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Golden Ending
"Well then, we have finally come to your journey's true end. Our contract has been fulfilled. My own duties end here as well...You were truly a remarkable guest."
Igor, Persona 4

Some games have bad endings, good endings, and one, shining, wonderful Golden Ending; the best possible ending out of all the good ones. The Golden Ending may or may not be the Canon Ending, and sometimes Word of God will directly state which one they consider to be so. (And then make a sequel based on a different ending.)

Games with golden endings tend to be a big source of debate and ire among gamers. The true ending may only appear after you have seen all the other endings, making the game feel artificially long just to get people to play the game more. When one ending is considered to be the true or Canon Ending, the other endings can contradict with the main story and its characters, making the player feel like the story and characters stop making sense. Sometimes, fans may not agree with the golden ending and prefer one of the alternative endings to be the true one, a source of Fanon Discontinuity.

See also: Cutting Off The Branches, Multiple Endings, Nonstandard Game Over, Everybody Lives, No Final Boss for You, and Earn Your Happy Ending. Contrast Earn Your Bad Ending, which is the polar opposite of this trope.

May overlap with Story Branch Favoritism, Easy-Mode Mockery, 100% Completion, and Golden Path. In cases like these, the Eleventh Hour Ranger and True Final Boss might pop up as well.

Has nothing to do with Golden Moment, even though a Golden Moment comes at the ending of a story.

And of course... Ending Trope. Spoilers ahead!

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Action 
  • Asura's Wrath has the DLC Content Part IV: Nirvana, in which you fight the true mastermind behind the story.

    Action Adventure 
  • The Castlevania series has had this several times. In five games (Simon's Quest, Symphony of the Night, Harmony of Dissonance, Aria of Sorrow, and Dawn of Sorrow), it takes the form of a neutral ending, a bad ending, and the best ending. Oddly, the neutral ending is often the 'worst' ending, in that it takes the least work to acquire. Others have usually just had two endings, a bad one and a good one.
  • There are three endings in Cave Story: The bad one, where everyone but you and one other character dies, the good one, where you stop the villain but many main characters still die, and the best one, where only a few main characters die and the cycle of evil is permanently stopped.
  • In "The Force Unleashed", there is the canon one, where the Rebellion is saved, and another where you end up as a tool of Palpatine and have become a Sith Stalker.
  • Phantom 2040 purportedly has 20 different endings. However, only two of those possible outcomes don't feature this.
  • Prince of Persia: Warrior Within features two endings — one where you destroy the Dahaka and get the girl, and another where the girl dies and the Dahaka still exists but is no longer after you. The bad ending results from you not getting all the life upgrades and the Infinity+1 Sword.
    • Particularly infuriating because many of the life upgrades are really well hidden, sometimes in places you have to backtrack to without any indication whatsoever that anything would be there, and quite a few of them can be Lost Forever. Made worse by the fact that failing to collect them also means a less effective weapon and a smaller life bar in the final stretch.
    • Bypassed entirely on the Gamecube, which gave out life upgrades as you progressed through the game. This caused a major glitch which could make the game unwinnable: the glitch goes unnoticed until the very end of the game, when the doors in the Dahaka's room never open.
  • In Resident Evil and its remake, either character path had four endings — one in which the player alone survives; one in which the player rescues the other main character but the support character is killed; one in which the support character survives but the player fails to rescue the other main character; and one in which both main characters and the support character get away.
    • Interestingly, none of them is the canon ending. According to canon, Jill, Chris, Rebecca, and Barry all escape the mansion alive, but it's impossible to achieve that in-game because Rebecca and Barry never show up in Jill and Chris's games, respectively.
  • In Guacamelee!, getting the best ending requires the player to gather five of the six Orbs of Chac Mool (you get the last one for beating the final boss). This requires you to find and complete several brutally difficult platforming challenges as well as a combat arena. The end result is that El Presidente's Daughter survives Calaca's ritual and she and Juan go on to live out a very happy life.

    Adventure Game 
  • Bad Mojo has four endings; only one is good, though, and to get it, you have to meet certain conditions near the end of the game.
  • Conquests of the Longbow had four different endings, each for a different level of player success. Having been captured by the Sheriff of Nottingham, the game's hero Robin Hood is tried for outlawry by the newly returned Richard The Lionheart. In the worst ending, Robin is convicted and hanged for his crimes. In the two intermediate endings, Robin and his men are pardoned, but he is not allowed to marry Maid Marian, and the wicked Sheriff remains in office. In the best ending, though, the Sheriff of Nottingham is arrested for his treason and replaced by Little John; Robin is ennobled as the Earl of Huntingdon; and Friar Tuck presides over the wedding of Robin and Marian, with King Richard in attendance as a guest.
  • The endings in Heavy Rain show what happens to each of the game's playable characters. The best ending combination is usually with Ethan and Madison becoming a couple and moving into a new apartment with Shaun, with Jayden being hailed as a hero for stopping the Origami Killer and later quits triptocaine cold turkey even though he'll go through withdrawal, and with Lauren spitting on Shelby's grave after he was revealed as the Origami Killer. However, writer and lead designer David Cage has said he personally prefers the ending where Everybody Dies.
  • Completing King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow ends at the same place (Alex marrying Cassima), but varies wildly depending on whether you took the long path or the short path. The golden ending requires the long path, which means solving more puzzles, and ends with Alex discovering Alhazred stole the treasures of the other islands and set them up for civil war by having them blame each other. The long-path ending also involves restoring Cassima's parents to life, being able to rescue the genie, and getting your ring out of hock. In that ending, the wedding hall is crammed. The rulers of the other islands show up, the genie having repaired the ferry. The genie is also able to bring the Daventry royal family there. Cassima's rescued parents are delighted, but decide to abdicate in favor of Alexander and Cassima. Jollo starts dancing for joy and does tricks for everyone after the ceremony is over.
  • Primordia has several endings, most of which are nihilistic: you can destroy Metropol, join the Big Bad, get killed, commit suicide, or threaten your way out and return home... only to erase your bitter memories of your fallen friends and start from scratch, if you haven't bothered to save them. To get a better ending, you have to prevent or revert deaths of several characters, and in case of the best possible variation of the best ending also to solve a couple of additional puzzles without extra help — which, needless to say, requires a lot of work. Getting anything close to a "victory" feeling involves obtaining a certain item which can be missed by accident, and even after you're on the right path, you still have to figure out the most appropriate way to deal with the villains, and still have to do everything else the best way possible. Of course, due to the setting, even the happier endings still have a bittersweet tinge to them, and Word of God does not specify any ending as canon, stating that the players are free to interpret Horatio's character however they like.
  • Titanic: Adventure Out of Time: the best ending (where you get all the vital historical items) results in a world of peace and prosperity, where World War I, the Russian Revolution, and World War II never happened.
    • The objects you find prevent Archduke Ferdinand from being assassinated, results in the names of Russian Revolutionists being handed to the Czar, and Adolf Hitler continues his career... in painting.
  • the white chamber has four "You have died" endings and four standard ones, but the only one that gives a remotely happy ending to the protagonist is the "Redemption" ending.

