Why Mass Effect 3's End Is Perhaps the Biggest Letdown in Gaming History

Nothing could have prepared the gaming community for such a momentous failure of an ending that Mass Effect 3 gave us. The lack of closure, lack of logic, and lack of consistency left many of us feeling as though we had wasted our experiences across the last 3 games. Not just that; the past 5 years.

WARNING: SPOILERS (Although let's be honest, there's not much to spoil).


For the past couple of years, big game releases have sparked their own form of remembrance. For Skyrim, it was the "I used to be an adventurer like you, but then I took an arrow to the knee." For Modern Warfare 2, It was the "Ramirez, Do Everything!" meme.

However, a new meme has taken off for Mass Effect 3, Marauder Shields:

However, to keep this concise, and to hopefully not repeat what has already been stated a thousand times in thousands of different places, I will try to keep the arguments against the ending short.

Mass Effect 3's ending, in short, is awful. Many have been attempting to salvage the mess that is the ending by, ironically, stating that it was all an illusion.

Let's just go down a list on the things wrong with the ending

  • War assets collected throughout the game have NO impact on the ending (remember, this is what you spend ALL game collecting, and is your main objective throughout)
  • Decisions made in Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, and even Mass Effect 3 have very little/no impact on the overall impact (other than who shows up - which doesn't matter because of the first point)
  • All the endings are identical, only with variations in color
  • Various inconsistencies with character actions and how they've acted previously

Below is a video by AngryJoeShow which goes into much more depth about these issues and more, with skillful articulation to boot.

The ultimate problem with Mass Effect 3's ending goes beyond just simple dislike. The ending is a betrayal of trust that the gaming community placed in Bioware when they said that the decisions we made in all the previous Mass Effect's were going to matter - they didn't.

This just begs the question: is there any possible redemption for the ending? Perhaps.

Many people have gone to great lengths to write better endings, one in particular is quite promising (WARNING: LONG). However, this just begs the even more important question: Why exactly was this ending written so poorly?

Happy or sad, we just want to see those decisions play out. We want to see that what we did mattered. And as the battle unfolds, you are left with the Choice. Do you think you have enough? As Shepard bleeds out, watching all he/she loved go up in flames, do you take the risk? Provided you have enough manpower, can you break the back of the Reaper fleet, though at horrendous cost? Once the battle is over, and the truth of what the Illusive Man discovered is revealed, the remaining survivors get the word out that there is a way to disrupt the Reaper signal, scatter the Reaper armies. Or something

Could the development time of 2 years and 2 months perhaps not have been long enough for Bioware? They seemed to do Mass Effect 2's development in 2 years without any hitches. This even seems to be less of an issue, because all previous sections in the game are written beautifully and hold almost no contradictions. It seems as though the ending was written by a completely different writing team.

Another suggestion is that DLC will hold the "true" ending. I sincerely hope this is not true but don't doubt the possibility that we are being whored out for money, considering the ending message.

Sadly, I think this may be the case, but considering the public blacklash I don't know if they will risk the obvious outrage that will come if they release it as paid DLC.

But I'll tell you one thing, all the lies that were propagated before the release won't happen a second time with us Bioware. You know what they say - fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

John Tarr's picture

lol @ the Marauder Shields video.

It took me a lot longer than I expected to finish ME3, so when I first started hearing all the bad things about the ending, hundreds of ideas ran through my head about how BioWare could possibly screw up the ending so bad. From 'it was all a dream' to 'Mass Effect 3: Electric Boogaloo', I couldn't come up with something that deserved that much vitriol. 

Immediately after finishing ME3, I searched YouTube to watch the other endings, and immediately realized why there was so much hate for the ending. It's because there's only ONE ending. ONE lame cutscene that shows you almost no consequences of your actions.

I expected two dramatically different endings to this franchise, Renegade and Paragon, not this warmed over bullshit.

