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Esoteric Happy Ending

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

Bob's new film has the most wonderful, inspiring, uplifting Happy Ending imaginable. Surely everyone will love it just as much as he d—

Wait... why is the audience crying? Why are the critics lambasting it? Why is its Nightmare Fuel page longer than its main article?

Well, it turns out the majority of the viewers don't believe that the ending is happy. Whether through personal taste, changing social norms, or just consequences that never even occurred to Bob, all the satisfaction leaches out of the characters' triumph, leaving behind a feeling of unease that anyone could make a film with that ending, let alone call it a happy ending.

Compare Inferred Holocaust and Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending. The afterlife version of the trope would be a Hell of a Heaven or an Infernal Paradise. When the ending is not only uncomfortable in hindsight but supports some kind of half-considered moral, see Glurge.


Not to be confused with Bittersweet Ending (where the elements that keep it from being a truly happy ending are acknowledged), "Ray of Hope" Ending (where the ending is mainly bleak but suggests that happier times are coming in the future) or Angst Aversion (where the ending is disliked for being too unhappy as opposed to unintentionally unhappy). Tends to cause Ending Aversion.

As an Ending Trope there will be unmarked spoilers!



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  • A few Segata Sanshiro ads involve the title character beating up innocent people just for not playing a Sega Saturn. Luckily, these were a case of Early Installment Weirdness, and Segata would become a much more awesome person in his later commercials.
  • "Finale", the last short in the first season of Hungry Days, is about two lovebirds confessing to each other while completely unaware of the world going to hell around them. The short ends with the pair reciprocating their love as an extremely large chunk of asteroid is about to make impact.

    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.
  • 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.
  • Aldnoah.Zero: The trope qualifies at least for Slaine. At the end of the show, he is left to rot in prison after being accused of plotting to kill Princess Asseylum by Princess Asseylum herself. In reality, all this time he attempted to protect Asseylum, who only incarcerated him out of political necessity. The writers said his ending is supposed to be a happy one because he is no longer obligated to serve Asseylum. Ironically, his original fate was scrapped for being even more depressing; but even his haters thought the revised ending was still too harsh.
  • 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.
  • The ending of Arisa is played as fully happy, with Tsubasa reconciling with Arisa and their mother and Arisa finding true love with Midori. This ignores that Midori was an ax-crazy killer who manipulated everyone, including Arisa, and she doesn't seem to have learned anything from the experience.
  • Armed Girl's Machiavellism: The anime adaptation ends with Nomura beating Amou, who gets expelled from Aichi Academy for causing trouble, but still manages to make peace with her. All's well and good... except for the fact that Amou still declares Nomura to be hers and hers alone, not to mention she never really shows any remorse for her sociopathic behavior. Furthermore, it's implied she didn't actually learn anything from her experiences in Aichi Academy and will continue causing trouble elsewhere, and yet we're expected to believe her love for Nomura has redeemed her somewhat. Not to mention, getting out of the effective captivity the school had forced her into was her entire reason for going on such a rampage in the first place.
  • 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.
  • ''BNA: Brand New Animal: Yes, the Nirvasil Syndrome is cured, the Big Bad has been defeated, Anima City has been opened to let humans and beastmen live wherever they please, and Shirou and Michiru have resolved to live as themselves rather than just their species. But you have to wonder how any of this is going to solve the humans' racism problem, as they've just watched thousands of beastmen go berserk and destroy a city, and been shown that the man behind that incident was another beastman all along. About the only thing that would likely end up doing is making the racist humans' beliefs that beastmen are violent, dangerous, and a threat to their safety more justified—and even without the Nirvasil syndrome to worry about, beastmen are still far stronger than the average human and run on a different moral compass. The last thing humans will want to do is move somewhere that they feel they'll be in more danger, so Anima City will likely remain a largely segregated place to live, even if the doors are open for anyone to come and go, and now it's largely in ruins on top of everything.
  • 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.
  • The ending of Blue Gender could only be considered happy if you're a severe technophobe. 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. And those well-meaning humans who were trying to save the planet by living in a space station (to ease the strain placed on Earth) and eliminating the hostile creatures that had infested Earth? Screw them.
  • Bokurano:
    • The Earth survives the ordeal in one piece and humanity is relatively safe, which when compared to what happened in Shadow Star 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 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:
    • The series 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 (though it's implied they might be making it up to Nunnally for it). 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.
  • HOO-BOY does Danganronpa 3 Side Hope end with one of these. The Final Killing Game, which pitted all the leaders of the Future Foundation against one-another, wasn't actually caused by the remnants of despair, but by one of their own trying to weed out the despair he believed was hiding among their group and to convince Ryota Mitarai to use his brainwashing video to spread hope to this Crapsack World by force. Second, we learn that Class 77 was brainwashed into becoming the Remnants of Despair against their will. When they're all restored to live by Hajime, they arrive in time to stop Ryota and choose to take the blame for the killing game, then go to spend the rest of their lives in exile on Jabberwock island. Makoto and his friends survive, the Tragedy ends, and Hope's Peak is rebuilt with Makoto as headmaster. So a bunch of kids who were brainwashed into becoming murderous terrorists will now forever spend their lives as pariahs so the truth of the Future Foundation's corrupt leader will remain concealed, while the survivors of Class 78 rebuild the school that caused this entire situation for some reason. Oh, and all the other branch heads die save for Munakata. He'd found out that his girlfriend had been a despair for years and will never know how or why, his best friend (who was secretly in love with him) sacrificed his own life to end the game even after Munakata tried to kill him, and everything he thought he was fighting for was pointless. What happens to him? No idea. But hey, at least Makoto and Kyoko are finally together. Possibly. And let's hope that Makoto learned the lessons from the past to not let History Repeats and doesn't get hit with the drunk state caused by being in position of power...
  • 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 killed, 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 Hope Spot that Junta and Ami will get together.
  • 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 Shinigami 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.
  • Digimon Adventure 02 seemingly ends on a happy note – bad guy is dead for good, the DigiDestined get to keep their Digimon, even Oikawa gets redeemed in the end. But what many overlook is that the ending says every human on earth gained their own partner Digimon, which leads to all kinds of disturbing implications. Just imagine how much damage a Digimon could do in the hands of a criminal or a dictator.
  • Dragon Ball Super: The ending of Future Trunks arc is supposed to be seen as a bittersweet happy ending with them successfully defeating Merged Zamasu with Whis helping both Future Trunks and Future Mai have a bright future ahead of them by creating a Close-Enough Timeline just for them. However, it still doesn't change the fact that everyone they knew and loved from their original timeline got erased from existence and Trunks wasn't able to protect them in the end because right after Future Trunks destroyed Zamasu's physical body, his soul became a bodiless Eldritch Abomination that wipes out all the remaining survivors left on Earth and is in the process of spreading across the universe and timelines, forcing them to summon Zeno just to stop him but at the cost of the entire timeline. In other words, Zamasu had won and the heroes completely failed their goal of stopping him, even to the point of a Downer Ending for some fans. What mitigates this is that Whis does warn an AU version of himself about Zamasu, and thus there's now a new future for Trunks in which Zamasu doesn't get far.
  • The anime of Elfen Lied ends rather positively, because it adds a new ending before the manga crosses the Despair Event Horizon. Subsequently, the manga's ending is iffy - the Diclonii will be completely eliminated within a generation. Their powers are 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.
  • 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, however long those might be since World War II is right around the corner and the movie made it very clear this isn't an Alternate History where Adolf Hitler isn't around. This seems to be an attempt at bittersweet that went too far into the "bitter" ballpark for much of the fanbase's liking.
  • Genma Wars ends on a supposedly uplifting note as Earth is freed from demons who have enslaved mankind for ages and civilization is stated to eventually rebuild itself. With that said, the leads attempt to travel back in time to prevent the demons from taking over Earth in the distant past, only to utterly fail in their mission. To make matters worse, they return to their own timeline where nothing really changed despite their efforts, most named characters (including their loved ones) have died over the course of the series and stayed dead. Also the Big Bad responsible for influencing all events in the series isn't really destroyed by the heroes with his survival being ambiguous at really best. The only reason his victory isn't absolute is because the twins refuse to turn against each other and become his puppets.
  • The anime of His and Her Circumstances. 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.
  • 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, 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.
  • An example exclusive to the Madhouse anime adaptation of Hunter × Hunter: Gon meets with Ging on the top of the tallest tree on the land, only for Ging to tell him that the tree they're on, is actually a small sprout from the Dark Continent much larger than their own homeland and all of it is taken to be very optimistic and exciting. Now it makes sense in the manga because it's the start of a new arc that will eventually succumb to Cerebus Syndrome, but the anime ending implies this will lead to an idealistic adventure. And that's ignoring the unresolved plot threads the anime has. It is unknown if the anime will ever continue considering the Madhouse's track record and the frequent and long hiatuses from the manga.
  • 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 about this 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!".
  • 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 home life, job and her emotional instability, which has caused her to attempt suicide twice over the course of the series, 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 final episode of Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear is unanimously seen as this trope by fans. The character Machi is a teenage miko from a small village with social anxiety who dreams of moving to the big city, and spends much of the show becoming familiar with modern tech in order facilitate this. When she finally gets to go in the final episode, she has to do a performance in front of a large crowd visiting the city. She successfully does the performance by going to her Happy Place, but that's when the entire story goes off the rails. She ends up hallucinating that the cheering crowd is actually throwing rocks at her, causing her to completely break down, terrified of the city and declaring she will never return. Rather than correct her delusions and get her help, her friends Natsu and Yoshio happily celebrate her decision. Then it gets worse, with Natsu telling Machi in this fragile state that she never has to think about anything ever again; the final scene is Machi having mentally regressing into a toddler, now more ignorant about the outside world and dependent on Natsu then ever before. All this while cheerful music plays. The manga’s author, Masume Yoshimoto, was heavily displeased with the ending, and wrote a very politely-worded response in his blog while one of the anime's writers completely scrubbed all mention of it from their resume after its airing.
  • Macross:
    • Macross Frontier:
      • The TV series 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 Shoji Kawamori later had him wondering how anyone got this idea and Jossed it by declaring that Alto survived and Sheryl woke up.
    • Macross Delta:
      • Hooray! Delta Squadron has liberated the Brisingr cluster and Hayate and Freyja get their happy ending, but the Windemereans make it clear the war is not over and the death toll numbers in the millions. Also, poor Mirage got her Love Confession rejected...
      • For the Windemereans’ case, their future doesn’t look bright for them. Though Heinz is willing to establish peace talks, at the same time, he wants the UN Government to pay for their sins, which might not go very well, as his kingdom will suffer a lot of backlash from the intergalactic community for their actions. Likewise, Heinz is slowly dying after his singing affected his health, and his brother, who is the strongest pilot in the air force, hass already died, which not only leaves the Aerial Knights in a vulnerable position, but also leaves no successors to take leadership of Windermere once Heinz kicks the bucket.
      • Not to mention, the issue of Windemereans having a significantly shorter lifespan than other species is never resolved, meaning that despite coming out on top of the Love Triangle, Freyja is still doomed to die long before Hayate does.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans ends with Gjallarhorn successfully disbanding Tekkadan by force. While the ending is portrayed as positive with Gjallarhorn being reformed to be more democratic and granting Martian independence, it still doesn't change the fact that the new Gjallahorn is still run by the old regime with little to stop them from continuing their corruption.note 
  • Naruto:
    • Played with in the case of Sakura Haruno. Her ending sees her married to her longtime crush Sasuke Uchiha and having a daughter, Sarada. Great! Except for the fact that in the intervening years after Sasuke had pulled a Face–Heel Turn, he succumbed to the Curse of Hatred that plagued the Uchiha clan for generations, attacked Sakura both physically and psychologically on several occasions, and tried to murder her friends. But after turning Face again, he develops genuine affection for her and marries her in his travels around the world. At one point, Sakura becomes pregnant with their daughter, Sarada. After she gives birth at one of Orochimaru's hideouts, they return in Konoha to raise their daughter together. Unfortunately, he had to leave again to investigate Kaguya, while Sarada was very young. Sakura has no other choice but to raise Sarada alone. Years pass, which means that Sakura doesn't see Sasuke for many years, and he is away from seeing his daughter growing up. In time, Sarada grows conflicted about Sasuke and distrustful of her own mother, after being kept in the dark for her own safety for too many years. Most fans believe that this was another unnecessary drama, and that Kishimoto could have just make Sasuke leaving from time to time, as him being parted from his family for so long didn't affected the plot in the long run. The fact that Kishimoto created this storyline as a "Take That!" to troll the people who couldn't comprehend that Sarada was Sasuke and Sakura's daughter, didn't calm things, making Sasusaku divisive even among their shippers.
    • Many fans were also unsatisfied with the fates of the villains, despite being mass murderers. Of the Akatsuki members, only Danzo, Kaguya and Zetsu receive severe punishments; the rest are either forgiven in death (Nagato, Tobi/Obito, Madara), get a slap on the wrist (Orochimaru, the aforementioned Sasuke), or just plain aren't punished at all (Kabuto).
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: 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.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica 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 existence to boot. The ending is still hopeful and optimistic, 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.
  • Re:CREATORS: The world is saved, but almost nobody knows that since they thought the final battle was all a show or weren't aware of it. The villain received no punishment whatsoever and in the end got what she wanted. Most of the fictional characters that came to the real world accomplished nothing and/or died, those who lived in the end still went back to their stories, subjected to their authors' whims, and the authors whose Creations died in the final battle are explicitly shown to be permanently traumatized by the tragedy.. Oh, and there's still a crazy murderer on the loose in the real world. Hooray?
  • Remina ends with Earth being devoured by the Eldritch Abomination Remina. And after being chased literally all around the world by a group of deranged cultists and seeing her father and love interest get murdered, the human girl Remina, her hobo friend, and a kind family of survivors get lucky enough to reach a fallout shelter and survive on a chunk of Earth that flies out of Remina's mouth with said shelter inside. So they're saved! The problem is they only have about a year's worth of supplies. And they're left drifting in space with humanity, Earth, and most of the solar system gone. Assuming Remina eats the sun like it did in other systems, then they'll be adrift in interstellar space, with no hope of rescue or chance of even landing on another planet. Not like they could survive anyway. Although, considering how ridiculously lucky they've been so far, who knows what could be out there and what could happen during that year. By Junji Ito's usual standards, it's downright saccharine.
  • 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.
  • Speed Grapher: While the ending is supposed to be happy because Japan is saved from greed and corruption thanks to Suitengu succeeding in wiping out Japan's corrupt elite, the fact is that Suitengu is the Big Bad who did this by utterly destroying Japan's economy, which will have a devastating effect on the whole world and ruin millions of innocent lives, and nothing really changes since the old elite gets replaced by Suitengu's corrupt associates, essentially making the heroes' efforts completely meaningless. The main characters get their happy ending as shown in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, but it's likely that only the main characters are happy.
  • 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".
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Yes, the universe was saved and the Anti-Spiral didn't kill off humanity, but many of the crew dies (including Kittan, right after he confesses his love for Yoko), Nia dies just after her and Simon's wedding and Simon himself becomes a hobo of sorts, which comes off as a rather insulting fate for someone who saved the entire human race from extinction. And the Spiral Nemesis, the thing the Anti-Spiral were trying to stop from happening is still a potential risk that has a very real chance of transpiring and destroying everything. For such an idealistic series, the ending can be especially jarring.
  • 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.
  • In Vampire Princess Miyu, the artist and her assistant from the TV series episode Love of the Dolls. Surely, they are in a happy relationship at the end, but it is impossible to forget how unhealthy and violent they were to each other either, and one has to wonder what will happen in the future for them.
  • At the climax of Weathering With You, Hodaka saves Hina's life, even if it means the heavy rains and flooding will continue. The audience is shown almost immediately that they do indeed continue, and in fact that rain falls continuously for three years, flooding the majority of Tokyo. Hodaka meets with an elderly person who lost their home as a result, but that's the extent of the damage shown on-screen, and while Hodaka seems appropriately concerned at first about the consequences of his actions, the moment he sees Hina he decides immediately that he did the right thing and this is a happy ending. The story sort of vaguely hand waves all of this as being historically normal and that humans are just becoming more in harmony with nature now, which is kind of a flippant way to shrug off the implied deaths of up to thousands of people.
  • 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.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V has one of the franchise's most infamous ending. The Big Bad has been defeated, his soul is quelled and leaves the infant Reira's body, freeing her. Yuzu reunited with Yuya after long last, and the four dimensions are united. However, the show also establishes that Yuya and Yuzu's counterparts now reside in them, meaning that those people are trapped in Yuya or Yuzu's bodies. Despite the fact that this is portrayed as the right thing for them and something they're fine with, this would also hurt their friends and family. Particularly Shun, who lost his sister and best friend. Also, Reira has been de-aged from a child to an infant, and this seems to be permanent.