    Beat 'em Up 
  • Streets of Rage had two endings. The default is the obviously good ending where you defeat Mr. X and save the city, setting up the events for the sequel. The other ending can only be achieved by reaching Mr. X in a 2-player game and have one player accept Mr. X's offer to join him and the other player refusing the offer. This will force both players to fight each other to the death. The winner can then fight Mr. X to overthrow him and become the new crime lord, making this a bad ending. The 3rd game had several endings ranging from "you suck for playing on Easy mode so no good ending for you" to "you stopped the bad guy but not quick enough to save the city." The golden ending here is when you defeat Mr. X within the time limit, preventing the bombs from blowing up the city.

    First Person Shooter 
  • In BioShock 1 and 2, this happens. Three bad endings in each, resulting from Little Sisters being killed, with only one good ending.
  • In a first for the series, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 has multiple variations of the ending, with several story points providing a total of four distinct sets of variations.
    • The most obvious one is whether or not Karma is saved, either in the mission where she is first encountered or the "Second Chance" side mission, but her survival is also dependent on letting Farid kill Harper in "Achilles' Veil", as the double agent has to be present to stop one of Menendez's men from killing her in "Odysseus".
    • Alex Mason can be saved, via the player shooting him in the legs instead of the head, causing him to appear at the end of the game at the Vault; if he isn't saved, his son David retires at the end of the game.
    • If Menendez is spared at the end of the game, but Karma isn't alive, Menendez breaks out of prison a year later (during the Cordis Die attack) and kills Woods before going to Josefina's grave and lighting himself on fire. If Menendez is captured and Karma is alive, she foils the Celerium worm and gloats about it on TV while he rots in prison. The best ending has everyone alive except for Harper.
  • The Half-Life mod Afraid Of Monsters has three bad endings and one good ending. The three bad endings can all technically be considered different parts of the same ending, with the main character in one ending being surrounded in a house by the police, being interrogated by an officer in another ending, and having hanged himself in his cell in the third ending. The final ending results in him being forgiven for his sins and recovering in the hospital the game started at from a drug overdose.
  • Collecting all 29 audio files in the Mombasa Streets level of Halo 3: ODST changes a short section of the Data Hive level; namely, you can access the 30th and final audio file of the game. If you get all 30 audio files, you will actually end up knowing more about what's going on than the intelligence officer who gave you your mission! The actual ending changes too, in that instead of Dare stopping the Rookie from shooting the Engineer, it's the other way around.
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has 7 endings. 5 are bad, and are based around the "Wishmaker", the alien device that lures people who get inside the nuclear reactor, like a genie twisting wishes. The other 2 are based upon rejecting the Wishmaker and going deeper, finding the true plot endings. The 6th is a true ending but not a good ending (it's a neutral Status Quo option), whilst only the 7th resolves the plot and saves everyone.
    • The 7th ending is the canon one, according to the sequel Call of Pripyat.

    Hack and Slash 
  • Inverted in Drakengard; the first ending is the happiest, and things rapidly go downhill from there. The final ending that requires 100% Completion is a Shoot the Shaggy Dog story. And then it gets even worse in NieR.
    • Of course, it may be a question of which ending is best for the world, not the heroes, since ending one is the one that leads to the sequel, which shows that not all is well just because you got the happy ending...
    • And in the second game, the last ending you'll get is actually positive and upbeat. But you literally have to earn the ending by beating the highest difficulty in the game, Extreme Mode.
      • Played straight in the "prequel" Drakengard 3. Bad news, all of the above's previous happy endings were retconned: it turns out that Drakengard is set in ancient EARTH, meaning that any of the previous bad endings prevent Tokyo from EXISTING as it was in Drakengard 1's Ending E. To screw things over further, Drakengard 2 Ending C was retconned by connecting it to said 1-E; Timey-Wimey Ball says that's where the Grotesquerie Queen ended up. And yeah, all shades in Nier go insane about a thousand years before the aliens show up, and Emil fights them himself. Good news, a time-traveler (if you think this breaks narrative causality, see 2-C == 1-E) manipulates events so that the Grotesqueries' asses are kicked in ending D. And even though there's still a good chance of earth getting screwed over, it turns out that she's not alone...
  • Wu's hypothetical ending in Dynasty Warriors 8: Sun Quan restores the Emperor to power, but keeps all three kingdoms alive as dukedoms with their respective leaders in charge. The only leader (in fact, the only character period) to not survive is Cao Cao, who is Driven to Suicide by not being able to realize his ambition. All other hypothetical endings have casualties on the other sides (especially Wei, who basically annihilates the other kingdoms), while Wu's is the one that resolves things most peacefully and happily for everyone.

