, has become an object of derision and tragedy in the fanbase. There's also no real reason to believe Ted and Robin are actually going to work out this time, since the show had previously spent quite a bit of time deconstructing their relationship and ultimately showing them as incompatible. Most of the issues that caused them to break up in the past haven't been resolved, nor have they ever managed to overcome them in their numerous attempts to get together in the past.
  • Degrassi: The Next Generation: Spinner and Emma's Accidental Marriage (and deciding to STAY MARRIED). Especially frustrating, since the characters hardly even interacted before that.
  • The finale of Lost could certainly be seen this way. Everybody from the Island remains friends in the afterlife, except for the ones you don't see for some reason. Okay, fine. But why does Sayid have to be with Shannon and lose Nadia? Why can't Locke stay with Helen? Christian Shepherd seems to have dictatorial powers over the lives of people he didn't even really know. Plus, it's implied that several of the characters who outlived Jack led long lives, yet apparently none of them formed any meaningful relationships during the intervening years—so Kate, Sawyer, and Claire all potentially spent decades mourning their respective love interests and never loving anyone else, while Aaron and Ji-Yeon apparently had such empty lives that they entered the afterlife as babies whose only bonds are with their parents. And Miles just gets abandoned and forgotten in limbo, despite his apparent devotion to Sawyer.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Love & Monsters," one of the characters becomes a face on a paving slab (long story) and she cannot move, eat or feel. She also will never age. This is presented as a good fate for the character.
    • At the end of "Blink," we see that Sally has a photo of a Weeping Angel, but in season 5, we find out that Weeping Angels can project themselves through images, meaning that that photo is probably going to turn into another Angel. (Fortunately, Sally gave that photo to the Doctor, who can hopefully dispose of it.) Plus, the only thing keeping the original Angels immobilized is one bare lightbulb, which could burn out at any moment, and which the Angels telepathically turned off earlier in the episode. There's also the strong implication (confirmed in later episodes) that there are still more Angels out there, disguised as normal statues (that is, if there's such a thing as a normal statue that's not an Angel). On a less dire note, the "happy" ending features Sally and Larry making a living by running a video store...which probably is going to end up failing, since the episode took place in 2007, right before video stores started becoming obsolete.
    • "Last of the Time Lords." So the Doctor defeats the Master, hits the Reset Button, and the entire Year of Hell has been undone. This is easily the happiest season ending of any in the RTD era. It wouldn't even be all that esoteric except for a few "little" things. Martha Jones and her family still remember this horrific, PTSD-inducing year. America still lost its President (who, despite being an unflattering Expy of George W. Bush, seemed like a good man who didn't deserve to die). Britain lost its best political minds when the Master gassed them all, and also lost a courageous woman whom the Toclafane tortured to death for resisting the Master. And speaking of the Toclafane, the final, definitive fate for humanity is that in the last generation, all of the humans (even the best of them) will within that generation degenerate into monstrous, childish thrill-killers, making everything on the show that has anything to do with humanity feel completely pointless.
    • "Hell Bent" (the Series 9 finale) has the Doctor defy his people and risk all time and space to save Clara from her fixed-point death by removing her from her timestream just before she dies, intending to mind wipe her of memories of him and return her to Earth. In the Bittersweet Ending, the Doctor repents and ends up being mind wiped of memories of her, leaving him free to move on with his life, while the now-functionally immortal Clara ends up with her own TARDIS. Accompanied by fellow functional immortal Ashildr/Me, she decides to go back to Gallifrey and her death "the long way 'round" in pursuit of new adventures — the universe will hold together so long as she returns at some point. The problems with this ending come from several angles.
      • Clara can never return to her old life and family on Earth; though by this point in the series they meant little to her compared to a life of adventure, it's still pretty sad for her loved ones and colleagues, who only know her to have died a mysterious death. And since the universe is holding together, what will finally get Clara to return to her extremely painful death? Will she remember she has to go back? Will she have to be forced into it? Will she screw up so badly that death seems the only way to atone?
      • The Doctor would not take Ashildr on as a companion because as a virtual immortal himself both of them would become emotionally distant from mortals and even villainous, a problem she was already struggling with. Thus, the women could become what the Doctor feared — and he doesn't know they're gallavanting around the universe, so he can't stop them if they go bad — unless they acquire mortal companions. As well, can Clara be happy with a traveling companion who's virtually an anti-Doctor, given how much she came to love and need him?
      • In the meantime, after millennia spent pining for them and defending them, the Doctor is now a fugitive from his people and homeworld — again — for his actions during his Sanity Slippage. The exiled Rassilon and his cronies are the types who would seek Revenge for his bloodlessly overthrowing them, and he's left a power vacuum at the top by abandoning his Lord President post. It's inevitable later seasons will reveal the outcome of these events at least but until then...
  • The TV movie Ice Angel is about a male hockey player (Matt) who dies and is brought back to life in the body of female figure skater (Sarah) so he can win an Olympic gold medal on the ice. He is surprised and unhappy at his unasked for Gender Bender but adjusts to his new life and learns to let go of his old girlfriend and friends who have moved on. As he (now she) is in the middle of winning the gold medal the two angels who have been watching over Matt mention that as soon as the performance is over 'Sarah' will forget all about being Matt. This is presented as a happy ending but comes across more like Matt - who already has his Aesop and seems content to continue life as Sarah - gets his identity erased for no good reason. This holds true to the source of the story Here Comes Mr. Jordan (which the film Heaven Can Wait is also based off of) where the soul and habits of the deceased do live on in the new body but they will forget all else about their adventures and time in Heaven and the Afterlife Bureaucracy. It is meant to help the soul and person go back to living a normal life.
  • Gossip Girl ends with the reveal that Dan Humphrey is Gossip Girl, the blogger who stalked and terrorized the other main characters for years. That wouldn't be so bad if the main heroine and the object of his obsession, Serena, didn't consider the reveal to be the hottest thing ever since he did it all to get her. Everyone else seems fine with it too. In fact, his plan gains him the respect of all the other characters and he finally becomes one of them.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The episode Past Tense ends on a real high note, with the promise that the human-rights violating Sanctuary Districts will close and that real effort would be made to help the people inside find the jobs, homes and medical care that they need. According to Sisko this is one of the most momentous days in human history and helped pave the way for the Federation (as we see when their actions accidentally wipe it out). Unfortunately as anyone who is up on their Trek history knows; this episode is set two years before the Third World War. Everyone you see in this episode grinning about how bright their futures now are? Were either killed in the atomic hellfire and radiation of nuclear war, gunned down (or worse) by the enemy or (ironically) found themselves in refugee camps that were just as bad if not worse than the Sanctuary Districts were.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: In "Dear Doctor", Archer and Phlox decide not to give the Valakians and Menk a cure to their illness, likely dooming both races to extinction, and this decision helps Phlox gain new respect for Archer? The excuse was that the Valakians were fated to die according to evolution, and so it would somehow be immoral to cure them. It was supposed to be character affirming as Archer does the 'right' thing no matter how hard it is, but even if we accept this warped Hollywood Evolution, most people don't think that some 'evolutionary plan' is more valuable than billions of lives.
    • This can be blamed on Executive Meddling, since the story was supposed to end with Archer and Phlox at odds with each other (Archer wanting the cure, Phlox opposing it), but executives didn't want any disagreements between them. This itself is a meta-example Esoteric Happy Ending, as the executives were happy that they were able to avoid having a proper ethical dilemma and argument in the episode, which is the kind of thing that typical Star Trek viewers generally WANT in the show.