    Asian Animation 
  • 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. It's played as more happy than bitter, as Michel will be reborn later, Biam is with the fairies again, Kim reflects on her experience fondly and feels that Michel will remember her when he does return... but in the meantime the bad guys still have the floating castle, and without Michel or Kim around to protect them, the fairies could easily get captured again and start it all over.
  • Chinese animation Legend of Condor Hero (which is bizarrely named since this is actually the story from Return of Condor Heroes) in the full story this trope is largely subverted, but it ends for the Japanese translation of the series at around the first season or so. The female lead is poisoned and will eventually die, they defeat the villain of the first act by feeding him blood, and so they are relaxing on a rowboat and the Japanese version just ends there. Someone watching this without knowing about the other seasons would find the "ending" extremely strange.

    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.
  • 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. It’s even worse than that. At one point, an apparition of a little girl confronts Peter with a withering "The Reason You Suck" Speech explaining why his desperation to save May at all costs is actually selfish. This apparition later turns out to be Peter and MJ’s future daughter, who will never exist thanks to their deal with Mephisto. So not only did Peter make a deal with the devil, but he also allowed the devil to trick him into aborting and then forgetting about his own child, after it had been clearly explained to him why it was the wrong thing to do. A lot of fans were quite puzzled about how that could be called a happy ending in any sense.
  • Asterix 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 regeneration 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 sequel comic confirms that this wasn't a happy ending. The plot is about a single Deadpool breaking himself free from the hive mind and trying to save what remains of the world from himself, which he eventually accomplishes by getting infected with a new virus that is lethal to him and spreading it to all the other Deadpools.
  • The Avengers issue 200 was intended to be the last-ever Ms. Marvel story, and features Carol Danvers 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.
  • Flashpoint 1999 ends with The Flash (Barry Allen), consumed by the energy created by the Martian Artifact of Doom in a Heroic Sacrifice, appearing in front of the Justice League. It's unknown what this is supposed to mean, as the comic's world seems to be one without superheroes aside from the Flash and Martian Manhunter. It might be a Dying Dream, or some sort of Valhalla, or he might have ended up crossing over into another universe. Given that Barry had been having frequent visions of another, "righter" world where he fought alongside other colorful heroes, perhaps it's simply to indicate that Barry's life had been thrown askew, its direction altered by his paralysis at the hands of Vandal Savage, and in sacrificing himself to save the world destiny has finally corrected itself.
  • The Boom! Studios Rocko's Modern Life Comic-Book Adaptation ends its run with an arc where Rocko discovers that Conglom-O is using its newest smartphone to fleece the inhabitants of O-Town out of money until they're penniless. After the hapless wallaby tricks the CEO of Conglom-O into openly calling his company's customers easily manipulated morons, the denizens of O-Town are incited to riot and retaliate to Conglom-O's underhanded business strategies by tearing the corporation down. Rocko basks in the fact that he can now be seen as an equal...completely disregarding that his actions have resulted in the town descending into anarchy and that the destruction of the town's most prominent company has most likely left countless people out of work.
  • Uncanny X-Men: The story "End of Grays" ends with Rachel Summers sitting down to have a nice coffee with her friends, talking about how she's honoring her mother's legacy... after a bunch of aliens violently massacred what's left of her family, children included, for insane reasons, with her grandmother dying cursing Rachel's name, then tried repeatedly to murder Rachel herself, before getting away entirely scot-free, without even a slap on the wrist.
  • Heroes in Crisis has a big one due to the sheer brokeness of its attempted message and fumbling of continuity. After a massacre at the superhero therapy facility known as Sanctuary, the murderer, Wally West, tries to commit suicide after releasing the patients/murder victims' confessionals in order to raise awareness about mental health. He's talked out of suicide and is instead imprisoned, but the final message is that there's still hope for him, and that he's taken his first step towards bettering himself, while Sanctuary reopens so it can help more people. Most readers did not see this as the happy ending it's meant to be. The releasing of confessionals was portrayed in-universe as bad when it first happened and readers see it as a massive breach of privacy that Wally had no right to leak to Lois Lane, and she had no right to publish. All the dead characters are still dead, despite the heroes using a time machine to place a cloned Wally body at the time of the incident note  which could have been applied to everyone. Wally is locked up with supervillains and the thing that mattered most to him — getting his Ret-Gone'd family back — is apparently completely out of reach (because the writer ignored his own plot device with the time machine). Sanctuary's "therapy" was so terrible that it was seemingly actively goading the patients on — such as repeatedly asking Wally why he wants his family back and allowing repeated self-harm and reliving of death in Lagoon Boy — that no reader saw it as a healthy mental health facility, so the implication that it has reopened with zero change to how it's run... yeah, not happy. The series can't even qualify for a bittersweet, it's just misery.
  • At the end of Superman story arc The Great Phantom Peril, villain Faora Hu-Ul is sent back into the Phantom Zone. Unfortunately, Mr. Jackson Porter, a widower whom Faora had telepathically deceived into believing she was his wife's ghost in order to manipulate him, still believes Faora is his late spouse. To the point that he requests to be sent into the Zone together with her. And instead of discouraging him and getting him help, Superman, Batman and Supergirl grant his petition. The latter even says maybe it is the best for him, since Mr. Porter is so lonely.