    Interactive Fiction 
  • Infocom's Deadline has a number of endings where you arrest a suspect, but fail to get a conviction due to not enough evidence. There's also an ending where you arrest the murderer and get him convicted, but after he's murdered his accomplice. And there's a variant of that where he's only found guilty of the accomplice's death because you didn't have enough evidence to link him with the original murder. The best ending has both the guilty parties behind bars, and an optional summary of the case outlining the murderer's motive for the crime.
  • Infocom's Suspect has one clear Golden Ending and two not-so golden endings. In two of the not-so golden endings, you spook the two guilty parties, and they attempt to leave the grounds to avoid being arrested. Depending on your timing, this leads to two variants of the not-so golden ending: One where one of the parties is accidentally killed trying to escape while the other gets away, and the other while the first one is still killed but the other one is caught. The best ending, of course, is when both are arrested before they try to leave the grounds, and you get a lengthy epilogue text summarizing the case.
  • Matches And Matrimony is a PC game which mashes three of Jane Austen's novels (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion) into one surprisingly well done game. There are nine possible outcomes to the story, and the player is encouraged to unlock them all. Two involve the player character remaining unmarried, and the other seven marry her to one of the potential suitors she meets. Most of the endings are good, but the one that is considered best is the one that follows the full plot of Pride and Prejudice to the marriage of the player character to Mr. Darcy.
  • Infocom's Planetfall has three endings: one where you fail to save the planet and it is doomed to plunge into the sun, another where you save the planet but fail to fix the communication system or the planetary defense system and therefore are stuck there (but given the consolation prize of an unlimited bank account and a home in the country), and the best ending, where not only is the planet saved and you are found by the Stellar Patrol, but all the loose ends are tied up: Your Robot Buddy (who earlier made a Heroic Sacrifice) is repaired, your Jerk Ass boss is demoted to toilet scrubber, and the game's red herrings are lampshaded.
  • Plundered Hearts, Infocom's first and only attempt at a pirate-themed historical romance with a set female protagonist, has four different endings: one where you as the heroine flee from the final showdown (abandoning everyone else to presumably die), take over Captain Jamison's vessel as "Pirate Queen", and vow revenge on the villains; another where you as the heroine thwart an attempt on Captain Jamison's life by startling the attacker but are mortally wounded in the process; another where you thwart the attacker with a slingshot but the heroine's father dies in the process; and lastly, the best possible ending where the bad guys are defeated, the heroine's father reclaims ownership of the island from the now-deceased villain, and the heroine and Captain Jamison sail off together happily.

    Platformer 
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog series has had always had good and neutral endings since the beginning, usually boiling down to whether or not Eggman successfully got away with the Mineral MacGuffins after his defeat. As of Sonic Adventure, there's usually a series of misleadingly happy endings at the end of each character/team's storyline, only to reveal the True Final Boss and real good (though usually somewhat bittersweet) ending once you've gotten all Emeralds or completed all story paths.
    • The (arguable spinoff) game Shadow the Hedgehog has many endings ranging from good to bad to so-so depending on what objective you took (help the good guys defend the planet against the aliens, help the aliens wipe out the good guys, or just plow on and ignore all of them). The only way to get the true ending is to replay the game repeatedly and get all ten of the endings. Once that's done, the Last Story will become available, and the True Final Boss will reveal himself.
  • In Wario Land, if you get all the treasures and 99,999 coins, Wario would get his own planet!. (Oddly enough, if you don't collect all the treasures and make up the difference with coins instead, Wario will go to the ending with five bags of money instead of six — and fail to get the Golden Ending. Even though the bags contain 99,999 coins in either case.)

    Puzzle Game 
  • The 11th Hour has three possible endings, only one of which is good.
  • Riven has at least seven different bad endings. Most notably, one of them punishes Sequence Breaking by having the character get shot and then fall into primal chaos as the world ends around them. Not for the faint of heart.
  • The Video Game/Portal2 mod Aperture Tag normally ends with the player character being incinerated. You can deactivate the incinerator in the final test chamber, and if you do so you will instead be led to an escape elevator.

    Raising Sim 
  • Princess Maker has many possible endings, but since the goal is for the girl to become a princess, most of them technically represent failure.
    • Despite the name, in Princess Maker 2, the objective is to see just how powerful humans can become. The Hero endings are just as good as the Queen Regnant ending for Scoring Points, though arguably less cool.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising has a Golden Ending that requires the player to keep all squads free of corruption. This makes a few missions difficult and cuts off a number of abilities and items; for example, a "Pure" squad gains a Bonus Trait. A "corrupt" squad can gain as many as four Bonus Traits. Furthermore, most items that increase corruption have higher stats (they also tend to trigger more and more corruption with use), while those that decrease corruption do little else (tying up the slot they're in) and have drawbacks. However, the Golden Ending makes all this worthwhile: the traitor is Techmarine Martellus, meaning all of the playable squads survive, the sources of corruption within the chapter are either destroyed or exposed, Captain Diomedes (who had been misled by his corrupted brothers, but not corrupted himself) is alive, subsectur Aurelia (and thus the future of the Blood Ravens) is secured, and all three champions of Chaos are either dead or back in their can.
    • Sadly, the Golden Ending is non-canon. The traitor is Avitus. Eliphas is alive as well, but Captain Diomedes was spared.
  • The first Pikmin game has multiple endings — one if you fail to collect everything in time, one if you collect enough to get off the planet but not everything, and the golden ending if you can get everything in time.
    • Pikmin 3 does something similar, wherein if you beat the final boss and end the game before you get all of the fruits in the game, you will get an ending that states that the heroes' homeworld has been saved for now, but they're only kicking the can down the road on the species' starvation, whereas if you get all the fruit, you get a much more upbeat ending extolling the virtues of teamwork and stating that the planet was never again in danger of mass starvation.