MetalInsurgent's picture

I hate how people keep on bitching about the ending for Mass Effect 3. People have been complaining about it non-stop for weeks and it's just annoying now. Just deal with the ending, I dealt with the ending for the Witcher 2 and the final cutscenes were only different in who you left that ancient elven city with.

JoesShittyOs's picture

The thing that really does suck about this ending is that it wasn't even that tricky to end.  All it took was closure.

Where's the ending where I find the right key, fire the crucible, destroy the reapers, the mass effect relays don't explode, Joker isn't randomly running away, the Geth and other synthetics don't die, the forces I'd rallied win, Shepard maybe having the option to not get killed by the blast, the post-credits cutscene not being randomly shunned in and making sense, and everybody in the fucking galaxy honoring my noble sacrifice?

Trying an ending like that didn't work for the Matrix, it's sure as shit didn't work for this.  I'm just stunned that no one in Bioware caught this.

Grog101's picture


that's all that anyone wanted for this game

you build this universe of fascinating cultures and stories to be told and you just let them fall off the table like they didn't matter in the end.

betrayal? no.

just disappointment

Reid Wildenhaus's picture

I was waiting for someone to post this.

@MetalInsurgent, was Witcher 2 promised to have 16 different endings based on choices made in the previous game(s) before it was released, only to have three different-colored endings? I think not. Now, I agree with your point to an extent, but this uprising is about a lot more than just a bad ending. If you investigate more, you will see.

I've been following the story, and EA has been accepting open-box returns (which is a little bit harsh, in my opinion), as well as come out and said they are working on more content that will be announced in April.

What really pisses ME off about this is the fact that, if indeed that wasn't the ending to the game, then they sold us an incomplete game.

It's a shame that it had to end that way. I'd have to say that, glitches aside, it was possibly one of the best games I've ever played.

Lazy's picture

I haven't played any Mass Effect game, but if there is another ending that gets sold via DLC, it seems like EA is doing what it does best again.

Musica's picture

@MetalInsurgent  the reason why people are mad is because for years we were told that what you do in previous games would affect the outcome of the game after playing through ME 1, 2, and 3. And realizing that the only missions or assignments in ME 1 or 2 that affected ME 3 was the DLC from previous games.

Almost half of the dialogue between you and various characters that refer to previous missions talk as thou you weren’t there, and only heard about it or as if you were a third party in the situation and were not directly involved. A lot of people are also heavily annoyed that the dialog between you and the characters from ME 2 that you had a relationship with speak for the most part as if it never happened. Liara for example 3 months before ME 3 you start up the relationship again. It shows in the beginning of ME 3 that the 2 characters are obviously in a relationship but after that the conversations sounds as thou you never had that kind of relationship. And that’s with all love interests the dialog is basically reset it’s really odd.

Then as stated above the war assets don’t do anything to the game. The ending is all about whether you were diplomatic or stuck your fist in everyone’s face. 

You have to understand for a group of people who have been given what they told they were going to be given for so many years from BioWare. To suddenly have BioWare pull a Peter Molyneux and basically bullshit about what people were really getting in order to sell their product it’s no surprise you would see this retaliation. It’s obvious that EA saw that ME was a great cash cow and couldn’t stop themselves from getting their hands on it.

chad'spenis's picture

Mass effect was never a divergent story. Think about it.

Mass effect 1: no matter what you do, you will kill saren and you will kill sovereign. Whether or not you choose to kill the council does not change the nature of the gameplay or cutscenes in the slightest.

Mass effect 2: No matter what you do, you will kill all of the collectors and leave cerberus. The only difference between saving and destroying the collector base is a red explosion and a blue explosion.

Mass effect 3: Well, you get the idea.

Mass effect is an awesome linear story with dialogue options. You can get to know characters, romance some, and kill others. You can't, however, change the sequence of major events in any of the games.

The only reason why people kept buying the "choice" thing up until now is that there was this belief that there would always be more content in the future that could be altered after mass effect 1 and 2. 