    Fairy Tales 
  • Perrault's tale "The Fairies" also known as "Diamonds and Toads". A Fairy tests the politeness 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 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.
    • A number of later versions have a further chapter in which both the mother and the older sister return for revenge with a Bride and Switch scheme that the new king discovers and then foils by sentencing them to death, taking care of the questions of justice for them. Of course, this still leaves the question of what they're going to do about all the inflation from the gemstones: they might be able to avert an economic collapse for the kingdom by dumping all the spare gems in the treasury and forgetting about them (or just let inflation take its course and continue using silver and gold coins for the kingdom's currency), but having objects valuable or otherwise falling from her mouth all the time is likely to get awfully inconvenient awfully fast. She might have to learn how to use her words sparingly or even go mute just to maintain her sanity.
  • In the end of The Lord of the Winds, a Nenets fairy tale, the main heroine marries Kotura, the titular lord of the winds, and is welcomed by his family, which all sounds pretty nice. Except that Kotura sent a terrible snowstorm that threatened to destroy the entire humanity (or at least everyone who lives in tundra, the narration isn’t very clear on the subject), just to blackmail people into sending him a proper bride. Then he froze the heroine's two sisters to death (they were Asshole Victims but hardly deserving of such a fate). The heroine's feelings on marrying him after all that are never stated (one might argue that the girl's sisters at least deserved what they got, but Kotura never even shows any hint of remorse about the snowstorm, which was basically a global-scale Scarpia Ultimatum).

    Fan Works 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In addition to the (definitely Not Safe for Work) The Little Mermaid (1989) Fanfic Ariel's Wedding Night's dealing with the psychological version of the Mermaid Problem, the text also brings up the interesting point that Ariel's father Triton and her husband Eric are going to have some diplomatic issues concerning the economy of Eric's kingdom: presumably, a lot of the people were living on seafood, which isn't likely to go over well with Ariel or Triton or any of the other merfolk. How, then, is Eric going to keep his subjects fed? A later revision of the story resolves Ariel and Eric's romantic difficulties, but it says nothing more about how to resolve their kingdom's economic problems.
  • 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.
  • Features in the "Torso Murderer" storyline of Taaroko's Season 8, where the Scooby Gang discover that past Slayer Morgan Stronberg, who everyone believed was killed by her Watcher Richard Aubery in the 1930s, was actually killed in battle with a demon (the titular Torso Murderer) and it just looked like Richard did it. In reality, Morgan and her young Watcher were in love, and Richard spent decades trapped in the demon’s hell dimension before Buffy released him by killing the demon in the present while briefly possessed by Morgan's spirit. Willow considers it uplifting that Richard and Morgan are together now, but Xander can’t get past the fact that people are dead and a good man spent the better part of seven decades in Hell.
  • 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, when faced with a troubled species, the ponies' 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.
    • It gets worse in the Recursive Fanfiction. 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.
  • Aftermath of the Games was in part a Fix Fic to season 5 finale, giving Starlight Glimmer karma by having Twilight Sparkle adopt the child Starlight, causing the original to be Ret-Gone. But the finale had shown that such alterations to the timeline could have dire consequence. This necessitated its own fix in the sequel Integration; showing Starlight refusing her canon redemption left no other choice, and that Twilight's all too aware of the implications and is doing what she can to fix them.
  • 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.
  • Certain The Loud House fanfics based on the very unpopular episode "No Such Luck", which culminates in Lincoln's entire family (parents included) locking him out of the house because they believe him to be bad luck, end with Lincoln calling the police on his family, usually with Lynn Sr. and Rita Loud being the ones who are arrested. It's painted as a happy ending for Lincoln, but the ramifications of Lynn Sr. and Rita being arrested and Lincoln and his sisters having their parents being taken away from them is rarely touched upon; that said, there are other fics, such as What is a Person Worth? and No Such Luck, No Such Love, that have Lincoln outright say he won't be telling the police or any other adults because it would throw him and his siblings into foster care, which is not something he wants.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series features an in-universe example. The 2008 Christmas special involves Yami telling Yugi the story of Slavemas, a Christmas-like holiday he invented during his reign as Pharaoh, where he would force his Egyptian follows to turn over one of their family members to be his slave. The story ends with the Pharaoh making his followers "celebrate" Slavemas everyday in retaliation for the Thief King stealing all his Millennium items.
    Yugi: Huh... I was expecting a happy ending.
    Yami: What are you talking about? That was a happy ending.
    Yugi: Yeah, but only for the Pharaoh. Everybody else was miserable!
    Yami: ... What's your point?

    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. Meanwhile, Rasputin has successfully taken over Russia.
  • Animals United is an Anvilicious, if not untrue film about the dangers of pollution and human interference in nature. However, the end involves the cast taking over New York, with one human bystander being outright joyous in declaring "This is how it should be!".
  • Foxy Loxy's fate at the end of Chicken Little. A Teleporter Accident causes her personality to be overwritten from a tomboy into a feminine girl. The aliens offer to turn her back to normal, but Runt of the Litter decides he likes her new personality better. She may have been a bully, but she certainly did not deserve this fate at all and the fact that the other characters treat it like a good thing has a lot of Unfortunate Implications.
  • Dingo Pictures' take on The Hunchback of Notre Dame ends with Quasimodo being locked up for life after murdering Frollo, while Esmeralda flees. The narration insists this is a happy ending because he has proof that Esmeralda is still alive.
  • Kubo and the Two Strings is supposed to have a Bittersweet Ending, where Kubo loses both his parents but makes peace with their passing and defeats the Big Bad. The issue is that the Big Bad's defeat involved a form of Heel–Face Brainwashing: being rendered an amnesiac mortal and fed Fake Memories by the townspeople so he believes himself to be a good person. And the film ends with him being implied to become Kubo's guardian from now on. Bear in mind that this guy used to be a Jerkass God who ordered the brutal murder of Kubo's parents, so one way or another, things won't end well if he regains his memories. It also could be interpreted as very hypocritical that Kubo would do this because this is basically the same thing that the Big Bad was planning to do to Kubo.
  • In Golden Films' version of The Little Mermaid, Lena gets to marry Prince Stefan and avoids dissolving into seafoam, but unlike the Disney version, she apparently doesn't get her voice back.
  • The climax of Mulan II has Mushu ensure that neither Mulan nor the three princesses she was escorting to another kingdom have to submit to an Arranged Marriage to its prince(s), and thus they can Marry for Love their respective sweethearts. The problem is that the arranged marriages were explicitly explained to be necessary to secure a political alliance between the kingdoms so that they will band together to defend China from the Mongols. As the denouement does not resolve that issue (though the audience was probably meant to assume that Mushu's "Golden Dragon of Unity" act convinced the Qigong Emperor to finalize the alliance anyway off-screen), the most straightforward assumption is that Mulan and her lady friends have selfishly doomed their homeland.
  • Pocahontas ends with a "happy ending" in which the British and Powhatan come to terms with each other. Anyone with the vaguest knowledge of history knows this will last about three seconds before relations go south for about 300 years.
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet is supposed to end on a somewhat happy note where Vanellope finally gets to fulfill her lifelong dream in Slaughter Race and Ralph and Vanellope remain friends. However, this completely ignores the fact that by abandoning her own game in favor of another, Vanellope is essentially "going Turbo," something that is looked down upon in the first movie. Without the main character, it is only a matter of time before this flaw is found out and Sugar Rush eventually gets unplugged. Ralph still doesn't have his best friend around to confide with, and it's also only a matter of time before Vanellope gets so hooked up in the game that she gradually forgets about Ralph and strains their friendship. Plus, while the Wreck-it Ralph virus has been defeated, the Arthur virus that created it was never shown being dealt with, so as far as we know, it's still free to find other insecurities to turn into viruses.
  • 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 that 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 forward 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.
  • Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss: In the end, the Prince meets and marries another elephant seal. But considering he’s been established as a jealous, violent tyrant with no redeeming qualities who threatens to eat other characters for minor snubs, things don’t look too good for her.
  • At the end of Sausage Party even though the food won their fight against the humans, it was only because they were lucky enough to have bath salts on them to use on said humans. Once the friends and families of those humans come, the foods won't have any more bath salts left to defend themselves with. Even if no one came to the store sooner or later most of the foods would expire. Only a few of the items are nonperishables, which makes the ending more like a Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending.
    • Also, they find out they're in a movie. So they decide to do something about it by inventing a trans-dimensional teleporter to kick the asses of the film writers. They go through the portal, and... that's it. And then you realize they're still foot-tall convenience items who are now entering a world that isn't comically slanted in their favor. Deleted scenes reveal the last we see of them is their panic over the writers calmly eating their avatars in a diner, oblivious to the screaming deli meats outside the restaurant.
  • 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.
  • 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. Especially in hindsight, given the shot of the Twin Towers covered in flowery vines.
  • 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 that all the humans would die in a hopeless attempt to do so.