    Roguelike 

    Role Playing Game 
  • Marriage with Marian and all three allies alive in The Adventures of Robin Hood.
  • The RPG Maker game Alter A.I.L.A. appears to have three paths through the game. None of these paths, however, leads to any resolution for the Crapsack World you're in; in every case, the war continues with a new resistance and a new tyrant. However, if you complete all three paths via New Game+, you unlock a fourth path to the true ending, where you Take A Fourth Option that lets you discover and resolve the real secrets of the setting, including just why White was destined for a Face-Heel Turn if he survived, and why Green's allegiance was a Schroedingers Cat in the other paths.
  • Breath of Fire II features a Golden Ending that's diabolically well-hidden (if you're trying to avoid spoilers, that is). First, you need to spare the old man at the end of the Cathedral who's begging you to kill him; given that the machine he's hooked up to is trying to kill you, and consists of a multi-part boss (which you can't use multi-target spells on, since they'd hit the old man), that's easier said than done. Second, you need to find the engineer hidden in the town of Guntz. Finally, you need to upgrade your Township to the point where you can access the well (and some upgrades will perma-lock you out of getting said well); if you've done everything else up to this point, the engineer and the old man will get the Flying Fortress hidden under the town running again, giving you a mobile base of operations. If you haven't done all this, then in the Normal Ending, Ryu will sacrifice himself to seal away the Big Bad; if you have, however, the old man will perform a Colony Drop on the Gate, sealing it permanently.
  • Inverted in Chrono Trigger with the DS remake. The 'real final 100%' ending is actually the one where they reveal that you screwed up big time, tying it to Chrono Cross. All the others are pretty cheery/cheesy.
    • Chrono Cross, meanwhile, has two different endings depending on how you beat the final boss. The bad end simply treats you to a cutscene of the final boss escaping through a portal. If you jump through a few very well hidden hoops, then you get the Golden Ending. After getting it, though, you can move on to the New Game+ and go after the 8+ other endings.
  • The Code Geass RPG for Nintendo DS (which covers only the first season) has quite a few branching paths. You can get the standard ending, which is technically kind of bad, you can get a number of terrible Non Standard Game Overs (including accidentally driving Nunnally to suicide by saying C.C. is her new mother, or turning Shirley into a vegetable by Geassing her to "forget everything"), an "I Guess This Is A Happy Ending" (choose not to go to Euphemia's ceremony, everything goes off without a hitch), and the Golden Ending (Euphemia lives, Suzaku joins you of his own free will, and your forces go on to defeat the evil twins Castor and Pollux, who are out to kill people For the Evulz).
  • Any Compile Heart game is going to follow this route:
    • Cross Edge may be the most infuriating of the bunch, because you will need a guide just to even know whether you're supposed to kill said character during said battle, view said event at said place, all while having a high random encounter rate. Fail or miss even one of them, and say goodbye to your Golden Ending.
    • The first Agarest Senki game was infuriating considering that to get the Golden Ending for each generation, you had to be at a certain Karma Meter with all three Love Interest at maxed out value at the end of the generation. And then the game doesn't even tell you that to get the Golden Ending, you need to be at neutral meter, and that's not even going to getting all the final generation characters, Dyshana being the hardest of the bunch.
    • The other two games games are a lot easier because it doesn't employ the Karma Meter anymore and you also have a way to track down what percentage your Love Interest is at. And even then, you could still get screwed in the third game, because every single event is time specific.
    • Hyperdimension Neptunia may be a bit easier than the previous Compile Heart game examples, but it's still a Guide Dang It because you wouldn't know how the Share system works the first time you play it. Nor does the game ever mention that if Neptune dies in a battle, some of her shares are lost permanently. Said shares are needed to recruit the goddesses. Fortunately, it's obvious that you need all three goddesses to get the Golden Ending, but the how part is another story.
    • Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is the easiest of the bunch, but without looking up a guide, it's still pretty damn hard, because you could accidentally screw yourself with one of the goddesses endings. You'd need at least 15% global share for all four cities. Anything else below that, and say goodbye to your Golden Ending. Although ironically, getting the Downer Ending is the hardest of the bunch because you'd need to do a lot of stuff that takes a long time to accomplish. It does give Nepgear her Infinity+1 Sword at the end of it, though, and you get to keep it in a New Game+.
  • While the Dragon Age series does its best to keep its endings ambiguous, the Expansion Pack of the original game, Awakening, had a Golden Ending wherein the City of Amaranthine was saved and the Vigil's Keep never fell to the Darkspawn (protip: earn the "Enduring Vigil" Achievement and then save Amaranthine).
  • Fallout: New Vegas has several endings where you join up with a faction to help them control the titular New Vegas and Hoover Dam, or you can simply take control yourself. Each ending has its ups and downs (except for the Legion ending), but with a lot of work, you can get the Golden Ending, which involves siding with the New California Republic, resolving all their disputes peacefully, and helping them kill off all the various raider groups and other undesirables. This gives you the best possible ending, where the Mojave is plunged into an new era of peace, prosperity, and freedom. Also notable is that siding with the NCR is the only way to get good endings for Primm, Boone, Arcade, the Followers of the Apocalypse, the Kings, and the Brotherhood of Steel.
    • No matter what you do, the recruitable companions Lily, Veronica, and Arcade will never receive a truly Golden Ending. They will always be varying degrees of Bittersweet (though Arcade's best ending has him simply realize that an Independent Vegas isn't quite what he thought, but content to help see it through).
    • For the Dead Money DLC, earning the Golden ending requires you to rescue all of your companions and make sure that they don't die. The most difficult of this is Dean Domino, who, if you passed a Barter check when you first meet him and/or treated him poorly, will try to backstab you the last time you two meet.
    • For the Honest Hearts DLC, the Golden Ending (which involves helping Joshua Graham liberate Zion and convincing him to let go of his hatred) is more bittersweet than anything. While Graham manages to find peace, exposing the Sorrows to war causes them to be more aggressive and destroys their innocence, just as Daniel feared.
    • In Old World Blues, the best ending involves not only upgrading all of the Sink appliances as well as the Stealth Suit, exploring the entirety of Big MT and creating Roxie the Robodog, it also involves saving Dr. Mobius and convincing the Think Tank to stay in Big MT.
    • In the Lonesome Road DLC, arguably the best ending involves talking Ulysses down and disabling the nukes, preventing a nuclear disaster from destroying the wastelands and letting Ulysses live his life out as The Atoner.
  • Final Fantasy X-2: Good lord, Final Fantasy X-2 has by far one of the most challenging perfect endings to earn, requiring a ton of patience, and even then, ensuring a poopie-ton of Guide Dang It.
  • Mass Effect 2: you must have upgraded the Normandy to full and have done everything right to make sure everybody lives. This includes going immediately through the Omega-4 relay as soon as your crew is captured. If you don't, then either half or all of your crew gets liquified. Everyone, up to and including Shepard, can die.