  • In Babylon 5, Marcus Cole sacrifices his life to save that of his beloved Susan Ivanova, using an alien machine that transfers Life Energy. His body was placed in cold storage, however, and there was a strong implication that he was Only Mostly Dead until they could work out a way to replace his Life Energy without killing someone else. J. Michael Straczynski then wrote a prose spin-off short story "Time, Death and the Incurable Romantic", in which Marcus does get resurrected, three hundred years after Susan's death. He then steals Susan's DNA from her tomb, has a duplicate of her created, implants it with Susan's memories up to shortly before the incident that led to her life-threatening injury, and maroons them both on an uninhabited planet, deceiving the duplicate into believing that she's the original Susan and it's still 2261. This was apparently considered to be a happy ending for both of them, but it absolutely horrified many fans who saw it as a grotesque, abusive violation of the duplicate's right to self-determination.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Mute" is about Ilsa, a little girl whose parents never speak verbally to her, because they are training her to become psychic. She and her parents are psychic, and can communicate very well, but after they're killed in a fire, she is sent to live with foster parents who are unaware of her psychic abilities and try to get her to speak normally. At school, her teacher basically torments her and makes her life a living hell until she finally begins speaking. Another psychic couple shows up wanting to adopt her and continue developing her psychic powers, but the girl turns them away, saying she'd rather stay with her foster parents. As the couple leaves, they comment that it was just as well that she stayed behind, as her psychic abilities had been destroyed by the horrific treatment she'd received at the school. It is stated by pretty much every adult character that this is a happy ending for Ilsa, in spite of the fact that she was tormented at school and lost a paranormal ability in the process. (The author has claimed that her original parents treated her more as a science experiment than a daughter, but there's nothing in the final version of the story to suggest that.)
  • The Stephen King miniseries The Langoliers ends with the main characters running towards the camera and leaping into the foreground laughing and smiling - just in case you were in any doubt that this is meant to be a happy ending. Don't think too hard however about the innocent blind girl who was stabbed to death, the black guy who was also stabbed to death, Mr. Toomy who was eaten alive (who is implied to have been a good person destroyed by his abusive father), and the guy who just heroically vaporized himself to save all of your lives. In addition, none of you will be able to explain what happened to the hundreds of other people on this flight who disappeared into thin air when the police start to investigate. At best the authorities will think they are mad, and at worst, they will be tried for hijacking and kidnapping.

  • The last movement of Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 ends in a forced triumphant cry of the high strings and the brass, suggesting one such trope.
    • Not only that, but as conductor Michael Tilson Thomas notes, he slips in a few zingers into the final "rejoicing" flourishes. When the music reaches major chords played by the brass, Shostakovich signals a conventional ending — but, we find out a moment later that, instead of keeping put in that resting chord, Shostakovich keeps pushing the brass section higher and higher into minor registers, before lurching heavily into a tacked on ending.
  • "Judy's Turn to Cry" — the sequel to "It's My Party And I'll Cry if I Want To" by Lesley Gore has the singer pull off Operation Jealousy to get Johnny's attention back (after he came to her party with another girl). It works: Johnny decks the poor sap and ditches Judy to come back to our heroine, who now... gets the guy who abandoned her for nothing and hits people for little provocation. Great?
  • The Christmas Shoes is about a man who learns the meaning of Christmas through an act of charity. However, the act of charity is a result of God making the man bump into a child whose mom is dying, and helping him out. The implication being that God felt it was more important to teach a grumpy guy a lesson than to miraculously heal this kid's dying mother. Patton Oswalt does not neglect to note this in his take on the song:
    Patton Oswalt: ''Let's review: There's a guy in line. He's a little cranky on Christmas. God looks down and sees this. "Somebody in a bad mood on my son's birthday? BULLSHIT! Give that kid's mom cancer, make sure he's front of them in line, make him seven cents short for the shoes, this guy will buy them and then he'll be in a good mood." I almost feel like Jesus is behind God going, "I don't think we need to give a kid's mom-""Kid, you shut the FUCK up! This is gonna be the best birthday you ever had!"
  • Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" ends with a moment of triumph for the jilted (she assumes) girlfriend who assumes her boyfriend will "think before he cheats". A far more likely ending would involve him turning her in for vandalism, especially since she so conveniently carved her name into the seats. (Underwood herself has stated she does not recommend such retribution.)

    Tabletop Games 
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse: In the Time of Judgment scenario in which the Wyrm is released from confinement in the Weaver's web, the Weaver and Wyrm become sane again, and the cosmos is restored to balance. However, virtually all the changing breeds have been killed and the human race has been hurled back into the stone age.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade features an in-universe case in the Followers of Set clanbook: during the history chapter, the narrator briefly focuses on the disastrous events of the Children's Crusade, and true to history, it ended with the majority of the children either dead or sold at the slave markets of Alexandria. Of course, the Followers of Set admit to buying several consignments of enslaved crusaders, many of whom ended up as temple servants - or blood sacrifices. However, the narrator assures the reader that this is actually a happy ending - because out the thousands of children enslaved and murdered by the cult, eleven of them were Embraced into the clan... and four live on as respected elders of a vampire clan dedicated to furthering corruption and decay throughout the world. Yay.

  • The end of Grease, in which Sandy remakes herself as less of a Sandra Dee innocent in order to win the attraction of Danny, has both its defenders and detractors. Depending on how well each individual show portrays it, either an uptight girl learns to loosen up a little in order to get the guy she's attracted to, who himself has been attempting to do the same, or else a perfectly fine woman changes herself for the worse in order to be conform with people who have acted like jerks for the past two acts.
    • It's worth noting that in the film adaptation's Movie Bonus Song "You're the One That I Want", the major theme of the song is "You better shape up" - in short, whether or not Sandy has changed for the worse, she's not going to put up with Danny's douchebaggery, and she makes it clear from the word go. So this trope may not apply to the film.
  • The opera Turandot. Essentially, deposed Prince Charming hooks up with the evil queen (well, evil princess), immediately after she tortures his loyal slave girl to death. Yes, this is supposed to trigger the Defrosting of the Ice Queen, but seriously, they get a happily-ever-after wedding hours after she tortured the best person in the whole opera to death - and nice job sending their life - and the hope of your people - into ruins, O Mighty Prince Calaf!
    • In real stage time, it takes place minutes after.
  • Shakespeare's got several of these. They're sometimes classed as "the problem plays," because it's hard to figure out what to do with them.
    • The ending of The Taming of the Shrew can be interpreted in many ways, which fall into three basic categories: A. Based on the values of the time, it's a happy ending in which an unpleasant shrew gets what's coming to her and learns a valuable lesson. B. Interpreted subversively, Katarina either learns to manipulate her husband or they come to an understanding. C. Taken literally, it's a comedy that becomes a tragedy, in which a strong-willed woman has her spirit broken by the kind of physical and psychological abuse favored by domestic abusers, interrogation experts, and members of any political party you don't like, and everyone thinks that's a good thing.
      • It's even worse if you consider the epilogue, which often is not included. You see, there's a framing device in the play where a drunk is taken off of the street, dressed up like royalty, and shown the production of the play, all for the amusement of a nobleman. The epilogue shows that the drunk passes out, is put back in his own clothes, and left on the streets again. When he wakes up, he decides that it was all a dream and decides to use the tale of Kate and Petruchio as a lesson on how to deal with his own shrewish wife. Yeah...