  • 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. By the time the three witches arrive, all the Big Bad Wolf wants is an ending.
    • 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/Assimilation Plot, 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 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?
  • Twilight:
    • The last book gave Jacob, who suffered from unrequited love for Bella and who vehemently hated imprinting, his own happy romantic ending by having him imprint on Bella's newborn daughter Nessie. Oh, don't worry; Nessie grows really fast, so she'll be physically 17 years old in 7 years and ready to start a relationship with her "Uncle Jake" then! And what of Jake's loss of free will? Who cares as long as he's still (forced to be) in Bella's life!
    • 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.
    • On a more personal note, Nessie is hardly the "perfect ending" for the rest of the Cullens that Meyer claims. Esme and Rose want biological children of their own to care for and raise. Nessie is already nearly at adult-level independence within weeks of birth, and she's Bella's daughter, not theirs. Nessie also can't bring back Alice's human memories, she has almost no relationship with any of the other male Cullens, etc. Meyer seems to think that Nessie fixes everything just by existing, but realistically she creates many, many more problems than she fixes for them.
  • 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 works:
  • 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 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 recedes 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 of 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 alleviates 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 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 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.
  • 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.
    • The first book actually has a potential inversion; it ends with Ana deciding she and Christian are incompatible and leaving him, which the book treats as a Downer Ending, but many readers see this as a good thing because the relationship is unhealthy and disproportionately skewed in Christian's favor.
  • Most of Flannery 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, often ridiculous and humiliated, but finally open to the terrible incursion of God's grace. O'Connor famously claimed that Wise Blood had a "very hopeful" ending; this reading, though, absolutely depends on understanding the author's and protagonist's priorities, which many readers have trouble internalizing.
  • 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 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 in the System, including Mieli's own people, the Oortians. On the other hand, the story ends with another copy of Jean le Flambeur being released, which could result in another wrench thrown in Sobornost's plans — maybe.
  • 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 fiancee and gleefully allowing her family to go to ruin, and ordering a hit on a painter because he didn't like the fact that the painting 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 has forgotten 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 a wish for Belle to leave the Beast altogether.
  • In a similar case to The Last Battle above, at the end of Peace at the Last, almost all of the named sympathetic characters are killed in a Last Stand by a mob of corrupted animals. Meanwhile, Wyrm's Hate Plague has corrupted the world and divided its animal inhabitants beyond repair. But it's played as a happy ending since they're reunited in the afterlife, along with characters who died in the previous books.
  • The Arabian Nights stories end with Scheherazade living happily ever after with her husband the king. A king who, when he first met Scheherazade, hated women so much that he married a new one every night and then had her executed after sleeping with her. Sure, Scheherazade put a stop to all this, but after his past serial killings, many readers wonder "Why Would Anyone Take Him Back??"note 
  • The Turner Diaries ends with all the world's Jews and non-whites eradicated in a long campaign of nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare, which has also killed 90% of the world's population and no doubt ruined the Earth's ecology beyond repair. Then again, what else could you expect from a poorly-written piece of racist, ultranationalist propaganda? At the very least, the world being bathed in nuclear fallout means that the protagonists are doomed as well.
  • Victoria: Yay! The heroes survive the collapse of the corrupt multicultural U.S. government and the warring successor states and are free to build their enlightened, traditional Christian society. Where heathens are banished or burned at the stake, Black people can be hanged for a violent crime within a week, and technology created after the 1930s is severely frowned upon, as are women working or getting higher education. Oh, and Victoria will be serving as a training center for a global crusade against Islam.
  • The Wump World, a children's book by Bill Peet, ends with the Pollutians abandoning the titular planet, their cities being reclaimed by nature and the Wumps repopulating their world. It's a perfectly good ending for a Green Aesop... if you ignore the fact that the Pollutians are presumably still out there, doing the same thing to other planets.
  • 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 the girl is portrayed as a real Enfant Terrible and 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. Still, it is Disproportionate Retribution to have her actions result in her complete disappearance. 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?
  • In the gothic fantasy novel The Binding, it's strongly implied that the main characters will get to be together, but thanks to some What Happened to the Mouse? it's implied that Lucian's father is going to go on sexually abusing his maids and getting away with it and there's also the rather awkward fact that Lucian left his fiancée at the altar without a word of explanation, probably ruining her reputation for life. Plus with the binding library burned down, a lot of people may end up saddled with memories they paid a lot of money to forget about.
  • The Maximum Ride series ends this way. The apocalypse that the main characters have been trying to prevent comes to pass, killing off the majority of the planet's population (including the protagonist's biological mother and sister, the latter of whom was also the love interest for said protagonist's adopted brother), and the new world is a dangerous place inhabited mostly by mutants...but hey, the Flock survived! And Max gave birth to a daughter! At about sixteen...and this is all before Hawk came out and hit it with a Happy Ending Override.
  • One of the major reasons the epilogue of Harry Potter is a big source of Ending Aversion is this trope, as it ends up being almost tooth-rottenly cheerful despite the many issues from the book that remain apparently intact. The House system at Hogwarts, which has been demonstrated many times in the very last book to be needlessly divisive and enabling a toxic environment of tribalism, hasn't changed one iota; the Malfoys are still around (and by extension, probably other Death Eaters as well); The Masquerade remains firmly in place; and even slavery of the House-Elves is still so accepted that Harry still has one. Add in the likely massive death toll from the events of the last book and the established low numbers of wizards in general, and it's not unlikely that wizards are heading towards extinction.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100 ends with the remnants of humanity being assimilated (or “ascended”) into an alien hive mind, becoming immortal “beings of light” without pain or individuality. The explicit other option is the aliens exterminating humanity with an unstoppable chemical weapon. However, Clarke can’t “ascend“, due to the hive mind seeing her crimes as too grave (Clarke herself points out how arbitrary this logic is), so her friends stay behind to live mortal lives on Earth with her. However, the hive mind explicitly states that they can’t have any children and won’t be able to ascend when they die. In the view of most fans, this essentially means humanity has been condemned to extinction in all but the most technical of terms, rendering all of the struggle of the series moot. Clarke and her friends will die without a future or a legacy, and the last one to die will die miserably alone. Meanwhile, the genocidal alien hive mind is free to continue its campaign of assimilating species and exterminating those it finds unworthy.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Mindwarp" ends with Peri's body becoming the host to Kiv's brain before King Yrcanos supposedly finishes her. However, it is revealed later in the season that Peri in fact did not die and actually went on to rule Krontep alongside Yrcanos as his queen. While this is portrayed as a good thing, it should be noted that Peri showed no interest in Yrcanos the entire story and objected to the notion of becoming his wife. Expanded material has offered different versions of what becomes of Peri, though Nicola Bryant prefers her original fate in "Mindwarp".
    • 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. Worse, it's stated that she and her human boyfriend still have a love life. This is presented as a good fate for the character.
    • At the end of "Blink," 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. But regarding the original Angels, the only thing keeping them immobilized is one bare lightbulb, which could burn out at any moment, and which they telepathically turned off earlier in the episode. Yeah, Word of God made the situation less ominous by describing the Angels in "Blink" as weak scavengers, but there are always more Weeping Angels out there. Any statue could be a Weeping Angel — maybe they all are! (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 Twelfth Doctor defy his people and risk all time and space to save Clara Oswald 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 and fellow functional immortal Ashildr/Me. She decides to go back to Gallifrey and her death "the long way 'round" in pursuit of new adventures, as the universe will hold together so long as she returns at some point. The problems with this come from several angles, only one of which was addressed in the televised continuity by this Doctor's Grand Finale and departure of writer/showrunner Steven Moffat, meaning they might never be revisited:
      • Clara can never return to her old life on Earth; though by this point it meant little to her compared to a life of adventure, it's still pretty sad for her loved ones and colleagues who will only know her to have died a mysterious death. And since the universe is holding together, what finally gets Clara to return to her extremely painful death? Will she remember she has to go back? Be forced into it? Screw up so badly that death seems the only way to atone?
      • The Doctor didn't take Me on as a companion because as a virtual immortal himself both of them would become detached from mortals and even villainous — a problem she was already struggling with and an indirect contributor to Clara's death (she was Trapped in Villainy and had to betray the Doctor, and Clara messed that up). Thus, the women could become what the Doctor feared — and he wouldn't be able to stop them — unless they acquire mortal companions. As well, can Clara be happy with a companion who's virtually an anti-Doctor given how much she came to love and need him?
      • After millennia spent pining for them and defending them, the Doctor is now a fugitive from his people and Gallifrey — again — for his actions during his Sanity Slippage. Rassilon and his cronies are the types who would seek Revenge for his bloodlessly overthrowing and exiling them, and The Doctor left a power vacuum at the top by abandoning his Lord President post.
      • The Doctor suffered mightily just to save Clara, as depicted in "Heaven Sent". Earn Your Happy Ending should come into play given how the Whoniverse tends to work, but instead he, a torture victim, is given No Sympathy whereas Rassilon the murdering dictator is. He gives up his Tragic Dream, and undergoes Mind Rape — whereupon Clara and Ashildr/Me randomly dump him on Earth, leaving him wandering about reconstructing the few Clara-related memories he retains and seeking his TARDIS, last seen abandoned in London. The Framing Device has Clara (whom he no longer recognizes) return the TARDIS to him and he moves on, but he isn't rewarded for choosing the path of right and has been robbed of his right to grieve and rage. As it's unknown how much time passes between this story and "The Husbands of River Song", how long is the Doctor left bereft and brooding without a Morality Chain (a key reason why he went crazy)? Sure, he has the TARDIS, but it can't hug him. For the record, the Mind Rape is the one aspect of this ending addressed and undone (and only at the very end of the Twelfth Doctor's life, shortly before he regenerates).
    • In "Smile", the Emojibots and Vardy kill a whole bunch of people due to not understanding that grief isn't a virus, but they end up being reset and agreeing to a contract with the awakened colonists afterwards. Problem is, nowhere there do we see the Doctor address the original problem at all, so there's no reason to believe the robots won't do the same thing after someone else dies in a few weeks/months/years' time. Nor does he explain to most of the colonists that their friends and family might be dead after the massive misunderstanding either.
    • Later in the same season, "The Lie of the Land" ends with Bill Potts undoing her Deal with the Devil with the Monks; they not only flee Earth and free humanity from enslavement but cause almost everyone on the planet to forget the events of the past six months, with the Doctor and Bill among very few exceptions. Unfortunately, during those six months, dissenters to the Monks were imprisoned, forced into labor camps, and even executed. What will become of people who lost loved ones but can't remember what became of them and why, and of the still-living victims of the Monks' reign? Worse, Bill and the Doctor technically have culpability in the Monks' reign of terror. Granted, she made her deal to save the doomed Doctor's life partially because she knew he was their last best hope to get rid of the Monks altogether. He served as the Monks' Propaganda Machine only as a cover for his resultant plan. But they still ought to feel remorse over all the people who suffered and died in the interim; instead they're more concerned with her overdue essay on free will (overdue because of the Monks). Suddenly "Last of the Time Lords"' Reset Button, though imperfect, doesn't seem so bad.
    • Years after "The Family of Blood" came out, the current writers wrote an "epilogue" where Thirteen rescues Sister of Mine from the mirror. Yay, a little girl can go on to have a happy life! ...except that's not a little girl, that is a homicidal alien who killed a little girl and possessed her corpse. Thirteen essentially just granted a murderer an early parole because she looks friendly.
  • 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. 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.
  • Game of Thrones: The show ends with Westeros choosing a system of electoral monarchy instead of a hereditary one because of all the problems they've had. However, in the show's other place where it was practiced, the Iron Islands, it just became a rubber-stamp for Greyjoy after Greyjoy to be elected until they got awful leaders like Balon and Euron, and in the books it ended with an Ironborn using the opportunity to slaughter his rivals. Add to it Sansa deciding to just declare Northern independence even after Bran's elected and it leaves serious doubts that they'll be able to avoid either informal hereditary rule or instability. There's also Bran who is the Three-Eyed Raven and has supernatural powers that let him see the past and present, making an omniscient ruler who can see everything. While the narrative guarantees that he's benevolent, the circumstances on how he became king after the deaths of Cersei and Daenerys made a lot of viewers suspect at best he's indirectly responsible for Daenerys' downfall, at worst, actually enabled it through selective sharing AND omission of information, which makes Bran come off as an ambitious asshole.
  • 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.
    • Blair & Chuck could only get their happy ending by effectively murdering Chuck's father as he's thrown off a skyscraper rooftop during a fight between the father & son, and they get married simply to avoid having to testify against each other.
  • 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 — essentially, "Mom's been dead for 6 years, 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, which 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. It's worth noting that the ending was planned and in part filmed (the parts with the kids) years earlier. As a consequence, many of the reasons for the ending not working (establishing Barney and Robin as a Fan-Preferred Couple who'd have to be broken up and the various issues the writers had to raise in the Ted/Robin relationship to explain these two single supposedly "perfect for each other" people not being together all these years) hadn't been developed yet. Additionally, the ending relied on the romantic trope of making a big "romantic gesture" and living happily ever after. Unfortunately, the long-running nature of the show meant it ultimately subverted this trope by having characters making these gestures repeatedly only to definitively not end up with the person they made the gesture to, thereby showing how it's definitely not guaranteed.
  • The TV movie Ice Angel is about a male hockey player (Matt) who dies and is brought back to life in the body of a 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 everything 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.
  • 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?
  • Kamen Rider Gaim has the protagonist win the war for the Golden Fruit, and rather than keep his new godlike powers on Earth he moves to a lifeless planet far away, saving Earth from destruction at the hands of the Helheim Forest. Helheim's avatar ultimately approves of this outcome and moves on to the next world to overrun while tempting its occupants to war with one another. The ending appears to be predicated on the audience believing that Helheim is in fact just a mindless plant and doesn't bear any blame for the worlds it invades and ruins, but its avatar being one of the most intelligent and philosophically-driven characters in the show means it instead comes across as a Karma Houdini.
  • 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 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.
  • The Man in the High Castle ends with the Japanese having withdrawn from the Pacific States, the Nazi leadership in Berlin replaced with fresh blood, John Smith dead at the hands of the resistance and his subordinate ripping off his Nazi insignia when he's apprised of this, and the Nebenswelt portal being permanently opened and masses of people from other worlds arriving in the Axis world. While Smith's soul was so far gone by this point that the world would be better off without him, it's already pointed out that even if he died he would just be replaced with someone else. The US has been ruled by the Nazi regime for twenty years, with all the indoctrination and fanaticism of rank and file soldiers and citizens that implies. His replacement would have to contend with hardliners and rogue units in the American Reich attempting to depose him, not to mention the Reichsfuhrer in Berlin might just decide that his deal with Smith is null and void with the latter's death. It's a recipe for a civil war. Japan is also still lording over a massive empire in the Pacific and East Asia, with the withdrawal from North America giving them renewed resources to keep those territories under their thumb. And with the Nebenswelt smack-dab in the middle between two formerly oppressed sub-countries, a massive cache of unforeseen and unprecedented wealth and technological potential in the hands of subversive rebels who made it their mission to tick both sides off, it's implied that a second American Civil War is inevitable.
  • Rebelde Way: The series tries to present the season two finale as some wonderful, happy ending where true love triumphed, the students beat the bad guy and reformed the school...But it's not all sunshine and roses as the show implies. Aside from the fact that the series completely romanticized Teen Pregnancy (never even alluding to all the emotional and economical problems a sixteen-year-old having a child will have), the finale also failed to address the huge problems both of the main couples had over the course of the series (Manuel dismissing Mia and cheating on her, Marizza misjudging Pablo) and tries to paint a picture of all being forgiven and true love saving the day. For a series that was recommended for trying to tackle real subjects in a realistic manner, this poorly thought-out ending seemed to have come out of some fairy tale kitsch desire.
  • Roswell ends with the teens marked for death by the FBI Special Unit and forced to leave their families and loved ones and go on the run. Also, Max decides they need to give up on trying to return to their home planet and just worry about themselves, dooming their people to remain slaves. Yet somehow, the show tries to spin this as a positive ending, abruptly cutting from Liz's father crying over her farewell note to the teens smiling like loons as Max and Liz get married in a country chapel and the show ends on Liz grinning into camera as a voiceover announces, "I'm Liz Parker and I'm happy." Er, why?
  • 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 or stipulated that the show was intended to be about jerkasses. So the four main characters being sent to prison resulted in fans being unhappy.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "Past Tense Part II" 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.
  • 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.)
  • War of the Worlds (1988) ends with the Morthren leader (Malzor) dead and the threat vanquished, and the heroes triumphantly walking at sunrise as a heroic theme plays... except a cursory thought into the circumstances of the ending reveal that nothing is solved. The remaining Morthren (36 in total) will attempt to integrate into the world — a place where the air is so toxic to them that getting cut in any way will eventually severely weaken (if not outright kill) them, unless they're put in a recovery machine, not to mention food they can't eat, dwindling resources and no way of getting back home. Even then, there's an unresolved Sequel Hook of a secondary Morthrai invasion force (the villains from the first season) that were set to arrive in five years. Whatever the case, Blackwood and friends make it clear to themselves that "they're done with all of it." "Nice morning", indeed.