    • Doing all the loyalty missions is important as well. And assigning everyone the right task during the final mission is crucial, and contains a few traps; Mordin is highly likely to die if he helps hold the line, so taking him with you for the final fight or having him escort the refugees to safety is a good idea. And ignore Miranda when she claims that she could maintain the force field with her biotics; she's not up the the challenge, so pick Jack or Samara instead.
    • It can be said that Mass Effect 2 also has a Golden "Bad" Ending. It's extremely difficult to kill Shepard off, to the point where you actually need to actively try to get it.
  • While fans debate endlessly on their personal favorite, in Mass Effect 3 Synthesis is the only ending totally closed off until you reach a certain EMS (with a "Shepard survives" scenario in Destroy being the total highest), as well as having the most overtly positive narration.
    • And earlier on, the resolution to the geth-quarian conflict. To save both species, you need to have recruited both Tali and Legion in ME2 and kept them alive, and then make enough correct decisions in both ME2 and ME3. Incidentally, this means that players who start with ME3 are locked out of the Golden Ending for this particular arc, since you need to play ME2 to even encounter Legion in ME3.
    • Getting the best resolution of the Krogan Genophage plotline requires that Wrex survives ME1 and that Maelon's data was preserved in ME2.
  • The Neverwinter Nights 2 expansion Mask of the Betrayer has four major endings (with minor variations). Although whether it is the "best" ending is debatable, the only ending where you end the curse without sacrificing yourself requires completion of a few minor side-quests that it is quite easy to miss out on by not taking the right companion with you to areas you can beat the game without visiting at all.
    • The ending of Storm of Zehir depends on your interaction with Sa'Sani. You can kill her, which causes yuan-ti throughout the land to execute their plots haphazardly; you can just say farewell to her, in which case you get a mostly-good ending but with sinister hints about her plans; and in the Golden Ending, you can extract a promise from her to never harm anyone again, which eventually leads to her redemption.
      • Getting the Golden Ending also depends on the completion of a few optional quests, some of which aren't easy to find, unless you're in the habit of going around and talking to everyone over and over again. For example, even if you did manage to save West Harbor from the dragons, if you didn't complete the quest to turn Jan Buckman away from a cult, the village of West Harbor eventually falls. The problem is that the quest only becomes available at level 16 and there are no hints about its existence unless you for whatever reason decide return to West Harbor to speak to an earlier quest giver. Whether or not Samarach, Neverwinter, Crossroad Keep, and Port Last prosper also depend on your actions. Unlike the previous two campaigns, companion choices have very little effect on the ending here, though.
      • Alternatively, you can just yell at the narrator (who is a character in the game writing it "after the fact") until he gives the ending you like.
  • Persona 4 features 3 endings, plus a variant of the "worst" ending which isn't quite as bad. You first have a choice of thinking you've solved the mystery when you haven't, and this end might actually fool people who didn't look up a guide, or realize something was wrong. The next ending has you beat up some monster that supposedly "tests" humans. This ending seems even more complete, again fooling more people. Finally, though, if you're persistent enough to ignore the game's claims that it's all over (and by this point, who isn't?), you can discover who's truly behind it all, unlocking The Very Definitely Final Dungeon and the best ending.
    • P4 Golden adds a lengthy epilogue to the best ending if you complete a certain character's S-Link and the resultant bonus dungeon. It also adds an utterly horrible ending if you try to do the right thing by the wrong person at the wrong time.
  • Radiant Historia has a touching Golden Ending. The Big Bad comes to remember his love for the hero, his nephew, enough to sacrifice himself in his place, so that he can be with those he loves. So all the depressing I Will Wait for You parts of the ending are suddenly resolved.
  • Sigma Star Saga has four different endings based on killing or saving Psyme and whether or not Scarlet has to sacrifice herself. All of the endings in which you don't save both of them involve Recker regretting his actions to various extents — in order from most to least severe, both girls dead, Psyme dead, and Scarlet dead. To make matters worse, you can't save Scarlet without a virus sample that's locked in a room you can't access during your first playthrough.
  • In the Suikoden series, you have to find all the Stars of Destiny to have a shot at the best ending. Some of the games make this even more elaborate.
    • Suikoden II makes the player race against the clock to secure one character's happy ending, has you complete a series of face-offs to help another, and backflip through metaphorical hoops to earn the right to see the game's true ending. On top of that, said ending saddles you with several final choices that greatly affect how things play out.
    • Suikoden V has a hidden Relationship Value that can lock you out of the best ending during the first few hours of the game. So be good to your little sister, folks.
  • A very, very slight example with Tales of Symphonia. It's entirely possible to kill off a major character. If you keep the character alive, the ending is an Everybody Lives scenario, and the world, while possibly struggling, is pretty much saved. The only reason why it's a borderline example is that literally nothing else in the ending changes if you do decide to kill the character, and if you don't like that particular character, this version could be considered your Golden Ending instead. But come on, who doesn't love Zelos?
  • A more obvious example is found in the sequel, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, where your actions during the game affect the overall ending, distinguished in the good, the bad, and the neutral ending. Collecting all Centurion's Cores will grant you the possibility to the good ending (also called the "true" or "golden" ending), depending on whether or not you win the fight against Lloyd and Marta. In order to get the good ending, the game expects you to lose the fight. If you do so, you will get the good or neutral ending, depending on whether you collected all cores or missed some. If you win the fight, you will actually get the bad ending. The reason being it's all part of Emil's plan to pretend to be taken over by his other half so his friends will stop him and use him to seal the door to the demon world. 'Winning' this fight means you went too far in your act and severely wounded your friends instead.
  • Telepath RPG: You can choose whether you serve Tastidian or not to rescue your brother in the first part. The second part begins in the shadowling empire, and you have been his servant for 3 years.
  • Vampire the Masquerade Redemption has two bad endings both ending with the death of your love interest and one good ending, depending on your actions with the Final Boss. If you choose to drink the Tzimisce's blood — killing him in the process, you turn into a villain. If you choose to become his slave, you turn into his Unwitting Pawn. But if you choose to fight him, you can save the day and take the girl.
  • Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines follows down to the precise count of unquestionably bad endings. Siding up with La Croix or Quei'Jin will get you either killed or left to torpor from lack of blood on the bottom of the ocean. In many other endings, things will work out just fine, though.
    • This basically boils down to the player determining which of the Strauss, Anarch, or Independent endings is the game's Golden Ending. In the Strauss ending, the player is heavily implied to become the new Sheriff of L.A, while the Anarch ending pretty clearly ends with you fighting alongside Nines and the other Anarchs to keep L.A free. And the Independent ending, well...
  • The Witcher 2 has numerous possible endings, but the best one is usually agreed to be the you get by saving Saskia and Triss, creating a free Upper Aeidrn, and sparing Letho. Roche's path, on the other hand, has most of the downright depressing endings.