So, in other words, the fault with the game isn't its own, it's what the whole series never was. Mass effect has had some of the greatest marketing and PR in gaming history.

The ending was pretty dumb though. I was hoping the god-child would be a keeper and they would be the masterminds all along.

darthsoraxiii's picture

if you choose the destroy ending and have a high enough war asset count then shepard lives. that's the only effect the war assets have.

Semblance's picture

"All the endings are identical, only with variations in color"

That's incorrect, depending on your choice, the Reapers will either fly away majestically or topple over.

Jokes aside, Bioware definitely shit the fan with this one. I hope the Ending DLC doesn't cost too much, or else I'm going to really lose my mind.

Solifluktion's picture

If I had just waited for the shitstorm to start I wouldn't have expected so much from the ending and the letdown wouldn't have been so hard on me. But I was told the ending was the ending we waited for....well....it sure wasn't.

AzureSkyKnight's picture

Sry, I just watched Metroid: Other M in theater mode so i can't complain about this.

bigerndawg's picture

Ending wasn't even that bad though, AND I saw the ending to LOST

Scumbagb3n's picture

For me the ending was bad enough that i didn't bother watching the credits, which I usually do out of respect for the developers.  It also took me a while to understand what the fuck had just happened.

rje5's picture

The ending was shrouded in symbolism.  There is an amazingly in depth explanation that makes a whole lot of sense here:

The symbolism stretches to the colors, as well as the people in the final cutscene. I understand why people are upset, because a truly good ending shouldn't need to be explained to us. But once you understand it, it might be one of the best endings ever. The problem I have is that they're supposedly releasing DLC to explain it, which is weak at best.

Just watch the video and tell me you didn't have a bunch of "ah ha" moments when rewatching the cutscenes with the explanations.  To reiterate, taken literally, the ending is one of the worst you could imagine, and most people will take everything literally. But when taken in the context I believe it was meant to be taken in, it is an amazingly deep and complex ending that we don't see it games. I just wish they would've explained it better themselves in the endgame, instead of promising it in upcoming DLC.

whatsinitforme's picture

looks like Bioware are folding to the pressure from fans of the games, will be interesting to see what they do a complete backtrack on the ending(re-written) or just additional insights to the what the writers wanted to betray? ;  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-17458208  

jbrad6's picture

well those are all good points but you can break the endings down into 2 groups blue/red and green 


blue/red endings are both the choices that in the end will see war fighting and death brought back into the galaxy red, by essentially restarting the cycle from the beginning and ensuring that something like this will eventually happen again, and blue by eliminating all synthetic life ,the life that supposedly governed the cycle by wiping clean all organic life that had become too out of control in its societal age, while saving almost all organic life would eventually and naturally lead back to the same position of war death and fighting among the races in the galaxy but now with no clean up crew aka the reapers.

green ending is more of the peace driven choice in that the assumption it presents is a utopian like start to new hybrid synthetic/organic life and the potential eventually for there to be no war,death, destruction and abuse of synthetic life and therefore no need to clean the galaxy every 50000 years or so 

thats just my analysis

ExplicitDQ's picture

That is because Shepard is indoctrinated, the whole time Thank you very much rje5

sargeant smiles's picture

@John, I know, right, I expected two or more, like Heroic death, heroic survival, renegade death, renegade survival, but no, I get Mass Relays destroyed, Shepard dead, and a crashed Normandy.

brodyitis's picture

You thought this was disappointing? Check out the ending to Super Mario Brothers 2. Jokes aside, I was disappointed with the ending.

Haters G0n Hate's picture

Biggest letdown in gaming history!? More like biggest overreaction to an ending in gaming history. All you guys who are bitching about the ending need to calm down and just enjoy the game for what it is.

Charlie Walker's picture

I am on a completely different page to most of you. Just completed it and thought it was fantastic. Had shivers down my neck.

Create New Account or Log in to comment