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Philosophical Choice Endings

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A specific type of Multiple Endings, where the player makes a Last-Second Ending Choice by taking a final stand on the Central Theme of the game, which may be presented as a Driving Question that they must answer with their choice. When done well, it presents to the player a moral dilemma with no clear right answer, ideally preceded by arguments for and against each position they can take on it.

Often overlaps with Faction-Specific Endings if the in-game factions represent different answers on the game's Driving Question. Alignment-Based Endings can be seen as a subtrope of this, but because they're usually clearly labeled as "Good" and "Evil", it takes the philosophical edge off the player's decision.

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Since this is an Ending Trope, beware of spoilers.


Examples:

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    Adventure Game 
  • The Walking Dead: "Is survival worth risking becoming a violent monster?" In the ending, you have to decide over Lee's fate, but in a way that is also your last lesson for Clementine. Do you want to a) have her shoot Lee and teach her to survive at any cost, even if through violence, or do you b) teach her to abstain from violence whenever possible to prevent her from possibly turning into a ruthless monster? With the game often giving you the opportunity to use violence or not, this perfectly fits the game's general theme pretty well.
  • Life Is Strange: Let your best friend / Love Interest die to save the town of Arcadia Bay from destruction, or save her and let the town be destroyed, killing who knows how many people?

    Immersive Sim 
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution: "Should human augmentation research continue, despite the dangers it presents to humanity?" The game is all about the information war surrounding the nascent human cybernetic augmentation technology. The ending has the villains sabotage cybernetics on a global scale, and Adam (who has been turned into a cyborg involuntarily and thus has a personal stake in this) has to decide how to present this event to the world: blame it on the cybernetics themselves (fueling the anti-augmentation attitudes), on a random fault in the technology (giving more power over technology to the Powers That Be through subsequent regulations), or on the anti-aug extremists (allowing augmentation research to continue unfettered). Finally, Adam can choose to let humanity make up their own minds about the disaster, by killing everyone who knows the truth about it (including himself). Unfortunately, since the game is a prequel, no matter what Adam chooses, the events will play out in such a way as to create the original game's setting.

    Puzzle Game 
  • The Turing Test: You have a Last-Second Ending Choice whether to shoot Ava and Sarah, or allow them to disconnect TOM. The ending asks whether you think TOM has achieved full sentience and, if so, whether its existence is less valuable than human lives, as well as whether The Needs of the Many (potential extinction of humanity) outweigh the indefinite suffering of a few (as the scientists now cannot age, they are basically marooned on Europa forever)—and whether you think that human creativity and lateral thinking eventually will find a way to Take a Third Option, despite TOM's inability to conceptualize it.
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    Role-Playing Games 
  • Breath of Fire III sets up a choice between freedom and safety. If you accept Myria's offer, then you'll live out your days in an artificial Heaven, and humanity will remain safe from the Desert of Death and the world-destroying power of the Brood. Or you can refuse, use the power of the Brood to destroy her, and attempt to bring life back to the Desert with the implied help of Yggdrasil.
  • Pillars of Eternity: "What should become of the millions of souls who have been locked out of reincarnation?" The game is set in the world where Reincarnation of souls is a stone-cold fact and revolves around the Hollowborn plague — a mystical malady that causes children in Dyrwood to be born without souls. As the Watcher investigates the plague, it becomes apparent that the Leaden Key cult is stealing those souls from the reincarnation cycle, and they set out to stop them. The question of what you will do with the thousands if not millions of Hollowborn souls once you free them then becomes the biggest elephant in the room, which you are forced to answer in the ending. You can return them to their original bodies, return the souls to the reincarnation cycle, use their essence to strengthen the living souls of Dyrwood, destroy them completely, scatter them to parts unknown, or complete the Leaden Key's plot for your own benefit.
  • Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire: "What should be the relationship between gods and mortals now that the cycle of reincarnation is broken?" This game further reveals that an ancient civilization is responsible for the machinery of the Wheel, which was a refinement of a natural reincarnation cycle and is also the source of the gods' power. The god Eothas, who was thought to be dead in the first game, is revealed to be very much alive, and his goal is to go to Ukaizo to smash the Wheel so that mortals are no longer bound to serve the gods. In the end, you can't fight him, and trying earns you a Non-Standard Game Over. But, true to every story ever told about him, Eothas is willing to listen to you and consider your input. You can convince him to use the last of his power to create an afterlife, inspire mortals to come up with an alternate solution to the Wheel so that life can continue, or empower one of the gods to be Top God to keep the others in line. The player can also simply ask questions and bear witness to Eothas's actions, or alternatively plant a seed of doubt in Eothas so that all life ends entirely.
    • A secondary question is "Who should control the power of the lost city of Ukaizo?" In order to get to Eothas in the first place, you have to pass the Perpetual Storm of Ondra's Mortar with the help of one of four factions: the traditionalist Kahanga tribe of the Huana, the imperialist nation of Rauatai, the science- and money-focused Vailian Trading Company, or the pirates of the Principi sen Patrena. Neither faction is presented as being entirely wrong or right. You also have the option to simply upgrade your ship and sail to Ukaizo yourself, and both Eothas and the ending slides will comment on it. Further complicating things is that, no matter what faction you choose, the second-most-powerful faction's leader will show up as a Post-Final Boss, which also affects the ending.
  • Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal: "Will you take the essence of the murder god Bhaal for yourself or become a normal mortal?" The PC is a Bhaalspawn, one of the offspring of Bhaal, who was made mortal during an event when all the gods were forced to walk the earth. Bhaal attempted to cheat death by putting pieces of his essence in many children and then encouraging them to murder each other. However, one flaw in the plan is that each Bhaalspawn and Bhaal's high priestess could potentially usurp Bhaal's place if they gathered all the essence together, and at the end, that's what the PC stops the Final Boss from doing. The option to give up the Bhaalspawn status and become a normal mortal is more or less the same (including a future with a romantic partner if the PC had one), but if the PC chooses to ascend as a god, their alignment depends on how they answered a series of questions from a guardian spirit. Even though good-aligned party members encourage you to remain mortal and evil party members will do the opposite, the choice isn't as clear-cut as it sounds. Even though Bhaal and his essence were evil, the PC can just as easily ascend as a good or neutral god, though it's an open question of whether they'll stay that way.
  • Dark Souls I: "Is a world's fading life worth preserving at all costs or is it better to just put it out of its misery?" The game is set in a dying world that barely clings on to life. The ending asks the player, after they've seen the best and the worst the land has to offer, whether it is worth sacrificing their character to artificially prolong its life for a few centuries or whether the current age should finally come to an end, giving the world a chance at rebirth. Essentially, it is a question of the ethics of euthanasia, only applied to an entire world.
  • Mass Effect 3: "What's the best way to prevent the (supposedly inevitable) conflict between organics and synthetics?" The options are: destroying all synthetics (including friendly ones), putting them under complete control of the organics (even though the one controlling them will hardly count as an organic anymore), or erasing the distinction in the first place, turning everyone into synth-organic life-forms regardless of their wishes. One of the reasons the ending did not sit well with most fans was that even though the main antagonists of the series are a race of sentient machines, the games contain multiple examples of peaceful synthetic-organic coexistence (the geth, EDI) — thus, many players felt this question wasn't grounded in the plot at all. As a response, the Extended Cut additionally asks those players whether sacrificing all advanced life in the galaxy is worth not having to make that choice — with the caveat that someone else, millennia later, will have to do it in Shepard's stead.
  • The Banner Saga 3: "Is the world worth denying someone the peace of death?" Long story short, two magic-users (called Menders in this universe) were in love, and one named Eyvind drained the energy of a sun to save his beloved, Juno, from death. Problem is, she can't die anymore, and his actions kickstarted the apocalypse. The perspective character, Iver, decides the ending, and he has three choices: convince Eyvind to seal Juno inside the new sun and suspend her between life and death, let Eyvind make a deal with a giant serpent (the serpent saves half the world in exchange for Juno's released energy, letting her die), or kill Eyvind and let a less talented Mender seal Juno away (the consequence being that Iver and everyone else at ground zero dies).