  • 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.)
  • Rupert Holmes' "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" ends with the man responding to a personals ad and discovering the woman who had placed the ad was none other than his own wife/girlfriend. Pretty romantical, except for the part where, along with all the other nice stuff they realized they have in common, they also both learned their respective partner was not only willing to cheat on them but even actively seeking to.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Egyptian Mythology: During the Old Kingdom, only kings got the privilege of an afterlife. But by the time of the New Kingdom, anyone could enter the afterlife as follows: If an Egyptian peasant dies, he has to take a very long walk across the desert (and hope the people who buried him gave him The Book of the Dead, a book of spells designed to defeat the monsters). At the end of this arduous journey, his heart gets weighed. If it outweighs a magical feather representing Truth, it gets thrown to the Devourer (a beast with a crocodile's head, a lion's mane, and a hippo's hindquarters), who eats it and condemns the unfortunate soul to Cessation of Existence. However, if the man's heart weighs the same as the feather (if not lighter), he gets to Egyptian heaven, which means... he must work in Osiris' fields for all eternity. Congratulations, man. You get to do what you did for your entire mortal life. (Then again, to a farmer, that might be a pleasurable afterlife.)

    Radio Play 
  • Doctor Who: The Next Life ends seemingly happily: The Doctor, Charley and C'rizz are back in the main universe (or in it for the first time in C'rizz's case), acting like friends again and ready to go on adventures. Rassilon and Kro'ka got their comeuppance, and it seems everything worked out for the best. Except for the fact that the Divergent Universe is doomed to reset over and over again. All of the stories set within the Divergent Universe will repeat again and again, but without the Doctor, many of them will have a much less happy ending for those involved, to say nothing of what will happen to the Eutermesans without C'rizz around. And even beyond that, Zagreus and Keep have decided to team up to terrorise this universe, so who knows what havoc and misery they will sow. The TARDIS team may have achieved their happy ending, but for the residents of the Divergent Universe, the horror is only just beginning...

    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.