      • Also, the concurrent definition of "comedy" was "a play ending with a wedding," so it's not necessarily funny.
    • The Merchant of Venice. Okay, this one might just be Values Dissonance, since a Jew being forcibly converted to Christianity was considered a good thing at the time. All the same...the play is very dark for a Shakespearean comedy, prejudice seems to be a theme running through the whole story, and Shylock does get that "if you prick us, do we not bleed" speech. And, frankly, while Shylock's a terrible person, all the Christian characters in the play are greedy, unlikeable bastards. Are we really supposed to be glad they won?
      • Antonio's okay except that he's apparently abused Shylock in the street for being a usurer and a Jew for years. Bassanio is a Gold Digger and the drama is set up by his taking advantage of the fact that Antonio will always give him whatever he asks for, even if it means asking for a loan off that Jew he so despises. Although interestingly, the dialogue leans toward Shylock asking the security of a useless 'pound of flesh' should Antonio default, to prove he doesn't actually want people he does business with to ruin themselves, rather than toward his hoping to get a chance to kill Antonio. Then his daughter steals everything she can lay hands on and elopes with a friend of Antonio's, and he flips out.
    • All's Well That Ends Well ends with the sweet, lovely and clever Helena having succeeded in forcing the young nobleman Bertram — a snobby, childish Jerkass who hated her guts for no good reason — to marry her. And this is clearly not just Values Dissonance, because other characters point out that Bertram is clearly not good enough for her. But the play seems like a comedy, so...yay?
    • Measure for Measure has the just, lawful Duke put back in power, the wicked chancellor Angelo punished and made to marry his forgotten sweetheart, and the virtuous Isabella marrying the Duke. Great! Except... the Duke is kind of an amoral fellow who sits back and watches his own city fall apart, any woman getting married to Angelo should not consider that a happy ending, and Isabella is a nun-in-training who Does Not Like Men, loathes the thought of sex, and she and the Duke have practically no interaction before he says they'll get married.
      • The ending does make it ambiguous as to whether or not Isabella actually accepts the proposal, mind.
      • In the case of Angelo's sweetheart, the Duke initially offered to marry her to Angelo and then execute him, thus letting the woman inherit his considerable amount of money and become a very wealthy widow (a position which apparently was very good for women, in that time period). For God-knows-what-reason, she insists on marrying Angelo and keeping him alive.
  • Wicked, though that case might be intentional. Sure, Elphaba and Fiyero survive, but they can never come back to Oz, and Glinda is stuck as a Stepford Smiler, believing everyone she loved to be dead.
  • Love Never Dies tries for a Bittersweet Ending: Meg accidentally kills Christine, but she dies in the Phantom's arms, affirming her love for him, and their son Gustave is willing to accept him as his father. But nothing suggests that the Phantom is fit to be a father to the boy — after all, he's a mentally deranged murderer. Meanwhile, Raoul (who, alcoholic and gambler though he may be, did raise the boy for ten years) is presumably returning to France alone without even the money he needs to pay his debts, and while Meg's fate is never revealed, it's likely that at best she'll be sent to prison for what she did. And according to the original prologue of the London version, the beautiful Phantasma amusement park subsequently burns down and its freaks, shunned by the "ordinary" world, live in its remains! Where did the owner and his son go?
    • It doesn't help that the Phantom pulls a bit of a Karma Houdini in all this; he manipulates and destroys everyone around him and gets the woman he loves killed, and in return he gets...a loving hug from his son. Yay?
    • It's even worse in the novel The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth, which was based on early ideas for a stage sequel and has some concepts that persisted into Love Never Dies. In that version, the Phantom's son, here named Pierre, is explicitly a Child Of Rape (the show changes this to a consensual One Night Stand) and Raoul is a perfectly decent man who just happens to have been rendered infertile in a tragic Contrived Coincidence and genuinely loved Pierre. But we're still supposed to cheer when Pierre chooses Erik, based solely on the fact that he's the biological father — a decision treated by another character as a God-given miracle!
  • Apparently, Leoš Janáček thought the ending of his opera The Cunning Little Vixen was soothing and happy enough to be played at his funeral, while it would otherwise generally be considered a (heavy on the bitter) Bittersweet Ending. To recap: the title character has been shot dead, leaving her cubs to fend for themselves, and her skin made into a wedding gift so her killer, a poacher, can marry the human protagonist's sweetheart instead of him. But, hey, he gets to reflect on the cycle of life and death, so all's well! (It's worth noting that this dark turn wasn't present in the source material, and this is still lighter than most of Janáček's operas.)

    Video Games 
  • Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions has this feeling occur in-universe after 2099 Spider-Man defeats his version of Scorpion; Scorpion took the tablet at the bidding of another villain, who promised to turn him back into a human (his backstory is that he was turned into a scorpion-like mutant) if he found it for her. Consequently, Spider-Man feels sorry for him and wishes there was something he could do. When Madame Webb congratulates him and assures him that the day is his, he glumly asks, "Yeah? Then why do I feel so bad about it?"
  • Steambot Chronicles can end in one of two different ways: either the villain and his right hand are killed and his plan to obliterate society thwarted, or the player can descend into cackling supervillainy and carry out the villain's plan himself. The former is infinitely more depressing than the latter, as it involves the revelation that the society you fought so hard to save is in reality a corrupt, decadent sham of a civilization whose over-reliance on technology was slowly killing the planet. The Big Bad and his dragon just wanted to rebuild society and get justice for the Big Bad's brother's death, and the game ends with the Globetrotters permanently disbanding, their members becoming broken, bitter shells of who they once were.
  • Crusader of Centy: In a game which not only breaks its Aesop, but jumps on the pieces, a lot of time has been spent setting up that monsters aren't evil, and just want peace, except when you have to fight them, which you spend the entire game doing (again, really Broken Aesop), with scenes with them begging you to find way for humans and monsters to live in peace... You go back to before humans existed and send all the monsters off to their own world, because Humans Are Bastards, and will never, ever accept them. This is meant as a happy ending, evidently. Though one could argue that the alternatives are worse...
  • Like a lot of works that feature both reality warping and a "face reality" Aesop, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance ends with the characters returning to the real world and facing all the problems they'd previously tried to escape from. This makes a certain degree of sense in the Japanese version, but the English translation puts less emphasis on how many people are suffering in Mewt's world, and more emphasis on the idea that perhaps said world is just as real as their own, making the whole thing somewhat pointless. What's more, Doned is still crippled.
  • Final Fantasy VI has a terrible one. Terra is part human, part Esper, and is supposed to be a link between the two species. By the end of the story, Kefka embodies all the magic in the world — so when he is defeated, does all the magic disperse back into the world? No, it freakin dissolves, along with the remaining Espers! Terra loses (or sacrifices) the Esper part of her own nature (because the alternative is for her to die). So, no magic left, the Espers extinct, this is a happy ending? As a matter of fact, when you step back and think about it, the entire Esper situation is extremely unfair, and many fans have noticed this.
  • Aribeth's story in Neverwinter Nights ends with her spirit earning its way into heaven by helping the wounded in the aftermath of Mephistopheles' attack in the second expansion pack, but it's pretty ambiguously 'happy' given the degree of crap she had to go through and the magnitude of the fight she put up to remain a good person that apparently didn't matter to whatever authority consigned her to hell based on actions taken under mental influence in the first place. Not to mention that the leadership of Neverwinter doesn't answer for unjustly executing two staunch champions of the city as scapegoats, which means none of the wrongs anyone ever did Aribeth were addressed.