    Shoot-Em-Up 
  • Giga Wing has three tiers of endings:
    • 1-player, Final Boss not reached: Your character commits Heroic Sacrifice in order to destroy the Medallion.
    • 2-player, final boss not reached: Depends on your team. Some endings end with both characters intact, in some others one character is shown alive and the fate of the other is ambiguous
    • 1- or 2-player, final boss reached: Your character or team destroys the Medallion and regardless of character or team, they go home alive.

    Space Sim 
  • Star Trek: Bridge Commander has three endings: good (you save the day!), bad (you save the day but are destroyed in the process), and horrible (a sun goes supernova, destroying you, an inhabited world, and several Federation ships, including the Enterprise. Oops.)

    Simulation 
  • A.S.P. Air Strike Patrol (known in Europe as Desert Fighter) featured multiple endings (including one if you fail the final mission). Which ending you get depends entirely on your Force, Supplies, and Opinion meters. If any of these meters are lacking, you merely get an "okay" ending depending on which meter was the lowest (beating the game with a low Opinion rating means that the war is a political disaster, viewed as a second Vietnam). To get the very best ending, all three meters have to be high, which is infamously hard to achieve — but it's worth it for the hero's welcome you're given.

    Survival-Horror 
  • The elusive S Ending in Clock Tower: First Fear (not initially present on the ending list) which involves taking a more specific, careful path through the game, since to get it, one of your friends (Ann or Laura, Lotte is unsavable) must survive, you must free the crow in the cage room, not get caught by Mary and thrown in the shed cell, and pay a visit to the secret room (especially since said room would be empty under different circumstances). However, this ending is considered non-canon, since the sequel establishes that Jennifer was the only survivor.
  • Dead Rising and its sequel Dead Rising 2 has multiple endings, with the best ending only gotten by managing to complete all the Timed Missions in time before they become Lost Forever. This also grants access to the True Final Boss. In the former, it's the only ending where the outbreak doesn't spread everywhere, and in the sequel, it's the only ending where the main character doesn't die. All other endings are Downer Endings, so it's a good idea to get the best ones (helpfully labeled Ending A and S, respectively). Actually, in Dead Rising 2, Chuck DOES survive ending A, being saved in the nick of time by the main character in Dead Rising 1, Frank West, but this is only shown with the downloadable content Xbox arcade standalone title Dead Rising: Case West.
    • Meanwhile, Dead Rising: Off The Record is based off the S Rank Ending (The prequel comic, while it follows the A ending, sort of explains how Frank escaped from that predicament).
  • The Fatal Frame series usually have these. The first two games added very evident Golden Endings in their Xbox release. And these are the only ones you can truly call happy endings.
  • Parasite Eve has two endings. The one seen by completing the game is a total Mind Screw, as it shows that the threat from mitochondria is not over. The true golden ending deemed canon by Square-Enix comes from beating the Bonus Dungeon, where Aya defeats the original Eve and she loses her powers after the battle.
    • Parasite Eve 2 has a total of three endings, ranging from the vague hints on what the President of the United States plans to do after the events of the game, an expanded version of the President scene, and the true golden ending that shows closure with Aya after the events of the game.