  • 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.
  • 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. Katarina's rudeness was just a test and Petruchio has passed: especially if Katarina's other suitors are played as particularly foppish. D. 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 by Ben Johnson, which often is not included due to being a later addition. 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...
    • 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? This tends to be the reason most productions take Shylock's side, and treat the ending as a downer.
    • 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. Although the last part is more ambiguous than "happy", as there is no scripted response from Isabella to the Duke's marriage proposal.
  • 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 by 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!
  • Practically a Running Gag in opera:
    • 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.
    • 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.)
    • The ending to Jenufa, another of Janaček's operas, is either that or Bittersweet Ending. Depends on the production, on the tenor who sings Laca, and on your interpretation. To put it short, the heroine, after all sorts of suffering, finds true love – with the man who has previously scarred her for life in a fit of jealous rage, effectively frightening off all suitors except himself. He says he has repented and admits that by disfiguring the girl he caused many of the subsequent tragic events of the opera. If his remorse (and Jenufa's forgiveness) are convincing, then it's classic bittersweet. If not, it's this trope.
    • And the there's George Frederic Handel's Ariodante, in which the title character commits suicide (he gets better) after finding out that his betrothed, Princess Ginevra, has been unfaithful (actually a scam by a competitor, who wants him out of the way to get Ginevra for himself). She is disowned by her father, who ignores her grief and protestations of innocence, regards her as a harlot, and condemns her to death. When Ariodante is revealed to be alive and the plot is unmasked, Ginevra is reunited with him and all is forgiven...including her father's disowning her and death sentence? Small wonder that a 2014 production made Ginevra considerably less forgiving.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, you have the choice between two of these or a straight-forward Downer Ending when you finally face Alexander. If you disrupt the ritual and allow The Darkness to devour Alexander, Daniel is allowed to go free and presumably pursue a normal life... despite the countless people he helped to torture and murder as part of Alexander's plans. More closely fitting to this trope is the alternative, where you send Agrippa's head through the portal. Alexander and Daniel are both devoured by The Darkness, but Agrippa is apparently able to somehow rescue Daniel and draw him through to another dimension... which brings with it the Fridge Logic of how this is supposed to save Daniel from being tracked down by The Darkness again, which is explicitly mentioned in an In-Universe document as being why Alexander was going to simply abandon Daniel when the ritual was complete.
  • In Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, Fridge Logic turns the Bittersweet Ending of Oswald Mandus making a Heroic Sacrifice to destroy the titular machine into this; yes, London was saved, but how much damage did the Machine and its Manpigs do to London before Oswald defeated it, and what effect will it have on the coming future?
  • 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.
  • While there are several variables in Chrono Trigger that ultimately work out for the best (ie: Robo existing in the future, Crono being brought back even if you don't do so yourself, etc.), the fate of Schala is left both mysterious and yet soul-crushingly unoptimistic. Worse yet, despite her good nature, she is surrounded by and associated with many of the game's cruelest villains, to where an uninitiated person might just assume she is one of them. Even in the main ending, Marle only mentions her in passing, asking if she factors into another party member's plans - Everyone is just supposed to accept that their victory came with only one lasting sacrifice (Chrono Cross does address this, but not in a way that holds much significance in relation to the plot of Trigger).
  • 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...
  • In the original Devil Survivor, some consider the Silent Revolution ending this, as it gives exclusive control of the Demon Summoning Program to the Japanese government. In a game that pulled no punches in showing how the police quickly got Drunk with Power and took Police Brutality to horrifying extremes once they got their hands on the summoning app, and also showed the government was planning on wiping out everyone in Tokyo in a Final Solution if the crisis got out of control. The ending narration also mentions the government weaponizes the app to turn Japan into not only an economic superpower, but a military one as well.
  • Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest's Golden Ending - in terms of both canon and meta. Crocodile Isle's destruction is treated as the ultimate Moment of Awesome for the Kongs; however, along with the Inferred Holocaust, this also means that many beloved levels are gone as well.
  • Dragon Age has become infamous for this among mage and/or elf fans. Every game, the Player Character protects the local Andrastian human kingdom or religious organization from crumbling due to their own incompetence and/or corruption. note  However, these same Andrastian human kingdoms and religious institutions have deeply ingrained Fantastic Racism against mages and/or elves. Even if the Player Character is an elf/mage, saves the world, and is exalted as as a hero at the end, within a few years the society you saved goes back to mistreating your people.
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, a City Elf Warden can lampshade this trope at the very end, after using their new status as hero to grant the alienage a bann to represent them at court. Your father is thrilled that humans are praising an elf as their hero, while the City Elf PC can cynically reply that it's only a matter of time before they start treating elves like crap again. A Mage Warden also can say as much to their mentor regarding mages. Both turn out to be right.
    • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, a player who chooses to aid elven rights activist Briala co-rule Orlais with Gaspard or Celene is presented as a happy end to the civil war for elves. Reuniting Briala with Celene is especially presented as the "ideal" happy ending for all parties. However, a lot of players note that both outcomes look shaky and short-lived at best, since Briala's power lasts only as long as Gaspard is alive and under her thumb, or her relationship with Celene continues to go well, since Celene still has all the power and hasn't hesitated to use it to screw over Briala and the elves before. Basically, despite the game framing Briala co-ruling with Gaspard or Celene as a happy ending for elves, many players are waiting for the other shoe to drop.
    • Even when you take helping elves out of the equation, those who've read The Masked Empire feel that the game resenting the reconciliation between Celene and Briala as the most ideal happy ending to the whole Orlesian Civil War as this. While the game treats the reunion as a heartwarming example of love triumphing over hard feelings, those who've read the book know how toxic, imbalanced, and even abusive their relationship was, and how this "reunion" doesn't address the power imbalance that allowed Celene to hurt Briala as badly as she did. Many players don't see it as a heartwarming reunion so much as convincing an angry, emotionally vulnerable abuse victim to go back to her abuser.
  • 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.
  • Discussed In-Universe in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
    • The ending to the main questline seems at first glance to be a positive one. After all, Alduin is defeated, the dragons are now somewhat pacified and following the Way of the Voice, and the Skyrim civil war is either finished or at least at a ceasefire. However, as Paarthurnax says, the Dragonborn's attempt to defeat Alduin might have prevented him from destroying the world... or it might have sped up the ending of the world, since it is Alduin's role to be the one who eats the world so it may be reborn, and all that Alduin desired in this timeline was to rule the world. In defeating him, the player may have simply put him back in his place as the World-Eater.
    • Also, depending on how the Civil War itself was ended, this could be the case. If the Stormcloaks win, then the Empire is shattered apart, leaving the continent at risk of being once more invaded by the Thalmor. If the Empire wins, however, Skyrim is still devastated by the war and the worship of Talos will be further suppressed, which will further weaken the metaphysical forces holding the world together, which is what the Thalmor want.
  • The good ending of Eversion plays this for laughs—the princess still turns into a monster, but the hero becomes a monster as well, and the two live happily ever after.
  • There's a strange variation in Fallout 3. The regular ending has two choices: You sacrifice yourself to save the wasteland by activating Project Purity (which will flood the activation room with radiation), or you get Lyons to sacrifice herself for you. The ultimate effect is the same, but the game chews you out if you choose to sacrifice Lyons. Thing is, you don't even have the option of say, sending Fawkes, the explicitly radiation-immune Super Mutant to do it, or Charon, the ghoul who's healed by radiation, using a robot, surviving by use of the copious amounts of Rad-Away you've most likely accumulated over your journey, or even poking the activation buttons with a pole from far away. Severe fan backlash got Bethesda to release the Broken Steel DLC, which allows you to take the obvious third option and send Fawkes to do it. The wasteland has pure water, Everybody Lives, And the Adventure Continues. You still get called out for it, though, due to the ending dialogue not changing.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The Compilation of Final Fantasy VII suggests that humanity switched from Planet-destroying Mako energy to... fossil fuels, which are destroying our own planet in real life. Fans tend to assume that people are reverting to fossil fuels as a stopgap to keep society going while looking for more ecologically sound alternatives, but there's no evidence for this in the text, and - as we know from real life - switching over is unlikely to be easy.
    • 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.
    • Final Fantasy XV: Episode Ignis's Golden Ending gives a happy ending to the bros (and Ravus) and screws over Ardyn's plan, but Ardyn's still a pile of demons biding his time, Lunafreya is still dead, and Lucis is still an absolute monarchy with all its sins of unchecked privilege, imperialism and apathy. Your opinion on Ardyn and your own political views will probably influence whether a good guy being in charge of that institution is a happy ending or not. On top of that, Ardyn's only been given another couple of millennia to think about his plan before another candidate for the prophecy is born... And as Dawn of the Future revealed, Bahamut was manipulating both Noctis and Ardyn into killing each other, and the two being alive only delays his plans of wiping Eos clean of life as he needs the two dead to enact it without any opposition.
    • 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 (which is implied by the fact that three zombies/vampires share the same names as Mewt's bullies), 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.
  • 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 permanently, 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 story mode of Fire Emblem Warriors ends with the Original Generation twins being crowned co-Regents in the ruins of Aytolis castle, having defeated Velezark and sending the many heroes back to their own realms. Except the twins committed a character-flaw-driven mistake, the sort most Fire Emblem Lords learn to overcome, in the last three chapters of the game, and many people would argue that it's indicative of poor priorities for a ruler. Further, the neighboring kingdom of Gristonne is now completely lacking a royal family and any sort of armed forces. Finally, with what can be learned about Aytolisian succession, both twins are going to have firstborns with an equal claim, making a Succession Crisis and civil war all but certain. Small wonder the final cutscene doesn't actually address the plot's aftermath at all.
  • The Hero has beaten the Big Bad in Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon 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.
  • Applied to the first two God Eater games. It was made very clear that everything the titular God Eaters did was a stopgap, humanity was running out of resources in this arms race, and eventually an Aragami would form that was simply too powerful to stop and this Grey Goo variant would reach its logical conclusion. The third game finally tackled this with an ending that conclusively ruled out an apocalypse, though humanity still had a lot of rebuilding to do. Because of this, it also applies to stealth prequel Code Vein.
  • 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 bright side 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.
  • 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...
    • Record Breaker pushes the Inferred Holocaust angle even further by revealing that Canopus, the ultimate head of the Administrator System, deems humanity as a threat to universal order after the party kills Polaris. As mentioned above, if the next set of invaders, the Triangulum, appear in the Liberator world, humanity will have absolutely no way to fight them back.
  • 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 main story ending of Rayark’s Implosion is pretty much like a combination of this trope and Bittersweet Ending: After defeating Raymond Miller, who was responsible for reviving The XADA Alien Queen (who manipulates an ability to drag a meteor also known as AZA, which is full of XADA aliens, to crash on earth) which later got corrupted by The Queen’s prion and turned into a higher class XADA mutaform before Warmech-III Avalon (which was subconsciously controlled by using Jake’s brain in faraway) came to warn him to evacuate. Jake, the main hero in this game tried to kill The Queen, but unluckily, she was completely awoke and uses her psychokinesis power to freeze his move. This leaded his father, Jonathan (in his Warmech-II suit), performing a Heroic Sacrifice by shooting at the water bubble pod that envelopes The Queen, which distracted her from using her psychokinetic power to Jake, then an AZA reached the atmosphere of earth, leading Jake to self-destruction in his volition towards The Queen to kill her immediately (According to a certain description in loading screen, if the Warmech-III gets destroyed, the pilot link gets severed and causes brain death to the person who controls the Warmech). The AZA was returned back to the origin after The Queen got killed by an explosion came from a self-destruction, so the world was finally saved. However, Jonathan died as a result of his sacrifice, and Jake ended up having a total memory loss in hospital after his brain got operated and put an AI-related device to awake him from unconsciousness after the final events. So it’s a happy ending for whole humanity and a protagonist survived, but not in a condition that some players want. Because he is no longer remember anything, including his identity which means he can’t remember his family, his world-saving mission, and more. While some players pitied everyone (especially those who are innocent) who got infected and corrupted by XADAs are in their tragic fate, not just Brainwashed and Crazy and morphed into XADAs, it was implied that the XADA infections have no cure at all, in which killing them is the only solution. Even worse, the story suddenly ends and followed by a credits roll right after the scene of the wheelchair girl who wanted to name him since he is an amnesiac now, leading players to confusion.
  • 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 they made Square add on an epilogue (made with game footage due to lack of time), 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. Square rolled with it and made that coda lead directly into the intro of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • 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.
    • 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... with a big smile on his face and triumphant music playing. Hyrule Historia noticed this disconnect, and gave its retelling of the story a more explicitly downbeat ending stating that Link's fate was unknown, only for Zelda Encyclopedia to go the opposite route and confirm his survival by moving the Oracle games from before to after this game.
  • Life Is Strange: While both endings are bittersweet to varying degrees, the ending in which Max chooses to allow Chloe to die to stop the storm from destroying the town seems to be intended as the "better" of the two and is definitely the one the developers put more effort into. Players on the other hand often have a great deal of criticisms of it, pointing out what while more characters explicitly survive in this ending and Jefferson and Nathan are busted, as far as anyone can tell, Arcadia Bay is still a Dying Town run like a fiefdom by Nathan's amoral real estate mogul father, Chloe dies alone and unloved at her absolute lowest point (with the last words she ever hears being "Nobody would miss your punk ass!"), and Max has lost the love of her life and/or best friend, may be traumatized for years, and has essentially learned the heartwarming message that going on her adventure in the first place made everything worse.
  • Little Nightmares ends with Six killing the Guests who caused her so much torment, and escaping the Maw where she was being held prisoner. However, in her escape she stooped low enough to Kick the Dog by eating a sentient creature alive. Plus, promotional materials for the first game imply (and the second game outright confirms) that the outside world is arguably worse than the Maw.
  • 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 civilization being destroyed, it also looks like the trillions of people living in systems with relays die immediately.
    • 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 so-called "best" ending 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.)
    • 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 changes this into having the Citadel instead look like it should be condemned and dismantled, with 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.
  • Max Payne:
    • 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 likelihood 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, but 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.
    • As for the events of Max Payne 3, apparently Max managed to talk his way out of any murder charges, but that's about the only way his life didn't completely self-destruct: His career's in ruins, he's slowly killing himself with alcohol abuse in an attempt to self-medicate for post-traumatic stress disorder, and just to add insult to injury he's been forced to move out of New York and into a crummy apartment in New Jersey. Surprisingly, by the end of the game he's actually a little better off: He has to go through yet more awful shit to get there, but the bad guys are definitely getting theirs this time and he's at least started the process of getting his life back together.
  • 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.
  • 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 it's 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.
  • Made a Discussed Trope in NieR: Automata. As they're reconstructing the protagonists' bodies to give them a final chance at a free life, the Pods speculate that since they're going to be using a complete image of each android's personality at the time of their death, it's entirely possible they'll just repeat the same mistakes that lead to their end in the first place. However, they conclude that they feel the androids deserve that chance, and the fact they themselves have grown beyond their programming enough to contemplate and make said decision is proof the androids can avoid past mistakes.
  • 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.
  • Portal 2:
    • At the end, 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.
    • 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 twist the knife further, the robots get blown up by GLaDOS due to being made obsolete, the happy music still plays because the robots only cared about science, so it was a success to them, and the Peer Review DLC reveals all those humans died off in less than a week.
  • While Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney story's ends happily, the whole thing being a successful attempt by the British government to alter memories and brainwash people on a large scale goes unremarked on, despite the potentially horrific ramifications for the world's future. The sheer amount of trauma many characters go through can also prevent the ending from feeling as happy as it's presented, especially concerning Espella, Darklaw, and Jean.
  • 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 main characters are probably going to all die in a few years after their Soul Gems start to run dry.
  • Rampage: Total Destruction's ending is a likely deliberate example meant to be funny. The monsters destroy several cities and kill and eat countless people, but the company that accidentally created the monsters makes a ton of money selling their mutagenic soda due to the free publicity that the monsters give them, so everything is alright.
  • Resident Evil games tend to end without taking into account the monsters still running around carrying the easily transmissable virulent monster plague, except for a few that take place in isolated locations.
    • Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3, and Resident Evil 0 all end with their evil secret laboratories blown up but do not take into account the monsters running around the surrounding forest area.
    • Resident Evil 5 takes place over a large stretch of an unamed sub-Saharan African country that by the end is still filled with bioweapons. It would impossible to contain the entire region.
    • Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles has infected pirahna swimming in the Amazon river. That does not bode well for all of South America.
    • In the middle of Resident Evil 6 an especially quick-acting version of the virus is released via a bomb in the downtown area of a No Communities Were Harmed version of Hong Kong. The game acts like killing the perpetrators of the explosion resolves everything, but there is no way the entire world is going to survive that.
  • Resistance 3 seems to end on a pretty triumphant note, with the Chimeran war finally over after almost 20 years with their wormhole to their homeworld closed and humanity rising up to finally eliminate the last of them. The problem is humanity, after all that fighting, has been reduced by 90%, either killed or converted by the Chimera. A population decline like that would be borderline impossible to recover from, especially with the loss of so many people who would be necessary for things like labor, industrial work, science, medicine, etc. Human society has essentially regressed by several hundred years. And that's not even getting into the Hostile Terraforming that the Chimera have done to Earth, trying to plunge it into a new ice age. An act that, even if it has been undone by the loss of their terraforming machines, has likely lead to the extinction of countless species and permanently damaged the Earth's ecology.
  • The RuneScape quest The Brink of Extinction has you saving the TzHaar race from going extinct. You eventually defeat the villain responsible and solve the cause of the problem. However, if you go back to the villain after the quest to confront him about the reasons for his actions, he reveals that the TzHaar are slowly growing weaker with every generation due to losing their racial memories because they were never intended to reproduce. By taking away their ability to reproduce, he was trying to force them to return to the Elder Kiln so they could be properly reborn as intended. So although you have saved the TzHaar in the short term, you have doomed them in the long run, although the situation is not quite as bad as it was before because now the TzHaar are aware that their bodies need to be returned to the sacred lava after death so their souls can be freed from And I Must Scream, and the Ga'Al (TzHaar born without any memories) are no longer being killed on birth.
  • 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 livable) 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.
  • All four main endings in Silent Hill 2 leave open this possibility:
    • 'Leave' tends to be viewed, by most, to be the game's happiest ending, as Mary forgives James, and James leaves town along with Laura, seemingly escaping the nightmare. But, it's also possible that James is really still in denial, and has 'conjured' Mary in order to forgive himself, leaving town with a clear conscience that he only has because he has convinced himself he deserves it.
    • 'In Water' is often viewed as a Downer Ending, in which he commits suicide by driving his car into Lake Toluca, though it can also be seen as a final end to his torment and an escape from a life which has been broken beyond repair, to spend eternity with his wife in a place where death maybe isn't the last word.
    • 'Maria' is an ending most people consider to be bad, in which James decides to choose the Silent Hill construct Maria over his wife, and ending on a potentially sinister note with Maria displaying symptoms of Mary's fatal illness. However, instead of this being an example of a careless James rejecting his wife in favor of her doppelganger, it is an ending you get by being a good person, defending and taking care of a person who claims to be helpless and actively seeks your protection. Rather than rejecting Mary, the final battle may simply be a reflection of the guilt he feels for doing the right thing for Maria when he failed to do the right thing for Mary.
    • 'Rebirth' has James attempting an occult ritual hoping to physically revive Mary. The ending implies that the ritual is a success (and Silent Hill 4 demonstrates this same ritual definitely succeeding). We do not see this take place and we are given no hint of the outcome. It could be that James gets exactly what he wanted, or that he got way more than he bargained for, or that he's so out of sanity at this point that nothing happens at all and he just believes otherwise.
  • The "Bogeyman" ending in Silent Hill: Homecoming, which involves Alex being transformed into one of the Pyramidhead-like Bogeymen, initially seems like a straightforward bad ending... but when you think about it, becomes this instead. The actions that trigger this ending involving acting in the role of Silent Hill's executioner and tormentor (by deliberately causing pain and suffering to those who broke Silent Hill's laws), which means that the transformation could just as easily be Silent Hill's idea of "rewarding" Alex. Furthermore, given that Alex by the end of the game has been left mentally scarred and permanently crippled, with all of his paperwork lost in the now-haunted Shepherd's Glen, he doesn't really have a life left worth living amongst humanity. Becoming a monstrous avenger of evil and tormenting the wicked for all eternity is an honest step up from where he'd otherwise be left as. Furthermore, it fits with the recurring motif of Sins of Our Fathers present in the game; the machinations of the Shepherd's Glen cult made monsters out of all of Alex's peers... and end up making a monster of Alex, too.
  • Unabashedly used in SOMA; due to the nature of how Brain Uploading works in that universe, after all the effort of trudging through the monster-riddled ruins of PATHOS II and launching the ARK into space, protagonist Simon is left stranded in his cobbled-together Artificial Zombie body at the bottom of the oceanic abyss, as he was only able to make a copy of his mind aboard the satellite's artificial reality, rather than directly transferring himself. As he argues with his only companion, a previously uploaded engineer who created the ARK, about this fate, the imperfect computer she's been forced to use to host her consciousness finally overloads and kills her, leaving him completely alone, the last vestige of human sentience, under miles of water on a planet where the surface has been scorched clean. Up above, the duplicates of Simon and Catherine enjoy a happy reunion in the ARK... although how long it'll actually survive is anyone's guess.
  • 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?"
  • In-universe in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, everyone complains about Strong Bad's ending for Dangeresque 3.
  • 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. And while 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, 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.
  • Tales of Xillia 2:
    • The game has Multiple Endings and the 'semi-good' ending is this. 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.
    • Even the best, true ending is this. The entire plot of the game involves destroying alternate universes, and the game doesn't hide that everyone in those universes dies. While there are some scenes of party members feeling bad about it, they quickly get over it and the party just accepts this as a necessary evil. By the time of the ending, everyone is long done feeling bad about about destroying alternate realities, which means that not only does the ending involve killing trillions of people when all the remaining realities are destroyed, but nobody even cares.
  • 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.
  • Undertale:
    • The Golden Ending in general is quite positive, but the Amalgamates returning to their families to live happily seems out of place, considering the horror attached to their reveal and the Body Horror they experience.
    • Flowey/Asriel's fate (losing his physical body and reverting to an emotionless flower creature) rubs a lot of people the wrong way, and somewhat diminishes what would otherwise be a literally perfect ending for everyone. Many a Fix Fic involves finding a way to get Asriel his soul back.
    • A similar, but far more subtle and subjective case could be made about Sans. He explicitly states at the end of a No Mercy route that it doesn't matter to him if he makes it to the surface or not - he's been so conditioned by Flowey/the player's continuous resets that making it would just feel like a false hope being dangled in front of his face. The question here is a matter of Alternative Character Interpretation; was he only saying that because he was at his Darkest Hour, and has enough faith in the protagonist/player by the end of a pacifist route to enjoy life on the surface like everyone else, or will he spend the rest of his days just as depressed and nihilistic as before?
  • 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. The sequel examines the consequences of most of these. Valkyria Chronicles 4 picks up the slack on what it doesn't cover, too. Specifically, the empire has known for a while anyone can have Valkyrur blood and has been going a massive amount of genealogy research to narrow down possible candidates. The Federation's guilty of exactly the same thing, too.
  • By the time Xenogears is over most of the world's population is dead or worse. The ending focuses on the fact that you've saved Elly and taken care of the forces that'd been working against you, but does it really matter at that point?
  • Yes, Your Grace: The player can engineer different endings for various characters. The good ending for Asalia, the Player Character's middle daughter, is obtained via allowing her to run off with her girlfriend when given the option to do so. Did we mention that both Asalia and her girlfriend are around twelve years old, and that Asalia picks up a sword for the very fist time during the year covered by the game? Her girlfriend is heavily implied to be a decent fighter and able to live on her own despite her young age, but that's about all they have going for them in terms of cumulated survival skills as far as the player knows. On top of this, one of Asalia's bad endings consists of running off with her girlfriend without permission and never contacting her family ever again. The only thing that's different in the good ending is that the Player Character gets letters from her and knows she's still alive. The part where he never gets to see her again remains.
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • Amnesia: Memories: Played with. The good ending for Diamond World has the heroine and Toma starting a romantic relationship, after having cleared up a misunderstanding and revealing that they've been in love with each other for a long time. Many (Western) players didn't find this a happy ending, at all, because it meant Toma's actions of drugging and imprisoning the heroine out of some twisted sense of protection and jealousy were completely ignored. But Amnesia: Later reveals that the good ending isn't done, and that Toma hesitates to actually have a relationship with her because he hasn't atoned for his actions. Unfortunately, the other Amnesia games haven't received a localization yet, meaning many (Western) players don't know this.
  • 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.
  • Danganronpa:
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc:
      • It 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 Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls outright confirms that they all survived.
    • The ending of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair 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 Makoto 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 Makoto and his allies are likely going to end up in hot water with the Future Foundation over what happened. Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School is set to at least address this and, judging off the promo image, it looks like the part with Makoto unfortunately came true.
    • To add to the pile, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony has an ending that also split the fanbase. The killing game has ended, and the mastermind is dead, but only three people survived this time around, their entire lives and backstories were revealed to be lies and Fake Memories implanted for an Immoral Reality Show, the company responsible (Team Danganronpa) is still out there and presumably angry, the entire world has been brainwashed to love the killing games, and the entire Hope’s Peak Saga was just in-universe fiction. Then again, the mastermind is most definitely an Unreliable Narrator, so it's hard to say for certain what exactly is true or not.
  • 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.
  • Joseph's "good" ending in Dream Daddy. On the third date, Joseph tells the player character that things are over between him and his wife, Mary. He and the player character then have sex on Joseph's yacht, with a full-blown romantic relationship on the horizon. Then, at Amanda's graduation party, Joseph reveals to the player character that he and Mary reconciled, and are staying together. Joseph promises they can still be friends, but he loves his family and can't find it in himself to abandon them. The player is left heart-broken. Keep in mind, this is the good ending. Justified in that the developers never really had a happy ending planned for Joseph, as they didn't want to send the message that it's okay to break up people's marriages.
  • In the true endings in Dream Savior Gakuen, it's revealed that the player character has been Dead All Along and reliving their memories of high school. The guy who the PC has met on a bus several times prior to this reveal turns out to be an angel and he explains that the PC's reward in the afterlife for having been a good person is getting to relive the memories of being with the person they loved the most in life over and over again. Sounds romantic... until you realize that this "reward" means that the PC will be forever trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop with no ability to change events or do anything new — and judging from the PC's negative reactions when they began realizing that they were stuck repeating the same events endlessly, becoming aware at all of this "Groundhog Day" Loop again will only cause them torment.