    • In Neverwinter Nights 2, there are hints that the Hero of Neverwinter had a severe falling out with Lord Nasher and walked away from the city. If you accept that the Hero of Neverwinter is also the same person as the protagonist of last expansion pack, then its likely he walked away due to the fact that the city was demonizing his two good friends, Fentwick and Aribeth, who he knows are generally innocent of the crimes laid against them.
  • Sonic Adventure: Sonic and friends sit in the middle of Station Square, congratulating themselves on beating Chaos and stopping Eggman's evil plan...but the city has been completely destroyed, and there may be thousands, if not millions of people dead. And Eggman gets away!
    • When you think about it, this is particularly hard on Tails, whose character storyline ends with him saving Station Square from Eggman's "if I can't have it, no-one will!" revenge plan to nuke the place. Then again, it might be easier to rebuild from a flood than a nuke...
  • The good ending of Eversion plays this for laughs—the princess turns into a monster, but the hero becomes a monster as well, and the two live happily ever after.
  • God of War III: After killing anyone and everyone who has ever even vaguely pissed him off until there is nothing left of the world but a charred, storm-swept wasteland, Kratos discovers that he has accidentally become the physical repository of the concept of hope, released from Pandora's Box. Instead of giving it to the ghost of Athena to rebuild mankind on her terms, he commits suicide to release it to all of mankind... The currently busy with drowning, being riddled with plagues and locust swarms, tormented by the dead returning from the graves and having no afterlife, having to escape fire falling from the sky, ravaged by constant lightning strikes and uncontrollable storms and living in a world without sunlight, order or gods of mankind. Literally, the only thing they have left is hope. The only brightside is that without the tyranny of the Olympians, the world can finally heal and start over.
    • According to IGN, the whole thing is supposed to play out as a Twisted "Comedic" Tragedy, where the main character makes all the wrong decisions; fighting the gods, killing the gods, feeding innocent people (more than one in this game) to death traps, and leaving the power vacuum without a successor. It's heavily implied that this is not any kind of happy or downer ending; Kratos WON... and that's a bad thing.
  • Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation has a handful of initially-unrelated plotlines, chief among them a fighter pilot upset over having to retreat and abandon his family, and a refugee (who believes her fighter pilot husband was killed in the failed defense of the city) searching for her missing daughter. When allied forces finally liberate the city, are we treated to a heartwarming scene of the fighter pilot husband reunited with his refugee wife and newly-found missing daughter? Nope. The refugee's husband is actually dead, and so is the fighter pilot's family (they were killed during the initial invasion, so have been dead the entire time he was fighting to liberate them). The pilot briefly becomes a Death Seeker, but ends up a Wheelchair Woobie instead after his probably-unnecessary Heroic Sacrifice doesn't work out how he wanted. But wait, it's okay! The pilot meets the refugees after the war and they become each other's Replacement Goldfish. Hooray, happy ending!
  • Devil Survivor 2 has Multiple Endings, but this specific one is the Liberator ending. In this ending, Polaris has been killed and the world is no longer being swallowed up into a void, and the people still around are doing their best in managing the situation now. But the rest of the world hasn't returned, so all that is left is what little of the surface remains and the rest is simply a huge ocean full of undrinkable water. And by killing Polaris, the world has lost all supernatural aspects that were, yes, trying to kill them, but also removed all possible benevolent help they could have gotten. Humanity is now likely doomed to die of starvation and this situation could cause people to go back and become violent again. The only Hope Spot is that the next person in line for the Heavenly Throne will arrive and fix things, but how soon that will happen...
  • Tales of Xillia 2 has Multiple Endings and the 'semi-good' ending can be seen as this. In this ending, Elle became the millionth divergence crystal, humanity has successfully completed Origin's trial and he has removed all fractured dimensions, as was the party's plan. Everyone's doing fine and Ludger is shown to meet Lara, with implications that they will fall in love, get married and have Elle. However, this ending implies that Ludger could go down the same path of his alternate self in the fractured dimensions, turning into 'Victor', who murdered majority of the Xillia past when they tried to use Elle. Considering how this ending is called 'Fate Repeater' and it's the only ending that gives you the Victor Costume, the implications are definitely there.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has a beautiful, uplifting ending...unless you play Majora's Mask and prefer to take a darker interpretation of the Word of God stating that OoT-Link eventually becomes Twilight Princess's Hero Shade. Things might not have gone so hot for Link after the ending...
    • There's also the knowledge that even though Link went back in time and created a new timeline where Hyrule wasn't burned and conquered by Ganondorf, the original timeline is still going on, one where the people are finally free, but a lot of them are dead, the castle is completely destroyed in a lake of lava, and the Hero of Time has vanished and thus can't help them anymore, leading to the flooding of Hyrule when Ganondorf resurfaces.
      • Even then, the new timeline still has to face the ravages of Ganon at least two more times.
    • The worst might be from Link's Awakening, where our hero causes a Dream Apocalypse and wakes up stranded in the middle of the ocean.
    • Skyward Sword ends with Link and Zelda settling down at the temple where the Triforce is stored, storing away his sword and the ability to travel to any area other than the temple grounds, saying farewell permanently not only to those who sacrificed their lives for their cause, but also the entire population of Skyloft (including her father) and their soul mate birds, essentially giving up every single aspect of their lives in favor of being together. Also, Demise's spirit lives on and he will attack many more times, but at least that's a story for prior games.
      • The next shot after Zelda suggests remaining on the surface is their Loftwings (and by the distinctive colors, they're definitely theirs) taking off and returning to the sky without them. Loftwings are never seen again in "later" installments.
      • Since the entire reason Skyloft was created was as a refuge for the Hylians from Demise's forces, it can be assumed that the rest of the populace followed them, leading to the founding of Hyrule - this is chronologically the first game in the series, after all. Likewise, the Loftwings are said to be born of Hylia's divine protection, so their role is over once the surface becomes safe for the Hylians again.
  • The Hero has beaten the Big Bad in Fragile Dreams and is set to journey with the heroine to find other survivors in the empty world. What makes this an example is the ending dialogue features a voiceover of the aged hero, with many implications he's at the end of his life, his female companion has died and he's back to square one of being alone again. The game ends following his monologue; needless to say, players weren't exactly pleased with this outcome and the hero's statement.
  • At the end of Portal 2, Chell is finally set free by an emotionally exhausted GLaDOS and dropped off in the middle of a wheat field, the Companion Cube from the first game by her side. Good for her!... Except the Portal games take place in the same universe as Half-Life, meaning that Chell is likely now living in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by tyrannical aliens from another dimension, overrun by monsters and zombies, with no weapons or knowledge of how to handle herself in a Combine-run society. Given, there is some timeline confusion between Portal and Half-Life, but the fact that the Borealis is missing from its loading dock in Portal 2 confirms the Combine Invasion has already happened in Portal's timeline.
    • Then there's GLaDOS: After a game and a half of being a murderous rogue AI, we find out she has a soft side, the recorded personality of Caroline, Cave Johnson's trusty assistant. As soon as she gets the chance, GLaDOS deletes Caroline from her mind. From her point of view this frees her from emotion and allows her to devote all of her attention to testing, but from our point of view she's just destroyed the only good thing about her.
      • Various lines from "Want You Gone" (the song in the credits) imply GLaDOS didn't really erase Caroline.
