- ClockUp's Euphoria: In almost each route, Takato and the chosen girl must endure through suffering that goes beyond the white cage to get their happy ending together. We say almost because the Nemu route ends on a cliffhanger, but technically that route continues in the Kanae one where the same as the other routes happen... although Kanae, the real Big Bad, gets her Karmic Death while the real Nemu gets her happy ending.
- The ending of Ayu's route in Kanon implies that Ayu gets better (as opposed to being dead, which was what it seemed like even to Yuuichi) precisely because he had the strength to face and accept what happened seven years ago after admitting he loved her and always would.
- Ever17 has five different endings, with the fifth achieved by earning the other four. Two of said endings end with the death of at least one of the main characters, and the other two are stacked full of Tomato in the Mirror and tragic Break the Cutie. The fifth ending keeps up with the Tomatos, throwing The Mole, Luke, You Are My Father and even a Soap Opera Disease... before giving you one of the most gloriously happy (if really bizzare out of context) endings ever. Considering the Diabolus ex Machina Visual Novels love to throw at you this was a genuine (and very welcome) surprise.
- Fate/stay night. Any ending that can remotely be considered "happy" is earned in gallons of blood, sweat, and tears. Mostly blood and tears, actually.
- In Tsukihime, Hisui's Good End, which is still rather bittersweet, and Kohaku's end. Kohaku's end gets the benefit of looking like not only did this path's heroine just die, but you'll have to kill Akiha because Roa is corrupting her. But neither happens.
- Air has you go through all of the character endings in order to get the Dream ending where Misuzu dies as a result of the curse placed on her previous incarnation Kanna and Yukito lives on as a crow. However at the very end of it, and it's shown in the anime, you see two children playing on the beach, wondering about what Yukito and Misuzu have in store for their future. It is shown that these are reincarnations of Misuzu and Yukito who will live out their lives happily. In fact, the little girl holding the unknown hand that is used as the logo for Air is shown to be this incarnation of Misuzu and the hand she is holding is Yukito's.
- In CLANNAD, to obtain the True End, where Nagisa and Ushio do not die, you must obtain every other Light Orb in the game, a.k.a. near 100% Completion of each other route. Some of them are pretty tricky: Misae's could only be obtained when you play Tomoyo's route IMMEDIATELY after Misae's route. It's the scene at the Founders Festival, where Misae is looking for her cat, a.k.a. Shima Katsuki.
- Little Busters! requires the player to have gone through each of the other girl's route in order to have Riki and Rin become stronger and even after you have gained access to the refrain route it requires you to have Riki live through the 'real' events where the bus crash killed everyone but him and Rin, and then fix that reality so everyone lives
- Family Project. Seriously, for a game where a Dysfunction Junction is the premise, things turn out pretty well in the end.
- G-Senjou no Maou is designed as such: If you want to get the final, 'true' ending you have to have had the opportunity to access every other route in the game during a single playthrough and pass it up. This means playing the game for as long as possible, and averting every chance to take an alternate route and walk away from the Devil's games. At which point the game goes on to subvert it because said ending leads to the main character's entire family dead, his foster father dead (although nobody will probably miss that one), the main character disgraced and spending eight years in the slammer for murder (to say nothing of the backlash of having a mass-murdering terrorist for a brother), and several hundred people dead during the chapter 4 riots. On a lighter note, he does get some extra Character Development and the Victorious Childhood Friend out of it. So, um... Yay?
- Ookami Kakushi also works in a similar manner, where, in order to unlock arc after arc to obtain the story's true end where none of the main characters die, the Kamibito and the Ochibito take a step towards co-existence, the village is not destroyed, and even the villain gets something resembling a happy end even though he will eventually go to prison you need to play through all the endings in the other arcs, including the bad ends.
- The final chapter of The Reconstruction is the Darkest Hour, where the plot has gone completely Off the Rails and the world is in ruins. To make matters worse, an all-powerful "Lord-God" is sweeping up the remains and killing any survivors. The main characters are the only remaining hope for the world, but many of them are incredibly scared and nervous that they'll fail — after all, how will they be able to kill a god?