    Web Comics 
  • Endtown sees fan-favourite Holly Hollister Put on a Bus by way of electing to stay in a Matrix-esque illusion. It's implied she's going to have a loooong life... living in a literal bubble of denial with a faulty computer pretending (badly) to be her dead husband along with an imaginary child, all this after being the character defined by such things as detesting the way some people live in their own make-believe worlds and forcing herself out of her clock tower home and back into reality prior the start of the story for the sake of finding happiness. Yay? More than anything, it comes across as the author's half-hearted attempt to be rid of her while also leaving her "happy" enough not to completely disappoint the fans who were hoping for a happy ending for her. Said fans will probably still wait forever for the bus to come back....
  • 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 a more critical examination can 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 led 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 shows 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 complete 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? How is Dr. Space Claw going to react when he finds out about his son's death? 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 if you take the "Six long days of life" joke at face value the same could apply to them.
  • 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.
  • It would probably be easier to list the Go Animate Grounded videos that don't end this way, as many of them invariably end with the main character grounded for long periods of time at best, have their lives completely ruined or even beaten up or killed at worst. Rarely does the video present this as anything but a happy ending for those beside the main character(s). The worst cases of this trope as it pertains to grounded videos are the "X Gets Executed" videos, which are centered around a troublesome character being killed for their past misdemeanors with their death being celebrated (by their families, friends, and even the entire town) both before, during, and after the execution. (Often with the characters quite literally dancing on their grave.) Despite having such a demented premise and having everyone involved clearly crossing the Moral Event Horizon, this is presented as a good ending for everyone involved. (Except the character being executed, of course.)
  • This short film, which was written by an AI, ends with a fairly heartwarming conversation between the three students who went to a distant planet as part of "Spaceship Day." Unfortunately, the ship ran out of fuel, so the three are presumably trapped on "a cold and lonely planet" until they die.