    • And what about Wheatley? Sure, he may have tried to kill Chell all through the second half of the game, but it is made very clear that he isn't evil, just incredibly stupid. He is also arguably one of the most charming and lovable video game characters of all time. At the end of the game he is left to drift through space forever, wishing that he just had the chance to genuinely apologize to Chell. Oh, and his only companion is a corrupt personality core whose only coherent thoughts are "Gotta go to space!" and "I'm in space!" Sure it was fun defeating Wheatley, but at what cost?
    • Invoked in the co-op campaign. It ends with GLaDOS telling the bots "you saved science!" and the robots starting dancing with joy as the very upbeat electro song "Robots FTW" starts playing. How did the robots save science? By rescuing thousands of humans preserved in cryogenic storage, who are now going to be put through dangerous tests like Chell was, until they die painfully. Just to hit the point harder, after the robots get blown up by GLaDOS due to being made obsolete, the happy music still plays, because the robots only cared about science. To them, what happened was a success.
  • Final Fantasy VIII ends on an upbeat note, with Squall having made substantial progress in overcoming his emotional issues, Ultimecia defeated, and Time Compression thus prevented. Unfortunately, the Stable Time Loop means that Ultimecia's rise in the future, and her subsequent reign of terror up until her death at the hands of the protagonists, are inevitable.
  • Depends a little bit on your interpretation of the epilogue in Tales of the Abyss. If you think/support Luke coming home, and Tears' tears being from joy, then you win. If you support Asch coming home, and Tears' tears being from the realization that she'll never again see the man she loved, then this fits it pretty well. Either way, though, Natalia has lost someone close to her. You can Take a Third Option and choose to believe the person who came back was a Split-Personality Merge of Luke and Asch, either of which leaves the ending happy but complicated.
    • Ignoring that aspect of the ending, the ending isn't all that happy, either. Indeed, Van's plan of wanting to destroy the world and every single person alive, to replace them with Replica to take their place and hence prevent the Score's predetermined end of the world, has been thwarted. But the Planet Storm has been stopped, meaning that any fonic arts are growing weaker and will likely cease to exist soon, leaving the inhabitants, who are somewhat reliant on fonic arts for various machinery and similar to be completely useless... until they perhaps find a substitute, which could take years, if not decades or centuries.
  • In Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, Max lays in the destroyed Inner Circle manor and mentions a dream about his dead wife, who is dead but "that was alright". But the closest thing he had to a living spouse/girlfriend/what have you is dead, and anyone who can explain anything is dead including the extremely powerful Alfred Woden, who had connections to senators. His death, and the death of Detective Winterson are going to be in all likelyhood put squarely on Max's shoulders. So not only is he going to be a scapegoat for the death of these powerful people, but also justly prosecuted for the death of a detective with a blind son, who is now an orphan. An Ex-Cop is going to be sent to jail, and we all know how well they go over there. This was probably intentional given the narrative, but it's something of a miracle that a sequel was produced at all that did not involve Max getting shanked to death in the first thirty minutes.
    • If you finish the game on the hardest difficulty, the final Noir cutscene ends with Mona waking up, implying that this could be an Earn Your Happy Ending.
    • The third game runs with the "Mona is dead" ending as canon and goes out of its way to point out how unhappy Max was, with or without her. Enforced Trope?
    • Max did later find a recording proving Winterson to be corrupt and working with the Big Bad, which would serve as evidence that his killing of her was justified. Of course, he found this after he killed her, meaning that such a claim of justification is dishonest. This is arguably the point, though; Max himself states that learning of his vindication only made him feel worse.
  • Earthbound ends with Giygas destroyed, Porky's plans in shambles, and the protagonists returning to their normal lives. The problem with this? By the time of the finale, Giygas had become so monstrously powerful that it was literally impossible to defeat him head on, so Doctor Andonuts instead sends the party back in time to right before Giygas broke free of his prison so that they could defeat him, meaning that there is a very real chance that the world Ness and his friends return to isn't even their world at all, but an Alternate Timeline where Giygas never existed, and thus their original timeline, their original families and friends, have no idea what happened to them and they could very well be dead. Fan game The Halloween Hack takes this to its logical conclusion, with Andonuts going omnicidally insane due to the guilt of "killing" Ness and co.
  • MOTHER 3 ends with the corrupted world being destroyed by a benevolent Eldritch Abomination, and then cuts to total blackness. However, you can still walk around in it, and you soon discover that everyone made it out alive. You can talk to the other characters, who are apparently right there with you, and most of them seem relieved that they no longer have to live in that Crapsack of a world. However, given the fact that you're all in a black void, and the world was just destroyed, you all may very well be floating through space. Plus, nothing can change the fact that Lucas's Mother and Brother are dead.
  • All the cheeriness from the ending of Pikmin 3 fizzles away when you realize that even though Olimar makes it off the planet alive, he still failed his mission, left his partners to die, and ultimately screwed over his employer. In short, it's a happy ending for Koppai, but not for Hocotate.
  • The first ending to the original Kingdom Hearts mildly fits this trope, as the ending was intended to be bittersweet either way. The final cut-scene shows Sora and Mickey sealing the door to (then referred to as) Kingdom Hearts with Riku's help, and Sora has a sort of spiritual talk with love-interest Kairi, desperately getting out that he will indeed find his way back to her somehow, before they are symbolically and spiritually separated as the fragments of worlds realign to their original places, and Sora has saved the universe! Fridge Horror sets in when one realizes that a defenseless best friend Riku and King Mickey have been trapped permanently in a dimension populated entirely by an army of Heartless monsters, and that Sora and the party are either in some zero-space between worlds (since they were not restored to their "proper homes" as the end montage shows for everyone else, even making a point of showing Kairi alone on the island), or at worst, since their final showdown was on a patchwork planet made up of what was left of the worlds devoured by Heartless, they may have been left in cold, dark space to die without a planetary body to sit on, and their spaceship, made up of the old barriers between worlds? Yeah, that barrier has been restored, presumably with their spaceship.
    • This ending disturbed the American representatives at Disney so much, that in the American release, a game-footage Coda was tacked onto the end of the stunning FMV ending, signaling that Sora and co. may not be home, but they're at least alive and "looking for Riku and the King" implying they too survived.
    • At the time, Kingdom Hearts was a stand alone Square game never intended to become the multi-part, multi-platform series it's known as today. When that decision was made, Square released a THIRD version, Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix, which attempted to lay out explanations and Chekov's Guns for establishing why everyone didn't die after the final battle, which are still (mostly) considered canon.
  • Xenogears. Sure, you rescue Elly and reunite with all of your friends, but in the end Krelian ends up with exactly what he wanted too, and nearly the entire population of the world is either dead or turned into painful mutants and absorbed into Deus.
  • Mass Effect 3's original ending caused more than a little backlash among fans for various reasons, but sticking to just this trope:
    • The Mass Relay network is destroyed. This method of faster-than-light travel is absolutely essential to galactic civilization. There's no indication that the technology or knowledge exists to repair or replace relays, and it's treated as something of a surprise earlier in the trilogy that a since-extinct race was able to build their own relay. Without them, galactic civilization as the player has experienced it for three games is essentially destroyed.
    • A DLC for the second game shows that when a Mass Relay is destroyed (by crashing a giant asteroid into one), it releases energy comparable to a supernova, and also destroys the star system it occupies. The method used to destroy the entire network in Mass Effect 3 gives no indication that it avoids this side effect, so on top of destroying civilization, it also looks like trillions of people die.