    Turn Based Strategy 
  • Most Nippon Ichi games, most notably the Disgaea games. The endings vary from depressing, to horrific, to downright loony. The funny thing, though, is that it's usually harder to get the bad endings than the good ones: to get the very worst endings, you usually have to win a Hopeless Boss Fight, beat an incredibly hard Bonus Boss, solo the Final Boss with one specific character at a high level, or carry out a feat that requires incredible amounts of grinding through optional content. The notable exception is the original Disgaea, where it was a challenge to attain the Golden Ending due to how frustratingly easy it was to accidentally kill one of your ally characters (immediately knocking you down to the Normal Ending).
    • Due to the series' strong meta elements, defeating the Bonus Boss of most games effectively makes the player characters into the new Bonus Boss rather than the protagonists, and the story has a good time playing with the fact.
    • To get the bad endings, you usually have to go Up to Eleven to get anywhere in bad behavior (despite being a demon). Disgaea 2, for the worst ending, needs you to get ally kills and waste over 100 gameplay hours combined with story to get the required amount of Felonies; 99. Pay in mind that you need to: 1) Get a felony; 2) Go to the high-risked Item World, and 3) Go to the random level, which are often 1-30 and get to the door, then either escape using a rare item or go to the 10th floor.
    • The original Disgaea also counted the throwing of Prinnies (who explode, damaging anyone around them) as an ally kill. This despite the fact that the game outright encourages you to throw Prinnies by making them incredibly cheap (1 HL) to resurrect. Later games did not count Prinny-bombs as ally kills.
    • Played with in regards to the controversial "True Ending" to "The Witch and The Hundred Knight" where the Golden Ending is listed oddly, as the bad ending, and the regular ending as the True Ending, which packs a nasty player punch. However, the game advises that you don't save over your current data, giving a hint that this ending can be averted if certain actions are taken. In order to unlock the last 2 chapters and the real true ending, the player must defeat the 3 dark witches encountered earlier in the story and answer "Affirm" when asked whether or not you're going to save Metallia by Mani after recovering the Green Crystal from the mana caves beneath the swamp, and beat the boss after the credits.
  • Several Fire Emblem games have variations on endings, but they don't drastically change between each other in terms of content. A straight example, however, is from the sixth game, Sword of Seals: Getting all eight Divine Weapons and ensuring that they aren't broken will allow the player to open a Bonus Dungeon that spans for three chapters, and defeating the True Final Boss with a specific weapon brings the true ending. If you don't get all the weapons, or one of them breaks before/during Chapter 22, then the game ends after you defeat King Zephiel. The resulting ending is anti-climactic: the war against Bern is over, but the dragons that have helped Zephiel have gotten away, and nothing comes of the events that happened.
    • Even earlier was Book 2 of Mystery of the Emblem and its remake, Heroes of Light and Shadow, the third game of the Akaneia games. Like Sword of Seals, if you don't have the five spheres that are a part of the titular MacGuffin by Chapter 20, then a bad ending occurs when you defeat the boss; get all five, and you keep playing until the true ending at Chapter 24. Interestingly, Chapter 20 has a side chapter, and you can unlock it and play it, even if you get the bad ending — the game will just end then.
    • Fire Emblem Awakening subverts this: during the Final Boss fight against Grima, you can either have Chrom or the Avatar land the final blow. Chrom slaying Grima with Falchion will lead to Grima sleeping for another thousand years; the Avatar slaying Grima will destroy him for good, as the Avatar and Grima are one and the same. One would think that they'd differ heavily, but they don't. Chrom slaying Grima leads to the Avatar's guilt, yet Chrom's hippy-dippy happy, saying that millions of lives don't compare to theirs, and while the Avatar does die when he/she slays Grima, The Power of Friendship revives them sometime later.
  • Ogre Battle, the original, has a ridiculous set of requirements to get the Golden Ending, which incidentally is canon. You need to collect 12 Zodiac stones, which is a Guide Dang It in itself, have the sword Brunhild, and have recruited every character except for two nonessential ones and one which changes the ending to the worst one. And a full Chaos Frame.
  • Valkyrie Profile has three endings, with the A Ending being this trope. Getting it is one of the most frustrating cases of Guide Dang It ever, as the steps needed to have it are either counter-intuitive (with the biggest case being sending a major character not long after recruiting him to Valhalla in a specific frame of time, and then visiting a specific location in Chapter 7), or not shown in-game at all (which in this case is the Karma Meter that triggers the A Ending when at a certain level — it's Lenneth's Seal Rating, which must be below thirty points by Chapter 7. Points go down when recruiting characters or witnessing specific scenes, and it goes up when someone goes to Valhalla). The standard B Ending is usually the result of not following these steps (or the C Ending if you screw up).
    • Covenant of the Plume, though, has a a much more straightforward way of determining it, basing the ending on how often you use the Plume. Given that the Plume effectively murders your close friends and allies when you use it, take a wild guess what you have to do to get the good ending.
      • Except the best ending pits you against a ridiculously powerful boss, and the allies you kill will rise to fight you again in the bad ending. Without using it moderately to gain some powers in the first playthroughs, it can be pretty difficult.
  • Vandal Hearts 2: Want the golden ending? Find the Infinity+1 Sword, and save all three of your childhood friends. Fail at any of that, and it's some form of bad ending, which depends on a question you were asked when you were a child, and then asked again just to make sure. If you do not get the IPOS, you can save at most one childhood friend, and that means you will live alone.
  • Many of the console Super Robot Wars games had Golden Endings, which were obtainable if you were able to beat the game in a certain way. For instance, Super Robot Wars 3 has its Golden Ending if you reach the final stage in under 350 turns. Super Robot Wars 4, however, gets its just by saying that you trust Shu Shirakawa and he and his entourage decide to leave.