    Western Animation 
  • The ending for the Adventure Time episode "Tree Trunks" has 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. Interestingly enough, that scene following Finn and Jake's reaction was an executive demand to soften the blow of the otherwise grim ending, which also gave the writers the ability to bring back the character in the season two episode "Crystals Have Power", when we learn what really happened to Tree Trunks.
  • Parodied in The Amazing World of Gumball in "The Others", where Gumball and Darwin become aware of the other students at the school, outside their class and Anais. They focus on someone named Clare, who is leaving the school and the city because of her dad losing his job. As Clare constantly tries to narrate her thoughts in a Teen Drama-esque fashion, Gumball and Darwin constantly butt in just to remain in focus of the episode. This culminates with Gumball forcing a happy ending on Clare by fixing everything wrong with her life. Loudly.
  • 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.
  • 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 Psychopathic 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.
  • The infamous Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon "There's Good Boos Tonight" has Casper befriending a cute little fox, only for said 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.
  • Chaotic: In the first episode of the third season, The four tribes hold a race to celebrate their victory over the M'arrillians and peace between the tribes. A riot erupts due to all of the tribes cheating in the race and disagreeing about who won, wrecking the peace treaty. The humans characters, who are partially to blame for this due to getting involved in the race, act like this is a good thing because the world of Perim will always be chaotic.
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • 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:
  • Robot Chicken paints the ending to 101 Dalmatians as one of these with a friendly little dose of Fridge Logic. Twice. The first has 50 of the puppies pregnant, meaning the family's going to be drowning in puppies and forcing them to ultimately give them to Cruella Deville. The second fast-forwards two weeks ahead where the puppies have overrun the house, smashed everything, and pooped everywhere. Anita is leaving Roger who, now an alcoholic, is singing a depressing song about how much he hates dogs.
  • Samurai Jack belatedly concludes with the title character finally managing to go back to the past and slay Aku, preventing the Aku-ruled Bad Future from happening, a victory that is soured by his love interest - Aku's daughter - being retroactively erased from existence as a result, a dark turn of events that the ending scenes and their general mood amply address. What is not addressed is the possibility that everyone else seen in the future setting where nearly the entire series has taken place may also have been erased, considering Aku's massive long-term influence on the world and even others beyond it.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Due to the lack of a denouement, and its rather sudden ending amounting to Horde Prime being defeated and every couple uniting, the series never deals with any of the consequences of its conflicts. This is despite the fact that Prime's conquest would have created massive damage across Etheria on a societal level, the Horde and Rebellion now have to find peace despite their massive and destructive conflict, including some members still clearly having distaste for one another, and, perhaps most importantly, the Galactic Horde, comprised of countless clone cultists, just lost their leader, their technology, and will have to find a way to settle on Etheria. While all of these things could definitely play out just fine, it's not quite the straightforward happy ending the show tries to present it as.
  • 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 "Treehouse of Horror XII" story "Hex and the City":
      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!
    • In the episode "The Principal and the Pauper", Principal Seymour Skinner of Springfield Elementary School is revealed to be an impostor named Armin Tamzarian. Armin then goes back to his old life as a street punk in Capital City while the real Skinner takes his place as principal. Springfield eventually realizes how much they miss the Skinner that they are used to, so they convince Armin to come back. The only one opposed to this is the real Skinner, who is ejected from Springfield for that reason only, while Armin legally changes his name to "Seymour Skinner." There's a reason this episode is considered the beginning of the show's Seasonal Rot by at least half of the show's fanbase.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil has its Grand Finale, "Cleaved". Star manages to accomplish her goal of destroying magic and stopping Mina, while also saving Tom and still getting together with Marco thanks to all the dimensions being merged into one amalgam world. Happy ending, right? Not quite. Many fans view Star as having committed genocide on all the inhabitants of the Magic Realm, as well as any beings dependent on magic to survive: we're explicitly shown some of these deaths during the fact, while others have lifeless bodies shown after the events, and some that perish offscreen (such as Glossaryck and Hekapoo) directly tell Star that they'd die if she succeeds. All this is treated as the perfect solution. And while she never intended for it, the union of various dimensions caused a large amount of culture shock for everyone, with the humans of Echo Creek and the various creatures of Mewni adapting poorly to elements of each others' worlds. Even if everyone can eventually adapt to this, Mina is still around, declaring that she'll never lose so long as there are people with similar ideas. Combine that with supplementary material stating there's a contingent of villains still out there that are undefeatable without magic, and you have some very troubling implications for the future. The only ones who really got a good ending were Star and Marco.
  • 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 disagreed.
  • 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. Though the trope may be downplayed if you take the book "Madame Blueberry Learns to Be Thankful", wherein Bob and Larry help rebuild the treehouse after the events of said episode, to be a canon follow-up to the episode.


Video Example(s):


Destroy All Humans!

Destroy All Humans! ends with Crypto eliminating everything getting in the way of his mission to harvest the brain-stems of American citizens for the propagation of the Furon race.

How well does it match the trope?

4.57 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / EsotericHappyEnding

Media sources:

Main / EsotericHappyEnding