    • The player's companions seemingly survive the initial event, but wind up stranded on an apparently uninhabited planet. In addition, only three (seemingly randomly chosen) characters are definitively shown to survive. note 
    • One of the three endings, Destroy, kills every robotic character in the galaxy, on top of destroying the Relay network and maybe destroying star systems with relays.
    • The "best" of the three possible endings, Synthesis, does a poor job of explaining why it should be considered the best. note  Supposedly somehow fusing organic and inorganic life into one greater whole — involuntarily, at that — the only actual effect it is shown to have is to cover organisms in a glowing green circuitry pattern and make their eyes (if they have them) glow green.
    • To BioWare's credit, the free Extended Cut DLC, which extends the ending cinemas, addresses at least these issues, by retconning it so the Relay system is only damaged, not destroyed, definitively showing it can be repaired, and including scenes showing civilization rebuilding after the war. However "Destroy" is confirmed to wipe out the Geth and kill Edi (who is added to the montage of fallen comrades). Futhermore synthesis is apparently shown granting husks sentience. The horrific implications of Cannibals, Banshees and worse abominations being made self-aware didn't escape fans.
    • Two of the endings are also esoteric in that the message is that synthetic and organic life are (somehow, in some vaguely-defined way) utterly incompatible and will inevitably try to destroy each other for poorly-defined reasons, and that this can only be resolved by implementing a galaxy-wide Final Solution of some variety that inevitably involves either obliterating all synthetic life without exception or forcibly apply Unwilling Roboticisation to all organic and synthetic life against their will. Both of these completely break the Aesop of every single interaction you have with synthetic allies. (The Control ending avoids this problem, since it only affects the hostile Reapers.)
    • The Extended Cut Control ending can be seen as questionable depending on the type of character the player eventually caused Shepard to be. A Paragon Shepard whose primary motivation was freedom, allowing people to make their own decisions, trying to find peaceful solutions first, respectful to others whatever their origin and willing to fight to the end and sacrifice themself to allow as many as possible to live, probably not so bad to have around as a trans-sentient God. A xenophobic, jerkass, shoot first and don't worry about it later, do what needs to be done whoever else needs to be sacrificed to do it—and screwing around with them first just because they found it amusing—Renegade Shepard as the most power entity in the galaxy? Oy.
    • In Synthesis and Destroy, the Citadel is also shown exploding, with the Presidium, the structural core of the station, collapsing. Through inference of its holding station instead of orbiting when the Reapers brought it to Earth, the billion-ton ward arms would be falling Earthward and possibly causing five extinction event impacts. The Extended Cut Hand-Waves this into having the Citadel instead look like it should be condemned and dismantled, wtih holes in the Wards' bases, and a huge chunk out of the Presidium (which again is the structural core of the station). Control averts this.
  • Fire Emblem Awakening has two endings: depending on who you choose to deal the final blow to the final boss. Chrom's version is generally considered to be one of these by most players, as it merely seals Grima away for another thousand years, meaning that while the main characters get to live their lives happily, Grima will one day return to terrorise the world again and to the protagonists that's just Somebody Else's Problem. The Avatar's ending kills Grima permenantly, seemingly at the cost of the Avatar's life, which would make it a Bittersweet Ending... were it not for the fact that the Avatar is revealed to have survived. As such, since the latter is a Golden Ending with no drawbacks, most players consider the first ending choice pointless.
  • The best ending in Puella Magi Madoka Magica Portable has Madoka successfully avoid a contract while the other four girls defeat Walpurgisnacht. The story then ends with the girls having a Ship Tease-laden tea party, happily smiling and joking at each other. However, since Madoka didn't make a contract, millions of girls are still dying of despair, humankind is still plagued by witches, and the five main characters are probably going to all die in a few years after their Grief Seeds start to run dry.
  • In-universe in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, everyone complains about Strong Bad's ending for Dangeresque 3.
  • To the Moon ends with Johnny fulfilling his wish of going to the Moon with the love of his life, River. But... it's all a Dying Dream, Johnny's twin brother, Joey, remained dead in the real world for most of Johnny's life, the real Johnny dies without knowing what his wife, River, was trying to tell him, while the real River died knowing Johnny never remembered his first meeting with her, something she was desperately trying him to do so for most of her life. The whole uplifting ending never happened in reality.
  • Transistor ends with Red finally stopping the Process, but not before all of Cloudbank and its citizens have been processed. At this point, she has the power to remake the city however she wants, but instead chooses to return to the man in the Transistor's body and kill herself with it. But then the credits sequence starts getting surprisingly upbeat until it's revealed that Red killing herself with the Transistor resulted in her getting processed as well, and she can spend the rest of her life with the man in the Transistor in the Country. However, like Bastion, it's implied the game's events will repeat themselves inside the Transistor world.
  • Bastion's Restoration ending, which hits the Reset Button on the entire plot and goes back to before the Calamity happened. However, it's heavily implied (especially in the New Game+, where Rucks starts having moments of deja vu during his narration) that history will simply repeat itself and the Calamity will just be triggered again, trapping everyone in a "Groundhog Day" Loop until the Kid chooses not to reset everything.
  • Parodied with I'm O.K, a response to Jack Thompson's "Modest Video Game Proposal" featuring a vengeful father out to slaughter video gamers and devs over the death of his son. After gorily massacring a multitude of bystanders (including children. Many, many children,) industry employees, and eventually destroying the building E3 is hosted in, the game gives a generic "Congratulations! You killed every game designer in the world! America is saved!" ending.
  • The ending of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind with its add-on Tribunal. Okay, "the false gods" are gone, which is represented as a good thing. However, those "false" gods were the beings which essentially created and shaped Dunmer society as it is, and cared about the Dunmer people. And the "true" gods are Daedra, who are notorious for their Blue and Orange Morality, petty vengefulness and the fact that their idea of good and righteous Dunmer society is tribalism. Not to mention the entire big floating rock debacle which led Morrowind to a slight local apocalypse. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim confirms that the aftermath of Morrowind did indeed result in the near complete destruction of Dunmer civilization.
  • Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell plays this for laughs: Its Multiple Endings run the whole gamut of "happy": from Johnny (re)gaining personal happiness, gaining immense power, securing his friends' happiness, to hitting the Reset Button on the entire franchise. The last ending, however, is decisively esoteric: Johnny gains the answers to all questions in the universe and just stands there for a bit, going "Ooooh!" with an incredibly satisfied smile, before the credits roll.
  • The ending of Sands of Destruction is unambiguously meant to be happy: Kyrie has control of his Power Incontinence, the Sand Sea is now filled with water (and therefore much more liveable) and it's no longer trying to swallow all the continents to help end the world, humans are no longer oppressed by Ferals, and best of all, he and Morte (who no longer wishes to end the world) are a happy Official Couple. Well, great, except the epilogue doesn't show any Ferals except Taupy, Rhi'a, and Naja. What happened to the rest? Rhi'a is seen chasing after a house cat who resembles Felis Rex, so perhaps they've been turned into ordinary animals - a fitting end to those who were oppressive, sure, but the game points out that Ferals are as diverse as humans in personality; some are cruel and some are kind. On top of that, the only reason Kyrie has control of his powers is The Power of Love, and he and Morte are teenagers: what happens if they break up, like so many other teenagers tend to do? Worse yet, the Crimson Sun gave Morte the Destruct Code that controls Kyrie's powers, and the only reason she's no longer interested in ending the world is because Kyrie is Worth Living For; she's still shown to be temperamental and prone to acting before she thinks. So if Kyrie ever falls out of love and breaks her heart, she's likely to end the world in a fit of anger because she now knows exactly how to do it, and he'd be powerless to stop her. Oops.