- In Yume Miru Kusuri, both Kouhei and the chosen heroine go through many, many trials together (such as horrific bullying, drug-addiction and existential crises), but they eventually resolve their problems and go forward together to a well-deserved Happy Ending.
- Katawa Shoujo: All of the routes involve some deal of angst, but two routes stand out amongst the rest. In Lilly's route, she seems to go off to Scotland and Hisao runs after her only to have a heart attack and appear to die. Even when you realise he's still alive he's stuck in a hospital again with an even more reduced lifetime knowing that Hanako is happy away with her other friends and that Lilly is gone forever. At least, until you hear the music box and Lilly reappears, promising to stay in Japan and with Hisao. Secondly, in Rin's route, which is as a whole noticeably darker than Act 1 and the other routes, she goes through a slow spiral into depression in her attempt to create art and find herself and doesn't really snap out of it until the very end, leaving many players to become convinced they've accidentally gotten a Bad End.
- Hanako's past is so heartbreaking that it's very gratifying to see her get a happy ending. Her mother died to save her during that fire when she was a kid, said fire disfigured the right-hand side of her body, kids (even the ones that were her closest friends) in the orphanage bullied Hanako because of her scars, and she's so lonely (partially by choice, though). During her Good Ending, she thought that she had ruined any chance with Hisao, but then Hisao tells her that he loves her.
- In every route of Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!, but particularly the Ryuuzetsuran one, where even Invincible Hero Momoyo comes close to biting it at one point.
- Togainu no Chi. Akira has a lot to go through; most endings has him killed horrifically, raped to death, or go insane, his best friend Keisuke always takes Line and goes insane, in three routes he's killed because of Akira's blood, gives his life to save Akira in another route, and almost dies in his own. Then there's Shiki's route, where he is sexually and emotionally tortured, developes Stockholm Syndrome, and the possible endings are somewhat depressing. Either a) Shiki goes insane and Akira turns into a sex addict, b) the two of them join the military and set out to conquer the world, or c) Shiki becomes a vegetable which Akira takes care of. The last one is the canon "good" ending and is very bittersweet. Thankfully the drama CD implies Shiki is waking up.
- Higurashi: When They Cry has a serious case of Dysfunction Junction on top of everyone spending most of the series killing each other off, then once things start making sense, we see them overcoming their issues and finally escaping the Endless June that Rika had spent a full century's worth of time trapped in and defeating Takano and going on to live happy lives. Saikoroshi-hen doesn't count.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Phoenix has to take on four seemingly impossible cases, go through all sorts of stress and hardships to win them, suffers the blow of his mentor being murdered, and ultimately has to tackle a case so difficult, it went unsolved for fifteen years. But it all pays off in the end, when all the clients are found innocent, von Karma is proven to be the guilty party behind the DL-6 Case, and Edgeworth realizes that his father's death was not his fault.
- In the last trial of Justice for All, Maya is kidnapped, and Phoenix is given the Sadistic Choice of getting his client (who actually is guilty, for a change) off the hook, or having Maya be killed by her kidnapper. As Gumshoe, Mia, Edgeworth, and even Franziska scramble to find some way to catch the kidnapper and save Maya, Phoenix finds himself having to either abandon his ideals and pin an innocent woman with the crime, or let Maya be killed. All the while, his reputation plumets as the audience of the courtroom has no clue why he continues to defend a man who's obviously guilty. At the very end though, thanks to last-minute evidence scrounged up, he's able to get the kidnapper to release Maya and turn on his client.
- In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Phoenix is disbarred, framed for using forged evidence, and reduced to playing poker at a restaurant to make a living. He spends several years quietly investigating the truth behind the case he lost, putting all the pieces together. And by the end, the truth is revealed, he's proven innocent of forging evidence, and is able to retake the bar exam and become a lawyer again.