    Visual Novel 
  • Aoi Shiro has five heroines, each with their own set of bad/normal ends and one good end. Reaching the unlock points scattered throughout those routes unlocks the Grand Route, at the end of which (the 56th ending) everyone teams up, solves all their problems, and survives.
  • Analogue: A Hate Story requires you to interact with two AIs, one at a time, and they won't talk to each other. The Golden Ending is the only way to get them to reconcile and is also the Harem Ending.
  • Corpse Party has many, many dead ends, with one true ending per chapter with the final one having the original 5 from the PC-98 game survive. As it turns out though, the next game in the series, Book of Shadows, is spun out of the final wrong ending where the characters are stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop.
  • Cross Channel to an extent. However, when your golden ending is only bittersweet, you know that the rest must be horrible. All endings generally tend towards kill em all or are filled with squick.
  • Most of the endings in Date Warp range from downer to bittersweet until you unlock the Golden Ending. Before that, the closest to "happy" is Linds' good ending, in which no one in the main party dies and Bianca might be saveable in the future, but Susan is still missing.
  • Ever17: three bad endings, four "good" endings (some of which are still tragic), and one spectacular, all-revealing ending that you can only unlock after clearing the four good endings.
  • Frozen Essence is notable in that its "True End" is a Bittersweet Ending with Rune, Mina's main love interest, dying. However, the True End differs from all other endings in that it's the only one in which Mina is separated from the Death Sphere and hence is able to lead a normal life, in contrast to the other "happy" endings where she gets to be with her love interest but is still confined or restricted in some way due to her status as the feared Death Sphere. Additionally, many players consider the Water Path's Light End to be another "true end" of sorts because it's the only one in which the mysteries surrounding Mina's identity and her dreams that remain unexplained in even the True End are resolved, with her regaining her memories and reuniting with her childhood love.
  • Fate/stay night has five endings (one for Fate, two for UBW, two for HF) and a bunch of Nonstandard Game Overs. Its Updated Re-release, Realta Nua, has a sort-of Golden Ending accessible only after unlocking and finishing all three routes' true endings, which takes place far after the events of Fate. It sees Saber and (at that point) Archer re-united in Avalon, despite the events that forced them apart during "Fate".
  • Kana: Little Sister has SIX endings; only one of them has Kana live, and it's bittersweet!
    • Though admittedly, being a Downer Ending doesn't necessarily mean that it's a bad ending. This trope is, however, played straight with the "Snow" and "Memories" endings, which are essentially shortened versions of "Live Now".
  • Little Busters! has the ending of the refrain route, which is unlocked when all the other routes have been completed, where everybody lives in the real world.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors has Multiple Endings; although only one can really be considered a good ending, the game is distinct for having all of them actually happen. The visual-novel style narrative is actually being narrated by June. Each ending represents a possible future that she can see from the past, and the multiple playthroughs are her exploring each of them to see which chain of events will allow Junpei to save her child-self from an incinerator. The Golden Ending is the one where she survives.
  • Shira Oka: Second Chances has many endings, one for each character you meet in the game, but completing them all allows you to get Kasumi's Story, which is the final, Golden Ending. However, Word of God suggests that the player is free to accept any of the endings as the canon ending, pointing to the fact that each one has its own ending credits sequence with the other students commenting on the main character's life after high school in that altered timeline.
  • The ending of the final route (Phorni's route) is the only unambiguously happy ending in Symphonic Rain, where even the good endings are bittersweet at best.
  • Tsukihime has nine endings (and a bunch of Nonstandard Game Overs). The Golden Ending is Kohaku's True ending, where everybody is happy and sunshiny. Except Satsuki.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Grand Theft Auto V has three endings, one where Franklin kills Michael on top of a factory tower, one where Franklin kills Trevor by setting him on fire, and one where all three of them kill the Big Bad Ensemble: Steve Haines, Wei Chang, Stretch, and Devin Weston. The third one is the only ending that allows the player to keep playing as all three protagonists and keep the ability to hang out with friends.
  • The Way of the Samurai series has roughly 7 endings per game (plus more than double that in variations and the odd end for Off the Rails, such as waiting for the time limit to end, or killing the Big Bad early), but "ending 1" is always the best, rewarding both the highest "samurai point" total (which awards unlockables) and Shaggy Dog Story thanks to historical events. They involve a path of getting all the warring sides to unite against a common foe, with the exception of the 2nd game (which ignores them both). These ends are, however, the trickiest to get, and often have a way to screw up that leads to an outright Downer Ending.

    Non Video Game Examples 
  • Most Choose Your Own Adventure books have a best ending. In some of the really annoying books, only one of the endings is good.
    • And the Golden Ending in Inside UFO 54-40 can't actually be reached from any option in the book. When the fridge brilliance finally breaks through (it's a book, you can go there any time you want just by turning to that page), it can be quite mind-expanding for a seven- to ten-year-old.

For Want of a NailVisual Novel TropesHarem Genre
Deus ex MachinaSliding Scale of EndingsHappily Ever After
Gecko EndingEnding TropesThe Good Guys Always Win
Faction-Specific EndingsInteractive Storytelling TropesLast-Second Ending Choice
Flip Screen ScrollingPages Needing Example SortingIdiosyncratic Combo Levels
Golden AgeThe Gilded IndexGolden Path

alternative title(s): True Ending
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