  • Not in regards to the actual ending, but in Yo-Kai Watch for completing a Side Quest the player gets a "Bonus Scene", a little animation that plays out one of three ways, "Boo" which is the worst ending with no prize, "Bingo!" which is the good ending and a small prize, and "Jackpot!" which of the best ending with the best prize. However one scene shows the demon cat Jibanyan trying to help the kappa Walkappa up the mountain, with the "Boo" ending being they both fall off and the "Bingo!" ending being Jibanyan helps Walkappa up the peak. For some reason, the "Jackpot!" ending has Walkappa missing Jibanyan's hand and falling down the mountain, with Jibanyan just standing there and shrugging in confusion.
  • In Dishonored, most of the quests have the option of eliminating your target nonlethally, which is required to unlock the best ending to the game. However, one of the missions' nonlethal objectives requires you to kidnap one of the Boyle sisters and essentially hand her over to a stalker who will most likely keep her his prisoner for the rest of her life. Sure, this is needed to unlock the Golden Ending and the Boyles are not exactly nice people, but that doesn't change the fact you essentially kidnapped a woman and forced her into a possible life of sex slavery.
  • Valkyria Chronicles ends with the war being won, the bad guys being defeated, and the good guys going back to their rescued hometown to live their peaceful lives. That's all well and good for them, but it doesn't acknowledge the fallout: one, it's possible to replicate Valkyria powers artificially. Max's attempt was blown up, but it worked, and it's not-so-subtly implied that it failed primarily because Valkyria are exclusively female and Maximillian is a man. Sure, Max is gone, but everyone who produced that technology is still in the Empire. Two, Alicia proves that any random orphaned little girl may be descended from the Valkyrur, and practically any non-Darcsen woman in Europa could easily claim the same thing: the entire game is about how Ambition Is Evil and some people will do anything to control the power of the Valkyria, and the most viable potential Valkyria are an extremely vulnerable demographic that have to be nearly dead to awaken their powers. And three, the Princess of Gallia just openly declared that the entire history of Gallia is a big fat lie and she is a Darcsen, a minority race that is widely reviled. Valkyria Chronicles 2 examines the consequences of most of these.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Silver Chaos, Adonis and Might have to die in order to be together, then reincarnate and lose the memory of each other. A small déja vu will be left, though.
  • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the upbeat "love conquers all" vibe becomes Fridge Horror when you realise Word of God has outright stated that Junpei will never, ever find Akane again. Even worse, he also never gives up, and spends the rest of his life futilely trying.
    • And guess what the sequel Virtue's Last Reward confirms? Junpei indeed destroys his own life trying to find Akane again, even endangering his adopted son in the process. When he finally reunites with her, he realises that the innocent Akane he knew is gone.
  • Danganronpa ends with the protagonists refusing to give in to despair and surviving, but the world outside is post-apocalyptic, making it unlikely they'd even survive for long. Furthermore, 15 friends (considered humanity's brightest hopes) killed each other until only 6 remained, showing the rest of the world how far the world's best had fallen. And although the Big Bad was executed, Junko ENJOYED it, dodged all responsibility, and managed to start another Killing Game.
    • The hidden Alternate Ending has all of the characters surviving and escaping the school. However, Junko manages to escape and continue her schemes to bring despair to the world.
    • The second game at least addresses the issue, showing at least three (likely four) of the survivors are still alive and working to rebuild the world. Not only that, the Gaiden Game Absolute Despair Girls outright confirms that they all survived.
    • The ending of Super Dangan Ronpa 2 can fall into this based on your interpretation. At the end, the survivors wake up with their memories but, for whatever reason, they remain sane and stay behind on Jabberwock Island to restore their comatose friends. If you think that they succeed, as Naegi said they would this is pretty decent. If you think the opposite, then the survivors are doomed to waste the rest of their lives tending to their braindead loved ones. Even then, there's the problematic fact that the students are known to the world as world destroying terrorists and have most likely no surviving loved ones and that Naegi and his allies are likely going to end up in hot water with the Future Foundation over what happened. To top it off, Komaeda is implied to of been Killed Off for Real and, even if he does wake up, he's in a situation he most likely doesn't want, has no one left to trust him and only has a few years left to live. Dangan Ronpa 3 is set to at least address this and, judging off the promo image, it looks like the part with Naegi unfortunately came true.
  • The True End of Kara no Shoujo seems to have been shooting for the bittersweet feeling that most True Ends have, but fridge logic kind of shoots it down. First of all, about half the cast is dead. Second, Reiji's sort of girlfriend Toko is among them. Third, he's still alone. All he has that he didn't have before is closure over his dead fiancee.

  • Red String ends with Makoto and Miharu getting engaged. The author would have you believe that this is the best outcome for all parties, but anyone with more than five brain cells can easily point out the problems with this. Makoto has just thrown away his very good and stable job to be with her, which he totally didn't need to do because he is marrying into the family anyway. He has savings, but those things aren't limitless and he will eventually run out, which has lead many fans to believe that he will sponge off of his very wealthy parents and avoid getting a job so he can be with Miharu all the time. Miharu, meanwhile, has no stable goal in life (besides shopping, eating and dating) and no job skills besides a waitress, which is a mediocre pay at best. Neither of them show any real chemistry with one another besides heavy petting and sexting, and they avoid actual, meaningful communication like the plague. They are co-dependent to a fault and almost consciously refuse to see the consequences of their actions towards one another and others. It tallies up to two selfish, petty and immature individuals who won't make it past the honeymoon stage and will eventually become broke and destitute due to their own stupidity.
  • Most issues of Sonichu (at least from Issue #5 and onwards) end with the author's Self Insert character pummeling anyone he feels has wronged him, even if they didn't or had good intentions, and calls it a job well done. However, the entirety of "Director Amenities" consists of him engaging in a bloody massacre of his perceived enemies (and brainwashing a few into compete loyalty), ending with him as a dictator with godlike powers. This is also considered a happy ending, and the story to come after this one is a Christmas Episode.

    Web Original 
  • Invoked in The Demented Cartoon Movie, which shows the caption "HAPPY END!" over an Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
  • The ending of Starship features Bug accepting his bug form and getting his true love February, Tootsie and Mega-Girl getting married and everyone saving the bug world from the G.L.E.E. Happy right? Well, what happens when the G.L.E.E. comes back and investigates? Where do the Rangers go from here, are they stuck on the planet? Mega-Girl is still a robot. So what happens when Tootsie ages and dies while she stays the same? And Bug is still a bug so he and February have, at most, probably a week together.
  • Cracked has writtennumerous articles that point out that several films has protagonists that believed they had done the right thing, but actually screwed up badly if you think about it .
  • Funny Business ends with the main character Jeanette brought down to normal and erasing any memory of what she could do before. Perhaps her way of avoiding potentially Jumping Off the Slippery Slope rather than simply resetting it just enough to erase the world's memories of finding out what she could do. She could have gone back to the playground after either way. As it is, she took away her inner conflict by effectively crippling herself within her little world.

    Western Animation 
  • The ending for the Adventure Time episode "Tree Trunks" ends with the eponymous character of the episode, an elderly, grandmotherly elephant, finally eating the crystal apple she traveled alongside Finn and Jake, who kept putting their lives on the line to prevent any of the many monsters in the Evil Forest from harming her. As soon as Finn asks her how it tastes, she suddenly explodes. However, after a few seconds of Finn and Jake staring blankly, it soon cuts to Tree Trunks merrily dancing along inside the crystal (a scene added by Executive Meddling to soften the blow of the otherwise grim ending). Later subverted in "Crystals Have Power" when we learn what really happened to her.