- In Dual Destinies, the legal system is in the middle of the Dark Age of the Law, where prosecutor and lawyer alike seek victory at any legal cost and trust in the legal system is at an all time low. And the catalyst for the Dark Age, Phoenix's disbarment and Simon Blackquill's incarceration for the murder of Athena's mother. While the former was dealt with in the previous game, the later is still very much a problem. And that's not even getting into what happens in the game: A courtroom was bombed right at the begining of the game (though it happens later chronologically). The victim of the forth case was Apollo's friend, and Athena gets accused of his murder, causing Apollo a conflict of loyalties, Blackquill is just one day from his execution by the day of of the final case, and getting him acquitted will only get Athena convicted of the murder of her own mother. And Trucy is held hostage at the Space Museum with several others. In the end, both Athena and Blackquill are proven innocent, Trucy is safe and the real culprit is bought to justice, with the Wright Anything Agency intact and ready to put an end to the Dark Age of the Law.
- Spirit of Justice starts with hundreds of Defense Attorneys and wrongfully convicted innocents in the Kingdom of Khura'in dead due to the unfair laws in the country, and while Phoenix's arrival manages to shake up the status quo, it's still an uphill battle with more dying in order to bring true justice to the country, including Apollo's stepfather and La Résistance leader Dhurke. In the end though, the evil queen is exposed as the tyrant and phony she is and is dethroned, the throne is returned is its rightful and just line of succession, the unjust laws against defense attorneys are repealed and Apollo stays behind in Khura'in to continue his father's work and help reform the country's legal system.
- The True Ending of Steins;Gate is definitely this. Okabe goes through hell in order to save Mayuri, the girl he loves as a sister figure, and stop SERN from taking over the world. However, in the end, he has to sacrifice Kurisu, the girl he loves romantically. And even then he won't be able to stop the world from plunging into World War III because of her father publishing her paper on time travel. However, once he fails to save Kurisu the first time, the world line he's on allows him to to view a previously unreadable D-mail, a video from his future self, who manages to pep talk his spirits back and inform him of his plan to trick out time, and save the future and both of the women he loves. And he succeeds.
- The "sequel" Steins;Gate 0 shows that there's even more work than what was originally shown to earn that ending. The game takes place in a timeline where Okabe did not receive the message from his future self that would inspire him to save Kurisu, and thus he spends most of the game in a Heroic BSoD. It takes years of hard work and suffering, mostly suffering, across multiple timelines for that Okabe to become the future Okabe who would send the D-mail that makes the Steins;gate world line possible.
- Ikemen Sengoku's Dramatic routes work like this. In contrast to the Romantic routes which are usually happy and light-hearted almost all the way through, the Dramatic routes have the main character and her love interest needing to go through some very painful experiences such as the main character being forcibly sent back to her time, her love interest struggling with suicidal depression or trying to break her heart to save her, and/or at least one of them nearly dying at the hands of their enemies before they get their happy ending together.
- The House in Fata Morgana: It took nearly a millennia for every character involved to finally reach their happy ending, and even this happy ending has a bittersweet aspect to it. After centuries as a pawn of Morgana, Giselle is finally able to meet Michel again. Michel, after helping Giselle to reclaim her true self, decides to do everything in his power to save her from the mansion, leading Morgana to take action, kidnapping Giselle. What follows is a long and arduous quest for the truth, in which everyone's soul is lay bare, revealing for all to see the ugliest truths, but also the very tragic aspect of everything that transpired. After a tenuous travel through an illusion of the past, Michel is able to reveal to Morgana the circumstances surrounding her imprisonment and her death, and is forced to eradicate the White-Haired girl's soul in order for the curse to be lifted. Michel is able to genuinely empathize with Morgana and to assuage her hatred. Morgana's hatred is finally quelled, and she releases the souls she captured inside the mansion, but not without making a point that she doesn't forgive them. Michel reunites with both his brothers and forgive them, their souls being able to move on to their next lives. In the 21st century, a new Giselle remembers everything and looks for Michel where the mansion was once built. Michel shows up, his memories intact despite the fact that his soul was nearly annihilated, and he embraces Giselle.
Earn Your Happy Ending / Visual Novels