    Shooter Games 
  • Spec Ops: The Line: "Is there a moral line beyond which a person is beyond redemption?" Throughout the game, the Player Character Capt. Walker commits worse and worse atrocities in the name of the greater good, hiding from his conscience behind delusions of justice and revenge, until the final revelation breaks it down to him how much he (and, by extension, the player) has screwed up. It is left to the player to decide whether Walker can still be redeemed (in which ending he surrenders to the authorities) or not, and in the latter case, whether he commits suicide (directly or indirectly) or embraces his monstrous nature and becomes exactly what he purported to fight against all along.
  • Call of Juarez: Gunslinger: The protagonist Silas Greaves spent decades working as a bounty hunter in the Old West to chase after the outlaws who murdered his brothers. He finds the last of them in the final mission and discovers that he has done his best to repent for his sins and start a new life. You then have to decide whether Silas is finally able to let go of his revenge, or carries it out to the end. The situation is further compounded by the presence of Dwight — a young idealistic boy who looks up to Silas and who is none other than Dwight D. Eisenhower — at the scene, as either choice has a profound impact on him, too.

    Stealth Games 
  • Mark of the Ninja: "Should the Hisomu clan adapt to the more technological modern age or be purged completely for betraying their traditions?" The question is presented to you by Master Azai, the current leader of the clan, and Ora, your sole companion throughout the game, and is complicated by the fact that it's Azai who advocates for modernity, having come to believe that the clan will die out without adapting to it, while Ora is revealed to have been, all along, a hallucination induced by the Power Tattoo the protagonist gets on Azai's orders in the opening cutscene. Said tattoo is the eponymous "mark of the ninja" that had been the core of the aforementioned Hisomu tradition, granting superhuman abilities to a select few champions across history but also forcing them to commit ritual suicide before it drove them all violently insane, — until the only source of the rare tattoo ink for it ran dry (which Azai knew but didn't tell anyone). In the ending, Azai asks the protagonist to uphold the tradition by killing himself, but in doing so, he would remove the last vestige of said tradition (i.e. himself) from existence, clearing the way for Azai's modernization. Ora, meanwhile, demands that he kills Azai and the rest of the clan, who have followed him into betrayal, deriding them as weak in the light of the protagonist's repeated triumphs over modern tech throughout the game. It is furthermore not made clear at all whether your mission, as the bearer of the tattoo, has been, all along, to ensure the preservation of the clan itself, betrayers as they may be, or of the clan's tradition, self-destructive as it is: it basically asks whether you value people over ideas or vice versa.

    Visual Novel 
  • Umineko: When They Cry: Episode 8 shows the player a magic trick involving making candy appear, and asks if it was real magic or a trick. This choice leads to the appropriately-named Magic and Trick endings.

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