  • Ben 10
    • Ben 10: Alien Force: The episode "Simple" had a girl call Ben to her planet to stop two factions fighting a Forever War. Ben managed to settle the war by accidentally destroying one of their most valued statues, pitting them against him, and ending the war for good. The episode ends with the girl comically telling Ben that she and the rest of the planet hates him, and that her life is even worse now as her work hours are longer. However, she finds a pile of treasure that Kevin and Argit left behind as part of their war profits and the episode closes with her celebrating. While the war has stopped, it doesn't solve anything. Ben's discussions with the military leaders showed them to be incessantly corrupt Generals who refused to see reason, and even admitted to using the war as a convenient excuse to blame their social and economic problems on. The girl and other civilians had to work long hours producing weapons and had a hard time finding homes. While she gets to keep the money from Kevin and Argit's war-mongering, there are still countless other civilians who're still suffering from poverty because of the pointless draining war.
    • Ben 10: Omniverse: the Incursion invasion Story Arc is concluded in "Frogs of War", where it turns out all that happened was a Batman Gambit by Princess Attea all along to overthrow her father Emperor Milleus. By the end of the episode, she agrees to leave Earth with the Incursion Empire in exchange for the Plumbers keeping her daddy in custody, which is presented as an acceptable, if not entirely happy, ending. The thing is, in previous episodes, it had been clearly established that Attea was much worse than her father, being an Ax-Crazy Psychotic Manchild motivated by Rape, Pillage, and Burn whereas her father was a more pragmatic Galactic Conqueror. In fact, she almost blew up Earth For the Evulz in her introduction episode. Now, granted, she is sort of in a Dating Catwoman situation with Ben, so she will most likely avoid attacking Earth again, but that's little consolation to the rest of the galaxy.
  • A large part of the controversy surrounding Beast Machines owes its existence to this trope. Early on, the Maximals discover that Cybertron once supported organic life, and restoring it becomes their goal for the remainder of the series. Why this goal is a correct one isn't particularly well-explained, considering Cybertron had been doing just fine with mechanical life for millions of years, and since nobody seems to remember the organic life even given how long-lived Transformers are, it likely died out well before their civilization even began.
  • The infamous Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon "There's Good Boos Tonight" has Casper befriending a cute little fox, only for the fox to be killed by hunters... but it's okay, the fox comes back as a ghost so they can be together forever. To some this makes it suck because it effectively renders the pathos over the fox's death meaningless. To others this makes it suck because he's still dead (in the way "The Little Match Girl" is far from a happy ending). But Casper's technically "dead" too, so it's anyone's call.
  • Home Movies has an in-show example in Kafka: The Musical: "Hello Franz Kafka! My name is God! I think you are going to like it here!"
  • Most episodes of The Dreamstone end with the Land of Dreams having successfully fended off the Urpneys, pitiful unwilling Mooks to Zordrak, and managing to save their stone. The Urpneys usually end each episode beaten and miserable (inflicted by both the heroes and their Bad Boss) for orders they didn't even want to be part of, while the genuinely evil Zordrak himself is rarely punished for his misdeeds, but, hey, at least Noops got good dreams that night.
    • Used most egregiously in the season one finale "Megattack", which ends with the heroes using Heel–Face Brainwashing on almost the entire Urpney army.
  • An In-Universe example happens in an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Piglet reads a fractured version of Jack and the Beanstalk to a group of bunnies that ends with the giant eating everybody and living happily ever after, (which Piglet very strangely read as though he agreed it was a happy ending). The bunnies all start crying.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show has a lot of them:
    • The two-parter "Stimpy's Big Day". Stimpy gives up his celebrity status and fame to return to living with Ren. After a tearful reunion, Ren smacks the everloving hell out of Stimpy because he also "gave away" his vast multimillion dollar fortune.
    • The banned "Man's Best Friend" ends with Ren beating his owner George Liquor to a bloody pulp with an oar... after which he commends Ren for being such a good guard dog and the cartoon closes with them dancing along with Stimpy to upbeat Raymond Scott music.
    • In "Rubber Nipple Salesmen", the two finally manage to sell some rubber nipples after many failed attempts. The suburbanite couple that purchased them kicks Ren and Stimpy out the door and on the backs of a couple of crazed bulls who then ride off into the distance.
  • The Rick and Morty episode "Rick Potion #9": Rick's newest invention causes everyone to fall in love with Morty and both attempts to reverse it just make things worse, first by turning the previously afflicted into mantis mutants who now want to have sex with Morty and eat his head, then by turning everyone on Earth not related to Morty into David Cronenberg-style amorphous blobs. Rick decides to just go to a dimension where he and Morty are destined to die in a lab explosion and the two of them take the dead ones' places. Meanwhile in the original dimension, the original Jerry and Beth are happier without Rick and Morty while Summer has become a grizzled veteran and a Cronenberg-style Rick and Morty from a dimension where the opposite happened take up residence there.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Lampshaded at the end of the episode "Rosebud."
    Homer: Well, we didn't get any money, but Mr. Burns got what he wanted... Marge, I'm confused. Is this a happy ending or a sad ending?
    Marge: It's an ending. That's enough.
    • Also parodied in-universe in one Treehouse of Horror:
    Homer: Yep, everything worked out for the best.
    Marge: What? Bart is dead!
    Homer: Well, saying I'm sorry won't bring him back.
    Marge: The fortune-teller said it would.
    Homer: She's not the boss of me!
  • The VeggieTales episode entitled "Madame Blueberry" is surprisingly shocking and rather brutal, considering how light-hearted the series was at this point. The episode details how the titular character goes around buying things in hoping that it won't make her feel sad anymore. However by the time she learns that she just needs to be thankful for what she has already, her own house gets destroyed, all of her possessions become worthless, and she herself becomes homeless.
  • The last episode of King of the Hill ends with Bobby finally finding a hobby that pleases Hank. He got a chance to find himself, but still on his father's terms. When the writers go out of their way to avoid a father either accepting his son for who he is or disowning him for having conflicting interests, you should know just how badly they've been on Daddy's side from beginning to end. And this is just the series finale; there were other episodes that didn't end any differently.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has an in-universe example in the episode "The Ember Island Players." The ending of the play The Boy in the Iceberg is happy if you're from the Fire Nation, but since the heroes are the Fire Nation's biggest foes, they find it highly uncomfortable to see themselves dying while the audience applauds.
  • Such is often the case with each season finale of Total Drama, but the final episode of its fifth season "The Final Wreck-ening" is easily the most infamous example of this. It follows Mike and Zoey in their final run for the million dollar prize, with Mike finally overcoming his evil alter-ego Mal by means of a reset button pressed inside his head, erasing Mal and his other personalities. Mike and Zoey are happily reunited with their first kiss before finally winning the million which they intend to split between each other. However, prior to the challenge no less than eight eliminated contestants are sent floating away in fart-filled balloons carelessly left to drift away by Chris, with their fates remaining unexplained as they are last seen blowing into the sky. Mike and Zoey are then sent drifting with their friends Gwen and Cameron as the entire island sinks due to Chris and Chef's land drill, while Heather and Alejandro are chased by sharks. The episode ends with Owen water skiing proclaiming it to have been the greatest finale ever; the fandom however disagreed.